Ratliff Seeks Alternatives to LA Unified’s iPads Future
Vanessa Romo | November 12, 2013
The LA Unified school board will grapple with three separate resolutions regarding the district’s ambitious iPad project at its meeting today, but only Monica Ratliff’s proposal has the potential of drastically changing the course of the district’s ed-tech revolution.
Ratliff is recommending that the district hold off on starting the second round of iPads distribution until the end of the school year. During that time the school board can continue to monitor their effectiveness along with other options.
“We are not the first district to do this kind of thing,” she said during last week’s board meeting, dedicated to the district’s Common Core Technology Project.
She said the board should mine the “wealth of knowledge” individual campuses and some charter schools have gained while using their own technology and curriculum programs. Her Common Core Technology Project committee recently surveyed teachers piloting the iPads.
By contrast today, Monica Garcia is proposing that her district continue as “the pioneer” for the district’s technology program, and deputy Superintendent Jaime Aquino is asking the board to continue the iPad rollout as originally planned.
As part of her proposal, Ratliff wants to study the KIPP LA charter schools model. All nine campuses have implemented laptops in their classrooms and use a variety of adaptive instructional software programs.
“By embedding these laptops, our teachers are able to provide targeted, small-group instruction to students,” KIPP LA Chief Academic Officer, Angella Martinez, told LA School Report.
Some KIPP schools use traditional laptops while others have recently adopted the Google Chromebook, a light-weight device that retails for about $250 and runs web-based applications. In contrast, the more expensive iPads and traditional laptops operate with programs downloaded onto on the device itself.
“Chromebooks have proven to be easy to manage for our three-person tech team and are durable in the classroom environment,” Martinez said. “We have found that traditional laptops are no longer necessary — our students can access all of the necessary tools in the cloud and online.”
Additionally, several of KIPP schools also use iPads. They are particularly beneficial for intervention, says Martinez, because they allow teachers to provide very targeted support to students.”
But the iPads present a new set of challenges for teachers.
“We have found that iPads require extensive teacher bandwidth when implemented classroom-wide,” Martinez said.
As a result, KIPP schools have moved toward laptop-based blended learning, augmented by strategic iPad use, raising new questions about a one-iPad-fits-all strategy that the district has planned. An affirmative vote on Ratliff’s proposal could upend all that, pushing the district in an entirely new technology direction.
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