Inadequate vision and a lack of planning sealed the fate of the L.A. Unified School District’s (LAUDS) failed $1.3 billion iPad initiative. A review conducted by the U.S. Department of Education found the district focused its attention too heavily on iPads and that district leadership had no cohesive vision for how the devices or the digital curriculum they purchased would be used in the classroom.
The Los Angeles Times reports teachers were not provided with enough training for the new technology and that the district’s senior management was unable or unwilling to address teachers’ concerns before they became an issue. To make matters worse, the LAUSD Facility chief was not brought into the early planning phase of the initiative, despite the fact that school networks required some pretty significant technology upgrades.
To recap, problems with the LAUSD iPad initiative first came to light in the fall of 2013 when the devices were rolled out at 47 district schools. Just a few weeks after deployment, there was a widespread hacking incident in which students were able to bypass school filters. It wasn’t long before teachers came forward to express concerns about a lack of resources and training. Later questions arose about the relationship former LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy and another senior district staff member had with executives at Apple and Pearson. Pearson provided the district’s digital curriculum.
The review conducted by the U.S. Department of Education was done at the request of current LAUSD superintendent Ramon C. Cortines, who took over after Deasy stepped down earlier this year. The report’s findings tell a cautionary tale that should be heeded by school districts across the nation.
So, what can other schools learn from the mistakes of LAUSD? The importance of planning for one. Many of the technology directors, teachers and K-12 administrators I talk to on a daily basis stress the importance of understanding how a particular technology can be integrated with curriculum. Learning comes first, technology second. Districts must have a larger vision or goal in place. If they identify specific learning objectives, it’s much easier to select the tools teachers and students need to be successful.
I also hear a lot about training. Schools that embark on technology initiatives must be prepared to invest in professional development for their teachers. If educators do not understand how to properly integrate devices or how a particular technology can improve teaching and learning, problems will arise. What happened at LAUSD was an expensive lesson learned. Make sure it doesn’t happen to you.