Miami-Dade rethinks tablet handout

The Miami-Dade school district has “pushed the pause button” on buying tablet computers for every student. Similar initiatives have run into trouble in Los Angeles, Guilford County, N.C., and elsewhere, notes Education Week.

“This is about being prudent, pragmatic, and cautious,” said Sylvia J. Diaz, the district’s deputy superintendent for innovation and school choice.

She described the Los Angeles Unified School District’s high-profile plan to provide 660,000 iPads to students and staff members as a source of particular concern, pointing to confusion among many parents as to what their responsibility and liability is for their children’s tablets; the rising cost projections associated with the initiative; concerns about a lack of adequate teacher training; problems with students bypassing the devices’ security filters; and concerns about the readiness and quality of the digital curricular content that Los Angeles is purchasing as part of its plan.

One specific piece of the Los Angeles plan that gave Miami-Dade officials particular pause, Diaz said, was the district’s failure to include keyboards as part of its initial half-billion dollar purchasing plan.

The Guilford County, N.C., school system is suspending its tablet computing initiative, noted Diaz.  “The fact that they had 1,500 broken tablets after having them in circulation for [only a few] weeks was a huge red flag for me,” she said.

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  1. New Corp’s “made for schools” tablets have that high of a failure rate?

    Miami-Dade is correct to be thinking about what they hope to accomplish with tablets, and whether tablets can fulfill those goals, before proceeding, but their expectations are rather unrealistic. If you want a computer that has a keyboard for facilitation of writing term papers and taking standardized tests, you should be looking at a notebook computer. The tablet is better thought of as a device for consumption of data, not production – it’s great for educational apps, video, tests designed for administration on a tablet, interactive animation (e.g., the frog dissection app), and to replace textbooks (as app-based alternatives become available), but it’s not a substitute for a notebook computer for those who want that type of productivity tool.

    Providing wireless keyboards for random occasions, such as tests or for older kids with term papers to write, seems like a recipe for disaster, as keyboards are found to have dead batteries or stuck keys as kids start using them to start taking tests…. Many, particularly at the lower end of the cost spectrum, are also somewhat fragile and/or unpleasant to use.

  2. I’m still trying to figure out *how* people think tablets are going to improve education. Is it the same way computers did? Oh, wait….

    • Yes, Darren. Just like AV projectors before that, and TV before that and radio before that.

      The Flickering Mind by Todd Oppenheimer is worth a read if you’re interested in what he calls “the false promise of technology”. Interestingly enough, he shows some data (not much) that indicates all these tech toys may actually increase the achievement gap – lower SES kids don’t get as much out of it as higher SES kids.

      • Sean, the same thing happened with books. Many kids didn’t finish their seatwork, while some kids did, and then began reading their books while waiting. That made the ‘gap’ wider as some students got more out of the time they used wisely. No wonder that school librarians have been let go, book acquistions of on grade level or above material have stopped, and the libraries have been convereted to conference rooms. Anything to prevent the wrong group from ‘getting ahead’ will be done.