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Students Use Project to Sound Off on District's Failed iPad Roll-Out

Students Use Research Project to Sound Off on District's Failed iPad Roll-Out

In 2013, students in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) were given iPads only to have them taken away within a week after students overrode security measures to use the devices for personal use at home. Now, students are using a participatory research project to sound off on how the iPad "experiment" affected them and why they disagree with how both the district and the media handled the issue.

LAUSD has been planning for some time now to give all students in its district—the second largest district in the nation—personal use of iPads for educational benefit through a $1 billion initiative. It has yet to do so because of several problems it has encountered along the way, one of those problems being the initial hacking by students that occurred in 2013.

As the district tested the iPad rollout by giving the devices to certain districts first, within a week students at the initial schools discovered how to manipulate the devices in such a way so they could freely browse the web—including YouTube, Facebook, and Pandora, according to The Los Angeles Times.

Now, research endeavors by students from one of the high schools in question- Roosevelt High School- are revealing exactly how 'botched' the failed roll-out was and how it negatively affected students within the school system.

"Roosevelt students chose to investigate the lingering effects of the iPad rollout as part of a program called Council of Youth Research, a participatory research project started by two UCLA professors," said KQUED News.

The student-researchers said that many students felt betrayed by the media for being portrayed as the reason why schools would not be given iPads at that point in time.

"[Student-researcher Mariela] Bravo doesn’t understand why the district would give students iPads with so many limitations. Her peers were looking up homework help on YouTube — and yes, checking Facebook, too—but that’s part of life," the article said.

Further, students resented bearing the blame for the failed roll-out when they noticed that their teachers were unfamiliar with how the devices worked.

"Students could see the rollout was being handled poorly and that teachers didn’t know what to do with the iPads. [One student] even noted that students were supposed to fill out paperwork before getting their iPads, but teachers started handing out the devices before anything had been signed."

And because of the widespread media coverage by the L.A. Times and other news outlets, students were forced to constantly read negative comments about their school and the student body in general. Students found many insensitive and stereotype-driven comments made in reference to them both during the scandal and throughout their research.

"The student-researchers eventually presented their findings, based on dozens of interviews, in a bilingual presentation that included the larger community," and in addition to discussing the above findings, discussed their thoughts on better initiatives the district could have taken than the proposed billion dollar iPad roll-out.

"The participatory research project served to help students talk about the underlying feelings the iPad rollout elicited, and helped the student-researchers see themselves as academics with something to add to the discourse," the article said.

Currently, only about one in six students in LAUSD have received iPads and the initiative has been called off after repetitive problems. A task force has been appointed to meet and by 2016 make recommendations for the district's future technology initiatives to the school board. 

Read the full article here and comment below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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