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Southland school district latest to buy iPads for every student


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Coachella Valley Unified got the green light Tuesday from the Riverside County Board of Supervisors to spend bond money to put an iPad in every student’s hand and a Macbook in every teacher's lap.

“As soon as they come into pre-school they’re going to have classroom sets and then as you go up the grades you will see students taking them home,” said Superintendent Darryl Adams.

Last November, Adams and other educators convinced voters in the school district to approve a $42 million bond measure for technology upgrades. The district is using $21.5 million of that now to order 900 MacBook laptops for teachers and 20,000 iPads for students for the fall.

Adams said the district isn’t adequately preparing students for college and jobs. A pilot program last August showed him and other administrators that teaching with iPads could help students.
“We saw teachers engaged, students engaged, students helping students, students helping teachers, teachers learning from students, creating documents, and creating art, and creating music,” Adams said.

Coachella Valley Unified joins a small group of school districts nationwide that have committed to providing an iPad to every student. It’s expensive, not only to buy the technology, but to boost wifi infrastructure, train teachers, and buy insurance.

There’s very little academic research on whether iPads help students learn. UC Irvine’s Mark Warschauer said he just finished reviewing studies of the benefits of laptops in classrooms. “We found moderate positive impact on student test scores across subject areas, math, science, reading, language arts, writing, but iPads are a somewhat different phenomenon and they’re very new,” he said.

What’s important, Warschauer said, is not the device but that students minds’ are engaged learning math, science, reading, and history while using them.

“Even the engagement, that can be a two way street," he said. "If it’s kind of emotionally engaging and cognitive engaging that’s very positive. But if it’s emotionally engaging in a way that distracts from serious academic work then that’s not that positive,” he said.

Coachella Valley certainly won’t be the last district to put iPads in students’ hands. Tustin has approved similar spending and L.A. Unified is buying iPads for a small portion of its students to start using in the fall.