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Tablets in the classroom bring cutting edge problems, too

A young girl holds an Apple iPad on display.
A young girl holds an Apple iPad on display.
Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Administrators at L.A. Unified may want to read an article out today in the technology news website Information Week about stumbling blocks that may hinder classroom iPad  programs.

Tech writer and wireless network administrator Lee Badman outlines a multitude of problems educators face when incorporating iPads into the school day including failing wireless networks and teachers serving double duty as tech support.

The Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of Education last week approved a $30 million contract with Apple Inc. to purchase iPads for students and teachers at 47 schools. After the initial rollout phase, the district ultimately plans to equip every student in the district with a tablet. 

Badman warns that tech problems can suck valuable classroom time as teachers try to troubleshoot technology problems.

"Nothing is more frustrating to a teacher who only has 40 minutes to get through a class than a student who takes up the first 15 minutes because he's having a device problem," writes Badman. "It's easy to say 'send them to IT support and don't waste class time,' but in reality it's just not that simple."

Badman has more than 25 years of tech experience, and he makes several thoughtful points that might not be apparent to the casual iPad user.

Here are a few other pitfalls Badman mentions in his piece:

  • Students are often more adept in using devices than faculty are. I have seen this play out a number of times, from attempts to use GPS units in geocaching activities in physical education to my daughter's own Photoshop class. If the students have to teach the Instructor how to use the device or apps on it, chances for program success are pretty slim.
  • Underperforming teachers don't get better because of iPads. Where a particular teacher is failing for whatever reason, there's little chance that adding technology to their curriculum is going to make them more successful. In fact, it can likely have the opposite effect, especially if the goals of the program are not crystal clear.
  • Lots of wireless devices demand a good network. As you increase your iPad counts, the complexity of the wireless network gets more pronounced. You'll need more access points professionally configured, and competing technologies, such as classroom response systems, certain cordless phones, and personal hotspots, will have to be mitigated.

Do you think iPads help or hinder students' educations? Should L.A. Unified have spent $30 million on the tablets?

Share your thoughts in the comments below.