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iPad training for 1500 teachers in LA Unified begins this week

L.A. Unified is handing out iPads to 1,500 teachers in first part of technology program. When school starts next week, 30,000 students will start using the devices.
L.A. Unified is handing out iPads to 1,500 teachers in first part of technology program. When school starts next week, 30,000 students will start using the devices.
Adolfo Guzman-Lopez

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A line of people stood in a snaking line in East Los Angeles Monday, waiting to get their hands on a new Apple device.

No, you haven't missed the news of a new iPhone. This line was outside Roosevelt High school and the people waiting were all teachers.

Two months after the Los Angeles Unified School District's Board of education voted to spend $30 million to buy iPads for every teacher and student at 47 schools, the district began training those teachers on how to use them.

"It’s so exciting for the students," said Jennifer Chang, an elementary school teacher. With the internet in their hands, there's no limit to what the students can research, she added. "The world is coming to them. It's going to make everything, I think, more efficient and faster."

The district is giving the 1,500 teachers 2 to 3 days of training, depending on the subject matter and grade. Third grade teacher Tiffany Decoursey hopes that's enough.

"I’m just hoping that the training will be of such that I can really utilize it efficiently because if you have something and you don’t know how to use it, what’s the point?" she asked before ducking into one of the training rooms with her new iPad.

As her group was getting started, L.A. Unified’s head of instruction, Jaime Aquino interrupted the Apple trainer to pump up the teachers.

"Good morning everyone," he said. When the response wasn't as rousing as he'd hoped, he tried again: "C’mon guys, are you as excited as I am? Let’s try that again. Good morning everyone!"

The tablets cost nearly $700 a piece and come with standard iPad apps plus applications designed by education industry giant Pearson to prepare students for English and math standardized tests.

But there are glitches. The first day passwords didn't work and some of the iPads couldn't connect to the school’s server. Aquino asked teachers to be patient. He said Pearson will use their feedback to improve the product.

"There are going to be bumps and glitches, like with anything in life, don’t give up because we can work those through and I think we’re going to see a difference," he said.

When school starts in the district next week, 30,000 students will be using the iPads. The district is running numerous training sessions all over the city to get the teachers trained in time.

Expanding the program to the rest of L.A. Unified’s 640,000 students would cost half a billion dollars.

After complaints from the media, L.A. Unified opened Monday's session at Roosevelt to journalists. Aquino told the half dozen radio, television and newspaper reporters present that the program's expansion is a sure bet. 

Standing nearby, school board member Monica Ratliff said that's not necessarily true.

"We’re going to have a chance, after this process, to look at what worked, what do we still need to work on before we vote on the other quarter of a billion dollars," said Ratliff, a school teacher who was elected in March.

Aquino also made it a point to tell teachers that the devices are there to help them, not take their place.

"There's nothing like having a teacher, so this is not to replace you," he said. "So why am I excited? Because I can’t wait to see what you’re going to do for our kids under your leadership with this tool."

LA Unified staff is expected to give the school board a report in the fall on how the iPads are working in the 47 schools. Classes in the district start Tuesday of next week.