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Was Purchasing 25K iPads a Good Idea for San Diego Unified?

We don't know but we should. NTA argues that San Diego share lessons learned from mass deployment of iPads

This large purchase also comes with great responsibility. We argue other schools considering tablet technology should be able to learn from your experience.

This week we learned that San Diego Unified has committed to purchasing 25,700 iPads for its students. At $370 a pop (they went for iPad 2s) that would be about $9.5 million on tablet technology alone. The whole initiative is reported to cost $15 million so we are guessing the remaining 5+ million will be spent on tablet covers, charging carts, wireless infrastructure and, most importantly, professional development.  Pretty amazing numbers if they are accurate.

Believed to be funded in part by Proposition S, the iPads will go to the District’s fifth through eighth grade classes as well as students in select high school subjects. And while many are scratching their heads at such a large tablet computer purchase, SD Unified isn’t going into this 1:1 iPad initiative blindly.  In addition to a previous iPad pilot, this large southern California school district has spent over $35 million deploying some 75,000 netbooks as part of their Integrated 21st Century (i21) Interactive Classroom Initiative. Some could rightfully argue that SD Unified is best suited to take on this challenge.

But is this a good decision? Will students benefit from San Diego Unified’s huge iPad undertaking? With what we know so far, it is way too early to say.

What we do want to say is Congratulations to SD Unified. You are now an iPad Mass Deployment Pioneer (along with a few districts in Maine, Texas and Wisconsin).  This large purchase also comes with great responsibility. We argue other schools/districts considering tablet technology should be able to learn from your experience. From infrastructure logistics to classroom pedagogy, what you learn in the next few years can serve as a blueprint of what to do (and what not to do) for those that decide to follow.  We hope that the district will share best practices and lessons learned and that teachers, schools, as well as the public and private education sectors will look at your effort with an open mind but a critical eye to what is working.

While you have a history of reaching out through professional networks, we were unable to find much on your website about your iPad efforts and the link to your “comprehensive professional development and support plan” is currently password protected. We hope that in the weeks to come you can update the world on all the exciting developments and challenges you face.

You have obviously seen something with tablet technology that you believe will enhance the student learning experience and we would like to know more about exactly what it is.  More importantly, we at the National Teachers Alliance would love to help you share what you are doing and what you (and your students) have learned so that others may gain from your experience. Feel free to give us a call.

About Chris

Chris has a passion for education and health. After teaching at public schools for many years, he helped develop award winning remedial math software. He has also been involved as a board member with many non-profit education groups. He is currently a co-founder of two health information and insurance sites: Medicoverage.com and Senior65.com Google