What schools must learn from Los Angeles’ iPad fiasco

“When Los Angeles schools began handing out iPads in the fall of 2013, it looked like one of the country’s most ambitious rollouts of technology in the classroom,” Issie Lapowsky reports for Wired. “The city’s school district planned to spend $1.3 billion putting iPads, preloaded with the Pearson curriculum, in the hands of every student in every school.”

“Less than two years later, that ambitious plan now looks like a spectacularly foolish one. In August, the Los Angeles Unified School District halted its contract with Apple, as rumors swirled that Apple and Pearson may have received preferential treatment in the district’s procurement process, something the FBI is investigating,” Lapowsky reports. “Then, this spring, the district sent a letter to Apple seeking a refund, citing crippling technical issues with the Pearson platform and incomplete curriculum that made it nearly impossible for teachers to teach. If a deal can’t be reached, the district could take legal action. Pearson, whose stock tumbled following the news, has publicly defended the curriculum, which LAUSD’s director of the so-called Instructional Technology Initiative denounced as utterly unusable in a memo earlier this year.”

“But while the the parties involved continue pointing the finger and picking up the pieces, the important question to ask now is what this fiasco means for the future of technology in the classroom,” Lapowsky reports. “According to Michael Horn, executive director of the education program at the Clay Christensen Institute, who also is author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools, Los Angeles is a classic case of a school district getting caught up in the ed tech frenzy without fully thinking through why technology is important in the first place.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Situation Normal: All…

Related articles:
Los Angeles schools seeking refund over botched iPad plan – April 16, 2015
U.S. FBI seizes L.A. Unified School District iPad documents; 20 boxes carted away in surprise visit – December 2, 2014
Beleaguered L.A. schools superintendent to resign in wake of iPad fiasco – October 16, 2014
Los Angeles teachers union calls for investigation of school super Deasy’s ties to Apple, Pearson execs – August 26, 2014
L.A. Unified School District suspends Apple iPad contract – August 26, 2014
L.A. Unified School District repossesses students’ iPads as $1-billion plan hits hurdles – October 1, 2013


    1. A dead giveaway that problems were on the horizon, “pre-loaded with Pearson” etc. The strange thing is that Apple did not see this coming. Had they allowed other market forces to compete this might have been avoided…

      1. It certainly would have been proactive and user-friendly of Apple to evaluate the Pearson software. Apparently, they did NOT. But I’m used to shoes dropping out of nowhere. At least contractually, the Pearson software was NOT related to Apple’s sale of iPads. There was no co-contract.

    2. Silverhawk noted the issue of a narrow answer to technology.

      If we are going to train students, they need to have the option of being on the platform that suits their needs.

      Tablets are just a subset!

      1. Except that is not what this is about. This is about using technology to learn, not learning to use technology.

        Besides, even if it were the latter case, Apple would still be the preferable choice as Macs can also do Windows and Linux.

  1. John Oliver also lambasted Pearson as being very poor in quality and accuracy.
    So whilst the idea is good the execution needs a lot of work. In reality this should be brought in on stages so that all the bugs can be resolved. Pearson apparently owns nearly 50% of the market although they have done a bad job.

    1. Anyone who has been feeding at the public trough for as long as Pearson should have beed suspect all along. Now if they had asked homeschool parents for advice, they might have found better contenders.

  2. As the article emphasizes, schools must determine how technology can assist what they are trying to teach then purchase the hardware and software to meet those needs, so “Milpitas started with 2,000 Chromebooks, because they’re less expensive than iPads”. Sounds like they really thought out those needs to me.

    1. The problem is not iPad vs Chromebooks. L.A. poorly planned and coordinated the utilization of the digital curriculum. The spent the money without figuring out how to integrate the leverage its advantages, and mitigate its limitations. LA simply through a lot of money at the project without building an infrastructure for it first. Poor planning and execution. LA may have lost less money with Chromebooks, but the still would have failed miserably.

  3. Sure seems like Apple could buy a company to develop curriculum for schools. They could provide that free to any district that purchased x amount of hardware. That would help to cement brand awareness in school kids and help to educate the world.

    1. …and as soon as you did that, all the rest of the curriculum companies would avoid Apple like the plague, because Apple would now be a competitor rather than a supplier.

      Good motive, but not the way to go. On the other hand, partnerships with multiple curriculum companies would help accomplish successful programs.

  4. According to the source information of which I am aware, this is WRONG and was probably picked up from an other article where this WRONG was first blown out of someone’s back orifice:

    “Then, this spring, the district sent a letter to Apple seeking a refund, citing crippling technical issues with the Pearson platform and incomplete curriculum that made it nearly impossible for teachers to teach.

    NO. The source information I read pointed out that the school district wrote a letter to PEARSON about THEIR lousy software. The school district contacted APPLE about specific iPads they believed had hardware problems. The school system is NOT entitled to any refund from Apple, but they are entirely entitled to iPad replacements that work.

    If anyone has contradicting source derived information, please share. I’d very much enjoy seeing ANY actual ‘letter’ to Apple, versus simply a request for service.

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