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LAUSD viewing IPads as Key to Common Core

Posted on | December 8, 2013 | Comments Off

I have been in Chicago this week.  My colleague David Menefee-Libey, professor of politics at Pomona College reports on this discussion of LAUSD’s iPad purchase program and its relationship to the Common Core of standards.

Wednesday evening I attended KPCC’s panel discussion “Tech in the Classroom: How Much is Too Much?” at their Crawford Family Forum studio in Pasadena. Moderated by their Education Editor Evelyn Larrubia, the panel included Dr. Bernadette Lucas of Los Angeles Unified School District, Prof. Patricia Burch of USC, and Prof. Nancy Cheever of Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Lucas, Director of the Common Core Technology Project at LAUSD, was on the hot seat for the night, largely because of public controversies surrounding the Common Core nationally and the roll out of the iPad program locally.  Larrubia asked more questions of her than the other two panelists, focusing primarily on the iPad program.  What are the big ideas behind it?  How is it supposed to work?  How is it actually working?  I’d urge you to follow the link and watch the program if you’re interested.

Leaving aside the popular controversies, which readers can easily follow elsewhere, two big things from the panel stood out for me.

One is that Lucas spoke in ways that convince me the district sees the iPads (“1 to 1 devices” in district jargon) as thoroughly embedded in the broader chain of ideas of standards-based education that has organized the most influential school reform efforts of the past twenty years here and nationwide.  These ideas and their jargon are familiar to most of us.  Each component of the system is supposed to link to the next in a coherent chain, roughly this way: educational goals ->> content standards ->>  curriculum and materials ->> pedagogy and instruction ->>assessment ->> reporting and accountability ->> intervention.

LAUSD decision-makers apparently see the iPads in several – perhaps all – links of the chain.  The devices will contain the standards-based curriculum now conveyed to student in textbooks.  The district claims this content will take new forms, enabling (or requiring) teachers to develop and use new instructional strategies adapted to the needs, abilities, and interests of each individual child.  The devices will also be used for the computer-delivered assessments required by the new Common Core (though iPads lack the keyboards required for Common Core testing).  Teachers and schools will upload assessment data from each student’s device, data the state will pull together to assess and hold accountable each student, teacher, school, and district in the Brave New World of Common Core teaching and asssessment.

In short, the iPads are not just some shiny new toy.  For LAUSD, they are integral to a whole new way of organizing the district’s entire educational program.  We shouldn’t expect the district to give up on the program any time soon.

The second big idea of the night at KPCC was caution about the first big idea.  Burch, of USC’s Rossier School of Education, talked about her forthcoming book, Privatization and Accountability in Digital Education and her own research on technology initiatives.  She said there is as yet little research on the impact of “1 on 1 devices” on student learning.

Burch, while skeptical, did not dismiss the potential value of these new technologies.  She was generous in her give-and-take with Lucas.  From other research, she said, we know several things that  would make the iPad program more likely to be successful, including teacher engagement, personalized instruction, interactive digital curriculum that doesn’t simply mimic print textbooks, and careful use of data.  Each of these things will require careful attention and hard work from LAUSD and its teachers.

We now know a bit more about what to look for as the iPad rollout goes on.  Kudos to KPPC for its initiative in sponsoring the forum.

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