This morning San Diego Unified School District announced they will buy and distribute $15 million in iPads next year. This follows implementation of a district-wide netbook rollout in middle schools three years ago, all paid for by bond proceeds approved by taxpayers. In the article in this morning’s San Diego Union Tribune district officials describe the training that faculty will receive in basic iPad operation but say that teachers will be left to decide how to use the devices in their respective classroom. In other words, there is no district-wide plan for transforming education through the introduction of their 1:1 program.
This afternoon, our Parker senior administration and IT teams gathered to approve a 1:1 iPad program that will start next year in grades 3-5. Our number one priority is to deliver adequate training to the teachers about how addition of these devices into the classroom environment can dramatically change our learning experience to become more student-centered, collaborative, project-based, exploratory, fluid, and open to the world knowledge base. Funds for the program come from our operating budget.
These two technology programs have something in common: both create 1:1 iPad programs based on faculty and staff evaluation of a number of options that have exploded on the education scene in the last three years. They also have two key differences, and these are important.
Professional development is THE key to a successful 1:1 implementation. This is the message I have had from dozens of educators who I have queried on their experiences over the last five years. Lacking adequate exposure to how 1:1, with any platform, fundamentally changes the learning experience, any computing device is just another toy. To put iPads into classrooms without a significant commitment to this level of professional development is a real mistake on the part of San Diego Unified. At Parker, we have a series of PD days lined up for June, August, and October, dedicated to transforming the classroom, to make sure that teachers have a roadmap for how to change both what and how they teach.
The other important difference is sustainable funding. For SD Unified to use bond funds for what is essentially a consumable teaching device, is just plain wrong. Schools must use long-term capital dollars for long-term uses (buildings and the like). Mobile computing devices are today’s equivalents of slide rules, typewriters and pocket calculators. In order to develop sustainable models of financial support for a new vision of the classroom, we have to match appropriate sources and uses in the budget. This is a challenge that all schools need to take on, and soon. We need to create a financially sustainable model for an evolving educational paradigm that is developing in real time. We may recognize cost increases by buying mobile computing devices; we may realize significant cost savings by embracing online course opportunities. Do our five-year financial models take these into account??
Grant, you are highlighting a mentality that I see in hundreds of schools across the country. As a leasing professional, I spend a significant amount of time trying to explain this concept. Using long-term debt to finance rapidly depreciating assets such as iPads is as you put it, just plain wrong. I think one of the issues is that the short-term budget mindset being applied to a long-term commitment to technology. The capital budgeting process taught today in many of the top graduate universities was created before computers came about. I think there is an emotional connection to owning our gadgets, and holding on to them forever that makes the idea of using a bond palatable. The reality is that institutions should be shifting the mindset of technology from the CapEx to the OpEx side of the budget. Just like teachers, electricity and books, technology is now integral to the daily operations if most institutions in some way. As institutions move to 1:1 programs, the argument against it is hard to support. This shift in mindset results in the ability to plan for a long-term, strategic, sustainable and affordable strategy. Whether schools choose to use operating dollars, lease or finance their devices, the focus should be on the long-term plan for funding and managing the programs. The reality of using donation dollars or bond proceeds are not sustainable or strategic and in many cases extremely expensive. One of my favorite quotes from Sir Ernest Rutherford quoted in Edward Luce’s new book: “Gentlemen, we have run out of money. It is time to start thinking”
I have been thinking a lot lately about SD Unified and addressed some our your same concerns in this post: http://www.nationalteachersalliance.org/dialogue/article/was-purchasing-25k-ipads-a-good-idea-for-san-diego-unified
You say above, “To put iPads into classrooms without a significant commitment to this level of professional development is a real mistake on the part of San Diego Unified.” I’m anxious to learn more about how they are preparing their teachers as such a large deployment will surely place tablets in the hands of teachers who are not super comfortable with technology. How do you know they haven’t committed to PD?
Basing my summary on the article that appeared in the SD Union Tribune yesterday. They report that PD will teach teachers how to use basic functionality but suggest that teachers will be left on their own to decide how to use them in the classroom. I was just contrasting that to our approach; we feel that a lot of PD about how tablets can change the basics of instruction and learning is really the key, not the use of the machine itself. The kids already know how to use iPads! I am all for freedom for teachers and students to explore, but us old folks have a hard time imagining what we don’t know without some help.