Education Week is reporting that a few massive programs to give students tablets are struggling to get off the ground.
One troubled program comes from the Guilford County district in North Carolina, which was set to get 20,000 Amplify tablets for 73,000 students. The other group struggling is the Fort Bend school district in Texas, which had rolled out the iAchieve science program on iPads for 70,000 students.
In North Carolina, school officials suspended the operations because students broke ten percent of 15,000 of the distributed tablets and one tablet’s battery overheated and melted. In Texas, officials stopped the program because research found that it wasn’t compatible with existing curriculum requirements, among other problems. These programs are similar to the recent, highly publicized $30 million Los Angeles School District contract with Apple, to provide iPads for all 660,000 students. People are waiting to see whether the LA operation will be a success, so it doesn’t bode well that similar programs in North Carolina and Texas are failing.
Tablets for students are part of the one-to-one trend in education to get a device, whether tablet or computer, into every student’s hands. It’s an important step in the model of the flipped classroom. The flipped classroom refers to the idea that students should watch lessons when they’re at home — Khan Academy style — and do their homework at school. That way, the teacher’s time isn’t spent lecturing, and instead is spent helping students individually.
As I’ve written about before, one of the biggest problems in edtech is that the tools have an inherent bias in widening the achievement gap. Although there’s innovative technology being developed to help students, only students from schools or families that can afford the technology will benefit. But 1-to-1 initiatives, funded through private and federal grants, can help diminish that gap.
If tablet programs in public school systems try to fix that and don’t succeed, they wind up wasting millions of dollars in the process. The more programs that fail, the less schools may want to try them. That’s not good news for edtech entrepreneurs, creating programs that need devices to run on, or bigger companies like Amazon or Apple, who are hoping schools will purchase their tablets.
[Image via Thinkstock]