Lest you think that the Los Angeles Unified School District is way out in left field to be buying iPads for its students, consider this: According to a new report in the publication Education Week, Apple has close to 94% of the school market for student tablets. And many of those are in so-called 1-to-1 purchases — in other words, a tablet for every student, just as L.A. Unified has planned.
Of course, that figure doesn't count the laptop market. And in the article, a Louisiana schools technology officer briefly vents frustration with the cost of iPads, noting that she could buy a Google Chromebook for less than $200. Individual schools there have nonetheless been purchasing iPads with their own funds from various sources.
Even when they do buy iPads, school districts mentioned in the article were going for significantly less expensive versions. In Maine, they bought almost 40,000 of them for $299 each. An Illinois school district spent $429 for each iPad, but they're equipped with cases and keyboards.
Los Angeles Unified's iPads are costing $770 apiece, with a $100-per-tablet discount if the district buys at least 520,000. But it's hard to make comparisons across the districts. The L.A. Unified iPads have cases but no keyboards; the district is paying extra to get those for high school students. They also have locators and anti-theft measures built into them, and are bundled with curriculum software that has become at least as controversial as the tablets themselves. It's also unclear exactly what kinds of iPads other school districts purchased.
But they have clearly found ways of doing it cheaper. The question is whether they've found ways of doing it better. A North Carolina school district that bought cheaper tablets from another manufacturer suspended its program after screens on 10% of the devices broke within a month.