The Los Angeles Unified School District recently launched a districtwide effort to give iPads to every one of its 650,000 students during the next year. But in Glendale and Burbank, school officials are resisting following suit, focusing instead on building a wireless infrastructure.
The Los Angeles School district will pay $500 million for the iPads and another $500 million to install wireless Internet.
In Burbank, where 61.5% of voters approved a $110-million bond last March, school board member Larry Applebaum said many parents have asked how the district will spend bond dollars on technology.
But in order to meet future technology needs, his belief is that a new wireless infrastructure comes before providing tablets to students.
Currently, less than half of the schools in Burbank Unified have WiFi capability. Earlier this month, the district approved spending more than $700,000 in bond funds to build a new data center twice the size of its current one to better operate the district's computer network.
“We have to have the infrastructure and the backbone to be able to support what we're trying to roll out,” Applebaum said.
“No, we're not going to be like [the Los Angeles Unified School District] and put iPads in the hands of kids without having a plan of how to effectively use them,” he added.
That plan would also detail how the district would continue to pay for the cost of maintaining or replacing iPads for students.
In Glendale, where 70% of voters passed a $270-million bond in 2011, school officials have undertaken a similar endeavor in expanding wireless Internet to schools, beginning with the district's four high schools.
School board member Christine Walters, who also sits on the district's technology committee, said she envisions the district utilizing tablets in the future as digital textbooks.
“A book is outdated 10 minutes after it's printed. With the e-readers, they can be updated. They can be interactive … the tablets can have multiple uses. They can be used for more than just reading,” she said.
But school officials, she continued, are waiting until text book companies provide viable content for e-readers.
“Our question is timing,” she added. “The content has to be there.”
School board member Mary Boger, who also sits on the Glendale district's technology committee, said she is personally “not in any rush to secure tablets for every student,” preferring to wait until the district's computer network can effectively serve all schools in the district.
Another crucial step for Boger relates to training teachers how to incorporate tablets in their lesson plans.
“Having an electronic tool is not valuable unless it is connected to your curriculum,” she said. “If it's not connected to curriculum and our teachers haven't been training to use it in our classrooms, then it's not a benefit to the student.”
Follow Kelly Corrigan on Twitter: @kellymcorrigan.