EdTech Showdown? Apple & Los Angeles Unified School District

4/21/2015 3:01:00 PM
By Margot Douaihy
If you haven't heard about this kerfuffle yet, buckle in. This edtech story has as many twists and turns as an M. Night Shyamalan movie.

In 2013, the LAUSD (Los Angeles Unified School District) announced a partnership with Apple and Pearson to purchase more than 640,000 iPads pre-loaded with Pearson's educational content.

The multi-year contract was to be crafted in stages, with an initial multimillion-dollar investment in a pilot phase of tablets. Additional payments of nearly  $1 billion were planned in sync with enhanced Wi-Fi and tech support. Sounds great, right? A win-win for tech-savvy students and manufacturers? Not quite.

In August 2014, the program was canceled. Apparently, the software didn't work too well, the digital content seemed "rushed," and security settings were tweaked (kids these days).

Since the pilot deployment, the program has been on/off/renewed/cancelled/back out to bid, and even augmented with Chromebooks. LAUSD's superintendent, John Deasey, resigned last October.

Now, LAUSD, who is "extremely dissatisfied," wants its money back. Students are still having trouble accessing the content on the iPads, the district reports.

Here's what David Holmquist, the LAUSD's district attorney, wrote to Apple's general counsel: "While Apple and Pearson promised a state-of-the-art technological solution for ITI implementation, they have yet to deliver it." (The Instructional Technology Initiative, ITI, is the district's revised name for its iPad program.) If it doesn't receive the requested multimillion-dollar refund, the LAUSD will take Apple to court.

What's the takeaway for tech managers in educational markets? As LA taxpayers seethe, tech skeptics cringe, and the LAUSD waits for its refund and prepares to reboot its edtech offerings, this should serve as a cautionary tale for technology teams large and small. If you are on the team tasked with a large-scale tech deployment, what is the bidding process? How are you conducting the end-user needs assessment? What's your pilot program and long-term vision? What's your mobile device management strategy? Is the technology compliant with ADA standards? What are your security protocols for the ever-changing BYOD space? If it is a 1:1 roll-out, how is tech support going to work? Is a faculty quorum required for new BYOD or mobile tech buy?

After an FBI investigation and the LAUSD's multimillion-dollar refund request, this story underscores the importance of thoroughly vetting and benchmarking new technology and software, as well as use-cases, before embracing campus-wide adoption. 
Read more about the uproar here.

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