Future Tense

L.A. School District Terminates iPad Program and Seeks Refund From Apple

Nursery school students in northeastern France.

Photo by Frederick Florin/AFP/Getty Images

It’s been an interesting ride, but the Los Angeles school iPad program is done. Between the rampant student hacking and the FBI probe, you can see how the focus kind of wandered away from education. But there are millions of dollars tied up in the project, so it’s not just lunch money.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, the Unified School District Board of Education told its attorneys that they should consider litigation against Apple and Pearson. (Pearson developed the iPad curriculum as an Apple contractor.) District counsel David Holmquist said that Superintendent Ramon C. Cortines “made the decision that he wanted to put them on notice, Pearson in particular, that he’s dissatisfied with their product.” In a letter to Apple, the school district wrote that it won’t continue to pay for the Pearson curriculum or services. And board members are calling for a refund.

The original goal of the $1.3 billion project was to democratize access to high-quality devices and give every student exposure to these modern tools. Controversy about the usefulness of this type of technology for education began before the Los Angeles experiment, though, and continues to this day. Some schools have been able to successfully integrate iPads into their classrooms. But it’s not a matter of just giving students the gadgets. “Are American public schools ready to recognize that it’s the adults and students around the iPads, not just the iPads themselves, that require some real attention?” Lisa Guernsey wrote in Slate in 2013.

The L.A. school board maintains that technology has an important role to play in education, both for instruction and state testing. But for now, some things are still old school. The Times notes that this week the board ordered new math textbooks.