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Learning Curve

If you give a kid an iPad…

Annie Baxter Aug 21, 2014
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As iPads and other technologies make their way into more classrooms, unforeseen consequences are also on the rise. There’s the need for more IT workers. There’s the need for  bigger security budgets. And now, there’s this: The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education over a policy that lets some kids take their school-issued tablets home, while others cannot.

Students who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program can bring the iPads home. The district website indicates other students may do so if they pay a fee.

“Students whose parents choose not to or can’t buy this expensive device — they don’t get to take it home,” says Laura Rotolo, staff counsel with the ACLU of Massachusetts. “They are at a distinct disadvantage in relation to the other students.”

Rotolo says the iPads must be provided to all kids for free if they’re a core part of the curriculum. 

The school district’s superintendent, Joseph P. Maruszczak, could not be reached for comment.

“I do think it is something that school districts, state legislatures and school boards need to consider in the future because there is an equity issue,” says Scott Himelstein, director of the Mobile Technology Learning Center at the University of San Diego. 

Himelstein believes technology can ultimately give more equal access to education. But he says there will be growing pains — and more legal questions — along the way. Even when schools give all kids devices, he says, issues may arise if students lack equal access to broadband at home to complete homework assignments. 

“Case law is slowly evolving in this, these things are being tested nationwide,” Himelstein says.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has asked the Mendon-Upton school district for a report on its iPad policies. It’s due by the end of the month.

How We Survive
How We Survive
Climate change is here. Experts say we need to adapt. This series explores the role of technology in helping humanity weather the changes ahead.