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Teacher Union Survey Shows Mixed Support for iPads

Michael Janofsky | November 7, 2013

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imagesA slight plurality of LA Unified teachers said they would favor continuing the iPad program, according to a new UTLA survey that produced mixed results in a district contemplating the next phase of a billion dollar digital device program.

The union poll was conducted over a week in late October, with 255 teachers from the 47 district schools that received iPads in Phase 1 of the program responding. Not all the teachers responded to all the questions, but taken together, the ambiguous results may undermine the value of the survey as a credible resource for policy.

Even the number who favored continuing the program, 62, was barely more than those who would stop it, 57, with another 54 saying they were unsure what to do. The district is planning to give iPads to all 650,000 students by the end of 2015.

The survey was conducted at the request of Monica Ratliff, the LA Unified board member who serves as chair of the Common Core Technology Project committee. She has been in favor of district students’ receiving digital devices beyond Phase 1 but not necessarily iPads. At the board’s meeting two days ago, she proposed holding off further distribution until officials could evaluate the instructional effectiveness of all digital devices used in the district.

The issue could be voted on at the board’s meeting on Tuesday, but as further evidence of differing views, Ratliff’s colleague, Monica Garcia, is introducing a resolution that asks the board to approve Phase 2 tablets for her district.

Ratliff did not respond to an email seeking comment, but the survey’s mixed results would appear to support her request for a pause. While hardly scientific due, in part, to small sample sizes, the survey found that large numbers of teachers responded negatively to some aspects of the program and positively to others.

For example, 62.5 percent of 232 teachers said they “disagree” or “strongly disagree” with the idea they had “adequate training to effectively use” iPads in their classrooms, yet 43.9 percent of 180 teachers said they were “comfortable” using iPads for classroom instruction, compared with 33.9 percent who said they were not.

Mixed results were also evident in a series of questions about the value of iPads for various aspects of instruction. Teachers were asked whether iPads were an “effective tool” for 11 different classroom uses. Substantially larger numbers of the 164 who responded said they were effective for six of the uses and were not effective for two. On three other uses they responded yes and no in about equal numbers.

Teachers responded in almost identical numbers when asked if iPads were an effective tool for “overall instruction,” with 36.5 percent saying they were and 35.6 percent saying they were not.

On a question about the iPads’ Pearson software, 46.7 percent said it was not an effective tool while 26.7 percent said it was. But with only 30 teachers responding to that question, it was too small of a sample size to be dispositive.

The only area that provided more conclusive results were questions about how the district handled the rollout. Firm majorities of 175 teachers said parents, teachers, administrators and other school staff were not given sufficient information about the iPads. And more than half of 167 teachers, 50.3 percent, said the rollout was not “organized and smooth.”

Previous Posts: LA Unified Board sees a digital future without Apple iPadsLA Unified busts some myths about the iPad programLA Unified is providing cost estimates for future iPad supplies.


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