Friday, September 13, 2013

Cooling down

Now that's it cooling down, a few words about the cooling situation (or lack thereof) over at Nobel Charter Middle School. And then we'll get to the iPad stuff.

The air conditioning at Nobel has been addressed and it seems that work on the system has been an on-going situation since before school started. According to sources at the school, the problem lies not only with just the cooling hardware (coils, etc.) but also with the underlying infrastructure which delivered water to the system and was the source of a lot of the cooling problems.

I know a lot of you were instructed to call Nobel and complain to the administration there, but believe me, they are well aware of the situation and we don't need to remind them of what they already know. The people to call when such problems arise would be the district offices.

Board member Tamar Galatzan visited Nobel last Friday and took a tour and assured parents that her office was keeping tabs on the situation and were doing all they could to assist in making sure classrooms were bearable for both students and staff. Portable cooling units were brought in to help keep things comfortable in the classsrooms and I think that at the moment, that's where the situation stands. Unfortunately, Nobel is an older facility and taking care of its bones isn't an easy or inexpensive proposition. Speaking of propositions...

The latest use of LAUSD voter-approved construction/facilities bond monies is the iPad/Common Core Initiative. The board approved the contract back in June (see video below) and the Phase 1 roll out is already in place. LAUSD went with the Apple iPad at a cost of $678 per device. I know many of you felt that this was incredibly expensive for a mass purchase but in reality, the $678 goes beyond just the device itself, it also includes the cost of a three year warranty as well as the software required to use it in the manner in which it was intended: to get students up to speed for the newly implemented Common Core instruction. Apple will also cover the first 5% of loss of the devices. Just the first 5%. The district is responsible for any additional expenses incurred under loss or unusable devices. There was a lot of chattering about using this money instead on salaries for teachers, etc. Because it was a construction/facilities bond passed by Los Angeles voters, it can only be used on construction/facilites related items. True, this contract with Apple does provide the salaries for a staff of 14 technicians who will be on call to help at all LAUSD schools with instruction and troubleshooting. After the contract expires, it will be left to each school to fund such a position if they feel their campus is in need of additional support.

Recently, there was a small kerfluffle in the papers regarding the lack of any wireless keyboards in the contract with Apple, and again, people wondered how this got by the school board and there were more than a few fingers pointed at the school board for assuming they didn't know the keyboards were not included. This is not the case. Again, at the June 18, 2013 school board meeting, Item 18 on the agenda was the authorization for contract with Apple re the Common Core Tech Initiative

At the 13:55 mark in the video below, watch the exchange between board member Dr. Richard Vladovic and Deputy Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Jaime Aquino:

Dr. Vladovic: Does this include all the accessories that make it accessible to students?
Dr. Aquino: Yes.
Dr. Vladovic: So it does?
Dr. Aquino: Yes.

While not entirely accurate during this exchange, things to eventually get cleared up at around the 19:50 mark when board member Steve Zimmer tries to clarify in a question to Dr. Aquino:

Mr. Zimmer: I'm very concerned about secondary.... for our early grades I'm very convinced that the touch screen and the Apple product is a phenomenal learning device  I am concerned as we move into the resources that our secondary students need that without a stylus or keyboard... things like that.. and without the full composite of the word processing and all the things that are needed at that level.. do you have any concerns?
Dr. Aquino: No.
Mr. Zimmer: But they will need keyboards won't they?
Dr. Aquino: Yes.

Additionally, Mr. Zimmer also brought up the issue of e-waste at the 33:20 mark:

Mr. Zimmer:  The last question that I have is...this is a three year warranty; we would hope the devices last longer than three years..I know this is down the line and I do really believe that has not been part of the conversation... and I want us to think about:  if the devices don't have much use after three, four or five years we are potentially creating one of the biggest e-waste situations probably historically in a long time... Is that somewhere in the equation? Because ...we have an obligation to think through what's going to happen.
John Sterritt, Office of Environmental Health and Safety: The tablet program will fall in line with our e-waste program and protocols LAUSD has in place to address any e-waste... We have protocols and vendors in place to deal with any e-waste generated from this program.

Oh. Ok. Well, if you guys say so...

So really, despite whatever the newspapers write, or whatever those who follow the school board and the goings on inside LAUSD, the fact that there were no keyboards in this initial contract was a surprise to no one but parents not paying attention to the contract negotiations (this would include, uh... me).

Paying attention to the smaller details of things sometimes can be enlightening. But in any event, I wasn't familiar with Dr. Aquino so here are a few links to more info on him...

A little background on Dr. Jaime Aquino:

Before joining LAUSD, Aquino worked for America's Choice, an education research company acquired by Pearson in 2010. Aquino said he was not part of the panel that rated all of the software options, but was part of the team that reviewed the three finalists for the contract -- all of which had Pearson as the software provider. --Daily Bulletin News

Aquino was chief academic officer for the Denver Public School system from 2005-2008; in 2008, he was a participant in the [Eli] Broad Center for the Management of School Systems's Superintendents Academy. Since 2008, he has been affiliated with America's Choice, a "new kind of educational organization...a solution provider...the creator of research-based school improvement solutions." America's Choice is owned by UK-based Pearson, "the world's leading learning company." -- California's Children

A few blurbs about Pearson:

Apple will provide iPads that include the Pearson Common Core System of Courses delivered via a new app as part of the integrated solution. Apps such as iWork®, iLife® and iTunes®, in addition to a range of educational third-party apps are also included. --the Apple LAUSD/iPad press release.

LAUSD is paying $678 per tablet, a higher price than in many stores, but that includes preloaded software from Pearson Education Inc. A panel of district educators, students and technology experts tested Common Core-related packages from several educational publishers and New Jersey-based Pearson came out on top, officials said. --Daily Bulletin News

 What Other People Are Saying About The iPad Deal and tablets in general:

Babies and cats can use iPads. Simply using them does not make you technologically skilled. It makes you a consumer, albeit one who can use apps. Impress me by coding an app, game, or program. Build something. (Is that even a goal? Or were school administrators simply excited to buy cool toys? If teaching kids to program — build things — is the goal, maybe cheaper classic boxes run on open source code are a better way to go.Read about this remarkable 7th grade project in Maryland for an example.) -- K-12 News Network

The Los Angeles Unified School District buys iPad Trojan Horses for 30,000 students - CIS 471

No Child Left Untableted - New York Times

The LAUSD/Apple Contract (if you seriously can't sleep).

We'll see what develops next.

UPDATE: Something is developing.

UPDATE 2: LAUSD Superintendent of Instruction, Dr. Jaime Aquino has resigned.

Jaime Aquino quits as LAUSD instructional chief, blames school board for stalling reform - DailyNews

Deasy Deputy Jaime Aquino Resigns (Updated) - LA School Report

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