LOS ANGELES — Education officials in the nation’s second-largest school district are working to reboot a $1 billion plan to put an iPad in the hands of each of their 650,000 students after an embarrassing glitch emerged when the first round of tablets went out.
Instead of solving math problems or doing English homework, as administrators envisioned, more than 300 Los Angeles Unified School District students promptly cracked the security settings and started tweeting, posting to Facebook and playing video games.
“‘Temple Run.’ ‘Subway Surfing.’ Oh, and some car racing game I can’t remember the name of,” said freshman Stephany Romero, laughing as she described the games she saw fellow Roosevelt High School students playing in class.
That incident, and related problems, had both critics and supporters questioning last week whether LAUSD officials were being hasty or overreaching in their attempt to distribute an iPad to every student and teacher at the district’s more than 1,000 campuses by next year.
“It doesn’t seem like there was much planning that went into this strategy,” said Renee Hobbs, director of the Harrington School of Communication and Media at the University of Rhode Island. “That’s where the debacle began.”
It’s crucial, she said, to spend extensive time drawing students into a discussion on using iPads responsibly before handing them out. And, of course, installing a firewall that can’t be easily breached.
At Roosevelt High, it was the unanimous opinion of more than a dozen students that the school district’s security setup was so weak that even the most tech-challenged parent could have gotten past it.
“It was so easy!” said freshman Carlos Espinoza. He explained that all one needed to do was access the tablet’s settings, delete the profile established by the school district and set up an Internet connection. He did it, he said, because he wanted to go on Facebook.
“They kind of should have known this would happen,” said Espinoza’s friend Maria Aguilera.
“We’re high school students after all. I mean, come on,” she added.
When they started distributing the iPads at 47 district schools in August, administrators touted the move as a means of leveling the academic playing field in a public school system where 80 percent of the students come from low-income families.