Wired‘s Issie Lapowsky reports on how some students in California, given iPads for class work, now also have data plans allowing them access from home. This is good, but I’m actually a bit shocked someone thought it a good idea to implement tablet-based education before ensuring everyone actually had Internet access.
On a cloudy Tuesday afternoon in San Marcos, California, Guadalupe Lopez is guiding me through Alvin Dunn Elementary’s concrete grid of a campus. Dressed in a black sweatshirt with Minnie Mouse ears on the hood, she’s striding along with the eager confidence of a soon-to-be 7th grader just weeks away from the first day of summer. And she has something special she wants to show me.
Charging several steps ahead, she leads me into the school’s cafeteria, where dozens of black and white photos of Alvin Dunn sixth graders cover the wall. The photos, Lopez explains, are part of a research project that she and a small group of her classmates recently completed on why American businesses and government agencies should invest in at-risk youth.
“They’re spending so much on prisons, but they’re leaving us behind,” Lopez tells me, sounding far more sophisticated than she should at 12. To illustrate their point, Lopez and her group took photos of each of their classmates and asked them all to write captions explaining why they’re worth the investment. “Some of them just touch your heart,” Lopez tells me, sincerity radiating from her big brown eyes.
During the month she spent researching both in and out of school, this topic has become deeply personal to Lopez, and as she stares up at the wall, it’s clear she is proud of her hard work—work that would have been a lot harder if not for the fact that a few months earlier, the school gave every sixth grader a Samsung tablet to take home with them.
That, in and of itself, wasn’t all that special. Alvin Dunn students had been using iPads in class for years. But what made a truly deep impact in Lopez’s life was the fact that the tablet had its own data plan. That meant she could actually take it home with her and use it. It was a tiny difference, but for Lopez, it changed everything. Like about 30 percent of American schoolchildren—and more than half the sixth grade class at Alvin Dunn—Lopez has no Internet access at home.