We can do better

Switching from MacBooks to iPads is the wrong move for schools


By Maya Smith, Editor-in-Chief

Right now, I’m editing a story, designing a yearbook spread, and simultaneously checking my email.

That’s exactly what I need to be doing, and that’s exactly why my school MacBook is so important. It’s the right tool for me to be successful.

On an iPad however, I can’t do graphic design or be nearly as efficient as I am on a MacBook. I can’t continue to improve at the same rate. I can’t ensure I’m as prepared for college. 

But that’s the reality we will all face in August after the school board voted this week to drop MacBooks in favor of iPads.

Switching high school students from MacBooks to iPads focuses on the money at stake but not the educational cost. Instead of finding a solution in the best interests of students that also salvages the budget, the district is opting for a plan that takes us back in time. 

The school board’s agenda for its Jan. 23 meeting noted the intent of switching devices would be to “better support the district’s multi-tiered, student-centered learning approach.” But switching to iPads does not benefit students’ learning.

It does save the district $1.3 million per year, according to an evaluation presented by the board. But what will we lose in time and lose in efficiency? And how much of that savings will be consumed providing a range of solutions for all the problems created by the switch?  

iPads were selected to replace laptops in a 6-1 vote on Monday night, following a lengthy discussion from Lawrence teachers, staff, and students who gave public comments.

Film teacher Zach Saltz was among those objecting to the change, which was made following other presentations, including one over equity.

“We had to sit there and listen to that, and then they proceeded to do something really that I felt was pretty inequitable,” Saltz said.

Student learning is affected in all areas, but the hardest hit goes to specialized classes. Journalism, film, coding, photography, and debate are just a few programs that will take a hard hit to how they function on a day-to-day basis. 

“I am extremely disgusted by this decision, even if that’s a little far,” junior Liam McCoy said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen in video production alone, or if our projects are even going to be as good.” 

Another issue that is noticeable is the lack of representation of specialized classes in the iPad pilot launched in October. The pilot targeted math and English classes, yet no career and technical education-based courses were given the chance to give feedback on an issue they would be the most affected by. 

The board heard about a concept for a hybrid model for CTE classes, where teachers would have a mix of MacBooks and iMacs in addition to student iPads. Along with asking teachers to manage checking out laptops to students, teachers will have to manage which students get to use laptops in their classrooms on top of their other responsibilities.  

Meanwhile, students who can afford laptops will buy them on their own. Those who can’t will be stuck with an inferior tool.

“It’s a given equity issue. There is going to be a large majority of people who can barely pay to play sports or be a part of programs already,” junior Izy Klish said. “It’ll create a divide. Checking out computers will go poorly. Deciding who gets what will be extremely controversial, mainly compared to people who aren’t in a certain class who won’t get to use one.”

Personally, I am fortunate enough to have parents who are able to support my academic interests. This is not the case across the district for all families and students.

One of the six votes in favor of moving to iPads was board member GR Gordon-Ross, who paid a visit to a junior history class Tuesday morning as a follow-up to Monday night’s decision. Gordon-Ross explained that although he was sound in his decision, he went back and forth justifying his vote solely based on the numbers given the problems that will result. 

“I am not going to lie. In five years on the board, I have made a lot of decisions that I am proud of and that I will stand behind, and this is not a decision that I’m proud of,” Gordon-Ross said. 

I understand that with the current budgetary challenges, there are changes that need to be made. However, more time for this decision and more community engagement would have potentially set up the school board for a different outcome. 

The school board should be focused on what is best for us as students. Of course, money is a challenge. But we have to do a better job balancing these decisions when it comes to a tool so crucial to our work.