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LA Unified sponsors promotional video for iPad program

Kids at KIPP Comienza Community Prep elementary school in Huntington Park are glued to their iPads.
Kids at KIPP Comienza Community Prep elementary school in Huntington Park are glued to their iPads.
Grant Slater/KPCC

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L.A. Unified's troubled iPad program is getting an image makeover – Hollywood style.

The school district has tapped promotional filmmaker Art Simon to make a documentary-style video about the iPad project – the district's initiative to give every student a tablet computer.

Simon has tackled technology in the classroom before. In 2011, he produced a short video for Alliance College-Ready Schools  — a Los Angeles charter network that gives a laptop to every student. The video is meant to attract new families so it's full of testimonials.

Even L.A. Unified board member Monica Garcia makes a cameo.

"Revolutionizing urban America," Garcia says of the school's technology-integration model.

Simon did not return calls for comment. District spokesman Tom Waldman says the seven to eight minute video LAUSD envisions would cost the district about $25,000. 

“There’s obviously huge interest," said Waldman. "There is huge media interest. There is huge interest from parents. There is huge interest from educators. So what a great opportunity to tell the story.”

This is not the district’s first venture into the movie business.  At a recent board meeting, administrators showed an in-house video they made about the roll-out of the iPad program called “Behind the Headlines.”

It begins with a montage of TV reports on the blunders of the iPad program. The reports hit on tablets gone missing and students bypassing security software. It’s edited so the reporters talk over one another in a cacophony. Then comes a burst of static — like a TV going off the air — and the video launches into a defense of the iPad program.

“I think most of the problems will be dealt with, and I don’t mind being a pioneer on this and discovering some of the pitfalls and helping straighten them out," said Kenneth Brown, an art teacher at Sonia Sotomayor Learning Academies, and one of the many staff members interviewed.

USC marketing Prof. Ira Kalb says L.A. Unified’s videos are an attempt to sway public opinion.

“In order to get into their brain, you have to make it really, really clear to them," he said. "And, you have to make the benefit to them clear. And if you do that, they are going to buy what you are selling.”

And, Kalb said, it seems to be working. The L.A. Unified school board voted this week to buy 70,000 more iPads, completely outfitting all teachers and administrators and students at over 80 schools.

The task ahead? Narrowing down a location to shoot L.A. Unified iPads: The Movie.