Two years after switching from computers to iPads, the district updates student’s school devices again.


As the end of the school year comes to a close, the change to new iPads came and went without the controversy that came with the switch away from laptops two years ago. This is likely because it is an upgrade from older devices, rather than a switch to completely different devices. However, there are still lingering feelings of frustration and resentment from the district-wide switch to iPads from laptops.

“I haven’t touched my iPad all year,” junior Matthew Abel said.

A similar sentiment is widespread, particularly in honors and AP classes with more rigorous workloads that require students to efficiently manage their time.

“A lot of students in my AP World History class bring a laptop from home,” history teacher Adele Vergis said.

In a poll of 392 students conducted by Arlingtonian in February 2019, 84% of respondents disapproved of the district’s decision to switch to iPads, with just 10% approving and 6% undecided. The iPads were distributed at the beginning of last school year, giving students little time to become familiar with the new technology.

As with the first change, many students have been asking why the district has decided to change devices. To answer that question, it helps to understand the reasoning behind the initial switch.

According to a statement on the matter from UA Schools website, the four year lease on the laptops was coming due, and “it became clear that the laptops available today have very similar specifications to those included in the original lease four years ago. However, during this same four-year period, the capabilities of the iPad have grown significantly, providing additional learning opportunities and increased flexibility for students.”

While never directly acknowledged as a reason, iPads also give administrators greater control by using a custom app store and Apple Classroom to prevent the widespread misuse that plagued laptops. The same poll referenced earlier found that seven in ten students know someone who has circumvented the UAHS internet filter on their school laptop.

“The K-3 students did not receive iPads in the last distribution. Those grade levels currently use iPad 2 devices and need to be upgraded. Given the need for older students and staff to have more storage, we decided to move all of the iPad sixth generation devices to students in grades K-8 and provide the high school students and staff with the new iPad eighth generation that is a little larger and has greater storage capacity,” District Chief Technology Officer Denise Lutz said.

The new iPads deliver upgraded capabilities to students over the previous model. The old devices had a 9.7 inch screen (measured from diagonal corners), 2GB of memory and 32GB of storage. The newer ones have a 10.2 inch screen and 3GB of memory with 128GB of storage and a processor that is four times faster. Aside from those differences, which make it noticeably faster, the rest of the iPad stays relatively unchanged with the same cameras, home button, battery and pixel density. All accessories, including Apple Pencil and other styluses, as well as chargers and keyboards are compatible with the new iPads.