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The Coded Schoolhouse: One-to-One Tablet Computer Programs and Urban Education


Using a South Los Angeles charter school of approximately 650 students operated by a non-profit charter management organization (CMO) as the primary field site, this two-year, ethnographic research project examines the implementation of a one-to-one tablet computer program in a public high school. This dissertation examines the variety of ways that information and media technology function in everyday life within the institution — including classroom instruction, school discipline, and evaluation — through qualitative methods, primarily class observations, photographs, and interviews with teachers, students, and administrators as the program evolved over two consecutive school years. This project contributes needed empirical context to questions of technological innovation in public education, providing the first-ever multi-year study of a one-to-one tablet computer program in a California public school. I argue that a number of factors contribute to an overall resistance among teachers and students toward the use of tablet computers for instructional purposes, including the mandates of administrators, publishers, and hardware manufacturers; the resource requirements of network infrastructure; a number of professional demands placed on teachers; and a lack of autonomy among student users. By contrast, school administrators experience few barriers to using tablet computers for surveillance, discipline, and recordkeeping. I explore issues of labor and surveillance related to this program to dispute persistent narratives about the so-called digital divide and to complicate the virtue of access espoused by the library and information professions.

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