In June, I reported that Neary School was working to develop a One:One Technology Pilot for 4th grade this year. At the time, there were a lot of unanswered questions including what kind of technology would be used and who would be responsible for it.
Parents received answers last week, and not all of them are happy about it. (Be sure to read the letter to editor below.)
On September 24, Neary held a meeting to inform parents about the program and answer questions. As a follow up, they sent e-mails to parents with an explanation and attached notes from the meeting. (Here are links to the message and notes.)
Principal Linda Murdock announced her intention to launch the initiative this January. She is encouraging parents to purchase an iPad for each 4th grade student (minimum of iPad2, 32 GB recommended) at a cost estimated between $550 – $700. There is an offer that families that can’t afford it can “contact the principal and provide information as to financial need, and we will try to help”.
The purchase is not mandatory. Students whose families opt out will have access to iPads at school during the day.
Some parents who would like to opt out are concerned about the impact that would have on their children if most of their class is utilizing resources they don’t have.
And this isn’t envisioned to be a one year program. Notes from the meeting state, “If the project is successful, we expect that students will continue using their iPads at least through middle school.”
Below is a letter from one concerned mother. But, as evidenced by the comments posted to her Facebook page, she represents many.
That doesn’t mean she represents all parents’ views. After all, the pilot comes out the Technology Advisory Commitee, which apparently includes some parents from our district.
Updated (10/2/13 8:48 pm): Neary shared a link to the pilot information page on Facebook.
Letter to the Editor: Neary iPad pilot
[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
To the Editor:
I have been encouraged by other parents in town to present my thoughts on the new, controversial iPad Pilot Project to launch in January 2014 at Neary School.
This week it was announced that 4th grade students at Neary School will be participating in a pilot project involving the use of iPads in the classroom and at home at a mere cost of $550-$700 per child—an expensive “school supply”.
If successful, the plan is to roll out the project to all grades including younger grades. Please know, I am by no means anti-iPad or anti-technology. As a mother of four boys, I strive to maintain a balance of keeping them active vs. screen time.
The main issues I see with the iPad pilot project are as follows:
1. The children are too young for this project. Junior high is a more appropriate age, as per a Southborough librarian. The thought of rolling it out to younger grades is even more disconcerting;
2. Not enough pen to paper as it is–they still cannot write fluently. It is Oct. 1st and the kids have yet to come home with one hand writing assignment. Let’s nail down the basics first;
3. Unaffordability factor, (singling out/isolating children who cannot afford it, although stated they can borrow the school’s iPads, I believe it will create a social stigma when a child doesn’t own one as evident on school bus rides, etc.); If the school wants to take on this project, the school should fund it or fundraise for it;
4. Too much screen time as it is affecting children’s mental and physical health;
5. By imposing the use of the iPads at home, the school is controlling the amount of technology our children are exposed to rather than us as parents, compromising our family values of limiting electronics; and,
6. Logistics–our children lose water bottles, lunch boxes and sweatshirts. They are too young to be responsible for an expensive piece of equipment in transit. Do you think we will find it in the lost and found?
A pilot project often involves a sample of a larger population. Why not use the school’s iPads and approach one classroom at a time, keeping the iPads on school property at all times? Why not make it a special just like the computer lab?
I was told by the school principal, the cost to the family is about the same as a musical instrument. In my opinion, that is not a fair comparison and in a totally different category altogether. The children already have access to technology at school on computers, electronic white boards, etc. Besides, musical instruments do not change over time. Technology does and rather quickly.
Although it is difficult to come forward with a potentially unpopular, non-mainstream view, I have been encouraged by approximately 20 other families asking the same questions. As one mother and teacher pointed out to me, we are the only industrialized nation whose performance is going down each year vs. up. Technology has its value, but let’s nail the basics first, such as handwriting.
What am I asking for:
1. An all-school parent meeting to thrash this out;
2. A plan to fund whatever project is agreed upon, eliminating the burden on the families; and,
3. A vote among all parents of all school-age children.