Neary iPad Pilot forum to be held October 30: Parents of K-4 students encouraged to attend (Updated – again)

Last night, the Southborough K-8 School Committee heard from parents concerned about the 4th grade iPad Pilot proposed to begin in January.

A few mothers spoke in support of the pilot. More parents requested the school committee to reconsider the details.

Fiona Maguire-O’Shea informed the committee that 80 people have already signed her recent petition. (As of this morning, the number was over 90. Most list Southborough as their residence, but a few are non-residents.)

The petition focuses on the funding of the pilot. Under the proposal, parents are encouraged to purchase a iPad for each of their 4th grade students. With the capacity requirements, the school projected the price as approximately $550 per student. (That doesn’t appear to include the cost of recommended insurance or protective casing.)

In past comments and last night’s meeting, Maguire-O’Shea also expressed concerns about shifting the classroom focus away from educational fundamentals. (You can click here to read her speech, which she submitted to share.)

Other speakers voiced their own concerns about aspects of the proper use of technology with 4th graders. The speakers all supported the concept of using technology in the classroom. But they had concerns about the specific proposal.

Questions asked included:

  • How will the pilot effect the current curriculum?
  • How will they assure that students won’t over-rely on technology and lose important skills in the process?
  • Will Trottier be prepared to incorporate the iPads when the students reach 6th grade?
  • What does this means for the district in the long term, when Northborough isn’t currently planning to mirror the pilot?
  • How can we ask 4th graders to be responsible for bringing an iPad back and forth to school without damaging it?
  • Is dedicating 1/3 or more of the classroom time to iPad use too much screen time? (For all students, but especially for students with ADHD.)

The school committee appeared to maintain their enthusiasm for the program. But they assured parents that nothing has been decided. They voted to hold a parent forum to further discuss the issue.

The forum is scheduled for October 30, at 6:30 at Neary School’s cafeteria. (Location has been changed to Trottier Middle School auditorium.) The invitation will issued to all students’ parents, not just those of 4th graders.

Maguire-O’Shea is encouraging all parents with children in younger grades to attend.

This project affects more than just the 4th grade. The plan is to roll it out to the younger grades if it takes off at Neary. Families of younger children are just starting to hear about this. I hope they come out to the meeting on Oct. 30th to learn more and voice their concerns.

Regardless of pilot specifics, Neary’s teachers are preparing to increase their use of technology in the classroom. Principal Linda Murdock informed the committee last night that they will be using this Friday’s Professional Development day for technology training.

To see past coverage of  this story (and reader’s comments), click here.

Updated (10/10/13 8:11 pm): Upon reflection, I felt it was proper to disclose that my husband, Joao Melo, was one of the parents who posed questions to the school committee on Wednesday night. He expressed that technology has two side to it and that the school needs to be mindful as to how it is implemented.

Updated (10/21/13 10:30 am): According to the Neary School website, the event will be held at Trottier Middle School’s auditorium.

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Concerned Parents
8 years ago

My husband and I attended the School Committee meeting last night in order to ensure that we are well informed on this issue. We are not in support of the pilot as it stands. It is disconcerting that if feels “predetermined.” A significant number of families have an equally significant number of concerns. Will these truly be addressed? It is remarkable to us that administrators and others feel that it is appropriate to ask parents to subsidize this purchase. We have been pleased with all of the fun and exciting projects the children do in the classes, but we do not feel that they are so highly educational that they require 1:1 technology at this age.

Mom of One
8 years ago

Can’t we just let our kids be kids and learn how we did? We’re not so bad after all.

resident
8 years ago
Reply to  Mom of One

I learned physics using a slide rule but it isn’t something I would recommend for children in town. Technology has advanced and we would be foolish not to take advantage of it to better educate the kids. Living in the past is not the answer.

SB Resident
8 years ago

I haven’t noticed any information describing the success criteria for the PILOT or how long the PILOT will run. (I admittedly haven’t looked too hard.) Anybody know this?

I also worry about rolling this out to younger grades. I’m worried that 4th is too young for this, but either way, success in 4th doesn’t guarantee success in 1st.

Southborough 4th Grade Parent
8 years ago
Reply to  SB Resident

You have not noticed it as none of the final details/plan have been presented yet. The team has been updating parents for the last 2 years that the initiative was in progress. You are invited to attend the parent meeting on the 30th where the educators not the media will present all of the pieces to the project. We are one of the best school districts in the state and I am thinking that you and many of the commenters who actually have children at Neary considered that factor when coming to Southborough. I think we should at least let the professionals present their final recommendations for the PILOT in spite of the line drawn in the sand by some.

Matthew
8 years ago

Your comment reveals why I and many other have hesitations.
“The team has been updating parents for the last two year that the initiative was in progress”.
Has been updating who again? I’ve got three kids, the oldest will be going to Neary next year. I don’t recall receiving updates for something that clearly impacts me and my family.
“…Educators and not media…” In the presence of a vacuum of information I would hardly consider the “media” a bad thing.
Do you have to have a child at Neary to consider this?

The professionals have drunk the Kool-Aid and feel that the most expensive tablet is the best solution for improving our education rather than relying some of the HIGHEST PAID TEACHERS ON THE PLANET to get that job done for us.

The Apple Corporation has a fantastic marketing campaign and the Neary 1 to 1 web page looks like it was lifted right out of their marketing handbook.

The truth is that there are other options and they should be considered in an open platform ESPECIALLY if you are going to ask the parents to fund them. Is that a line in the sand? If you say so.I would like to think of it is more of a “Hang on, wait a minute, this looks a bit fishy, is there more information that can show us the other options you considered, quotes you received, due diligence you performed?

Clearly if you think this is such a great idea and a bunch of other people don’t then maybe it’s just a matter of poor communication. But you have to know that with the HUGE school budget giving raises to teacher in a time when many other were loosing their jobs or taking cuts, you can’t expect a positive reaction when we are asked for more money.

Southborough 4th Grade Parent
8 years ago
Reply to  Matthew

Yes, I do have a child at Neary. My youngest is in 4th and having older children I can tell you that team is excellent. Yes, they have been communicating most recently at the spring and fall parent nights, on the 24th and invited all parents to a district wide meeting at Algonquin. Perhaps they could have done more communication across the schools but again this is a PILOT not a roll out.
I can’t even comment on your statement “highest paid teachers on the planet” it is ridiculous as we all know that is not the case. The 4th grade teachers have put countless hours of their personal time into this. The presentations spell out why they are leaning to Apple but they have not ruled out other devices. I wonder if you considered the excellence of our schools when you chose Southborough? There is a reason our high school is one of the top rated in the state. I simply feel that everyone should let them present the final proposal on the 30th and then decide.

John boiardi
8 years ago
Reply to  Matthew

Tablets can not replace good teaching and good teachers. If a tablet is the answer why not give them laptops, desk tops? Children learned with chalk and slate boards. Why do we have to give them new toys?

John Butler
8 years ago

It’s good if your view is representative of the parents about the district quality as “one of the best in the state” but I’m wondering what explanation you adopt for the MCAS results that the state says are sub-par for similar districts? I can imagine deciding that K8 MCAS just isn’t meaningful, as I am doubtful about it, but the DOE seems to want to believe in them for something. If you look at the latest State DOE data on http://www.doe.mass.edu/apa/dart/ (downloading the District Analysis), Southborough K8 average rank on the five measures of MCAS and MCAS Growth is second lowest of the 11 similar school districts that the State DOE compares us to. Southborough K8 ranks last, or tied for last, on 3 out of 5 measures among these 11 districts. Is the iPad program supposed to address this, or is the view that the K8 district MCAS numbers don’t mean anything?

TheNewNormal
8 years ago

While there are details that need to be sorted, my family supports this program.

Our education system is failing to teach children that can thrive in the technology focused world we live in. I applaud the school for adapting the curriculum to encourage the type of learning our children will face as adults.

It’s unfortunate that a small minority group has decided to focus on the cost as a vehicle to derail this program.

Change is costly is and the cost of not changing is higher.

Beth T
8 years ago
Reply to  TheNewNormal

Thank you, TheNewNormal, for voicing your thoughts. As the debate has been going on, I keep reading about teaching/learning the basics. By fourth grade one would hope the basics are established, while still being reinforced and expanded on. As we look to our children’s future, failing to recognize the impact of technology on the world they are growing up in would be doing them a disservice. I am not saying they need to be on the iPad all day, and no one is proposing this. But allowing our children the opportunity to learn through this avenue could be quite beneficial.

For me personally I could not afford to buy my child an iPad. Luckily my children are older so it does not impact me. I do agree that the school should purchase a set for the school to use, allowing teachers to check them out for a period of time for their class. Instead of a cart of laptops that many schools have, they can have a cart of iPads. This is certainly a pricey proposition for the school, but one that I hope was considered as this program was being debated by the school committee.

Parent
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth T

Each school does indeed have a cart of I Pads which the teachers are able to check out daily. The students do many projects on the I Pads throughout the school year. Neary wants the 4th graders to each have their own to bring to and from school for “contnuous 24 hour” learning. A pricey proposition for parents, one that many cannot afford, and one that should be reserved for middle school students or older. In today’s economy, it is unfair to dismiss the cost as merely a complaint instead of a legitimate reality for many.

Southborough 4th Grade Parent
8 years ago
Reply to  TheNewNormal

Thank you TheNewNormal!! Please make sure you attend on the 30th. If you are a parent at Neary there will be a survey as well. I would rather prepare my children to manage technology to their advantage than let it manage them. Technology is not going away. At the end of the day we have to look at all sides and know that our educators have our children’s best interest at heart. Perhaps with some collaboration that can happen with this pilot. It would be awful to see the hard work that has gone into this program be wasted without all of the facts and options presented.

John Boiardi
8 years ago
Reply to  TheNewNormal

Graduates of our school system some day will have actually write(not type) a word or a sentence. Will they know how to use a pen or pencil? Life is not a keyboard. Get back to the basics where teachers teach and students respond sans keyboard.

Parents Kids Schools
8 years ago

We are definitely against the iPad pilot program. The studies show that kids who spend much time on I-products don’t have very strong analytical and problem solving skills. On iPad you simpy touch and get something in return right away. There is no process/ steps involved to get to an answer. This is a crucial skill that our kids should learn in schools. And how about handwriting skills?

Southborough 4th Grade Parent
8 years ago

It seems that there is an assumption that it is one or the other- the iPads will not REPLACE reading writing and arithmetic- it will augment and expand on the content. The educators have a plan to incorporate both for our children who have to learn to balance technology in this world. BYW iPads have been in use in all the schools for several years. Again attend on the 30th if you would like to see what a day in the program would look like.

Wake Up!
8 years ago

Let’s be clear: “It’s unfortunate that a small minority group has decided to focus on the cost as a vehicle to derail this program” is not an accurate account. Have you been following the stories?

1. It is not a minority group who feels this way or we wouldn’t still be talking about it.

2. Cost is only one of many issues outlined.

Another area to explore and consider is–Why doesn’t Trottier want this program and why doesn’t Northboro want this program? That is telling in itself.

Southborough 4th Grade Parent
8 years ago
Reply to  Wake Up!

Yes, it is a small group who is speaking for the 4th grade parents. The cost is not 500-700 up front, it will be presented in a monthly payment spread out over up to 3 years for those who want to participate. Trottier has not said they don’t want it. It is a PILOT which by definition means a small group. Trottier has been involved. Northborough may indeed follow suite. They chose Neary 4th grade for many reasons one of which is that particular set of teachers. They are the best team to execute and have been preparing for it. If someone doesn’t want it …then opt out! but don’t try to bring the program to a screeching halt. Again- wait for the facts and show up on the 30th.

SBRes
8 years ago

I was at the school board committee meeting, and they stated that “financing for the program is yet to be determined”. Where are you getting this leased 3 year program information from? This is an example of information, if true, that is not being shared – please do so This is an example of the major problem with this project – a lack of communication. Also, a pilot by definition would be a sample of the 4th grade student body, not the entire student body- see Sudbury’s pilot program as an example of a true pilot. We are taking on a 4th grade rollout, not a pilot. If we did a 4th grade pilot, we could use a sample of 4th grade students (i.e. one class) and then compare the pilot students advancement to the non-pilot students and determine if the pilot is warranted – again see Sudbury’s Pilot Plan.

People against this are not necessarily out to de-rail the program; however, they are trying to ensure that all avenues are thoroughly explored, the program is implemented in the best possible manner, and that all stakeholders are fully informed. Again if this project were properly planned and communicated a written project plan or facts presented from research would probably go a long way to settle concerns. As example:
1 – What school districts were used in the comparison and what are the details of those schools programes (i.e. Grades implemented, hardware required, cost/financing, etc)?
2 – What are the markers that are going to be utilized to measure the success of the program?
3 – Will Northboro eventually be onboard (they currently are not)? if not, what will happen when the southboro stundents mix with the Northboro students in high school will this be 5 years of wasted technology (when high school is probably where the iPad works best)?
4 – What budget planning was done for this? Apparently the project was in the works for over two years. Again if this is true, and the project such a high priority, why were teachers given a raise (or as much of a raise) when most people were not so lucky iinstead of directing funds to this project. If the school decides there are other items they would like and that are not in the budget, can they simply push that cost to the parents as well??

There are many other questions, but I think that these would be a start. Without the sharing of information the project takes on the appearance of being forced upon us or appears as a “oh don’t worry about it, trust us, we know what’s best.” Why would you not inform ALL Southborough student parents of the project plan instead of just the 4th grade Neary parents – perhaps for the chance of less opposition? I get emails about many school activities however I don’t get one for something that impacts my family directly?? If you can’t handle the communication, and properly budget for the hardware, what level of confidence do you expect me to have with your ability to implement and run this project?

Concerned Father
8 years ago

Just to be clear, it wasn’t until Sept. 24th, just over two weeks ago, that it was communicated parents would have to fork over $550-$700.

And, do parents realize, this is not about using technology in school, this is about using iPads for up to 1/3 of the child’s entire school day–that is up to 2 hours and 15 minutes of their day, plus computer lab, as well as Internet and iPad homework when they get home.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children do not exceed more than 2 hours (including educational screen time) during their day. The children have exceeded that time, recommended by their school system, before they even get off the bus, do homework on their iPads, never mind Internet homework, a video game or TV show.

Jessica
8 years ago

FYI : New recommendations from the AAP say to limit “entertainment screen time” to less than 2 hours per day.

http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/healthy_kids/THe-AAP-issues-new-media.html

Jessica
8 years ago
Reply to  Jessica

Here is the original AAP journal article. It’s very interesting: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2013/10/24/peds.2013-2656.full.pdf

Matthew Brownell
8 years ago

I applaud Superintendent Gobron and Principal Murdock for venturing forth with the iPad pilot, and I certainly think the initiative deserves the support of Southborough residents.

The iPad is a flexible and convenient tool for helping students and teachers alike to navigate, access, organize, and synthesize information. It is no surprise that the iPad is a proven success – and enjoys rapid adoption within public and private schools. It replaces the chalkboard, the overhead transparency machine, thousands of pounds of lateral and vertical files, desk calendars, wall schedulers, color-coded tabs & binders, room-to-room intercom systems, post-it notes, laser pointers, clasp envelopes, etc.

When fitted with powerful collaboration software, the iPad is is also a fantastic distance learning , conferencing, and group work tool . . . so , kids, no excuses on snow days.

SBRes
8 years ago

If it saves the school all of these items than why aren’t these savings applied to pay for the iPads? BTW this was how the Burlington High School afforded to supply the iPads. Text books were listed as the major saving.

John Boiardi
8 years ago

You left off one thing— the iPad could replace the teacher too. Why build schools or school additions when children can be taught via iPads remotely at home.
What will the next gimmick be in education? We went from neighborhood schools to schools requiring hundreds of yellow school buses. Where are the savings? The next time anyone suggests the need for more classroom space just give iPads.

Public Relations 101
8 years ago

Today it was announced, the open forum scheduled for Oct. 30th is now limited to 4th grade parents, just after the school committee had agreed to open this forum up to all parents K-4 due to the numerous parental concerns surrounding the proposed major overhaul to a day in the life of our child’s education.

There is now a second meeting scheduled for Oct. 22nd open to K-4 parents. However, this second meeting is “a presentation for parents by an expert in the field of technology integration.”

The Oct. 22nd meeting open to K-4 is a PRESENTATION. The Oct. 30th meeting limited to 4th grade parents is an OPEN FORUM “to discuss any questions/concerns.”

This is a extremely clever PR move to limit opposition to this initiative.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago

If the School Committee is present, and holding a substantive discussion then it is a public meeting which must be open to all. If not is is a clear violation of the open meeting law. The cannot hold a private meeting or a meeting where attendance is limited unless it meets the executive session criterion.

Al Hamilton
8 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

Beth

Let us be clear. If the School Committee is in attendance and discusses school policy, then it is a Public Meeting, not a Parents Meeting.

Carrie
8 years ago

the meetings are open to anyone who wants to attend and it was stated on social media via someone from the school committee that anyone was welcome at the meeting.

I would also caution people to be careful about posting information that generates hysteria amongst parents. Saying “Trottier does not want it” is a blanket statement without any factual information behind it, and this is a public forum. As a parent of an 8th grader I have never even heard it mentioned and I really hear most of what is going on……

while i do not have a 4th grader I have found the roll out of the pilot to be disappointing on numerous levels both on an informative level and on a collaborative level. I also feel and have felt for awhile now that the 8th graders need a RTO laptop program both in Northborough and Southborough so that when the children meet up at ARHS they are on equal ground moving forward with technology.

something else to think about is that if our 4th graders have the iPad technology and the N’boro students do not and then those students progress and then eventually meet up their academic levels will be different. I think that if you are going to roll it out for the 4th graders in S’boro it should be a simultaneous roll out in N’boro.

Fiona
8 years ago

Is anyone else wondering why Southborough is hiring this dynamic speaker who tours the country to present at this week’s iPad Pilot Project meeting rather than some of the core teachers who will be implementing this technology? Wonder how much this sales pitch is costing the school?

http://edtechteacher.org/index.php/keynotes

Mark Ford
8 years ago
Reply to  Fiona

Was the speaker hired for this? I certainly hope not, unless he’s about to become a teacher in our 4th grade.

Sboro parent
8 years ago
Reply to  Fiona

I want to be open minded about this I pad issue, but not only have I felt turned off by how things seem to have been approached by the Neary school, but now I am especially turned off by looking at this link.

John Butler
8 years ago

How much the sales pitch is costing the school, if it is directly costing them anything, is a public record. You can request that information from the central office and they must provide it to you. On the other hand this person may be being paid by Apple, in one way or another, either directly or as a commission of some kind, to give these sales pitches. The “why iPad” info reads as if the schools are just putting out Apple advertising, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Apple is picking up the tab. You can be sure someone is paying for this.

SB Resident
8 years ago
Reply to  John Butler

I agree (or hope) apple is paying for this. Why do I have the feeling that it is going to be a complete waste of everyone’s time?

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