Earlier this month, the Southborough School Committee discussed their technology goals for the schools. The committee made it clear that they hope to increase the use of iPads in all grades.
Members were updated on the success of the iPad pilot. This spring, 4th grade teachers were provided with increased access. Neary Principal Linda Murdock explained that iPads are now incorporated regularly into classroom activities.
In the fall, many parents had objected to the planned pilot.
In its original form, the initiative called for parents to purchase the iPads. They could have also continued using them for homework.
Most critics focused on the requirement that parents purchase iPads and/or that students would be responsible for bringing them to and from school.
School administrators responded to criticism by taking parents out of the equation. They found funding for the school to purchase one iPad per every two students.
But funding wasn’t the only parent complaint. The pilot was also controversial because of conflicting opinions on screen time.
Many parents were excited by the idea of increasing technology in the classroom. Proponents were supportive of improved learning opportunities. They were also worried that not increasing technology would cause students to be behind the “rest of the world”.
Meanwhile, several critics worried about potential health and mental risks of increased screen time.
At that time, some parents expressed concerns that the iPad pilot would be spread to lower grades. Administrators dismissed that as not being discussed.
In more recent School Committee meetings, administrators have made it clear that they intend to increase iPad use in all grades.
At the May 14th meeting, Director of Technology Jean Tower stated:
We are setting the groundwork to move forward everywhere, not just 3rd grade on.
Currently, Finn and Woodward teachers use iPads by borrowing from the carts in each school. Although not high on the priority list, an ultimate goal is to increase professional development so teachers can make better use of them. And a goal is to increase access in all of the schools.
Highest on the list of priorities is preparing to increase use at Trottier. As 4th grade students move up grades, School Committee members want to ensure they are able to continue using the technology.
Kathleen Harragan Polutchko remarked:
We’ve got 5th and 4th graders who, this is how they know school. . .We can’t let them get to Trottier and say, “OK, use the white board.'”
And using the devices at home may be back on the table.
Vice Chair Gerry Capra asked Tower “when we’re 1:1 next year, we would have the opportunity. . . to let children bring those home with permission”. Tower replied that it was “within the realm of possibility. . . there are a lot of considerations.” Capra indicated that it’s something they should consider in next year’s discussions.
Chair Paul Desmond echoed colleague’s enthusiasm for what they’ve seen with the iPad use. But he also pointed out that so far the success is anecdotal:
I still think we’re struggling to actually prove any of this. . . It’s really difficult, from what I gather, to come up with evidence that it’s improving learning.
Desmond would like to be able to make the case for school fund or parent help by showing “we’ve improved learning by x%”. He supports spending money on consultants to do that.