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Wellesley considers requiring iPads for all 5th graders

Posted by Evan Allen  January 7, 2013 11:47 AM

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iPads could soon be required tools for all fifth grade students in the Wellesley Public Schools, if the districts decides to go ahead with an expansion of a 1:1 Technology Pilot.

The district will hold a series of public meetings to discuss the proposal, beginning on Jan. 10.

In the fall of 2011, 5th graders at Schofield Elementary School were each assigned an iPad as part of a pilot program supported by the Wellesley Education Foundation, according to a website explaining the proposed expansion. The program has been so successful that the district is considering implementing it for all fifth graders in the 2013 to 2014 school year.

Teachers and students who participated in the Schofield pilot said that having personal iPads allowed children individualized learning experiences, fostered cooperative learning skills and helped children appreciate the iPad as a tool instead of a toy, according to the website.

The pilot also helps close the technology gap between students who do not have access to technology at home and those who do, according to the site.

A Frequently Asked Questions page set up on the site says that fifth graders who participated in the 1:1 pilot showed improvements in math scores on their MCAS tests, though the site notes that it is difficult to correlate improvements with a single factor.

Families would have to supply the iPads for their children. According to the district’s website, the iPads children use in school would have to meet minimum requirements, which have not yet been announced.

The district would offer two options for families to choose from: enroll an existing device that meets those minimum requirements, or lease to own.

Families that choose to enroll an existing device would have their iPad wiped and reconfigured with a standard suite of apps and a management profile. Parent training workshops would be available, as would be short-term loaner iPads, if the family iPad is temporarily unavailable. The district would charge families a $40 fee to cover the apps and management software license.

In the second option, families who lease to own could get an iPad through the district for $155 per year. Students would keep the iPad for four years, and would have an option to buy the unit for $1 at the end of that time.

The leased iPads would come with Retina Display, a standard suite of apps, a case, a management license, four years of repair and replacement, accidental damage coverage of up to two incidents, and access to short-term loaners. Parent training workshops would also be provided.

If the price tag seems steep, the district is willing to help, according to the website:

“The district is committed to an inclusive program involving all students, regardless of a family’s financial situation. A program will be in place to ensure that students from any family with a demonstrated financial need will be able to fully participate in the 1:1 program.”

The expansion will be funded through a partnership between schools, families and community organizations, according to the website.

The district will continue to investigate new ways to offset the costs to families, as officials are aware of the financial pressures that families already face, according to the website.

As part of the expanded pilot, the district will organize workshops for parents and a forum for students to discuss cyber bullying. Students will also have managed email accounts.

The iPads would not replace human interaction – according to the website, they actually improved it in the pilot program. Students often work in groups, and the iPad is not constantly in use.

Web browsing will be limited in accordance with the Children and Internet Protections Act, both at school and at home.

Families who do not want their children to have their iPads at home will be allowed to opt-out of the take-home portion of the program.

A full list of the planned meetings can be found here. The first will be held at 7:00 p.m. on Jan. 10 in the Wakelin Room at the Wellesley Free Library.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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