Frequently Asked Questions

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1. How did the students in the initial 1:1 pilot perform on MCAS?

Student achievement as measured by MCAS is difficult to correlate with a single factor due to the inherent complexity of the learning environment and the phased implementation of the pilot across multiple classrooms. However, in the first year of the pilot, the students in the Schofield 5th grade 1:1 classrooms showed improved growth in math with a median student growth percentile (SGP) of 55. This compares favorably to a median SGP of 44 for the same group of students on the 2011 4th grade test, and 38 for the 2011 5th grade at Schofield. ELA scores were consistent with past years. Analysis of MCAS and other assessment data will play an important role in the evaluation of an expanded pilot, where a larger sample size will provide us with stronger data.

2. Why have iPads been identified as the 1:1 student device?

Based on the findings of the pilot at Schofield, we believe that the 1:1 element was the key factor in creating new and compelling learning opportunities. The iPad tablet is the device that today is the best fit for this 1:1 program, based primarily on its cost, battery life, and instant-on capabilities. However, we know that technology constantly changes and we will reevaluate the device selection as new products come to market. The goal is not for our students to become experts on iPads, but rather to become agile users of technologies who can identify and master the right tools to solve any problem they face, whether it’s an iPad, a laptop, pen and paper, or a brand new tool being developed in a lab somewhere in Cambridge or a garage in Silicon Valley.

3. Will greater access to technology lead to a higher incidence of cyber-bullying and other irresponsible online behavior?

Based on pilot survey data, national trends, and anecdotal evidence, it is certain that the majority of Wellesley 5th graders are already engaging with peers through a variety of online tools and digital media. One of the primary focuses of the educational curriculum of the expanded pilot will be promoting responsible use and creating a forum to educate students about issues including digital privacy, cyber-bullying, and online safety. We are also planning a series of open workshops for parents around these topics. We believe the pilot expansion creates a new and important opportunity to engage students and families around these important issues.

4. Will students have access to email? What if they use email irresponsibly?

As part of the pilot expansion we will create managed email accounts for participating students to facilitate device management, communication with teachers, and online collaboration. In recent surveys 57% of 5th grade students and 82% of 6th grade students reported that they already had a personal email account. The key difference between these personal accounts and the accounts created through the pilot, is that the pilot email accounts will be limited in their ability to communicate outside the Wellesley Public Schools community, and will also be fully archived, so if an issue does arise regarding irresponsible use, administrators will be able to investigate the issue as appropriate.

The district is in the process of evaluating managed email systems to be used for this purpose. Among the common features in the systems we are evaluating are profanity, hate-speech, and bullying language filtering, anti-pornography image scanning, attachment filtering/blocking, faculty/administrator monitoring access, and recipient and sender controls that would limit students to sending and receiving to a defined list, such as their teachers.

5. Is it appropriate to expand the pilot before the district’s strategic planning process has completed?

Wellesley’s experience with 1:1 in recent years has been a measured approach, driven by a long-term plan to carefully assess the value of a 1:1 environment. Two years ago we embarked on a process to evaluate the benefits of 1:1 in the classroom, visiting programs in other districts and ultimately launching our own pilot program. The first full year of the pilot has provided us with strong evidence that a 1:1 classroom improves learning. Based on these results, we are now proposing that the pilot be expanded to encompass the full fifth grade. The data collected from this expansion will be critical information in the strategic planning process and will inform our decisions around the best models for technology use in all of our classrooms.

6. Does this pilot expansion support the district’s goals in math and science?

In the initial pilot classroom, the tablets were used across all content areas, including math and science. In math, the tablets facilitated a powerful new method of formative assessment where all students would record themselves explaining their strategies to solve a particular problem. This recording was then automatically made available to the teacher, so he could analyze each students’ individual approaches and adapt his instruction and target supports as needed. These recordings were also used in conferences with the students, parents, and other educators. Other apps designed to build math fact fluency were also utilized. In science, the students used tablets to record data, view and manipulate images of magnified objects and insects, and capture video and photographs of experiments for later reference.

7. Will students have too much screen time? What about developing interpersonal skills, and interacting with the real world?

The intention of the 1:1 pilot model is not to replace all aspects of school with technology-centric lessons. In fact, when entering one of the pilot classrooms, visitors will note that the iPads are not in use constantly; rather, they are being used when appropriate for the learning task at hand. In the traditional shared cart model, when a classroom has the cart for just a short period of time, the technology ends up driving the learning. When each student has access to a 1:1 device, however, this actually flips and the learning activities now drive the use of the technology.

In the pilot, the iPad is often a catalyst that promotes interpersonal skills. Much of what students create on the iPad is done with partners or in small groups. Students are expected to synthesize information, collaborate with their partner(s) and create a final project that demonstrates the learning. These projects often involve students using audio and video. The culmination of each project is an opportunity for students to share these projects with the class. These life-skills are invaluable.

8. Will iPads be content filtered?

Through the use of management profiles, we will be limiting web-browsing access to a provided CIPA-compliant browser that will filter internet access at all times in accordance with the regulations under the Children and Internet Protection Act. In addition, one of the planned topics for our parent workshop series will be how to manage content for the other devices on your home network and place time-based limits on internet access.

9. How much will the program cost for families?

Under the revised proposal, there will be no direct cost to families.  We are hoping to partner with PTOs to provide secure charging carts to house the iPads in the 5th grade classrooms.

10. Is the iPad an appropriate tool to support a variety of different learning styles?

The iPad’s built-in accessibility features and a variety of apps support the three key principles of Universal Design including multiple methods of presentation, multiple options for participation and multiple means of expression. The iPad also lends itself to open-ended project-based learning where students can demonstrate their understanding using alternative formats including text, images, audio and video.

11. Have other districts implemented 1:1 programs in 5th grade?

While 1:1 programs are most common at Middle and High Schools, schools nationwide, ranging from small private schools to large public school districts, such as San Diego, have implemented 5th grade 1:1 programs.  Locally, the Shrewsbury Public Schools launched a 5th grade 1:1 program this school year, and other districts, including the Burlington Public Schools, are planning 5th grade 1:1 implementations next year.