Survey Says: Weston Middle School iPads a Success
School recommends expanding tablet rollout to seventh and eighth graders; funding scenarios presented.
The mid-year marks for the Weston Middle School iPad rollout are in, and while the positive feedback continues to accrue, questions remain on how to fund the initiative.
The iPad initiative for seventh graders at WMS began last spring, when about 22 students used the devices for the remainder of the school year. The tablets were introduced to all students in October, when some 190 iPads were provided to students, with 35 going to teachers, funded in part through local budget and federal stimulus funds.
A survey was recently given to students, parents and WMS faculty on the perceived usefulness and helpfulness of the iPads some 50 days into the rollout. Lee McCanne, director of technology and school libraries for Weston schools, gave a presentation at Monday’s School Committee meeting at Case House that indicated the overwhelming feeling toward the devices remains “a positive one.”
In his presentation, McCanne said about 85 percent of student who responded in the survey, full results of which are available at the Weston Schools' iPad support website, indicated the tablet was helping them be better learners at school while nearly the same percentage—82 percent—said they felt it did the same at home.
Another question posed in the survey asked whether the students prefer having an iPad, a laptop or textbooks for learning, with a majority—71 percent—indicating a preference for iPads.
Parent responses largely mirrored the students’, with 74 percent indicating overall positive feelings for the devices.
And while 15 percent of parents who responded did indicate they had experienced “major challenges” with the devices, no such respondents left any comments explaining the actual degree of their difficulties, said McCanne.
Teachers’ survey responses indicated that 79 percent feel that next year’s seventh graders should have iPads, and 100 percent say that within a few years, an iPad or similar technology should become a standard academic device.
“They all think a device like this should be part of middle school education,” said McCanne.
During McCanne’s presentation, School Committee members, some of whom attended a recent parent coffee at WMS where some 11 faculty members gave iPad presentations, expressed their views on the devices, with member Cheryl Antoine calling the presentations “phenomenal.”
“Curriculum innovation is not a rapid change and it’s amazing how much (WMS) faculty have done in 50 days,” added Amber Bock, assistant superintendent.
McCanne concluded the presentation by recommending expansion of the tablet program to seventh and eighth graders for next year, presenting four funding scenarios that varied from a district cost of $104,752, in which the district would purchase all iPads and software, to $14,017, in which the school would lease the devices and parents would pay a $150 “take home” fee.
The other options studied and presented by McCanne called for a district lease of iPads for next year with this year's devices moving with students to the eighth grade and no parent fee, to the tune of $62,131; and one that calls for parents to purchase or lease the iPads, leaving the district to fund software for about $14,000 a year.
Some differences of opinion about future funding of the devices ensued, with member Sanjay Saini saying he had a “bias toward having parents pay” and Rick Manley calling that “a possible distraction.”
Superintendent Cheryl Maloney said while she originally favored having parents pay for the devices, she thinks the scenario calling for WMS to lease the tablets and charge $150 to parents would "provide a level of control that might be beneficial to the program.”
"In considering logistics, it might be better if we’re managing the devices, taking care of them, keeping them at schools," she said.
The discussion wrapped with an agreement by members to reconvene to discuss the funding issue later in the month.