Since last month, seventh graders at Weston Middle School have had tablet technology at their fingertips, an experience that has been by all accounts successful for the school.
In a recent presentation to the School Committee, Lee McCanne, director of technology and school libraries for Weston schools, told attendees the rollout of about 190 iPads for students and 35 for teachers has gone smoothly and already proved beneficial for both.
“The teachers didn’t miss a beat,” said McCanne. As for the students, the iPads “aren’t really something ‘new’ now, they’re just part of (students’) daily activities, which is what we wanted this new technology to be.”
In his presentation, McCanne showed slides of students at work with their tablets as well as quotes of them describing how they felt about the new technology. “I'm not naturally an organized person, but the iPad helps to organize me," said one student, while others called the tablet “a fun way to learn" and "easy to use."
McCanne said the initiative first began last spring, when a cohort of about 22 seventh graders used iPads for the remainder of the school year. The experiment indicated that tablet technology “provides greater opportunities for students to work at their own pace,” he said.
McCanne told the committee that the “current inclination” is to move the iPads up with the students next year, leading to questions about tablet technology prospects for next year’s seventh graders. While the current rollout was funded in part through local budget and federal stimulus funds, said McCanne, future funding would likely entail “some form of parent participation.”
Such scenarios could include asking parents to purchase the iPads with the district covering all software and licensing costs, or the school charging a technology fee of around $200-250 that would cover the device, maintenance and licensing.
Regardless of funding, committee members agreed that such technology is here to stay.
“At the end of the day, it’s very clear that tablets are part of the future,” said committee member Court Chilton. “We have to figure this out.”
Despite what she called the “moving parts” of the various funding scenarios, Weston School Superintendent Cheryl Maloney agreed that tablet technology is an important part of the future.
In the meantime, she said, “We’ll be doing what we can to make this budget-neutral.”
Additional information about the iPad initiative is available at the Weston Public School iPad support site.