Technology issues, reported parent concerns lead to slow of tablet roll out
By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
EAST MARLBOROUGH — Citing infrastructure issues, the Unionville-Chadds Ford School District appears likely to delay a program to issue iPad tablet computers to the district’s eighth grade students for a year.
Initially, district officials had pitched a plan to the Board of Education to issue iPad Minis to the entire eighth grade class at Patton Middle School in the fall of 2013, but now that won’t be happening.
District officials cited some concerns about the wireless Internet infrastructure for the building, as well as having enough time to properly develop lesson plans and professional development for teaching staff. In addition, officials cited curricular changes already planned for the fall of 2013 as potentially being a lot for the school’s faculty and staff to adapt to already.
“This gives us more time to discuss this,” said Rich Hug, the District’s Director of Technology and Communication.
Publicly, officials called the decision a “pause.” But there could be deeper concerns with the program.
Unofficially, though, multiple district and Parent Teacher Organization sources told The Times that there was a surprising amount of parent push-back on the plan, as parents expressed concern about already having trouble getting their children away from their digital devices.
A more modest iPad-based project is still planned to go ahead at Unionville High School, and now that program will serve as a beta test for a larger roll out of technology, officials said.
The original plan, expected to cost between $200,000 and $300,000 would have put an iPad Mini in the hands of each member of the class of 2018, with eighth grade curriculum reworked to accommodate and maximize the benefit of the devices. Students would have the option of buying the devices at the end of the school year — which are expected to be increasingly used for everything from multimedia to keeping digital textbooks.
Some board members clearly thought the delay was merited and prudent.
“I think this is useful for the public,” board member Frank Murphy said. “We’ll better be able to show the difference in a class taught with the device and without the device. That’s not just for us, but for those who are going to pay for it.”
Initially, Superintendent of Schools John Sanville said the program would be presented to the board for approval in May, 2014 for the 2014-15 school year, but board members questioned that timing, suggesting a decision should made be earlier in the budget cycle. Sanville agreed that it could be considered earlier in the budget cycle.
Still, some board members gave proponents of the program reason for optimism.
“By waiting, we could ultimately be more aggressive,” board member Jeff Hellrung said, noting that if the data comes back positive. “We could roll it out with more classes.”