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Wellesley 5th grade iPad plan sparks public debate

Apple iPadOur publishing last week of a piece on a Wellesley Public Schools effort for a largely partially family-funded plan to roll out Apple iPad tablets to all 5th graders in the fall has been followed by a slew of news stories from the usual suspects (the Globe sums things up well here, with input from town officials), and now a wave a opinion pieces. So far, those speaking out are preaching caution.

We’ve posted one piece below from a Wellesley parent, and here’s a look at a couple more, one from Boston Magazine and the other from a Globe techie.

Katherine Ozment writes on Boston Magazine’s website, in a piece headlined “Wellesley schools want every fifth-grader to have an iPad: Here’s why they should slow down,” that “school districts should be asking if the technology truly adds anything to the learning experience—or even, if it’s taking something away.” Ozment isn’t blown away by Wellesley’s Schofield pilot project with iPads  and she raises concerns about whether iPad use will take away from valuable social learning and interaction. She also cites one expert who recommends putting such technology into the hands of teachers first, getting them fired up about it, and then maybe distributing the devices to kids. (We’ve seen/heard plenty of examples of teachers who struggle with smartboards and other technologies, and the kids know it.)

Separately, Globe innovation and startup watcher Michael Morisy has written a couple of things about the Wellesley plan, including an initial piece headlined “Should public schools be training the next generation of Apple addicts” and a follow-up titled “iPads or Nooks, educators owe thought to integrating classroom tech.” In his first piece, Morisy cautions about other public entities, such as city councils, that have jumped on the tablet craze without really thinking through the costs. He raises questions about costs, such as how much publishers will wind up charging for e-texts (e-publishing is fast changing, with companies like McGraw-Hill even announcing new offerings at this week’s big International CES geekfest in Las Vegas).

Wellesley is certainly not the first local community to propose an iPad or tablet plan (Burlington and Shrewsbury are among others, though their plans involve some different grades). But as usual, what happens here often gets closer scrutiny.


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One Comment

  1. Concerned Parent
    Posted January 10, 2013 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

    I disagree that it is largely a family funded initiative.
    In addition to the capital and operating budget for new equipment and a .8 FTE, the program will not be successful unless every fifth grade parent buys an iPad, WEF provides a $ 70K grand AND PTOs provide $ 4K per class. This will have a significantly impact on PTO budgets.

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