The program, which has the goal of giving each 2nd-12th grade student a tablet or laptop for school use by 2017, was rolled out last year with little fanfare. There were no APS press releases or public announcements, and ARLnow.com only found out about some of the details thanks to tips from parents who were seeking more information on the schools system’s plans.
While some criticized the lack of transparency and the idea of school-issued computers for students, there is little denying that the move comes at a time when the younger generation is increasingly “digital native” — 72 percent of children age 8 and under, and 38 percent of children under 2, have used a mobile device for a media-related activity, according to one study cited by APS.
Today’s students are accustomed to reading, watching, writing, discovering and communicating on phones, tablets and computers. To supporters, it seems natural to transition from the age of pencils, paper and textbooks in schools to one increasingly reliant on computing devices. Additionally, supporters say providing each student with a device, much like schools currently provide textbooks, will ensure that children from disadvantaged backgrounds don’t get left behind.
APS has now set up a Digital Learning web page and recently started producing a “#digitalAPS” video series, in part to make its case for technology in the classrooms. This week, ARLnow.com asked APS about where the digital learning initiative stands now and what future plans are for adding more laptops and tablets.
Arlington Public Schools is currently leasing 3,800 Apple iPad Airs for one grade level per elementary school (mostly 2nd-4th grade) and for middle schools (mostly 6th grade), according to school spokeswoman Jennifer Harris. Another 1,700 Apple MacBook Airs were leased for 9th graders. The annual leasing cost: approximately $400,000, or less than $73 per device, which comes out of APS’ $2.1 million technology replacement fund.
(APS expects to have about 20,000 2nd-12th grade students enrolled this fall.)
Individual schools are able to decide whether to allow students to take the devices home or leave them in school, according to Harris. As for what sort of instruction is taking place with the devices, Harris said that there are a “wide variety of examples where technology supports instruction,” and referred us to the three videos in the #digitalAPS series.
“We are using technology purposefully, not just for the sake of using technology,” Harris said. “Our focus is integrating it as an important strategy to support the teaching and learning process.”
More laptops and tablets — iPads for elementary and middle school, MacBooks for high school — are expected to be rolled out on an annual basis until all levels from 2nd to 12th grade have their own device. APS has previously set the goal of each eligible student having a device by 2017.
Harris did not specifically address a question about whether someday students will be reading digital-only textbooks from their devices, saving the school system money on physical books. She did, however, quote the following passage from this APS document.
The words of John Dewey best frame our challenge: “If we teach today’s students as we taught yesterday’s, we rob them of tomorrow.” Arlington Public Schools is committed to providing all of our students with the learning benefits of a personalized education that will lead them to successful and accomplished tomorrows.
When trying to view the cameras on the website Trafficland.com, which the county’s own website links to, residents hoping to monitor traffic conditions on Wilson Blvd, Glebe Road and Columbia Pike are faced with a blue screen that reads “this image is temporarily unavailable.”
The feeds have been down, off and on, for months. In addition to residents trying to plan their commute, the cameras are also often used by members of the media for traffic reports and for reporting on crashes and road conditions during storms.
Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services says 90 percent of the county’s cameras are operational, and all the viewing issues lie with TrafficLand.
“Many cameras on TrafficLand can be down at any given time, and this is due to connectivity issues between functioning cameras and their website feed,” Baxter wrote in an email. “The county provides TrafficLand access to our video feeds. The connection between our feed and their server is up to them to maintain.”
There is no alternative place for the public to view these cameras, DES spokeswoman Jessica Baxter told ARLnow.com. A random sampling of other jurisdictions’ cameras revealed that most VDOT, D.C. and Montgomery County traffic cameras were working on Trafficland.
While the county maintains that the public’s inability to view the feeds is TrafficLand’s fault, it is currently undergoing a technological overhaul of the system. Starting next month, DES will begin to replace the copper wiring in its communication system with a fiber optic system as part of its ConnectArlington project, Baxter said. The project is expected to be completed in spring 2016.
“The new technology is expected to improve the connectivity and reliability of the County’s CCTV camera system,” she said. “It’s anticipated that the fiber upgrade will resolve the cameras that are down and improve reliability.”
Baxter could not say whether the fiber replacement would improve access to cameras via TrafficLand.
So far, TrafficLand has not responded to a request for comment.
Screenshot via TrafficLand
Kids Have iPads, But Teachers Don’t Have Training — Updated at 1:50 p.m. — Some fourth and sixth graders received iPad Air tablets (and ninth graders received MacBook Air laptops) from Arlington Public Schools this year, but many teachers have reportedly still not received formal training on how to use them, according to the Washington Post. (ARLnow.com hears that some students from other grades also received iPads.) While certain parents view the devices as “another screen,” others say the devices, if properly implemented in classrooms, can be used to educate students in an interactive way that they’re especially receptive to. [Washington Post]
Concrete Falling from I-66 Overpass — A local cycling advocate says chunks of concrete have been falling from the I-66 overpass over Lee Highway. [Windy Run]
Superintendent Makes Boundary Refinement Recs — Arlington Public Schools staff presented the superintendent’s recommendations for North Arlington elementary school boundary refinements to the School Board Thursday night. The changes would impact a relatively small number of students. A public hearing on the refinements is set for Jan. 15. [InsideNova]
Aquatics Center Still on Back Burner — Arlington County was hoping that D.C. might win the 2024 Summer Olympics bid so that it could build the stalled Long Bridge Park Aquatics and Fitness Center with Olympic funds. With hopes of that dashed, the county is now focusing on finding a way to build the aquatics center without using more than the $79.5 million allocated. The county may also start building the next planned phase of Long Bridge Park without the center. [Washington Post]
Disruption Corporation in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive, 10th floor) is hosting the annual Tech Cocktail holiday party and all-star award ceremony tomorrow night.
The party will start at 6:00 p.m., end at 8:30 and costs $25 to attend ($35.99 if the guest wants a copy of Startup Mixology by Tech Cocktail’s Frank Gruber). All guests are encouraged to bring canned goods to donate to the Arlington Food Assistance Center.
Hundreds from the D.C. startup scene are expected to be in attendance, and awaiting the announcement of the annual awards. Winners will be named in the following categories:
- Best Design (Product)
- Best Bootstrapped
- Most Innovative Product
- Most Disruptive
- Biggest Pivot
- Best Company Culture
- Most Active in Local Community
- Most Likely to Get Acquired
- Best Social Good Startup
- Best Big Company with Startup Culture
- Most Charismatic or Best Founder(s)/Leader(s)
- Best Community Leader
There will also be a mixology demonstration and cocktails — naturally — for the occasion. After the event concludes, the remaining guests will migrate just one floor up for a happy hour at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.
Photo via Teck Cocktail
ModevCon, a conference for people interested in designing software for mobile platforms, is coming to Arlington next week.
Starting at 8:00 a.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11, Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd) will host hundreds of developers attending dozens of lectures, workshops and sponsors over a two-day event. The conference is described as “the East Coast’s premier mobile development event.”
The schedule also includes networking events and sessions on developing for iOS and Android, design, cross-platform technology and marketing. Panels include topics like “Women in Mobile Development” and monetizing apps.
The event is still open for registration. For two full days the conference costs $595 — it’s $395 for Thursday only and $295 for Friday only. Registration is still open here.
Arlington County’s economic development office, which runs Artisphere, is listed as a platinum-level sponsor of the event.
Board to Consider ‘Technology Zone’ Expansion — The Arlington County Board on Tuesday approved a motion to advertise changes to its program of giving tax breaks to small technology firms. Possible changes include expanding the “technology zones” in which businesses are eligible for the program to instead cover the entire county. The Board will vote on the changes in December. [Arlington County]
Werth Gnome Made of Cans at DCA — A huge Jayson Werth garden gnome sculpture made of cans is one such can creation on display at Reagan National Airport. Made for the annual “Canstruction” competition, which runs through Nov. 22, the sculptures will benefit the Arlington Food Assistance Center. [DCist]
Students Place First in Video Contest — Six Arlington Public Schools students have placed first in a state-wide video contest. They created a 30-second video for the annual Virginia School Boards Association competition. [Arlington Public Schools]
Shooting Suspect Arrested in Arlington — One of the two suspects in the shooting of two teenagers in Woodbridge was arrested Tuesday by Arlington County Police, following a traffic stop on N. George Mason Drive. [WNEW]
Columnist: Streetcar’s Death Will Widen Class Divisions — Washington Post columnist Robert McCartney opines that the decision to kill the Columbia Pike and Crystal City streetcar system will “probably deepen” class and racial divisions in Arlington. “In effect, Arlington just told its least prosperous residents: ‘You want streetcars to upgrade your neighborhoods? Too expensive. Keep riding the bus.’” McCartney writes. [Washington Post]
New Incubator to Launch in Crystal City — Eastern Foundry, a new incubator serving small businesses that contract with the federal government, is launching next month in Crystal City. Eastern Foundry joins two other recent startup-oriented additions to Crystal City: TechShop and the Crystal Tech Fund. [Washington Business Journal]
Rosslyn Planning Meeting — The county will share “preliminary Concept Plan Alternatives” as part of its Western Rosslyn Area Planning Study at a public workshop on Saturday. The study is, among other things, considering redevelopment possibilities for the Wilson School and Fire Station No. 10 property on Wilson Blvd. [Arlington County]
Glen Campbell Movie Screening in Ballston – A special screening of the Glen Campbell documentary I’ll Be Me will be held at the Regal Cinema in Ballston (671 N. Glebe Road) on Saturday. The documentary explores the music legend’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease. [Volunteers of America]
Tips for Car-Free Living in Arlington — Arlington’s transportation blog has seven tips for living car-free in Arlington. Tips include shopping at local stores, downloading the right transportation-related smartphone apps and borrowing a car when you need one. [Arlington County]
Photo courtesy Andrew Clegg
Warm weather may be winding down but Arlington’s innovation economy is heating up.
Tandem NSI, which connects technology entrepreneurs and national security agencies, is hosting an “Throwback Thursday” event on Oct. 2, promising that “summer’s not over until we say it is.”
Classic rock band Two Car Living Room will perform at the free event, which is being held at Artisphere from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. Also on offer: beers and the exhibit Think With Your Hands, a collaboration between artists and software developers.
Register for the event here.
“Last week, my kids were playing at the new rope park (at Rocky Run Park on N. Barton Street), I noticed a loose bolt on the climbing rope, took a photo, submitted through the [mobile] app and it was fixed within 48 hours,” Clarendon resident Izzy Tepekoylu told ARLnow.com in an email. “Wow! This is how a local government should work! Very impressed. I don’t think I ever thought I’d say this, but this made me feel good about my local taxes.”
The app is available on iPhone and Android devices. It allows users to see pending service requests in their area, check on the requests’ status, and submit their own. Users can also look up what items are recyclable in the county and what aren’t, and view county and Arlington County Police Department press releases.
“I had submitted a bunch of potholes through the app before and all were fixed, everyone should use it, it’s great,” Tepekoylu wrote. “We always write about complaints and what is broken etc., I thought we should also write about the good stuff as well.”
The app doesn’t have any reviews on iTunes, but it has three five-star reviews and two one-star reviews on the Google Play store. The app was updated in July, with a new user interface and a “streamlined request submission workflow.”
The free app has 1,588 downloads from iTunes since it launched in February, according to county spokeswoman Jennifer Smith, and 514 on Android. Of all electronically submitted requests for service, about 25 percent come from the apps, Smith said, and 75 percent come from the “Report a Problem” web page.
In August, there were 151 submissions for service on the from the mobile app, which, along with the web page, was developed by New York City-based tech company Public Stuff.
(Updated at 9:55 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools plans to give a new Macbook Air to every 9th grader in Wakefield, Washington-Lee and Yorktown high schools this school year.
The school system negotiated a deal with Apple that allowed it to purchase the laptops with a portion of the existing $1.2 million APS budget for annual high school computer purchases, Assistant Superintendent for Information Services Raj Adusumilli told ARLnow.com today. Adusumilli declined to reveal the exact cost, citing confidential negotiations.
The plan may come as a bit of a surprise — while APS has had a standing strategic goal of providing one computing device for every student by 2017, earlier this year the School Board shot down Superintendent Patrick Murphy’s proposed $200,000 in supplemental funding for iPads and Google Chromebooks for 2nd and 6th graders. With less than a week to go before the first day of school, APS has still not publicly touted the laptop purchase. The school system answered questions about it in response to inquiries by ARLnow.com, which was sent a non-public document by an anonymous parent.
Adusumilli said the Macbook purchase wasn’t finalized until early July. The devices will be rolled out to students in phases, as a pilot program, at the discretion of teachers and principals.
“It’s going to be done in phases, so it’s not like on the first week of school all the students will get it,” said Adusumilli. “The devices are going to be handed out to teachers first, who will be trained to use the devices in instruction. That’s happening in the first week of school. Devices started getting sent to teachers yesterday.”
For now, only the three Arlington high schools are getting the computers; APS is still working on a plan for laptops at the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program.
Currently, APS has shared computers in classrooms, with a 1.6:1 student-to-computer ratio throughout the district, according to Adusumilli. APS has been upgrading its network and WiFi capabilities in recent years in anticipation of moving toward a 1:1 ratio, he said.
Instead of computers being shared and remaining in classrooms, each student will have his or her own “personalized” Macbook. Initially the computers will remain at school (in lockers, when students are not in class), but eventually APS plans to allow students to take their laptops home.
“Down the line, if [parents and students] feel comfortable, and the instructors allow it, it can be done eventually,” said Adusumilli. “The most effective way of the personalized device instruction is if the device is with the kid 24/7, but we know this won’t happen overnight.”
Adusumilli said APS will be closely watching the pilot program to help guide future personalized computer deployments. He said experience with other trial programs has led APS to believe full laptops are appropriate for high school students, while tablet computers like iPads are more effective learning tools for elementary and middle school students.
Earlier this summer, APS vehemently denied a rumored tablet purchase for 9th graders. Some parents have reported that their 2nd and 6th graders have been assigned iPads this year. Asked about tablet purchases for lower grade levels, Adusumilli was vague in his response.
“We are preparing for the transition from shared devices to personalized devices at all levels,” he wrote via email. “As part of this preparation each school is conducting a pilot to learn about the instructional benefits provided by personalization. The devices for all the pilots have been purchased. The purchases were made using existing computer replacement funds.”
One parent who learned about the laptop plan contacted ARLnow.com this week and questioned why APS hasn’t told the community at large about the pilot program.
“Through all of this, nothing on any APS channels, including the ‘welcome to school’ info packets for my 9th grader,” the parent said, without giving his or her name. “Why the cloak and dagger communications of what is actually exciting news?”
WeWork, a company that specializes in co-working office space, plans to gut the 1960s-era office building at 2221 S. Clark Street and convert it into a community-oriented residential building featuring “micro-unit” apartments and large common areas. Many of the 252 apartments in the 12-story building will be 360 square feet or less.
“The Crystal City project will be WeWork’s first residential building, bringing the same benefits of co-working — shared amenities, a sense of community and opportunities for collaboration — to a residential building,” the county notes in a press release. “The project will offer an entirely new type of apartment living within walking distance of the Crystal City Metro Station, several bus stops and Capital Bikeshare stations, and will serve as a model for adaptive reuse of an outdated building until redevelopment can occur.”
WeWork signed a 20-year lease with property owner Vornado. The building is expected to be torn down after WeWork vacates the space, making way for a realignment of S. Clark and Bell Streets, as called for in the long-range Crystal City Sector Plan.
“This temporary conversion of an aging, vacant office building into an innovative live-work space is an example of how we continue to reinvent Crystal City as a more attractive, vibrant place that will attract more entrepreneurs and tech workers,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said, in a statement.
In addition to extensive interior renovations, the building’s exterior “fins” will be painted with stripes of bright colors, an “experimental exterior color application” that will change in appearance as one moves around the building. Apartment dwellers will have access to 154 parking spaces and 94 bike parking spaces.
The project’s community benefits include “streetscaping, sidewalk improvements on 23rd Street, and outdoor areas including, play and lounge zones and a community garden.”
Photo (bottom) via Google Maps
ACPD Participating in ‘Click It or Ticket’ — The Arlington County Police Department is participating in the annual Click It or Ticket seat belt enforcement campaign this month. The seat belt use rate in Virginia rose from 78.4 to 79.7 percent between 2012 and 2013. Still, 54 percent of all traffic fatalities in Virginia last year were drivers who weren’t wearing a seat belt. [Arlington County]
Bayou Bakery Opening New Location — Courthouse-based Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road) is expanding to a second location. Chef David Guas’ second Bayou Bakery will be located at 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, near Eastern Market, in the former carriage house of the Old Naval Hospital. The historic building is now a civic center known as Hill Center. [Washington Post]
West Coast Tech Meetup Coming to Crystal City — The Bay Area-based group Women 2.0 will be holding its first East Coast tech meetup in Crystal City next month. The “City Meetup” will take place on June 26. In choosing Crystal City, the group cited the recent opening of the $50 million Crystal Tech Fund as evidence that the area has a “budding tech ecosystem.” [Women 2.0]
ACPD K9 to Get Protective Vest — Astor, an Arlington County police dog, will be receiving a new ballistic protective vest. K9 Astor is getting the vest thanks to a national fundraising campaign in honor of K9 Rocco, a Pittsburgh police dog who was killed in the line of duty in January. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Cannon
Arlington Has Highest Tax Burden for the Poor — Arlington County has the highest tax burden for low income people in the D.C. area, according to a new study. In response, County Board Chair Jay Fisette suggested that the higher taxes go to providing more services, like affordable housing and better public schools, compared to other jurisdictions. [WAMU]
Op-Ed: Lower The Tax Rate — Local fiscal watchdog Wayne Kubicki says that the the County Board should reduce the property tax rate by 1.5 cents by utilizing part of the $37.1 million in unspent funds left over from Fiscal Year 2014. Kubicki suggests calling the tax rate reduction a “Vihstadt Dividend.” [InsideNoVa]
National Issues Didn’t Help Dems in Local Race — Democratic County Board candidate Alan Howze and his allies tried to corner opponent John Vihstadt on issues like Medicaid and his past support of Republican candidates. But it didn’t work, and Vihstadt was elected in a virtual landslide, the first non-Democrat on the County Board in 15 years. Concludes “Our Man in Arlington” columnist Charlie Clark: “Superimposing state and national ideological issue tests on genuine local disputes won’t trump voter focus on the individual candidates’ qualifications and clarity of message.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Venture Fund Founder on Crystal City — Paul Singh, founder of the new $50 million Crystal Tech Fund, which will focus its investments on post-seed stage tech companies, talked to a reporter about why he chose to locate the fund in Crystal City. He said Crystal City is an “attractive” location for tech company founders because of Metro access and airport proximity, along with “great restaurants and great living environments.” [Washington Post]
National Airport Cab Fares May Rise – The cost of taking a cab from Reagan National Airport may rise starting in September. The Board of Directors of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is considering raising the dispatch fee for cabs picking up passengers from $2.50 to $3 per trip. The board is also considering a requirement that all cabs accept credit cards. [InsideNoVa]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Currently, technology firms located in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, Crystal City, Columbia Pike and Shirlington only have to pay 50 percent or less of the county’s standard business license tax rate, 36-cent per $100 of gross receipts. For tech companies with between 500 and 999 employees, the rate is 14 cents. For tech companies with more than 1,000 employees, it falls farther to 10 cents.
Tech companies located along the Pike or in Shirlington have no minimum for the amount of employees to qualify for the reduced tax rate. However, in the R-B Corridor and Crystal City — the county’s two “Downtown Technology Zones” — tech firms must have at least 100 employees to pay the 18-cent rate. The County Board could approve waiving the minimum at its meeting this Saturday.
In addition, the Board will vote on whether to expand the parameters for a technology company to qualify for the tax breaks. The ordinance lists a broad range of eligible businesses, but since it was last updated seven years ago, firms in new sectors — the main one being social media — have been left out.
“The fundamentals of the local real estate market have changed,” the staff report, prepared by Arlington Economic Development, states. “Today tenants may choose among more available spaces and sites than ever before. Large deals may come about, but more often an assortment of small and medium deals is required to fill buildings. In many cases, the smaller firms have the most growth potential. They are expanding in a variety of digital economy and creative enterprises such as e-democracy, social media and healthcare data services.”
AED said there have been 12 instances where a tech company that was ineligible for the Technology Zone tax breaks did not choose Arlington to locate. Ten of those instances, the company was smaller than 100 employees.
If the changes are approved, the savings for tech companies in the R-B corridor would amount to approximately $2.25 per square foot of rent for office space, AED estimates.
“While this may not change a business decision on its own, it could be effective in combination with other forms of assistance the County and Commonwealth may provide, or it may help close the gap in rent or other expenses between Arlington and another jurisdiction,” the staff report reads. “AED estimates that — with the proposed changes in place — between five and 10 companies per year may qualify for this incentive.”
Flickr pool photo by Ddimick
Tech Hub Coming to Crystal City — Crystal City office building owner Vornado is investing $10 million in a venture capital fund called the Crystal Tech Fund. Venture capitalist Paul Singh is hoping to raise a total of $50 million for the fund, and is moving his company, Disruption Corp., to Crystal City. Vornado is also bringing a WeWork co-working space to Crystal City by 2016, and converting an existing building into a 300 unit apartment building for “today’s mobile and collaborative workers.” [InTheCapital, Washington Business Journal]
AFAC Sees Record Food Need – The Arlington Food Assistance Center continues to see record need for food in the community. The food bank served just over 1,800 families per week in February, a 30 percent increase compared to last year. [Sun Gazette]
Sony Store to Close — The Sony store in Pentagon City Mall is set to close, according to the company. The Sony store in Tysons Corner is also on the chopping block. [Sony]
Remembrance for Jean Crawford — Jean Crawford, a local Arlington County official and activist, died earlier this month after experiencing complications from gastric bypass surgery. A remembrance ceremony for Crawford will be held Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington (4444 Arlington Blvd). [Washington Post, Sun Gazette]
Video: Joan Mulholland — Joan Mulholland, a civil rights activist and former Freedom Rider who lives in Arlington, recently donated documents from her private collection to the Center for Local History at Arlington Public Library. The county’s Arlington TV channel created a video about Mulholland and the donation. [YouTube]
Flickr pool photo by ksrjghkegkdhgkk