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Peter’s Take: Will the APS Tablet Plan Succeed?

Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Peter RousselotSeveral months ago, I wrote a column in which I concluded that Arlington Public Schools has failed to meet its burden to prove that it is ready to implement a plan to put a tablet in the hands of every student.

APS still has not met that burden.

For this plan to succeed, APS must demonstrate that it has credible YES answers to ALL of these questions:

  • Does APS have a long-term instructional vision for what this plan is intended to accomplish?
  • Does APS have a long-term budget to train staff to implement its long-term instructional vision?
  • Does APS have a long-term budget to replace the devices?
  • Given all the other priorities APS must weigh, has this 1:1 plan been assigned a high enough priority to receive the funding it requires to be successful?
  • Has APS obtained transparent feedback from all stakeholders with respect to its long-term instructional vision, its long-term budget to implement it, and the priority the 1:1 plan has been assigned?

In a helpful article, Alan November — an educational technology consultant — framed the challenge APS faces as follows:

[W]hile one-to-one computing might work as a marketing slogan…, it is a simplistic and short-sighted phrase… Adding a digital device to the classroom without a fundamental change in the culture of teaching and learning will not lead to significant improvement. …[I]t’s essential to craft a vision that giving every student a digital device must lead to achievements beyond what we can accomplish with paper. Otherwise, let’s just stick with the original one-to-one program: one No. 2 pencil per student.

Has APS addressed adequately the challenge Alan November posed?

This is what the APS website currently has to say:

Every school in the system is conducting a pilot which is focused on identifying instructional best practices which leverage personalization. These best practices will be woven into teacher professional development and the full project implementation over the upcoming years.

An accompanying paper on digital learning makes certain promises (pages 8-10) regarding these subjects. These include promises that a Digital Learning Steering Committee will develop a plan that will:

  • Provide instructional support
  • Provide and implement a short and long range professional development strategy
  • Provide guidance on technology and curriculum integration
  • Provide guidance to develop policy related to personalized digital learning

Conclusion

This plan needs to be:

  • created,
  • vetted and reviewed by all APS stakeholders,
  • transparently shared with the public, and receive strong public support.

Until all of the above steps are completed, we don’t know whether this plan will succeed.

Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

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