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Peter’s Take: The Way Forward on APS Student Devices

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

Peter RousselotThe School Board recently voted 3 to 2 to push forward with its controversial 1:1 initiative — the plan to give every student their own laptop or tablet for educational purposes.

What should the Board do now to address the many justified criticisms leveled at its 1:1 initiative?


The School Board should direct Superintendent Patrick Murphy to hold a series of public meetings, beginning in mid-May, among concerned parents, teachers, APS administrators, and the general public, to discuss collaboratively the most critical issues that have been raised.

APS needs uniform developmentally appropriate guidelines in areas such as:

Teacher training/professional development

One of the most serious criticisms of the 1:1 initiative is its complete lack of vision or goals to train teachers on how best to integrate the devices into curricular offerings. To address this deficiency, the public meetings should discuss in detail APS’ plans to:

  • set clear and measurable goals;
  • give devices to schools in the summer, not in the fall;
  • have quality apps that are equitably available on devices at all schools and aligned with curricular goals;
  • use a curriculum that contains expectations for the devices to be used to attain a goal, with assessments that follow this pattern: using the iPad/Macbook and “X” software, students will …;
  • require professional development that would help teachers use “X” software to achieve that desired outcome;
  • sustain professional development so that teachers could go back to review and re-learn (could be online);
  • evaluate appropriately teacher and student usage.

Individual total daily screen time on all devices/safety

Particularly at the elementary level, parents are very concerned about the total number of hours per day (at school, at home and on transportation) that their children will be in front of a screen. This issue needs a collaborative solution. System-wide rules are needed for something as simple as “don’t use the camera to harass or embarrass your fellow students.” Filters should be placed on iPads to block inappropriate content.

Transparency in budgeting

Teachers are NOT issued MacBook Airs or iPads. This seriously interferes with their ability to develop detailed, evidence based curricular plans, but there is no provision in the APS budget to provide these devices to teachers. Nor is there any meaningful, long-term annualized budget estimate of total hardware and software costs. Accurate total costs are essential to enable the community to weigh the costs of the 1:1 initiative against the benefits.


APS badly flunked the transparency test in the roll-out of this initiative. Technology and devices are critical. APS must prepare our children to use them. But, the current 1:1 initiative isn’t the only way.

APS should candidly acknowledge that this initiative has flunked and needs to be re-booted.

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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