New requirements for vendors that process credit cards will cause a significant shift in liability for certain types of fraud. But many small business owners are not ready for this important change in payment processing.
- verify the credit card’s physical presence at the point of sale;
- transmit unique data for each credit card transaction.
EMV chip-and-sign reduces the amount of account information compromised from insecure credit card terminals. It also prevents a malicious party from easily stealing customers’ card swipe data to create counterfeit copies.
The EMV chip is visible on most newer cards as a small gold-colored square (see the above right graphic). The primary goal of EMV chip technology is to reduce fraud and improve credit card security. EMV is an industry acronym that stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa.
How are these new requirements changing liability?
Merchants that fail to adopt EMV chip-and-sign technology may be liable for counterfeit, lost and stolen credit card transactions at their location. Merchants who do adopt the new technology should continue to enjoy the same level of fraud protection as they have previously. The new requirements specifically designate the party without EMV capabilities to be liable for losses related to credit card fraud at their location.
Most credit card companies have already issued EMV-enabled cards, and many merchant processors have enabled their EMV credit card processing systems. That leaves the changes necessary to avoid potential losses from credit card fraud in the hands of business owners.
When is the deadline to convert to this technology?
October 1, 2015 will be when the credit card payment processing liability shift will occur in the United States for most businesses. Merchants processing credit cards at their location must have EMV chip-and-sign readers setup at all point of sale devices to ensure compliance.
How can I prepare my business for these new requirements?
Contact your credit card payment processing service and ask:
- how the new requirements effect your account;
- when the changes will take effect for your account (if not October 1st); and
- what steps your business needs to take to prepare.
Payment processing hardware may need to be upgraded, in some cases payment processing software may also need to be upgraded.
Online sales and manual entry of credit card account information will not be affected by these new requirements.
About the author
Alexander G. Chamandy is a seasoned IT professional with 20 years of industry experience and a lifelong Arlington resident. He has deep expertise helping small businesses with a number of IT issues, including cybersecurity, data recovery, networking, deploying and maintaining servers as well as open source software.
The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
The funding was approved after an amendment to stop it failed one to four.
The professional development will help teachers be able to better incorporate digital tools, such as laptops or iPads, in lesson plans. It is part of the Arlington Public Schools’ digital learning initiative, which has the goal of equipping children in second to eighth grades with an iPad and high school students with Macbook Airs.
Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sánchez submitted the amendment to defund the professional development for digital learning. She argued that while technology is important there were other areas recommended by advisory committees that needed the money more, she said during the School Board meeting on June 16.
“We have forgotten the whole child,” she said. “We have forgotten any of the support systems or professional development we need for that. We have forgotten professional development that could be needed for English language learners. We have forgotten the needs for the middle schools and other areas I feel are needed.”
But other board members said that the professional development was key to the success of the already-approved digital learning initiative.
“I fundamentally believe that technology is going to be a key component of any future change for our children, our ability to include all students in a general education setting and to provide the differentiating instruction,” member Nancy Van Doren said.
Van Doren agreed with Violand-Sánchez that professional development was needed in other areas but said it was not a question of one or the other. Instead, the School Board should look to providing the financial needs for multiple areas of professional development, she said.
The digital learning initiative also provides for the whole child, member Abby Raphael argued. In order for the digital learning to be successful, teachers need the training, she said.
“I think it is so meaningful. And it affects special education students, it affects [English language learners], it helps accelerate students, and it really, I think, does personalize learning and individualize learning,” Raphael said.
The digital learning also provides low-income children with the opportunity to interact with technology that they would not have otherwise, Chair James Lander said. Low income families often only buy what they need, and laptops and iPads do not always make the list, he said.
“I believe in technology, and I believe this is a way for a school that is majority minority to have an opportunity to get their hands on technology and start to close the digital divide,” he said.
But the program is not without its problems. Members brought up monetary concerns about the costs of the actual devices and the software that each would need as APS increases the number of devices it maintains from 5,000 to 25,000.
Barbara Kanninen also brought up concerns about the lack of planning involved in the rollout of the devices and questioned whether they actually helped to accelerate learning. She attempted to halt the program in the past until budget and educational concerns were addressed.
“I still feel, as I did then, that we need a full evaluation of this program,” she said. “So far we had a work session earlier this year, we’ve heard a lot of anecdotes about successes in our schools system, but we don’t have solid evidence that it’s truly achieving our goals.”
Despite that, Kanninen voted against Violand-Sánchez’s amendment, saying that the training is necessary.
Van Doren said there is also a need to look a security and privacy concerns brought up by parents.
“We must address the parent concerns related to security, privacy and the continuous feedback and improvement related to the devices,” she said. “That is tantamount in allowing parents to be partners in this process.”
Parents need to feel that their children are safe while using these devices, and they need to feel as if they are partners with the school system, she said.
Lander agreed that those areas are important and should be part of the next steps going forward. However, despite the budget, educational and concerns, utilizing technology in school is too important of a priority to stop, he said.
“We can’t hold back the tide of technology,” Lander said. “This is how we do business.”
In the last few years there has been an increasing hype regarding cloud-based offerings. From outsourcing the office file or mail server to powering entire complex web sites, collaboration and outsourcing of voice over IP as well as CRM. The cloud is also touted as a solution for off-site backup services. The term cloud has come to mean just about anything not on your local network. The broadening definition combined with the reduction of reliability, security and accountability is a troubling trend, though.
What is a cloud?
Let’s start with the basics. Just what is a cloud? The cloud actually used to be a graphical component of classic network diagrams to show areas of a network that were either very complex or untrusted (such as data traveling over the Internet vs. a local trusted network). More recently the definition has expanded (and changed substantially). A cloud is in essence a cluster of servers whereby the user is given limited access to accomplish a specific function or task. A cloud can be something as simple as a single server off-site or something as complex as a data center full of servers hosting a product like Facebook.
The problem is the term cloud doesn’t really mean anything specific because it has come to encompass so many products and services. As a result of this dilution the definition of what exactly a cloud is cannot be otherwise described, except perhaps as intangible computing technology.
That’s a great question. Dedicated servers where the administrators have granular control are not considered part of the cloud. In addition we consider our local network infrastructure (switches, routers, workstations, servers and other equipment on the premises) to not be part of a cloud. These localized components are not part of the ethereal infrastructure that is considered ‘cloud computing,’ as they have key distinguishing features that allow them to be more closely governed. A subject we’ll talk about in more detail later in this article.
In a nutshell the cloud is not anything you can see, touch or gain low level access to (local network components or part of a dedicated hosting system).
FIFA Movie Shown in Arlington — Arlington is home to one of ten theaters nationwide that showed a biopic about Sepp Blatter, the embattled president of FIFA who last week announced that he would be stepping down from the international soccer organization. The AMC Loews Shirlington 7 grossed $161 from “United Passions” as of Friday. Nationwide the film, which cost FIFA at least $25 million to produce, grossed only $607. [Washington Post]
Crystal City Hosts Car ‘Micro-Factory’ — Crystal City is currently home to the Local Motors Mobifactory, a car factory in a shipping container. The “micro-factory” uses 3D printing technology to produce prototype vehicles. The micro-factory plans to remain at 1900 Crystal Drive for the rest of the summer. A grand opening is planned for Thursday. [Tech.co]
GGW on Tomorrow’s Primary — Greater Greater Washington weighs in on which Democratic Arlington County Board candidates would be best for smart growth, transit, walking and bicycling. The Democratic primary will be held tomorrow. [Greater Greater Washington]
CivFed Backs Affordable Housing Plan — The Arlington County Civic Federation has voted 47-29 to support Arlington County’s draft Affordable Housing Master Plan. The plan sets goals for affordable housing in the county and is several years in the making. The County Board is scheduled to vote Saturday on setting a public hearing for the plan. [InsideNova]
A Note on InsideNova Links — Normally, ARLnow.com warns readers of auto-play videos in articles that we link to in the Morning Notes. We have observed that InsideNova often hosts autoplay videos, with sound on, within its ad units. Because this doesn’t happen every time we visit, however, we will not include an auto-play video warning for these links. ARLnow.com believes that advertising should be local and relevant and should not purposefully interrupt or annoy readers. We hope that users who might use AdBlock Plus to block annoying ads from other publishers would whitelist our site so that we can continue to bring you interruption-free local news content and relevant messages from local advertisers.
The following post is written and sponsored by Envescent, LLC, the IT services provider to ARLnow.com.
Businesses rely on information technology to improve productivity, share information and reduce the time it takes to communicate.
Despite how important information technology is to their success many small businesses tend to manage it poorly. For the most part this has to do with the depth of expertise and investment of time that is necessary to ensure that software, hardware, networks and telephony are maintained to promote maximum stability and security.
These tips are based on my experiences and are intended to provide a basic guide for improving your IT experience.
1. Problems begin with software that’s not maintained
The majority of malware is able to enter computers because they run out of date software. That includes applications like Adobe Acrobat Reader or Java and the operating system itself, such as Windows or Mac OS X. Software publishers release updates that include fixes for security problems. When these updates are released they reveal problems with the software that hackers can focus on and attack. About 80% of malware targets out of date operating systems and applications. By keeping yours up to date you can reduce the probability of malware invading your computer.
2. Update your software regularly
To update your software it’s best to visit the publisher’s website, such as www.adobe.com for Adobe Acrobat Reader or www.java.com for Oracle Java. I strongly recommend opting out of any third party add-ons such as tool bars, free anti-virus or other potentially unwanted programs (PUPs) that may come along. For Microsoft Windows you can check for updates manually by visiting control panel and searching for Windows Update and then clicking the Windows Update icon. For Apple Mac OS X you can click on the Apple icon and then click on Software Update to check for the latest updates.
Jeremy Stoppelman, the CEO and co-founder of Yelp, might not have made it as a tech titan if it wasn’t for bike rides to Ballston Common Mall as a kid.
Stoppelman grew up in Arlington, near Military Road. He attended Taylor Elementary in the 1980s and swam on the Donaldson Run swim team. Though Stoppelman and his family later moved to Great Falls, where he attended Langley High School, it was those early days in Arlington that set him on the path to Silicon Valley stardom.
“I used to ride my bike to Ballston mall to buy video games… they had one of those little video game stores,” he told ARLnow.com in a phone interview. “I was always interested in technology and computers. It probably started early with my love of video games and fascination with how you build them and the machines they run on.”
After high school Stoppelman attended the University of Illinois, where he graduated with a degree in computer engineering in 1999. He would come back to Northern Virginia to intern at UUNET, an early commercial internet service provider, for two summers. After graduation, however, he left the D.C. area behind for the Bay Area, where he would work for @Home Network and Paypal before attending a year of business school and founding Yelp in 2004.
Now 37, Stoppelman is the head of a publicly-traded company, a member of Vanity Fair magazine’s vaunted “New Establishment,” and at last check worth an estimated $222 million. Despite a demanding schedule on the West Coast, he says he’s able to come back to Washington a couple of times a year, sometimes for work — weighing in on legislative issues on Capitol Hill — and sometimes just to visit his mother, who now lives in Reston. (His father died in 1998, according to a San Francisco Chronicle profile.)
Asked about advice he would give to local students hoping for a career in tech, Stoppelman said getting an early start learning computer programming is key.
Stoppelman himself took a Turbo Pascal programming class in high school. He supports efforts to bring more coding classes to students as early as the elementary school level, including online coding lessons from Code.org and Coursera.
“A deeper understanding of technology is good for everyone,” he said.
With talk of a new tech bubble and an ever-growing list of “unicorns” — startups that have attained the previously-rare valuation of $1 billion — the temptation might be there for young D.C. area entrepreneurs to decamp to Silicon Valley in search of ultra-quick riches. Stoppelman, who guided Yelp’s growth for eight years before taking it public, cautioned against the myth that there’s easy success to be had in tech, particularly in the local space.
“I think in a lot of cases it looks like there’s easy bucks but there’s often an easy story,” he said. “For a lot of companies, the ‘overnight success’ was four or five years in the making, where they struggled with a bunch of different ideas and things that didn’t work and one day they were finally able to get something to click.”
“Doing something in local generally means going deep in a lot of geographies, which takes a freaking long time,” he continued. “So we always had a long-term mentality.”
More Details in Aurora Highlands Slaying — Investigators have sent hairs found in the hands of murder victim Bonnie Black to a lab for DNA testing. Police have also thoroughly searched the house of Black’s estranged husband, confiscating items like a Swiss Army knife, computers and a hair brush. [Washington Post]
DCA Terminal Proposal Unveiled — Officials have unveiled a $800 million plan to build a new commuter aircraft terminal at Reagan National Airport. The terminal would be built to the north of the existing terminals, replacing a headquarters building and a hangar. Currently, 5,000 commuter jet passengers a day use a single gate and are bussed to their planes. [InsideNova]
Silver Line Phase 2 Delayed — The second phase of Metro’s Silver Line is delayed by just over a year, officials announced Monday. The Silver Line is now not expected to reach Dulles Airport until late 2019 or 2020. The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is building the Silver Line, blames project changes intended to enhance safety. [NBC Washington]
Ballston Tech Firm Acquired — Ballston-based Applied Predictive Technologies has been bought by MasterCard for $600 million. The company “uses cloud-based analytics to help clients measure marketing, merchandising and operations efforts.” [Bloomberg]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
School Board member Barbara Kanninen, serving the first year of her term, proposed pausing what’s called the “1:1 Initiative” during the School Board’s budget deliberations last week. Her motion failed, 2-3, with Vice Chair Emma Violand-Sanchez voting in favor.
The initiative has already provided second- and sixth-graders with iPads and freshmen with MacBook Airs. Next year, devices will again be provided to students in those grades.
“We have conducted a very large pilot project this year in terms of this initiative,” Kanninen said, estimating about 3,000 devices are now in the hands of students. “That is a very large and potentially very informative data set. I made this motion because I believe it is now time to evaluate how it’s working and ask some basic questions. Is it helping students learn? Is it helping teachers teach?”
The Board and Superintendent Patrick Murphy had extensive discussions the week leading up to their meeting about the initiative, and the majority, including Murphy, agreed that an evaluation can be completed while pushing forward with handing out devices.
“I have moved from thinking we needed to pause to believing we can do that evaluation and do that assessment at the same time as we continue forward,” Board member Nancy Van Doren said. “Many people have called me about the problems we’ve been having … When I suggest pausing the program, I was surprised people said ‘don’t pause, just do it better.'”
Many of the complaints around the devices have focused on teachers not being adequately trained to use the devices, preventing an optimal environment for the students. Murphy said many teachers have “emerged as leaders” in using the devices while other teachers are more hesitant.
“I will say, with any new initiative, there have been a variety of issues with the rollout,” Murphy told the School Board. “We need to continue to strengthen our training models. I think we’ll continue to focus on professional development, working with families so they understand and working with safety, so students aren’t spending an excessive amount of time in front of these devices.”
The 1:1 Initiative is budget neutral because it is funded by diverting money away from APS’ annual technology replacement funds. While Murphy and the School Board majority acknowledged hiccups with the rollout, Kanninen pushed for a more detailed look at what went wrong.
“One of the main reasons a pause would be necessary is we also need to ask, “are we implementing this model the right way?'” she said. “There are other models and ways we could be rolling this out. By taking a pause here, we then can work on developing curricula, designing professional development programs, developing our principles for use, clarifying our budget implications.”
School Board member Abby Raphael said many of the concerns expressed in the community have been alleviated by a more thorough explanation of the program.
“It’s all about personalizing learning, it’s not about the devices,” she said. “I agree that we can continue to roll this out and evaluate what we’re doing, because I really do think this is a very valuable tool in eliminating the achievement gap.”
ZooBean, based in Rosslyn’s ÜberOffices, has launched Beanstack with the library. The program takes the preferences of each child — “like ninjas, princess or even math and science,” the app’s promotional video explains — and the child’s reading level, and an Arlington librarian recommends books in the catalog that apply.
Each book recommendation also comes with a brief learning tip, ZooBean co-founder Felix Lloyd told ARLnow.com. This could be culling a few vocabulary words from the book to review.
“In many ways, the end user is the parent,” Lloyd said. “A lot of it is about their having a good place to start when it comes to their kid. The way we view it is with a lot of things going on in today’s world, it’s hard to have the confidence that there’s good content and you know how to use it in a way to accelerate their reading, to give them a better place to start in school.”
The app is free and available to any Arlington resident. B0oks available electronically can be downloaded immediately, and those available by hard copy can be reserved and sent to the family’s local branch. Beanstack makes a recommendation for a different book every week, and always reading material that has been approved by a librarian.
“Modern public libraries are constantly looking at the evolving needs of their customers,” Arlington Public Library spokesman Peter Golkin said in an email. “A service like Beanstack takes the knowledge of our children’s librarians, mixes it with proven online ‘matchmaking’ based on the particular child’s interests and puts the results in convenient emails that arrive on a regular basis. If the suggested book is an available ebook in the collection, then you don’t even have to make a trip to the Library.”
The service just launched this month, and Arlington is the second library system to offer it in the country, Lloyd said, following the Sacramento, Calif., library system. Fourteen other library systems have signed on for Beanstack already, including Montgomery, Prince George’s and Howard counties in Maryland.
ZooBean got its big break appearing on ABC’s Shark Tank last April, and receiving a $250,000 investment from Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Since then, Lloyd said, Cuban has invested even more into the company. The combination of Cuban’s endorsement and Arlington’s early partnership has helped spur the business’ growth.
“Arlington buying our product before it launched was a bet for them,” Lloyd said. “Them buying into the service helped our business, because we could go out and point to this model community that invested. It was a validation of a small business.”
Tech Leaders Want to Save Artisphere — Some 100 tech leaders and supporters have signed a petition asking Arlington County to reconsider closing Artisphere. Numerous tech-related events have been held at Artisphere in the past couple of years and the petition’s organizer says it’s a “unique” venue that has attracts tech networking events and conferences. [Technical.ly DC]
Memorial Bridge Lane Closures — Two center lanes of the Arlington Memorial Bridge will be closed nightly from April 20 through May 8. The lane closure, slated to be in place between 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., is for a “geotechnical inspection” of the bridge, according to the National Park Service.
ACPD ‘Chief for the Day’ — The Arlington County Police Department, which is currently seeking a successor for now-retired police chief Doug Scott, intends to replace him with a fifth grader — well, sort of but not really. While it conducts a real-life search for Scott’s replacement, ACPD is holding its second annual Chief-for-the-Day contest. The contest encourages submissions from fifth grade students in Arlington schools who want to serve as the honorary Chief of Police for a day. [Arlington County]
Endorsement for Cristol — Arlington Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy has endorsed Katie Cristol, who’s seeking the Democratic nomination for Arlington County Board. Morroy has also endorsed Democratic candidate Christian Dorsey in the race for two open County Board seats. [InsideNova]
Wounded Marine’s Golf Clubs Stolen — Retired Marine Lt. Col. Justin Constantine had a couple of his beloved, custom-made golf clubs stolen from Arlington’s Army Navy Country Club after accidentally leaving them at the driving range. Constantine was shot in the face by a sniper in Iraq in 2006. So far, one of the clubs has been returned while two remain missing. [Marine Corps Times]
Video: iPads in Use at APS — Arlington Public Schools has posted a new “#digitalAPS” video that shows iPads in use in a middle school science class. [Arlington Public Schools]
APS Community Engagement Juggling Act — Arlington Public Schools is planning a community engagement blitz as it seeks to keep up with rapidly rising school enrollment by building new schools. This comes in the wake of the County Board putting the brakes on a plan, unpopular with some residents, to build new elementary school next to Thomas Jefferson Middle School. APS is trying to juggle getting community consensus with the need to build new capacity quickly. [InsideNova]
Dremo’s Owner Dreams Up ‘BeerDisneyLand’ — The owner of the late, lamented Dr. Dremo’s in Rosslyn is proposing to build a two-acre “BeerDisneyLand” on D.C.’s Anacostia River waterfront near Navy Yard. [Hill Now]
Flickr pool by Kevin Wolf
Police: Pair Stole Car, Shrimp, Underpants — (Updated at 2:00 p.m.) A man and a woman allegedly under the influence of crack cocaine and alcohol were arrested in Rosslyn Tuesday afternoon. Police say the pair had stolen a car, men’s underwear and a “large quantity of shrimp.” [MyFoxDC]
Playgroup Controversy in Fairlington — Members of a cooperative playgroup that uses the Fairlington Community Center say that Arlington County is attempting a “takeover of the group.” The parents say the county is trying to buy the playgroup’s toys, take over registration and raise the playgroup fee from $20 to $190. [Patch]
How One Teacher Is Using iPads — There’s some question about just how well Arlington Public Schools has trained its teachers on the use of technology in the classroom — particularly the individual iPads and MacBooks that are being assigned at certain grade levels. One teacher at Carlin Springs Elementary School, however, is taking advantage of the iPads in a big way, using them for various interactive lessons. That, officials say, is indicative of how such technology will increasingly be used in schools. [InsideNova]
ACFD Metro Training — Arlington firefighters are participating in department-wide Metro safety training this month. [Twitter]
One possible explanation for the lack of participation in a program that could save companies thousands of dollars a year: many local tech companies say they haven’t heard about it.
Last year, the Arlington County Board approved a measure “to broaden the Technology Zone incentive program for new technology companies.” The action was trumpeted in a press release by then-County Board chair Jay Fisette.
“These updates reflect the reality of a quickly-changing tech world,” Fisette said at the time. “I said that we would lay the groundwork this year for Arlington to become a hub of the innovation economy. This update to our Tech Zones is a big step in the right direction.”
As of March 19, however, only eight businesses had applied and subsequently qualified for “Technology Zone” status for their 2014 taxes, according to Deputy Commissioner of Revenue Ann Bisson. She could not say which companies had qualified nor how much local tax revenue those companies represent.
“Because of the nature of the tech business currently having so few companies applying, I am not allowed by law to give you that information in this case,” Bisson said. “Virginia law prohibits us from giving out any kind of information where it could be determined what one company has in income.”
In order to qualify, a company has to prove that it meets the following requirements:
- Has been in business in Arlington for no more than 18 months, or has grown in full-time employment by at least 25 percent within the past 12 months.
- Is located in a commercial building in Arlington.
- “Has a primary function in the creation, design, and/or research and development of technology hardware or software.”
It’s unclear how many of the current crop of up-and-coming media- and service-oriented tech companies — Uber, Snapchat, Airbnb, Pinterest, Spotify, etc. — would qualify under of that definition.
“The use of computers, telecommunications services, or a web page or internet site shall not, in itself, be sufficient to qualify as a qualified technology business,” according to county code.
For those that do qualify, the savings are significant: the Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) tax rate is reduced from $0.36 for every $100 of a business’ gross receipts, to between $0.18 and $0.10, depending on the size of the company.
“Arlington Economic Development (AED) estimates that the updated incentives would amount to a five-year benefit from about $39,000 for a 20-employee company to $155,000 for an 80-employee company – an average savings of $2.25 per square foot, if applied to annual rent for companies that qualify,” according to the 2014 press release.
ARLnow.com reached out to a number of the Arlington-based tech firms we have profiled for our Startup Monday feature. Of those that responded, most said they would likely qualify for the incentive, but none had heard of it before we reached out.
“Without you pointing it out, I’m not sure we would have figured it out,” said the founder of a Clarendon-based startup, who declined to be identified. “We use an out-of-state accountant and this is a pretty hyper-local set of incentives. We certainly would sign up, now that we know it exists.”
Raymond Rahbar, founder and CEO of UberOffices, which houses at least a dozen local tech startups at its Rosslyn coworking space, said no one has reached out to him or his company about informing its members of the incentive.
Rami Essaid, the founder and CEO of Distil Networks in Ballston, also said he had not been contacted. However, he said incentive program is small potatoes for startups that hope to scale into billion-dollar businesses.
“When you are in hyper growth, you care more about big picture things like being able to continue to scale and not optimizing little things like taxes,” Essaid told ARLnow.com. “That said, Arlington I feel like has done many of the right things to foster an environment for scale. That means having the right talent pool, good community events, etc. The extra tax perks are nice bonuses but they don’t influence our reason for being in Arlington.”
Ironically, despite being an incentive for tech companies, little information about the program can be found on Arlington County’s own website.
There’s a blurb buried deep on AED’s website, but no information about how to apply for it. “Contact Arlington Economic Development for specific details,” the page said.
We couldn’t find anything on Arlington’s Taxes & Payments site. A PDF document on the site, listing business tax rates, does not list the Technology Zone rate. Neither did the paper tax bill mailed by the Commissioner of Revenue’s office. When we asked about it last month, we were referred to the Tech Zone’s section of county code itself.
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