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South Carolina Responds

On October 24, we aired a show about iPads in the classroom. One of our guests, Janet Frazier, made some assertions about the Lexington County School District One.

Mary Beth Hill, the chief communications officer for the district, sent us this response to comments made during the show.

From Mary Beth Hill:
Below is a transcript from a segment of the show that included interviews with Janet Frazier:
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
I WANT TO TURN MOMENTARILY TO LEXINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA WHERE JANET FRAZIER IS JOINING US. SHE’S THE MOTHER OF THREE. HER YOUNGEST IS A SEVENTH-GRADER, AND HE HAS BEEN ASSIGNED AN IPAD BY HIS MIDDLE SCHOOL. AND, JANET IS ALSO RUNNING FOR OFFICE FOR THE LEXINGTON DISTRICT ONE SCHOOL BOARD. JANET FRAIZER, WELCOME TO ON POINT.
Janet Frazier:
Hi Meghna. Thanks for having me.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
IT IS A PLEASURE TO HAVE YOU. SO YOU HAVE BEEN HEARING SHANE EVANS TALK ABOUT HOW TABLETS ARE TRANSFORMING LEARNING IN HIS CLASSROOMS IN CHICAGO. DO YOU FEEL THE SAME WAY ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING IN YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT IN SOUTH CAROLINA?
Janet Frazier:
I think they have the potential to get there, where Chicago is. But right now it’s completely new to parents and teachers. Our school district just finished rolling out 16,500 iPads to all middle school students and high school students.

THE FACTS:
This is the third year of the district’s personal mobile computing initiative. The district piloted the program at one school the first year, rolled out devices to all high schools last year and rolled out devices to all middle schools this year.

The district’s high school personal mobile computing initiative uses about 7,200 iPads, which includes about 20 loaners at each school. The middle school initiative uses another 6,000 iPads. The district also provides 2,180 iPads for middle school teachers, elementary teachers and classroom sets for elementary schools. The district provided devices to elementary schools based on a ratio of one device to every 2.5 students in grades four and five.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
16,000 OF THEM AT WHAT COST?
Janet Frazier:
$379 per iPad at a cost of about $6.25 million.

THE FACTS:
Lexington County School District One purchased the original personal mobile computing devices (Dell laptops with Microsoft Office Suite, protective sleeve and power cable) for $845 each. In the second year of the district’s personal mobile computing device initiative, the district purchased iPad 2s with Wi-Fi capability, a power block, sync cable, protective case and apps for $479 each. We are now getting the iPad 2 for $379 with Wi-Fi capability, a power block, sync cable, protective case and apps for $450 each with tax.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
I SUPPOSE SOME EDUCATORS MIGHT SAY IN THE LONG RUN IT’S SUPPOSE TO SAVE MONEY BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT BUYING YOU KNOW TEXTBOOKS AS OFTEN OR YOU’RE NOT EVEN USING OUT OF DATE TEXTBOOKS.
Janet Frazier:
Well, but we haven’t gotten to that point either yet. And this money was part of a $15 million bond referendum that was passed by voters at the polls in 2008.

THE FACTS:
Lexington One purchased the personal mobile computing devices out of a $336 million 2008 Bond Referendum, which included $15 million to expand and upgrade existing technology at all schools.
This $15 million in funding has already provided improved school security, SMART Boards (interactive white boards) and sound amplification systems for classrooms, a consistent technology replacement cycle and increased access to online resources as well as network infrastructure, storage and filtering. To date, the district has spent approximately $7.1 million after buying teachers devices and buying all students at four high schools and seven middle schools and sets of devices for students at all 16 elementary schools.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
SO THE MONEY HAS BEEN SPENT. THE IPADS ARE NOW BEING HANDED OUT TO STUDENTS. ONE OF THEM IS YOUR OWN SON. I MEAN AS A PARENT DO YOU THINK IT IS A GOOD IDEA? IS IT MAKING A DIFFERENCE IN HIS EDUCATION?
Janet Frazier:
Today, I don’t see a difference at this particular point because they have only loaded five applications on their iPads for educational purposes, which is an app called Pages, Numbers, Keynote, iMovie and Garage Band.

THE FACTS:
Apps provided by the district are used in class and at home. Students use them to work on projects, etc.
The following are instructional apps loaded on all devices: Pages, Numbers, Keynote, Garage Band and iMovie. The following are district setup apps: MobileIron, AnyConnect, iOS Help and Setup Complete.
District and school staff have also loaded other apps on individual student and teacher devices, as needed, for certain courses in the upper grades and more than 70 free educational apps on devices used in elementary classrooms.

Janet Frazier:
They have not pushed down any iBooks yet. Our books are provided by the South Carolina Department of Education. And so now our children are carrying around an iPad and their textbooks.

THE FACTS:
Students are already carrying fewer textbooks as teachers provide more digital content for instruction and assignments. Many textbook publishers do have textbooks and other supplemental resources, such as practice tests, online. Students can and do access these already through the Internet. The South Carolina State Department of Education distributes textbooks to public schools in South Carolina. Lexington One does not have the authority to negotiate with publishers.

It is the district’s understanding that the textbook office of the SCDOE is piloting a program now at Blythewood High School in Columbia, S.C., and some other schools in Charleston, S.C. The district’s personal mobile computing initiative, however, is not about the devices and the replacement of textbooks. In fact, learning, in general, is moving well beyond the textbook. This initiative is about creating 21st century graduates, individuals who possess the necessary skills to succeed and contribute locally and globally in jobs that may not currently exist. These students can take charge of their own learning, challenge themselves to stretch their academic abilities, think critically and creatively, problem solve and collaborate.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
SO DO YOU THINK… I HEAR OBVIOUSLY A NOTE OF CONCERN IN YOUR VOICE JANET. I MEAN IS….DO YOU THINK IT IS GOING HAVE AN OVERALL POSITIVE IMPACT ON EDUCATION THERE OR IS IT THE WAY THAT THE WHOLE PROGRAM HAS BEEN ROLLED OUT THAT YOU’RE WORRIED ABOUT?
Janet Frazier:
Well I am concerned because I think they’ve rolled out the cart before the horse.
For example with all this technology on their servers, they don’t have the server capacity. Their servers have been crashing.

THE FACTS:
There is no truth to the allegation that servers have been crashing.
The district’s Information Technology Office reports that the district’s infrastructure sufficiently supports its personal mobile computing initiative. Prior to the deployment of devices, the district increased bandwidth, added wireless access points and refreshed other equipment (routers, switches, etc.). The servers in place that supply device connectivity function properly.

Janet Frazier:
I talked to a couple of kids yesterday morning. Their iPads froze up the night before. They couldn’t cut off. They couldn’t do anything. So they couldn’t do any work.

THE FACTS:
The district’s Information Technology Office reports that these types of issues (experienced at home) are related to Internet access and network issues at home, which are out of the district’s control. Because of that and because we know not every student has Internet access at home, students are given time during the school day to download what they need to complete work at home, away from school and away from the district-provided network access. If there is a mechanical issue on the device, a help desk is available at each middle and high school for device repair. Every school in the district has a district computer technician who assists with any technology issues that arise. If a problem occurs at home, the district encourages students to email the Technology Help Desk at their school. That way, the help desk staff will be able to start work on problems early the next school day. During the summer, the district provided a help desk at the District Office from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Janet Frazier:
And our children are taking these home on a daily bases. And it has become an issue because they’ve got a lot of games that the kids have put on there.

THE FACTS:
We have deliberately allowed students to personalize their devices. This includes allowing them to download their music and apps including age appropriate games. Using these apps and games increase the students’ proficiency on the device.
Teachers monitor use of the device during class to make sure students stay on task during instructional time. We also encourage parents to monitor their students’ use at home.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
OH SO THEY HAVE CONTROL OVER WHAT THEY CAN ADD TO THE TABLET?
Janet Frazier:
To a degree. They have blocked — I know the school district blocked Facebook. But there’s Instagram and there’s FaceTime right now.

THE FACTS:
The district maintains a multi-tiered security solution. The Internet is filtered at all times since the district configures each device so that it will stay connected to this service whether the student is at school, home or any other location. Facebook and other social networking sites are blocked at school and at home since they are not instructional sites approved for student use on the district device. The district does not allow any application that uses messaging or is categorized as social networking on these devices (other than the ones the district provides such as Edmodo). The system notifies school administrators if a student deletes a district-provided app or if a student downloads an app that is rated 9+ at the middle school or 12+ at the high school. The district does not allow 17+ apps on any student devices.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
SO JANET LET ME ASK YOU SO THERE’S A PROBLEM I HEAR YOU SAYING WITH WHAT KIDS CAN OR CAN’T DO WITH THE IPADS OR THE TABLETS AT HOME BUT DO YOU ALSO THINK THAT TEACHERS HAVE THE CAPACITY IN THE LEXINGTON SCHOOL DISTRICTS TO YOU KNOW MAXIMIZE THE POTIENTIAL OF THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM.
Janet Frazier:
I think they will in the long run but they need to be provided more training. My personal opinion is I think they should have rolled out the iPads to the teachers a year prior to giving them to the students.

THE FACTS:
Teachers were already using laptops for five years before this initiative began. During the first year pilot, students received devices in January 2011. All high school teachers received devices in August 2011 and high school students in November 2011. Designated staff participated in “train the trainer” professional development for device use and content specific instruction through Apple Education. This training was then shared at the schools. The district’s instructional technology office developed multiple online training modules that teachers have completed. Each school employs a Technology Integration Specialist who attends professional development on a regular basis and provides support to teachers for integrating various types of technology in instruction. Middle school teachers received the devices in May 2012 and used the same training model. Middle school students received the devices at the beginning of this school year, August 2012. Elementary school teachers and school received their devices in September 2012 and used the same training model.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
LET ME ASK SHANE EVANS ABOUT THAT. I MEAN YOU ARE AN EDUCATOR. IS THAT REALISTIC TO GIVE TEACHERS A YEAR LEAD TIME ON THIS TECHNOLOGY? SHANE EVANS: WELL FIRST OF ALL I THINK JANET IS WELL INFORMED ABOUT WHAT’S HAPPENING BOTH IN SOUTH CAROLINA WITH HER SCHOOL DISTRICT BUT JUST IN GENERAL THE APPROACH THAT YOU WOULD TAKE. ABSOLUTELY. I THINK SHE RAISES SOME LEGITIMATE CONCERNS. FIRST AND FOREMOST, IDEALLY, YOU WOULD LOVE TO GET THE TECHNOLOGY OR EVEN IF WASN’T TECHNOLOGY, THE CURRICULUM, INTO THE TEACHER’S AND STAFF’S HANDS A YEAR, SIX MONTHS, IN ADVANCE, SO THAT THEY CAN BECOME MORE FAMILIAR. AND, THEN ALSO YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE THERE’S PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR OUR TEACHERS, OUR STAFF MEMBERS, AND WATCH THIS, ALSO OUR PARENTS.

THE FACTS:
See above for information on when employees received devices compared to when students received the devices and on professional development.

SHANE EVANS:

SO IN SOME OF OUR CAMPUSES WHAT WE ACTUALLY HAVE IS WE HAVE TECHNOLOGY NIGHTS SO THAT PARENTS CAN ALSO LEARN HOW TO USE SOME OF THESE APPLICATIONS. WE GIVE PARENTS THE SAME PASSWORDS THAT THE STUDENTS HAVE SO THAT THEY CAN ALSO CHECK AND USE THE DIFFERENT ASPECTS AND DIFFERENT APPS.

THE FACTS:
At the high school and middle school level when students receive a device, all schools have mandatory parent nights. Student cannot get a device unless parents attend this night or a make-up session. During these meetings, parents watch a video, receive materials and information about the devices and have the opportunity to talk to employees. Many of our elementary schools have also had parent nights for this purpose. Certainly, parents can use their student’s ID and password to access the device and see everything loaded on it.

SHANE EVANS:
AND, I THINK JANET IS ALSO RIGHT TO THINK ABOUT THE FACT THAT WE HAVE TO BE REALLY INTENTIONAL ABOUT MAKING SURE THAT WE’RE PROVIDING SUPPORT AND ASSISTANCE TO OUR STUDENTS EITHER IN ELEMENTARY OR MIDDLE SCHOOL OR IN HIGH AS TO HOW TO USE TABLETS AND LAPTOPS EFFECTIVELY AT SCHOOL AND AT HOME.

THE FACTS:
The district’s instructional technology staff has developed three digital citizenship training modules for students. Schools use these with students and have also developed their own training.

SHANE EVANS:
LAST, IS THAT IT’S NOT JUST THE COST OF THE ACTUAL MACHINES. JANET SPOKE TO THIS. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT OUR SERVER CAPABILITIES ARE STRONG. WE HAVE TO MAKE SURE THAT EACH CAMPUS IF THEY ARE USING LAPTOPS OR IPADS HAS SOMEONE ON THE GROUND OR SOMEONE THAT THEY CAN AT LEAST REACH OUT TO HELP WITH TECHNICAL SUPPORT. AND SO IT IS A LARGER COST.

THE FACTS:
See information about the district’s technical support above.

SHANE EVANS:
BUT I ALSO THINK JANET MOST IMPORTANTLY SAID THAT OVERTIME THIS WILL PROBABLY BE BENEFICIAL. BECAUSE WITH ANY NEW INITIATIVE, WHETHER IT’S TECH RELATED OR WHETHER IT’S A NEW SOCIAL STUDIES CURRICULUM IN AN OLD-SCHOOL TEXTBOOK, IT TAKES TIME TO SEE THE BENEFIT OF THESE THINGS.
MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:
BUT SHANE EVANS HAVEN’T WE SEEN THIS BEFORE WITH OTHER TECHNOLOGIES ROLLED OUT INTO CLASSROOMS. IT’S LIKE THE NEXT BIG THING. IT’S THE HOT THING. EVERYONE WANTS TO HAVE IT IN SCHOOLS. BUT TEACHERS ARE ALREADY SAYING I DON’T EVEN HAVE ENOUGH TIME FOR PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT AS IT IS. AND, THE IDEA OF HAVING MY HANDS ON TECHNOLOGY SIX MONTHS TO A YEAR BEFORE I’M ALLOWED TO USE IT WITH MY STUDENTS, WHILE IT SOUNDS GREAT, SIX MONTHS TO A YEAR FROM NOW THAT TECHNOLOGY MAY BE COMPLETELY OBSOLETE ANYWAY. I MEAN WE’RE LIVING IN A WORLD WHERE THE FLOW OF INFORMATION AND DEVELOPMENT IS SO FAST THAT YOU KIND OF HAVE TO USE IT NOW.
SHANE EVANS:
WELL IT’S INTERESTING BECAUSE I THINK SCHOOLS ARE REALLY SUPPOSED TO PREPARE YOUNG PEOPLE FOR THE WORLD THAT EXIST. AND IF YOU THINK ABOUT IT, MEGHNA, THAT’S THE WORLD THAT YOU AND I EXIST IN. SO THERE ARE CERTAIN APPS THAT RIGHT NOW YOU AND I PROBABLY BOTH USE AT OUR JOBS. AND IN ABOUT 12MONTHS THERE MIGHT BE A NEW WAY OF US DOING THAT, A NEW SYSTEM, A NEW APP, A NEW PLATFORM AND WE HAVE TO ADJUST. SO WHAT I THINK SCHOOLS NEED TO DO — IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT PROVIDING THE TABLET OR THE TECHNOLOGY. IT’S ABOUT FIRST AND FOREMOST TEACHING CRITICAL THINKING. SO OUR STUDENTS IN A 21ST CENTURY WORLD ARE GOING TO NEED TO BE ABLE TO THINK CRITICALLY. THEY ARE GOING TO NEED TO BE ABLE TO EVALUATE, ANALYZE AND SYNTHESIZE REGARDLESS OF THE TECHNOLOGY, OR THE PLATFORM OR THE APP. SCHOOLS SHOULD BE TEACHING STUDENTS HOW TO DO THAT.

MEGHNA CHAKRABARTI:

JANET FRAIZER, YOU JUST HEARD SHANE EVANS TALK ABOUT CRITICAL THINKING. BUT, I ALSO KNOW A LOT OF PARENTS, AND PERHAPS EVEN YOU, WHO ARE CONCERNED ABOUT THE EFFECT THAT TABLETS AND THE CONSTANT ACCESS TO INFORMATION THROUGH THINGS LIKE IPADS HAVE ON STUDENTS’ SOCIAL SKILLS, WHICH QUITE FRANKLY IS QUITE AN IMPORTANT SET OF SKILLS STUDENTS NEED TO LEARN IN SCHOOL. I MEAN DO YOU AND OTHER PARENTS SHARE THEIR CONCERN AS WELL?
Janet Frazier:
Yes I am very concerned about the decrease in the social skills because they need to know how to do both. And, if you only operate electronically, you are losing some of your social skills. For example, I’ve seen children not be able to carry on a conversation but they can text and type all day long. And, the other issue that I’m seeing with all of the iPads is I’ve heard parents say that their student is texting them from their iPad on Facetime or some other method all day long, while they are in class. And, they are also taking pictures either in class or on the bus and posting them that way. And, it has also increased the disciplinary infractions.

THE FACTS:
The district agrees that students need to communicate in many different ways. Good teachers use a variety of methods with their students. Teachers and students have found FaceTime beneficial for many different reasons. It has given homebound students with serious illnesses a way to participate in classroom discussions. Students can communicate globally and interact with students around the world practicing the world languages they are learning. Students are able to interact with other students in neighboring schools and collaborate on projects and communicate without travel. Guest speakers can also come “into the classroom” to share their expertise in subjects being studied. For students with special needs, we find the tool especially helpful with communication. Students with disabilities, who are non-communicative, use the device to unlock communication. Touchscreen apps allow these students to communicate — some for the very first time. Students who have never been able to do mathematics can work equations they were not able to do in the past. The device becomes personal and by working with apps for students with special needs, they are able to help us understand their questions and share their successes.

 

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