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Pilot Program at Curtis Middle School Making the Grade

Sixth-grade students taking advantage of Chromebooks.

From left, Superintendent Anne Wilson, School Committee Chair Rich Robison and Vice Chair Ellen Winer Joachim are seen during the Jan. 22 meeting at Curtis Middle School.
From left, Superintendent Anne Wilson, School Committee Chair Rich Robison and Vice Chair Ellen Winer Joachim are seen during the Jan. 22 meeting at Curtis Middle School.

It was green-lighted last summer, and already administrators are calling it a success.

During the Sudbury Public Schools Committee meeting on Jan 22 at Curtis Middle School, Principal Stephen Lambert and other administrators reported a pilot 1:1 program for sixth-graders has already showed positive signs.

The program, which allows every student to use a Chromebook, has helped 94 percent of students communicate better, according to a recent survey. The survey also reported 96 percent of parents believe it has enhanced their children's collaboration with teachers and peers.

"These are good numbers," Lambert said.

Chromebooks are laptops with Google Chrome as its operating system.

In one example of how the Chromebooks have helped, Lambert explained how one student had difficulty finding a South American article.

Thanks to an online message board he and other students could access and collaborate, the student was able to find the article.

According to Lambert, the 1:1 program immediately lets teachers review student responses to online questions.

Lambert said the program should be fully implemented in the near future.

UserName January 23, 2014 at 11:59 AM
In theory this sounds great, but also leaves a bunch of questions. What's the internet security policy and how secure is it? How many new IT people will this require as it rolls out? Who pays for this (and how much is it) - the parents I assume? Again, sounds great, but it would be nice to hear a great deal more around costs, administrative issues, security, teacher training etc. etc. I'm probably jaded, but I prefer to hear teachers say something is a success rather than just Wilson's administrators.
john baranowsky January 23, 2014 at 12:15 PM
Will it teach cursive?
Sudburytoo January 23, 2014 at 12:25 PM
This sounds a little scary to me. We need to rely on technology to teach kids now? For thousands of years we have survived and thrived but yet now we need chrome books to learn. Seems like a "cool" thing to do with very little tangible benefit. This is one less human interaction this generation will have. Very scary since kids can barely carry on verbal conversations today.
Jen January 23, 2014 at 12:47 PM
I am thrilled to see technology being incorporated into the curriculum. There are so many great educational apps out there and the possibilities for collaborative learning are endless. I really hope the district continues to implement programs like this one.
JJoseph January 23, 2014 at 01:40 PM
Jen Have you ever seen a computer carry on an intelligent conversation at the dinner table? Have you ever seen a computer be passionate on a job interview? Have you ever seen a computer be a leader of people? The answer is NO. Those are people skills learned from people not technology.
SudburyCOP January 23, 2014 at 02:24 PM
Mr Lambert- with all due respect. You are only going to say what Anne Wilson has instructed you to say.
Valentina Way January 23, 2014 at 03:12 PM
Mr. Lambert, i'm sorry, but you quiver under the voice of anyone who tells you anything that SHOULD and NEEDS to be changed with Curtis. Yet, your too scared to even attempt to make a change because Wilson has you so tightly wrapped around her fingers you'd think that you were a spring on her bed. Whether it be parents, teachers, anyone. You're a nice guy, i'll give you that, but you need to stop letting people step all over you or nothing is going to get done. Even if it does cost you your job. Now, with the computers, good idea (to make the switch) since the Macs didn't do much besides never work or break down the first second you touch them. Chrome books are cheap (about $200-250) and they're good. It's only a matter of time before the whole book-research portion is completely washed off the rubric because "why do you need books when you have technology??" Ugh, makes me want to vomit. Sometimes, the best information comes from books, and you might even find more information that way. Unlike the computers, which without your precious wifi, wouldn't get you anywhere. How much would it cost to upgrade your cheap wifi system that crashes when one class all uses the computers at the same time. $800?? MORE???
Jen January 23, 2014 at 03:40 PM
Actually, JJoseph, as a computer scientist, I've seen computers do a lot of amazing things. As a parent, I feel it is my duty to hone my child's interpersonal skills. I would never rely on technology to do that, nor do I think that is what LS is trying to do with this pilot program. I hate to break it to you, but most careers today require people to work with computers at some level. We would be doing our students a disservice if we didn't embrace technology. Harvard and MIT use tablets and online collaboration for many of their classes, and their programs are designed by world-renowned educators. Just because you all walked uphill both ways to school in 3 feet of snow doesn't mean our children should have to.
Prometheus January 23, 2014 at 03:59 PM
Good idea....don't walk to school....stay on the smart phone or computer all day at home and school....and have obamacare send you your insulin and needles.
JJoseph January 23, 2014 at 04:06 PM
Jen, You say "Harvard and MIT use tablets and online collaboration" Let me clue you in CURTIS Middle School is NOT Harvard or MIT. That is a foolish argument that makes no sense. Based on your argument, why don't the kids just stay at home in the basement and log on to an application to teach them. Human interaction and involvement is more important to the learning process than you think. Look it up on your IPhone.
SudburyCOP January 23, 2014 at 04:23 PM
I agree with JJoseph. Kids in k-8 have A very difficult time writing as it is, without of course the aid of spell check. I know this this because I work with your children. Most are incapable of having a one on one conversation. Technology is great, but you need to know social skills as well
Jen January 23, 2014 at 04:30 PM
Actually, my argument was that LS is smart to embrace the same technologies used by the leading educational institutions in the world. But that's cool. I'll search on my iPhone. You stick to your Encyclopedia Britannica. Agree to disagree and all that...
SPS Employee January 23, 2014 at 04:33 PM
Next thing you know the computers will be teaching the students at Curtis, because obviously they think that is more important then the educated teachers who want to and (for the most part) enjoy teaching your ... entitled children who blame everything that THEY did wrong, on the teachers, in turn getting a 51A filed against them, and then ultimately getting terminated by their clueless dictator ruler, Ann Wilson. I agree with JJoseph, learning how to hold a proper conversation gets the younger generation to places like MIT and Harvard. Teaching kids how to write an essay by hand, how to spell without using spellcheck, and to use proper grammar is how they will get to higher places. I hate to break it to you, but they'll have to do that when they hit high school and in later life. Because, using this type of software on a computer doesn't make you any better or any more intelligent, in fact, it could make you less intelligent. What would happen when someone took that away and you had to do everything by hand? Would it truly be as good as something you whipped up on a computer?
Valentina Way January 23, 2014 at 04:37 PM
Hm, Encyclopedia Britannica? Yes, well, i'd rather have an actual book in my lap with real pages then a KINDLE or a NOOK. News flash, honey, you don't have to worry about your battery dying during the climax of the story when you have the physical thing. But you know, you have your computer and all that...
Jen January 23, 2014 at 04:42 PM
Why does this have to be an either/or thing? Why can't teachers use tech when it is appropriate, but also continue to focus on grammar and literacy and social skills? Technology is a tool in the classroom, not a substitute for a good teacher. I don't think anyone wants to see our schools turned into the University of Phoenix. I wonder if this would be such a hot topic if the pilot program had been the brainchild of a beloved teacher rather than this administration that everyone loves to hate? Is it possible that you are so blinded by your hatred for Anne Wilson that you are unwilling to consider the benefit of some technology use in the classroom, when appropriate?
Valentina Way January 23, 2014 at 04:58 PM
Um, no. They DO use this technology as a substitute for a good teacher (not like it works, because its all broken anyways...) i've seen it. I've been IN A CLASS where it has happened! They do it a lot in the special ed department, instead of teaching them, they put them in front of a computer to play games. I understand that its critical that they use some technology in the classroom to help with certain things (like papers, projects, etc). I do dislike Anne Wilson, she is not a good administrator/Superintendent. I agree with using computers in class when appropriate, just not as much as they do today to bring down the amount of time they teach during the day, and raise their paycheck. Janice Donahue WAS and IS a fantastic teacher, heck, she taught me! She connected with her kids and taught them well without using technology, and they still managed to keep up with the school curriculum, unlike the teachers in the higher grades who use the computers more and teach just to keep up with the MCAS schedule and they can't even keep up with that. It would be a hot topic with a loved teacher either way, you just fail to see that its bad when used ALL THE TIME.
Spirit of 01776 January 23, 2014 at 06:38 PM
Technology is AMAZING!
Dolores January 24, 2014 at 02:24 AM
Communicate better? Define "better." And Ninety-four and ninety-six percent? Those are some very impressive numbers. I'd really like to take a closer look at the methodology of that survey. I suspect far too many of our children spend too much time in front of various screens as it is. They really don't need more distractions in class. Attention spans are short enough already without enabling them to play Angry Birds at their desks. Students need more opportunities to collaborate in-person; they need to become comfortable looking their teachers and one another in the eye. Communication, collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, and other so-called "21st Century skills"are the products of personal interactions, not some technocrat's deus ex machina. This initiative seems like one more solution in search of a problem. Sudbury teachers need time off the clock. Likewise, our kids shouldn't have to feel tethered to school or constantly monitored when they're following independent pursuits on their own time. The recent changes to FERPA, which are themselves of dubious validity, coupled with hastily adapted technology initiatives raise serious concerns. Parents are rightly wary of the relationships school districts are cultivating with third parties like inBloom and Google. Perhaps we should hold off on instituting these programs until Arne Duncan finally gets around to answering Sen. Markey's letter on the matter of student data privacy. Is this initiative wholly voluntary? Will there be viable alternatives for students and families who, for any number of reasons, opt out or refuse to agree to the school's acceptable use policy, or will those students be compelled to either comply or be penalized? It can be a mistake to put an expensive device in the hands of some children whose natural, healthy instinct is to fully explore its technical capabilities, whether or not those explorations are entirely sanctioned. Shouldn't parents be the ones to determine if they're ready to pay the cost of replacing a bricked device? Is the school really going to punish a student for installing Linux on their Chromebook? Tech companies make their products more user-friendly by the year, and the skills these initiatives purport to facilitate are not at all difficult for most basically literate and numerate people to acquire as needed. Exactly how hard is it, really, to google? To use Lexis-Nexis or access Google Scholar? Are there not enough computers available in the lab? Do our students really not have internet access at home? There already isn't enough time in the day for teaching core academics, and in the current curriculum the fine arts are all but ignored. Wouldn't our middle schoolers be better served by increasing the material support and training given to their teachers, not more digital bells and whistles? If the School Board and the Curtis administration want to throw money at something STEM-related, why not hire inspiring and qualified teachers to actually teach introductory courses in Java, Python, or C? This initiative is fraught with complications, both anticipated and unanticipated. So, who has the link to the survey?
JJoseph January 24, 2014 at 08:12 AM
Jen, Where in the article is LS or any high school mentioned? We are talking about 12 year olds in middle school! You should put down your Ipad and read the article again more carefully without being interrupted by texting and extremely important e-mails. You certainly make my case. Thank you.
Prometheus January 24, 2014 at 08:28 AM
Really sad....
Dolores January 24, 2014 at 09:06 AM
Ugh. Patch should really support an edit post function.
siobhan hullinger January 24, 2014 at 02:20 PM
Some great articles - please read the discussion commentary as well: http://novemberlearning.com/educational-resources-for-educators/teaching-and-learning-articles/why-schools-must-move-beyond-one-to-one-computing/ And Burlington High School Tech website: http://www.bpsedtech.org
Dolores January 24, 2014 at 04:27 PM
More like, "Chromebooks taking advantage of sixth-grade students." What are we to make of the fact that Silicon Valley digerati regularly send their children to California Waldorf schools? Is there anyone who would presume to fill their ears with eduspeak on the importance of "technology-rich" classrooms, and how they're doing their children a disservice by not rushing to adapt the latest tech? Now wouldn't that be an interesting exchange to sit in on.
siobhan hullinger January 25, 2014 at 09:21 AM
Dolores - wouldn't it be great if our public schools could teach the way private schools do? Imagine the possibilities if they didn't subscribe to the Common Core? Or state and federal mandates? Just curious - how many children in our school system use flight simulators on the weekends or don't have any electronics? I'm not saying that your point isn't well taken, I'm merely pointing out that public vs private is a totally different discussion.
Silence DoBad January 26, 2014 at 08:35 AM
Heaven forbid any of these children are ever put in a position where overwhelming technology is not available to them. We will know them by their rocking back and forth in the corner with their thumb in their mouths because they were never taught to do anything the hard way. Yeah! More Technology, less writing, less literature, less learning! MORE DEPENDENCY!!! What is the worst that can happen.
Elvira January 26, 2014 at 06:47 PM
Perhaps before you start introducing more technology- you should address the rampant bullying in Curtis! Perhaps the teenage pregnancy problem as well!
MomofThree January 27, 2014 at 12:46 PM
As a parent of 3 children in the SPS and LS districts and a Sudbury resident for over 18 years, I am thrilled to see the teachers and administrators exploring the appropriate use technology in our kids' education. If anyone is familiar with the Kahn Academy's approach to teaching math to children, you can imagine how useful it would be for our Curtis students to review in class lectures at home through their Chromebooks and utilize class time to digest and practice the material with a human being, their teacher. This is in direct contrast to traditional methods of teaching where a students watch lectures in class and struggle through the practice (homework) at home alone or with the support of a parent who may not be able to understand 'new math'. I am interested to learn more about how these tablets will be used to improve collaboration and communication between teachers and students. The Activeborad technology with the hand-held remote response pods has enabled teachers to pinpoint which students understand the lessons and which are having trouble. I respect the comments here about the importance of teaching our children strong social, interpersonal and oral/written communication skills. It shocks me that my children have trouble reading cursive writing. It is even more frustrating to me that the ELA curriculum at any level does not emphasize teaching the rules of grammar. A high percentage of our population today including politicians, newcasters, teachers and administrators don't know how to use the English language correctly. This trend is not necessarily a direct result of technology. Technology is not going away. It is something to be managed and used to our advantage. It is not the schools' responsibility to limit our children's use of technology and balance that with physical activity, personal interaction or anything else for that matter. It is the responsibility of the parent.
Dolores January 28, 2014 at 06:10 PM
Writing cursive is quickly becoming an obvious class-marker. As one blogger bluntly put it, "The ruling class will know it, and by those markers will know each other. The grimy proles like the rest of us will not." In addition to typing, our kids should be confident that their handwriting is as quick and looks every bit as sophisticated as the independent school kids' in the next town over.

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