My name is Marita Pyankov and I moved here with my family when I was hired to teach at New Tech for the 2010-2011 school year. During my year at New Tech I had the opportunity to work with many wonderful people, from the school employees and teachers to the students. I am very grateful for the experience I had at New Tech and that it brought my family to this wonderful community. I want to be clear that the concerns I am expressing here today do not take away from how much I value the hard work and dedication I saw poured into students during my year there and continue to see throughout the district on a daily basis. My purpose here is to take an honest look at the 1:1 technology implementation in our district as it pushes forward with the initiative to distribute iPads in the middle schools next year.
In my efforts to be an informed and involved parent, I have attended many meetings this school year on the future of CISD and technology implementation in our district. At these meetings, and at the meetings I have personally had with school and district employees, parents have brought up concerns about the issues of safety and distractibility that have presented themselves at CHS. At these meetings I have repeatedly heard that these issues have surprised the district. All year long, parents have been told to be patient and understand that CISD is learning as they go. This confuses me because of my experience teaching at New Tech.
While it is true that use of 1:1 iPads was new this year at CHS, CISD has years of experience with 1:1 technology at New Tech where the same issues of safety and distractibility exist and have never been resolved. I feel it would be irresponsible to push this initiative to yet another campus without first finding and implementing solutions to these ongoing issues that now exist at both high school campuses. I believe that parent concern about these issues is so great at this time because of the district’s push for every child to have 1:1 technology. At New Tech, every family at the school had chosen 1:1 technology. They had chosen the benefits and the struggles that came along with it and the pedagogy that CISD connects to it. If it wasn’t a good fit for them, or they weren’t comfortable with the way it affected their family, they could always transfer to a different environment the next year. With this district initiative, that choice has been removed.
Because of my personal experience at New Tech, when I attended the parent CG3 meeting about iPad distribution in August I expected to hear not only about the amazing opportunity they presented for our kids, but also about the practical management, based on their years of 1:1 technology experience in CISD, of the devices both at school and at home. When I did not hear this information at the meeting, I began asking questions both at CHS and at the district level and I became alarmed and uncomfortable with my children participating in this initiative as I learned the answers to my questions.
I learned that the iPads did not, and still do not, have any filter on them when they leave CHS. I learned that, although CISD pays for AirWatch, a mobile device management service, CHS does not utilize it to assure that students can only download educationally necessary apps leaving our kids free to download any app they want onto their educational device. I learned that CHS teachers were not given the opportunity to talk with New Tech teachers to hear about their years of struggles and solutions. I learned about CISD’s concept of digital citizenship which means that our kids have more electronic freedom at school than most adults do at work.
Because of my concern, I was given a couple of options to try by CHS employees and I looked into both. I researched CISD’s opt out option but was frustrated to discover that it is not a realistic option when actually attempted because of the district’s push for every aspect of learning to be connected to the iPads. I researched using Apple’s built in filters, but discovered that using them was also not a realistic option unless I went to school with my child everyday to manage it. This year I had one child at CHS. I have another who will be a freshman next year but because of the district’s resistance to making changes to either give parents choices for their students or to make changes to the existing policies, my freshman will not be attending CISD schools next year. If the district moves forward with the 1:1 initiative in the middle schools next year, I will have to look into other options for my middle school child as well. I am not the only parent I know who is taking these steps.
Thank you for your time.