About MetaSoup

MetaSoup is a domain we set up for things about our personal interests long ago. Since recent events have been giving us concern, we are turning it into a forum where we can express those concerns and share them with others.  Hopefully you’ll find things on this site that make you think, regardless of whether or not you agree with the positions we take.  Feedback is welcome . . .

Alarm Over the School iPad Bandwagon

Raising Alarm Over Electronic Devices To Be Sent Home With Kids

Posted: September 30, 2013; Last Update: October 1, 2013

This letter is for three purposes regarding the roll-out of Apple iPad devices to our children from the local school district:

  1. To observe that children and their families will be exposed to significant and real risks;
  2. To educate parents about the risk factors and issues around the use of such devices for schools in specific;
  3. To raise important questions that the school district has not publicly answered before launching and then expanding this program.

In summary form, the concerns this letter addresses include:

  • The school district is placing Internet-enabled remote-controlled video web-cams in the hands of our children via the iPad devices and mandatory school-installed software. By sending the devices home they put children at risk of being covertly observed, tracked, or photographed, as has already happened in other school districts;
  • The school district is requiring parents to either purchase an insurance program for the devices issued to their children, or else take on full personal financial responsibility for repair and/or replacement;
  • The school district will not be able to prevent children from hacking the iPads and bypassing content restrictions and controls, as has been widely demonstrated in other school districts;
  • No scientifically accepted data has been presented for the improvement of education outcomes iPads to date;
  • Fundamental questions regarding purpose, criteria, and success or failure metrics have not been discussed or presented to the community;
  • No sustainable financial framework behind the adoption of these devices has been formulated.

Continue reading

The “living” document about the iPad situation

The document we have posted regarding our concerns and issues with the iPad rollout in our school district (http://www.metasoup.com/wordpress/?p=12) is meant to be a “living” document.

As comments roll in, and we get updated information, we will add to and evolve the document itself.  There may be better citations, studies that prove us wrong, or studies that strengthen our current views.  That’s part of this exercise: publishing the letter and accepting that the situation is not static.  If you comment, we will not quote you directly without your consent.  Any references to published studies, news articles, or other topical materials we will try to read and understand in a timely manner. Continue reading

Update 2: The parent iPad “discussion” night

On October 3, there was an optional parent information and discussion night at Cheldelin Middle School regarding the iPad rollout.  The breakdown of the evening was four events, with only the first event including everyone:

  • Introduction, motivation, and sales pitch by Erin Prince, Superintendent, and Jeff Brew, Principal
  • A session on the insurance program and AppTrak
  • A demo/tutorial on use of the iPad for literature classes
  • A demo/tutorial on use of the iPad for science classes

During the first session, a lot of “Isn’t this great?” presentation material was offered, with none of the issues or concerns we have raised mentioned or even hinted at in any form.  This is despite the district having been first contacted by me on September 4, and all of the email exchanges which said they understood there were some issues to work through.  This is despite the lack of any substantive answers or responses to any of our concerns.  This is despite the school district staff repeatedly asking me to attend in person, which was a bit of a hurdle for me schedule-wise since I had to get out of Portland in a rush to make it at all. Continue reading

Update 3: these iPads will be handed out . . . now!

The school is ratcheting up the pressure on parents to sign up for the iPad insurance program, accept a device, etc.   They are rolling out the devices this week, Oct 17-18, to students.  I remain unable to get any responses to any of my concerns, not from the school board, not from the district staff, and not from the principal or assistant principal.

The interesting thing about the paperwork sent home is that it does not present any options for not participating in the program.  So I wrote my own cover letter, my wife and I signed it, and we stapled it on top of their paperwork packet and terms.  I include it below, both for archival purposes as well as in case others are looking for a similar letter to use as a template for their own concerns. Continue reading

Update 5: A conversation with Rob Singleton

So I had a one-on-one meeting with Rob Singleton, the technology manager behind the 1:World program, this past Friday morning.  It was supposed to be a one-hour technical chat, but turned into two since it wound up encompassing bigger philosophical items.

Rob was going to demo what the AppTrak software could do, but we quickly ran into two significant problems. Continue reading

Update 6: School Board and School District say: nothing, nothing at all

On September 4, 2013, I started raising the questions that are posted on this site with the Cheldelin Middle School principal and a member of the CSD509J Elected School Board.  By September 18, it had escalated to multiple board members, the IT technical staff of CSD509J, etc.  To this date, our serious questions have not been resolved (most not even addressed) directly in public or private, though the school district seems to have done its best to ignore our contacts.  The lone voice of discussion on the issues has been Rob Singleton, but that channel of communication has not actually resolved anything.

In recognition that targeted discussions were not making progress, I sent an email on October 23, 2013, challenging the entire Elected School Board and School District Staff to start acknowledging the questions and addressing them.  The collective response to everyone involved, to date, has been nothing but silence.  Continue reading

Update 7: Your policy is to not answer questions . . . ? Really?!

As an update to the School Board meeting last night, for those keeping track of events, it was not a satisfying result.  After sitting through over two hours of discussions and materials – some of which was interesting in an academic way – what I discovered was that the people compiling statistics and graphs for the school district do not understand how to do statistics and graphs.  If you try to take the arithmetic mean of a wildly varying set of numbers, or a very small set of numbers with a large range, it’s not very meaningful.  There are better methods.  And the discussion about classroom sizes should have been handled with histograms, not historical averages.  But I digress . . .

After two hours of discussion, during which time several public audience members left due to the late hour, the floor was opened to the public for testimony.  I was called on first, with a three-minute timer for each member of the public.  Continue reading

We’re still looking for the truth

Yes, this site is still alive.  After all the events leading up to the November school board meeting, my wife observed I was getting rather emotional and less objective.  I took time off to regain balance and let a few things wind their way through the natural process.  What we will be doing over the next few days includes updating this website regarding several worrisome topics related to the iPad rollout in Corvallis, Oregon, under the “1:World” moniker within CSD509J.  At the same time, we will be pointing out a lot of other troubling information that has come forth – from problems with accurate journalists, to lack of funding for basic course materials, to a questionable handling of a school district $3,500,000.00 asset.