Is internet content filtered?

Yes, the internet content is filtered on the personalized devices. This occurs both when the devices are on the APS network and when they are on other networks such as a home network. In addition, Google SafeSearch is enabled on the devices. This supplements the content filter by limiting explicit search results when students use the Google search engine.

It’s important to understand that filtering is not perfect for every student . This happens for a wide variety of reasons. Each student is unique and each family has personal standards for appropriateness. For example, something appropriate for one 6th grader may not be appropriate for another 6th grader, and one family may consider gaming an appropriate student interest while another may prefer gaming be blocked. In addition, filtering in itself is not a perfect technology. Some website vendors are constantly trying to develop approaches to get around content filters, and some students consider it an intellectual game with the technology staff to get around the filters. Ultimately, anyone who is actively trying to get around the content filters will probably have some level of success. The APS Acceptable Use Policy, agreed to by every student every year, prohibits bypassing controls such as the content filter.

Why is APS pursuing Digital Learning?

Even a casual observer of young children today knows that big changes are underway when it comes to kids and technology. The mobile revolution that has hit adults is on the move with children. Modes of learning are changing dramatically—sources of information, the way we exchange and interact with it and how the information informs and shapes us all demonstrate the need to develop a strong connection between digital technology and classrooms.

One of the great potentials for digital learning is to move from a one size fits all classroom environment to one of personalization where each child’s learning needs are quickly and frequently assessed and then teaching practices are either altered or reinforced. Digital tools in the hands of a teacher and every student, regardless of economic circumstance, can make that happen. This is using technology not just for the sake of technology. It’s integrating technology as an important part of the teaching and learning process.

In addition, the efficiencies that technology can provide to classroom learning can support an environment where a teacher is better equipped to address the individual learning needs of her students and prepare them for their future in a changing world.

Research indicates that in addition to efficient personalization, technology helps students to improve content learning, develop higher order thinking and problem solving skills and become more workforce ready. These are the outcomes we seek.

The opportunity—the moral obligation—for educators is to shape technology use in a way to advance student learning for all and to produce responsible users who ultimately lead enriched lives as workforce-ready citizens.

As part of the APS Strategic Planning process, the School Board recognized the importance of personalization and Digital Learning. Goal 4: Establish Optimal Learning Environments of APS Strategic Plan for 2011-17 establishes a desired outcome in which “APS utilizes state-of-the-art technology that creates engaging, relevant, and personalized learning experiences for all learners regardless of background, language, or disabilities.” This outcome is measured, in part, by a 1:1 student to device ratio.Read more in the Digital Learning Paper (Español) and Executive Summary (Español)

How is the personalized device program different from the way APS uses technology now?

Currently students share devices, typically through carts brought into the classroom. This results in loss of instructional time as it requires the devices be set up to meet the needs of a range of students. Through personalization each device can be customized for individual student needs. This change has significant positive impact on how the student and teachers can use the devices. Because settings and data can be stored on the devices, students will have faster access to resources, increasing the time the teacher can spend on using the resources and reducing time spent ‘logging on’. The devices will function effectively when connected or disconnected from the internet, increasing flexibility in how they are used and reducing the ‘digital divide’ for families without internet access at home.

What’s the difference between a personalized device program and a 1:1 program?

A personalized device program is more comprehensive than a standard 1:1 program. In the 1:1 programs that APS has reviewed, many simply took the existing computer or tablet configurations and gave one to every student. These programs were often unsuccessful. The personalized device program is completely redesigning how we think about technology in the classroom. The device configuration and management have been completely redesigned to create an efficient and effective support model to support personalized student learning. Teachers, central office staff, students and parents are working collaboratively to leverage the advantages personalization provides. Through personalization, APS is taking the concept of 1:1 to the next level and establishing a new standard for the effective use of technology to support student learning.

I’ve read about major problems in similar programs across the country. What are you doing to make sure it doesn’t happen here?

We have monitored programs across the country, and have carefully designed the Personalized Device Program learning from the best practices of other districts. Any new program will have unforeseen events occur, the success of the program is dictated by the ability to adjust to these events while ensuring the program moves forward. The use of pilots, centering the program on the use of personalized devices in the classroom and taking a phased approach will ensure we can make necessary adjustments to the program as issues arise.

Will my child be looking at a screen all day?

No. The use of the personalized devices in the classroom is one part of the wide variety of instructional resources available to APS teachers to support student learning. Teachers will only incorporate them into lessons and activities when instructionally appropriate. The amount of time that students will use devices will vary by grade level, subject, school and specific learning objectives. In January 2020, Virginia legislators passed House Bill 817 requiring the Department of Education, in collaboration with the Department of Health and medical professional societies, to develop and distribute health and safety best practice guidelines for the use of digital devices in public schools. These guidelines were release in June 2021 and will guide device use in the APS. A copy of the guidelines can be viewed by clicking this link.

What are the expectations for teacher to use the devices?

Teachers are expected to use the devices like they would any other classroom tool. Use the tool when it would benefit student learning.

How are the teachers being supported?

The Division’s Instructional Technology Coordinators (ITCs) provide teachers with professional learning on the integration of technology into the curriculum, the desired outcome of this professional learning is to ensure that every teacher has the skills necessary to effectively use technology as a tool to support student learning. Providing this support is the ITC’s primary job responsibility, as described in both their position description and the Virginia Standards of Quality (SOQs). APS was a pioneer in creating school-based positions to support the integration of technology into the curriculum; the first ITCs were hired in the late 1990s. In fact, the APS ITC position predates the Virginia requirements for Instructional Technology Resource Teachers (ITRTs). The division has steadily increased the number of ITC for nearly 20 years, reaching the milestone of a full time ITC for every school in FY2017. While departments have provided several specialized technology training opportunities for teachers, the foundation of the system of teacher professional growth in the integration of technology is the job-embedded professional learning provided to teachers by the ITCs.

There has been increased conversation about technology professional learning since the inception of the Personalized Learning Device initiative. The professional learning provided by the ITCs predates the initiative and has continued with the transition from shared student devices to issued student devices. Teachers have been building skills in technology integration since the first ITCs were hired. The transition to issued devices eliminated a key barrier to using technology in the classroom; teachers no longer need to compete for access to a limited number of computer carts or labs. Student devices have become like pencils and chairs, tools that are always available to support student learning and classroom operations. Elimination of this barrier has corresponded with increased teacher demand for technology professional learning. This demand has reached, and possibly exceeded, the resources that have long been in place to support teacher technology learning.

How were the devices selected?

The SY2013-14 pilot programs that took place in all schools were used to determine if devices such as tablets were a viable alternative to notebook computers to support classroom instruction. Based on the result of the pilots iPads were selected for elementary and middle schools, Macbook Airs were selected for high schools.

How can I find more information about what is happening at my school?

Contact your school principal for details about devices and personalized learning.

How will the program be rolled out?

The device roll-out is complete. APS is added three grade levels a year, resulting in a four-year implementation. Each year the devices were provided to students in grades 2, 6 and 9. These students keep their device while they remain at the school level (Elementary, Middle, High) and turn it in when they complete that level. Starting with FY19, the School Board decided to use shared devices in Grade 2, starting the issued devices in Grade 3.

  • FY15 – Grades, 2, 6, 9
  • FY16 – Grades 2-3, 6-7, 9-10
  • FY17 – Grades 2-4, 6-8, 9-11
  • FY18 – Grades 2-12
  • FY19 – Grades 3-12

How were the SY2013-14 pilots used to inform the SY2014-15 personalized device program?

The SY2013-14 pilot programs were used to determine if devices such as tablets were a viable alternative to notebook computers to support classroom instruction. More information is available on the The Devices page.

What will be the process to allow students to take devices home?

The 2014-15 school year was a transition and learning year for the personalized device program. Each school conducted a unique pilot, customized to the school’s unique needs. Some of the pilots involved students taking the devices home, in others the devices were used only in the classroom.  Since the conclusion of the pilot year all secondary schools and most elementary schools have selected to send the devices home. Some schools have elected to keep the devices at school for some grade levels.

Will the devices be able to connect to a home wireless network?

Yes, students will be able to connect their devices to a home network. They will also be able to connect to other open wireless networks such as those at libraries and many businesses.

What if we don’t have WiFi at home?

The devices are designed to function without access to the internet. When the device is at school all files needed to complete work will be automatically synchronized to the device. For direct internet access while at home, APS families which are participating in the free or reduced lunch plans may be eligible for the Comcast Internet Essentials program, which provides internet access for $9.95 a month. In addition, internet access is available at all schools, libraries, recreation centers and many businesses. APS is also providing MiFi’s to families in need, contact your school for additional details.

Can I opt out of the program for my child?

Families may opt out of taking the devices home. APS considers use of the devices in the classroom a part of the core instructional program.

What sort of information about my child is being tracked by the devices?

The privacy of our students is important. APS complies with all federal, state and local codes including those relating to Academic and other Educational Records of our students. You can read more about Educational Records and APS Policies in the Parent Handbook and the APS Policies and Procedures including APS PIP 45-2: Internet Safety. CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) has created an infographic which helps to explain the data APS gathers to help students, parents, teachers and central office staff make good instructional decisions for each child.

One key benefit of personalization is the ability of the teacher to provide targeted instruction based on student needs. The devices don’t change the information teachers use to monitor academic progress, but they may improve the efficiency of getting that information. Specific examples of potential use include but are not limited to progress on assigned work and assessments. Contact your school for the specifics about how the device is being used in your child’s instructional program.

Can students bring their own device instead?

In order for this program to succeed, it requires specific hardware and software configurations on the devices. For the iPads, the management software can only be obtained if the devices are purchased through a special Apple program open exclusively to schools and school systems. In addition, the teacher would have a very difficult time instructing the student without uniform tools. The success of the program depends on hardware/software simplification and unification in order for the teachers and students to focus on their individualized curriculum objectives, instead of dealing with technical issues due to incompatibilities and variations.

What happens if the device is damaged?

APS considers the devices as issued resources and treats them in the same manner as textbooks, calculators or science equipment. All of these resources are subject to normal wear and tear, and continue to function correctly despite minor bumps. Damage beyond normal wear is investigated to determine if disciplinary action is necessary.

The division has many years of experience with students carrying devices and other technology equipment such as cameras throughout the school. We have found that students are generally very responsible and careful with any sort of equipment provided for their use. As part of the 2013-14 pilots, some schools sent devices with specific students which further expanded our knowledge about the potential for damage. As a result of our learning, APS has selected rugged cases to help protect the devices during normal use.

Starting with the 2018-19 school year, APS will begin to seek reimbursement from families for damage to issued devices which was caused by negligent or intentional acts. See the Damage to Devices page for more details.

Will the students keep the same device each year?

Yes,each student will use the same device while they remain at a school. If student changes schools they will turn in the device to their current school and be issued a new device from the new school. However, APS reserves the right to issue a different device to a student when it deems that it is necessary and appropriate.

What will happen with the devices at the end of the school year?

Many schools send the devices home for the summer, in other situations the devices will be collected and updated in preparation for the following school year. Devices are always collected when the student is not expected to return to the same school the following year such as when the are moving from elementary to middle school or are intending to move.

How long are devices expected to last?

APS anticipates the devices will be usable for 4 years. At the end of 4 years the devices will be replaced with new devices.

How will the work be saved and backed up?

When the devices are attached to the APS network student’s work will be automatically synchronized with the management system.

How will the devices be charged?

If the devices are being stored at the school, they will be charged nightly. If students are taking the devices home, they should charge the device at home. Limited charging capability will be available at the school for students who do not bring their device charged for the school day. Because most student desks are not located near planned charging stations, having to charge a device at school might limit the student’s ability to use the device.

Does the APS network have sufficient capacity to handle the devices?

Yes. APS has upgraded the network infrastructure in preparation for the program. Because of the large number of devices currently on the APS network, the personalized device program will represent an incremental change rather than a large change.

What will it cost to complete the Digital Learning Project by 2017?

For the program, it will require a $600,000 baseline increase to the existing computer replacement funds based on current enrollment projections.

Will my family incur any costs as a result of this program?

No. While most districts across the country conducting similar programs charge families an annual fee to offset costs, APS considers this part of our regular instructional program and is not currently planning charging fees. The division in currently investigating providing and insurance option in future years.

How is maintenance performed on the devices?

Most maintenance is performed remotely by school or central staff. This method is the most efficient way to ensure the devices are running optimally at all times. Occasionally it may be necessary for technical staff to perform maintenance directly on the device. In these scenarios the school staff will coordinate the collection, maintenance and redistribution of the device.

Why is the guest wireless network disabled during the school day ?

There is a new network which allows sponsored guest access during the day.

GlobalProtect – FAQ What is GlobalProtect?
The federal Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires all K-12 schools to block and filter student Internet connections. Students, staff and families told us that this filtering should be responsive to the age of the student. GlobalProtect is the software application that APS selected to provide the required internet content filtering for the elementary, middle and high school levels.

How does GlobalProtect work?
GlobalProtect’s content filtering activates when the student device connects to any network with access to the Internet. At home, or otherwise outside of the APS network, this content filtering is provided through a secure Virtual Private Network (VPN) service. By using GlobalProtect, APS can offer the same content filtering solution to all students, regardless of their location.

How does a student use GlobalProtect?
The first time that APS students connect to the APS wireless network when the device is issued at school, GlobalProtect prompts the students for their username (student ID) and password. GlobalProtect automatically saves the student’s username and password for future use and for new network connections. If students forget their passwords or need any other assistance, every school’s Instructional Technology Coordinator (ITC) is prepared to provide students with assistance and support.

What happens if a student turns off or disables GlobalProtect?
Backup features have been put in place to control a device’s Internet access. If GlobalProtect is somehow bypassed or disabled, the device will not be able to access the Internet and will need to be reimaged. Any tools or applications used to disable or circumvent the use of GlobalProtect on a device are strictly prohibited and are a violation of the APS acceptable use policy.    

Why use GlobalProtect instead of another solution?
GlobalProtect offers several advantages over other services:

  1. Compatability – GlobalProtect is offered by the same vendor that provides the main APS firewall. By using GlobalProtect, students and staff are protected by the same firewall when they are on-site at an APS school/building or at home. This significantly reduces troubleshooting and support costs.
  1. Security – In addition to providing robust content filtering, GlobalProtect uses the same technology as large companies to encrypt and protect student data. All information transmitted from the device is encrypted by GlobalProtect and is invisible to anyone trying to access their information.
  1. Performance – GlobalProtect does not slow down devices while running in the background, which speeds up access, allowing students to connect to their instructional or classroom resources at a much faster rate.