Natick Public Schools’ Digital Conversion

March 29, 2011


Laptop Insurance Fee Information
Frequently Asked Questions

Digital Conversion Deployment Plan
Deployment Planaug11

Parent Laptop Training–September 2011
Parent_Training_laptops2011v3 (1)

Digital Conversion: Parent Kick-Off Meeting Presentation
Join the Conversation!


This site is written in a blog format so that you, our community, can comment on any portion simply by clicking below. This is a community site and we ask that you engage in dialogue just as you would in a public forum. We seek to educate our community and engage in ongoing dialogue and conversation about our community relative to the future of education. Join us in the conversion conversation!

Read more about the Future of the Natick Public Schools:
Vision and Framework for the Future
Technology Update
Vision of the Future
Technology Plan 2010-2013
Finance Committee Questions
Superintendent’s School Committee Presentation – Natick High School Project Update & One-to-One Initiative
Updated Acceptable Use Policy – Pending School Committee Review & Approval

–Dr. Peter Sanchioni, Superintendent of Schools



  1. Hello Natick Community!

    We invite you to comment on our page–join in on the conversion conversation! Comment below each web page of posted material; material will be shared with the larger community. Use your name and engage in this virtual dialogue with us–extending our conversation beyond the confines of the school committee or town meeting venue!

  2. In last night’s discussion, there were questions about home internet safety. While I am not aware of any solutions for the mac, for Windows 7, Microsoft has a great tool (free at that) that gives parents ways to filter and monitor web site access and visits. http://explore.live.com/windows-live-family-safety

  3. As a parent I am really excited about the potential of the 1:1 laptop program. Not because of the technology per se, but because it’s clear you are looking at how we learn, create, share and collaborate in schools.
    A few years ago I heard an interview with top scientists/inventors on what supports “innovation” in our society. They all said that now in the 21st century, it’s almost impossible to make real breakthroughs working individually with the old model of the independent inventor/scientist; all the next cutting edge breakthroughs will come from depth collaboration across disciplines.
    My experience is that the academic world is trying to embrace this but the old models of how we measure and reward learning don’t really support collaboration (until we get to a graduate level). It shows in the workplace as well. This could be an amazing step in new directions that I hope can also retain the best of what we have now.

  4. I graduated from the Natick public school system in 1975. I’ve worked in government, politics, journalism and the private sector since then. I relish my Natick education. I have not read the plan, and left Mass in ’77. But the goals of achieving teaching technology, fewer classroom disruptions, greater on-task behavior, reduction in absences, higher graduation rates, improved standardized test scores and having better prepared high school graduates, and greater college acceptance rates are admirable. But please keep in mind counseling, for those who are born into less fortunate circumstances. We had a few “class clowns” who had difficult lives, which affected their scholastic and probably working careers. You have to balance things. You can’t just shoot for stats. Every child deserves a chance. Balance tech, with old school discipline, under current laws – or change them, when they need to be changed. No child should be left behind, and I don’t mean to use that term as the Bush political slogan… But someone needs to get it right… and the people of Natick should be at the forefront of this new effort… I wish there were more than words I could offer to help…

  5. I have one minor concern.

    We have been told that the students will not be allowed to personalize the laptop or the case, other than the tag that will be attached to the case. This makes a great deal of sense.

    However, this also means that every laptop will look identical when left on desktops or tables.

    I would like to see a way for the students to label their laptop for the year. One possible solution is for a large piece of writable tape to be placed on the cover of the device, where the child would be allowed to personalize. This tape could then be replaced when the device is returned to the district. There are certainly other possible solutions as well. The key is to allow the students to quickly identify their specific device.

    • Agreed and we are exploring such suggestions and others based on what we learn from other systems already in play. Thanks for the ideas!

  6. I attended parent focus Grp on Wed AM 5/18 but had to leave @10:15. Laptop plan is excellent; keep up the good work. Qs: are there tools for teachers to monitor plagiarism? What are the challenges you need parents to help with? There is a survey. Can you send? Some students may be apprehensive about this change. What are you doing to address? What about insurance against accidental breakage,loss or theft? Thank you. Next time make sure the program ends on time.

    • Thank you! The survey is one of the links on this page. June 9th meeting for all 7th grade parents with kids going to 8th grade will cover the insurance and filtering in depth.

    • Yes there are tools for plagiarism–one tool is “turn it in,” used extensively at the HS and we have been exposed to it as well. In addition, we have done some training on detecting copied text. Most teachers indicate that it is easier to detect cheating in the digital age as kids are less able to disguise text blocks! The challenges we need help with are getting parents to come to focus group meetings and to meetings to orient parents to the work we hope to do. Spreading the word about this site would help and also serving as parent liaisons or helpers at our upcoming meetings would help. To address student worries, we have been providing increased time in 1:1 classes now (we have been piloting using our current laptop laps in every class at both KMS and WMS). We also beefed up our gr 5-8 technology courses and have expected our teachers to integrate more and more technology in their projects and lessons. Insurance will be covered in depth at the June 9th meeting. Thank you for your time and attention.

      • Thank you, Anna. What about neighborhood meetings? Would that help? Just thinking of trying to “bring it to the people” approach. I have been talking this up with neighbors, friends, folks at our Rotary Club (Charles River Rotary) and other Natick venues. Thanks.

      • I would come to any meeting to spread the word!–Anna

  7. I am a parent & graduated from the Natick public school system in the 90’s. Now work in the Hi-Tech Sector. below are a link’s that might help parents battle some of these issue. it work’s with mac or pc

    Check out the video link, if you have free second

    Norton Online Family is free online service that helps parents to monitor the Internet activities of their children, from anywhere, in real time. Thereby, Norton Online Family helps parents to protect their children from Internet dangers and lets children practice safe online behavior and develop good online habits.


    Getting started

    Frequently Asked Questions

  8. I cant make the meeting on Thursday. Please can you send a link where I can find cost and insurance parameters?

    • I will post the presentation on this site after Thursday.

  9. I would like to see more instruction/training for our kids so they can master the basic skill of keyboarding/typing. After their single trimester course in fifth grade, the skill is not mastered and quickly forgotten.

  10. Will the June 9th presentation be posted for those who were not able to make the meeting?

    • it’s on the main page of this website.

  11. I missed the meeting the other night and received last night from my very enthusiastic 8th grader the 1:1 Handbook. I have read through the manual and most of my quesions focus around what the financial arrangements are for the families. I see there is an annual fee of $75 that will cover normal wear and tear and then a tiered approach for repairs and damage. Being the mother of 3 boys I know only too well how rough they are on equipment. It has been my tactic to buy extended warrantees on any expensive equipment – I don’t see an option for that? In fact no where in the manual does it discuss what the replacement cost is for the equipment or if we have the option to buy it outright and get a warantee plan or insurance – we are being asked to sign these forms – if my son has it right – and return them by tomorrow – we are obligating ourselves financially to replace a lost, stolen device and have not idea what we are agreeing to. Maybe I am missing something here?

    My son also stated that i-tunes will be allowed yet most of the information that i have read precludes the students from loading any personal information on to the laptop.

    I also read that we are obligated to back the machine up – will they be storing any school work on the local drive or will it be stored on the school network and then accessed through the internet/vpn? If we are required to back up the c drive with locally stored work will we be provided with an external drive?

    Thank you for working through the kinks with us. After we get through some of the glitches I believe that this will be a great tool for the kids to learn and better prepare themselves for college and the workplace.

    • Thanks for writing. The documents were given only as a point of information as brought to you via your son. In the late summer/early fall, we’ll give out final contracts and handbooks for your review–including all the financial arrangements. We’ll ask you and your child to come in and engage in a training/overview session and then, students can take the device home. If you look at the website, the main page has our most recent presentation with details of the financial, tiered fee structure should there be an issue with breakage. There is no plan at this time for purchase, but we are exploring options. The children will be backing up their documents on an external drive that will be given to them with the laptop. SInce we are using Google Apps for education, any document that students put there will be in the google “cloud” and accessible from any laptop. Teachers intend to rely heavily on GoogleApps–and this is our own hosted version of it–so it does not have Buzz and other distracting or more commercial aspects of regular Google. Thanks for asking great questions and I hope you can join us for any one of the 4 meetings in the fall at either middle school.

    • From Dr. Sanchioni: — Buying the laptop is not an option at this time. The district has already purchased the Apple Care Protection Program insuring the laptop for malfunctions, defects, etc. The Apple Care program does not cover misuse, theft, or breakage thus, why we need to protect our asst with a minimal “insurance” cost.

  12. I didn’t make it to the June 9th meeting.

    1) Will you be posting the “hard copy handout” and “contract” online? (top slide on page 20 of posted presentation)

    2) So, since it doesn’t cover theft or loss, the “insurance” is actually “limited scope coverage” (or rather “experience based user fees”) and it would probably be wise to schedule the laptops on our homeowners or renters insurance? If yes, I’m guessing we’ll need some type of documentation from the town as to replacement cost.

    3) Can the parent/guardian attend any of the 4 training sessions or only one held at their child’s school?

    Thank you!!!

    • The hard copy handout will go home with your child at the beginning of the year with a handbook, so you can read it at your leisure. Then, you and your family can attend any of the four meetings. I will explore the question about coverage on your homeowner’s insurance.

    • from Dr. Sanchioni: We are not asking parents to insure the laptops on their homeowners insurance. Not sure it can happen as NPS is the owner. The “insurance” fee is a minimal cost to protect our asset and provide students/families with a laptop for the entire school year. This practice has been implemented in other successful 1:1 districts.

  13. Many students have iTouches and even iPhones. Is there any additional functionality or benefit to having a smartphone device like that? Can any of it (apps, software, etc) be linked to their lap tops?

    • Katie, I will get back to you on the specifics from the tech dept. but itouches/iphones can be linked to the laptop/itunes account, but remember, for accounts like that the account itself can only be associated with a limited number of devices. That said, if iCloud unveils as I think it will, kids would be able to access media from itunes via the cloud. Apps are located only on the devices for which they are purchased via itunes. Anything in itunes would be owned by your family/child. So itouches are not needed, but many people like this additional functionality.

    • from the superintendent: The laptop is the best device to meet the educational needs of our students – best for research, creating, writing and producing. Apps have an educational value and we are noticing Apple is producing Apps that can be used on the laptop. See App store.

  14. I think it is terrific that Natick schools are creating this learning atmosphere for our kids. A huge thank you to the administration for initiating, investigating and educating us on the need for this digital conversion.

  15. Quick check with my homeowners insurance company:
    Most people with homeowners or rental/contents insurance would be covered under the personal property section of their policy – subject to deductible – even though the school owns the laptop.
    Many insurers offer special computer coverage for breakage.
    BUT – think before making a claim as it may raise your premiums
    AND check with your own insurer for details!!!
    Some other schools (public through college) have managed to offer families access to purchase extended warranties through the seller/leaser (instead of special computer coverage on home owners) to cover major repairs.
    Most people self insure (that is – NO insurance, pay full cost out of pocket if laptop is lost or stolen)
    Given that in one way or another we are accepting risk for an event that may be beyond our control, ***I think we (families) should be aware of the full replacement cost.***

  16. A few logistical questions:
    1. It seems that students will be at a disadvantage if they do not take the MacBooks home ona daily basis in terms of short and longterm homework/project assignments. Will there be a parallel system of being able to complete assignments on other operating systems and applications that many of us have at home (i.e. Vista, Windows), else be able to do assignments on paper as a back up?

    2. I would assume most parents are somewhat or greatly concerned about damage – accidental or otherwise by their student assigned to a given laptop or another student. Then, there is the theft issue, particularly because there is no coverage for this. I think for parents to accept this “24-7” usage plan, these issues need to be better addressed, particularly coverage for the theft potential.

    3. In terms of costs to parents, the choose of Macs pressures the parents into purchasing other Mac-related products that can interface with these Macbooks. This seems very unfair to parents – particularly those who are economically disadvantaged.

    4. Related to numbers 1 and 2, when students have after school – on campus practices or clubs at Wilson or at another school in district who will guard these laptops during that time, or will students be allowed to store these at Wilson to pick up and take home after a practice or meeting. In a similar manner, for events at another school, who will protect these from theft or damage (weather, etc.) out on an open field. Will students be able to leave these at Wilson and retrieve these for homework upon return to the school?
    As one computer tech noted to me the other day, if he were a thief he would be identifying the schools providing these to students, and take a trip by a field at an event and simply lift a few backpacks.

    • All laptops come with a back up drive for saving papers, etc. and students were asked to include a pen drive on their supply lists for document transfer from school to home or device to device if that is what you desire. In addition, with google documents as a major part of the way students will complete work, students can save into google docs and have access to their documents from anywhere –storage in the cloud! PC or Apple, access it from anywhere!

      As we discussed in our public forum–a GPS tracking system is in place on the device that actually takes pictures of anyone who opens it or uses it after a theft is reported. The tracking only goes on after a police report is made. In addition, in school, laptop storage and charging stations, with locks have been purchased and will be managed by teachers.

      There is no pressure to purchase additional MAC products, in fact, the laptop was brought on as the tool for NPS because it does everything a student will need.

      After school storage will be contained in charging/storage carts located in the wings/common areas. Students will lock them in and get them out after activities. In our vision, students would not take them to other schools with them, but leave them at school and pick them up upon return to WMS. This is, of course, a way we will change our current routines to accommodate this important project.

      • re # 3 – I think too that someone said that we (or a tech at school?) can download printer drivers onto the macbooks for the non-mac printers we already have at our homes – provided the printers aren’t too ancient.

      • ? Printer drivers can be downloaded and wireless printers can be added by NPS cannot provide support in hooking up printers at your home. USB printers work with no issues as well.

  17. Thank you so much for a very informative meeting this morning and for all of the hard work that went into making this happen. My family and I are very appreciative of your efforts!

  18. The other alternative/workaround available with most apps (and I believe Macs also have this function) is to print to file, save file to data stick, then print from home computer. If you just want to do a screen print, this is not an option even on Windows – you would have to do hit the Print Screen key and paste it into say a Word document, to save and transfer to a data stick to then print. My two printers are old and not set for wireless – are hardwired – though I do have wireless for the computers. Of course, I need to get the WiFi password from the kid in college for the younger to hook into it.

  19. Great job getting this going. However, I would like to see the district provide an insurance option particularly to cover theft or loss. These policies exist and the costs should be reasonable for such a large group. Just heard from someone in Bedford that they were offered an insurance option for their ipads. Homeowners policies vary and not everyone has one.

  20. I think you are asking a lot of the district, given they are building a new high school AND giving our kids laptops. If you are uncomfortable simply ask your child ro leave the laptop at school overnight.

  21. Dan, your point is well taken as I already presented this very point early this past week “off-line” to Anna Nolin (so as not to cause an uproar of responses and issues among parents on the blog). She forwarded my questions to the appropriate parties – though I have yet to receive a response.

    It was actually a representative at our homeowner’s insurance company who made it clear that they, and many companies, only provide coverage for theft, loss, and irreparable damage for goods OWNED in one’s home (not loaned, leased/rented) with a typically high deductible (over $200). One can purchase a rider for such tech equipment for minimal cost – $20-30 dollars a year – that then has a modest deductible of $50; however, once again it must be an OWNED item. One parent (an insurance agent) at one of the meetings, as well as many other parents have called their own companies, and feel they have coverage – but if they worded the question as, “Is my child’s school laptop covered?” without clarifying they do not own it, they may have false confidence that this,in fact, will be covered. Our agent noted, that some companies may be on the leading edge of such rental/loan coverage.

    Our agent noted, that this type of coverage cannot be widespread as most instrument rental companies offer theft, loss, severe damage coverage for instruments in and around the cost of the MacBooks – and clearly provide this because most homeowner and renter coverages do not include leased/loaned items.

    I think for most parents, a $1000 hit (as I heard one concerned parent tell Ms. Nolin after the meeting) is nothing to sneeze at, and many of us have a right to be concerned, and we have to wonder the reason the town did not do their due diligence and simply look at insurance options – either the town self-insuring or offering it, minimally, as an option to the parents (ala the option insurance with instruments) above the $75 mandatory fee .

    A second question I had regards the battery, If it is not properly discharged 1-2x/month – and even at that this newer battery technology can shorten the complete charge available over time – especially with frequent short charging done in school or at home, who is responsible for this uncovered replace and repair item? If we turn back a laptop with such a battery at year’s end, the cost of a replacement battery plus labor can run $150-$200, and this is not covered under AppleCare, so do parents assume the risk/cost of this as well?

    My husband and I are taking Elizabeth’s advice, however, more on a basic common sense and economic principle in that $1000 accident could happen to adult or child alike with a laptop/Macbook through any number of circumstances. Since our student has been able to completely access all necessary homework assignments and reading/resource items, it will remain at school. (Moodle is fantastic, and the teachers have been doing a great job in maintaining documents in Mac and PC/windows compatibility, and we clearly see that the laptops have enhanced learning.) We do feel badly for some parents who may not have a quality computer at home due to economic circumstances and feel compelled to take the risk for the sake of their child education. I will assume the school is assisting with making certain they are getting their homework assignments.

    Our decision also allows our student to not be on the laptop too excessively – beyond academics on a daily basis. There are studies that do show too much technology is not a good thing, and recently many colleges are “de-wiring” classrooms to keep the students focused on the lecture at hand – to keep that human communication touch.

    Most importantly, we must also keep in mind that this is a public school system, and some families are lucky to be able to pay this technology fee and many other fees, never mind incur the risk of paying a month’s rent or mortgage to the NPS.

    • All;
      Regarding the question of insuring laptops, I asked the insurance agent for the town whose response is shown below:

      Subject to all terms & conditions within our policy forms, coverage for business personal property of the Town of Natick is restricted to on insured premises, with some specified, limited exceptions if/when off premises in the custody of employees of the Town. In the event that students take computers home, there would be no coverage afforded by our Property / Inland Marine policy to the Town of Natick.

      It is possible to insure anything, as we all know, but underwriting laptops in the possession of a middle school student would likely be expensive. I have asked our insurance agent to price this and she has yet to respond.

      William J. Hurley
      Director of Fiscal and Management Services
      Natick Public Schools
      13 East Central Street
      Natick, MA 01760
      tel. 508.647.6491
      cell 508.868.6923

  22. […] century skills using a blended learning environment to ensure our students become digital citizens https://npsdigitalconversion.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/hello-world/ […]

  23. Hello Natick Digital Conversion Team, and thank you so much for your time, effort, thoughtfulness, and diligent research. So far, in most of the focus group and orientation/informational sessions that I’ve attended, and in this on line forum, it seems like most of the concerns are related to logistics. I’d like to share some more philosophical concerns, but with the utmost respect for your efforts so far.

    I urge the district to have students’ laptops in use as one part of a set of tools that they and their teachers have for learning, and not as the centerpiece of their daily education. I understand that this is a key consideration for you, too, but I don’t see it mentioned as often, and it seems like that makes the message easier to forget. I would love for there to be some kind of maximum limit of “screen time” really embraced because I see kids today needing much more guidance on how to receive and process content, as opposed to needing help with technical aspects of using a computer and generating good output. I’m concerned that concentrating on the use of technology in even forming kids’ ideas could easily contribute to a process in which style trumps substance. I haven’t had a great way to voice these concerns in the excellent meetings that you have held along the way, this recent NY Times piece has pretty directly captured a lot of the thoughts that I’ve had about Natick’s direction. I don’t necessarily agree with the idea of no technology use at all in school, but I would agree that the creativity and analytical thinking that students need to develop helps them make the best use of computers, and not vice versa. I would appreciate it if you would take a look at the article and respond with any thoughts about how it relates to your approach. Thanks again very much.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: