About Personalized Learning

A Transformational Learning Initiative


How Personalized Learning at FCCPS came to be


Glossary of Terms

  • 1:1 Technology - the official term for providing one device to every student
  • Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) - the official School Board policy on internet safety and acceptable use of electronic media. 
    Acceptable Use Policy
    Acceptable Use Regulation
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) - allows personal devices of FCCPS staff and students to connect to the filtered and safe FCCPS wireless network.
  • FCCPS Instructional Technology Plan - Strategic planning and integration recommendations
  • FCCPSMYDEVICE - the district's wireless network name for student and staff personal devices.
  • GM TechSpace - Student Tech Help Station located in the GM hall by the old gym.
  • Learning Management System (LMS) - an online system that facilitates teacher-student communication. GMHS uses Schoology, which has taken the place of written academic planners. Students and teachers communicate on Schoology, go over assignments and provide resources. These systems are generally required at college and this is a critical skill that our students need.
  • Mobile Device Management (MDM) - allows remote management to registered devices, which means that school-issued devices will be automatically updated remotely.
  • Re-image - it sounds like something from a sci-fi movie, but it is something that could affect school-issued device users. Re-image is a technical term for restoring the MacBook to original settings. A reimage erases all data and everything saved on the hard drive.  
    Avoid Reimage: Don't Save Documents to the Hard Drive. You might lose them!

The Personalized Learning Initiative

Goals of Personalized Learning

We expect that using technology consistently, across the curriculum will provide our students with a key tool they need to be successful. They will be learning how to use laptops both academically and as part of the community. It will open new doors, increase proficiency, allow differentiation, and provide time saving. 
Learning already happens 24/7. Unfortunately many students have the impression that "exciting learning" happens outside of school and the "boring learning" happens in school. 

Having technology available will provide teachers with tools to make classroom learning experiences the exciting ones. It will help make school relevant to the real world.
Computers will allow teachers to differentiate their lessons so that all students can learn at their own pace, and every student will have tools to be successful.
This is also an opportunity to energize our teachers and make our school a magnet for recruiting and retaining the best teachers, doing the most exciting, innovative things in their classrooms. Teachers today want to teach where they are giving the tools they believe are essential for the future.

Who Pushed for Laptops for Every Student?

Teachers! The GMHS Digital Learning Team put a significant amount of time into assessing different plans. This team tested different devices, looked at the work of other schools, asked difficult questions. In the end, the team recommended we embark on a laptop selection as the best way to bring computers and technology to GMHS. The team was utilizing a cart model- which meant the school was trying to provide carts for every classroom so that technology was available to all students. However, that model costs on average 60% more to implement (800 students = 800 laptops). Supplying 70 classrooms with a cart of 25 laptops would mean purchasing 1,750 laptops just for George Mason.

What is a Digital Learning Team?

Each school has a group of educators that include administrators, lead teachers and support staff. These groups meet often to discuss personalized learning and technology integration. George Mason has a team which has been in place for two years. The members of the Digital Learning Team provide guidance and professional development to support their colleagues, pilot devices, and help inform the division on what works in the classroom, and what teachers need on a daily basis to provide the best learning environment. The Digital Learning Teams at every site have been key to implementation of new technology.

How does this program fit with the curriculum goals?

We envision that laptops will be an essential part of every subject and class. Our teachers are already doing great things. Over the course of two years, lessons plans will be rewritten to continue the digital conversion. Teachers will be supported along the way with professional development sessions that help them integrate technology into the great lessons they are already teaching.

Security and Privacy

Parental Controls

During Orientation, parents are shown parental controls which will allow them to use various features, including a usage timer. All student work is accessible to parents. Parents are encouraged to take an active role in modeling appropriate computer use at home, and monitoring their child(ren)'s. A good rule of thumb is that the computer needs to sleep for as many hours as the child needs to sleep and it should be stored in a set location at home. One app that we encourage all families to download is "Find My Mac" so that it can be located when misplaced.

How much monitoring of technology will occur?

FCCPS wants to support parents in regulating responsible use. The Parent Control feature is available for any parent who would like to access that functionality. Parents may set times when the laptop is not available for use. For example, a parent may want to eliminate use from midnight until 6:00 am. FCCPS monitors the entire system on a daily basis for technical issues.

Is there privacy protection for the information a student keeps on the computer?

The laptop is the property of the FCCPS and as a result may be reviewed at any time. The student should have NO expectation of privacy of materials found on the laptop or a school-supplied or supported online service (FCCPS email and Schoology).

And what about external internet privacy protection?

All students should safeguard personal and private information. This is a digital literacy skill which is part of the FCCPS curriculum, and GM will have a more robust focus on this aspect of the curriculum this year. The curriculum reinforces to students why they should not reveal personal information, including a home address or phone number, or personal information about other students. As a reminder, student email accounts are limited to contact within FCCPS and limit student email access to only teachers and fellow students.

What filter(s) are in place to protect students from visiting harmful websites?

We have a very high level filter that applies to every device at all times it is in use.

What are the consequences and liability if my child accesses an inappropriate site on a school-owned computer?

Inappropriate use of an intentional nature falls under the usual student handbook regulations.

Can law enforcement search my FCCPS laptop?

The Supreme Court ruled that search of personal (student owned) digital devices by law enforcement requires a warrant. If a student is involved in a legal case, and the information is requested by law enforcement, with a warrant, FCCPS will be required to provide that information. This is not a change from any past practice at GM.

Can school officials search my FCCPS laptop?

The FCCPS-issued laptop is owned by the school division and officials can search the files on the school-owned laptop, but will do so only when there is reasonable suspicion that there is a violation of school code of conduct or FCCPS regulations or policies.

Is work done on school-issued laptops subject to the Freedom of Information Act?

It is possible, but unlikely, that files, documents, and images created by the student would qualify as "public records" under the Virginia Freedom of Information Act. If it is necessary for school officials to search a school-issued laptop while complying with a FOIA request FCCPS will guard student privacy as they would in any FOIA report, but will provide "records" that our legal team deems appropriate according to Virginia law and School Board policies.

Personalized Learning In The Classroom

How much will students be using computers?

The goal during the 2014-2015 school year is for teachers to examine their current curriculum for areas of the lessons that can be enhanced by adding a technology component to the lessons they already have. This can include redesigning the lesson to include technology integration which redefines the learning activity. Remember that a significant benefit of the technology is that the students will have any time access to Schoology with assignments and calendars. We think this time-management will be a major benefit for many students, and will improve their classroom performance in a meaningful way.

How are teachers expected to use the laptops?

FCCPS teachers are expected to use the laptops to increase productivity, collaboration, creation, and communication while they integrate technology into existing curricula to create transformational experiences for all students. Because this is a new program we are giving teachers time to grow. This has been a work in progress for us over the past two years.. Starting out they will be expected to plan a technology- based lesson once a week for each class. No one will be expected to use MacBooks every day (except computer science classes) but as the year progresses, our expectation will be that teachers are utilizing the laptops in many of their classroom projects.

Dollars and Sense

How is FCCPS paying for the laptops?

The laptops did not require an increase in the budget. In fact, the budget actually decreased slightly this year as our focus shifted from the laptop cart model to one laptop per student. In order to meet the demands of our teaching staff, we would need 60-70 carts, just for George Mason, so that each classroom would have the necessary devices. However, 70 carts with 24 laptops each would mean a purchase of 1,680 laptops. But by providing each student a laptop to carry from class to class, we only need to purchase 800 for all of GMHS - a nearly 50% cost savings for the laptops over what would have been spent - in the new Personalized Learning model.

Why was the MacBook Air selected over devices such as Chromebooks or iPads?

The MacBook Air Selection Process 

The Falls Church City Public Schools Digital Learning Team led testing on MacBook Air, ChromeBooks, and Lenovo laptops as well as various other devices, including iPad, Android tablets in deciding the MacBook Air best addressed the educational needs at George Mason High School. 

Is there a cost to parents associated with their child receiving a laptop?

No...unless a student loses the device and then we ask that the first time they pay $25 to issue a new one (same as a lost textbook). The second time the cost is $50. The third time the parent and school staff will conference to problem solve the best strategy for that particular student's use.

Will parents need to purchase additional items for the laptop?

No. The laptop is issued with a charger and a hard plastic cover case. If the student chooses to purchase an item (special cover) that is acceptable. Students are instructed to leave the school-issued charger at home. There will be charging stations available at school.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happened to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD)?

We have not eliminated BYOD, and the GMHS wireless network will still accommodate visiting devices.The GMHS Digital Learning Team looked at several different approaches to adding new technology including BYOD, and decided that school issued laptops were the best approach for our school. A major drawback of BYOD is that it requires teachers to troubleshoot numerous devices with which they are not familiar. This means that teachers spend a lot of time getting devices to work properly and not as much time on the lessons. Additionally, not all students have devices, which creates an uneven playing field. BYOD also does not allow the school to provide parent controls which support the families. In addition, student owned devices can only browse our system and we would not have the laptops available for any of our required online testing. This would require us, once again, to still purchase carts for testing. Virginia requires all 14 assessments given at George Mason to be given online and the tech team would need to check each student device for the minimum standard screen resolution, check that the correct version of JAVA was installed, and make sure that the laptop charge could support the entire testing window.