Curricular Technology Initiative: FAQs for Families

By Dr. Andrew Shelffo, chief information officer and English teacher

Beginning in September 2013, students will be able to use a hybrid tablet device as part of Williston’s Curricular Technology Initiative, or CTI, which is designed to bring consistent technology to campus so that students can quickly and easily access the digital tools they need to succeed, and in the process not just keep up with the latest innovations but use them in their education.

Preparing students for success in college and beyond in the 21st century means teaching them how to take full advantage of information technology. The CTI will put the latest computing technology into the hands of every student and teacher and bring important systems—Schoology, SkyDrive, OneNote, video and audio conferencing—right into the classroom.  The goal is to teach students how to use technology with purpose, passion, and integrity.

What are the key elements of the Curricular Technology Initiative?
The Curricular Technology Initiative (CTI) will allow students to take full advantage of the software and systems Williston has in place on campus to both complement and expand their education. By using such programs as SkyDrive, OneNote, and Schoology—on campus, at home, or anywhere else—students will be able to collaborate effectively with teachers and each other and learn important organizational skills. Through this mission-driven program, students will learn how to use technology with purpose, passion, and integrity in an anywhere, anytime environment.

Does Williston have the infrastructure to support this program?
Williston’s connection to the Internet is 200 Mbps. Students can access the network wirelessly in all of their classrooms and by September 2013, in any dorm, as well.

What device will my child be issued as part of this program?
Every student and teacher at Williston will be issued the same device. This provides consistency in the academic experience in all classrooms and dorm or home. Currently the school is evaluating devices, and a final decision is expected in the next few weeks. Whatever the device, it will be a tablet with a detachable keyboard running Windows 8 with native stylus capability.

May my child bring his or her laptop to school?
Students are welcome to bring computers with them to school. However, the tablet device will be what they will use to access CTI’s key features.

Will my child be able to use printers on campus?
Currently, students can access printers in the Clapp Library and in academic buildings. Printing access for students will be expanded by September 2013.

What are the support and repair options for these devices?
Williston has a fully staffed technology department equipped to handle most computer-related support issues. If an issue arises with the device that cannot be addressed in a timely manner, the student will receive a replacement immediately.

Will these devices support the use of digital textbooks?
Yes. Digital textbooks, or ebooks, provide additional functions such search and annotation. They also are much less heavy to carry than traditional textbooks and often cost less.

Will every student participate in the Curricular Technology Initiative?
Yes. The CTI is designed to enhance the educational experience of every student, and having everyone access common software and services through a common device is an important part of the program. Collaboration through the use of a common device is a key element of the CTI.

Will I own the device?
While you will have access to the device, students will not own the device. Therefore, we ask that students refrain from putting stickers or any other decoration on it. You can, however, personalize the desktop and load on your own applications.

What does the $500 IT fee cover?
The fee, comparable to that charged by many of our peers, will cover access to the personal device and software licensing. In addition, it will help to provide the resources to implement wireless access across campus.

Will I need to buy my child a laptop as well?
The device we choose will be a fully functioning computer with a full-sized keyboard. Any work that can be done on a laptop will be able to be done on the tablet. An advantage of our program is that you won’t have to supply your child with a laptop because the tablet device will do everything a traditional laptop can do—and more.

How often will students use the software and the device?
With Schoology, digital textbooks, OneNote and the full Microsoft Office suite, email, and WillyNet, students will use their devices every day.

How have the faculty been preparing for this program?
Williston’s faculty have been using school-issued laptops with standard Microsoft software since 2004, the same year that a learning management system was put in place at the school. Every classroom is equipped with wireless access, an interactive white board, and an audio/video system.

As a result, Williston’s faculty is well-versed in computer technology, and many teachers have successfully integrated computer technology into their teaching in various ways.  The CTI is the next step in fully integrating technology into teaching and learning in a pedagogically sound, deliberate manner.

To further support our faculty, during the spring and summer of 2013, we will be holding professional development sessions specifically devoted to the Curricular Technology Initiative.

See a video about the program that Microsoft filmed during a visit to the Williston campus.


11 thoughts on “Curricular Technology Initiative: FAQs for Families”

  1. Do I need to get my son a printer for his dorm? or will there be enough printers for all the students to use?

  2. Hi Patricia,

    I’ve passed your question along to the IT department, and they should be in touch with you shortly. You can also reach them directly at (413) 529-3338.

    Thanks again for your question!
    Rachael Hanley
    Assistant Director of Communications (Web)

  3. This will be the first year my kids are attending Williston. Are we able to Skype with them? If so, can they use the tablet from school for this?

  4. HI, your email says many of the texts this year will be digital. From the Exel sheet listing all the textbooks, I don’t see the distinction between digital and material texts. How can we tell? Do we just search by isbn number? And if digital, are they ebooks or kindle editions, or, ie, how do we purchase them? Thanks from a first-time parent.

  5. The news about Willi-Hamp choice of Surface Pro gave me the prod I need to make my table decision. Is it possible for you to send me the configuration of hardware and software that will be used? Is there any provision for Alumnae to purchase through the school? Will the school receive an early version of Windows 8.1?

  6. Hi Liz,

    Thanks for you question and welcome! We’ve updated the Excel sheet for textbooks to indicate the difference between print and digital. There’s a link to that spreadsheet on our website homepage:

    Look for the column labelled “type.” You’ll notice that most of the books are still under “print” but that there are also ones listed as “print/digital bundle” or just “digital.” If you have any other questions about the CTI program, you can reach IT at (413) 529-3338.

    Rachael Hanley
    Assistant Director of Communications (Web)

  7. I had heard that Juniors who pay the rental fee for two years will keep the tablet upon graduation. Is this true?
    And for Seniors, is there a reduced fee that they can pay to keep the tablet after graduation?
    Julie Carney

  8. Hi Julie,

    I’ve passed your questions on to the IT staff, who should be in touch with you soon. You can also reach them directly at or (413) 529-3338.

    Rachael Hanley
    Assistant Director of Communications (Web)

  9. I like that the Williston will continue using Schoology, however if the staff does not use schoology in a uniform manner it gets a bit confusing for students and parents. I know everyone has their own style when using organizational tools, social networking tools, calendars and database-like software, but it would be good if the staff could be more uniformed than last year. Knowing that Schoology was new to the school last year and that everyone had there own way of imparting information to the students it seemed a bit discombobulated. Some teachers used the calendar for posting assignments, some used assignment sheets attached as printable docs, some used the grading tool to keep the parents and students informed on how they were faring in any given class, but if your child has organizational issues this became a task to get what you needed to do your best in any given course.
    My question is: Will the staff take on using Schoology in a uniformed way? I particularly like it when the assignment’s due dates were in the calendar entered as an event, and the grades were posted as the assignments came in. It made it easy to see what assignments were either missing or late and helped me make sure my child was doing everything he needed to do to get the best results in any given class.
    Thanks for your time and response.

    Best, Tracy Hightower

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