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Three schools are piloting a new program that would allow students to bring their own electronic devices such as cellphones and computer tablets to school for instructional use in classrooms.
A Bring Your Own Device committee was formed to help develop a policy to help integrate technology in the classroom for instruction. Thomas Stone High School Principal Michael Meiser lead the committee, and last month, he and other members presented information about the program to the Charles County Board of Education.
The committee was made up of administrators, teachers and school board members. Meiser said he also spoke to a group of students at Stone as well as the school’s department chairs to get feedback.
Devices allowed as part of BYOD are wireless forms of technology that are portable.
Meiser said that includes iPhones, Droids, Kindles and a variety of other devices.
He said having a policy allowing students the opportunity to use such devices in the classroom “helps bring CCPS up to speed with College and Career Readiness Standards, formerly known as Common Core.”
Members of the committee visited schools in Howard County and Fairfax County, Va., to see similar programs in action.
Students at one school were broken into groups and worked on problems together providing answers via text message that were instantly displayed at the front of the room.
Meiser said students who currently are using technology this way said using technology in the classroom empowers students to be leaders in the classroom.
Implementation of BYOD at schools would require adjustments to the school system’s technology infrastructure, which committee member Lora Bennett, the schools’ information technology manager, said was in progress. The system also would develop a separate and secure Wi-Fi network, and parents and students would sign an acceptable usage agreement to receive the Wi-Fi password.
The school system would have the ability to close the Wi-Fi network on any given day such as a testing day, Bennett said.
School board members were able to see just how students might use their devices in class as members of the committee allowed board members to use their own devices to scan a QR code that linked their devices straight to a school system website designed with information regarding BYOD.
Meiser said teachers can use QR codes in similar ways for instruction.
Parents and students are not required to purchase any software as part of the program. Staff will suggest applications to install for security and safety, but nothing will be required.
Meiser said many Thomas Stone parents participated in a survey regarding BYOD, and the majority of those who participated were on board with allowing students to bring wireless devices to school for instructional purposes. The biggest concern was inappropriate use and theft of the devices.
Students are not required to have their own device, and any software a teacher would want to incorporate has to be Web-based.
Nicholas Anthony, committee member and health teacher at La Plata High School, said BYOD “is meant to enhance instruction. It is not meant to drive instruction.” He said teachers would be responsible for differentiating activities to meet the needs of all students.
Professional development, committee members said, would be ongoing, and there is a possibility of a partnership with Howard County.
Three schools — Arthur Middleton Elementary School, General Smallwood Middle School and Thomas Stone — will be the first to pilot the program.
Superintendent Kimberly A. Hill said starting with three schools makes sense, and it’s a “good way to dip our toe on the water to see how our community responds.”
School board Chairwoman Roberta S. Wise said her only concern is that not every student has their own device, and while she saw how students can share during activities, her concern was that some students are hands-on learners and might benefit from having a device.
Hill said the committee looked into that concern and has come up with ideas to help with equity, such as using technology the system already has, including laptops, and possibly getting more tablets for the schools that teachers can check out for a child to use for a planned activity.
Hill said students would not be using the devices for every classroom activity.
The school system will hold Bring Your Own Device information nights for parents at the pilot schools in the coming weeks.