The new Blount County Schools BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy allowing – make that encouraging – students to bring their personal technology devices to school, represents a sea change in thinking about the place of such devices in the instructional process.
No longer are they seen as an impediment – something to be prevented from interfering with the instructional process – but as an asset to be exploited in order to prepare students to take their places in the modern world, where fluency in use of technology is becoming virtually mandatory.
One caveat, and it’s a major one: parents and students must clearly understand that devices are to be used as an adjunct and enhancement to the instructional process, not as a recreational medium that interferes with it. That requires making some no-nonsense distinctions between what’s proper use and what’s not. The policy is structured to guarantee that outcome, insofar as possible.
“The thing I want parents and students to understand is that we’re making these changes for educational purposes, and are going to make sure they’re used to support instruction, and not for anything else,” said Blount County Superintendent Rodney Green.
Those, in a nutshell, are the essentials of the new system policy. Here are some additional details.
The devices included in BYOD are listed in the policy on the Blount County Schools website: MacBooks, iPhones/ smartphones, iPads, iWatches/smart watches, iPads, Kindles, Nooks, tablets, Blackberrys, MP3 players, and laptops. (Conventional cell phones are included, though not listed.) Devices must be brought to class fully charged. Chargers will not be allowed due to the paraphernalia required and to limited electrical outlet capacity.
Both students and parents must sign a technology contract that outlines terms of the policy before bringing any device to school. If they don’t sign, they don’t participate in BYOD. Needed technology devices will be provided by the school for them to complete assignments requiring their use.
Appropriate and inappropriate uses
Common sense guidelines apply. Teacher-assigned research, organization of information into tables and graphs, organization of tasks using calendars, sharing information documents, making calculations as instructed – all appropriate. Examples of inappropriate use: having the device out in class when not performing assigned instruction tasks, using it in hallways, restrooms, or lunchrooms; texting, playing games, using apps, visiting websites; taking, posting, and/or sharing photos or videos on school grounds or on the bus, without supervising adult’s permission. Penalties for improper use are outlined in the system policy, based on number of offenses.
The principal, teacher, or supervising employee will approve use of devices for instructional purposes or under circumstances where their use serves safety and convenience (think medical emergencies, during natural disasters, etc.) without disrupting school operations.
The purpose of the BYOD initiative is to enhance instruction and assist students in developing communication, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills necessary to meet College and Career Readiness Standards. All devices will use Blount County Schools guest network through Wi-Fi, rather than a personal cellular data plan. That requirement is in order to assure Child Internet Protection Act (CIPA) compliance.
“Parents and students have been talking to us for a while about their desire to change the policy on students having electronic devices at school,” Green said. “Beyond that, there is a vital need for students to be able to extend their capabilities in the workplace through the use of technology. We don’t have the resources inside the system to launch a one-to-one technology initiative as some schools have done. This is a way we can get the benefits using technology students already have. We’ve visited other systems using this approach and we’re satisfied it will work well if handled properly,” he said.
Parents and students will be educated on the new policy (some already have been) during a series of backto school meetings held for them by principals of the various schools. These sessions began last week and will continue until the first day of school on Aug. 6.