By BRAD BOMAN
The increasing presence of technology, such as iPhones, iPads and smart phones, that are available to students can be daunting. But the Henry County Public School Board decided Monday that this resource should be tapped to engage and enhance the educational process.
The board adopted a new “Bring your own device” policy, similar to policies in districts across the nation that allow students to use their own technology at school for finding information and other resources on the Internet.
The “BYOD” initiative is intended to ease the limitations of one-dimensional textbooks by allowing the use of video, interactive lessons or supplemental material in the classroom, to provide time for more in-depth discussions.
Nikkol Bauer, chief information officer, said for years, HCPS has been investigating such one-on-one programs, which provide students with their own devices. These programs have been or this year will be introduced in other districts, including Carroll County Public Schools and Eminence Independent Schools.
“We have seen an increase in the need for access to technology,” Bauer said. “However, providing every student with their own device is not feasible at this time. Many of our students already have a powerful computer in their pockets, and some of our students have their own laptops or tablets.”
Bauer, who oversees state and federal technology programs implemented in the district, said development of the BYOD program was a team effort. Principals, students and parents have been involved and are vital to the program’s success.
“Some of our teachers have already been encouraging their students to use personal devices for specific learning activities,” Bauer said. “Teachers, and I hope students, will be the driving force in exploring creative and effective uses of these devices.”
Superintendent Tim Abrams said he doesn’t see a downside to the policy, only opportunities for innovation.
“We will get to a one -to-one environment and it will push us to come up with better strategies for teaching,” Abrams said. “We’ve had the infrastructure in place and ... our students have had this powerful tool in their pockets. Now we are allowing them [to use these here in] school.”
Abrams said bandwidth may become a concern, “but if we have bandwidth problems, that is a good problem. I am very excited about this initiative.”
Abrams emphasized that students access to the district’s wireless Internet, or Wi-Fi system, will be filtered. They will not have access to unwanted sites. Students will also be responsible for their own devices, and the district hopes eventually every child will have a device they can use in the classroom.
“I’m excited that an older smartphone someone doesn’t want could be donated and used on a Wi-Fi system,” Abrams said. “It’s a win-win for everyone if children can use this at school as an educational tool.”
The BYOD program will start officially in the 2012-2013 school year.
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