Electronic devices policy passes Unified School Board
The policy was approved 5 to 2.
Before the vote, Annie Fredriksson, coordinator of library media and instructional technology, and a team of several other administrators and teachers gave a presentation on the use of mobile devices in the classroom.
“Mobile devices can be disruptive, but they can also contribute to learning,” Fredriksson said.
John Bardeen, principal of Curtis Strange School, discussed precious class time. Mobile technology may get students engaged and save money. But, it must be used wisely.
“Anytime, anywhere learning,” Bardeen. “We need to prepare the students for 21st century careers, and teach them digital responsibility and safety. They don’t want to know what happened yesterday, they want to know what’s happening right now. It’s our responsibility to slow them down and make them think.”
Nancy Weirick, principal of Washington Middle School said “Do all students needs cell phones? Absolutely not. One group can share. Some projects can be completed using one phone (the teacher’s). There are many activities that utilize landline phones or computers inside or outside of school. Most kids take their computers home with them.”
Weirick shared some statistics on how many kids have cell phones: 98 percent of students in high school have cell phones; 83 percent of students in 6th through 8th grade; and 43 percent of students in 2nd through 5th grade. Two questions she asks children in the morning when they come to school are: “Are you dressed for learning? and Have you turned your cell phone off?”
Michelle Valeri, instructional technology teacher consultant, talked about the many uses of a cell phone, such as pod casts, sending voice mail messages to the teacher or other group members, conferencing, mobile notes, voice to text, student response systems, data collection tools, videos, any process for later study, projects, photos, collect proof of anges, local landmarks, rock identification, field trip images, voice recording, interviews. She explained the “Web 2.0 Cloud” concept, in which applications and data reside on an internet server, available for use anywhere the internet can be accessed. These are student productivity tools, calendars, calculators/graphing, voice/text reminders (homework/tests). Other examples given were virtual science symposium and oral quizzes when teaching languages.
Beth Ormseth, principal of Indian Trail Academy, addressed some of the concerns that have been raised: Classroom management, cell phone etiquette, digital literacy, student access, financial considerations, web publishing, etc. Once the guidelines are laid out, and the teacher has the principal’s approval, these uses can be put in place, she suggested. There are also ways to help parents with texting costs; there are free texting applications.
The book, “Toys to Tools” by Liz Kolb, has been purchased and a copy has been given to each school, Fredriksson said. Instructional technology teachers can give “short shots” for interested teachers, and teacher resource guides will also be provided. Parents already furnish cell phones to their children, so there is already a level of trust there. Digital calendars can take the place of paper planners.
Fredriksson addressed the fact that not all students have the same cell phones. “The teacher must take the needs of his/her student into account as they develop their lesson plans,” she said. “They must provide avenues for all students to be successful. It’s the teacher’s responsibility to find avenues so that all students can participate.”
Rebecca Stevens, board member, expressed her concern that not all students have cell phones.
“It sounds like a great application for some students,” said Stevens, who also expressed concerned about the district’s filters.
“Obviously, the students still would not be able to go to sexually explicit sites, or bring risque magazines to school. The acceptable use policy still stands,” Fredriksson said.
Rebecca Stevens also was concerned about the time issue for teachers. Fredriksson replied that, on the contrary, this would replace other instruction that was happening, not add to it.
Board member Gilbert Ostman, a retired teacher, said he thought cell phones could be used in AP classes and honors courses, but not in the average classroom. He said that he felt it would only cause problems for the teachers.
During her comments, superintendent Michelle Hancock said “Class time is precious. We can put class time to better use and save money. What we are doing is integrating the kids’ favorite device into the classroom. We’re preparing our students for 21st century jobs. It’s a tool for future professional growth. We need to also teach them mobile safety and etiquette. We can also empower students who are visually or hearing impaired. Teachers and students can be innovative. This would be managed by adults in the schools.”