The idea may fall under the category of, "If you can't beat them, join them."
It wasn't that long ago that turning on your cell phone in Bernards schools could earn you a detention. Or at least temporary confiscation.
But that was before school officials in multiple towns and states — from Kansas to Hunterdon Central Regional High School — apparently hit upon the idea of having those Smart phones and other cool technology devices used for educational purposes. That lets parents pay for providing their kids' technology rather than having local school budgets absorb the cost of equipping classes and libraries with the latest gadgets. And then paying for them again when new technologies came on the market.
Last fall, the curriculum and science and technology supervisors for all township schools advised the Board of Education to launch a "Bring Your Own Technology" initiative in 2012.
The new policy was rolled out in January, and in February parents were asked to sign an Acceptable Use agreement. Soon afterward, a survey of school staff showed that about 60 percent at Ridge High School and about 40 percent at the William Annin Middle School had used the technology in some way, Brian Heineman, the district's supervisor of science and technology, said this week in response to questions about how the program is going.
According to Heineman, it's been going pretty well — the students have their own technology, anyway, mostly Smart phones — and those that have seem fairly willing to share with those that don't. (Plus the district of course is equipped with technology, although not enough to go around for every student.)
Heineman says there have been few issues with students using the devices in an unacceptable manner that has caused problems in the schools.
Yet some parents told the school board in March that there have been instances of the devices being used for what might be considered "fun" or mischief rather than education.
Students taking pictures of each other. Students using phones to cheat. Students downloading YouTube videos in class. (Although Heineman says that sometimes the YouTube videos are part of the class assignment. He said the most frequent use so far has been to facilitate research.)
One of the moms speaking to the board in March said that her main issue with the policy is that it overrides parental discretion over whether their children should have Internet-enabled personal technology. She said she specifically doesn't support the use of such technology for middle school students.
My own (high school) son said that the devices had been used on a limited basis even before the new policy went into place, and he doesn't see a major increase. I wonder if other classes are using them more.
What do you hear from your student, or other parents?
Are kids abusing the new freedom? Now that the policy has been in place for a few months, are any potential bugs being worked out?
Do you think BYOT is a good idea? Is it inevitable given the cost of purchasing (and training staff to use) constantly updated technology?
Or should students just use what the district provides?
If you do like the idea, at what age/grade level do you think BYOT should start?
Bernards Township jumped fully into BYOT — but Randolph Township schools in Morris County, according to that school's website, data is being collected in a series of pilot programs in most of the district's schools during the balance of the remaining school year while planning a "Bring Your Own Device" initiative.
Would you have preferred that approach?
And as a final note — what about the observation by one parent that a district that is strongly trying to discourage alcohol use shouldn't have a "BYO" anything as a name?
Please let us know what you think in the comments section below.
Thanks as always for contributing.