The is requiring parents or guardians of all students in grades 3 to 12 to complete a new "Acceptable Use Policy" form to cover both the use of district technology, such as computer labs and laptop carts, and the school system's new "Bring Your Own" technology policy, according to emails issued by the school system.
The new Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) forms must be completed by March 1, according to the district website. Any student who does not have a completed form submitted may not even be able to access district computers following that date, the website says.
The new policy, approved last fall by the will allow students on an increasing basis to bring their own personal technology devices to be used in classrooms, in circumstances and for educational purposes to be defined by teachers and school administrators.
Personal technology includes, but is not limited to, cellular phones, wireless earpieces, iPods, iPads, other mp3 players, calculators and portable gaming devices, according to school policy.
The school's policy specifies that use of personal technology during instructional periods remains prohibited, except when used as an aid to instruction at the discretion of the classroom teacher or the building administrator. Personal technology devised might also be required as part of a student's individualized educational program (IEP), the policy said.
Brian Heineman, the district's supervisor of science and technology, last fall recommended the new policy on the basis that it would cost about $500 per student to provide mobile technology when most students in grades 6 to 12 already own smart phones, iPads or similar devices.
One of the concerns raised at that time was that students who don't own such technology would be at a disadvantage.
"If personal technology is used as an aid to classroom instruction, students without access to those devices will not be penalized," the policy states.
Heineman's suggested in his presentation that sharing, collaborative class projects or allowing students without such technology to use technology devices already owned by the school would address the issue of "haves and have nots."
The policy still maintains that personal technology may not be used for purposes that are found to be disruptive in school, with a school's administrators and faculty to define what is considered disruptive use.
The policy specifies that students in grades kindergarten to five must completely turn off cell phones and other devices at all times during school hours when those devices are not permitted for a specific use by educators.
Students in grades 6 to 12 also must turn off cell phones and other devices, not place them on vibrate or silent, unless permission for an approved use has been explicitly granted by a faculty member or building administrator. Upon completion of the activity for which the approved use was granted, cell phones and other devices must be turned off for the rest of the school day, the policy said.
The policy also states that students would bring their own personal technology into school at their own risk.
"No searches or investigations will be conducted for lost or stolen devices," the policy said. "The district does not guarantee access to district provided internet access on personal devices. A student is solely responsible for all charges incurred by usage at anytime."
Whether or not they have their own devices, students are expected to handle their technology following the same rules of inappropriate behavior and content as if they were using the district's technology, the policy states.
Students who use their devices in an inappropriate manner are solely responsible for the consequences of that behavior, the policy states.
The district technology staff will not provide students with support for how to use their own devices, the policy said.
Nevertheless, the district's communication offered some tips for students who want to begin using their own technology for educational purposes.
"While there are many free educational apps for Android phones and iPhones, even today's simplest phones can take pictures, record audio and video, and text message," according to information from the school district. "If a lesson lends itself well to having students record photos, videos, or take pictures and share that information, it may be well suited to leveraging student devices," parents were told.
Heineman's presentation said that other school districts, including those in Chatham and Parsippany, also are developing their own "bring your own technology" policies.