The Parkway School District is moving from banning cell phone use in the classroom to embracing it with the successful completion of a pilot program that allowed students to bring their smart phones, tablets and laptops to school.
Called the Campus Technology Access (CTA) plan, it was implemented at Central Middle School and North High School this semester and is now scheduled to go into use at all district secondary schools shortly after Thanksgiving. At this point, the focus is on simply allowing students to have access to a school-wide Internet network with later plans to add features such as cloud storage.
Parkway Coordinator of Instructional Technology Tom Swoboda introduced the panel and said the purpose is to expand student learning by allowing them to bring the “tools” of their everyday lives with them to school while teachers are able to create lessons plan that incorporate their use.
“What we are seeing and what we are hearing from the students is that they are utilizing it to fill in the blanks and enhance their learning, so that's a good thing,” he said.
The district presented a panel with students, teachers and administrators from each of the two pilot schools to field questions from the board about their experiences with CTA. Cameron
“I use my iPad to take notes, look up stuff that isn’t told in class and, in my free time, play video games in my free time,” said North High ninth grader Cameron Schoene.
The students also talked about being able to use their cell phones, tablets or laptops in class helps keep them organized. Being able to type notes instead of write them was also cited as a big plus for students who are faster with keyboards than with a pen.
Many use apps for taking notes, storing homework assignments and setting reminders about tests or due dates. Central Middle School Science Teacher Ryan Boeckman pointed out that some parents are even setting up shared calendars with their kids so they can keep track of their assignments and activities.
Worries About Inappropriate Use
The potential for inappropriate use (or “locker room photos”, as one board member put it) and a loss of privacy with CTA prompted questions from the school board as well. Responding to various questions, Swodoba and other members of the district staff said there had been no major incidents or increases in theft of devices since CTA had been implemented.
“Before we allowed the students to start using the devices, each administrator went to classes and met with teams to really go over the guidelines that we set forth. Just so the kids would now were it is acceptable and where it's not,” said senior programming analyst Jason Rooks. “We had parents asking that question who were excited about the idea and promise of this, but really wanted to make sure that there was a good foundation there.”
Boeckman said the potential is there, of course, but it’s about teaching kids about what is and isn’t acceptable, just in the same way that students are allowed to have pens and paper, but they can’t use them to write hateful notes.
“It’s about teaching them to use that power in the right way,” he said. “I've caught more paper and pencil notes this past week than I have caught kids texting to other students, but we don't take away their paper, we teach them how to use it properly.”