News Column

Devices head to school with Carroll students

August 17, 2014

By Krishana Davis, Carroll County Times, Westminster, Md.

Aug. 17--When classes resume for Carroll County Public Schools students Aug. 25, many will have a few extra items packed in their book bags.

The Carroll County Board of Education is following many school systems around the country in allowing students to bring their own devices -- including portable electronics, tablets, netbooks, mobile phones, MP3 players and e-readers -- into the classroom to enhance educational instruction.

"It's like we are decriminalizing digital behavior," said Cindy McCabe, the school system's director of elementary schools. "All we are trying to do is give kids more options for their own learning."

According to the 2014 National Survey on Mobile Technology for K-12 Education, 29 percent of school districts have policies encouraging students to "bring-your-own-device." And 23 percent of mobile tech purchases in school districts come from students' families in the BYOD model.

Middle and high schools across the district will be implementing the BYOD program this fall. But only six elementary schools were chosen to pilot the program to start the year: Carrolltowne, Cranberry Station, Ebb Valley, Eldersburg, Friendship Valley and William Winchester.

The elementary schools were chosen to participate based on the comfort level of the principal to implement the program, according to McCabe.

"The principals will be responsible for meeting with us monthly to tell us how the program is going, implementation and any issue resolution during the pilot," she said.

If all goes well, the remaining elementary schools will implement the BYOD program in the third quarter, which begins in January, McCabe said.

In Carroll schools, some portions of the curriculum require instructional technology to complete lessons, said Tom Hill, director of middle and high schools. In those instances, students will be supplied with a school-owned mobile device.

Students to secure own devices

For a student to bring a device to school, parents must review and sign the Portable Electronic Devices Guidelines.

According to the guidelines, CCPS is not responsible for the loss, damage, theft or charging of devices or accessories brought to school or on the school bus. Students bring the devices to school at their own risk.

"We treat [the devices] as we would anything else a child would elect to bring to school, like a game, watch or calculator," McCabe said. "We will not be providing secure locations for devices."

Students can keep their devices on their person, in their lockers or in their homeroom desk, for elementary students, she said.

Aside from kindergartners, all elementary school students have lockers, McCabe said, but they do not have locks. A student's homeroom desk is also used by other students as classes switch, she said.

However, Carroll schools have had few issues with theft at the elementary school level, McCabe said, and she does not believe there will be an increase with the BYOD program.

At the secondary level, CCPS students previously kept their mobile devices like cellphones, which were permitted in school buildings but had to be turned off during the school day, in their lockers or on their person, according to Hill. He said he believes that behavior will continue as devices become a part of the classroom setting.

Network support

School officials say the system's network will be able to handle the influx of devices using data.

CCPS Internet is provided through the countywide fiber optic network, said Gary Davis, chief information officer of technology services.


(c)2014 the Carroll County Times (Westminster, Md.)

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Source: Carroll County Times (Westminster, MD)

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