Student Internet & Mobile Device Policy

Student Internet & Mobile Device Policy

“Yes students will text, and students will learn!”

Our history is filled with examples of persons saying, “Oh no if you allow that… this terrible thing will happen…”  When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press people feared that oral-tradition would die.  When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone people feared that people would not visit one another and have one to one conversations.  When Henry Ford produced the Model “T” people feared that quiet walks were gone for good.  We have survived, lived up to the challenges and arguably excelled those moments in our history.  Technology and even more particularly technology in education is another of those moments.

When talking about technology use in the classroom and schools let me begin by again sharing the question, “Are we educating our children from the world we came from or the world they will enter”? If we are preparing them to be successes then I firmly believe we must be doing the latter.

Over the last several years in education this issue has been examined.  Around the world, our country, our states and our communities, the issue of student use of individual electronic mobile devices in school has been debated and researched.  As an example is a pilot project in 2008 funded by Qualcomm to Project K-Nect, in rural North Carolina. (Click here to read the article.) In the pilot high school students received supplemental algebra problem sets on smartphones. The class using the smartphones consistently achieved significantly higher proficiency rates on their end of course exams.  The overall proficiency rates of the students increased by 30 percent. In the best case, one class using the devices had 50 percent more students finishing the year had a higher proficiency than a class learning the same material from the same teacher during the same school year, but without the cell phones. Study after study shows students engagement and students learning gains have significantly increased by the use of individual electronic mobile devices.

It is my belief that over the last 100 years in education, teaching methods by in large have not changed dramatically.  I further believe that when history looks back 100 years from now they will point back to the integration of one-to-one individual electronic mobile devices as the time when education of our students successfully changed from an “assembly line” approach to an interactive individualized instruction.

In Walter Isaacson’s book Steve Jobs, Isaacson shares Jobs observation of the educational system. “Jobs also criticized America’s Education System, saying that it was hopelessly antiquated… It was absurd, he added, that American classrooms were still based on teachers standing at a board and using textbooks. All books, learning materials, and assessments should be digital and interactive, tailored to each student and providing feedback in real time.”

Steve Jobs major competitor and colleague was Bill Gates.  Gates also has been working to make changes in education through the use of his Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Isaacson further shares in his book that during one of Gate’s last meetings with Jobs prior to his death, Jobs and Gates spoke about the educational system together, “They agreed that computers had, so far, made surprisingly little impact on schools—far less than on other realms of society such as media and medicine and law. For that to change, Gates said, computers and mobile devices would have to focus on delivering more personalized lessons and providing motivational feedback.”

I fully support and agree with Jobs and Gates and that of furthering the vast research on the importance of transitioning from print to digital learning.

In the 2011 legislative session Florida Legislators revised the law to require that Florida Statue 1006.29, “State instructional materials” to require a transition from print to a digital curriculum.  Florida Statue 1006.29 (1) (c) (3), now requires, “Beginning in the 2015-2016 academic year, all adopted instructional materials for students in kindergarten through grade 12 must be provided in an electronic or digital format.”  This statue now requires that by 2016-2017 districts will have to implement in grades K-12 a digital device (One-to-One) such as an iPad to deliver the 2015-2016 adopted instructional materials requirement.

How is Citrus County School System Meeting this Transition?

First, it is important for our school system to have a policy that will govern the rules and expectations of our students. With that in mind, Citrus County School Board’s “Student Code of Conduct” policy for “Possession/Use of Cell Phones” changed in June 2011.  For the 2011-2012 school year and now for the 2012-2013 school year the code reads, “Cell phones/wireless communication devices may be in a students’ possession; however, they must be turned off and cannot be displayed/utilized during the school day or on the school bus when being transported to or from school without permission from school personnel.” (Prior to the 2011 change the policy read, “Cell phones/wireless communication devices must be turned off and cannot be displayed/utilized during the school day or on the school bus when being transported to or from school.”)  The 2011 change provided flexibility for principals and educators as we then began working towards students’ use of electronic devices in school, often referred to as “Bring You Own Technology” (BYOT).

The Citrus County School System made an important commitment by its approach to meeting this digital instructional materials mandate by its use of the “Race to the Top” (RttT) grant funds.  The district’s plan first was to install a wall-to-wall wireless student internet access at all middle and high schools in Citrus County using the grant funds.  This was completed in May 2012.  Next, Citrus County Schools set aside $150,000 to fund a One-to-One school pilot initiative in which students would take home a one-to-one device. In April of 2012, after a comprehensive and competitive submission process, Citrus Springs Middle School (CSMS) was selected as the school to receive the One-to-One pilot program.

As Citrus and the rest of school districts in Florida work towards meeting the 2015-2016 “all digital” requirement it is critical that educators and students begin transitioning curriculum and learning now.  Until districts implement the “all digital” requirement BYOT allows students to use devices they currently have and teachers to begin developing curriculum which can, but not require, the use of technology.

In order to properly allow students to use the student wireless internet access with their BYOT it was imperative to develop new policies for students’ use of the internet and BYOT. After a great deal of development the currently proposed “Student Internet Use Policy” has been developed.  (Click here to read the original proposed but that is being revised.)

I am encouraged about this exciting time regarding the use of instructional technology and I encourage you to contact me with any thoughts and/or questions you may have.

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