By Ivan Raconteur
Instead of being discouraged, personal electronic devices may soon be encouraged at Lester Prairie School.
During its Oct. 21 meeting, Lester Prairie School Board heard a presentation about a proposed Bring Your Own Device/Technology program.
Superintendent Mike McNulty and Principal Jeremy Schmidt presented the information, much of which was prepared by Jocelynn Buckentin, social studies teacher.
BYOD/T is a program under which students bring their own devices, such as smart phones or tablets, to school to enhance their learning experience.
According to proponents, the benefits of BYOD/T include:
• increased class completion rates;
• increased student engagement in learning;
• improved test scores;
• cost savings on printed materials and hardware;
• fewer discipline problems; and
• decreased drop out rates.
The program also helps students develop digital media and technology skills, which are called for under national technology standards.
BYOD/T also encourages a student-centered approach to learning and helps teachers address the National Technology Standards for Students (NETS-S), according to supporters.
Technology skills are vital for preparing students to work, live, and contribute to their communities.
Adopting the BYOD/T program will help the district move toward improved learning outcomes, improved student engagement, and college and career readiness, according to supporters.
The process would begin by setting goals and preparing infrastructure.
The school would provide wireless Internet with filters.
Students would be able to sign in to their school Google account.
Students would be able to access documents from any computer or device with Internet access.
The district would also need to set a policy incorporating rules, technology guidance, and troubleshooting, as well as considering amending its acceptable use policy.
Communication with parents would also be part of the program.
In some districts, students must attend a meeting with their parents before devices can be used in school.
These meetings provide an opportunity to share program information, expectations, and policy; identify liabilities, show examples of what students will be doing with the devices, and assist students in connecting to the wireless network.
Parents would have the opportunity to ask questions, and permission slips would be turned in.
Students in grades six-12 were recently surveyed to determine what percentage of students in Lester Prairie have Internet access, what devices they have, and how they are used.
Of the 187 students surveyed, 91 percent (170 students) have access to the Internet at home, and 9 percent (14 students) do not.
A total of 92 percent have regular access to the Internet at home or somewhere else, while 8 percent do not.
McNulty noted that a survey conducted three years ago showed only 70 percent of students had access to the Internet at home, which indicates a significant increase in a short time.
The recent survey showed 86 students have a smart phone with data plan; 27 have a cell phone without Internet access; 71 students have a cell phone with WiFi Internet access.
Other than phones, 77 students have access to an iPod Touch; 100 have access to a desktop computer; 92 have access to a laptop computer; 42 students have access to an iPad; 54 students have access to another tablet, such as Kindle or Nexus; and 16 students reported access to some other type of device.
It was noted that the district will need to address equity to be sure all students have the same opportunities.
Some ideas to achieve this include having devices that students can check out; having a backup plan and never assuming a student will have a device; and working with vendors to assist families in purchasing a device at a low cost.
The board, by consensus, directed staff to continue working toward implementing a BYOD/T program.
McNulty said many schools have been using similar programs for several years, and, if the board approves it, the goal is to have something in place in Lester Prairie by the beginning of January.
The school will provide information to parents about the program as the process moves forward.