Personal tech devices integrated into classroom?
By Kathryn Schiliro
Personal tech devices can contribute to students’ education, and the Morgan County School System may be on its way to implementation of that idea.
“Kids love the opportunity to use technology,” school system Director of Technology Jay Cawley told the school board last Monday. “More and more teachers are using this opportunity.”
Cawley has seen evidence of students’ technology-induced enthusiasm with the system’s installation of SMARTBoards in each classroom.
“It continues to be a motivating factor,” Cawley said.
This “Bring-Your-Own-Device” (BYOD) initiative can benefit students by increasing the availability of internet resources. According to Cawley, if more internet resources are used, students would have the ability–with an internet connection–to access programs they use at school at home.
More importantly, the use of personal tech devices in learning allows students to, themselves, to take a step in personalizing their own education, Cawley said.
There are some things to think about when it comes to this initiative, though, namely equitability and access to this technology. Not every student can afford to or get their hands on a smartphone, for example. The cost of the device as well as service has to be taken into consideration.
“If and when [this intiative is adopted]...we need to make sure all students have devices,” Cawley said. “How do we push to the next level if not everyone has one?”
Another potentinal hindrance–not all devices have the same capabilities. Cawley used as an example the fact that Kindle Fire devices don't have Microsoft Word. However, there is software–a Windows virtual desktop, "the great equalizer," Cawley said–that, when connected, allows any device to act as a computer desktop, which means the Kindle, through school system software, could become desktop computer with access to Word.
"A student who has any device can get to all our resources from home," Cawley said.
Moreover, earlier this year, Cawley said, the board's Education Local Option Sales Tax (ELOST) committee considered putting some funding into classroom mobile devices so that teachers, with some professional learning, could teach with the technology that students will use in the classroom.
"We're very fortunate and privileged," Cawley said. "We've positioned ourselves very well."
Cawley also brought up the point that Verizon Wireless was planning on rolling out 4G coverage in the county, providing for faster, more comprehensive wireless access.
Board Chairman Nelson Hale asked whether security would be an issue, considering the number of personal devices that may be accessing school system equipment, not to mention any information transmitted via internet.
According to Cawley, data is kept on the virtual desktops and once students log off of the desktop, their information is no longer available. Everything is stored on secure Board of Education servers and equipment.
The cost is another potential sticking point.
"It's a budget consideration," Hale said. "It's going to be a challenge, but I do see it moving in that direction."
"One thing everybody needs to understand–this represents a paradigm shift in teaching and learning," Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett said. "Kids are being involved in their own learning 24-7...wherever they are."
Printed in the September 20, 2012 edition