BYOD live on Signal: Program could open door to widespread use of smart devices in Hamilton County

BYOD live on Signal: Program could open door to widespread use of smart devices in Hamilton County

August 7th, 2014 by Tim Omarzu in Local Regional News

electronic devices

Photo by Staff File Photo/Times Free Press.

BYOD RULES

• Devices can only be used in class by teacher approval.

• Students may use devices in common areas such as hallways and the cafeteria.

• Updates of social media sites, such as Facebook, won't be allowed.

• Students won't be able to make calls, email, text, take photos or make video or audio recordings during the school day except with teacher permission.

• Devices must be fully charged at the start of the school day; using the school's electrical outlets won't be allowed.

• Students have to use the school's Wi-Fi network, which will filter out inappropriate content, and shouldn't use personal data plans to access the web.

Source: District's terms and conditions for pilot BYOD policy

POLL: Should kids be allowed to have electronic devices in school?

When a student gets caught with a smartphone now in a Hamilton County public school, the phone can be confiscated.

That changes starting today on Signal Mountain, where the school district will roll out a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) pilot program.

Students will be able to bring smart phones, tablets, digital music players or laptop computers to Signal Mountain Middle-High School. Fourth- and fifth-graders at Nolan and Thrasher elementary schools will roll out a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) pilot program.

Students will be able to bring smart phones, tablets, digital music players or laptop computers to Signal Mountain Middle-High School. Fourth- and fifth-graders at Nolan and Thrasher elementary schools will be allowed to bring their own iPads to school.

With iPads and smartphones, students will have a world of information at their fingertips. Tech advocates say giving students technology allows them to take ownership of their learning. No longer is the teacher the sole source of knowledge in the classroom.

Once school officials decide the pilot works on Signal Mountain, the bring-your-own-device-policy will go districtwide - a significant step toward technology-rich classrooms that schools Superintendent Rick Smith has said could help transform learning in Hamilton County.

"[Districtwide implementation] could take six weeks or six months," Assistant Superintendent Lee McDade said. "We've just got some kinks to work out of it."

Officials are ready to let students bring their own devices because the district has beefed up the capacity of every school's Wi-Fi network, which is equipped with filters to block inappropriate content.

"The district has worked very hard to pave the road," district Information Technology Director Patty Kinsey said. "All the schools were upgraded to high-density wireless."

During the pilot project, the district's information technology department will gauge whether the network can handle the traffic.

The terms and conditions to participate in the pilot program are fairly strict. Students won't be able to use their phones to update social media sites such as Facebook, take photos, or make calls, texts or video recordings.

"That's probably going to change," McDade said.

A committee will review how the BYOD pilot project went, he said, and then come up with a permanent policy.

The bring-your-own-device policy should help put more devices in more students' hands.

The roughly 42,000-student school district has assigned 3,380 tablets and laptop computers directly to students in 12 schools, Kinsey said - or about 8 percent of the total student population.

Funding for those devices came from mainly from grants and foundations, and school officials say it isn't feasible to provide every student with their own device.

"We don't have the money in the budget to do that," McDade said.

Contact staff writer Tim Omarzu at tomarzu@timesfreepress.com or twitter.com/TimOmarzu or 423-757-6651.