Mobile technology is becoming faster, more powerful and cheaper — which means it's more useful in classrooms. Schools in Tangipahoa Parish in Louisiana are typical of those who have begun to harness the potential of mobile tech in schools as they have authorized students to use smartphones on campus for classroom purposes only, according to Robert Stewart of The Advocate.
Under the Tangipahoa school district's technology policy, students are not allowed to use cellphones and similar electronic devices on campus unless for an emergency. However, the school board's curriculum committee on July 16 voted to authorize Hammond High Magnet School and Jewel Sumner High School to allow smartphones on campus for classroom purposes only.
The new policy, "bring your own technology" or BYOT, allows these two schools to use their students' smartphones for classroom instruction this coming school year, and both school officials and teachers have hope that it will drive improvement.
"The other schools that have experimented with this have found that teaching a child the proper way to use technology is a much better approach to controlling the use of that technology," Tangipahoa School Board member Brett Duncan said.
Chad Troxclair, the principal at Hammond High Magnet, said that students will be able to use devices such as smartphones and laptops as well as iPads. The Hammond High Magnet school began using iPads a year ago after buying 247 of them through a federal grant.
Troxclair also said that students will use the iPads to connect with teachers' smartboards, which are an interactive, computerized form of a blackboard.
Using smartphones and tablets will not open up students to different avenues of learning, but will save parents some money, Troxclair said, adding that "a graphing calculator can cost anywhere from $85 to $120, but a graphing calculator app on a smartphone costs only a few dollars."
Lisa Fussell, principal at Jewel Sumner High, said that students will have to register the devices with school administrators so teachers know who is allowed to use them. Any device with access to wireless Internet will be allowed, but students will not be able to use their own data plan. They will only be allowed to access the school's Internet system.
According to Fussell, the smartphones can be utilized to research information for a paper, read articles suggested by teachers or use the smartphone-to-smartboard response system. The use will vary by classroom, Fussell said.
"I can't tell you how it's going to work across the board, but these are some of the ideas my teachers are generating before we start the school year," she said. Fussell noted that not every student will have smartphones, so teachers will have to craft lesson plans that all students can use and that won't penalize students who don't have, or can't afford, the technology. Fussell said her school will implement the BYOT policy only with teachers who are comfortable with the idea.
Tangipahoa Superintendent Mark Kolwe said that administrators will explore to expand the smart program if is successful. Kolwe also said that "allowing children to bring their own smartphones will save the school system money by not having to buy the devices for the students."