Paul Takahashi of the Las Vegas Sun reports that students in Clark County, Nevada – the largest school district in the state covering the Las Vegas metro area – will be able to bring their own digital devices to school starting next fall. This is a direct reversal of the policy in place for the last four years which strictly forbade students from bringing any electronic devices on school campuses.
The change of heart follows the national trend of welcoming technology as an aid to learning rather than as a distraction. While other states have purchased tablets or laptops for their students, some, and especially those dealing with chronic budget problems, have instead adopted “Bring Your Own Device” policies that allow students to use gadgets they already own.
The new policy was approved unanimously by the Clark County School Board last week.
Proponents of a “BYOD” policy argue a 21st century education must not ban technology — which is pervasive at home and in the community — at the schoolhouse gates. They argue today’s students are “digital natives” who must be educated with technology to thrive in a technology-driven world.
In response to the growing demand for technology nationally, the Clark County School District installed wi-fi networks in all of its schools. It also began piloting iPad programs.
The BYOD directive will go into effect when the next academic year kicks off in three months. It will go hand in hand with the iPad program “Engage, Empower, Explore” which saw the district distribute more than 7,000 iPads to students at low-income middle schools last year. The program is set to expand to four more campuses next fall.
However, allowing students to make use of their own devices was a concession to the fact that the district simply didn’t have the funds to purchase tablets for all their students. Making use of the ones kids already owned just made more financial sense.
Clark County’s pilot iPad program two years ago cost the district nearly $800,000. Last year, Clark County used about about $2.5 million in federal funding to pay for the “Engage, Empower, Explore” program.
By allowing students to bring their own devices, the School District will save money in the long run while still promoting a digital education.
“It’s a big paradigm shift for our district and it’s in the right direction,” said School Board member Chris Garvey.
The BYOD program will place some tight restrictions on the use of the gadgets while in school. Students will only be allowed to connect to the internet using the school’s Wi-Fi networks and the devices can only be turned on with the permission of the principal or the teachers.