Students Allowed Laptops and Phones in BYOT Kansas School

Students at Notre Dame de Sion High School are allowed to bring their own laptops, smartphones and other devices to class as part of the school's Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) policy.

The policy is one of the first of its kind, but as biology teacher Kathleen Teel has found, there are some teething problems, writes Joe Robertson at the Kansas City Star.

As all students seem immersed in a simulated lab on chemical reaction rates, Teel isn't able to know without constant supervision whether some might be checking email or venturing off onto the Web. And when a student has a technical problem, Teel — hardly a troubleshooter for so many different computers — usually relies on the girls' abilities to figure out their own, writes Robertson.

However, some believe that these issues will work themselves out as the policy matures. And BYOT advocates believe it will eventually be the way for all schools.

 "The kids? They love it," says Teel.

"This is the way they learn. They feel comfortable with it. "

However, many school districts continue to battle with some potential consequences that will come about by allowing students to bring their own digital devices – with the possibility of creating too many distractions and exacerbate an already troublesome climate for cyberbullying.

A national survey by Project Tomorrow has found that many teachers fear that cheating would get out of hand and would experience a difficulty in managing the technology. Three-quarters of teachers also recorded a difficulty with being able to judge whether the Internet will be too much of a distraction.

But Tom Vander Ark, founder of and former head of education for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said that schools that persist in banning personal devices "are kidding themselves."

"It's inevitable," he said.

"Schools can't keep technology out."

Vander Ark believes schools should assert the acceptable-use policies for the Internet that most already have, embracing their students' affinity for technology.

"Students typically respond well when entrusted with responsibility," he said.

Some organizations, like the Alliance for Excellent Education, believe digital education is coming whether schools are ready or not and is already making Internet access for all students one of its missions.

BYOT can be part of a good education strategy to meet the wave, said alliance president Bob Wise, former governor of West Virginia.

But unless schools persist in providing uniform access to all children, "low-income students are not going to have the same opportunity to succeed."

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