School board approves BYOD

phone

REGION 16 — In a few weeks time students at Woodland Regional High School and Long River Middle School shouldn’t be surprised if their teachers ask them to pull out their cellphones during class.  

The Region 16 Board of Education, which oversees schools in Beacon Falls and Prospect, approved a BYOD policy at its Jan. 22 meeting.

BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Device. It refers to the practice of allowing students to use their personal electronic devices, such as smartphones or digital tablets, in the classroom to supplement instruction.

Under the policy, students in grades six through 12 will be able to use their own devices in class. But, the use of such devices during class is strictly up to the discretion of each teacher. 

Students will only be allowed to access the internet through the district’s provider, according to the policy. The policy also states the district is not responsible for any device that is stolen or damaged at school.

The school board has debated the merits of a BYOD policy for months. The first reading of the policy was approved by a weighted 3-3 vote during the board’s Jan. 8 meeting. 

Approving the policy last week didn’t come without some consternation.

Vice Chair Priscilla Cretella, who abstained from the vote, said anything that helps students is great, but she doesn’t like how the use of devices won’t be uniform across all classrooms.

“I wish there was a way that there was more control on how the teachers are going to use them,” said Cretella, who added that would be micromanaging and the board doesn’t want to do that.

Board member Nazih Noujaim, who voted against the policy, once again expressed concerns the policy would cause teachers to police how students are using their devices and it would take away from instruction.

Board member Sheryl Feducia, who voted against the first reading but for the second reading, said she believes if students are asked to access information with an electronic device the public school system should provide it. However, she added, since teachers are already asking students to use their devices in class at Woodland she felt having a policy in place will protect the district.

According to a survey of high school students, conducted by the Woodland Student Council last fall, students say they’ve been asked to use their device in a lesson an average of three times.   

“The problem is we live in an era where technology can gather information faster than society can gather wisdom,” Woodland student representative to the board Donovan White said. 

White said there are some things the board can’t control, but a policy is needed to at least guide the use of devices.

Board member Christine Arnold agreed.  

Arnold, who abstained from the vote on the first reading, said after having a chance to review it she’s more comfortable with the policy. She voted for it last week, saying she likes the idea that teachers can show students how to use their devices in a proper and positive manner.

Region 16 Superintendent of Schools Tim James said the policy will be implemented sometime in March. Before it goes into effect, James said, information sessions will be held with students to discuss what’s in policy and the implications of not following the policy. Information will also be put together for teachers and parents, he said.

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