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Parkway to Allow Students to Use Personal Devices in Class

The district has completed a pilot program that lets students use their own smart phones, tablets or laptops in class.

The Parkway School District is moving from banning cell phone use in the classroom to embracing it with the successful completion of a pilot program that allowed students to bring their smart phones, tablets and laptops to school.

Called the Campus Technology Access (CTA) plan, it was implemented at Central Middle School and North High School this semester and is now scheduled to go into use at all district secondary schools shortly after Thanksgiving. At this point, the focus is on simply allowing students to have access to a school-wide Internet network with later plans to add features such as cloud storage.

Parkway Coordinator of Instructional Technology Tom Swoboda introduced the panel and said the purpose is to expand student learning by allowing them to bring the “tools” of their everyday lives with them to school while teachers are able to create lessons plan that incorporate their use.

“What we are seeing and what we are hearing from the students is that they are utilizing it to fill in the blanks and enhance their learning, so that's a good thing,” he said.

The district presented a panel with students, teachers and administrators from each of the two pilot schools to field questions from the board about their experiences with CTA. Cameron

 “I use my iPad to take notes, look up stuff that isn’t told in class and, in my free time, play video games in my free time,” said North High ninth grader Cameron Schoene.

The students also talked about being able to use their cell phones, tablets or laptops in class helps keep them organized. Being able to type notes instead of write them was also cited as a big plus for students who are faster with keyboards than with a pen.  

Many use apps for taking notes, storing homework assignments and setting reminders about tests or due dates. Central Middle School Science Teacher Ryan Boeckman pointed out that some parents are even setting up shared calendars with their kids so they can keep track of their assignments and activities.

Worries About Inappropriate Use

The potential for inappropriate use (or “locker room photos”, as one board member put it) and a loss of privacy with CTA prompted questions from the school board as well. Responding to various questions, Swodoba and other members of the district staff said there had been no major incidents or increases in theft of devices since CTA had been implemented.

“Before we allowed the students to start using the devices, each administrator went to classes and met with teams to really go over the guidelines that we set forth. Just so the kids would now were it is acceptable and where it's not,” said senior programming analyst Jason Rooks. “We had parents asking that question who were excited about the idea and promise of this, but really wanted to make sure that there was a good foundation there.”

Boeckman said the potential is there, of course, but it’s about teaching kids about what is and isn’t acceptable, just in the same way that students are allowed to have pens and paper, but they can’t use them to write hateful notes.

“It’s about teaching them to use that power in the right way,” he said. “I've caught more paper and pencil notes this past week than I have caught kids texting to other students, but we don't take away their paper, we teach them how to use it properly.”

Scott Simon November 16, 2012 at 03:52 PM
But will they be able to spell and do simple math?
Frank Johnson November 16, 2012 at 04:08 PM
I would worry more about their handwriting. Many of the students said they like to use their laptops or even their iPads to take notes, since it's faster and their handwriting is often nearly illegible. Still though, I think it's smart for Parkway to do this because smart phones, etc. are only going to become more of a part of people's lives.
Bonnie Krueger November 16, 2012 at 04:09 PM
As a Parkway parent my concerns go beyond inappropriate use. There have been recent thefts of electronic devices (one more than one occasion) at one of the high schools. What is going to prevent theft and damage to these very expensive devices. My middle schooler does not have anything more than an Ipod touch, but I would really hesitate to allow it at school. I see technology as a good use, but I hesitate to support this implementation.
flyoverland November 16, 2012 at 06:54 PM
At least they are not trying to get the taxpayers to buy computers for each kid like some districts.
Scott Simon November 16, 2012 at 07:43 PM
Smart phones and tablets are great until we get messages from users who can't spell or use proper grammar. Priorities...
John Smith November 17, 2012 at 03:15 AM
That is the stupidest idea. What about students who don't have these things? How is it helping them learn? I see it as another distraction.
Concerned parent November 17, 2012 at 07:22 AM
Parkway dropped their spelling program over 5 years ago in grade school. There is nothing wrong with laptops as long as the students have a solid basic education which I the grade schools they do not. There is not any purpose for learning with a smart phone or Itouch.
Concerned parent November 17, 2012 at 07:23 AM
Case in point, my iPhone changed my wording above.
PaulRevere November 22, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Well, allow me to be just a little inquisitive. An education requires attention to a "Teacher". All these devices are really-- Radios, music, pictures scrapbooks, internet Movies. All now allowed in the classroom. How stupid are the Parents in actually believing a Good Education will result from uncontrolled personalized IPad Devices. I say the Pilot Program was on "cruise control Approval". Will home-work leave the Pencil-Paper tedious handwriting in the past? How will teachers know who did it?
Bonnie Krueger November 22, 2012 at 01:19 AM
PaulRevere, it is my understanding the devises will be used to look things up on the Internet, not to complete assignments on them. However, a lot of assignments have the option of using the computer, rather than handwriting, which then speaks back to your original point. Spellcheck does the work for them. Am I the only one concerned about theft or damage to these devices?
PaulRevere November 22, 2012 at 06:14 PM
Bonnie: Our school Libraries are used for "research" purposes. We should already have internet Computers located inside our libraries. Handwriting is crucial to any Education process. Eliminating Handwriting, human memory usage (rather than wikipedia instant lookup), will result in "ROBOT" education. When young kids are conditioned to making their "digital devices" optional, it will become a necessity. Spellcheck at a learning stage must be done by the "Human brain" (word by word) not the computer. Physically looking at every word keeps "memory greasing" those correct spellings. Theft and damages happen whether in school or out. Students might begin loaning their devices just as they loan paper and other school needs. Well rounded mind-set High school education with Digital-Device dependency will fall way behind those students who constantly "use their own Brains". Just as a car that sits for months, never started up, will run sluggish, I would feel Parkway students will Graduate with "Sluggish minds" and weak communication skills. No Pilot project could address that point. Clarity comes from the "Mind at work". Speed and less thinking comes from the computer. (Both having nothing to do with learning and Practicing) High school should not be focused on making the education process simpler and less mind challenged. It's that simple. ("PRACTICE" comes in many forms.) Digital devices limit individual knowledge retention.
PaulRevere November 22, 2012 at 07:04 PM
A digital device "IS A COMPUTER" It is a "Brain". Someone else's brain. "tools" of education are: Pencil--Paper--Book--Teacher--Whiteboard. Student's cell phones and PDD (personal digital devices) are Communication & Entertainment devices and should not be referred as TOOLS for Learning/Aquiring and Practicing the Basic High School Education. (They are Aids! not tools) Some student responses from Pilot program prove long-term results will be major non-education texting,music listening and video usage on School days. Breaks, Lunch would be a barrage of cell conversations with little student interaction. What belongs in our classrooms is a Pencil, Paper, a book. A Teacher and an Attentive student. That's it, Period. Allowing every student to bring his/her entertainment package to school in the guise of Writing and organization clarity is long-term laughable. A Library has always been the main ingredient to high school education. We do not need the whole kitchen sink of entertainment devices.
PaulRevere November 22, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Are Parent's taking on more Financial contribution to our public school system? That is exactly what I conclude in calling Ipad's and cell phones "TOOLS" for education. I wonder if all these Parents who can afford these $500 Ipads and $1,000 cell phones could also afford to PAy for their own Childs Full education costs. How about that , Parents? Is it time for you to take that Ipad and cell phone money and actually fully pay Your fair share of Public school Education Costs. That is about $10,000 per year. Here's my deal, any student who uses a personal Digital Device as a "tool", should pay $10,000 a year for Education. You see, there are many childless couples and elderly and young single homeowners who are supporting your childs public education while YOU go out and BUY THE "TOOLS" of education (Now called Digital devices) with other people's money. Maybe, all Parent's should start asking if our Highly compensated "Union Run" Teacher's Pay structure needs to be brought up to "Digital Standards". Technology should bring all labor cost DOWN. Get the Message??????

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