Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rockingham County moves forward on digital devices policy.

The RCPS school board voted 4-1 to accept the proposed cellphone policy for a one semester trial run starting in the fall of 2012.  The concept received a lot of attention, discussion and research by stakeholders and included a robust discussion on Facebook provided by one of the board members.

Here are some of the comments in italics made by this blog's author on the topic:

The thread posted last week on this topic was informative, full of discussion and had several informative comments by me as I was on the committee that studied this issue for months. Stakeholders had comments and issues raised that were good discussion also during that thread. The committee provided a public page for comments by our division computer supervisor, interviewed students, teachers, administrators, parents and digital specialists within the division.

No unanimous consensus was reached and most likely will never be reached on this topic... understood. Advancing technology will always be uncomfortable for some, will always involve the digital divide(haves vs have nots) but in the larger picture over time enhances education and communication. 

Our digitally connected society is now a fact of life. The genie cannot be stuffed back in the bottle. There is always a downside of free and open communication and access just as there is a downside of oppressive or undue control and manipulation by those in charge.

After studying and researching this HEAVILY for the last several years, I'm convinced it's the right path to take by putting the learners in a position to access more data in their own way. This gives them the opportunity to gain responsibility, learn the ethical use of devices and take possession of their own learning(the goal of modern education).

Most teachers are optimists. We believe students can learn, can adapt and will make the most of a situation. I'm appreciative of the comments from optimistic parents who get it and are willing to express their views publicly.

and another with questions raised in red

"If they can google it, what then is the role of a human instructor? Pardon my old-fashioned ways"
TODAYS media centric classroom promotes the students taking possession of their learning... the OLD model of teacher "pushing" all the data to the student is no longer effective! Students today are interested and willing to take their learning to the next level... personal learning. Teachers today are facilitators of learning. Any time a student goes after the knowledge, is interactive with the lesson, the lesson is better learned. The student takes possession of the process... Self actualization has ALWAYS been the best way to learn something.

"Can Servers handle this new traffic" Our servers in can handle the wifi load from devices. We've already got a lot of devices on our network. If they are on the wifi network, the filters we legally deploy are at work. The policy reads students must access the RCPS network, not 3G or 4G networks. This will be part of the education to staff to help keep this in place. If a student doesn't follow the policy, then the AUP kicks in as it always has done.

"How can you monitor all this?"... today's media rich electronic classroom is way different from yester-years. Today's teacher needs to be more savvy on many things including classroom management due to the use of electronics. Kids are still mischievous and always will be. We've got teachers in right now using digital devices with great success. I've participated in and observed those lessons. Those classrooms have high expectations and have involved engaged teachers that move around the room, are tuned into the students behavior and are good managers of the teaching environment. That expectation has always been there for teachers- nothing has changed in that regard. Lazy or in-attentive teachers have always struggled with class management. That is a teacher-administrator issue, not a policy issue.

"he/she isn't going to be doing MANY non-education related things is a dream." 
It's all about classroom management and the abilities of that teacher... if the teacher doesn't feel comfortable, then NO cellphones. That's the beauty of the policy... gives the teacher the final say in their classroom. Your point of distractions is exactly WHY we need to teach the proper and ethical use of the device. I believe that once this is out and being used, the cellphone will become just another device... parents and those that have not grown up with this thing in their hand have a viewpoint centered around the "bad" side of the device. I've seen teachers tell students to check this, or find this, in classroom settings with the device and it's quick and efficient.. and the kids enjoy the class more, behave better, respect the teacher more, and are more productive. But then again, that's what I do as an ITRT... teach the proper, ethical and productive use of technology in the classroom.

One knowledgeable parent had some interesting views and concerns that I addressed...

Universal access will lead to the very issues many in this thread have raised with kids trying to "stretch" the issue. The Policy IS "not universal use" other than non-instructional areas. Students will know their boundry... that is turn it off in the class unless otherwise given permission by the teacher. There is no need for daily "are we or aren't we" questions. Also, this isn't going to be a daily/regular thing, rather a spot use with appropriate timing and application to a specific lesson. The teacher's intentions will be know from the beginning of the test (remember...this is just a first semester test). The teacher is and always has been in charge of their classroom discipline and administration of school/county policy. Nothing changes here. Students compliance and cooperation will determine whether this ultimately is a permanent policy change.

"which network the student is on-wifi vs 3G". If they are on places they are not to be such as facebook, twitter, etc, then they HAVE to be on 3/4G- as they are filtered by RCPS. Yes, this will take supervision by the teacher and a basic understanding of the difference. Inservice and expectations go a long way here.

"The A.G.s opinion" has been discussed in admin meetings, as well as inservices, by CO administrators, myself and other ITRT. The admins are aware of what they can and cannot do and have as an action path to not delve into the devices, especially when pornography, sexting, or other contentious content may be at play. It's my understanding they are taking a very careful position on this. Sworn Resource officers are empowered to inspect the devices.
I agree with you in that the parents need to be aware of this and the extent by which staff and/or Deputies can inspect a phone. I trust this will be an action item for the board to make sure all stakeholders are aware of the parameters of inappropriate device use...and the discipline measures for such conduct.
I respectfully yield to the school board chairman and the school board on their final deliberations and clarifications in the policy, as well as the superintendant's position on discipline and implementation of the policy. I suspect it will follow the AG's legal briefs, the county attorney's position, as well as current law on the issue. I'm very encouraged we are heading in this direction along with a large portion of other public education divisions across America. It's something new and obviously subject to change and adaptation. I'm also encouraged that our mindset of teaching ethics, responsibility and proper use of the device is at the center of our policy revisions. Teaching our youth responsibility and giving them the room to learn is vital to our charge of educating our future leaders.

"Not everyone can afford a phone" Parent, your question on affordability has come up many times and is know generally as the digital divide. The school division is providing devices... as budget allows. RCPS has approx. 1000 iPads deployed many in "lab" setups of 10 or 20. When a class of 24 uses a lab of 20, several students share. 
The digital divide is a reality. Not all learners have a cellphone (most do). A lab that is short on devices could be augmented with a smart phone, or if smartphones are being used, they can be shared. Again, we'll be working through these scenarios-thus the reason for a "test" cycle with available classroom devices this fall.

"Then the AUP on wifi isn't needed due to the filter?" The AUP covers many areas, not just network or data flow. We'll always have AUP issues, just like any public agency or business with employees. Something as simple as password education falls under the broad category of the AUP. We'll always be diligent in teaching the AUP in age appropriate ways at ALL levels K-12 in our division. Privacy concerns are real(and something I post and educate on all the time). Every digital network in America monitors it's traffic, bandwidth, and legal use of that network (as required by law in public education).

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