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Smartphones in the schools

This makes a lot of sense to me.

While most [San Antonio] area school districts maintain policies that ban students from using cell phones on campus, a few districts are breaking the mold and beginning to admit smart phones into the classroom as an educational tool on a par with a classroom computer.

Though some may think the change will invite distraction, inappropriate texting or cyber bullying into study sessions, others see the move as a way to teach technological skills while addressing those negative issues head-on.

Alamo Heights Independent School District recently changed its policy to allow students to bring personal electronic devices — laptops, iPads and smart phones — to use for educational purposes at the discretion of the teacher. It’s backing that policy change with content-filtered, districtwide Wi-Fi access for such devices.

Alamo Heights is one of only a few San Antonio locations where such a policy is in place. North East Independent School District also will implement a more flexible cell phone policy this fall.

“We’re in an era where the state is piloting online testing. We’re looking at online textbooks. We’re teaching digital citizenship,” said Alicia Thomas, NEISD’s associate superintendent for instructional and technology services. “So we’re looking at our instruction to be sure it’s really aligned with what students are going to need now and in the future.”

Alamo Heights is a wealthy district – as the story says, about 90% of its students have s computer and Internet access at home – so their pioneering spirit in this regard isn’t a surprise to me, but I’m still glad to see them try to get their arms around this rather than try to maintain a strict ban. I hope they will provide a model for others to follow. If you go back and listen to my interview with Rep. Scott Hochberg, he’s clearly thinking along these lines as well, with the goal of having the state provide tools like e-book readers to students as part of their classroom experience. It will be very interesting to see how this plays out.

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2 Comments

  1. chasman says:

    this is a huge step forward. maybe even a brave one. i am in the education field and too many institutions and organizations in the business are shying away from opening themselves up to this area of educational resources and, instead, are making blanket rules about non-use of personal technologies (smart phones and the like) that, as technology becomes more and more pervasive and complex, have to be refined and have to be made so complicated that they become extremely impractical and difficult for teachers to enforce, at least with any consistency. alamo heights is doing what i think we should all be doing, which is bringing such technologies into the classroom, so as to take advantage of their myriad uses there and, moreover, seize moments of inappropriate use of such devices as “teaching” opportunities.

  2. Ron in Houston says:

    Well on another rant…

    We need to lobby to repeal Education Code Section 37.082.

    This was a mid 1990 law passed allowing schools to “confiscate” “paging devices” from all those mid 1990 drug dealers in schools with pagers.

    Now its being used to take cell phones away from kids and allow administrators to jack with students and parents.

    I actually lobbied my local school district trustees to try not implement that provision but, so much for constituent influence. They blew me off.

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