By Sue Botos
Students will now be able to use their personal wireless devices to access the Internet at Rocky River High School.
During a special meeting last week, the school board approved a policy that allows students in grades nine to 12 the option of participating in the Rocky River High School “Bring Your Own Device” program. Communications and organizational development Executive Director Dianna Foley explained that in the past, students could bring their iPads, iPhones and laptops to school, but were unable to log onto the district’s Internet connection. They had been able to use the devices for other functions, at the classroom teacher’s discretion.
“This policy allows high school students to access the Internet with their own personal devices through a network just for the students,” she stated.
Earlier in the meeting, treasurer Greg Markus reported that over $100,000 has been added to the technology fund due to additional money collected at the end of the fiscal year in June from county taxes.
The plan does not apply to students in grades kindergarten through eight, who may use their wireless communications devices (WCD) for educational and instructional purposes, under a teacher’s supervision, but are prohibited from connecting with the district’s network. They may only do so through board-issued laptops or other authorized devices.
In order to participate in the high school program, students and their parents must read, sign and submit an agreement stating that they will follow the program’s guidelines. Next, a folder for the student will be created in the district’s “active directory,” which houses e-mails and other digital communications. Foley stated that if a student does not have a folder, they cannot connect.
Foley said that the student folders will handle multiple devices, including media center computers and other WCDs used in the classroom.
She added that the program’s rules will also be easily enforced. “If the privilege is lost, it’s as simple as taking a name out of a folder,” Foley said.
Among the violations that could unplug a student from the Web are accessing the Internet through other means than the district-provided gateway; use of devices to take pictures of or to record students or staff members without permission; or transmission of videos or photos without consent.
In addition, the policy states that WCDs cannot be used in locker rooms or “in any other way that violates or attempts to violate the student code of conduct.”
If the opportunity of using the WCD is abused, disciplinary action, which could include the confiscation of a device, will be taken. Repeated violations could result in a student losing the privilege of bringing a WCD to school either on a temporary or permanent basis.
The policy also states that the best way for parents to contact their child during the school day is to call the office – not the child’s cellphone.
“We want to have a new agreement each year so we can clean out the student folders and start fresh each year,” Foley added.
The possible peer pressure of using WCDs in school was also addressed by the board. “We need to prevent kids from going home and saying they need an iPad,” said member Scott Swartz. He added that there will be a “wealth of opportunity” for students to access the Internet through district-owned devices.
Foley stated that 30 Google Chromebooks will be available for checkout in the school media center, and that 700 of the laptops have been purchased for the high school. She said that most of the Chromebooks will be used in classrooms for subjects such as social studies, English and foreign languages.
“When we ordered the Chromebooks, the math/science department felt that they didn’t need them,” Foley said, noting that currently there are 12 laptops in the science labs. However, she added that as more math and science resources come online, teachers will be able to utilize the Chromebooks.
Foley also noted there is no danger of an Internet overload. Because of the network’s design, she said, it is possible for everyone in the building to be online at the same time.
“We want to make very clear that this is optional. There are many devices at school, and in no way do students have to purchase one,” Foley stressed.