BYOD parent presentation dates
Barron Collier High School - Monday, May 6
Everglades City School - TBD
Gulf Coast High School - Wednesday, May 8
Golden Gate High School - Thursday, May 30
Golden Terrace Elementary School - Tuesday, May 14
Immokalee Middle School - Thursday, May 9
Lely High School - Thursday, May 9
Lorenzo Walker Technical High School - Thursday, May 23
Manatee Middle School - Thursday, May 9
Pelican Marsh Elementary School - Tuesday, May 7
Sea Gate Elementary School - Thursday, May 16
Source: Collier County School District
The days of viewing cellphones as a distraction in the classroom are coming to an end in Collier County public schools.
Starting this week, administrators will toss out a ban on cellphone use at school and instead encourage it. It’s part of the district’s new “Bring Your Own Device” initiative, or BYOD, which officially launches Monday with information sessions and letters that will go to parents at 11 pilot schools.
In August, 11 elementary, middle and high schools will pilot the initiative. Teachers in those schools, which are scattered across the county, will be encouraged to incorporate electronic devices into their lessons.
The goal, Superintendent Kamela Patton said, is to teach students in their world of the Internet, texting and iPads. That means using those tools to increase student engagement — and altering the role a teacher plays.
“It’s not being so much a, quote, teacher like we used to think,” she said. “It’s more about being a facilitator of education for kids because education is going to be beyond the walls. We can’t think that this is the little red school house.”
In March, Patton and 37 other district officials headed to Georgia for a conference about BYOD. There, they learned how the Forsyth County, Ga., school district has implemented a “bring your own” policy and watched it being used in the classroom.
Since its return, the group has been putting together a plan to implement something similar here. Under that plan, the initiative will be rolled out in Collier County’s 49 public schools in three phases at virtually no cost to the district. By August 2014, every school will allow electronic devices in classrooms.
Eventually, Patton envisions the Collier County School District hosting BYOD conferences attended by educators from across the country. That would bring more attention and dollars to the school district, as well as the local community, she said.
For now, administrators are working with teachers, principals and parents in the 11 schools that will be the first to try it out. This week, the district is launching a website dedicated to the topic, through which parents can register their child’s device. Parent information sessions about the change are scheduled starting Monday.
Critics of BYOD policies say they leave lower income students behind because they don’t own and can’t afford electronic devices. Patton said that was initially one of the biggest concerns for district administrators because more than 63 percent of students are categorized as economically needy.
But Forsyth County schools administrators say the district supplements student devices with district-owned laptops and computers, and students are happy to share.
In Collier County, administrators plan to start collecting used smartphones this week. They’ll also allow community members to pitch in by paying for a device for a student. Several schools with higher percentages of lower-income students are among those piloting BYOD.
“We want to be able to show you can make this happen regardless of income,” Patton said.
Principals at the pilot schools are excited to get started, Patton said.
“The principals are just jumping because they can see students engaged at higher levels,” she said. “And that’s what they always want to see.”
But parent Barb Anderson, a member of the school advisory committee at Golden Gate High School, said her thoughts on the concept are mixed. On one hand, she’s supportive of any push to make learning more creative because she believes it could reel in students who “go to school because their parents tell them they have to.”
On the other hand, she worries about potentially giving students more ways to get off task — especially at the high school level.
“Unless they’re really into school, they’ve got so many darn distractions anyhow,” said Anderson, whose son is a junior at Golden Gate High. Chief among her worries is text messaging.
Patton said that was the top concern among the district’s high school principals. But the trip to Forsyth County schools eased their worries, she said. During tours through the schools, she and the other conference attendees rarely saw students texting, she said.
“(The students said) It’s not against the rules so they don’t care,” Patton said.
Administrators are optimistic that they can curb use of inappropriate or distracting websites like Facebook by requiring students to use the district’s wireless Internet, which blocks inappropriate sites. That should not require an expansion of the district’s system, Patton said.
Using the 3G network accessible through data plans will be against the district’s responsible use policy, which parents and students are required to accept.
But the goal of BYOD is to keep students from wanting to get off task, said Tim Kutz, principal of Barron Collier High, one of the 11 pilot schools.
“BYOD means I’m going to engage my students using their own technology to a level that they don’t want to be texting or wandering off on a website that’s not relevant to what we’re doing,” he said.
To help teachers use it effectively, the district will lead professional development opportunities this summer. Teachers will get tips on how to manage a classroom full of cellphones and other devices, and how to incorporate those devices into their lessons.
“We will be making sure that we’re giving them constant support and feedback and development on it so that we’re all in this together as a team,” Manatee Middle principal Peggy Aune said.
Laurie Arnez, a media specialist at Sea Gate Elementary, said her school is exploring an idea to allow students to create “book trailers” using iMovie instead of writing traditional book reports or putting together PowerPoint presentations. Another idea is using a smartphone app called Morfo, which allows the user to create a talking 3D face, in lessons about historical figures.
“It’s just very engaging and students would really enjoy that,” Arnez said.
Kutz envisions allowing students 10 minutes to use the Internet to find out everything they can about a topic before delving into it.
“You just opened the door to a huge resource that a lot of students years ago never had,” he said.
Use of the devices will be encouraged but optional for teachers. Kutz said he expects some teachers to embrace it immediately and others to “roll their eyes and say, ‘Oh, gosh, what are we getting into?’”
But he predicts that over time, after going through training and experimenting with BYOD, teachers will embrace it.
“They’re going to say, ‘I can’t believe we ever taught without these,’” Kutz said.