Dist. 203 to let students bring in own tech
The days of students being told to keep their smartphones in their lockers and to break out cool new tech toys like iPads only during show-and-tell appear to be over in Naperville Unit District 203.
Following a successful four-month test program, in which third- through 12th-grade students were encouraged to bring their own tech devices to school, officials say they intend to continue expanding the use of such items, including laptops, tablets and smartphones, until they ultimately reach a one-to-one ratio of students to computers.
The district's current ratio of students to computers is roughly three-to-one.
"Students are going to continue to research, collaborate, communicate and create. Those are fundamental skills we believe they are going to continue to do with these devices," said John David Son, director of informational technology. "However, in a future state, we believe they are going to be able to do this more readily, have more accessibility to do that more efficiently and more effectively."
At the elementary grades, Son said, students predominantly used iPod Touches and E-readers.
At the high school level, iPads and iPhones were prevalent.
Roger Brunelle, the district's chief information officer, said officials surveyed the 30 participating teachers and 900 participating students and their families to gauge the program's success.
Roughly 82 percent of teachers reported "higher student engagement" and believed students had more learning opportunities. Almost the same percent of parents agreed or were neutral on the educational impact.
Nearly 63 percent of parents, however, were concerned about theft or damage to the devices while at school, though there were no reports of either.
About 24 percent of parents said they felt pressured to purchase a device for their child.
"This is something we were concerned about as we launched this, — that a large portion of our parents would feel pressure," Son said. "While 76 percent did not feel pressure, we do realize there was a population that did. That's something we need to be very conscious of as we talk about expanding the Bring Your Own Device program."
Brunelle said the district will approach the desired one-to-one ratio, without pressuring parents by recycling laptops currently in use.
Once they reach their five-year life span, Brunelle said, they will be stripped down to web-only machines and made available in classrooms for students who do not have their own device.
"This strategy is not about pushing devices," Brunelle said. "The key is we align with teaching and learning and enable teachers and students in that experience."
Board members praised Brunelle and his staff for the "careful" and "thoughtful" approach they have taken throughout the test and their plan for the future.
"What I love about the BYOD is we're doing our part, even though a lot of this should be taking place in the homes, to teach them how to use this stuff responsibly and respectably," board President Mike Jaensch said. "Hopefully it becomes the norm not to be sitting there in your history class doing something inappropriate, but that's something you have to teach people early."
The district's full report can be found online at http://www.boarddocs.com/il/naperville203/Board.nsf/Public.
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