Making technology a tool rather than a toy has been the goal for Sealy ISD’s pilot Bring Your Own Technology program, and so far it seems to be working.
In an update for the school board, Sealy ISD Director of Technology Tammy Leimer last week reported that the district’s network is seeing 181 clients signing in on average each day. Most are smart phones, but there are a lot of iPods and Kindles as well.
The program, offered at Sealy High School (SHS), is part of the district’s attempt to incorporate technology in the classroom and prepare for state requirements. No student is at a disadvantage if they do not have an Internet connected device, and no one is required to buy or bring one to school.
“It really hasn’t become an issue yet and it’s becoming a tool,” said SHS Principal Megan Oliver about teachers and students using devices in the classroom.
The devices are supposed to be used for gathering research, sharing group project information and teachers are getting some training on using Google Apps and other ways to incorporate the technology.
For example, Oliver reported seeing a German class that was using phones for Google translator.
No device theft issues have been reported as of yet, either, Oliver added.
The district network, which all students are required to sign into, is filtered to block social sites like Facebook and YouTube. If a student is caught going through their personal network connections or browsing sites not relevant to the lesson, then normal disciplinary action will be taken.
Device use is not allowed outside of the classroom at SHS.
The district has more information online about different types of devices and what would be most appropriate for individual students. The district is not recommending any specific type of device or brand.
Sealy ISD has also been awarded a $100,000 technology grant, which it has used to buy 200 Chromebook laptops. Ultimately the district wants to allow students to rent the laptops, which will be connected to the same filtered, school network.
The one-year grant will allow for the purchase of the computers and two years of service, according to Owen Hurt, director of human resources at the district.
They will not be able to be used without a Sealy ISD account.
“I don’t want them to use those for anything else than instruction,” Oliver said.
The Chromebooks will allow for students to take home documents to work on or finish up college applications online.
The district is still working on policy details and having each laptop barcoded and engraved.