School districts rethink personal technology bans

School districts around the United States have, or are considering, allowing the use of personal electronics in education.

For a while, it seemed the prevailing thought among school administrators was that total classroom management involved banning the use of personal electronics. However, that approach may be going out the window.

One school district in Pennsylvania is considering lifting its ban, and many others in that state and around the United States have already done so. Teachers and administrators reason that since they cannot fully enforce the rule, it is best to embrace personal technology.

“We are in a day and age of technology,” John Toleno, Stroudsburg Area School District superintendent, said to the Pocono Record. “By making the kids turn these things off when they get to school, I think we are doing a disservice to these kids.”

The key, according to Toleno, is to incorporate the technology in a way that serves the educational needs of students.

“We are envisioning personal technology to be used as an additional resource, similar to a library,” he said to the paper. “If used properly, it’s a library that kids carry with them.”

Success stories
The Stroudsburg school district would not be setting an unheard-of precedent, as other schools have embraced personal technology in education initiatives.

Quakertown Community School District in Pennsylvania allowed personal technology into classrooms as part of its program to have one computer for every student. The district purchased computers for each student, but allowed them to bring in their own computer if desired. About 30 percent of students opted to use their own personal computers last year, Joe Kuzo, the district’s supervisor of technology, said to the Record.

The Quakertown district’s program posts class notes and homework assignments online, and lets students be in contact with teachers via an internal email system, the paper reported.

“It’s about changing the culture of instruction – preparing students for their future, not our past,” Mark Edwards, superintendent of Mooresville Graded School District in North Carolina, said to the New York Times.

The Mooresville district, which issues a classroom computer to each student, saw its graduation rate go from 80 percent to 91 percent after implementing its personal technology program, the Times reported.

“You can put a textbook in front of a student and it may mean nothing, just like putting a computer in front of a student,” Bill Shields, superintendent of Carol Stream Elementary District 93 in Illinois, said to the Daily Herald newspaper. “It’s how do you utilize that resource to make the child a better learner. It’s the idea of personalizing education for kids.”

Potential pitfalls
While some school districts have seen benefits from allowing personal technology, not all school administrators remain convinced. Brian Borosh, director of technology for the East Stroudsburg Area School District, told the Record that such programs hinder a school’s ability to block applications, like viruses and malware, that can harm computers. In addition, he noted that students using a smartphone could bypass classroom management software by using cellular signals to go online.

“You have to trust kids more than you’ve ever trusted them” when it comes to personal technology, Edwards said to the Times.

Some schools have even argued that no technology at all should be allowed in a classroom. Waldorf schools, a private school network with 160 locations in the United States, do not allow any piece of technology into classrooms, according to a separate New York Times article.

“I fundamentally reject the notion you need technology aids in grammar school,” Alan Eagle, parent to two Waldorf students, told the Times. “The idea that an app on an iPad can better teach my kids to read or do arithmetic, that’s ridiculous.”

Do you think students should be allowed to bring their own electronic devices to school? What do you make of Borosh’s comments, considering all the effective classroom management programs that are available? Leave your comments below to let us know what you think!

Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.