KPBSD policy changes for personal electronic devices on horizon

Use of cell phones may enrich learning experience
File photo/Peninsula Clarion Gloria Romain and Abbi Wonser exchange cell phone ring tones after school while waiting for Wonser's sister to get out of a leadership program at Kenai Central on May 12, 2010 in Kenai, Alaska.

Due to a new policy to be adopted by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, students may soon be able use electronic devices during school time.

 

Officials at KPBSD have been working since last spring to create policy and has heard from site councils and schools. The policy committee had the text on its agenda in June and the school board had a work session on the topic in August. The district anticipates that the new policy will be in place after the October school board meeting.

The new policy, coded BP 5138 (a) Student Possession and Use of Personal Electronic Devices, Including Cellular Phones, is based on the Association of Alaska School Boards policy.

According to a KPBSD school board work session document, the new policy states that the Kenai Peninsula School Board recognizes that many students possess and use cell phones and smart phones. These devices serve an important purpose in facilitating communication between the student and his or her family, as well as serving as tools to access electronic information.

In the school setting, personal electronic devices are permitted so long as their use is consistent with this policy and do not interfere with the educational process or with safety and security.

As for educational uses, according to the document, the district believes in certain instances there is educational value in utilizing personal electronic devices in the classrooms when such devices aid in extending, enhancing and/or reinforcing the students’ learning process related to the instructional objectives of the class. Approval for student use of such devices will be at the discretion of the classroom teacher, upon approval of the instructional use by the building administrator. Use of personal electronic devices will be permitted if provided for in a student’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) or Section 504 plan.

According to Superintendent Steve Atwater, the new policy will benefit the students.

“The preparation of our students to be successful in a dynamic world includes training them how to apply learned concepts in a real life context. I am convinced that it is critical that we utilize our technology resources to do this. I am encouraging our teachers to when possible, take advantage of the technology that sits in many of our secondary students pockets. The challenge of such technology being used for personal purposes during class is real and needs to be adequately addressed before these devices can help to prepare our students to be successful in a dynamic world,” he wrote in an email.

As for their conditions of use, students may possess and use personal electronic devices as long as they are turned off during instructional time, unless under the direct supervision of the classroom teacher; during other school sponsored and supervised group activities during the school day and when otherwise prohibited by school personnel.

Pegge Erkeneff, communications specialist with the district, explained that each school and teacher determine the current guidelines, which are clearly communicated and make known to students.

“Some instructors permit cell phone use, others do not. As a school district, we recognize the need to leverage personal electronic devices in order to improve instruction and education, while balancing the possibility of distractions or disruptions to learning and the school culture,” she wrote in an email.

Erkeneff said she was not aware of any opposition to the new policy during the site council meetings.

While the district policy changes will allow personal electronic devices to enrich their educational experience, accessing or viewing an Internet site that are otherwise blocked to students at the school is prohibited.

Social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, while accessible from many smart phones, are blocked sites for KPBSD.

For students who use the devices inappropriately, KPBSD disciplinary guidelines state that a personal parent notification will be given, as well as a reprimand and return of device to parents on first offence, detention and or community service may be added.

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