Salem High School expands use of phones, tablets in classroom - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

Salem High School expands use of phones, tablets in classroom

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SALEM, VA -

Salem High School is making some changes to policies about personal electronic devices: cell phones, tablets and iPads for the upcoming school year.

Principal Scott Habeeb posted a letter to parents and students on the school's facebook page today.

You may remember last year the school had a pilot program. Students could use cell phones and other devices for "educational purposes" in certain classrooms and before school.

This year they're expanding the policy.

Habeeb says they will start the school year allowing students to use cell phones before school, between classes and during lunch but if it begins to cause disruptions they'll stop allowing it.

Teachers are encouraged to find ways to incorporate the technology into the classroom.

He stressed students don't have to bring the devices to school and their grades won't depend on having the technology but it could "enrich a student's educational experience".

Here's the full letter to parents and students:

Letter to Parents and Students About the Use of Personal Electronic Devices

July 21, 2013 at 3:25pm

Dear SHS Parents and Students,

This message is to help upcoming SHS students and their parents understand some changes that will be occurring at SHS this coming school year in regard to personal electronic devices such as cell phones, tablets, and iPads.  There is definitely a lot of information in this letter.  I hope you will read it in its entirety so that we can all be on the same page this fall.

First of all, it is important to understand that our school division's policy regarding electronic devices has not changed.  Rule 1K of our Student Code of Conduct still states that students may not use or have visible during school hours any electronic devices deemed by the school administration to be disruptive.  Such devices are still to be confiscated and returned only to parents or guardians.

In years past, cell phones and other personal electronic devices were deemed to be disruptive by nature.  Students were never allowed to use them or have them visible from the time they arrived at school until the time the school day ended.  

Last year, SHS piloted an Open Device Environment in which students were allowed to use electronic devices and the school's network before school and for educational purposes in certain teachers' classrooms at the discretion of those teachers.  As a result of that pilot, this year personal electronic devices will no longer be considered to be disruptive by nature.  

We will start the 2013-14 school year allowing students to use personal electronic devices before school, between classes, and during lunch.  It should be noted that we will be starting school this way.  However, if the student use of personal electronic devices begins to cause too great of a day-today disruption to the school environment, we will revert back to our earlier interpretation of Rule 1K and again consider personal electronic devices to be disruptive by nature.

In addition, teachers will be encouraged to find appropriate, meaningful, and educationally significant ways to incorporate the use of personal electronic devices into their classroom instruction.  That being said, each teacher will be in complete control of his or her classroom.  If a teacher does not want students to have electronic devices out at a certain time – or ever – students must and will comply with directions.  Failure to do so will result in the device being confiscated and returned to parents.  Repetitive problems, as in years past, will result in further disciplinary actions.  Our teachers will be supported 100% in how they choose to allow or not allow electronic devices in their classrooms.

Because many teachers will be choosing to allow students to use electronic devices for instructional purposes in class, parents and students may want to consider purchasing a device to use in school.  Please note that students are not required to have a smart phone or a tablet, and not having one will in no way cause a student to earn a lower grade or affect his or her opportunity to learn in the classroom.  That being said, having a personal electronic device, now that they are allowed to be used in the classroom at the teacher's discretion, could definitely enrich a student's educational experience.  

It is hard for us to recommend a specific device or say which type is best for the classroom since our teachers are still very new to the idea of using such devices.  That being said, during our Open Device Environment pilot last school year we did learn that, in general, tablets are easier to use in the classroom than smart phones.  That's not to say that a student could not get good use out of a smart phone in class, but the larger tablets are easier to use for most applications.  Therefore, if parents and/or students are considering purchasing an electronic device for school use, our opinion is that a tablet is the best way to go.

Several of our faculty members have been using the Google Nexus 7 by Asus.  While most any type of tablet would be able to be put to good use, the Google Nexus 7 has a few advantages.  Its 7 inch size seems to provide the ideal combination of large screen and portability.  Because it is a Nexus device it will always be the first to receive the latest updates to the Android operating system.  Furthermore, its $199 price tag makes it a value compared to many other types of tablets.  While there are many quality tablets available, it would be hard to recommend a parent or student ever spends more than $199 for such a device.

I would hate for parents to feel pressured into spending even more money.  Raising teenagers is already expensive enough.  If you cannot afford a device for your child, please do not feel you must find a way to purchase one.  That being said, there are quite a few tablets available that are significantly cheaper than the $199 Nexus 7 and that would serve a wonderful purpose in the classroom.  You might check on eBay, Amazon, or Craig's List for great deals.  Another thing to consider is this: If you have been thinking about purchasing your child a smart phone instead of standard cell phone, 7 months' worth of data plans could purchase a $199 tablet.  Finally, the availability of free or cheap apps might replace the need for other educational tools such as graphing calculators.  

It is understandable if a change of this magnitude causes some initial confusion or raises some questions.  These changes are new to all of us – parents, students, teachers and administration – so we are all learning together.  We hope, though, that these changes will lead to additional opportunities for engagement, creativity, and mastery of skills and content.  

Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.  I can be reached by phone at 387-2437, by email at shabeeb@salem.k12.va.us, or by Twitter at @scotthabeeb.

Please note: A more detailed description of how we will enforce Rule 1K can be found by visiting http://salemhighschoolprincipal.weebly.com/rules-for-the-use-of-personal-electronic-devices.html.

Looking forward to seeing you in the fall!

Scott Habeeb
Principal

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