LISD changes rules on technology
Jan 11, 2013 (Lubbock Avalanche-Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Ashlyn Collins, an eighth-grader at Mackenzie Middle School, says using her iPad is a practical choice.
"It's easier to keep up with than paper," Collins said. "We can't say we lost it or couldn't find it. Your paper doesn't look all messy. If I'm taking notes, I can type faster than I can write, so I don't get behind. Some kids have really bad penmanship. It's easier for the teachers to read."
Mackenzie's principal, Karen Bayer, concurs that allowing students to bring their own iPads and cell phones to class is a practical choice, because it means fewer students having to share the school-owned supply of handheld electronic devices.
On Thursday, the Lubbock Independent School District's Board of Trustees approved a change in the Student Code of Conduct to formally allow what is widely known as BYOD -- Bring Your Own Device -- on LISD campuses like Mackenzie.
Superintendent Karen Garza asked trustees to approve the change.
"Right now we have teachers using student devices in the classroom," she said. "This is really just the beginning. They've had cell phones in schools for a long time. To prevent them from bringing them is a no-win situation. A lot of our teachers are embracing this, let's use them for instructional purposes."
The change doesn't mean students can use the devices in any way they want.
The revised code allows students to bring the devices for "instructional use in the instructional setting."
At Mackenzie, there's a three-strike rule.
If you break the rules on using your device, you have to go to paper for the rest of that class, Ashlyn said. The second time, you must use paper for the rest of that day. The third time, your parents have to pick up the device from the school.
Ashlyn said the rules include no texting, playing a game or getting on Facebook.
Her science teacher, Brandon Tucker, said the students figure things out faster than the teachers do.
Tucker, the campus academic leader for science, recently oversaw the students for their regular teacher, Cassandra Davis, who was out sick. She had set up an assignment about planets using a free online drawing program called Doodle Buddy.
"They figured out this other app (Phonto) that works better," Tucker said.
Ashlyn's classmate, Esteban Zuniga, said they used their iPads to take a picture of a handout, then they were able to read over it, answer the questions and send it to their teacher electronically. Davis also had provided a QR -- for quick read code -- they could scan to access NASA's Planetary Seasons website.
Another classmate, Korynn Wolcott, said most students prefer using a device.
"It's easier to pay attention to this because we pay attention to our phones so much," she said. "If you forget to turn something in on a Friday, we can drop it in really fast and say, 'Sorry.' "
Amanda Isaacs, an English Language Arts teacher for seventh-graders at Mackenzie, turned her students loose on an online lesson on the use of colons and semicolons in writing.
Unlike the eighth-grade science class, students were having to share just a few devices. Eleven worked with a Smart Board, with one student using its touch screen technology to access the lesson for the group to follow along on paper. At one desktop, four students were gathered. Three shared another desktop and four clustered around a laptop.
Yet Isaacs said the students preferred the electronic delivery to listening to her talk.
"The kids like to be self-directed," she said. "They help each other, are more collaborative. They seem to like that better."
Isaacs said when students do bring their own devices, she requires them to take them out and put them on the upper right-hand corner of their desks. That way she can ensure the devices are only used for educational purposes.
"Maybe a third of the class has a device," she said. "Some kids have things at home that they don't bring. I'm sure some parents don't want to send them off with $400 worth of technology."
Even with the limitations, Isaacs says technology has a number of advantages. For one, she posts lessons done in class on the free Edmodo website, which allows teachers to communicate in a restricted environment with their students and for parents to check up on their children's assignments and grades.
Students and parents "can review lessons, see all assignments, they can post messages to me at home," Isaacs said. "Parents have a lot better understanding of what's going on in my class."
For Principal Bayer, one advantage is the students with devices use a lot less paper.
"Our goal is to use the paper budget to buy more tablets," she said. "Mackenzie is a Title I school. We have a very high percentage of low socioeconomic students, which is why I want to get them the technology."
Bayer said they are preparing students for "jobs that haven't even been invented yet" and it's never too early to start.
"Kids don't learn from hearing, they learn from doing," she said. "My 6-month-old grandbaby plays Peekaboo Farm on my iPad. He knows how to play it on the cell phone, too. It keeps him quiet in church."
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