By Kim Hilsenbeck
Technology. It’s everywhere. Cell phones, tablets and other hand-held devices are ubiquitous in U.S. society, including at secondary schools.
But the proper use of technology — from the appropriateness of postings to asking permission to upload or share a photo — was a concern to Hays CISD officials. That’s why the district rolled out a new initiative, Drive Your Own Device (DYOD).
According to Christie Rickert, director of instructional technology at Hays CISD, the DYOD program is designed to move away from what was considered ‘thou shall not’ and to work toward digital citizenship expectations.
“It’s no longer ‘kids can use the device when teacher permits’. It’s now ‘kids are allowed to use the device for learning unless they’re told not to’,” she said.
Rickert and 50 teachers met in the spring to decide how to roll out DYOD. Three main areas of concern were training staff on the new rules, providing guidance to students and having the technological bandwidth to handle an increase in accessing the district’s WiFi.
To address the concerns, the group agreed on having professional development sessions at each campus to train the staff.
“You have to give teachers and administrators a chance to learn about the program. You can’t just roll it out without them knowing what it’s all about,” Rickert said.
Staff needed training to understand when and where it is appropriate for students to use their personal devices. Richert said it is the basic expectations of etiquette.
“In our first year of this initiative, the district has set the expectation that students may use their devices at any time for learning purposes,” she said. “Our campus leadership teams have determined specific ‘power down zones’ in non-instructional areas and times for their campus.”
District-wide ‘power down zones’ include restrooms, locker rooms, parking lots and rooms where assessments are being taken. Rickert said there are no additional power down zones in the high schools.
“In our middle schools, some campuses allow students to use their technology devices in the cafeteria, and others do not,” she said. “In our elementary schools, the additional power down zones are cafeterias, playgrounds, and hallways.”
With staff now trained, Rickert said the next step is to provide lessons to students so they understand digital permanence and technology responsibly.
It is difficult for students to grasp that, even though postings and texts seem like a flash, they are permanent and have consequences. That’s what this program is trying to teach.
Rickert said the district wanted a more consistent implementation of a digital citizenship curriculum; they also wanted it to be ongoing. Hays CISD selected Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that helps parents and teachers navigate digital technology. The organization provides schools a digital citizenship curriculum for free.
The new DYOD program was not in place over the summer, for example, when a photo of five Hays High cheerleaders mooning the camera was circulated via texting.
Rickert and Tim Savoy, Hays CISD spokesperson, said incidents of that nature are few, but they illustrate the need for students to be responsible users of technology.
Savoy added that the girls were reprimanded in accordance with the district’s Student Code of Conduct. A community member familiar with the incident said they were suspended from two pep rallies and three football games. The photo was apparently taken during an off-site summer cheer camp.
To address accessing WiFi, Hays CISD included about $4.7 million in the May bond package to upgrade wireless connectivity and add wireless access points; that amount was part the nearly $12.3 million technology funds requested overall. Voters passed the bond; the district is now ramping up its technological capacity.
The issue was having enough access points at all schools — the right transmitters at the school’s location, basically setting up wireless hotspots.
“Overall we’re increasing wireless density,” Savoy said.
Rickert said wireless access should be in all campuses by the end of the school year, with secondary campuses prioritized.
As a digital citizen, I will:
• use technology responsibly
• comply with network security policies
• ask permission before taking or posting photos/video of someone else
• stay on task while using technology in class
• think before I post information online
• protect my private information
• stand up to cyber bullying
• respect other’s intellectual property
In a follow-up article in an upcoming issue, we will explore how students and parents feel about DYOD. Issues including affordability of devices for low-income families and rumblings about increased theft at a middle school will be addressed. If you would like to provide input about DYOD at your child’s school or the overall initiative, email firstname.lastname@example.org.