SALISBURY, Md.- The Wicomico County Public School system is taking key steps this summer to become a digital leader in the use of technology for learning in the classroom.
The Wicomico County Board of Education recently updated its "Acceptable Use of Technology Policy." The policy now allows for the use of student personal electronic devices such as cellphones and tablets for instruction in secondary classrooms, at the discretion of the teacher.
The Board of Ed approved the revised policy at its July 2014 meeting, and the new guidelines took effect immediately for the 2014-2015 school year. Board members will evaluate the success of the new policy – including its “Bring Your Own Device” provision for middle and high school students – in spring 2015.
Board of Ed officials hope that as instruction is enhanced under the new policy, discipline issues related to cell phone use in schools will be decreased. They said that secondary administrators and teachers have been spending hundreds of hours on cell phone referrals, most of which will not occur under the new rules. Students are also expected to lose less class time due to referrals for cellphone possession and use.
The policy is posted online at: http://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/wcboe/Board.nsf/vpublic?open#. Click on the Policies tab and then Administrative Services to find ADM-TEC-PL-004, Acceptable Use of Technology Policy.
On Monday morning, Wicomico Public Schools hosted a presentation by high school principal and author Eric Sheninger on “Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times.” Seninger is an award-winning principal of New Milford High School in Bergen County, N.J.
He discussed what it was like to move a school beyond concerns about classroom technology and social media to the discovery of how the tools of technology could enhance learning and engagement for students, families and the community.
"Social media is a game-changer," said Sheninger. "We can not punish children for bringing their modern day pencils and notebooks to school - that being their cellphones and tablets."
The Wicomico Board of Ed last revised its "Acceptable Use of Technology Policy" in 2008, and revisited it this year in recognition of the expanding ways in which technology could be leveraged to improve instruction, business operations, and communications.
Among the provisions of the policy:
• Student-owned cellphones, smartphones, personal tablet computers and other devices may be carried on silent mode in middle and high school, and may be used in some areas of the facility (such as hallways and the cafeteria, for example) at the discretion of the building administration, as long as the use of the device is not disruptive to the school environment.
• Once written parental consent has been obtained, middle and high school students may use their personal electronic devices in the classroom at the discretion and direction of the teacher. Devices must be kept in silent mode at all times to avoid disruptions.
• Devices may not be used and must be turned off in secondary schools' building areas of privacy: nurse's office, locker rooms, restrooms. Video and/or photography with cellphones or other devices of inappropriate situations (such as fights) is not permitted, and audio recording of another person requires that person's permission prior to recording, in accordance with Maryland law.
• As in the previous policy, student cellphones are not to be used in elementary school classrooms and may not be in a student's possession during the school day. However, a parent may obtain approval from the school principal for their child to carry a cellphone to and from school for safety reasons. (The phone must be kept in silent mode during the school day.) This change is in awareness of the importance to parents and students of cellphone availability for student safety.
• Student-owned devices may not utilize the WCBOE network.
• WCBOE is not responsible for loss or damage to personal electronic devices.