As schools try to add more technology during a time when they are receiving less funding, many will begin to consider allowing students to use devices they already own. That will include cellphones and electronic tablets like iPads.
“Why do you keep buying technology when people have in their pocket phones that are more powerful than computers used to be?” said Tupelo Superintendent Gearl Loden.
The idea of the Bring Your Own Technology initiative is beginning to be used by schools across the country as a way they can save money by only buying devices for those who don’t already own them. Cellphones and tablets can be used for research, interaction and storing digital textbooks, among other things.
“If school districts are not looking at things like that, they are going to fall behind,” said New Albany Superintendent Jackie Ford.
Some Northeast Mississippi school districts, such as New Albany and Tupelo, currently have policies that generally ban students from using their cellphones on campus but allow for exceptions when teachers want to use them for educational purposes. It may be a model that others eventually follow.
Pontotoc City Superintendent Karen Tutor said her district, which does not currently allow student cellphone use, has had conversations for the past year about possible changes. The key, she said, is finding the proper rules and procedures to govern their use.
“We haven’t made policy changes yet, but yes, I do expect it to come,” she said.
So does Booneville Superintendent Todd English, who noted that technology requirements in the new Common Core curriculum will force school districts to make changes.
Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said he can see both the benefits and dangers of students using cellphones at school. And while the district does not have immediate plans to allow their use in classrooms, he wouldn’t be surprised if that eventually changes.
“Twenty years from now, students may not believe that there was once a day when they couldn’t use cellphones in school,” he said.