Monday, December 11, 2017
Education

Pilot program will let some Hillsborough students take Internet devices to class

TAMPA — Some Hillsborough County public school children will soon be able to use personal tablets, laptops and other Internet-enabled devices in class.

A pilot program, beginning at the end of this school year, involves a practice known as "bring-your-own-device" that seeks to match content taught in school with the way today's students access information.

"Students are very comfortable with their own device," said Sharon Zulli, the district's manager of customer service and support. "They know how to use it, and they know how to use it better than we do."

The practice, discussed Thursday at a School Board workshop, at first will be limited to some classes in a small number of schools.

Most are newer schools with wireless access — a fact that caused School Board member Susan Valdes to ask if older schools will be at a disadvantage.

The hope, however, is to expand the practice as the district moves toward complete wireless access. Officials hope to see that happen around December 2014.

The district surveyed students at eight elementary, middle and high schools and found that more than half have laptops, smartphones or Internet media players. Close to half have tablets and about a third have e-readers.

For all devices, between 78 and 87 percent said they'd like to take them to school. The devices can be used for interactive lessons in class or for independent study periods, such as those in the International Baccalaureate programs.

Chairman April Griffin said she'd also like to give teachers the option of having students text message parents when they need to buy supplies for an assignment.

"We need to step back as a board and revisit our overall phone policy," she said.

Caveats and safeguards surround the project. The schools will not be responsible if personal devices are lost, broken or stolen. They will not be used for standardized tests, although they could lessen the strain on media centers, which are now closed part of the year because of testing.

Students will be disciplined if they chat with their friends without a teacher's approval, or if they download inappropriate material to view at school.

A model for the project is Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel, which has enjoyed a texting- and laptop-friendly culture for years.

But board member Carol Kurdell, who toured Wiregrass recently, warned the board against assuming that model will be easy to replicate.

Wiregrass is almost brand-new, she said, and Internet-friendly from the start. Teachers were hired with that goal in mind. "They were hand-picked for their technological skills," she said.

But Zulli, who has examined the practice in other school districts, said the transition is not as difficult as some might think.

Bring-your-own-device has been successful in school districts that, like Hillsborough, have pockets of poverty.

"Surprisingly, students are very nice about sharing devices," she said.

Not only that: Reports show that even in families earning less than $25,000, a lot of kids have smartphones.

"The important thing is not the device," Zulli said. "It's the imagination of teachers and students and what they can do with it."

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Comments
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey has learned all the tricks to get her kids out of bed and off to school every morning. But this year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every school day with a knot in her stomac...
Published: 12/08/17

University of Central Florida Greeks won’t hold social events, serve alcohol for 6 weeks this spring

ORLANDO — University of Central Florida fraternities and sororities won’t host social activities or any events with drinking for at least the first six weeks of the spring semester, up from the two-week ban on alcohol that has been in place in the pa...
Published: 12/08/17
Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Amid reports of rapes, beatings, cover-ups, grand jury to probe juvenile justice abuses

Disturbed by stories about the rape of teens by supervisory staff, a pandemic of sometimes savage force, brutal beatdowns ordered by youth care workers and policies that permit the hiring of violent offenders, Miami-Dade’s state attorney wants to kno...
Published: 12/07/17
Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Henderson: Some basic facts about Hillsborough’s teacher pay imbroglio

Hillsborough County’s public school teachers are horn-honking, voice-raising, sign-waving, foot-stomping mad, and I can’t blame them. They are paying for a problem they didn’t create. About one-third of the workforce was expecting to receive a $4,000...
Published: 12/07/17
In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

In Watershed Ambassadors Program, Pasco students learn about natural Florida

SPRING HILL — On a small wooden dock at the Cross Bar Ranch, Cynthia Brinker gingerly pokes through the trappings in her fishing net, plucking out a tiny creature to examine close up. "What the heck is this?" the Weightman Middle School studen...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

Crognale named 2018 Hernando Principal of the Year

BROOKSVILLE — For just a year and a half, Steve Crognale has been the principal at the Endeavor and Discovery Academies. But now, he’s been named the Hernando School District Principal of the Year for 2018. Endeavor serves students, most of them hig...
Published: 12/06/17
Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

Hillsborough teachers keep the heat on after $92 bonus offer

TAMPA — The second Hillsborough County School Board meeting in less than a month took place Tuesday against a backdrop of honking car horns, cheering teachers and audience members moving through the room in shifts.Dressed in blue union-issued T-shirt...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

‘It’s like an insane nightmare’: Parents question private company hired to drive special needs kids to school

RIVERVIEW — As a foster parent with two sons of her own, Kayla Storey is skilled at calming first-day-of-school jitters. But this school year, Storey says she’s the one waking up every weekday with a knot in her stomach.It’s been there ever since th...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Hillsborough school district names Teacher of the Year finalists

Finalists were announced Tuesday for Hillsborough County Teacher of the year and other honors.Winners will be announced at a banquet on Jan. 16.The finalists for teacher of the year are: Jennifer Jackson, seventh grade science, Stewart Middle; Alexa ...
Published: 12/05/17
High school start times: Could they be a talking point in the 2018 Pinellas election?

High school start times: Could they be a talking point in the 2018 Pinellas election?

It’s been years since the Pinellas County School Board addressed high school start times.But if the issue isn’t resolved in the next few months, it could fall to voters as they decide on who should fill four out of seven School Board seats up grabs i...
Published: 12/05/17