Sunday, February 18, 2018
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
ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

ROTC leader shocked that accused school shooter 1 of his own

PARKLAND, Fla. — The sound of gunfire still ringing in his ears after his mad half-mile sprint, Jack Ciaramello was standing with friends in a grocery store parking lot when a sheriff’s deputy approached. He asked the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High se...
Updated: 2 hours ago
From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

From meek to militant: The Florida teachers strike that unsettled a nation and fueled a movement

Some teachers left goodbye messages to their students on classroom blackboards. Others cleared their desks.It was Feb. 16, 1968, a Friday, and a sign of what was coming that Monday in Florida: the nation’s first statewide teachers strike.When schools...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Principal of a pained Stoneman Douglas High just sent a message to his students

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High principal Ty Thompson exuded deep emotion and a positive view forward in his first public comments since Wednesday’s mass shooting that killed 17 people.In the two-minute video posted on the school’s website and YouTube,...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

Hillsborough rethinks its strategy for struggling schools

TAMPA — "Elevate," a Hillsborough County School District initiative that was to focus on seven troubled schools and use them as models for dozens more, is becoming but a memory as the district seeks instead to support all schools equally."We’re more ...
Published: 02/17/18
Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

Plant High students commemorate Parkland victims with sidewalk messages

TAMPA — Students at Plant High School honored the victims of the Parkland school shooting with a series of sidewalk chalk messages.The chalk art carried a series of messages such as "How many times?" and "Do something. Protect us." according to a Fac...
Published: 02/16/18
At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

At public schools in Tampa Bay, a day to mourn, assess and reinforce

While fielding calls from anxious parents after the Broward County high school shooting that claimed 17 lives, school officials in the Tampa Bay area took a close look Thursday at what they are doing to keep students safe.There are gates and locks an...
Published: 02/15/18
Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Joe Henderson: April Griffin won’t run again for school board. She says she means it this time.

Assuming April Griffin follows through on her decision not to seek re-election to the Hillsborough County School Board, well, meetings just won’t be the same. Chances are they’ll just be filled with boring reports, proclamations and routine business....
Published: 02/15/18
‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

‘I don’t get paid for teaching,’ says Pinellas teacher accused of inappropriate acts. Now he’s gone

A St. Petersburg High teacher has retired in the middle of the school year after students said he called them "baby," "babe," "missy," "honey," "sweetie," "little girl" and ended one girl’s name with "-licious."The Pinellas County school district fou...
Published: 02/15/18
Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

Interim principal says teamwork will lift long-struggling Moton Elementary

BROOKSVILLE — Less than a month after taking over as interim principal at long-struggling Moton Elementary School, Brent Gaustad says teamwork by educators across the district has things looking up.Behavior has improved, he said, and innovative proce...
Published: 02/15/18
17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

17 dead, 15 wounded, former student in custody after Broward school shooting

PARKLAND — An American nightmare unfolded Wednesday afternoon at a South Florida high school after police say an expelled teenager returned to campus and opened fire with an assault rifle, killing 17 and wounding 15 more in the worst school shooting ...
Published: 02/14/18