Friday, May 25, 2018
Education

Smartphones, personal laptops and iPads might come into use in Hillsborough schools

TAMPA — Would the schools be better served if Johnny could take an exam on his iPad or answer a teacher's question with the help of his smartphone?

The Hillsborough County School Board will tackle these questions on Thursday morning.

The district, like others, is struggling to comply with state testing demands, as standardized tests increasingly are taken on computers. Students use school computers for online courses as well.

Board Chairwoman April Griffin, who brought the issue up several months ago at a workshop on the district's technology needs, also believes students' smartphones could have constructive use in class, under proper supervision.

With smartphones increasingly replacing simpler cellphones, she said, "we are reaching a point where everybody will have a smartphone if they have a phone. And that means they will have access to information on their phone."

Griffin said she was favorably impressed on a recent tour of Pasco County's Wiregrass High School, where laptops and text messages have been a part of the culture for years.

But adopting a "bring your own device" policy cannot happen without careful consideration.

School officials will want to be sure the use of phones, tablets, laptops or other devices is directly related to school instruction.

Equity will be an issue, as not all students have devices.

The district will need to make sure each school can accommodate the uses of the devices, which will seek access over the school network.

And there are questions of security and inappropriate Web-surfing.

"Personally owned devices present risks to network security and stability," reads the agenda for Thursday's 9 a.m. workshop.

"Schools are also charged with providing a safe and secure learning environment that includes filtering inappropriate content."

Board workshops, held at 901 E Kennedy Blvd. in downtown Tampa, are open to the public. No vote will be taken.

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

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