School district permits new devices in class

Chugiak, Eagle River High part of pilot program


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A student uses a tablet computer in the cafeteria commons at Chugiak High Aug. 9. Both Chugiak and Eagle River High are participating in a pilot program that permits students to use devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets for educational purposes.

MATT TUNSETH

This year, Chugiak and Eagle River High students will be permitted to use their cellphones in class — well, some classes.

The two local high schools, along with East High and Romig Middle School, are part of a pilot program that permits students to use devices like smartphones, laptops and tablets for educational purposes.

It’s up to teachers and students to opt in or out of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD). In classes were devices are allowed, students will connect to the school’s WiFi for filtered Internet access.

Nearly every student brings their phone to school, and BYOD is seeking to teach students to use them as learning tools, ERHS principal Marty Lang said.

“We want to harness that technology,” he said.

It’s brining the 21st century into classrooms, Chugiak principal David Legg said.

Lang, who’s encouraging Eagle River teachers to participate in the program, said devices can be used in a variety of educational ways.

For example, say a multiple-choice question is posed to a BYOD classroom. Students can use their phones to answer and instantly see a graph of responses projected on a screen.

Students can also share information through their devices, Lang said.

Many students are already familiar with Google Docs, which allows multiple users to collaborate on the same document in real time. Through BYOD, Lang said, students out of school for the day — or even on vacation out of state — could still work on group projects.

The Anchorage School District has prohibited use of all devices in the past. BYOD changes that policy and instead teaches appropriate use of devices, Lang said.

“It’s not just about letting kids use phones in class,” he said. “It’s about teaching them how to be responsible users.”

Legg, who’s promoting Chugiak participation, said he hopes the program will shift the negative association about phones in school to a positive one.

“Rather than restricting the use, it’s to encourage the use,” he said.

At the conclusion of the 2013-14 school year, ASD will evaluate Bring Your Own Device and determine whether or not to implement it district wide the following year.

For more information on BYOD, visit the school district’s website at www.asdk12.org.

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