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County schools to allow students to: Bring your own technology

Friday, July 12, 2013

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

The Henry County School Division is preparing to allow high school students to bring their laptops, tablets and other personal computing devices to school to use for educational purposes.

The plan is to allow students to “Bring Your Own Technology” (BYOT) beginning in the first semester of the 2013-14 year at Bassett High School and beginning in the second semester at Magna Vista High School, said Janet Copenhaver, the school division’s director of technology and innovation.

Schools will provide technology, such as iPods or iPads, for students who do not have such devices, Copenhaver told the Henry County School Board at its meeting Thursday.

Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton stated in an email: “More than any other generation, today’s students have access to a wealth of information at their fingertips. Smartphones, iPads, iPods and tablets have great potential to enhance the educational experience if used effectively in the classroom. In many cases, our students already have many of these devices available to them, but they are continually asked to ‘power down’ when they enter schools.

“These devices create opportunities for students to develop many of the career and college-ready skills that we are trying to reinforce in Henry County: critical thinking, creative thinking, effective communication and collaboration. However, simply allowing the use of these devices in school will not help students develop these important skills. We need to set clear policies and expectations related to a BYOT policy, and these need to be clearly communicated to students and parents.”

Cotton also said the school division needs to provide professional development for teachers to ensure the use of these devices will complement, not hinder, instructional programs in the schools. “It will also be important for us to teach students to use technology responsibly, and for teachers to help students learn how to critically evaluate online resources to determine the credibility of available information,” he stated.

According to the proposed BYOT guidelines, “Each student must be able to connect his/her own device to the student Wi-Fi network at your school.”

Wi-Fi is the name of a wireless networking technology that uses radio waves to provide high-speed network and Internet connections, according to online information.

In other business, the school board:

• Approved tuition for 30 student slots in the Piedmont Governor’s School for Math, Science and Technology for 2013-14. The cost is $99,180.

• Approved a contract for services with For the Children, Partners in Prevention to teach the sensitive areas of the family life curriculum in the 2013-2014 school year. The cost is $23,000.

• Approved a contract with MARC Workshop for transitioning severely mentally handicapped students into post-secondary placements and work adjustment environments. The school division will provide students to fill six slots. The cost is $1,200 per month for a total of 10 months.

• Approved a contract to continue services provided by the ANCHOR Transitional Day Program at a cost of $110,511. It is a program for certain special education students who exhibit behaviors that significantly interfere with the instructional school day. Due to the severity of these students’ behaviors and the potential risk to the safety of others, the program is not housed at a school site, a board document states.

Under the agreement, the program is run cooperatively by Henry County Schools and ANCHOR. The school division provides two teachers and three paraprofessionals, allowing services to be provided for up to 12 students. The administrative costs, which include such areas as administrative salaries and benefits, insurance, operation fees, rent and utilities, are provided by ANCHOR.

• Approved a contract with Allied Instructional Services for orientation and mobility services for blind students for 2013-2014. The cost is “$75/hour in-field services, portal to portal.” Portal-to-portal means an employee’s compensation begins at the time he or she steps onto the employer’s property, not when work actually begins.

• Renewed SchoolWires support, updates and maintenance for the school division’s academic portal for all schools at a cost of $18,933.75. This portal allows publication of homework assignments, cafeteria menus, athletic schedules, event calendars and more for teacher, parent, student and community access.

• Renewed the PowerSchool hosting from NCS Pearson of the student database management system for 2013-14 at a cost of $31,500.

• Approved payment of the second year lease agreement for middle and high school laptops at a cost of $306,117. Copenhaver said the school division leases all the carts and laptops for teachers and students in middle and high schools.

• Heard comments from Dorothy Carter, outgoing president of the Henry County Education Association (HCEA). She thanked the board for instigating a salary scale and considering a raise for teachers in January of 2014. She also asked the board to consider holding all its meetings at night so that more people can attend.

She also touched on “points of pride,” one of which was that about 45 percent of the division’s teachers hold advanced degrees. She also said HCEA is proud of the teachers of the year; of Gracie Agnew for being named Virginia’s Principal of the Year by the Virginia Association of Secondary School Principals; “of our students, for whom quality education is all about and who achieve more honors than we can name”; and of the nearly 30 National Board Certified Teachers in Henry County.

Carter introduced the new HCEA president, Anna Maria Ayers, who teaches preschool at Axton Elementary.


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