By Nick Malawskey
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) – As they enter the classroom that serves as the newsroom for Lower Dauphin High School’s student newspaper, The Falcon Flash, each student grabs a laptop from a cart.
They’ll work on the laptops, typing stories, doing research and looking up information.
But in some classes, students are bypassing the cart. Instead, they’re reaching into their pockets and pulling out their smartphones or dipping into backpacks for their laptops or tablet computers.
Lower Dauphin is among several schools in the midstate coming to terms with the rapid development of mobile technology by allowing students to use their own equipment in classes.
On one hand, the policy changes reflect the modern world, where smartphones have become part of daily life, especially in business. But it’s also an attempt by the districts to come to terms with fiscal realities. Tight budgets mean there might not be money for laptops or personal computers.
Saving money was one of the prime motives in the Derry Township School District. After the board last year axed a $500,000 initiative that would have purchased laptops for high school students, it allowed students to use their devices in class.
The hope is that by allowing students to bring in their own devices, Hershey High School will be able to free up resources for students who don’t have access to computers.
“We are not going to exclude anyone,” Derry Superintendent Richard Faidley said when he announced the program at a school board meeting in March. “By doing this, it allows us to re-purpose our own devices.”
The shift is also a 180-degree turn for some districts that had implemented strict no-phone policies. But educators say students need to know how to use the devices, not only to find and analyze information, but to do so in a socially acceptable manner.
Over the last few years, other districts, including Central Dauphin and Cumberland Valley, have looked at altering their policies toward smartphones.
At Cumberland Valley, students can use their phones in the corridors and at lunch as long as they put them away during study hall, detention or class, or unless the teacher wants to use the phones as part of a lesson.
“Ultimately, it was more important to protect instructional time than to fight (cellphone use),” said Tracy Panzer, school district spokeswoman.1 2 3 next >>