From the board: new electronic policy inadvertently excludes students without Internet access

Kit Allgaier

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Starting this year, the administration implemented a new policy regarding the use of personal electronic devices, also known as PEDs, such as phones, tablets, and laptops in the classroom.

The new procedure allows students to use various technologies during classroom instruction if the teacher permits it by displaying a yellow sign. However, if the sign is red, the same rules from previous years apply and students must abide by the no technology rule.

In addition to expanded use in teaching activities, students are now authorized to use cell phones during lunch in the cafeteria.

Although these guidelines match the FCPS vision of incorporating 21st Century technology into the classroom, there are valid concerns regarding equal access.

The expansion of technological use allows more academic opportunities to incorporate real world situations into learning. This vision is now a reality at South Lakes because of the endless opportunities that technology provides.

Teachers finally accept that technology is an instrument and can tailor their lesson plans to incorporate high-tech tools.

This new policy also benefits students because it alleviates the urge to sneak phones under desks or in backpacks. Learners now utilize smartphones to Google terms or check Blackboard for other activities or materials that supplement teacher instruction.

The policy has also led to a reduction in the number of phones confiscated by teachers and administrators, since there are opportunities to utilize them during classroom instruction.

Unfortunately, the implementations of a new policy come with inevitable issues.

More lenient restrictions on electronic devices certainly benefit those who have access to smartphones and other portable technology, but put those without these gadgets at a disadvantage.

Reston and South Lakes are home to people of multiple demographics and socio-economic situations. This means that not everyone has access to the same technology. Those who do not have access miss out on classroom activities that are dependent on the use of devices with internet access.

We appreciate the administration’s consideration of advanced technology as a tool, and not just a nuisance that distracts students. However, attention must be given to those who cannot afford or obtain smartphones or other devices during the school day.

It is unrealistic for the school to purchase every single student a device. Taking such a measure is simply unreasonable and costly for the school. What would happen if a device breaks? Would the student be held accountable or would it that responsibility fall on the school itself?

An optimal solution would be for courses to refrain from basing activities off PEDs. The policy should be a privilege used by students during lunches and other open periods, but during regular class time Internet access should be obtained by way of school equipment such as netbooks and laptops. This encourages the inclusion, rather than exclusion, of students in classroom activities.

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