BYOD coming to JYMS

Published 7:34 pm Saturday, February 13, 2016

John Yeates Middle School students will be allowed to use their wireless personal electronic devices — laptops, tablets, smartphones and the like — in the classroom soon.

The North Suffolk middle school will be the city’s first to follow a Bring Your Own Device for Learning — or BYOD4L — policy, said Christine Lafferty, lead teacher for technology.

Until now, high schoolers have been the only Suffolk Public School students permitted to bring their own devices to school for instruction, she said.

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“We are testing the waters with John Yeates,” said Lafferty. “We have other middle and elementary schools who have expressed an interest in participating.”

Beginning on Feb. 29, students whose parents have signed the division’s acceptable use policy form — essentially, an agreement for good digital citizenship that most parents signed in September — will have access to school division’s Wi-Fi Internet.

Students are allowed to use only the school division’s Wi-Fi Internet connection, which is protected by a content filter, when they are on campus, according to the BYOD4L policy. The division’s Wi-Fi filter blocks all social media apps, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, according to the policy.

Students will sign into the school division’s wireless network with a user name and password. All students will be provided a Google Apps for Education account, which will give them email capabilities with their teachers, according to the policy.

Students will be able to use their devices only in class; when they aren’t being used on specific class assignments, they are to be put away, according to the policy. Personal devices are not allowed to be used between classes or in hallways, restrooms, locker rooms or the cafeteria.

Using devices will enhance current instructional time and will ultimately better prepare students for the real world they will encounter, Lafferty said.

“They need to be taught technology,” Lafferty said. “No matter what they do in life, technology is going to be a big part it. They will not be able to escape it … so they need to know how to use it.”

During the past few months, John Yeates teachers have gone through training to learn the best techniques to engage students using technology, Lafferty said.

According to Lafferty, students may use their devices for completing in-class activities, collaborating in real time, researching projects, accessing websites with curriculum-related content, keeping track of classroom assignments and recording journal entries.

For example, teachers could poll students on for their opinions on current events, then use that poll at the catalyst for a discussion, Lafferty said. There are also a number of web-based quizzes teachers can use. A teacher can have her class all solve a math problem on their devices, She could then see who worked it correctly and then share that solution with other students so they will have an example to learn from, Lafferty said.

“It’s a mobile blackboard,” she said.

Students probably wouldn’t use many educational games, Lafferty said.

“Educational games have limited benefits,” she said. “It is more helpful for them to take content and create something; to make a video or podcast, for example. We do a lot of learning by having them apply what they are know.”

John Yeates Middle School has scheduled two technology talks for parents in coming weeks — at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 17 and 23 in the school auditorium.