On March 2, 2015, the New York City Department of Education lifted its school cell phone ban. Students are now allowed to bring cell phones and other personal electronic devices to school. Each school is tasked with creating its own cell phone and electronic device policy for students. This brings some challenges but also many exciting opportunities for those schools willing to explore the possibilities of a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program.
I recently chatted via email with Jackie Patanio, technology coach at Public School 16 in Staten Island, N.Y., and Carolyn Semet, technology specialist at Intermediate School 230 in Jackson Heights, N.Y. I wanted to hear how things were going for them and the teachers they work with one month after the ban lifted.
Erin: I'd love to hear how your two schools are handling the lift of the ban. Could you each talk a little about that?
Jackie: Our current policy at PS 16 John J Driscoll School allows students to have their cell phones in school, but they must be powered off during the school day and stay in their book bag or be locked up by their teachers.
Erin: So teachers aren't using them for classroom instruction or learning activities?
Jackie: Not yet. We embrace the power of technology with students and are considering carefully the impact it will have on their futures. As a school, we're taking steps to tailor how our BYOD program will run at PS 16 next year. The NYCDOE is providing us guidance at the BYOD Institute, which will give us insight into how the upcoming school year could look for implementing BYOD.
Carolyn: At Intermediate School 230, Magnet School for Civics in the Community, we've established a policy that allows students to keep their personal devices with them during the school day and use them if a teacher authorizes it as part of classroom instruction. As a school, we want to embrace this change and see how we can incorporate their devices and enable us to move closer to a 1-to-1 environment. We are currently testing the waters in a few classrooms.
Erin: What do you think the benefits of BYOD are?
Carolyn: We believe students need to demonstrate civic responsibility, learn on their own terms, in their world, with their devices. BYOD teaches students to be responsible for their own technology. It models for them how to use these devices for learning. It can also be more motivating for students when they're using their own device.
Jackie: I'd add that students know how to use their own devices better than many of the devices in school, so BYOD can make the learning experience easier. Of course, another advantage is that it gives students access to information at all times. And they can contact people in case of emergency or necessity.
Erin: As I'm sure you know, there are some critics of BYOD. Understandably, teachers, administrators, schools, and parents have varying concerns about adopting BYOD. What are some of those concerns and how are you addressing them?
Carolyn: Some of the concerns we have are whether our infrastructure will support these additional student devices and whether we should give students access to the school wireless on their devices. Also, teachers are concerned with managing the additional technology in the classroom. Challenges regarding use of family data plans and filtering are issues we need to address also.
Jackie: Taking the time to explore how the power of BYOD can enhance and engage students, even at a young age, is an exciting prospect. Whenever major change is upon us, there's always skepticism and apprehension. We're managing the concerns of the PS 16 community by informing them of the positive impact of BYOD and explaining how we'll be setting up a safe environment for success. This shift in learning will be a journey for PS 16 and how it is used, embraced, and tailored to the needs of our school community.
Carolyn: Through BYOD, we can supplement what the schools have to offer. This is the road we're trying to navigate at our schools moving forward. We're teaching students how to engage with and use their own devices for learning at their own pace, through their own expression and creativity, and at their own ability level. As adults, we use our own personal devices in many ways -- to disseminate information, jot down thoughts, look something up, or create reminders and appointments. Isn’t it our job to prepare our students for this type of learning? Isn’t it our job to prepare students for their future? We believe it is, and that's why we are embracing BYOD in our schools.