HOWARD - Some school districts say they're taking a new approach to learning: transitioning from textbooks to "tech books."
As students at Bay Port High School go back to school this fall, there will be more logging on, and less hitting the books.
“MacBook Air,” said sophomore Cassandra Bertolini, with an excited giggle. ”I think it's going to be really cool to use.”
Students picked up their school-issued lap tops before class started.
Parents say they're excited for this opportunity.
“I was pretty surprised because she does have one at home, but I guess it has to do with the classes that she has to take so they have all the same stuff to use,” said Cassandra’s mother, Lori Bertolini.
“Just like working in groups with other people. We all have the same programs and things because that was hard in the past working on projects together,” said Cassandra.
Technology director Kyle Siech says the district looked for cost effective measures for its digital transformation.
“Funds that were previously designated for textbooks are now being transferred into the initiative to help support these kids,” said Siech.
Parents pay a $75 insurance fee for the device.
Grade-school students received iPads instead of MacBook Airs. Students will keep the devices until they graduate.
If the devices are less than four years old, they will be re-issued. Old computers will be re-sold, and the money will be used to purchase new ones for other students.
Students say the transition hasn't been too difficult so far.
“I’ve used them before for summer chemistry, just this last summer I used them. I really like that they're handing them out because hopefully we won't have to carry around textbooks then, adn all that, so I’m kind of really excited about all that,” said Katelyn Birr, a junior.
Though some school districts like Howard-Suamico are issuing laptops to students to even the playing field, other school districts are leaving students to their own devices.
“Effective this school year you'll be able to bring in your device and use it for instructional purposes,” said Michael O'Callaghan, technology director for the Unified School District of De Pere.
While many classrooms have iPads to use for group activities, he says his school district will use the “BYOD” policy for middle and high school students because it's more cost-effective than distributing devices individually to children.
“The policy for the students will be if the teacher says 'take it out and use it in my classroom,' feel free to do that. Otherwise, we don't expect to see it in the classroom, or the study halls or the library," O'Callaghan said. "The teacher also has to be cognizant of who has them and who doesn't, and provide other opportunities.
The school has also expanded Wi-Fi access. Teachers will keep a close eye on what students use that access for.
The tech director at Howard-Suamico says having all students on the same device helps control what students have access to.
“We actually have filtering systems in place and based on the use of the student things can be turned on or shut down for that very reason if there's violation of the policy,” said Siech.
Some parents shopping for traditional notebooks had mixed feelings about letting their children bring netbooks or tablets to school.
“I think when they get older and more responsible, I think it probably would be a good policy but as of right now with them being so young and they don't know their boundaries, I say yeah it's probably the parents that need to supervise that,” said Lisa Johnson of Green Bay.
“They have tablets in school so they have the opportunity to use them there. And they bring their own earbuds and they use that but I don't see a need for them to have their own,” said Lisa Stubbe of Pulaski.
But at the tech distribution night at Bay Port, some parents say more technology is an essential part of college and career readiness.
“Today's technology is going to be all computers. I work at a mill and everything is updated to computer so it's a good thing that they can use them,” said Bridget Behnke, as she helped her daughter, Katelyn Birr, log on to the new computer.
These students say while the workforce may be a few years off, they're certainly ready to tackle any technology-based schoolwork that comes their way.
Each school has its own policy on computers, tablets and smart phones.
You'll want to check with your child's school before they bring their device.
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