The Irvine Unified School District (IUSD)’s current policy regarding use of electronic devices in school libraries directly contradicts its own Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) vision and creates educational problems. The policy needs to be updated.
As it pertains to the library, the district states that “no electronic devices may be on or visible.” This has resulted in a number of confiscations of student-owned electronics.
Yet, IUSD recently released a comprehensive technology plan which includes a BYOD component. The BYOD plan envisions students bringing their own devices rather than relying solely on school computers.
“Until [recently], educators said ‘you can’t use your phones, you can’t use these things,” Shelly Gould Burgess, an Ohio physics teacher and advocate of BYOD policies like the ones being championed by IUSD, told the National Education Association, “but now we’re using them for education.”
According to IUSD Educational Technology Coordinator Kris Linville, future schools will be like coffee shops in that students will walk into schools, log on to a network with their own devices, and use those devices for school work. If the district wishes to move forward with this lofty goal, the current policy must be addressed so that resources such as iPods, tablets, and other handheld devices are accessible in libraries. Isn’t that the BYOD vision?
Libraries serve as the multimedia centers of schools. Thus, restricting electronic device usage to only school-provided computers is contradictory. And there is another pressing reason to allow students to use their own computers in the library.
During the 2012-2013 school year, around 30 computers from the Irvine High School (IHS) library were removed because they were outdated and expensive to maintain. This resulted in a drastic reduction of the number of computers available to students. According to information taken from the IUSD Technology Plan for 2013-2016, developed under Superintendent Terry Walker, the current average ratio of number of students to number of computers is 5:1. The ratio is as bad as 9:1 at some schools.
“I never fully rely on the computers at school because you never know when they’ll be available and when they won’t be,” IHS junior Jared Johannessen said in an interview with J Student Reporters.
Allowing student-owned device use in the library could help schools adjust to this shortage of resources.
The concern that students might use their devices for non-academic purposes is understandable. However, in a May 2012 survey conducted by IUSD technology staff, students reported using technology most often to “check grades, obtain course assignments, conduct Internet research, and complete writing assignments.”
Also, personal computers, iPods, tablets and other devices without cellular data plans must use the school’s network for Internet access and, due to a new filtration system, cannot access questionable websites and applications.
“Why is administration so worried about students accessing things through their devices?” IHS junior Malaya Neri asked rhetorically in an interview with JSR, “Isn’t that why an Internet filter is in place?”
The district should review the existing electronics use policy as it applies to school libraries and align it with its BYOD vision in order to provide the highest quality educational experience. The Internet is crucial to our modern age, so a step in this direction will bring our schools into the present and help them step forward into the future.
As Linville has said, “We use technology before school and we use technology after school. So why don’t we use it for school?”