Thursday, June 20, 2013 | 9 p.m.
Clark County schools may allow students to bring their own laptops, smartphones and tablet computers to campus starting next year.
The issue: For years, the Clark County School District's technology policy has banned "cellphones, pagers/beepers or other similar electronic devices" from campuses.
However, as school systems across the country begin infusing more technology into classrooms, the School District began considering a "Bring Your Own Device" policy. After months of deliberation, the Clark County School Board took a vote on the issue Thursday.
The vote: Unanimous, 7-0
The impact: Clark County joins other major school districts in central Florida and near Houston and Atlanta in adopting a "Bring Your Own Device" or technology policy.
Proponents of a "BYOD" policy argue a 21st century education must not ban technology — which is pervasive at home and in the community — at the schoolhouse gates. They argue today's students are "digital natives" who must be educated with technology to thrive in a technology-driven world.
In response to the growing demand for technology nationally, the Clark County School District installed wi-fi networks in all of its schools. It also began piloting iPad programs.
Last year, the School District launched a major iPad initiative that placed 7,000 Apple tablet computers into the hands of students at five low-income middle schools. Next year, the district plans to expand the "Engage, Empower, Explore" iPad program to four more schools.
However, educators have realized these iPad programs are financially difficult to scale up, especially in large school districts.
Clark County's pilot iPad program two years ago cost the district nearly $800,000. Last year, Clark County used about about $2.5 million in federal funding to pay for the "Engage, Empower, Explore" program.
By allowing students to bring their own devices, the School District will save money in the long run while still promoting a digital education.
"It's a big paradigm shift for our district and it's in the right direction," said School Board member Chris Garvey.
Students may bring personal cell phones, laptops, tablet computers and other similar electronic devices to campus.
During the school day, students may only use them with the approval of the principal. Students must access the Internet using the School District's wi-fi networks, which have filters to block out inappropriate content.
Students may not use their digital devices to interfere or disrupt the classroom, access websites that aren't relevant to the curriculum and engage in commercial activities.
Students who use their digital devices to cyberbully other students, send inappropriate messages such as "sexts" and plagiarize or violate intellectual property laws will be disciplined.
Although proponents of "BYOD" hailed the School Board's decision to drop its technology ban, there are many skeptics of the policy.
Critics have argued teachers may find it difficult to teach students who bring a wide range of technology devices. They also worry about cheating and whether low-income students may be left behind in a digital classroom.
Earlier this year, a spate of iPad thefts had Metro Police concerned about student safety.
Jhone Ebert, the School District's chief technology officer, argued however that the benefits of the technology outweigh its potential downsides.
Although the research is still out on whether this influx of technology actually boosts student achievement, teachers are reporting more engaged students.
Digital devices also allow students to create more dynamic multimedia projects, help students take better notes and lightens children's backpacks.
"It will transform learning in our classrooms," Ebert said. "It's a huge shift in how our students are learning."