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Franklin Regional board considers tech rules

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2012, 9:03 p.m.

Franklin Regional students soon will begin using their own iPads, iPods and laptops in school.

District officials are reviewing a new policy for the educational use of student-owned electronic devices – dubbed “BYOD” or bring-your-own-device by many school technology staff.

The policy, which is scheduled for a final vote next month, would enable students to connect various electronic devices to the district's wireless network during certain classes.

The plan isn't an invitation for students to text and listen to music instead of concentrating on school work, officials said.

“This is not going to be a free-for-all, where everyone is walking down the hall using their devices,” said Brad Schrecengost, supervisor of technology services for the district. “We're telling them where and when it can be used.”

Students would be allowed to bring cellphones, laptop computers, e-readers, digital cameras, personal digital assistants, iPods, iPad, mp3 player, pagers and other data devices to school and during school-sponsored events.

According to the proposal, officials can restrict student use of the devices on school property and at school-sponsored events.

The proposed policy states the devices are to be used for “educational purposes and/or in approved locations only” during the school day.

The district would not be responsible for the loss, damage or theft of student-owned devices.

If a student's device is confiscated for any reason, at least two adults must be present when files and the browser history is reviewed, according to the policy.

Any student connecting to the Internet must do so through the district's network, Schrecengost said. Though students might have access to a 3G or 4G network, they are prohibited from using it at school.

“There's no way to stop them from connecting,” Schrecengost said. “They could do it now, and nobody stops them. That's why we have this policy.”

Schrecengost said school employees can help a student connect to the wireless network – which requires all users to agree to an acceptable-use policy – but they can't troubleshoot “blue screen” or other hardware problems. That's a job for the high school “Geek Squad” – a club that specializes in computer repair.

Board members said they worry about allowing students to bring in their own electronic devices.

“I'm concerned about cameras in the locker room, or taking pictures of tests and records in the guidance office. But that's always been a worry,” board member Roberta Cook said.

“Now, we have a piece of paper that says, ‘No, you can't do that.'”

Board member Larry Borland asked if there will be a secure place for students to store the electronics — Schrecengost said they will go in student lockers or book bags.

Board President Herb Yingling said the teens need to be more responsible with their belongings, judging by what he sees during sports practices.

“You walk down the hall (after school) and you see 50 cell phones sitting out,” Yingling said. “These kids need to learn to be responsible for themselves.”

Franklin Regional is one of several districts to consider BYOD policies. Penn-Trafford students began bringing laptops to school this fall under a policy that dictates what students can access while at school.

Superintendent Emery D'Arcangelo said eventually, the district won't have to replace as many computers because students will rely on their own technology.

But loaner devices always will be available for students whose parents aren't comfortable with sending a valuable piece of electronic equipment to school with a teenager.

“Over time, as we see in many schools, more and more kids are bringing in iPads and laptops,” D'Arcangelo said.

“There does become less need for replacements. But this is only if a parent feels (the student) can bring it in. This isn't mandatory.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8627, or dkurutz@tribweb.com.

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