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Quaker Valley steadfast in providing technology to students

| Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

While an increasing number of districts implement policies allowing students to pack their own tablets, e-readers and other portable computer devices , Quaker Valley School District leaders say their focus is providing one device for each student.

“‘Bring your own device' allows students an extra tool in their tool belt,” Quaker Valley High School Principal Andrew Surloff said.

“It doesn't do anything for the teacher.

“It limits the teacher's ability to count on what technology is at (the students') fingertips.”

School board members earlier this year approved spending $559,500 for a four-year lease on 1,173 computers and purchasing 500 Chromebook laptops with insurance and carrying cases.

At the high school, Quaker Valley provides each student with a district-issued computer they can take home during the course of the year.

They've done so since 2001, when the school first began issuing Apple computers to students.

Except for the senior class, which continues to use MacBook laptops, students will use Dell laptops this year.

Middle school students are issued Chromebook laptops they can use during the school day.

Students are accustomed to using devices at home, at school and on the go, Surloff said.

A Pew Research Center survey released in the spring shows 78 percent of children ages 12 to 17 have mobile phones — 47 percent of those teens own smartphones. About 23 percent of teens use tablets, and 93 percent have personal computers.

Students in the nearby Avonworth School District have a one-to-one ratio of computers, spokeswoman Dana Hackley said. But computers cannot be checked out or taken home.

Avonworth's program incorporates the ability for students to sometimes bring their personal devices to class.

“We do foster a culture that allows students to bring in their own device should the teacher deem it appropriate,” Hackley said.

“The school board will soon be reviewing the acceptable use policy in order to make it more in line with our generally accepted environment.”

The district uses software that prohibits students from browsing inappropriate content, Hackley said.

In addition, leaders in Avonworth are considering adding a cloud-based storage and productivity suite from Microsoft,allowing students the chance to access software remotely that they might not own at home, she said.

Eight classrooms at Franklin Regional High School piloted a program last year allowing students to bring their own device and more are expected to this year, Superintendent Jamie Piraino said.

In the Plum School District, 20 to 25 percent of the district's nearly 4,000 students brought their own devices each day last school year, technology director Chris Davis said.

Most of those students were at the high school, he said.

But children in all buildings are permitted to bring their electronic devices to school in Plum.

When Quaker Valley administrators considered computer upgrades, allowing students to bring their own devices was part of the discussion, Surloff said.

But the option was nixed, he said.

“We already have an expectation from students, the community and teachers,” Surloff said. “They're used to having that level of access. To go backwards would be detrimental and would be a morale killer.”

Surloff said issues can happen when allowing students to bring computers from home.

“You can't guarantee every student's device is going to have the same technology,” he said.

Providing computers allows teachers to know what technology is available to every student, Surloff said.

“We can give a suite of tools to all teachers and to all students that they can depend on every day,” he said.

“You also bridge a socio-economic divide to allow equal access to learning.”

Surloff said districts that allow students to bring their personal devices can be an important step in technology.

“In other districts that are not one-to-one, ‘bring your own device' is a step above where they were,” he said.

“They essentially had nothing and now they'll have those tools.

“It makes sense toallow students to use those devices, but I don't think it's a game changer for instruction like our one-to-one initiative.”

Daveen Rae Kurutz contributed to this report. Bobby Cherry is an associate editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-324-1408 or

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