‘Bring your own device’ catching on in schools

IT operations aren’t burdened with a BYOT initiative because students handle maintenance and updates for their own devices, Clark said.

The district started a small iPod Touch initiative with 10 devices in three classrooms. “Although they’re great, and the kids love them, it’s very difficult for us to manage synching and all the technical aspects,” he said. “It’s easier when kids bring their own devices.”

Virtual Virginia, the Virginia Department of Education’s official online course provider, is running an iPad pilot through its “Beyond Textbooks” initiative. Students use a custom app to learn about the historic Jamestown settlement and supplement that digital content with face-to-face instruction.

Virtual Virginia also operates a pilot in which an Advanced Placement (AP) biology textbook is delivered entirely through student-owned iPads.

Tara Farr, an AP biology and environmental science instructor with Virtual Virginia, said one-fourth to one-third of her AP biology students enrolled in the iPad program, which is in a pilot phase this year. Students who registered for a full year of AP biology chose whether they wanted to use a textbook, or whether they wanted to buy the app for their iPads.

Farr said the app offers portability in addition to note-taking and social sharing features, and that students “don’t want to carry those backpacks with 50 pounds of books in them.”

As an instructor, Farr is able to see what her iPad students highlight and focus on, and is better able to communicate with them through the social sharing feature.

A final assessment comparing the iPad biology app with students who used the traditional textbook will be conducted at the end of the school year.

Laura Ascione

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