Assistant Principal Charles Edwards tapped his user name and password into his personal smartphone. But his effort to connect to the Columbus East High School wireless network fell flat.
“It’s been spotty,” Edwards observed about the school’s new system, which has gotten off to a sputtering start in the first days of class at Columbus East and Columbus North high schools.
The Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp. has been rolling out bring-your-own-device technology piece by piece to schools throughout the district, with the high schools furthest along, said Bill Jensen, director of secondary education. Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Corp. has begun installation and expects to roll out the technology in the near future.
Columbus North and East both still are working out the kinks. Previously, students at those schools could wirelessly access the Internet only on school devices. Now, students in some classrooms can log in with their own gadgets.
Full Wi-Fi for personal devices should have been available by now at East, Principal Mark Newell said. However, he expects the service to be fully operational soon.
North Assistant Principal John Green said North wants to introduce students to the new technology more gradually so school administrators can discuss how best to go about it.
The Columbus Signature Academy-New Tech high school has Wi-Fi capabilities and provides its students with school devices. It has no plans to install bring-your-own-device technology until next year, said Mike Jamerson, the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp.’s technology director.
Central and Northside middle schools are expected to get the upgrade in January.
Jamerson said multimillion- dollar high school renovations at North and East presented his school district with the perfect opportunity to upgrade wireless services. Cables and equipment are easier to install, he said, when integrated along with the rest of a school’s building or rebuilding design.
Wi-Fi at North cost the school district $164,000, he said. For East, it cost $162,000.
East senior Emma Dwenger said she plans to bring her tablet to school when she knows she can access the wireless service. She said the personal connectivity will lessen the competition for school computers so information is available to every student any time they need it.
Emily Steinrock, a sophomore at East, described the new service as “futuristic,” giving students lightning fast access to the world to complement their experiences in the classroom. It will allow her to access information instantly, she said, instead of having to make a note to herself to look up information when she can get on a personal device.
Newell said attitudes have changed in recent years regarding the acceptance of electronic devices in schools. He said East will allow students access at all times; however, teachers can regulate it as they see fit in their classrooms.
“We don’t want students to have to power down when they come to school,” he said. “Technology has advanced so much that now you have the power of a computer in your cellphone.”
Edwards said the upside to connectivity is obvious as a learning tool. But he acknowledged it also can be a slippery slope if students become distracted with their devices.
That’s why the schools will stress proper use to the students. Students already can’t access pornographic or otherwise inappropriate sites because of a federally mandated Internet filter.
Green, the assistant principal at North, said wireless connectivity is about a lot more than the Internet anyway.
“The hope is that teachers can utilize this as an opportunity to experiment with some great mobile apps for their classes,” he said. “It can really complement education.”
Kathy Griffey, superintendent of Flat Rock-Hawcreek schools, said in an email interview that the schools in Hope will be adding iPads to kindergarten classes and at the high school classrooms will have sets of tablets, either iPads or Android devices. She said students will be more able to bring their own devices to school.
“If a student has an iPad or smartphone, we’ll have technology in place where a student can have that with them, use it for accessing information, pulling it off the Web,” she said. “We’ve got wireless in place across the whole building that was not here last year. That’s a huge difference for students.
“So there’s going to be a big change in having us ready for the next several years. We’re making progress through technology.”
The Republic reporter Mark Webber contributed to this story.
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