SEBRING — At the start of the new school year, the technology will be in place to allow students to use their own computers to access the Internet while in class, but each school will set its own “bring your own device” policy. Currently, the campus-wide wireless installation has been completed at 15 of the School Board of Highlands County’s 17 schools, with the other two set to being completed this month, said Management Information Systems Technical Manager Harry Howes.
The schools will have a “bring your own device” (BYOD) network and policy, which will allow students to bring their own personal devices, he said. The approved-device list is still being worked on.
“We want devices to come to school that can help education and not hinder it,” Howes stressed. “MIS is making a BYOD network available, but it is the school’s decision if it will help education in their school.”
The BYOD network will only allow students to access the Internet, which will limit any disruption to the school district’s main network.
Student access will be filtered on the Internet just like on school-owned devices, and they will have to login on the BYOD network so teachers and administrators will know what websites students are accessing, Howes noted.
The school-wide enterprise-grade wireless systems are being funded by a $456,000 grant.
Since getting the money, the MIS department has made a number of technological improvements that allow faster troubleshooting of network and wireless issues, Howes said.
Now that the network infrastructure is in place, the district can focus on trying to replace the aging Windows XP computers, he added.
Meanwhile, a digital/electronic textbook requirement goes into effect in the upcoming school.
State Education Commissioner Pam Stewart informed school districts recently the legislature has changed district requirements regarding the purchase of instructional materials.
According to Senate Bill 864, each district school board will have to use at least half of its instructional materials funding to buy digital or electronic instructional materials starting in the next school year.
Stewart noted that statewide, $165 million will be available for school districts to purchase instructional content, electronic devices and technology equipment and infrastructure.
The School Board of Highlands County will meet the requirement, said District Director of Secondary Programs Ruth Heckman.
The textbooks the district purchases include online supplements and online textbooks, she noted.
For example, when purchasing middle school math textbooks, the district will receive hard copies of the books and an online component that allows students to do other learning activities. That will giving the school district the chance to meet the requirement, Heckman said.
More can be done with the online instructional materials, Heckman said, but not all of the district’s students have computers at home.
“So we will use it a lot at school because you can go and do more on an electronic device than with a paper and pencil so it’s a good combination,” she said.