Waupaca High School students are bringing laptops, tablets and cellphones to school and learning when it is appropriate to use them.
Rob Becker, a principal at the high school, said the school’s “Bring Your Own Device Policy” follows the cellphone policy the school adopted in time for the 2011-12 school year.
When the cellphone policy was rewritten, the idea was to make it more encompassing by including all wireless technology, he said.
An informal interview with students showed between 75 and 85 percent of them had wireless technology, Becker said.
Last summer, a wireless network was installed.
“It is a filtered network. You can’t do big downloads,” he said.
What anyone, who signs into the network, can do is such things as check email or even another sports scores during a high school sporting event.
Under the high school’s rewritten policy, students may use the technology before and after school, between classes and during study hall and lunch – as long as they are not causing problems.
During class, cellphones should be set to silent or vibrate and should not be seen, he said.
“The rule before,” Becker said, “is when you entered the school, you had to turn it off and leave it in the locker until the end of the school day.”
With the change in policy, he notices many students do a quick check of their Facebook page or email during their lunch period.
“We hope it mirrors adult life,” said Becker, who before joining the Waupaca School District worked at a school where students were allowed to use their cellphones during the school day.
Becker said some businesses have policies about when their employees may check their personal cellphones.
“We’re trying to teach our students how to use cellphones in the adult world,” he said. “We see it as a tool used in the business world.”
The school’s policy allows teachers to take cellphones away from students if they are not following the rules and return them to the parents, Becker said.
Most often, a student receives a warning the first time there is an incident, and the cellphone is returned to the student at the end of the school day, he said.
“There are some teachers that will allow students to have it out on their desk or use it,” Becker said.
Tim Hiddemen is one of them.
Last school year, he experimented with allowing students to take notes, using electronic devices.
It began accidently when a student said it would be easier to keep up taking notes with a laptop.
For years Hiddemen has used a laptop in his grad classes instead of a notebook, and so, he allowed the student to bring a laptop.
That resulted in requests from other students, as to whether they could use a tablet, cellphone or iPod.
He said students could use tablets, and he told his students he doubted they could keep up with entering text on a cellphone.
A student proved it could be done by taking notes on a cellphone for the rest of the class and getting everything down.
Hiddemen has several rules, including that students must immediately turn in their device to him at his request. If it is not an app for notes, they get a warning.
If there is any delay in showing him the text, he assumes they are trying to conceal or switch out of another app and gives a warning.
Hiddemen has a two strike policy, meaning they get one warning for inappropriate use. The second time results in the loss of privilege of using the device in the class for the remainder of the quarter.
When he began the experiment last school year, the next day just about every student had a device for note taking.
However, over the next few weeks, he noticed a fair number of students went back to taking notes by hand.
Between 25 and 30 percent continued using devices, and Hiddemen was pleased to see a couple students, who almost never took notes on paper, begin taking notes and continuing to do so, once they could use an electronic device.
Math teacher Dale Feldt said students have the ability to communicate with him and class members 24/7.
He uses an education social site called Edmodo for lesson plans, discussion forums and handouts.
Feldt said students receive a text message or email when something is posted.
They can also post questions on their homework. Feldt can adjust his lessons based on the questions the students post.
Maureen Neuman is a special education teacher at the high school and teaches her students how to use the calculators on their cellphones.
English teacher Neil Young sees homework completion being higher when students enter due dates on their cellphones or e-calendar devices.
Also new this year is the ability for parents to receive text messages from the school.
For example, when school was canceled on Dec. 20, parents who signed up to receive text messages had a text by 7 p.m. on Dec. 19, notifying them there would be no school the next day.
Becker said they are working on implementing the ability to also send text messages to the students.
In addition, an interactive display called the Blue Board is located in the school and tied to the computer network.
It is a place for daily announcements, weather forecasts and information about the school’s solar panels. A grant paid for it.