Sullivan Central High School has had wireless Internet throughout the building since January, but Monday marks the formal beginning of Central’s Bring Your Own Technology or BYOT program and becoming a technology school.
That means students are encouraged to bring iPads, iPods, smartphones, tablets, laptops, Kindle, Nook e-readers and other Wi-Fi-enabled devices to school to use in class.
“The biggest thing for us is it becomes another tool in the arsenal of instruction,” Principal Mark Foster said Thursday.
He said the school has some iPads and laptops that can be checked out of the library for in-school use, although he said most students own or have access to wireless devices to bring to school.
Foster said the entire school has Wi-Fi and that visitors are welcome to use the wireless during events like basketball games.
The access is filtered the same as all Internet access in the Sullivan County school system. Per school system policy, students are not to access the Internet through their 3G or 4G service.
“No 3G or 4G (is) allowed, we provide the Internet gateway for them,” said Evelyn Rafalowski, supervisor of technology, athletics, security and transportation for the school system. “Our Internet is CIPA (Children’s Internet Protection Act) compliant — filtered — and is provided via ENA (Education Networks of America). Students accessing our wireless access the same Internet as if connecting through our wired network now.”
Holly Rogers, 18 and a senior, said chemistry classes already have been using iPads to show students three-dimensional views of elements on the periodic chart.
“Teachers have been preparing for some time,” Foster said. He said the devices will allow teachers to do an instant poll of students or a question-and-answer session and get instant feedback.
Holly said wireless devices are commonplace in college. She plans to go to the University of Tennessee and major in industrial engineering. Rachel Harr, 16 and a junior, said she plans to go to either King University or UT and pursue a career as a pediatric dentist.
“Personally, I think that’s why it’s so important Central is going to be a technology school,” Holly said. “A cell phone is sort of like a whole extra textbook.”
Sullivan South High School has a BYOT program in its second year, and East also has wireless Internet. Rafalowski said North High will have Wi-Fi installation completed soon.
The whole school system is to have either BYOT or iPad programs in place. Neighboring Kingsport City Schools also is launching a systemwide Bring Your Own Device or BYOD program with full wireless access recently in place at all schools and a strong emphasis on classroom use by August for the 2013-14 school year.
“I always have an iPhone on me. That would be my first option,” Rachel said of her iPhone 5. She was in eighth grade at Holston Middle School when it began exploring the iPad program there that started about the same time as the South BYOT program.
Holly said she has an iPhone 4 but that her parents both have iPads that she probably could borrow if needed.
Foster said that when he went into a class without prior notice Friday, all but two students had a device with them. Of those two, one had the device taken away by a parent and the other was lost by the student.
Foster, who for the record has a phone that has voice and texts but has a wife and children with smartphones, said his 18-month-old grandson can use an iPad on his own and run a Veggie Tales application.
From the preschool children to high-schoolers, he said all are at home with technology.
“It is such a part of their life. It is a part of their everyday life,” Foster said.