Putnam schools to introduce 'bring your own device' program

WINFIELD, W.Va. -- Putnam County Schools has implemented a BYOD, "or bring your own device" pilot program in all of its schools this year, and school Superintendent Chuck Hatfield said he hopes the policy will be fully implemented by the end of the year.Datacom, a Cincinnati-based IT consulting firm that has partnered with Putnam County Schools since February, will be responsible for developing a cloud-based curriculum for schools based on teacher recommendations.Cloud-based curricula are entirely online, rather than saved to a hard drive or CD, and will allow students to access e-Books, course materials and online reference tools."We're currently working with each building to determine how they want to pilot it --  whether they want to build a team of teachers, or choose a couple of teachers from different curricular focuses," said Mary Hodge, a project manager for Datacom. "But those teachers will be on a BYOD pilot team."We'll spend the first nine weeks building the foundation of that, which will be building communication for parents and students, learning Google apps, and trying to identify what some of the challenges are going to be."According to Hatfield, the pilot will allow the teachers to understand and establish guidelines for technology use in the classroom, including what devices will be acceptable for students and how the use of those devices will best serve different subject areas."I don't think there will be textbooks five years from now -- certainly 10 years from now," Hatfield said. "We're already seeing that, or at least textbooks as we've come to know them."
The county hopes to bring its student-to-device ratio to 1:1 in the future, Hatfield said. That's something that's already been accomplished at Buffalo High School, where the county school system was able to purchase laptops for every student in the new, state-of-the-art building.Providing county-owned devices for the 10,000 students in the Putnam County school system isn't as feasible, Hatfield said."It's going to be a work in progress, and we're taking baby steps; understand that there are probably a lot of things to work out, but we think it's the only way -- if our intent is to provide a 1:1 ratio, that's the only way we can achieve it in any reasonable way," he said. "Even if we could reach a point where we could afford to buy every student a laptop, there is no way we could sustain it."Teachers who have elected to participate in the program will have a small group of students allowed to use devices ranging from laptops and tablets to smartphones. Hatfield said student participation is voluntary, and kindergarten- through third-grade students will not be introduced to the program at this point.According to Hodge, Datacom will provide support for the county during the transition, and will include a web-based filter that will bar access to certain websites and content for students during school."We also have [a] program called 'Computers for Kids,' which basically allows a child to bring in their own device and get the support they're used to from the school district," said Liam Cummings, president and CEO of Datacom. "They can put in a ticket and say, 'I have an error,' and we can provide them with a loaner device, take theirs, fix it and return it to them."The next regular meeting of the Putnam County school board will be Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. at the board's office in Winfield.Reach Lydia Nuzum at lydia.nuzum@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.
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