Can students’ personal cell phones, laptops and other electronic devices be used for classroom assignments and instruction?

Oak Park and River Forest High School will explore how to let students use their own devices in the classroom as part of an overall 5-year technology plan the high school has put together. An upgraded phone system, rewiring of the building and projectors in every class are also part of the plan. Implementation on some things, like the rewiring, began this school year.

Mike Carioscio, OPRF’s chief information officer, presented the plan to the District 200 Board of Education last week at their Instruction Committee meeting. He said he plans to return to the board in March with a detailed budget. Much of the plan addresses infrastructure and hardware upgrades, but improving classroom instruction is the main focus, Carioscio said.

The plan calls for each student to have access to a laptop computer. Carioscio, though, said that needs more looking into. Not every student might be able to afford one of their own, he acknowledged, but that shouldn’t be a deal-breaker. The school might be able to help those students through cost savings in other areas addressed by the plan, he explained.

Carioscio’s also not sure exactly how that would work in the building but said the school could experiment with a pilot program to get a better answer.

“The dilemma with saying every student needs to own one is the issue of families who could not afford it,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that’s a sure stopper either. We can work through those things.”

With respect to students using their own personal electronic devices, Carioscio insisted it was worth exploring, given that students are already heavily invested in technology.

Another aspect of the plan is moving to mostly online textbook use. Carioscio noted this too will take some time to fully implement because some textbook companies have been slow to transition to the digital medium. But this is where online textbooks are heading, he said.

“This is coming like a freight train. We’re not going to be able to avoid it, and our intention is to get out in front of it and figure out what makes sense for this community, what’s the right way to handle these things,” Carioscio said.

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