Glendale Unified ponders wireless world

Glendale Unified school board members this week are slated to continue discussions over a district-wide policy change that could ease restrictions on students bringing wireless devices, such as smartphones and iPads, to class.

The new policy being discussed could go even further by encouraging students to bring their own electronic devices to school under a recognition that electronics belong in the 21st century classroom.

When and how electronic devices are used, however, will still be up to each school and teacher, officials say. And by that metric, policies can vary greatly by campus.

For the first time this year at Glendale High, students are welcome to use their phones during snack periods, at lunch and in class — with teachers’ consent.

Principal Monica Makiewicz said the change has been “a good compromise” from last year when students would often text in class, unable to use their phones during the school day.

“It was becoming crazy,” she said.

So administrators visited every class and told students: “We are going to allow you to use the cell phones only if you respect the rules using them inside,” she said.

Students now meet administrators halfway, and an increasing number of teachers incorporate phones into their lessons.

In one health class, students used their phones to calculate their body mass index. In music teacher Amy Rangel’s class, students tracked down composers spanning from medieval times to today, providing multiple examples of their musical style and instruments.

Some 21st century challenges still loom, though, as social networking sites harbor cyber bullying and keep educators on their toes.

“We need to monitor what’s going on those phones and teach them how to use them,” Makiewicz said.

At Crescenta Valley High School, students are apt to bring cell phones, electronic readers, iPads and laptops.

“I think it’s a great tool,” Principal Michele Doll said. “It depends on the teacher, the topic and the content area.”

But sometimes students use their phones in the wrong place at the wrong time.

At Crescenta Valley, an average 12 to 15 phones per week this year have been sent to administrators, according to Deputy Supt. John Garcia.

While some kids have been assigned “Saturday School” for inappropriate phone use, not one student has been reprimanded twice — proving that school on Saturday is a helpful deterrent, Garcia added.

Electronics have introduced a new responsibility for teachers to guide students in the right direction, however challenging that may be, said school board President Christine Walters.

“It’s a completely new paradigm, but it’s something we’re going to have to struggle with as we bring new technology into the classroom,” she said. “We need to make it so phones are available.”

Follow Kelly on Twitter @kellymcorrigan.

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