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February 20. 2013 10:55PM

At Alvirne, students striking a wireless balance with personal devices

HUDSON - Since Alvirne High School went wireless last summer, more and more students are bringing their laptops, tablets and smart phones to class, with the staff's blessings.

The school was outfitted with a new wireless Internet system shortly before the current school year began, Principal Steven Beals said on Wednesday.

Teachers, staff, students and parents were surveyed at the end of the first semester to obtain feedback on how many students were taking advantage of the Internet, as well as when and why.

Beals said the survey was conducted in two parts, with teachers and staff members taking part in an internal survey and students and parents taking part in an external survey. Overall survey results showed a high level of support for the concept of allowing students to access the Internet using their own devices, provided those devices were being used for educational purposes.

"We had some disconnects regarding the use of these devices, particularly cell phones, in the hallways," Beals said, noting that many teachers expressed concern that smart phones and tablets were being used for the wrong reasons and at inappropriate times.

School officials noted, however, that many high school students were already bringing their cell phones to school long before the school went wireless.

In hopes of addressing concerns about potential disruptions in the hallways and in between classes, the high school has recently banned the use of any personal electronic devices in the hallways, though students are welcome to continue using them in class.

"We're seeing more and more of the kids bringing in tablets and laptops," Beals said. "For the most part they're using them for the right reasons. Certainly our school already offered plenty of opportunities for computer usage in our libraries and labs."

According to district policy, school computer usage is limited to the purposes of academic research, education and/or school-related business and operations.

Using computers for recreational, personal or non-school related purposes isn't allowed.

Students are also discouraged from using their personal email accounts or playing online games in an educational setting.

Beals said it's essentially up to staff members to monitor students' computer usage and make determinations as to which uses are appropriate.

aguilmet@newstote.com


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