The St. Clair R-XIII School Board adopted a resolution Thursday regarding technology guidelines including a new rule about the use of cellphones.
For the past six months, the district conducted several technology workshops with a Technology for Learning committee to see how effective technology tools, such as Chromebooks, are for enhanced learning. The group was comprised of teachers, staff, parents, students and community members.
The outcome of the study was to provide recommendations to the school board on how to use technology more effectively for learning and remove some technology elements that may hinder learning. The recommendations were presented at a June meeting.
On Monday, the board held a workshop where school board members, administrative staff and the school resource officer discussed the recommendations especially the one about cellphone use.
The board was in agreement with the technology recommendations, regarding cellphones and Chromebooks. Implementing and modifying the recommendations for each building will be up to administration, teachers and staff.
There also was a discussion of how using technology appropriately at the elementary school is different than using technology appropriately at the high school level. The board wanted to make sure administrators had the opportunity to make the guidelines fit each building.
The resolution that was passed Thursday supports the technology recommendations made by the committee.
“The study group’s recommendations fit under board policy that is already on the books. So instead of approving the recommendations, we voted for a resolution that tells administrators to take those recommendations and put them to work,” Board President David Berkel said to The Missourian.
“We thought it was important for administrators to have freedom to adapt the recommendations to fit their buildings. We also want them to know that the board supports their efforts.”
One guideline titled “No Cell, Bell to Bell,” will take effective starting this school year, according to Superintendent Dr. Kyle Kruse. Students will be able to keep their cellphones in their possession as long as they do not use them during school hours.
Kruse said cellphones cause distractions with incoming messages, social media posts and inappropriate videos.
“We have disruptions from social media posts on a near daily basis,” he said. “Those disruptions interfere with class and have caused real emotional pain for a number of students.”
A committee recommendation was to have students put their cellphones in pocket charts during class time, but the district decided to start with a less aggressive measure, according to Kruse.
If the “No Cell, Bell to Bell’” rule does not eliminate the problem, then “we have support from the school board to take additional, stronger steps to fix the problem,” he said.
The first recommendation is on the topic of cellphones and ways for them to not negatively impact the school environment. One way to avoid cellphones in the classroom is to have students store them in a locker or pocket chart during class time, according to Kruse.
Students also may be required to store smartwatches or other devices at teacher discretion and students who do not follow the rules may face consequences.
In addition, a teacher evaluation system to address the issue would be in place, as well as prohibit using cellphones during free time and prohibit headphones/earbuds unless given permission by a teacher or administrator for an activity.
The second recommendation is regarding Chromebooks and electronic devices, and having teachers and staff effectively monitor students’ use during class. The tool Relay, created by Lightspeed Systems, was implemented in the spring, which lets teachers access student Chromebooks, lock screens when necessary and share information to multiple Chromebooks at the same time.
Relay also sends out weekly reports to parents that show when Chromebooks are being used, websites used by students, a list of blocked websites and more. Parents started receiving emails in March.
Developing a uniform electronic classroom management is the third recommendation. Teachers use different online platforms for students to submit their work and by having teachers use the same platform would “help all involved.”
It was also noted to have ongoing training for faculty on the classroom management system, as well as have training provided for substitute teachers.
The fourth recommendation is to require students take a keyboarding class at the junior high level for one semester unless they can prove to be proficient in order to be exempt. There would be professional development provided for faculty on keyboarding techniques.
In addition to keyboarding classes, the fifth recommendation is to ensure students are proficient in Google and Microsoft Office products by incorporating the products in coursework before the start of ninth grade.
Having students receive at least one class hour of training in digital citizenship per year is the sixth recommendation. The training would teach internet safety, appropriate and safe use of social media, how to safely handle devices to avoid damage, review guidelines on issuing school-owned electronic devices and other related topics.
Considering hiring a teacher to teach technology classes at each building is the seventh recommendation.
The last recommendation is to require seniors to pass a technology competency assessment in order to graduate just like students have to pass a Missouri Constitution test.