North Platte ready to try BYOD

A Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trial is coming to North Platte High School in the upcoming school year. For the first time, all high school students will have the ability to use advanced technologies such as an iPad, Nook, Kindle and other devices from home within their classrooms in order to enhance their learning experience. The upgraded Internet capacity in the District allowed the District to review this option to try and level the technological learning field. Cell phones, however, will still remain strictly monitored and will not be covered by the BYOD program due to concerns about the student’s ability to use it for other non-academic purposes even without Internet. This also addressed another concern which has arisen: the students’ ability to access outside instant messaging programs, which can act similar to texting via cell phones.

“Even with a student’s personal device they will still be required to authenticate with their username and password which allows the District to monitor and filter each device on our network,” North Platte Technology Director Mark Heckman said. “Instant messaging programs will be filtered out like they have in the past.”

Last year, the North Platte School District implemented one-on-one computing with 48 Google Chrome Books given to its sophomore class and the District is slowly expanding that concept. As reported by The Citizen earlier this year, the laptops were loaded with educational software by the District’s technology department before distribution. The computers remained the property of the District and each device was signed out by a student and parent. Each laptop was obtained through federal government grants.

“Some districts have gone to one-to-one computing, but at this point I don’t feel we have the financial backing to progress in that area,” North Platte Superintendent Dr. Jeff Sumy said.

One-to-one computing is being utilized by surrounding Districts, including the West Platte, Park Hill and Platte County R-3 school districts. However, despite the lack of financial backing, the District is still trying to move in that direction as an eventuality by expanding its Google Chrome Books into three more classrooms this year — one elementary, one junior high and one high school classroom for a cost of about $24,000.

Being able to provide the BYOD program and Chrome Books to the student body was made possible technologically by the upgrade of North Platte’s point-to-point wireless system within the last year. In the past, the District had three megabytes (MB) per second download capability for the high school campus and the Edgerton campus had just one-and-one-half megabytes. The upgrade will now allow them to divvy up 20 MB between the three campuses with five MB each allocated to the elementary campus in Camden Point and intermediate school in Edgerton and 10 MB to the Dearborn campus. With these infrastructure upgrades, the District has the ability to further upgrade as required up to 50 MB.