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Centennial High School

Students give BYOD presentation to international audience

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The diversity at Centennial High School makes it the ideal place to test allowing students to BYOD.

That's short for bring your own device, and it refers to laptops, tablet computers, smartphones and other gadgets that can access the Internet and help young people access the world.

Whether that message gets through to Columbus City Schools administrators remains to be seen, but it was heard loud and clear last week in places such as China, Hong Kong, Croatia, Greece, the United Kingdom, Taiwan, Australia, Pennsylvania, Arizona, Minnesota and Hawaii.

Four Centennial students, Luka Brkljacic, Syed-Amad Hussain, Aaliyah Slappy and Devin Daniels, were presenters last week in the 10th annual Megaconference Jr.

That is a "free international program designed to give students in elementary through secondary schools throughout the world the opportunity to communicate, collaborate and contribute to each other's learning in real time, using advanced multi-point video conferencing technology," according to the website for the program, which is run by a volunteer team of technologists, students, teachers and staff.

"Megaconference Jr. addresses local and national curriculum standards in multiple subject areas," the site states.

"It will also help students and teachers develop the capacity to effectively utilize high-speed networks, videoconferencing and other emerging technologies to enhance learning experiences."

This is the first time any school in Columbus has participated in Megaconference Jr., as far as Nancy Clendenen, media-library specialist at Centennial High School, is aware.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for students to have in dealing with global issues, which is what they're going to have to do," Principal Frances Hershey said before the quartet of students began their videoconference.

Their topic: Technological Equity.

Last year, Clendenen said, a group of Centennial students obtained a grant through Project Citizen, part of the Center for Civic Education based in Calabasas, Calif., to get Wi-Fi installed on the second floor of the building.

The problem was district policy prohibited students from accessing with their own devices, and the district obviously can't afford to buy one for every student, although Slappy pointed out during the presentation schools in Turkey do just that.

The four students involved in Megaconference Jr. have been working to overturn district policy regarding BYOD, and that was the subject of their presentation.

Daniels, Slappy, Hussain and Brkljacic were introduced to the other videoconferencing participants by three boys, Jacob, Owen and Daniel, at the equivalent of an elementary school in Clyst St. Mary, a small village three miles outside of Exeter, England. One of the lads stumbled a bit over the pronunciation of the unfamiliar word, "Ohio."

"Hi, Centennial, are you there?" were the words used to introduce the local youths to the rest of the world.

The policy preventing students from using laptops and smartphones to access the Internet to help with research during class means the young people are "not able to advance to our highest educational achievement," Slappy said.

"We now feel we are one step behind," she added.

"This would help students advance the lessons they're learning," Brkljacic commented.

A BYOD policy would permit students to use the technology with which they are most familiar.

A survey conducted by the four found a majority of students would bring a laptop or other device to school with them if the policy is relaxed, Daniels said.

Also, most students said they use the Internet for educational purposes on their smartphones.

In seeking to alter the rule, Slappy said the students have met with district officials and Columbus Mayor Michael B. Coleman.

They have also done research on policies in the Dublin and Upper Arlington school districts and others out of state and out of the country.

The current policy "really stunts our growth," Hussain said.

Using Centennial and its diverse student population to test a relaxed rule allowing personal devices to be used, initially in different grades of math classes, would provide an excellent test, he added.

"This allows for a widespread and thorough understand of how BYOD affects academics," Hussain continued.

At one time, Daniels said, graphing calculators were banned from schools. Now, she said, they're required, and Centennial even loans them to students who can't afford them.

She predicted the same thing would happen with devices that can access the InternetWoprld Wide Web.

During a discussion period, student participants wanted to know how teachers could exercise control over student web-surfing.

"There's no way to completely control students, but this policy decreases the kind of chaos that ensues with students using their own devices," Hussain replied.

When their portion of the conference was at an end, the teacher at the school in Clyst St. Mary encouraged the three boys to, "Say thank you! Say thank you!"

"Thank you," one of them said. "That was intriguing."

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