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Sharyland ISD is rolling out the district’s new Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) initiative this week. They plan to start the initiative at the high school and add another campus every three to five school days in phases.

Sharyland Superintendent Virginia Richter said this would make it easier to recognize any issues that might come up such as slow speeds and overloading problems that might arise with an influx of students on their Wifi access.

Teachers watched a video Tuesday that introduced BYOD to students. The video, developed by Team Blue, explains to students how to go to the school district’s website and download the permission form for their parents to sign. The form must be signed for the students to use their devices in class.

Richter said they have been working closely with McAllen Independent School District (MISD).

MISD Superintendent Dr. James Ponce told her that he was very willing to share with her what their district experienced, said Richter.

“’There were mistakes that we made, that there’s no reason for you to go through them,’” said Richter of what Ponce told her.

One piece of advice was to roll out the program slowly. She said that Ponce told them they rolled out their iPad initiative districtwide all at once. When they had a problem, they were unable to tell exactly where the problem was.

With the Sharyland initiative, students will be able to use their mobile technology devices for class purposes, if their teacher allows it to be used. There will be times the devices won’t be used.

Richter said the teachers have that option, but the administration is highly encouraging the use of devices in the classroom. She said she also doesn’t want students to feel left out if their class is one of the only classes not using devices in the classroom for instruction. It’s not something that has to happen everyday, but it would be nice to use it for projects and other things in the classroom.

“There is a fear of the unknown,” said Richter. And this is something new. So she recognized individuals that were technologically savvy and created Team Blue. The first video Team Blue created was to introduce Blue, a blob of blue that shares messages with students and staff. (Some videos can be found on YouTube by searching for Blue.)

Team Blue has also been developing videos for training and education purposes. Help videos include basic instructions such as how to turn on a device, how to use Google search, or just teaching students and teachers how to use their devices properly for education.

Videos are also being made to educate students regarding subjects and materials the state curriculum requires.

Richter said social studies has been a huge concern, so they have concentrated on making short, three-minute videos about historic events and people like Amelia Earhart and George Washington. The videos only include what the state says teachers have to teach their students, but teachers are free to expand on the lesson. The video can be watched at school or at home and then discussed in class.

Richter also wants teachers to become more familiar with apps that students can use on their devices as personal tutors. One such application is Endless Alphabet, which teaches the alphabet by showing a word where children have to match the letters.

There are also other applications that are useful for all grades, including ones that set alarms or include calendars. She wants to encourage teachers and students to use these apps to keep a schedule of upcoming tests and assignments, and to set up alarms as reminders to study.

Although students who do not have a device to bring to school can use classroom computers, the district also wants to also collect old cell phones that students can use.

The campaign will ask for old mobile devices that might be sitting around the home not being used.

When people upgrade, they usually just box up the old phone or device, said Richter. An unused phone won’t have the ability to make phone calls, but it can be used for Wifi access.

Richter said the district would take the donated devices and restore them to factory defaults before letting students use them.

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