Rules set for student use of Chromebook laptops

Rules set for student use of Chromebook laptops

SMITHFIELD - While school districts are becoming more high tech, school officials are faced with a new task: creating policies and outlining rules for how these devices and initiatives can be used safely and efficiently in the classrooms.

In Smithfield, students in grades 3, 6, and 9 are still waiting to receive Chromebook laptop computers, as part of the district's three-year scaffolding plan to provide all students in grades 3 through 12 with laptops, but the school department has moved forward with a five-page policy to outline appropriate and safe use of these new devices once they're passed out in the coming weeks.

The policy was approved by School Committee members at their Feb. 14 meeting.

Paul Barrette, the department's technology director, said in August that having a personal device "encourages ownership and responsibility; promotes collaboration, communication and content-creation; and facilitates 'blended-learning' activities."

But in order to enforce that ownership and responsibility, the school department created this policy, which outlines that the Chromebooks are to be used by students at school and at home for educational purposes only.

Before students can get their hands on the new technology, Barrette said the school department is planning to host one or more nights when students and their parents can pick up their Chromebooks and have a meeting to discuss privacy, safety, and responsibility.

Information about those meetings will be posted when the department sets the dates, Barrette said.

Committee members will vote on a related policy, titled Student Data Privacy and Security Policy, at their Feb. 23 meeting.

As part of the technology initiative, the school department will loan each student in grades 3, 6, and 9 a Chromebook laptop computer, a protective case, and an AC adapter for the duration of the school year.

As students in those grades move up next year, they will take their devices with them, and the new incoming 3rd-, 6th- and 9th-graders will receive new Chromebooks. After three years, each student from grades 3 to 11 will be equipped with their own device. Plans for 12th-graders are still underway.

Students with access to a laptop will use the ChromeOS operating system and Google Apps for Education, which are similar to apps that come with a Gmail account.

But, for parents worried about security, Barrette explained at the Aug. 18 School Committee meeting that Google Apps for Education is not the same as a personal Gmail account: accounts are private, Google does not record or store any personal information, and there are no ads to spam students and staff.

Following the Children's Internet Protection Act, CIPA, district officials said that student internet access will be filtered, both at school and away from the district's network.

School department officials also have the right, without prior notice or consent, to log, monitor, and supervise students' uses of the district-owned Chromebooks "at any time when there is reason to believe that the student has engaged in school-related misconduct or when there are technical difficulties with the device," according to the district's Chromebook policy.

"Students shall have no expectation of confidentiality or privacy with respect to any usage of a district-owned Chromebook, regardless of whether that use is for district-related or personal purposes (which is prohibited), other than as specifically provided by law," the policy continues.

Students are responsible for taking care of their Chromebooks, and will be asked to bring them to school each day, fully charged.

At the end of the school year, students will return their laptops to the school district.

The district will have a limited number of spare laptops if a student's Chromebook needs to be repaired or replaced for damage.

Per the policy, the school department will cover the cost of a repair or replacement resulting from normal use of a laptop.

All other damages, however, whether accidental or intentional, will be paid for by the student or the student's guardians.

At the Dec. 15 School Committee meeting, members awarded a bid for 665 Chromebooks, laptop computers, from GovConnection for $217,953.75; a bid for 24 Chromebook carts from Professional Computers Inc. for $23,400; and a bid for 665 hard-shell Chromebook cases from CDWG for $11,970.

Barrette said that the school department went with different vendors to save money.