Harrisburg School District Stays Proactive With Technology
Harrisburg Schools now adding Apple Classroom to monitor what students are viewing
HARRISBURG, S.D. – The Harrisburg School District is evolving with ever-changing technology. Five years ago, the district started using iPads and personal computers in the classroom. Three years ago, the district allowed students to bring and use their own devices from home for use in school. In the very near future, all students will be using the very same technology throughout the district.
North Middle School currently uses one-to-one Chrome books for sixth and seventh graders. Next year, all of the students, including eighth graders will use Chrome books. South Middle School currently has iPads for sixth and seventh graders, next year, the eighth graders will be included in iPad use. The high schoolers currently use one-to-one Mac books.
The district is also starting to use Apple Classrooms which connects teachers to the students in the classroom.
“The nice things about Apple Classroom manager is we can see what application the student is on at all times,” sixth grade teacher Jason Donnelly said, “If they try to bump out, it is easily identified and then that’s a conversation, a teaching moment.”
The district feels there are a lot of teaching moments when it comes to internet and social media use.
“Social media is actually one of the categories blocked by our content filter,” says Technology Director Rodney Knock, “Exceptions can be made to allow social media for an educational purpose. One teacher allowed Facebook to talk to another class in Norway. We had another where we allowed certain German sites for German class.”
One site allowed during classes that may surprise some parents is YouTube.
“YouTube is open in this district and it is open for the education content available out there,” Knock said, “There are so many videos for a variety of things that are not necessarily classified in any recognized CIPA category.”
CIPA stands for Children’s Internet Privacy Act, in it, there are categories used to block what the students can and cannot see. The categories are controlled by the school district.
“Not only are we using our devices in fantastic ways,” Assistant Principal Brad Hartzler said, “We are doing some crazy things across the district that our tech integration is showing our kids how to do. Also, we are making sure our kids are safe and protected through our content filters.”
With protection also comes the tug of war involving the students’ personal devices.
“If you don’t allow cell phones, students will hide them in their boots, pockets, hoodies, what have you.” Donnelly said, “If we acknowledge they are there, put them on the corner of the desk, it’s a little easier to manage.”
The Harrisburg School District teaches its students about the importance of “digital citizenship.”
“It teaches kids that you have these tools available to you, use them appropriately and this is how you should use them.” Hartzler said, “We also try to teach kids to understand that what they do online will continue to follow them forever.”
To learn and understand the importance of digital citizenship, the students currently use a lot of material from Common Sense Media.
“It really just teaches kids how to communicate in a digital age, while being respectful,” Knock said, “You need to learn how to disagree without being disagreeable and that is part of digital citizenship. If you are communicating electronically, you need to learn how to communicate respectfully and appropriately. It’s easier to cut and paste, so that, and plagiarism needs to be taught at a younger age than it was 30 years ago. If you close down a school and don’t have digital citizenship classes, then you are going to be graduating digital illiterate citizens that go out and don’t really communicate effectively or appropriately.
When the students take the devices home, they are still under the school district’s content filters. The content filters do not affect the students’ own personal devices.
If parents would like to set up content filters are home, Knock says the best app to use at home is called “Sophus Home.” It can be used to filter what you want to allow your children to see and what you’d like to block them from, just like the school district.
“In years past, the teacher would observe the students looking in their textbooks and writing down notes,” Knock said, “Now teachers are doing the same thing, just with technology.”