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Rock Hill schools want to go high tech

If elementary and middle school students were allowed to use their own laptops, smart phones and tablet computers in class, more teachers could tap into the latest education technology.

That's the thought behind a pitch Rock Hill school officials will make to the school board Monday night.

District leaders want students with devices at home to have the option to switch them on in class. That would free up schools' limited number of Netbooks, iPods and iPads for students without access to them.

"We want to have a one-to-one (one device for each student) environment, but we don't have a funding source," Associate Superintendent Luanne Kokolis said.

Parents would have to sign a permission form exempting the district from any blame in case a device breaks for students to use computers from home. Use would be restricted to classes where teachers use mobile devices in their lessons, Kokolis said.

Students in elementary and middle school are allowed to bring devices, but can't turn them on during the school day. High school students can use them before and after school and during lunch.

Monday's proposal is part of an information session. The school board isn't expected to vote on the proposal until the end of March or later.

If approved, Rock Hill schools would take another step to ingraining mobile technology in the school day.

All 25 schools now have wireless Internet. The district of more than 17,000 students has about 90 iPod Touches, 525 iPads and 5,000 devices that fall in the category laptop/PC/Netbook. (The numbers don't include devices that individual schools and teachers have bought on their own.)

Moving in this direction only makes sense, said Rhonda Kelsey, an assistant principal at India Hook Elementary.

"In the past we've asked students to turn everything off when they come in the doors," she said. "But that's how this generation of children learns."

India Hook recently bought 10 iPads. "Once they got their hands on them," Kelsey said, "they saw there's so much more you can do."

During classroom observations, administrators record their observations on an iPad so they can go over it later with the teacher, India Hook Principal Crystal Guyton said.

The Children's School at Sylvia Circle just bought 40 iPads. Teachers are beginning to train with them.

"We truly feel it can help learning," Principal Sandra Lindsay-Brown said. For "these kids today, the technology is all around. It's what they use at home. "

Allowing students to bring their own devices to free up others is a good idea, Lindsay-Brown said.

"You want to make it so everybody has an opportunity," she said.

To hear the proposal

The meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. at Lesslie Elementary, 250 Neely Store Road.