Bring Your Own Device pilot program to start

WESTFIELD –The Westfield School District is piloting a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy for seniors in Westfield High School and Westfield Technical Academy beginning the second half of January, following the policy’s recent passage by the School Committee.
BYOD is being rolled out with the help of the Technology Center, which has spent the past six to eight months wiring the campuses for wireless devices. Lenore J. Bernashe, Information Technology Manager and Steve Zawada, Network Administrator said Westfield High School has been completed with a wireless access point in every classroom. The upper campus of Westfield Technical Academy has also been completed, and the rest of the school is being worked on.
“We had to increase the capacity of our wireless system to handle the additional users. We are in process of upgrading our content filter to handle the additional users and ensure safe and responsible internet access,” said Bernashe.
In addition to getting the network ready for the added users, the district has rolled out over 900 Chromebooks in the past six months, with 200 more on order. Chromebooks are the district’s preferred devices for students. Bernashe said the total number of Chromebooks in use in the district is close to 1500.
Chromebooks are internet browsing devices using the Google operating system and Google Suite, which has word processing and spreadsheet programs. Chromebooks have a full keyboard, but are more similar to Smartphones than laptops, Bernashe said.
“We as a district are moving to Google,” said WPS Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski. Many classes are already running paperless Google classrooms, which allow teachers to post assignments electronically for students to access and submit, and also grade them electronically. Alternative Structured Learning Days (ALSD) or “Blizzard Bag” assignments will also be posted in Google classroom.
District-wide, Chromebooks are being used by grades 3 and up, and grades K-2 are using IPads. All MCAS testing in the district will be done on Chromebooks.
“It takes a half hour to set up a Chromebook for testing. A PC takes much longer,” Zawada said.
All the Chromebooks being rolled out are being prepared for school use by the Tech Center, “from box to carts.” In addition, the Tech Center will have a point person for each school, to help with issues in the technology. Bernashe said the Internet Technology shop students at Westfield Tech also helped with the roll out of the Chromebooks.
Czaporowski emphasized that the BYOD policy will be started as a pilot with the seniors. If there are no issues, then juniors may be added later in the spring.
“We need to make sure the wireless network will support it,” said Steve Zawada, Network Administrator for the city. He said as each device logs onto the wireless network, students must enter their ID numbers, which will tell the network what access level the student has. He said the district receives E-rate funding of $100,000 to $200,000, which could be jeopardized of students gain access to free reign on the system.
If parents or family members are interested in buying a device for their student to use in school, Bernashe recommended a Chromebook with a minimum 4 gigs of memory and 32 gig hard drive, with an intel processor in order to run MS programs. Bernashe said Chromebooks tend to run from $170 to $250.
For other devices, they recommended Windows Intel 3 with a minimum 4 gigs of memory and a 256 gig hard drive. The district will also have Chromebooks available for students who are unable to afford their own devices.
Students may bring in whatever device they’re using at home (as in BYOD), and log that device into the network. With BYOD, the district is moving from an acceptable use policy to a responsible use policy.
“We’re looking to integrate safe use with whatever device within our network,” Bernashe said.
Czaporowski said both high schools will have an assembly in January to go over the BYOD policy in more depth. “It’s a big change. Everyone will be on the network,” he said.

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