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Cellphones, tablets to be allowed in schools
House bill would lift ban; Hall schools support bill
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Georgia's House of Representatives did its part in lifting a state ban on smartphones and tablet devices in the classroom this week.

On Thursday, legislators unanimously approved HB 706. The bill, which will go on to the state Senate, revises several education provisions in the state ordinance.

In addition to allowing school districts to determine whether students can bring personal electronic devices to class, the bill also would allow homeschooled students to send records to the Department of Education rather than local school district officials.

Hall County Schools, which encourages electronic devices as part of everyday learning, is one supporter of the bill.

"It allows our students to have access to the content of the world," said Aaron Turpin, technology director for Hall County Schools.

The school district uses smartphones, laptops and tablet devices in classes as replacements for everything from calculators to encyclopedias. It gets around the ban by asking for a five-year waiver from the state.

If the bill gets final approval, school districts like Hall County won't have to jump through hoops to put what Turpin calls "powerful instruction tools" into students' hands.

The current ban on personal electronics dates back to a time when one-way pagers and mobile phones that lacked Internet access were in the hands of students, said Rep. Mike Dudgeon, R-Suwanee, who sponsored the bill to repeal that ban.

Still, he said, the ban probably should have never been enacted anyway given the ever-changing nature of technology.

"I think it shows the danger of the state trying to make all of the decisions," he said. "Do we really need a law to tell local districts what students can bring? We should trust our local officials to make common-sense decisions."

It's clear that Hall County educators have decided electronic devices are the present and future for their students.

Whereas the current law works under the premise that electronics are distractions for children, Turpin said they are used in Hall Schools to engage students. There are countless apps that teachers are finding useful for learning.

As an example, Turpin said he went into a classroom recently where students used were using smartphones and tablets to post social media updates on the Web. It was a history class, and students were posting in the voices of Georgia's first settlers.

Turpin said it's the responsibility of teachers to ensure students stay on task.

Just to be sure, Hall Schools use a filtered wireless Internet system that blocks non-educational sites from students' devices.

 

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