OCEAN SPRINGS, MS (WLOX) - At most schools across South Mississippi, the sight of a cell phone or the sound of it ringing can get students in trouble. Ocean Springs Middle School, on the other hand, is actually encouraging many of its students to bring their phones to school.
As soon as history teacher David Lapointe explained the classroom assignment Wednesday, his students immediately pulled out their cell phones and tablets. Instead of taking the phones away, Lapointe was actually thrilled to see his students using their electronic devices.
"I was pretty excited about it. Anytime we can introduce more technology into the classroom environment, I think that's going to be beneficial to the student," said Lapointe.
While Ocean Springs Middle School still bans cell phone use during school hours, it made some exceptions this year. Out of 900 students at the school, about 300 of them were chosen for this pilot program. After getting their parent's permission, those students can use their smart phones and other hand-held devices like Ipads, Ipods, Nooks and Kindles, but only to help them learn.
"On the secured network, they are allowed to go to appropriate sites. Anything that's inappropriate is filtered. Social networking is not allowed," said Ocean Springs Schools Technology Director Cindy Wilson.
With tight budgets these days, many schools can't afford to purchase computers for every student. Ocean Springs school leaders figured since students already have access to the Internet through their cell phones and tablets, why not let them use those devices in the classroom?
"With the state that the economy is in right now and the funding we're getting for education, we try any way we can to get devices into our children's hands," said Wilson.
It was no surprise the change has been getting rave reviews from the students.
"I think it's cool, because we get to have more resources instead of just our textbooks. We get to look up everything that we need to in class," said seventh grader Nicholas Nguyen.
"We get to use the calculator in math. We get to research like definitions and English. It helps us learn," said seventh grader Lily McKenzie.
"Now this gives all kids an opportunity to bring what they have at home, what they're used to. I would say almost every child in middle school and high school has a cell phone in their pocket," said Wilson. "This gives them the opportunity to use it. It puts technology in their hands, and anytime you can add technology in a classroom, it's always a good thing."
Students who are caught using their cell phones for the wrong reasons could lose their privileges and face other disciplinary action. If this test program is successful at Ocean Springs Middle School, it'll be set up at the upper elementary and high school next year.