Case study submitted by Legrand, North America and originally published in the March 2017 issue of electroindustry.
Two of the biggest trends in K–12 education are the adoption of mobile technology and the implementation of outdoor space. Regional School District No. 7 in Winsted, Connecticut, is on the cutting edge in both. It allows students to use smartphones for educational and social reasons during the day. The schools have courtyards that are used for outdoor learning opportunities and for students to take breaks.
The district’s cell phone policy is unusual. Not only do students use mobile devices in class for web-based assignments, but they may also use their phones for personal reasons during breaks.
“We were early adopters of allowing students to use their phones,” said Judy Palmer, PhD, district superintendent. “Initially, some staff members were a bit apprehensive, but that was short-lived, and I think that speaks volumes about our culture. Our students are very respectful.”
If students are encouraged to use their personal devices, they need to have a way to charge them. District officials realized that adding charging infrastructure to the courtyards could meet that need and promote greater use of the outdoor spaces.
“We do have some areas to charge devices inside the building, but there was nothing outside, and we wanted that option for students,” Dr. Palmer said. “If their devices aren’t charged, then they are unable to use them for classroom activities.”
After hearing about Legrand’s outdoor charging station, the school board and administrators believed they found a solution.
“I didn’t have any concerns while implementing our plan,” Dr. Palmer said. “We had to bring electricity to the courtyards, but that was a simple process. The charging stations have a sleek design and do not take up a lot of space. They are in use daily, and we haven’t had any significant increase in our utility bills.”
The pedestal-shaped stations include a combination of standard power outlets and USB ports. They have a NEMA 3R rating for use in all weather conditions and feature light-emitting diodes (LEDs) for lighting.
Some educators may question the value of allowing students to use their phones during the school day and in advocating for them to take breaks outside. Dr. Palmer, an educator for more than 30 years and a superintendent for 17, is not one of them.
“One of the things that I like the most is when I look out my window and I see students sitting in the Adirondack chairs relaxing, listening to music, talking with one another, charging their phones,” she said. “The more I see of students in this particular environment, the more I see the value in it. I am a firm believer in encouraging students to take a break and relax with their friends when they can.”
The superintendent has seen the evolution of technology in schools during her career, from a single computer lab serving an entire school to laptop carts pushed around to classrooms. Now, computers in the form of smartphones and tablets fit in hand, are mobile, and access the internet wirelessly. Nearly all students have their own devices.
“The internet is right at the fingertips of our students, allowing learning to take place anywhere, anytime,” Palmer said. “It’s been great to have power out there with the outdoor charging stations. The students are using them every day.”