After years of paddling against the wave of the future, school districts around York County are preparing to give high school students unprecedented access to the Internet when classes resume in a few weeks.
Whereas in years past cellphones, iPods, laptops and tablet computers were considered nuisances to be stowed out of sight during the school day, some teachers and administrators are actually inviting students to BYOD -- Bring Your Own Device -- this school year.
As research tools and personal organizers, it seems the usefulness of such devices can no longer be denied.
"We really see the devices as supplements to what we currently have. It now has opened up a whole new arena for students," said Jared Mader, Red Lion Area School District's director of technology.
Red Lion is one of several districts that have recently implemented or are about to implement a BYOD program at the secondary level.
A similar program is being unveiled this year at South Eastern School District, where Superintendent Rona Kaufmann said it makes sense to expand use of smartphones instead of making students lock them up.
After all, she said, "when's the last time you opened up a World Book Encyclopedia?"
How successful these efforts will be depends a lot on the students, of course.
Yes, these devices put an almost unlimited amount of information at students' fingertips, but the potential for abuse is equally unprecedented.
For instance, somewhere out there in the cloud are the answers to
And any parent of a teenager knows the Internet's incredible usefulness is rivaled only by the mind-numbing number of ways time can be wasted there (OK, we know that firsthand, but we're not talking about us right now, are we?)
As in any classroom setting, supervision will be key.
The districts relaxing their electronic devices policies this school year are setting up some commonsense rules -- teachers will still be in charge of when the devices are to be used, and students can only access the Internet through schools' secure networks that automatically block inappropriate content, for instance.
High school is a time teens are earning more and more trust from adults, and there's no reason to think they can't appropriately handle this new freedom.
Some will surely push the boundaries, as they'd likely do in any situation.
We suspect most, however, will follow the rules.
For better or worse, teens today have grown up with the Internet -- and it's almost unnatural to forbid them from using that tool when and where it can do the most good.