Our children's school is making the bold move of not even providing iPads in school but adding them to the school "kit" list. It *is* an independent school but I still find the assumption that parents are going to cough up several hundred pounds for an expensive luxury is a little insulting. Christmas is not a big spending spree in this house and our children are pretty fortunate already. If tablet devices were going to replace the extremely heavy sets of textbooks our children lug to school and back each day then I might be in favour, but content available is still very American, and very restricted.
Most parents are making sacrifices to privately educate their children, sticking an additional expensive item on the school bill is going to put a lot of people off. Although two alternatives were suggested cheap alternatives are precisely that. Cheap alternatives. Their touch screens are inferior, and Android devices take Apps to the marketplace before testing and bugs are common and there are big compatibility issues.
Insurance & Safety of the devices
The suggested option is that devices should be in pupil’s lockers when not needed for academic use. Do they envisage pupils running back and forth to their lockers for these items? This would be extremely disruptive, so I assume they would in fact be carried with pupils in their bags. Have you seen how senior pupils treat their bags? These tablets are going to last five minutes. Insurance is complex and costly for such items, approximating £15 pcm. - I know because I have researched this at great length. It is, quite frankly, stomach churning enough sending a contract smartphone into school each day....
iPads are intended to run Pages, Keynote and Numbers. They do not run Microsoft equivalents as well, and swapping between the two is almost impossible unless everything is converted to a PDF. I have to tackle this problem on an almost daily basis as documents are sent to me in Word, I open them on my iMac and the layout is immediately corrupted. I try to send Class Rep lists out in Excel but again, the layout is corrupted in the Export process. This is a very real issue and not easy to solve on a device quickly.
The school claims that personal organisation is made so much easier via tablet devices via Cloud storage, Calendars etc. Well, yes it is. But again you have the compatibility issue, problems when things are deleted accidentally, security issues and updates. The latter is a big potential issue - imagine four school years trying to get on top of an iOs update? These things take time to filter through - the technology is great for the individual but on a group basis it is not there yet. I have had iPad issues with my Calendars where things are temporarily “absent” then return, are not added correctly - and I am an extremely adept user and very IT literate. I prefer to enter new details on my iMac because the device does not give me that accessibility. And if personal organisation works better on a device - use a phone! Smaller and lighter and far more portable.
For me this is a big issue. As adults we are too quick to pull out our mobile or tablet device and connect with social media. Encouraging such devices in school (and it is very naive to think you can restrict their use to teacher instructed time) will have a big social impact. Less real life interaction, more online connection. Social Media is a big problem for many with bullying and harassment sometimes difficult to escape from. School cannot insist pupils remove such Apps from their personal devices and they are then just bringing the potential problem into school. Pupils will also be glancing down to check Mail (almost impossible to stop completely) or messages. I know I would!
Devices were a constant distraction in class which was evidenced in the recent trial school conducted. I want my children to learn to live without a device as much as with one. I want a healthy relationship for them with technology, not to encourage dependency. I say this as a parent who embraces technological advances, a husband who is a Tech Fellow and my eldest sons already programme in Java, build websites and have an advanced understanding of all the technology available. I build websites and Blogs, have (limited!) programming skills and own devices and a smartphone. We have our own computers and the older two have smart phones already. I am not anti technology.
School is a respite from the intrusion of such technology where in depth learning can flourish. The internet is by and large a repository of "fast food" information - which whilst it has its place that is not in school. This is particularly evident in my son with ADHD. He desperately needs to learn how to concentrate, Ritalin is only on prescription for school age children and at some point he needs to cope without it. It is a sticking plaster on the problem - and the solution requires practice. Practice concentrating not following the distraction which is actually how the internet works!
Our children do not need yet another device, we already work very, very hard to ensure they have a life BEYOND technology. Their generation are already internet savvy, device educated and could probably teach staff a thing or two. Obviously “safe browsing” advice is always valuable but J is doing so well at school at present - the very last thing we want is to distract from that. I would prefer instead a focus instead on carving a niche in the sixth form market and offer progressive curriculum choices which meet the needs of our children in the 21st Century. This feels like a soft option to avoid providing adequate resources in school for appropriate, monitored use.
School will have had a letter. But I doubt it will change a thing.