Parents protest school computer policies, refuse to pay for iPads

Irene brown with her children, Amelie and Patrick, who are not part of Preston Primary School’s iPad program. Photo: Simon O’DwyerParents are refusing to buy tablets or laptops in a stand against the spread of digital devices in schools.
Nanjing Night Net

Nearly all secondary schools have rolled out a one-to-one digital device model and an increasing number of primary schools are following suit.

Parents, speaking out about why they refused to buy or provide a device for school, have questioned whether students as young as five are able to take care of iPads, and raised concerns about excessive screen time.

Many cite a lack of evidence proving that technology use in classrooms boosts grades, pointing to a landmark OECD report, which found that Australia is one of the highest users of technology in schools, however frequent use of computers in schools was often associated with lower results.

It comes as principals of two prestigious Sydney schools recently announced they were moving away from laptop use in class, claiming computers have been “oversold”.

Irene Brown, a Preston Primary School parent, refused to buy iPads for her children Amelie and Patrick, who are in grade five and six respectively. They are the only students in their class without the device, and rely on school laptops when others use their own iPads.

Ms Brown said she couldn’t see how computers would boost her kids’ literacy and numeracy skills, and said some parents at the school could not afford an iPad, and she did not want to contribute to an “equity gap”.

“It used to be runners and watches that differentiated wealthy and poor students, now it’s iPads.”

Gordon Noble, who has refused to buy his grade five daughter at Cheltenham Primary School an iPad for school, said he believed the device would distract her from learning, claiming that students use the iPad to send messages and photos to each other during class.

“Parents feel they are losing control of their ability to manage their kids’ technology, now that it is part of the curriculum and their homework.”

Dr Lea Campbell, a member of public education lobby group Our Children Our Schools, said parents were “already fighting wars at home” over their kids’ computer use, and the widespread take-up of digital devices in schools made it more difficult to monitor screen time.

Victorian Council of Social Service (VCOSS) chief executive Emma King released a report earlier this year, warning that poor families were being shut out of the school system as they struggled to pay for expensive iPads, which could could cost about $1000 for the device, protective gear, and apps.

Gail McHardy, who is executive officer of Parents Victoria, said technology was “one of the biggest increases to school costs in recent times”, and it was posing “barriers” to lower income families.

The Education Department trialled the use of 700 iPads in nine primary, secondary and special schools, and found the device was an effective and engaging learning tool.

A spokesman said: “We welcome primary schools introducing devices to younger students as long as their use adds value to the learning program. By the time they finish school and join the workforce, digital technology will be even more central – and advanced – than it is now, so it is important they are computer literate so they can reach their full potential.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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