A few months ago, my sister who works for one of the city’s public schools, approached me concerning her school’s transition to the iPad movement. According to what she’s heard from other staff, the school may be cutting down on snacks as they began to provide their children with iPads starting next year. Hearing that concerned her, because majority of the students comes from low income families, and the meals and snacks that the school are offering may be the only food they would have for the day. Is it reasonable to put children under the age of 18 and those that comes from low income families, under these circumstances? I think not.
According to the article, St. Paul School Board Gives Student iPads the Go-Ahead, one of the main reasons that the school district is adding iPads was that they’re “students are millennials who have tremendous digital fluency, and we must tap into that”, but at the cost of $5.7 million the first year, then $8 for each year after that. Aside from the fact that it would cost millions annually, schools are giving students the option to opt out on recess (which I think is crucial for their health, physically and socially), and instead sit in and perform educational tasks on their iPads. The topic of the school districts seeing little importance of physical activities in school is another hot issue, and meant for another time, but since iPads would be a replacement for recess, which I know the students would prefer, the comparison needs to be brought up.
From what I heard, students with iPads are creatively learning with numerous activities that are unique to the “Critical Thinking” section at the end of chapters. Students enjoying what they are learning is a key factor in keeping them interested, and there are currently plans to provide students iPads all summer long so that they can continue learning while they’re out of school. Many students and teachers who have previous experiences with this new form of learning and teaching praises the creativity that the gadgets have brought into their learning.
My cousin (sophomore in high school) came by this weekend for homework help, and it just so happens that her paper was on the iPad that the district provided! This gave me the opportunity to ask her about the ups and downs of having the iPads in school, and her responses were mixed. She thought that the iPads were portable, but noticed that the students’, specifically her friends and classmates, grades were declining because of the distractions from the iPads. She found it hard to adjust to the random and spontaneous transition from having text books to the iPads (all her school texts were now in the iPad). I asked her if she thought the move was too quick and needed to introduce the iPads to the classrooms at a slower pace, and she agreed so.
I am bringing this topic up, because two weeks ago, the Saint Paul Public School (SPPS) district made the decision to delete the Apple’s App store, and will be limited to only those approved by the district. The move by the district to restrict the app store revealed that they were not fully prepared and probably were not experienced in foreseeing problems that would arise concerning technology. Before iPads were approved by the district, there were discussions about the project’s planning. Current and former members of the district school board saw that there was no clear vision on using the iPads to close achievement gaps, and that the initiatives were without a clear implementation plan and strategy. It is probably better if the SPPS district took a slower approach to providing iPads to students and teachers as Minnetonka did, which received recognition for their slow initiatives (four years span of providing the devices two grades at a time, and teachers had the iPads at hand a year before).
It is inevitable that the technology era of educational learning is here. As a student, I am not against using replacing my school texts with eBooks, because I also have text books on my gadgets. College students would find eBooks reasonable, because typically, college students are on tight budgets, and eBooks are much cheaper to purchase and rent than actual books. I believe that the district is gradually moving in the right direction by limiting the app store, but there is no reason to cut back on important necessities like snacks as hunger in school remains to be an issue.