‘It is now expected prep kids have an iPad. Since when could parents afford this?’

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There’s at least one state primary school in Australia that’s separating kids into classes according to who has an iPad and who doesn’t.

Their BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program works like this: Kids in all year levels are free to bring in their own iPads to use in the classroom. It has to be an Apple iPad or iPad mini. Parents buy the devices, kids take them to and from school, and everyone hopes like hell they end the day with screens intact.

Breakages are the responsibility of families.

It’s not compulsory to own an iPad but kids are separated into ‘iPad’ and ‘no iPad classes.’

This school is in an affluent area, and most families support the program. There was lots of discussion and consultation. Some parents though, objected, but ended up buying their kid an iPad because they didn’t want her to feel left out or ‘second class’. Naturally, most kids want to be in an ‘iPad class.’ I know mine would.

Dr Tim Hawkes talks about the lack of parents presence and the link to screen time. (Post continues after audio.)

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Some families can’t afford iPads, some simply don’t want their kids using them in the classroom but most are going with the flow.

One parent I know opted for her kids to be in iPad free classes (although they will use school-owned devices in the library, music etc). She’s a teacher, and the cost of buying four shiny new iPads wasn’t outweighed by educational benefits. Her older boy will need a laptop when he starts high school next year, so it didn’t make sense to jump aboard the iPad train. They have iPads and laptops at home so she don’t consider they’ll be ‘left behind’. I think she’s wise, and quite brave.

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Look, I’m not Amish. We have our share of iDevices and certainly I have a (mild) addiction to mine but I think this school’s plan is wrong.

I have no problem with iPads being used at school, or Bring Your Own Device programs in high school or private schools where families know all along what they’re up for, but to divide kids into classes according to device ownership seems discriminatory, even if it’s theoretically optional.

Most schools, public and private, are grappling with how to handle the divisive issue of devices. Is it the school’s responsibility to supply them? The government’s? The family’s? Should all kids have the same kind of device and at what age or year should they become compulsory?

kate hunter

Kate: Whose responsibility is it to buy these iPads? 

My daughters’ school has a laptop program from year four. Families pay a fee for their child to use a laptop for three years. Everyone has identical computers which they can take home.

Software and repairs (even smashed screens – maximum two) are handled by the supplier. At the end of primary school, the laptop is handed back. I’m happy with this arrangement. It seems fair and practical.

My niece is at a state school which is introducing iPads for Preps. They can take their own or use one belonging to the school. The downside to using the school’s device is you can’t keep work on it or take it home.

I guess that makes sense – if a kid has an iPad and his parents are happy for him to bring it to school then why not? One less the taxpayer has to buy. At this school though, they don’t split classes according to who has an iPad and who doesn’t.

It’s ridiculous to wish for screen-free classrooms for our kids. Who’d even want to? iPads can be fabulous tools for teaching. I understand they’re especially great for kids with learning difficulties. Surely anything that engages kids in learning is a good thing.

But it’s a minefield with a whiff of class warfare. Once we agree that personal laptops and tablets are essential for a modern education, surely all kids should have them – especially kids attending schools in poorer areas because they mightn’t have them at home.

What we're doing is creating social classes, within schools.

If the playing field is to be level, that means state-funded iPads for every kid from the day they start school. If you can see that happening you’ve got a better imagination than I do.

At the moment it’s not an issue for my family, so why does this iPad program bother me?

I believe kids, especially little kids, shouldn’t be concerned about who has what STUFF. Particularly in the classroom. Sure, there were girls when I was at school with glorious sets of 72 Derwent coloured pencils. It was character building to pretend be satisfied with my sad set of six Target own brand pencils, but this is different. Kids were never sorted into classes according to who had better stationery.

I think it must be either everyone or no one. Parents shouldn’t have to find $600 for an iPad for each of their kids when they’ve signed up for what they believe is a free education.

And it’s no use saying it’s optional, because for many families, making their kids feel like second class citizens isn’t an option.

What do you think about Bring Your Own Device programs in schools?

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