My Year 8 son gets home, issues a barely perceptible ‘Hi mum’, hurls his ginormous school bag to the floor, yanks open the fridge to look for food, chucks off his school shoes (laces still tied), exchanges the top half of his uniform with a back-to-front tee-shirt and, in this single adolescence dance, somehow manages to take a gulp of water from the kitchen tap.
All the while, he’s maneuvering his iPad from hand to hand, couch to chair to kitchen table, where he does his homework, on, yes, you guessed it, the iPad.
About half an hour later he moves with the clumsy stealth of a labrador to his room, where the iPad proceeds to function as a virtual mall. He plays games, chats with friends, shares 10-most lists, makes videos of himself narrating games and browses PewDiePie on YouTube.
What an intrepid and compact little traveller the ipad is: it’s on the train to school, it’s in the classroom, it’s in the schoolyard and then it’s back on the bus at the end of the day. The ipad may look like an innovative teaching tool, a very ‘moving forward’ education initiative, but the thing comes home every night after school for a sleepover as well!
Research is surfacing the fast increasing use of the personal device across the private and public spectrum, (except maybe in non-mainstream schools or certain curriculum streams - I don’t like the word ‘mainstream', it’s very us and them, but you know what I mean) indicates that the learning and teaching efficacies of such technologies are dubious at best.
Don’t get me wrong. I love technology. I procrastinated writing this column and watched the final season of The Good Wife on my laptop instead.
But I remain unconvinced that students do any better at school or function any better all-round, with an iPad at hand. And I’m a teacher and a parent.
These days, when I ask kids to open their books at the start of a class, they open their iPads instead. These days, a landscape of small silver squares unfurls before me with students’ heads bowed over their screens in homage.
Having conducted exhaustive anecdotal research with other parents - who all feel they are failing somehow because they can't control their kids’ screen use adequately - we all agree the situation's getting crazy.
Someone has suggested I put my son on a ‘technology fast’ because apparently it reverses much of the physiological dysfunction produced by daily screen time. It’s probably too late for me to go cold turkey but his frontal lobes aren’t even switched on yet. But how can my son go on a fast when he has to go to school where his drug of choice is mandatory?