In a move that is being widely praised the headmaster of one of Australia’s most prestigious private schools has banned laptops in the classroom because, he says, they are “distracting” for students.
Sydney Grammar has banned students from bringing laptops to school and now requires them to handwrite assignments and essays until Year 10.
The headmaster of Sydney Grammar School, John Vallance told The Australian that the students would be able to access computers only in the school computer lab.
“We see teaching as fundamentally a social activity,’’ he said.
“It’s about interaction between people, about discussion, about conversation.”
“We find that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibit conversation — it’s distracting.”
Dr Vallance told the newspaper that he wasn’t anti technology.
“I love gadgets. It’s partly because we all love gadgets so much that we have these rules, otherwise we’d all just muck about. Technology is a servant, not a master.”
“You can’t end up allowing the tail to wag the dog,” he said.
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For the headmaster at the elite school the key to classroom success is conversation but he says technology is having a “powerful normative effect.”
“It’s making it quite difficult for children to learn how to disagree, how not to toe the party line, because they can’t question things — the possibility of questioning things has been taken away from them.”
Dr Vallance said the school studied students in years three and five and found creative writing tasks were more successful with handwritten submissions instead of using a keyboard.
This idea to ban electronic devices, which many are saying should be nation-wide isn't a unique one - though some schools take it to much greater extremes.
In the UK London’s “Acorn” school bans all technology - smartphones, iPads, interactive whiteboards and all screens. There are no laptops, no movies, no Internet.
And that’s not just at school – the families have to commit to the lifestyle at home as well, all for a $22,000 a year fee.
At the age of 14 children who attend the Acorn school are allowed to watch their first ever TV – school approved documentaries and at the age of 16 children are first allowed to access the Internet.
Instead they sew and make their own schoolbooks, they learn “elegant looping longhand” and do woodwork.
The London school is often praised for its ethos for getting back to basics, for producing "well rounded" students.
It’s appealing isn’t it?
The thought of your child having good hard working skills like how to knit or how to carve wood rather than spending their time staring at a screen.
And it’s a far cry from the announcement by Bill Shorten last year that, if elected, a Labor Government would “ensure that computer coding is taught in every primary and secondary school in Australia.”
After all who would want their child to learn coding when they could hand crochet an afghan blanket from scratch?
While Sydney Grammar are not taking things to the degree that schools like the one in London do it hasn't stopped many on social media jumping on the "ban technology" bandwagon.
"Great idea! bring back old fashioned pen and paper" is the general gist in the comments section under articles about Sydney Grammar's move.
The fact is that most people these days don’t really bother to read the fine print in news reports and blindly read the headline or the Facebook comments so the take away the message from this has been an inaccurate assumption that a top school has decided that technology and computers have no place in education.
Which simply isn’t true.
We live in a digital world. Technology underlies everything from business, marketing, journalism, science, medicine, aviation to entertainment.
Sydney Grammar hasn’t banned technology – they still have computer labs at school - they are just moving away from them in the classroom.
The reality is that Sydney Grammar may have different educational goals from other schools and parents –after all, being a selective private school with almost one in five of its Year 12 graduates placed in the top 1 per cent of Australian students for Australian Tertiary Admission Rank university entry scores last year and routinely topping the league tables in the national literacy and numeracy tests their undeclared focus is on high achieving test results.
What Sydney Grammar has done is reduced the amount of screen time utilised by students in the classroom and its hard to argue that's not a good thing.
They haven’t banned them, they haven’t reverted back to pen and paper and “good old fashioned values” altogether.
For a school like this who say they aim to produce well rounded capable adults qualified to enter university and perform in the workplace – they would be remiss in “banning” technology altogether. Our children's future will be played out on screens, not through pen and paper - and certainly not through sewing or woodwork - cries to "ban technology" are counterintuitive and detrimental for our students.
What do you think?