Secondary Principals’ Association president Patrick Walsh says if iPads are made compulsory in secondary schools the Ministry of Education should provide funding for the expensive gadgets.
Orewa College has caused controversy by advising parents of Year 8 students than an iPad will be on next year’s stationery list, with opponents saying the technology is an unnecessary expense for parents.
Mr Walsh joined Firstline this morning to explain why there’s no avoiding the trend towards digital learning.
He says the technology is part of “what parents demand as part of a 21st century education”, but believes the Government should be the one to foot the bill for the expensive equipment – especially since the Ministry of Education’s decision to roll out ultrafast broadband in schools has “very little point” if schools lack the resources to use it.
“Both Government and parents can see clearly the benefits of this, but the bottom line comes down to who pays for it – in my view I think that’s a Government responsibility,” he says.
Mr Walsh believes the responsibility to provide equipment should rest at least partly with the Ministry of Education, which “has the ability to bulk buy these sorts of purchases and pass those discounts on to schools”.
“Certainly schools which are in lower decile areas… need greater support from the Ministry of Education, as opposed to those in wealthier areas where the parents can make that contribution.”
Most schools have made provision for parents unable to afford the devices, he says, “including a long lead-in time, fundraising, and in some cases… funds that parents can apply to to be able to purchase [the equipment].”
Parents have raised concerns around the educational benefits and the use of the internet-capable devices; one parent emailed 3 News saying their child, who uses an iPad at school, has become unwilling to do traditional homework and has accessed R18 material on the playground.
Mr Walsh says while “there are risks to using technology” schools are recognising these and putting security measures in place.
“Overwhelmingly the research indicates the use of devices such as iPads have huge educational benefits for students,” he says.
Concerns have also been raised around the safety of students walking to and from school with the valuable electronics in their schoolbags, something Mr Walsh says schools do “think through”.
“Often the iPads are put in a secure place at the beginning of the day, students use them, and they’re delivered to the students at the end of the day.”
He says some schools may also be securely storing the devices overnight.
The introduction of electronic devices won’t spell the end of traditional learning, Mr Walsh says – the technology is “simply a tool and the focus is on raising literacy and numeracy standards”.