Parents in Meath petition against use of iPad teaching

Parents in Meath petition against use of iPad teaching
Parents at a meeting in Ratoath where it was decided to petition the school to postpone policy of iPad teaching.

Parents in Meath are petitioning their only second-level feeder school to postpone their iPad teaching policy for this year's incoming first years until a thorough review is carried out.

The parents of students at Ratoath College say they are concerned that the policy of replacing textbooks with iPads for the junior cycle is harming their children's education and their health.

They also estimate that since the policy was adopted in 2014, parents have spent close to one million euro on iPads for their children, which they say can only be bought and serviced through one designated provider.

After a meeting last night, parents have decided to start a petition to bring back textbooks for the junior cycle until further research is carried out into the effects screen learning has on students.

Parent and former teacher and inspector with the Department of Education and Skills Nicola Kearns says she has repeatedly raised her concerns to the school.

Parents in Meath petition against use of iPad teaching

"I will have three children in Ratoath College come September but I am hugely concerned that students have to condition themselves to learn through iPads until Junior Certificate and then have to almost relearn how to use and reference text books again for Leaving Certificate years," she said.

"The latest scientific reports such as the Stavenger Declaration concludes that students don't interact with text in the same way when reading on screens as they do with printed books.

"They tend to skim-read longer pieces of text when using digital devices and so don't actually absorb as much information as they think. New findings also suggest that they are less likely to be able to really engage with the text and take notes to help comprehension.

I believe we are going to see some real learning issues, especially when they try to return to textbooks and find they can't organise themselves to use paper to take notes or recall information.

I really feel that technology has a place in the classroom and it can enhance learning and teaching, but only when used selectively to complement traditional teaching methods and in line with the school's digital plan.

She also raised other health and safety issues including eyestrain, screen addiction and security breaches.

She said the school has told parents that it will convene a working group to report back by next December.

"This isn't good enough. We want is our concerns to be listened to and the iPad policy to be suspended immediately for this year's first years until the proposed consultation process is concluded and a new policy is agreed.

"Parents of second and third year students, who have already purchased the devices, want the option of having a set of physical textbooks made available on a Book Rental basis for anyone whho wishes to access printed material as part of their learning and exam preparation."

As the debate surrounding the use of iPads in schools continues, the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (IACP) has encouraged parents to be aware of their own attachment to technology.

IACP Member Olive Cross, says, “parents should be mindful to put down their own phones when greeting their children, or during family social time - overuse of phones by young people is modelled by the behaviour of adults.”

It also urged parents to increase their awareness of the "unintended consequences of technology on the mental health of their children and their families".

It said: "Although technology is an integral part of children, and young people's, everyday life, it should be strictly monitored by guardians, especially in relation to age-appropriate content, cyber-bullying and time limit."

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