Five-year-olds know how to take “selfies,” surf the Internet and download apps. In the technologically advanced world we live in, kids are allowed and almost expected to know how to work an iPhone or iPad.
The Midway Independent School District has put this progressive education concept to use in an scholastic setting by putting more than 6,800 iPads in the hands of kindergarten through 12th-grade students.
While, in theory, Midway is making a bold move in hopes of providing its students with the most advanced education possible, in reality, it seems like bad practice.
The iPad purchase was made possible by a $5 million initiative, which is part of a $34.5 million bond that was issued last May. While this more than covers the full cost of the technology, parents are still required to sign a liability form for their child to receive a tablet. In addition to having already paid for the bond through tax dollars, if the tablet is damaged or stolen, the family is responsible for half the cost to repair the device or $500 for a replacement device.
If this fate befalls a student once again, the family must then cover the full cost.
This would ideally force parents to teach their kids to assume responsibility for their actions, which is one aspect of the process of going to school.
But just because a parent tries to instill the value of such a piece of technology does not mean that a child or adolescent will fully digest it. This is making parents liable by force, as there is no way for parents to ensure their child won’t damage the device.
For many families, signing the liability form for the iPad will not be possible because of their financial situation. They are not able to afford the damage that the device may sustain, thus the student is forced into a classroom full of inequality.
The school district plans to use the spring semester to assess whether or not it needs to charge a fee for using the iPads to cover the cost of damages. This is a redundant cost being forced upon families. They paid for the devices through tax dollars, and they are forced to pay if there is any damage. It is unfair to make them pay a user fee as well.
Only seventh through 12th-graders are allowed to take the devices home. In the district’s eyes, this avoids the more likely damages that come with younger students operating them alone. But if you give a student an iPad, it should be all-encompassing.
If they are expected to continue with the age-old tradition of homework, they may still be required to lug textbooks to and from school, which is one of the very tasks the iPads should replace.
Also, if they take them home, it is very possible and likely that students will modify the devices to get around the restrictions set by the school.
The implementation of iPads in the classroom also puts an undue burden on teachers. Because there is no guarantee that every student will have a tablet, teachers are forced to create two lesson plans.
In addition, if a family later decides to take responsibility for a device, kids must make up all the work that they have already done electronically. Not only is this redundant work on the student, but it requires teachers to backtrack as well.
In addition, despite the school district providing training for the teachers, some may still not be proficient in the use of an iPad in the classroom setting. Because their use in the classroom is still in its infancy, teachers may not fully grasp how to implement them.
Technology is a generational entity. For some, it takes months of hands-on practice before they fully understand its ability.
The biggest issue this scenario poses is the millions of dollars being spent do not outweigh the benefit in the classroom. As Apple has proved, the most recent technology will be out of date in a year and won’t function in five.
The technology will be obsolete before the investment is even paid off. The district cannot expect to pass a new multimillion-dollar bond every time technology goes out of date.
While we agree that the integration of iPads is a positive move to encourage creativity and critical thinking while immersing students in their studies, it is not a practical one.
Because the cost so heavily outweighs the potential benefits, Midway ISD should rethink its decision.