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I came across this article about the current technology boom in schools across the nation, and it’s spurred me to write about my own concerns about technology at my kids’ school.

Our district is all about technology.  For several years, there was a 1:1 laptop program at my kids’ school for sixth graders, which meant that in sixth grade each student had his or her own Mac laptop.  I’m not exactly sure how it worked because we moved our oldest son to a K-8 school in the district when he entered sixth grade, and that school did not participate in the “Laptops for Learning” program at that time; my general understanding/recollection is that parents could purchase a laptop for their child that met certain specs, or they could lease one from the district, paying a monthly fee, or they could apply to borrow one at no cost based on financial hardship.  The district was actually sued over the program because requiring families to pay for public education is illegal.

In any case, now laptops are passe, and we’re all about iPads.  Our school now has a 1:1 iPad program in the sixth grade, so all sixth graders are required to have an iPad.  This program differs from the previous laptop program in that families can choose whether to purchase or borrow an iPad from the school, and no proof of financial hardship need be presented.  We opted to borrow an iPad from the school for our sixth grader this year – not because we can’t afford to buy an iPad, but because, frankly, we don’t take that kind of purchase lightly, whether we can afford it or not, and frankly, I’m not sold on the benefits of this type of technology in the classroom at this grade level.

The first problem that arose when the iPad program was launched this school year was a lack of iPads.  For the first several weeks of school, there was not actually an iPad for each student – rather, there was one iPad for six or eight kids.  We are talking about the iPad Mini, so you can imagine what it’s like to have six or eight kids crowded around one iPad Mini, trying to utilize it for educational purposes.

When all the iPads finally came in and were distributed to the students, there was a firewall problem.  Despite reassurances that the iPads would be unable to access websites with restricted content, kids were, in fact, Googling butts and boobs and having no problem accessing adult websites.  Apparently the firewall either wasn’t actually installed, or it wasn’t properly installed.

There is an ongoing problem of time wasted in the classroom while waiting for apps or websites to load; it often takes a while for everyone to arrive at the proper destination on their iPad.

Some kids, thinking it funny, have been known to take inappropriate photos with their iPads, sometimes involving other, unsuspecting students.  At our school, our principal is pretty useless in dealing with these types of situations (as in, he tends to chuckle about them and not do anything else).

Some parents that I know feel that technology like the iPads are often used to “babysit” the students while the teacher involves herself in some other activity.  Perhaps this allows teachers to multitask in the classroom, I don’t know, but I could certainly see it becoming a crutch if actual engagement with the students is not required.

There is also a concern about how wireless classrooms may impact children’s health.

What I’ve noticed is that there is this big push for technology at the elementary school level, and then it’s not really used in middle school or high school.  My oldest son did not need an iPad in middle school, that’s for sure.  They didn’t use them in the classroom, and he didn’t need one for homework.  We did end up buying him a laptop for eighth grade graduation so that he would have his own computer on which to type papers in high school, and that’s been the extent of its usefulness for him for purposes of his high school education (he’s a junior now) – basically, it’s replaced a word processor.  So all that elementary school technology seems like a pretty big waste.

How high-tech is your school?  Do you feel it is mostly beneficial, or mostly not?  What are your concerns about technology in the classroom?