For the past eight months, my teenage son has been required to use an iPad for some schoolwork and much of his homework. And it seems he’s not the only one; tablets are now commonplace in schools and some schools are starting to insist all pupils have one.
But there’s been little debate about this new development. And that’s why the ATL teaching union commissioned a major survey on tablets in the classroom.
A total of 376 parents and teachers from across Northern Ireland responded and there was a clear consensus on a number of issues.
Most (78%) believed tablets do have at least some educational value in the classroom, but there was widespread concern about certain significant potential drawbacks.
Some 82% of respondents were worried about the ‘distraction factor’ if pupils were expected to use tablets for homework; will children diligently do their homework when they can check messages or play games on the same devices?
But perhaps the most alarming finding related to child protection; 64% of teaching staff who had educational experience of using tablets felt there was a risk that pupils might access inappropriate material when the devices were used in the classroom.
Some schools are starting to ask or require parents to pay for tablets or other digital devices. Most respondents (71%) firmly opposed any move to make parents pay on the grounds that not all families can afford the cost.
Indeed, a large majority of respondents (81%) wanted official guidance on the use of tablets in schools – so perhaps that can be one of the first tasks for our incoming Education Minister.
So where do parents and schools stand?