Darwin Could Never Have Known…

During the week I attended a Parents Information Meeting at our school. There will be iPads issued to the upper school in the following weeks, and this session was a chance for parents to see how the technology is to be used to further our children’s education. There would be some discussion on cost to parents, school policy, internet safety and the like. Or so I thought.

Our principal, Mrs. C, runs through the details. She shares her nifty little PowerPoint presentation. We watch a YOUTUBE video on education in the 21st century.

It’s all very predictable. She then asks if anyone has any concerns about the new technology and 90% of parental hands fly into the air.

Mine doesn’t.

I’m thinking Internet Safety/Cyber Bullying/ Online Predators…yeah that must be it, what else is there to be worried about?

I should preface this by stating that our family is kinda tech savvy. We are not afraid of technology. We currently have a collective of 2 iPhones, 4 laptops, 1 net book, 1 iMac, 3 iPads and a couple of iPods, in our possession.

So, I’m wondering….What’s to be afraid of??

Mrs. C pre-empts with, “Are your concerns about Internet Safety”?

A couple of hands punctuate the airspace.

Well, what is everyone concerned about then? I’m wracking my brain…..what am I not getting? What is there to be worried about? I only see this technological advancement as a wonderful opportunity for our children’s education. What could I be missing?

I’m about to find out.

“How much time will our children be using the iPods in a typical day? Will it be all day?”

“What about teacher/student contact. If the children are basically being taught by a device, when is there going to be time for teacher involvement?”

“What about handwriting. Will handwriting still be a part of the curriculum”?

My mouth drops open. Really? You need to ask that question?

“And books. Will our children still be reading real books? We don’t want them to forget what real books look like!”

Its all feeling rather passive agressive to me. If it were me standing at the lectern fielding these questions I’d probably be getting quite terse by now. Mrs. C is cool as a cucumber. I realise she is probably used to answering to this particular brand of parental outrage.
She calmly explains that books and pencils will still be a very large part of our children’s education, of course they will.
I cannot believe that she actually needs to say those words.

“RSI and carpel tunnel are a real concern. We’re wondering how you are going to monitor the children’s sitting positions and what you are going to put in place to ensure these health conditions don’t result from this introduction of technology.”

My jaw hits the floor.
I would have replied ‘Well you know a child sitting at a desk with an iPad is no different to a child sitting at a desk with a book. Are you suggesting a chiropractor be on standby for each class? Or just that the teachers should be checking for ergonomically efficient positioning of your child’s bottom on their chair??’

Mrs. C. blinks. She’s looking….perplexed. I’m pretty sure she is as beginning to feel as exasperated with these questions as I am, but she hides it well. She says simply ‘Yes RSI is a concern, that is something we will monitor as time goes on’

Some of the people around me are not game to raise their question publicly but I hear them talking amongst themselves.

“What about art and creativity!? Will they still be using pencils and paints and real tangible tools?”

“Whatever happened to the good old text book?”

“Are all areas of the curriculum going to be made the responsibility of this iPad thing? There will be nothing else! Our children will grow up proficient in ‘ipad101’ and the basics of education will be lost!”

I almost wanted to leave. There was a clear division between parents and teachers. I could almost see a line forming on the carpet between parents and teachers chairs. And I didn’t want to be on the side I was on.
I just sat there shaking my head in utter disbelief.

You know it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t even have computers in schools. I finished my VCE without the use of internet, as did all of my peers. That was only 16 years ago and the very thought is inconceivable today. I wonder if parents were afraid of introducing the humble PC into their children’s education back then. Did my parents think a PC was going to somehow strip me of my ability to write with a pencil? Or destroy my love of reading? Or hinder my interaction with my teachers?
If we go back a little further into the history of education we remember when we used to believe that the only education our children required was the three “R’s,” (reading, writing and arithmetic) together with lessons on how to be good moral, law-abiding citizens. There were opponents of this idea of course, people felt that the child of a blacksmith didn’t need any more education than what was necessary for him to become a blacksmith, the child of a farmer only what was necessary for him to be a successful farmer, our daughters’ only required education was in home economics; sewing, cooking and childrearing.
Earlier still we thought that education wasn’t really necessary at all.

Thank god for those education pioneers in our history who advocated ground-breaking concepts and believed in furthering the education of our youth in new and innovative ways.
Thank god for the amazing advocates for modern education that happen to be responsible for the tutoring of my children.

I just cannot fathom why people are so reticent to embrace such a powerful learning tool. I have no doubt whatsoever that my kids will still learn the fundamental skills of early education. I am certain that they will still write with a pencil and borrow books from the library. The curriculum is not changing; the only thing that is changing is the ability to hold a world of information and educational apps literally in the palm of their hands. What’s not to like?

We can’t change the way the world is simply by denying the changes that have happened. The Age of Technology has caused a huge cultural shift. Once a major shift in a culture occurs, you can never go back to how it once was.

You have to adapt.


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4 Responses to Darwin Could Never Have Known…

  1. I’ve been teaching ronan to read, write and memory skills on eggy phonics ipad app and he is four. Technology is part of our lives, I think I would have been in shock too!

  2. Min says:

    There is a phenomena called “powering down” it refers to the fact that as children walk through the school gate they turn off, their phones, iPads, laptops and at the same time all the knowledge and skills they foster.

    The other thing worth noting is the majority of what children do in schools using technology is not transformative. Which means they are using technology to do things they don’t need it for like reading a book- rebook, write- word process.
    So not only do they need access to technology, but teachers who have the knowledge and skills to extend the kids to use this technology in a way which transforms their way of thinking and doing.

  3. Jennie says:

    I think they are the best thing going, look at all the text books that can be on one iPad. The size of school backpacks on kids big and small is worrying, those heavy bags are doing more damage than any poor posture ask any Chiro. Parents need to remember they are the bigger part of a child’s education.

  4. john says:

    100% agree! Jazz and Lils’ school has ipods that they can use, but Aprils school once they hit year 9 they get a free laptop. Which they use for all their work. No text books, no hand writing, no projects on a2 size cardboard. Everything is written,read and submitted via laptop. I think thats going a bit too far!!

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