Parent purchases

| March 9, 2012 | 0 Comments

A growing phenomenon

From Scotland to Singapore come reports that schools expect parents to purchase the latest tablet technologies for students. While parents don’t want to comprise their children’s chances, many feel forced to ‘shape up or ship out’.

Schools have their reasons. For instance, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) in Charlotte, North Carolina, in the USA, says that after weighing its options, it’s time to embrace the digital age. CMS is not alone. Nearby Carolina International Charter School (CICS) has also asked all parents of students in Grade 3 and above to pitch in and buy tablets. But, says the school, it will subsidise those students whose families cannot afford the approximate US$700 cost of a top-end iPad.

Scotland and Mumbai forge ahead with iPad plans In Scotland, Aberdeen council officials are rolling out an iPad pilot programme at Kingswells Primary School. Parents who cannot afford to buy the tablets outright have the option to lease the tablet at a cost of £13.43 a month, with the option to buy after 36 months for an agreed market value.

Although the school explained the decision and outlined the educational value of the technology, more than one parent said that £13 was a significant amount for many working-class families in the context of the country’s most depressed economic climate in recent history. Only those children who qualify for free meals at school would receive free tablets from the council, said a letter from the school.

In Santacruz West, Mumbai, many parents report feel pressured by Podar International School to buy iPads. The school provided two choices in a circular explaining the imminent introduction of iPad’s version 2: buy one outright, or join the school’s bulk purchase scheme. Many want to know why the school hasn’t gone for the India-designed and manufactured Android-based tablet Aakash tablet, available in a variety of cost-effective models; accusing Director Vandana Lulla of skirting the real issues when she explained that “we moved from blackboards to interactive boards and from there to laptops and now, it is the time of the iPad2.”

New Zealand and Singapore urge parents to get on board

The decision of schools on virtually every continent to choose the iPad, is of course fantastic news for Apple. At Orewa College in Auckland, New Zealand, which claimed it made its decision based on the iPad’s portability and long battery life, Principal Kate Shevland told parents to expect to pay around NZ$1 148 for the tablet placed on the ‘compulsory stationery list’ at the start of the new school year. Shevland says she was ready for some parents to object to the move. “We had a similar reaction years ago when we asked parents to buy calculators instead of supplying students with them ourselves,” she said.

Orewa’s plan prompted the following public statement from Labour education spokesperson, Sue Moroney: “We’ve got to be careful that we don’t end up with a two-tier education system where we put low-income families in a really embarrassing situation.” Shevland threw down the gauntlet: “We think there needs to be a commitment from government to see information technology provided across all schools and across all families in those schools.”

Mixed opinions about mandatory iPad use at school allegedly caused a knock-down screaming match between parents and authorities at River Valley High School (RVHS), one of Singapore’s top secondary institutions. Here, Principal Ko Yong Chiah plans to roll out the school’s plan in phases from mid-March 2012, and hopes that by the end of this year, the iPad2 will be used in 30% of lessons. When parents initially questioned the plan, RVHS apparently sweetened the deal, offering a significant discount if parents purchased the tablets from a preferred school provider. Chiah also promised to invest in more closed circuit televisions around campus, as well as hitech intranet firewalls.

Uncertainty prevails

Back in the USA, well-known technology blogger John Cave Osborne reported mixed feelings on being told to buy an iPad – a ‘toy’ he says he doesn’t even own himself – for his nine-yearold daughter to use at school. “My daughter attends a private school, and in my opinion, a private school can ask anything they want of their student body. No one’s holding a gun to the parents’ heads forcing them to enrol their children there. What’s more, I attended that school back in the day, so I know firsthand what a great place it is – I believe in it,” he reasoned, adding that “I think every single school, public or private, should do whatever it can to deliver the best education possible to its students. And it’s obvious that my daughter’s school feels that having students in Grades 3 through 12 use an iPad to navigate the school’s curriculum will do just that. They have a very detailed plan with regard to how the entire process will work, and the communication of that plan has been excellent.”

But in a later posting came the following confession: “Yesterday that concept turned into reality, and I’m not quite as okay with it as I had thought. Our daughter just seems too… young to have an iPad. Within the first few hours, the screen was already filthy and when she tried to charge it, she inserted the charger the wrong way. It seems to me that it might have been prudent to have only required the older students to acquire the devices.”

While this may be the opinion of many parents, it seems likely that schools – those in America, that is – will continue to push for tablet technology off the back of the Obama administration’s goal to have an e-textbook in every student’s hand by 2017. Announcing the challenge in January 2012, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan said: “We absolutely want to push the process.” Reacting to the government call, Matt MacInnis, founder and CEO of the e-textbook company Inkling, observed that the transition is inevitable. “There is no future for American education unless we figure this out. There’s no segment of any industry anywhere in the world anymore that doesn’t rely on technology to get its job done.”

References:

1. Burt, C. (2011) ‘Schools Asking Parents to Buy iPads’, available at:
http://www.kingswells.com/HOME/tabid/423/ctl/Details/mid/
1038/ItemID/1273/Default.aspx.

2. Doss Helms, A. (2012) ‘In Some Schools, Parents and PTAS to Buy
Technology’, available at:
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/01/29/2967994/ in-someschools-
parents-and-ptas.html.

3. Osborne, J.C. (2012) ‘Should a School Require Parents to Buy iPads
for their 9-Year-Olds?’, available at:
http://parentables.howstuffworks.com/family-matters/ shouldschool-
require-parents-buy-ipads-their-9-year-olds.html.

4. Staff Writers. (2012) ‘School “Asks” 840 Parents to buy iPads’, available
at: http://www.ndtv.com/article/cities/school-asks-840-students-tobuy-
ipads-157809.

5. Staff Writers. (2011) ‘Auckland School Asks Students to Buy iPads’,
available at: http://www.3news.co.nz/Auckland-school-asksstudents-
to-buy-iPads/tabid/423/articleID/219275/Default.aspx.

6. Sym, B. (2012) ‘Parents Question Use of iPad’, available at:
http://www.asiaone.com/News/Latest%2BNews/
Singapore/Story/A1Story20120201-325254.html.

7. Toppo, G. (2012) ‘Obama Wants Schools to Speed Up Digital
Transition’, available at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/
story/2012-01-31/schools-e-textbooks/52907492/1.

Category: Autumn 2012, e-Education, Featured Articles

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