Hamilton trustee blasts use of board iPads as ‘toys’

The Hamilton Spectator - - LOCAL - RICHARD LEIT­NER

Hamilton’s pub­lic school board will re­assess how and when it lets stu­dents use iPads and per­sonal mo­bile de­vices at school amid crit­i­cisms they’re be­ing used as toys and to view in­ap­pro­pri­ate on­line con­tent.

Trustee Dawn Danko, who pushed for a re­view by the board’s pol­icy com­mit­tee, said she’s con­cerned about the con­se­quences of some teach­ers al­low­ing stu­dents to use school-is­sued iPads for fun as a re­ward for fin­ish­ing their work.

The cen­tral Moun­tain trustee said she’s re­ceived com­plaints from other par­ents, but in her own case her Grade 6 daugh­ter was shown a YouTube video of a cat fall­ing to its death from a 10-storey apart­ment build­ing by a class­mate.

“I don’t like the idea that my chil­dren are in school in the class­room and they’re play­ing with the tool, that our board pur­chased, as a toy,” Danko said.

“But if it’s for ed­u­ca­tion, ab­so­lutely. There’s some great ben­e­fits to that.”

Danko said she isn’t “a dooms­day naysayer” on tech­nol­ogy, but it’s un­clear how its use is af­fect­ing kids’ so­cial de­vel­op­ment and the board can’t just trust that younger stu­dents es­pe­cially will make good choices on what to view when un­su­per­vised.

She said teach­ers also need more di­rec­tion be­cause par­ents have com­plained about smart­boards be­ing used to show non­in­struc­tional movies on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

“That’s not OK. Kids are in school to learn, not to watch ‘Daddy Day Care,’” Danko said. “We need to have some­thing that’s over­reach­ing that has a clear ex­pec­ta­tion for schools and for ad­min­is­tra­tors: ‘This is how th­ese de­vices are to be used.’”

Stoney Creek trustee Jeff Beat­tie, chair of the pol­icy com­mit­tee, said he sup­ports the re­view but doesn’t want to throw “the baby out with the bath­wa­ter” by be­ing too re­stric­tive.

He said his own daugh­ter and son have per­sonal de­vices they bring to school and have ben­e­fited “beyond my wildest dreams.”

“I’ve seen how en­gaged they are when they’re given the op­por­tu­nity to have the tech­nol­ogy and to trans­port it back and forth,” Beat­tie said.

“And the ease of use when they’re work­ing on a project at school. They close their de­vice, they come home, they log on and they con­tinue. That seam­less tran­si­tion, there’s a lot of ben­e­fit there.”

As­so­ci­ate ed­u­ca­tion di­rec­tor Peter Sovran said the board al­ready of­fers train­ing to teach­ers and stu­dents on the ap­pro­pri­ate use of school-is­sued iPads, part of an ini­tia­tive to pro­vide ei­ther class­room or in­di­vid­ual tablets to ev­ery stu­dent in grades 4 to 12.

He said im­proper use — for bul­ly­ing or to view in­ap­pro­pri­ate con­tent — is also gov­erned by the board’s code of con­duct.

Sovran said staff is al­ready sched­uled to re­view the board’s four-year-old 21st Cen­tury Learn­ing and Tech­nol­ogy pol­icy in Fe­bru­ary and will draft pro­posed new guide­lines as re­quested as part of that ex­er­cise.

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