Hamilton trustee blasts use of board iPads as ‘toys’
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.