ARE WE SERVING?
and supplements the textbook, or one that alienates it?;
AN increased financial strain on our education system, which could be spent on other vital student needs. We could use the money on sports. If we think about it, is this what government schools need right now? I have three boys who have all been schooled in government schools, from Year One to Form Five. I have seen, over the years, how lack of funds and financial resources has led to schools cutting down on sporting facilities. Given the choice, I would rather the authorities spend the money to give students more chances to take part in sports. Children need to spend more time outdoors in healthy sport activities;
SPEND more on upgrading science labs. Who will pay for the introduction of these mobile devices in schools? The government? If so, all schools should have well-equipped computer labs by now. That has not happened. It is also a well-known fact that science laboratories in many schools are poorly equipped (even in urban areas), leading to the ad hoc implementation and then abandonment of practical examinations for science-based subjects in the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia examination in recent years. Upgrading science labs should be a higher priority;
CAN all students afford electronic devices? If the ministry is going to suggest a BYOD (Buy Your Own Device) programme for mobile devices and shift the burden onto parents, not everyone
will be able to afford it, especially those in rural areas. That aside, what about Wi-Fi coverage?;
We are not talking about private schools, where parents are more affluent. We are talking about government schools. I strongly believe that a school is a place for students to be equal. After all, that is why we have uniforms. And that is also why the introduction of such a policy must be clear, understandable, uniformly implemented and fair on all stakeholders: students, teachers, parents, educators, etc;
“GOING digital”. The phrase implies a kind of grandeur or sophistication, as though it is a divine elixir that we must sip to experience educational bliss. I beg to differ. In fact, I strongly believe that as a society, our over dependence on technology is not just alarming, but dangerously addictive. Students clutch their mobile phones as though they are lifesaving devices, a basic need to live on this planet. Do we want to give them more of these?;
CHILDREN need less screen time. It is true that children need to be equipped with the necessary technological skills lest they be left behind in today’s world. But, bear in mind that the average preteen or teenager will already be spending a large amount of screen time at home. Statistics reveal that teens, aged 13 to 18, spend a whopping 10 to 15 hours on gadgets daily. This effectively displaces time that can be spent on outdoor activity and exercise, or face-to-face interactions with family and friends;
A NEGATIVE health impact. Toddlers
as young as 2 (or even younger) are being introduced to iPads and smartphones for entertainment purposes. Sometimes, these gadgets even act as nannies. If schoolchildren spend more time with electronic devices, their eyesight may be irreversibly impaired, causing increasing rates of myopia and retinal damage in the long run. Their posture may also be affected. As to the long-term effects of screen radiation damage, only time will tell;
STUDENTS forgetting how to write legibly. Over-reliance on technology is detrimental to the development of fine motor skills, such as writing. As a teacher for more than two decades, I can see the difference myself. Two decades ago, students’ writing skills were much better. That came with the older generations’ and teachers’ emphasis on writing and spelling skills, and on pens, pencils and exercise books being on desks. Today, more students are not able to write legibly. This problem will be exacerbated with the introduction of electronic devices into classrooms. Students fail to realise that they have to write during their exams. Their writing must be clear and legible;
ANTI-SOCIAL behaviour and the “look down policy”. As a teacher, I allow a certain degree of flexibility in class when I conduct tutorials. I am fine with students being on mobile devices, such as laptops and tablets. Sometimes, they will take down notes or access a particular site for class discussion, research and debate. But, what I invariably find is that this often results in what I refer to as the “look down policy”, where students are looking down at their gadgets all the time, so much so that no one is actually looking at each other.
The teacher and students are reduced to pieces of furniture in class, which I find to be, albeit unintentional, unsociable behaviour. There is very little contact in these situations, rendering the classroom atmosphere sterile and lacking in human content. We are not robots, and the classroom must not be deprived of the warmth of face-to-face human contact, emotion and connection between teacher and student;
THERE is no comparison between onscreen reading and traditional reading. Many of us have also forgotten the beauty of reading a book, a handwritten letter, or a postcard/note from a friend. Reading print is a joy and cannot compare with the cold atmosphere of reading online. When we read a book, we do so in a slow and deliberate manner; and,
THE stifling of imagination and creativity. The phenomenon of too much time being spent on electronic devices has been referred to as the “Google Effect”. Nowadays, children go straight to their gadgets to find out about something. This can, at times, lead to a “cut-and-paste” mentality. As such, dangers of plagiarism must be taken seriously and communicated at school. Over-reliance on electronic devices can cause a lack of critical and creative thinking.
I am not saying that we should go tech-free at school. Technology is both invaluable and indispensable in the 21st century. We need to embrace it, but certain mobile devices in primary and secondary schools may cause more harm than good in the long run if not implemented properly. There must be adequate discussion, debate and thought before this policy is introduced.
We must ask whose interests we are serving. We need to act in the best interests of students, teachers, parents, educators and other stakeholders in education.