iPad classes are affecting our children's learning: parents

Schools across the Waikato are adopting the use of devices, such as iPads, in school.
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Schools across the Waikato are adopting the use of devices, such as iPads, in school.

Fears for children's reading and writing skills are becoming more prevalent as schools replace text-books with iPads.

Some parents have noticed their kids' spelling and handwriting skills have deteriorated since they were submerged into separate bring-your-own-device (BYOD) classes, where tablets are heavily used.

Leamington Primary School in Cambridge has had separate BYOD classes since 2013.

Bernadette Stevenson said her 10-year-old daughter had been in an iPad class for two years, but her child's maths, spelling, reading and handwriting skills started to decline after six months.

"Her handwriting is so bad. [The 10-year-old] has been writing and I've been thinking it's my 6-year-old," she said. "It's absolutely shocking."

She said the kids were being instructed by teachers to "google" answers to questions they had, sparking concerns in Stevenson over the monitoring of their tablet use.

Children's author and founder of Snail Mail Day Judi Billcliff agrees technology in classrooms needs to be closely moderated.

"It does concern me at school every kid's got their screen – are we really helping them? I'm not convinced."

Putting pen to paper was a much more personal experience, she said.

But Leamington Primary School principal Mike Malcolm said the kids have been writing more since having access to tablets.

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"Historically, the kids who didn't have tidy writing didn't like writing because all they were told is they have messy writing. So for a lot of reluctant writers, we find they're really good writers because the children can re-work what they've done very easily without having to mess up their piece of paper. They're now writing heaps."

He said instead of looking up a word in a paperback dictionary, they can instantly use the dictionary on their devices.

"Our kids still write with a pen and paper, they still paint with real paint brushes, it's just another tool they pull out of their pencil case."

And that balance is important. Good teachers, he said, will give the children information in written, audio and visual mediums and the kids have to collate it all together, "because in the real world they're going to be immersed in all of them".

"It's not and/or, it's and/and," he said. "In order to prepare our children for their future, we need to be preparing them with those skills around collaboration, curiosity and problem solving because those are the sort of tasks they're going to be asked to perform."

And with NCEA exams moving ever closer towards digital mediums, he question the need for perfectly-formed handwriting.

 - Stuff

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