Parents opposed to the Corvallis School District’s plan to provide every student with an iPad continue to press their case, with some saying school officials have not justified the need for the devices and others worried about the additional time children will spend staring into a screen.
But district officials said that, while they’re willing to listen to concerns, they’re still committed to their 1:World initiative.
The district distributed the tablet computers to every student at Mountain View Elementary School, Linus Pauling and Cheldelin middle schools earlier this school year, and plans to provide every student in the district with an iPad next school year. The district spent more than $1 million on iPads and upgrades to school wireless networks. District officials plan to replace the iPads every three years, which will cost an estimated a $1.2 million each year.
With parental consent, students third grade and older can take the iPads home.
District officials say the program will allow students from families that cannot afford computer technology equal access to information, and that the devices can open new learning opportunities for students.
But the program has drawn opposition from some parents. At a meeting Monday, 16 of them gathered to discuss their objections.
Brooke Kaye, who has a child who would start at a district elementary school next year, organized the meeting. She said the iPad program has caused her to consider, for the first time, home-schooling her children.
“I have a fundamental philosophical difference in how I want my children to be educated,” she said. “I don’t want to see education as training my kid for a career.”
Instead, Kaye said she wants education to develop her children into good people through creativity and tactile activities.
A lack of peer-reviewed support for one-to-one technology programs also is a concern for her.
“There are decades of research urging us to be cautious about screens and the developing brain. In the absence of peer-reviewed research showing no harm from 1:1 iPad learning, I don’t want to let the school experiment with the neurobiology of my children,” she said.
Kaye encouraged parents concerned about the iPad program to comment on the program at the school board meeting at 6:30 p.m., Jan. 13 at the district offices at 1555 S.W. 35th St., Corvallis.
Screen time worries
Other parents raised other issues. Some argued that the money spent on the iPads would be better used in other areas, such as reducing class sizes. Others are worried that the use of devices will cut into instructional time.
Several parents worried about the effect of the program on the health of students, and cited a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that children’s screen time be limited to one to two hours per day. The academy points to studies showing that excessive media use can lead to difficulties in school, sleep and eating disorders, and obesity.
Privacy and security issues were frequent concerns as well. Parents said that students in other districts have bypassed security software. Others worried about the implications of giving students WiFi-capable devices that that have both webcams and GPS built into them.
Some parents said that they wanted to stop the iPad program; others said they’d prefer to see changes in how the program is rolled out. There was also a consensus that the program should be halted at the elementary level.
Public forum planned
Superintendent Erin Prince said Thursday that the district is planning a public forum in February to gather input on the program from the community. She added that external organizations, such as Oregon State University’s Extension Service, have offered to evaluate the iPad program. Results from the forum and the outside evaluation, along with a planned faculty survey, could influence how quickly the district rolls out iPads next year.
“We’re not deaf to concerns,” she said. “We want to make sure we are doing the best for our kids.”
However, Prince said, the basic plan of distributing an iPad for every student next year has not changed.
She said the district’s four-year graduation rate, about 70 percent, is a clear indicator that Corvallis schools need a major change in their educational approach — and she believes the 1:World initiative is part of that overhaul.
“There are 30 percent of our students we are not doing well by,” she said.
Prince said school districts around the United States have seen improvements in attendance, behavior and grades following adoption of one-to-one technology plans.
As an example, she points to a school district in Mooresville, N.C. In the five years after that district implemented a one-to-one laptop program, its graduation rate jumped from 64 percent to 90 percent, according to a book by the district’s superintendent.
Prince said screen time with iPads for education is different from recreational use, and that time with the tablets includes opportunities to engage with teachers and fellow students.
She added that, thus far, the district has seen no evidence that students have been able to bypass district Internet filters. However, she said, the district was issuing a request for proposals to have outside security experts audit the security of the district iPads.
“We want to make sure we do our due diligence,” she said.