IT for IT sake? An unhealthy rush to adopt new technologies by schools here

Without conclusive findings, heightened usage of ICT might not necessarily mean better-quality education for our students … [there is a] a plethora of unreliable information online, instances of plagiarism, and an assortment of distractions – for both teachers and students”.

 ICT In Schools: Blind Obsession Or Genuine Necessity?

The recent furor over the River Valley High School to adopt the IPAD2 by requiring all students to buy the IPADs at unsubsidised rate begs the following questions:

  • Why there is no coordinated efforts from the MOE on the IT adoption?
  • How can a school push a blanket adoption when the benefits are not yet proven?
  • Is it right to mandate the adoption of a particular brand rather than brand neutral?
  • Is it right to adopt a proprietary technology (iOS) in this case rather than an open system such as Android where competition will drive down prices and encourage innovation?
  • Why the set is sold at unsubsidised rate (at a “special” bundle of $7++ for the cheapest model with inclusion of screen protector etc vis-a-vis $668 available in many stores islandwide)
  • What assistance has the school give to the students from poor family? What if the family who are poor but not eligible for school assistance? Will it add to the financial burdens of these families?
  • Will the students using the IPADs addicted to Facebook and games, other than for school works used? Will the addictions outweigh all the benefits of the IT learnings?

The cost is not a one-time cost, how about cost associated with frequent hardware upgrade, battery and other hardware problems associated with IPADs? (Apple is notorious in nudging their users to upgrade their hardware years after years with their annual refresh of the product lineups! You can bet that the students will ask their parents for an upgrade when their batteries wear off) While some students (Student to parents: Lay off the incredible iPad) are quick to embrace the concept, it pays to think hard from the educators and parents point of views as well. The benefits of using ICT is yet to be proven, history has been laden with some high profile and expensive failures such as IDA’s BackPack.NET program (using Windows tablet with IDA “investing” $20m).

As pointed by Guanyingmiao which has written an excellent article on this topic,  “the novelty of the iPad (and ICT in general) will tempt educators to adopt them as the easy way out, under the guise of expressions like “collaborative education”, “interactive, user-based lessons”, “academic-scholastic breakthrough”, “innovative implementation of activities” et cetera. The assumption that technology automatically enhances teaching-learning experiences is extremely fallacious; so unless schools are willing to take more calculated, sound and practical approaches, we must remain wary.”

Just because we can afford, it doesn’t mean that we have to!

(Updated: according to a RV student I know, he said majority of his classmate have actually placed the orders for the IPAD2. It is kind of surprising as almost every family that I know has at least one IPAD, but on deeper analysis if the IPAD is to be used for school works, it can not be shared, so these students are forced to buy one more just for the school’s IT learning. This is over and above the more than $400+ that they already spent on books. Thus it is indeed a heavy burden to students belonging to the lower income families.)

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