Australian School Bans iPads… Does Educational Science Agree?

When Reddam House Private School outside Sydney, Australia got rid of iPads, they did so based on feedback from the students.

The school had been using iPads to access e-textbooks for the past five years, according to Jenn Ryan writing in the Hearty Soul.

“The school says that teachers agree with the decision as iPads were found to do nothing in improving students’ technology skills and instead hindered learning,” Ryan writes. “However, parents had mixed reactions, some saying they believed digital devices were essential for modern education.”

Ultimately it was the kids who settled the score, saying they preferred pages to screens for text books. They also found messaging and alerts on the iPads were distracting, and taking notes was easier with a hard copy book.

Paper, it seems, is regaining its importance in the educational setting.

This comes in spite of the claims of educational textbook publishing Pearson that printed texts are on the way out.

The decision of the Reddam House administration is also backed by plenty of research. While iPads surely have some positives – including ease of transporting and information access – the cons are weighing heavily against their dominant or exclusive use.

“What’s perhaps not surprising but an excellent point is that other research and education leaders say that teachers lack the skills to truly leverage the potential of using these technologies to support empowered learning and technology skills among students,” Ryan writes.

There has been much written about kids, screen time and their brains – the distraction, the neurological impact, the policy nightmares of allowing kids to connect to the internet during class. Given we are talking about a media that is only 10 years old, much more research is needed.

“Of course, there are other considerations to take into account when it comes to children, iPads, and other devices that extend beyond learning and classrooms,” Ryan notes. “Children are particularly susceptible to the blue light that is emitted from such devices, which recent research has suggested can cause permanent eye damage. Mental health in children is also a growing concern when it comes to these devices.”

Ultimately maybe it’s enough that the switch back to print books was driven simply by student preference. After all, it’s their education on the line. If they feel they are better students when they use print books, then it’s up to the grownups to figure out how to make that happen.