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Like any tool, iPads can be used…and misused

iPads present problems and opportunities in school

iPad-problem [1]Beckley, W.Va. mom Kym Cox says her son won’t stop playing MineCraft, a popular online game, and the problem has gotten worse since he was given an iPad through the iRaleigh Initiative [2].

Her son, an eighth-grade student at Park Middle School, has seen lower grades as a result, she said, because he and other students routinely play games like Minecraft and Flappy Birds during school hours.

“If Architectural Minecraft was a grade, my kid would be rocking it,” said Cox, 44. “He’s an architectural genius when it comes to Minecraft, but the rest of his grades. … I blame a lot of it on the iPad.”

(Next page: iPad supporters and critics)And Cox says that students playing games instead of paying attention during classtime isn’t the only problem.

Cox reported that her son has received some “very unique” images of other students via SnapChat and that students access SnapChat with their iPads to send embarrassing images of others.

“There’s a lot more problems than just gaming,” added Cox. “There’s a problem with bullying with them, pictures, sexual things.”

In the past, kids in school also suffered from teasing and name-calling while in school. But in today’s high-tech world, “cyberbullies” logging in from home are using Facebook or SnapChat to up the ante when it comes to harassing classmates, Cox said.

Insults that are shouted in the halls by classmates are also posted on social media sites, reaching deeply into the target’s life.

Other misuses of school iPads have been reported. Officials in the Raleigh County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office reported that incidents of minors sending sexual images of other minors or themselves has risen in connection with iPad deployment, and Independence Middle School teacher Marie Hamrick brought an inappropriate drawing that was confiscated from a sixth-grade boy’s iPad to the attention of central office administrators on March 25.

Cox admitted that her “artsy” daughter, a student at Maxwell Hill Elementary, has successfully used the iPad for artistic design initiatives and that the pitfalls of iPad misuse don’t appear to be as pronounced in the elementary grades.

“I’m not against technology,” said Cox. “I have an iPad, a computer, a laptop and an iPhone.

“But you don’t give that kind of freedom to children, and that’s what they’ve done.”

While some teachers have said the iPad has worked to lower some students’ grades, others say the iPad is simply a tool that can be misused like any other, even though there are limits on where they can go on the internet while they are at school.

“It’s the same as bullying with a phone or computer,” noted Shady Spring High School teacher Elizabeth Morgan. “The iPad is not the problem.”

Raleigh County Schools Superintendent Jim Brown noted that many kids already have unfiltered internet access during school hours and at home via cell phones.

In bullying and accessing of inappropriate sites, he said, the iPad isn’t the problem.

“It’s a discipline problem,” he noted. “It becomes a management problem.”

Brown said district technicians built iPad restrictions that are in place even outside school, and that every Raleigh student underwent cyberbullying training when they received their iPads — a level of professional development that was recently noted by the president of the National Board of Education.

Students also signed an agreement that they would not change the settings on their iPads to bypass the limits the school district had set on how they can be used, he added.

Brown said that the goal is to lead students in the productive use of the iPad, and it’s a partnership between parents and schools.

“I would say many of our homes in Raleigh County have some type of access to the internet,” he noted. “Ultimately, parents have to monitor and regulate the amount of time a child’s on the iPad but also keep an eye on what they’re doing on the Internet.”

In the Los Angeles United School District — a California district that is the largest to have enacted a 1:1 iPad initiative like Raleigh has — LAUSD technology director Themy Sparangis said each community must teach and practice “digital citizenship.”

“Our obligation is citizenship in a digital world, which is fairly new to all of us,” Sparangis said. “That obligation falls on our schools and governments, just as it does regular citizens.”

A good starting point is to teach kids that if something is too personal or damaging to share face-to-face, it shouldn’t be shared electronically, he said.

He said that parents and teachers should treat the accessing of porn sites or bullying online by students with the same concern as if the student had a pornographic magazine or was bullying face-to-face.

Information that wouldn’t be given to a stranger calling the house shouldn’t be shared over the iPad, he added.

“All of those things we did in the face-to-face environment or telephone environment are also things we need to teach our children and adults,” said Sparangis. “Those are things that teach us to protect each other and ourselves.”

Students should be encouraged to report misuse of iPads to teachers, and families and government also bear a responsibility, he said.

“We all have a vested interest in this digital age to act appropriately and report each other’s bad behavior,” said Sparangis.

Cox noted that while Raleigh students know the iPad use rules, there aren’t enough teachers to enforce them.
“My son has a teacher … and he’s went to the extreme of watching the kids’ eyeglasses to see if the reflections on the eyeglasses is a book he’s teaching out of, or if the kids are playing games.

“My kid can go from a game to a book in two taps,” Cox added. “So how are the teachers supposed to watch all of these kids?”

Cox suggested that teachers, tech-savvy students and concerned parents form iPad use committees at each campus to make schools safe, “game-free” zones of learning.

The iPads are subject to search by school officials, according to the student use policy.

©2014 The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.). Visit The Register-Herald (Beckley, W.Va.) at www.register-herald.com [3]. Distributed by MCT Information Services.