Reponses to Parent Questions

I do not want to have another piece of electronic kit in my house to police. It’s hard enough to keep my child off the computer as it is, let alone if he can say “I’m doing my homework” before flipping back to Angry Birds.”

Although we do hope that students will take the device home in order to continue learning and so that the whole family can benefit from this exciting technology, there is space and time for students to do homework at school before going home. Therefore, if you want your child to leave their tablet at school, rather than taking it home, we’ll provide a way to do that.

Independent learners will not necessarily be told to create something on their tablets. We feel students will develop the skills to know when to use their device and when not to. We would hope that parents will engage with the school work of their children and help them make these decisions and guide them in their choices. We also feel that the benefits to students of using tablets at home will outwiegh any difficulties which may occur early on.

Can there be individual parental controls for one particular family’s iPad, possibly more stringent than the average? My children already spend too much time obsessed with gazing at screens. Won’t this make it worse?

Yes, please speak to us if you would like us to add extra management to the device.

What if we don’t have Wifi at home?

Although the devices have more capability if connected to the internet, there will be no expectation or requirement for this. We have recently surveyed students and found that the vast majority of homes already have internet access. We do also offer after-school access in school via homework clubs.  Please speak to us if you do not have wifi at home as we may be able to help provide access via the device.

Do you need to pay extra for 3G or some other form of mobile subscription?

No, there will be no requirement for 3G usage. The devices will be wifi enabled and that is the only form of connectivity we anticipate.

What about students’ hand writing?

Students will still be expected to hand write work regularly. There will be not be a requirement to word process all of their work by any means, in the same way that there is no advantage in doing so at present. We would benefit from the fact that work stored electronically would reduce paper wastage.

Is too much reading of screens bad for eyesight?

The Health and Safety Executive recommend a 15 minute break every hour although this is a guidline rather than law as TFT screens are not subject to the same legislation as older CRTs. Also, importantly, students would not be using them continuously for long periods of time (sometimes not at all in a lesson) as they might not fit into the structure of the lesson that the teacher has planned.

Exposure to microwaves – can cause headaches, lack of concentration, depression etc. Can we look at websites such as wificoncern.org and can this definitely be addressed on the information about this initiative on the website?

We will include the issue of wifi radiation in the risk assessment we will be undertaking in the coming months. We do adhere to government, and other regulatory bodies, guidance – such as the HPA and WHO. Currently, we are advised that there is no reason why we cannot continue to use Wi-Fi. We will re-evaluate our position if new guidelines are introduced.

WHO study ( http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs304/en/index.html )

Conclusion: “Considering the very low exposure levels and research results collected to date, there is no convincing scientific evidence that the weak RF signals from base stations and wireless networks cause adverse health effects.”

HPA position http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/Radiation/UnderstandingRadiation/UnderstandingRadiationTopics/ElectromagneticFields/WiFi/

“On the basis of the published studies and those carried out in-house, the HPA sees no reason why Wi-Fi should not continue to be used in schools and in other places.”

( http://www.hpa.org.uk/Topics/Radiation/UnderstandingRadiation/UnderstandingRadiationTopics/ElectromagneticFields/WirelessLocalAreaNetworks/ )

Conclusion: “On the basis of current evidence, the HPA does not consider there to be a problem with the safety of WLAN. If an explicit statement that exposures are within the ICNIRP guidelines is required, this would have to be obtained from the manufacturers; however, it could be argued that this is implicit in the CE marking”

If the exam system isn’t going to change to use electronic devices, why would we bother doing it ?

Our proposed scheme is about improving students’ learning; we believe it will be beneficial even if the examination system does not change.

Will children forget how to do the basics like draw a graph?

No, we strongly believe that basic skills will often be taught using the methods currently employed by teachers. Tablets enable students to extend, explore, develop and further their understanding of topics within the classroom. For example, they might be looking into modelling or formulae within graphing in the classroom, and use a variety of apps to provide opportunities for high level learning. In the case of written essays, students can journey through preparatory lessons collating, organizing and synthesising information in a variety of creative, engaging and personal ways which research has shown can lead to higher quality written work when students have a better and more personal understanding of what to write.

What will we do about students who are using the iPad to be off task in lessons?

We believe that lessons should be challenging and engaging – if they are then students are less likely to be off task and more likely to be engaged. The teacher will have responsibility to ensure that students are not distracted in the same way that they might currently be distracted and doodling in their exercise book. We will sanction students who are off task with the iPad as appropriate.

Free apps contain lots of advertising, how would we monitor and control this?

We have a duty to safeguard students and this is a responsibility we take seriously and our investment and planning to date have proven successful; we have an impressive track record at Chesterton. Although we cannot control advertising, we can reduce the risks by reviewing apps and making recommendations to students, as well as comprehensive monitoring. In the case of Apple, they have robust rules on advertising, much like ITV, and we still show these programs through ITV player. We also have to assess the risks against the benefits, and we feel that allowing a student access to a free e-text book at home would outweigh the low risk of sensored adverting exposure.

What if parents start with the scheme but stop supporting it after a while?

This would cause a big problem for the school. We require this scheme to be sustainable and therefore we need continued support from parents who agree to participate in the scheme. If sufficient parents withdrew their support we would not be able to continue to provide devices for every student.

Would there be a saving in resources such as photocopying?

Yes, we have begun the process of cost / benefit analysis and see the potential for many cost savings including, but not limited to: reduced photocopying costs, fewer ICT rooms, and reduced power usage.

Concern regarding social development of children. Will it lead to reduced engagement with teachers?

There will be no loss of engagement with teachers. In fact, there is much evidence to suggest that the move away from teacher centred learning produces far higher quality engagement. Teachers and students will be able to engage more effectively if the teacher spends less time talking from the front of the class.

Will teachers have enough time to prepare lessons incorporating all the possibilities of a tablet? Will it give them a large amount of extra work?

There is an expectation in any high performing school that the schemes of work (the courses the students follow) develop from year to year and clearly the use of tablets may be a focus of these developments in the future. As always, colleagues are given some time within their working day to plan lessons and mark work. Of course, one key area of independent learning is students having a say in how they reach outcomes, and on many occasions teachers will be providing advice and ideas on how the use of tablets may help each student progress rather than whole classes completing the same task on a tablet. 30 apps could allow 30 students to organize their ideas for an assessed essay in 30 different ways and this produces better results compared to classes all gathering ideas in the same way from the same resource.

If students are routinely sent preparatory material for lessons, will they have time to read this?

Clearly, students could not be expected to prepare for every lesson in advance. What we have seen in trials though is that lessons start quicker and more learning is achieved when time at the start of lessons is not spent giving out resources. Additionally and importantly, pre-starter activities which focus the students as soon as they walk through the door are much more effective when students can access a resource independently and sometimes before the lesson.

What about the risk of damage or loss?

The school will have a limited pool of devices to lend to students if they temporarily need a replacement device. Where feasible, a damaged or faulty device will be repaired. Otherwise a replacement device of a similar age and condition will be provided. Families may be asked to pay towards the cost of replacement or repair caused by inappropriate use or lack of care. Tablets with faults will normally be repaired free of charge or replaced with a similar device.

Will tablets co-exist with exercise books? What will a student’s body of work look like in the future?

We do not see tablets as notation devices, they are primarily for research, knowledge-sharing and creating dynamic, exciting content.

We feel that tablets will provide wide access to a richer bank of resources. Students will have freedom to choose the best way to gather and assess information in an exciting and broad variety of ways. In all subjects, higher levels can be accessed by gathering information from a wide variety of sources and being able to interpret ideas from as many sources as possible.

Will too much time be taken up by students learning how to use the tablet/apps?

We firmly believe that students will be able to use tablets very easily with little time spent teaching them how to do this. There will be time spent on learning how to maximize the potential they offer, although we feel this will not need to be a particularly long period of time. Focus will always be on topic rather than format. Any time spent on teaching how to use apps would be done with the clear purpose of the end result being learning progress for students, which would have been difficult to achieve without using the tablet in the classroom.

Will tablet technology last five years? Isn’t there a danger of investing in a technology that will soon be superseded/redundant?

This is true, and this is why sustainability and flexibility are key to the scheme. The scheme is not about a shiny toy, it is about using technology to allow students a voice in their learning and in developing as independent learners.

One could agree that the question posed would mean never investing in technology as it may well become redundant one day. By making this scheme about using and developing skills, the device will always be able to achieve this over its lifetime. We are not buying devices to run certain programs and therefore would not see the device requiring updating before the end of its lifespan.

We are committed to creating an infrastructure that is device-unspecific. Therefore, if a new device is used in the future all work will be transferrable.

It’s not possible or efficient to do everything on a tablet [eg drawing graphs/diagrams]. Some things must be done manually.

We agree entirely. A tablet device will be one piece of equipment available to the student. Students will be able to choose the correct piece of equipment for each application / task. Often this will be a pen or pencil.

iPad functionality – how will we cope with change in expectations giving all students photography functionality?

Staff would use their expertise to ensure photography is not used in a similar fashion to work copied from the internet. Staff will work towards changing practice to allow for new technology and will focus on guiding students towards using photography to further their learning and not as a short cut or excuse not to write, teach others and learn.

Not all parents are computer literate – is this a problem?

We think that providing a device for every student and encouraging its use at home will actually benefit the whole family. We hope that all members of the family can use the device and we would expect the Chesterton student to be a teacher of technology usage in the home!

 

Should the school allow a range of devices rather than one device? Would something smaller than iPad be better? Has this been considered?

Please refer to the FAQ page regarding choice of device.

How do students write essays? Will they need a keyboard/stand? If so, have you budgeted for that – I did not see any mention of it.

Although it is entirely possible to write an essay on a tablet device there will not be an expectation that students will type work more than they currently do. All documents produced are compatible with Microsoft Word and students can move between PCs and tablets easily when working on the same document. It is possible to buy a separate keyboard which can be used with the iPad. We will not provide a keyboard, it will be a decision for individual parents.

One advantage of all students having mobile devices that has been suggested is that they can share work electronically, (e.g. Mind Maps), and this implies a common set of apps. It would be useful to know what this common set of Apps is.

There will be a core set of apps that we would recommend students to download and use. We do not yet have a list of these apps as they will depend on the choice of tablet and the best apps available at the time of provision. There is a misconception that tablets will be used primarily for writing essays and this would not be the case.

Lightspeed / parental influence and home use

Safeguarding children is our top priority. We do realise however that every solution is not perfect.

Currently, we have an extensive range of technology onsite to safeguard children, which effectively feeds into our Child Protection procedures. Of course, 85% of our students have smart phones in their pockets where they can access the internet, unfiltered, over the 3G capability of their mobile phone provider.

As such, we also have a successful track record of prevention and safety through education, and this would continue.

The filtering systems we are using here can apply to devices accessing the Internet wherever the devices are, be it Chesterton, home or Starbucks.

We are using systems such as the Lightspeed mobile device management system which allows us to not only control and filter devices in school, but also at home. We can control what apps are used, whether the internet is used etc and would be able to work with parents on this. You can view more details about the LightSpeed system at http://www.lightspeedsystems.com/products/Mobile-Device-Management.aspx

We do of course have little control over screen time at home, and accept that there will be an increased concern for some parents in placing a device in the home.

We believe though that students having access to a device at home, and allowing students to use it in all walks of their life, is key to the device being used and being successful.

Apps cost and IOS is tricky to upgrade

Some Apps cost money. Some students and families may well choose to buy their children the best Apps, but this happens already where some students have their own access to key texts and resources and others don’t. There is little we can do to change this, but we can narrow the digital divide.

Free Apps – Many of the skills based apps (which are the most effective in teaching and learning) are free. We see huge potential in students benefiting from the functionality of skills based apps.

Costed apps – The current school software licence budget is not small, and we see this being reduced allowing us to redirect funds to aid the purchase of apps. Other cost savings, like photocopying, will also be re allocated to support cost apps. Students in the scheme would be provided with a voucher to buy a core set of costed apps.

As a rule, teachers would not use costed apps unless there was a clear need across many lessons and even across subjects for use. Teachers would never insist on students purchasing apps, although they may well suggest it is a good small investment – like we do already with revision guides or a better calculator.

iOS in the past has been difficult to manage, although there is no longer a need to connect to a PC and the process has been made much simpler. There is extensive support in school to help students with this.

Typing is hard and encourages passivity

Tablets are a fantastic tool to promote independent learning in the classroom, but they are however poor for traditional tasks like typing extensive notes and desktop publishing.

Outstanding secondary school lessons have little lecture/note taking elements in them unlike 6th form and university style lectures. Indeed, a lecture might well be graded inadequate by Ofsted.

Tablets would be used in lesson to gather and organise thoughts in preparation for written work, or to provide stimulus and resources for group work and collaboration.

Tablets would sit with the schools IT strategy for using the best tool for the best job. In creating a newspaper article, students may use the tablet for taking pictures, recording interviews or noting ideas, but they would move to an IT room to create the newspaper using the best tools. The same would be true for typing essays or controlled assessments, although this looks like it might be phased out by Government in due course.

Cloud links – are we there yet?

The cloud will be the hub of the next generation of computing and we concede that an iPad will not be best place to access the traditional data structure as well as other devices may do e.g. the Microsoft Surface as it evolves. Likewise, we also understand that the third party method of cloud storage like iOS and Dropbox is not as seamless as a Windows solution would be.

We are looking to improve skills and learning though, and not just digitize an existing issue, or turn every classroom into an IT suite. We do not feel that would increase the quality of teaching and learning and would indeed shift the focus away from learning and onto the technology.

We feel the iPad is best placed to provide access to, and sharing of, information in a manner which is best suited to classroom learning.

Laptops are better

Laptops are better for a range of tasks, and offer more flexibility than tablets. However the key areas where they are proven not to deliver in schools are in, portability, longevity, battery life, effectives in the classroom and in students using variety in the way they work.

With laptops, the lesson often becomes about the laptop; where to plug it in, waiting for it to boot, taking up space and most importantly (as in IT rooms) all students completing tasks in the same way, without choice, and more often than not using Microsoft Office and Wikipedia.

Printing

We will of course see students needing to print on occasions and the schools IT strategy will evolve to support this, however we see tablets as a way of gathering and organising information in preparation of written work.

Did you know that to access higher levels in many subjects the student needs to find information from sources other than the teacher and the textbook? This is difficult with 2500 classes a fortnight and only one library and four computer suites.

Printing rarely equals good learning and we see the iPads as a tool for good teachers to deliver interesting and stimulating activities like discussions, debates and creative writing in exercise books.

Today, students are rarely set homework tasks which require printing; although we appreciate that many students feel they need to use a computer. Students receive no additional benefits from producing homework on PCs and we would stipulate (as we do now) variety and quality in the types homework tasks set.

You give reassurance on the health risks of iPads by quoting the World Health Authority. But the WHO document you quote is dated May 2006. Since then, the WHO has classified radiofrequency radiation, which includes wifi – on which iPads depend – as “possibly carcinogenic” to humans. Is this not a development you should given importance to?

The WHO has also classified some widely-used substances as Class 2B, including coffee and talc powder.

In replying to a question about the health risks of iPads and wifi, you quote the Health Protection Agency, which says that there is no reason not to use wifi. Many internationally respected scientists disagree. For example, Prof Johansson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm (which awards the Nobel Prize for medicine / physiology): “wireless systems, such as wifi routers and cell / mobile / smart phones, cannot be regarded as safe in schools, but must be deemed highly hazardous and unsafe for the children as well as for the staff.” (For more examples of scientific opinion on wifi see ‘Safe Schools’, a document that can be downloaded from www.wifiinschools.org.uk)

Why do you choose the advice of the Health Protection Agency – which is not mandatory – and not the advice of scientists who are independent of government and industry?

The HPA is deliberately set up to be independent of government (so that its conclusions are not influenced by political considerations) but it was set up by our government precisely to digest the large and often contradictory scientific literature, and give citizens informed advice about health hazards. It must be the first source of advice for any school.

The UK’s Health Protection Agency has just (April 2012) published a 348-page study of Health Effect from Radio Frequency Electromagnetic Fields. The link to the report is a the bottom of this project page. Appendix A of the report is a 5-page report on Wifi in Schools (page 325). This is all very helpful because it’s clearly (a) substantial (b) recent (c) from a reputable, UK-based source. As we understand it, it says

  • Wifi radiation from a school classroom context is 1% of that when using a mobile phone (Appendix A)
  • “Under a pessimistic scenario…personal exposure in the classroom could reach 16.6 mW/square metre, compared with the ICNIRP international guideline reference of 10,000mw/square metre.” (Appendix A)
  • “The limited available data on other non-cancer outcomes show now effects of RF-field exposure. The accumulating evidence on cancer risks, notably in relation to mobile phone use, is not definitive, but is overall increasingly in the direction of no material effect of exposure. There are few data, however, on risks beyond 15 years from first exposure.” (Executive summary)
  • “In summary, although a substantial amount of research has been conducted in this area, there is no convincing evidence that RF field exposure below guideline levels causes health effects in adults of children”. (Executive summary)

Schools and parents constantly balance a very small risk of something bad happening against immediate but more modest benefits; school trips, crossing the road to get to the playing fields, and so on. Given the HPA advice, the governors believe that there is insufficient evidence that wifi is harmful to justify the loss of its benefits.

The vast majority of parents use mobile phones, and allow their children to do so, but their electromagnetic fields are much stronger than those of wifi.

We have recently conducted a risk assessment of wifi in relation to this project which concluded that “Hazard levels so far considered so low as to not present material risk, but situation should be monitored. Governors attended recent meeting in Cambridge to consider risks. Government guidance considers risks negligible.”

In conclusion, as a school we take guidance and advice from the DfE and bodies such as the HPA and WHO. Until such bodies give us information to suggest that we should not have wifi in school then our policy is to do so.

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