ACT News

Back to school supplies extend to iPads

If back-to-school backpacks aren't already bursting with textbooks, lunch boxes and sports uniforms, they now need to include an iPad – hopefully fully charged.

As schools increasingly embrace IT as a learning tool in the classroom, new research from Telstra shows 1.3 million Australian households with school-aged children have at least one tablet in their home and 62 per cent of these have been purchased for education reasons.

St Clare's College students Abigail Ryan, Rachel Bernabe, Caitlyn Baljak, Sophie Edwards, and Kimara Pillay are ready to ...
St Clare's College students Abigail Ryan, Rachel Bernabe, Caitlyn Baljak, Sophie Edwards, and Kimara Pillay are ready to return to school. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The classrooms at St Clare's College in Griffith are likely to undergo a bit of a transformation this year as the school introduces its first Bring Your Own Devices policy.

The Year 7-12 Catholic girl's college previously provided laptops to all students from Year 9 and up under the former Labor government's policy of one laptop for every senior student. But the cost of maintaining and upgrading the laptops once federal funding support stopped in 2013 had been difficult to manage.

Principal Paul Carroll said it was increasingly common for Canberra schools to encourage students to bring their own devices and St Clare's would be able to assist families for whom the cost of a tablet or laptop was prohibitive.

Mr Carroll said the opportunities that IT allowed students were exciting. But he also maintained that professional teaching, classroom interaction and face-to-face learning could never be replaced by online tuition in school.

"Computers are tools for learning and we can enrich learning and increase engagement by using them," he said.

But the flip side of that was that educator needed to teach students how to best use their IT tools.

"We need to ensure our students are discerning users of the internet. We have to build a scaffold around their learning to support them. You don't just put a student in a library and say 'go and research whales'. All learning needs to be supported and directed and well targeted."

Mr Carroll also noted that his own school had placed a large emphasis on assisting students to navigate social media.

According to the Telstra research, which surveyed 100 teachers and 400 school parents in October, parents had a role to play in ensuring children benefited from digital learning.

Digital Inclusion senior advisor Shelly Gorr suggested parents set ground rules and agreed with their child about limits on usage, ensuring devices were password protected, turning off devices at bedtime and reminding children about the need to be respectful when posting online content.

According to a separate Digital Parenting Report issued by the NBN, which surveyed 1001 parents in November, 76 per cent of parents supported IT use in the home as a tool for education and almost half of parents (48 per cent) had viewed material with their children which allowed them to learn something new together.

Children's technology research Dr Kristy Goodwin said parents should try to avoid feeling "techno-guilt" that came with monitoring screen time.

"Instead (parents) should try to understand what content their kids are consuming online and not focus on how many hours they are spending on it."