[free-software-melb] Mandatory ipads in schools

Fraser Tweedale frase at frase.id.au
Tue Nov 25 06:06:11 UTC 2014

On Tue, Nov 25, 2014 at 03:41:36PM +1030, Martin Ebourne wrote:
> Hi all,
> I've been lurking on this list for quite a while now, because it is a
> topic that interests me. I would come to some of the meetings, but I am
> in Adelaide so that somewhat precludes it. :-(
> Anyhow I have an issue that concerns me and I'd be interested in other
> people's experiences in this area.
> It seems an increasing number of schools, even primary schools, are
> requiring parents to purchase and support an iPad or similar closed
> proprietary technology as part of their day to day education. Even
> state/public schools are in on the act here, and it rapidly seems to be
> becoming normal that the cost of a public education in Australia is $600
> per child to Apple Inc on a semi-annual basis. This situation feels
> totally wrong to me.
> eg. See these threads a few days ago on the linux-sa list:
> http://www.linuxsa.org.au/pipermail/linuxsa/2014-November/096770.html
> http://www.linuxsa.org.au/pipermail/linuxsa/2014-November/096782.html
> My sons' school is next on the bandwagon it seems, more information
> here:
> http://www.craigburn.sa.edu.au/files/BYOD%20iPads/innovative_learning_prgram_craigburn.pdf
> Regardless of the merits of using a mobile computing device for daily
> learning - and I see both pros and cons here - the requirement to
> provide a specific device from a single company and tied into that
> corporation's highly proprietary and restrictive platform and license
> terms is in my opinion potentially disastrous.
> It also puts me in a very difficult position as my beliefs and
> principles preclude me from purchasing such a device, but then I already
> have 2 children and soon a 3rd at the school, and clearly I also do not
> want to disadvantage them in any way. Although the program is stated to
> be entirely optional it is abundantly clear that this is not necessarily
> going to be true, nor is it likely to remain true once an accepted norm
> is established. eg.
> http://www.mamamia.com.au/parenting/bring-your-own-device/
> IMO this latest threat to users' computing freedom and thus all of our
> futures is potentially one of the most damaging I have seen for a very
> long time, much more so than government legislation. If the entire
> education system is geared to binding children and their families into a
> single vendor's platform, and teaching them all to be perfect consumers,
> then the war would be lost.
> I'd be interested in any experiences and opinions others have on this as
> I intend to put a submission to the school explaining why I think they
> are making a bad decision.
> Cheers,
> Martin

A friend of mine recently went through a similar situation with a
state primary school Queensland: a BYOD (laptop) program where the
only supported operating systems were Windows and Mac OS X.  He
corresponded with the principal and later, iirc, someone from the
project team at Education Queensland (the gov't department).

His experience was positive - the principal and department were open
to supporting other OSes and he was going to document the process of
getting GNU+Linux laptops connected with the potential of officially
supporting GNU+Linux in the future.  The importance of positive
communication - selling the benefits of a more heterogeneous
computing environment that reduced financial burden on families and
avoided vendor lock-in, and the credit it would be to the school
community and staff - cannot be overstated.

Unfortunately, in this case it seems that iBads specifically are
being pushed, rather than the general "bring a laptop to school"
initiative my friend dealt with.  The proposal detailed in the
letter is quite developed, but it seems that it is not yet a done

So what to do?

Get communicating.  Raise your concerns with the principal, deputy
and senior leader (whatever that is).  With other parents.  With the
department.  In letters, newletters, at meetings, at information
sessions.  Start now (if you haven't already).

Make people aware of the danger of user-subjugating devices and
operating systems, and the harm of educating children in a
homogeneous (monoculture) and proprietary computing environment.

Suggest positive alternatives.  Insist that a heterogeneous
computing program is essential and that striving to provide this to
students, when other schools are constraining the learning
opportunities of their students by enforcing a proprietary,
homogeneous computing environment, is truly the more innovative

Deconstruct the arguments in favour of the iPad:

- The contradiction of "There are and should be multiple devices for
  learning" and "we nominate iPad as the core device" appearing in
  the same sentence.

- "Light and easy to carry; long battery life."  Are not other
  tablets?  I do not use a tablet computer but surely competitors
  are comparable.

- "Amazing selection of apps for content creation."  Which ones are
  intended to be used for learning activities?  If they can list
  some, are there alternatives or are they available on other
  tablets?  If they cannot provide examples, there is no basis for
  the program.  Procurement (or the requirement/suggestion for
  families to procure) must be based on specific requirements for
  learning activities.

- "Easy use by students of all abilities including those with
  special needs".  Citation needed (and one that provides comparison
  with other tablets/OSes).

Well, those are the main suggestions I have for you, but please let
us know how things go.  I must again emphasise the importance of
positive communication, suggesting practical alternatives and
elucidating the positive outcomes for students *and* those willing
to break the mould and innovate to achieve these outcomes.



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