By Abhati Tarkunde
With primary schools letting kids bring their own devices, a teacher’s job now entails being the tech guy, putting extra efforts into strengthening students’ fine motor skills, checking browser history and even charging up devices!
“Students are almost attached to their devices, like an extension of their limb! It’s like they actually can’t do any work without it,” says Djoiti Gurrier-Jones, learning and support teacher at Roselea Public School.
With Bring Your Own Device in primary schools, teachers now have to take care of students, as well as their iPads.
“If children don’t have their device charged up, so then I’ve got to get them to a spot where they can charge their device, which takes time away from what the teacher wants them to do,” explains Kaylene Fowler, who has been a teacher for over two decades and is currently teaching at Putney Public Primary school since 2002.
Teachers are also faced with technologically challenging tasks on a day to day basis. “School budgets only have a certain amount of money and I know that my school gets in a tech guy once a week and its only for half a day.”
So, the rest of the time, it’s either up to the teachers or the parents to try to fix these problems. But not everyone is equipped for this.
“For teachers, we don’t get taught all this. All this has come in and we’ve had to learn on the go. So, the teachers coming out now, because they’ve had this as they have grown up, it’s a little bit easier for them.”
Student BYO-Device allows children to use their personal devices at school for a more technological learning experience. Since its introduction in 2013, it has received and continues to get heaps of criticism, especially in primary school.
“I think it’s dumbing people down,” says Jones.
“We don’t have to know or retain anything; we can just google it. I think that we could quite easily lose our intuition if technology is going to take over more, we lose that humanness.”
“It’s interesting because the first kindergarten class I had this year, at the end of the lesson a lot of the books had torn pages and some pages had even come out. And I think it was because they had swiped to flip the pages over!” recalls Heather Valissa, teacher and librarian at Roselea Public School.
Among the many issues BYOD encounters, most teachers feel the biggest one to be the decline in fine motor skills.
“Kids do need to learn to write. A lot of kids who have used electronic devices whether it be parent’s phones, or they’ve got an iPad, the swiping… They can’t hold a pencil and they don’t form the letters correctly,” explains Fowler.
She points out that the children don’t have the strength to write more than a couple of sentences.
“So, you really need to do a lot of fine motor stuff to get them strengthen up their hands using Play-Doh or plasticine.”
Students’ devices also act as the basis for bullying or discrimination of sorts.
“You’ve got the group of people- those who’ve got so called ‘better devices.’ You know, it’s sort of the thing we don’t encourage,” says Fowler.
“Normally, we don’t encourage people to bring items of value to school because there’s always that group who has a bit more than others and that’s where stealing and things like that happen.”
In the case of expensive technology, children can be low-key aggressive.
“Sort of subtly doing some damage to someone else’s device and being very sneaky about it. Not openly going ‘I’m gonna smash your device’ but being very sneaky about what they’re doing… Which then creates more problems because parents spend a lot of money on a device and it’s being ruined.”
Parents, however, have had more of a mixed reaction to the in-class technology.
“Those who belong to capable, monetary wise, backgrounds seem to be more positive. Those families where the budget is a lot tighter, it does create a lot of issues. If everyone was at an equal footing with the money that they had, they’d be fine.”
Fowler notes that the lifespan of these devices isn’t great, “it’s a throwaway society.”
Apart from these prominent issues, there are some uncommon problems that aren’t talked about as often. Some students at primary level use social media, which can be dangerous at such a young age.
“You find, just listening to the kids as they talk, it’s their mum or dad’s account that they’re on. Or their mum or dad let them have an account,” recalls Fowler.
“I feel like going, you’re not helping your child, cause you’re doing something that really is illegal and shouldn’t be done and therefor exposing your child to social media. They’re not exactly the best things to be on.”
Social media, being such an open platform consisting of things that can often affect children’s mental health, is something to be cautious of.
“I’m not saying that social media is the cause, but for those children who aren’t able to cope with it and get themselves into these situations, it then becomes a mental health issue and you know, there’s only so much you can do,” continues Fowler.
There are also cases of cyberbullying. While most of these instances happen outside of school hours, the teachers are directly impacted.
“From my experience, cyberbullying has been an out of hours thing, but once again, you know, if we are looking into it, we then make sure our police liaison officers are involved and having the families come in.”
“The police sort of adjudicate, because they have people who are trying to help in those areas.”
“We definitely need it, because teachers have enough to do and there’s more and more, that just gets piled on to what they want us to do and it makes it very hard. You know, you’re trying to do your job but you’re also trying to deal with all these other issues that happen out of school as well.”
Teachers don’t exactly want to eliminate devices from classrooms but have a more restricted use of it. There is a code of conduct in each school, but children don’t take responsibility for their actions.
“There just needs to be a little bit of balance between having technology and not using it,” thinks Fowler.
“Let’s face it, when the power goes out, you gotta go back to old school! And that’s the thing that makes me laugh with the young ones… They can’t cope with not having the computer!”