The 2018-2019 school year marks the very first year in which every student on the MSJ campus has had their very own iPad; but, is this a good thing? As a senior, I have experienced all of my four years at MSJ with an iPad and can’t agree that its great.
My class, 2019, was the very first class to be given iPads by the school to be used in our classes. I have seen the growing pains of using the iPads firsthand; and all of the changes made in association with them. Furthermore, each year the iPads have been in use, the enforcement of the rules associated with them has changed; with varying degrees of success. Due to the incredible “ingenuity” of the students, a number of students managed to alter the systems on the iPads to provide themselves with free entertainment through games, videos, etc. This, in turn, led to a massive wave of student distraction, iPad confiscation, and other penalties.
My class, freshman year, was given a unique chance to prove themselves as a mature class and to prove to the school that iPads are a progressive tool that can benefit the school in more ways than one. However, the introduction of iPads brought more negatives than anticipated. As mentioned before, my classmates were crafty enough with technology to provide themselves with entertainment when they should have been paying attention to the tasks at hand. And let’s not even get started with the number of iPads my classmates broke, shattered, and bricked in the process! This, of course, led teachers to resort to class assignments that were paper-based, or at least didn’t require the iPad for full completion of the assignment as to reduce the possibilities of cheating and distraction, as well as accommodate students whose iPads were in non-working order.
As more rules developed with the iPads, some of my classes seemed to be using them less and less, to the point where some classes seemed to be returning back to paper for homework and class assignments. At the same time, without all of the grade-levels having access to the iPads, the school implemented an ad-hoc BYOD (Bring your own device) policy, where even smartphones could be used. This led to a number of other problems! For example, in one of my courses last year (the last year to have a student class without iPads), several students would become preoccupied with their cell phones/iPads when assignments were given on those devices —causing their grades to drop and subsequently for teachers to use the devices less.
Furthermore, students who were temporarily without an iPad (because of iPad destruction, or other reasons) had to rely on fellow students for access to the online textbooks, which wasn’t always the easiest thing to navigate. Was it an iBook? Was it an ebook? Why is it not showing up? Why did it delete itself after my sophomore year? So many frustrating questions! So what happened for a lot of my classmates? Simple: they went to their teachers and got the physical books still available, or the teachers took time to scan the pages necessary for student achievement and posted them on the class pages. I can’t speak for the teachers, but this seems like more trouble than was anticipated.
While students continue to use the iPads in and out of the classroom, the IT department often times faces immense difficulty in monitoring the 900+ devices, to the extent that some students may not even have restrictions in place. Some logged out over the summer, haven’t logged back in, and then they wonder why none of their textbooks are showing up. At the same time, they can’t go get it fixed because there is a good possibility they will get in trouble.
I’m not trying to create the argument for more restrictions on the devices, nor for a harsher discipline system in regards to the program, but I do believe that a simpler, and more cost-efficient approach to the iPad is to remove them entirely. The iPads have been proven to not be nearly as effective as the common pen-and-paper route, nor are physical books and printing costs higher than the mass orders for the devices, cases, and replacements. Furthermore, the removal of iPads (or at least a reduction in usage), I believe: will allow students to remain more focused on the tasks at hand, alleviate the stress on the teachers and IT department, and provide for a cheaper, alternative program, that can truly create Men Who Matter through hard work and discipline.
Aidan van der Horst is a senior and a member of the Multimedia Journalism class.