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London - For most children, getting their hands on an iPad is an opportunity to play games, watch videos and surf the internet.
But at one primary school the Apple devices are being put to a more serious use – as a teaching tool for lessons in everything from maths to music.
Thirty-two iPads have been bought at a cost of £13,000 so that a whole class can use them at the same time. Children as young as four are taking part.
Lisa Wright, who is headmistress of North Crescent in Wickford, Essex, said the flexibility of the curriculum meant the iPads could be used right across the primary school.
“Year Four children have used them in maths lessons and reception children have played some maths and phonics games,” she said.
“Last week, our Year Ones had them in their religious education lesson and Year Five and Six pupils have been using iPads in their topics, such as learning about the Titanic by getting on the internet.”
The use of iPads is part of an overhaul of information and communications technology at the 214-pupil school.
“It’s my way of saying that ICT is very important in the curriculum and we need to be using it,” said Mrs Wright. “I understood that our facilities were not particularly up to standard, so this year we had a big focus on improving that.
“We bought the iPads because they’re so flexible and versatile. We’ve got a lovely outdoor space here so the children can take them outside and even use them to take pictures. We want learning to be fun for the children. The iPads are in use all the time.
“If you walk around the school, there’s a child somewhere or a group of children using the iPad which is what I want to see.”
However, Mrs Wright insists books and other more conventional teaching methods such as using pencil and paper are equally important.
She said: “I believe we have a responsibility in school to make sure our children are ready to go out and be part of society.
“Part of modern day living involves ICT. Those key skills of reading, writing and using books and pens and paper are just as important and go on across the school. It’s a balance between the two.”
Earlier this year, Labour education spokesman Stephen Twigg claimed that school textbooks should be replaced by electronic devices such as iPads and Kindles.
And an Ofsted report last year said pupils were showing high degrees of concentration when doing mental arithmetic on handheld games consoles.
But Dr Aric Sigman, a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, has argued that education is being compromised by a technology “free for all”.
He said last year: “Children first need to learn how to concentrate before they start dividing their attention up with different windows on a screen and different forms of entertainment.”
“There’s a big risk that when their attention is compromised and they have lesser powers of concentration, everything that comes from that will suffer such as their ability to read and do well at school.” - Daily Mail