120130-children using ipads in pinelands primary school. left-Brett Right- jason Photo: Matthew Brewer

Michelle Jones

Education Writer

SCHOOLS are slowly starting to implement and experiment with iPads in the classroom.

One private school, Parklands College, where fees range between R42 000 and R61 000 a year, introduced the devices to Grades 1 to 4 yesterday.

Parents have been encouraged to buy iPads, which cost about R4 500, for their children.

When the Cape Times visited a Grade 4 class at the school yesterday, pupils were busily and happily working on their devices. They worked in pairs to draw flowers on an iPad and recorded their voices describing the parts and functions of the flowers.

One pupil, Giorgio, said he enjoyed working with the device in different subjects: “Last year, we used to just write and now we use technology.”

Pupils who did not have their own iPads, were able to borrow from the school.

There are about 1 000 pupils at the school which enrols pupils from Grade R to 12.

Richard Kraggs, information technology director at Parklands College, said parents and pupils had reacted positively to the hi-tech project.

The device would be rolled out to other grades in the future.

He said pupils in Grades 4 to 12 all currently used MacBook computers which had more software and allowed pupils to do more advanced work.

Information sessions had been held for parents to discuss the project and were shown the type of work their children would be doing. Kraggs said pupils had some reservations around cost and safety.

About half of the pupils had brought iPads to school.

He said there were many education benefits of iPads.

“It is a fun, engaging device that makes them want to learn. It’s like a magic learning tool.”

Michelle Lissoos, managing director of Think Ahead, a company which implements technology in schools, said she had seen iPads have a positive impact on pupils.

“We are seeing schools which have never thought about technology, opening up to technology in a way they had never imagined before.

“They are really something that can narrow the digital divide.”

Lissoos said she had worked with the Western Cape Education Department’s Khanya project, which had installed computers in nearly every school in the province.

Khanya planned to start a pilot project this year at Bernadino Heights Secondary School, in Kraaifontein, where iPads would be used for its literacy project. She said iPad rollout projects were being planned in every province.

NGO Equal Education’s Doran Isaacs was, however, concerned the devices would not reach or benefit pupils in previously disadvantaged areas: “Technology is not going to solve the problem in SA education on its own. But it is part of the future.

“The implementation at a handful of private schools highlights the growing gap between rich and poor schools in South Africa.”

Isaacs said the “vast majority” of pupils would continue to fall further behind their more well-off peers.

Just 91 percent of Western Cape schools, and 25 percent of schools across the country, have computers available for teaching and learning.

The Department of Basic Education had called these statistics “alarming” because it had planned to have computers in every school in SA within the next two years.

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