Blended, hybrid, along with web-enhanced learning raises concern among parents

Concern has been expressed over use of iPads in the classroom. l FILE

Concern has been expressed over use of iPads in the classroom. l FILE

Published May 12, 2024


Cape Town – Blended, hybrid and web-enhanced learning is the way of the education future that many schools in the Western Cape have embarked on.

This week, a parent at Groote Schuur High School said he was concerned about the amount of screen time his 15-year-old child had to endure since iPADs were introduced to the classroom this year.

He said they were no longer making use of textbooks but the iPAD. Parents had to fork out R420 per month for the device and would one day become the owner of it.

He argued that he understood the importance of AI and technology being introduced as we evolved, but was worried about the amount of time his child had to spend on a device rather than physically holding a book or a piece of paper.

The Western Cape Education Department (WCED) spokesperson, Millicent Merton, told Weekend Argus that Groote Schuur High School was one of many which had decided to be part of the blended learning programme which aimed to improve the quality of learning.

But the dad, who asked not to be identified, said he felt his child, who is in Grade 10, could be disadvantaged later in his schooling career.

He said parents had been part of engagements and meetings with the school but that now that the device had become part of their reality, he felt different.

“I understand that we are at the technology stage and to get rid of the children carrying such heavy books in their bags,” he added.

“The children were also required to do a two-week course on how to use the device, because remember writing on paper is different than writing on a device.

“I just do not think it is healthy for a child to spend so many hours on a screen. Can you imagine what it will be like during the exams studying from the device?

“Many households cannot afford this and what about the wifi and data?” he asked.

But Merton said the iPAD had in fact improved education for learners and that they had seen a difference in their learners.

“Groote Schuur High School has embarked on an exciting journey in education by embracing blended learning at the school since January 2023,” she explained.

“The school is one of many schools in the Western Cape that has chosen to go 1-1 with devices.

“The blended learning programme is aimed at enhancing teaching and learning at Groote Schuur High School.

“The school reported that it had already seen an improvement in the quality of teaching and learning in Grade 8 and 9 learners.

“The 1-1 blended learning programme provides a safe way to engage in classrooms with a use of Mobile Device Management (MDM) that ensures the safety of learners devoid of any distractions.

“All devices are insured by the school. Ownership is transferred to parents after 36 months and learners are able to use it for post-matric endeavours.

“The investment into this programme will reap benefits far beyond equipping learners for the future.”

Merton further explained the blended and hybrid learning made it a web-enhanced environment and was a variation of the real or virtual classroom

“Many schools have adopted various instances of blended learning practices,” she said.

“Although learners have returned to face to face classroom based learning after the Covid-19 pandemic, some schools wish to share important academic resources (notes, summaries, past papers, etc.) on online digital platforms such as Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams.

“The technology archetype is less pronounced (Apple, Google, Microsoft) but more the application of such as purposefully integrated into the teaching and learning practice.”

She said the school was a collaboration school and that Grade 8 and 9 learners have specific classes with learners in a class doing all their work online. (Textbooks, assignments and submission, etc.)

“Each learner has an internet-connected device (supplied by the school in collaboration with the WCED) and learners have the opportunity to work at his/her own pace.”

She said more schools such as Botha’s Halte Primary School were part of a joint project with SUNCEP whereby lessons were broadcast to neighbouring schools.

Kraaifontein High school is also a collaboration school where the Grade 10 maths class uses blended learning with a facilitator and learners are accommodated in the ICT lab with a notebook and headphones for each learner.

Vanessa le Roux, founder of Parents for Equal Education, said they could not fault the new system if parents were part of the engagements.

“The iPAD system was introduced last year and there was a participation with parents whether they agreed with it or not and it was priced at R180 a year,” said Le Roux.

“If a parent is paying R420 per month, the iPAD will become the child’s property thereafter. What we are saying to parents is that if they agreed to this, we cannot comment on that.

“The finance officer said there was participation and that parents were open to email the school. The iPAD system is now part of their education system.”

Weekend Argus