Roads are crossed, angry birds fly, clans clash, and zombies are conquered by plants, all from the comfort of a tablet that is smaller than a piece of paper.
Although the iPads are a great resource for school work, they are also a great source of temptation for Notre Dame Preparatory students. With a myriad of games available with the click of a button, it is no wonder students are prone to playing the occasional round of “Flappy Bird” or “Candy Crush”. The addicted nature of iPad games and applications has led to a new discussion on technology. There is some debate at the school whether or not the more extensive measures should be taken to limit technology on NDP’s campus. Some parents and faculty have called for eliminating cell phones from the campus environment entirely, as many schools are doing.
According to a 2010 study by the Pew Research Center of Internet and Technology, “Twenty-four percent of K-12 schools ban cell phones altogether, and 62 percent allow phones on school grounds but ban them in the classroom.”
However, others find the idea of a cell-phone free NDP a bit extreme, especially considering the prevalence of cell phones and other devices.
“Some schools are cell-phone free,” said NDP Dean of Men, Carl Hess. “I think schools went all-in on technology and after going all-in we are finding that maybe we could backtrack a little bit … I don’t know if cutting it out entirely is something that we’re in a place to do or something that we would consider right now, but I certainly think that in the classroom, teachers are using more discretion than they used to.”
On the other hand, a study by the Pew Research Center showed that despite the restrictions placed on cell phone usage, students continue to bring their devices into the learning environment.
Pew stated, “Teens are still overwhelmingly taking their phones to school – 77 percent take their phones with them to school every school day and another seven percent take their phone to school at least several times a week. Less than 10 percent of teens take their phone to school less often and just 8 percent say they never take their phone to school.”
Regarding the question of iPad usage, the moment teachers remove the temptation to use the cell phone, through the use of the cell phone tree or by other means, students often turn to their iPads for entertainment and companionship. With this device, students have the capacity to iMessage, email, play games, watch movies, surf the internet, and much more.
NDP junior Courtney Rivard said, “I don’t have a ton of reasons to use my phone in class. I mean it’s easier to use my phone, but my iPad works just as well. I can still talk to people and stuff. The only hard part is trying to get the Wi-Fi to work. For some of my classes, I have a perfect connection and for others I just give up.”
In recent years, the school has been trying to limit the amount of access students have to inappropriate sites by blocking them on the school Wi-Fi network. The Information Technology Department has also been in communication with administration to educate teachers and parents on ways to restrict what students can access from their screens.
Martin Aber-Song, the NDP Network Administrator, said, “We recommend and we actually have videos online through Youtube of how to activate restrictions on the iPad. The iPad does have a lot of restrictions on it, which can be enabled. We enable parents to go ahead and take a look at these and educate themselves on how to use it. We do have some standards here that we have put in place as well, such as filters to block inappropriate materials or ways to circumvent the network.”
In the end, the issue is in the hands of the students. They are the ones with the devices and it is their decision whether or not they want to engage with cell phones and be influenced by social media. Parents and administrators can do everything in their power now, but eventually the students will graduate from high school and enter the world.
Aber-Song stated, “It really is up to an individual to kind of monitor themselves because like most addictions in the world, the individual is the only one with the power to quit. I understand that technology can be mentally-altering, but understanding that there’s more than just technology itself out there is a good idea.”
The best recommendation from students, staff, and studies is for young people to take a break every day from their devices. Naomi Santaella, NDP Spanish instructor, recommends leaving the phone at home when going to church or other important events. Tanya Bartlett, NDP Assistant Principal for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment, recommends letting the phone die every once in awhile. Others suggest playing the phone stacking game during a meal in a restaurant. In this game, all the people at the table put their phones in a pile and let them beep and buzz. The first person to grab their device pays for the bill for the meal.
Bartlett said, “Taking time away from technology is a really important thing. Students should be able to walk away from their technology for an hour or so a day. There is more to this world than screens. There is too much beauty to waste life scrolling.”