Thursday, April 5, 2012

Florence 1 grows more agreeable to Apple

It once was verboten to have an open-book test in public school classrooms; we closed our books and opened our minds at test-time.

And, once, students could only use pencils, so as to keep their essays neat and free of ink spots and strike-throughs.

Likewise, there was a time when one couldn't use a calculator during testing, especially for standardized tests like the SAT. One had to know his formulas by heart, and when to use which one.

All that has changed now, and it appears that more change is coming to Florence District 1.

Come fall Florence County School District 1 students could start bringing their iPads and iPods to school for classroom use with principal approval.

We've moved, in two generations, from slide rules, protractors and compasses to iPads and iPods. Is this progress?

At a sparsely attended public input hearing, the student code committee voted to allow the devices in schools if they are turned off and out of sight except when they’re being used for instruction.

The changes still need approval from the full school board, which will pick up the issue at its April 19 meeting.

The change mirrors last year’s revision of the cell phone policy, which allows students to bring them to school as long as they’re not turned on during school hours. District officials say the new rule worked much better than a flat ban.

School board member Willard Dorriety, Jr. said that he thinks cell phones have no place in school. They used to be the most common offense, but confiscating them and dealing with the complaints became more of a distraction than the devices themselves.

How many generations of children were able to make it through 13 years of school before such things as cellular telephones were invented? What has happened to us, that we must insist that Junior carry his cellphone with him to class? What is so important that we must be able to reach him instantly, rather than calling the school and waiting two minutes for him to get to the office?

He said he thinks the same idea should work well with iPads and that they will still be taken away if they’re not being used for educational purposes.

Many of the district’s schools have already purchased their own sets of iPads loaded with educational applications, but if the rule change goes through, students could use their personal touch-screen tablets to read assigned books.

I hardly know what to say. In the old days, we had to work hard to make a teacher think we were really reading chemistry, when we had a paperback open inside the chemistry text. Now, a student only has to tap the screen on the iPad, and she's back from checking her Facebook page to poring over the War of 1812.

It was in 1812, right?

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