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Parents from to protest iPad program

By Tracey Levesque

and Stella Gammaitoni

Founders of Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education

If you live in Auburn, then you know that there have been some hot topics circulating about the school budget and iPad initiative. Our school budget is in disarray, and our students are failing at alarming rates.

On April 6, the school committee revealed the Apple iPad initiative for kindergartners, which is slated to start in the fall. This is part of a program called “Advantage 2014.” Their goal is to improve literacy and math proficiency from 63% and 60% respectively to 90% by 2014. Our question is why was there no open discussion to the public?

Why was a decision made so hastily without even the Auburn City Council’s knowledge? Where is the research? All of these questions deserve answers. We, as parents and residents, decided to research, question and form the group “Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education.” We did this so we could inform the public on our findings.

There is no disagreeing that high quality education is crucial in this day and age and that an introduction to technology is important. However, being thorough and thoughtful is key to making our children a success, pushing forward and not falling back.

Phone calls that took place with Superintendent Tom Morrill were eye opening and revealing. He was forthcoming and informed us that a school board member went to an iPad presentation and was intrigued. That board member then brought it to the meeting, and everyone was overjoyed with what was presented. This was just the school board; there was no city council involvement. There was no panel of experts or parents formed to investigate whether this would be a good fit or time for our budget and our students.

Occupational, physical, speech and audio therapists play a pivotal role in many children’s lives. They work with the rising levels of speech delays, sensory problems, hearing loss, autism and physical disabilities with our children. If their job is so important in short- and long-term development, then why were they not contacted to consult on this issue?

Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education reached out to the Maine Occupational Therapy Association for help with this matter. In fact, they had their local representative attend the April 27 school board meeting and present a letter to the board. The letter included the role of an occupational therapist, the increase of repetitive stress injuries in the hands, wrists and arms of all age groups, and the issue with visual strain.

MeOTA offered their services to help in the decision making with the iPad curriculum. This was done only after the school committee made the decision to go forward with the program and only after MeOTA was contacted by Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education, which is not associated with the school committee. Has the school committee become part of the medical field as well? They presume to know what’s best for our children even without consulting developmental therapists for their professional opinion.

There has been significant research regarding screen time and children’s health. The American Academy of Pediatrics defines screen time as watching quality television, video games and any digital media device. The AAP recommends children should limit total screen and media time to two hours per day.

There have been numerous studies showing the relationship between childhood obesity and screen time. Children with increased screen time are naturally less active. There have been other studies that show increased media time leads to an increase of psychological problems, such as hyperactivity, peer and behavioral issues.

In a recent study out of the University of Sydney, children who spent most of their time in front of a screen had narrower arteries in the back of their eyes. This increases the incidence of diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. This study is especially significant because it targeted six- to seven-year-olds, which is our target age for the iPads.

With the use of the iPad program, we will be encouraging our children to sit and play educational video games at school and at home—they will become accustomed to this type of sedentary learning.

There are many parents who work very hard to keep their children’s screen time to minimal or even zero. Our children are already bombarded with so much from technology and the media. We need to think of our children’s well being.

But the City of Auburn is redefining screen time with the iPad initiative. Did the school committee consult the medical community or are they the experts now? Do they want to increase screen time without any regards to the medical community?

The funding and research—or lack thereof—for the iPad is even more disturbing. The iPad initiative is not paid for. There are no grants secured. The school committee, however, is seeking donations through the Auburn Education Foundation.

There is no curriculum defined thus far. The amount of time iPads will be used in the class is also a blur, varying from 20 minutes a day to one hour a day. This does not include the “home time” with the iPad. Yes, these little hands do get to bring this expensive device home to play with it.

The pilot program is to start May 12, and research will end on May 15. The results will be presented by the school committee on June 15. It is the school committee’s goal to hand out iPads to grades K through 3.

Are iPads a win-win investment for our children? The public and expert consensus thus far has been no. Is literacy and numeracy important? You bet. As parents, it is our job to advocate for our children—and in this case, all children who are in the Auburn School System.

Whether you view yourself as a resident of Auburn, a taxpayer or a parent, or if you work in the Auburn School District, then it is important to get involved with what is going on in our schools. To be silent is to consent and we certainly do not want that.

We encourage all to be informed, get on board and challenge what is happening in our school system. It is our job as parents and citizens to become informed and involved in our children’s future.

For more information on screen time, see:

http://www.jpeds.com/article/S0022-3476(08)00176-5/fulltext

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/10/101011085958.htm

http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20112104-22094.html

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/pages/Media-Time-Family-Pledge.aspx

For more information on Auburn Citizens for Responsible Education, contact Tracey Levesque at traceyelevesque@yahoo.com or see

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Auburn-Citizens-for-Responsible-Education/193689187342024

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