Top school to ban laptops in class. Should more follow?

For the many members of the Starts at 60 community who have worked as teachers, educators and school staff, the

For the many members of the Starts at 60 community who have worked as teachers, educators and school staff, the idea of technology in the classroom can be a complex and controversial subject. One thing is for sure: laptops have changed the way a great many classes operate.

Now John Vallance, the principal of Sydney Grammar School, has spoken out against the “scandalous waste of money” of laptops and technology in schools.

According to The Australian, the school has now banned laptops from class, with many steps taken to ensure more traditional practices are upheld.

“I’ve seen so many schools with limited budgets spending a disproportionate amount of their money on technology that doesn’t really bring any measurable, or non-measurable, benefits,’’ said Dr. Vallance.

“Schools have spent hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars­ on interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, and now they’re all being jettisoned.”

Contrary to schools that ask parents to buy their students laptops, Sydney Grammar requires students to submit hand-written assignments until Year 10.

The headmaster stated that the prior Labour government’s “Digital Education Revolution” was $2.4 billion of wasted money.

“It didn’t really do anything except enrich Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard and Apple… They’ve got very powerful lobby influence in the educational community.”

While students still have access to a computer lab, and can still use the technology at home, the policy aims to eliminate the classroom distraction.

“We see teaching as fundamentally a social activity… It’s about interaction ­between people, about discussion, about conversation”.

“If you’re lucky enough to have a good teacher and a motivating group of classmates, it would seem a waste to introduce anything that’s going to be a distraction from the benefits that kind of social context will give you.’’

Sydney Grammar has been studying the difference between handwritten and typed projects among boys in Year 3 and Year 5.

“In creative writing tasks, they find it much easier to write by hand, to put their ideas down on a piece of paper, than they do with a keyboard,’’ he said.

Dr Vallance also believes laptops have “introduced a great deal of slackness’’ among teachers. “It’s made it much easier of giving the illusion of having prepared a lesson”.

Do you agree with this powerful words? Is this a step forward or a step backward?

  1. I agree if there are computers already at the school why do the kids needs to load themselves up with another laptop to lug to and from school, easier to take a USB memory stick and copy the info to it and take it home to their own computer. Some schools require specific laptops with specific programmes on them for their curriculum and this is extra expense for parents.

  2. donna  

    children need to keep up with writing and not all done on computers, as a lot of children don’t communicate at home it is best schools at least help them to learn to be respectable with the other children in class

  3. facebook_elda.quinton  

    Yep, we are running the risk of people being unable to write by hand. I’ve noticed it in myself. Can’t remember the last time I wrote in cursive. Don’t think I could write an handwritten letter anymore.

  4. Anita  

    I agree as children today are not learning how to write even my own writing has got bad as we use computers now for everything. Also they are no learning how to spell correctly and their pronunciation of some words is lazy.

  5. John Cahill  

    Yes Yes Yes… Technology is a currency rather than a personal development aid in schools. It makes money for someone. It enhances some things but it also disenfranchises in terms of independent personal skills and capacities. It creates dependencies which come at a variety of costs and it tends make household economies too determinative in terms of access. So far, the industry (devices for education) has not come up with a convincing benefits/cost ratio. Part of the problem is that devices are still too valued for their novelty and judgement about what is useful is, in many areas, overshadowed by shallow fascination. In schools where I have worked i estimated that barely 10% of the capacity of dozens of PCs is used. The only functions I say being used were DVD and CD replay on an OHProjector. Designers, developers and manufacturers have a lot of work to do. Congratulations Mr. Vallance.

  6. J Schultz  

    Wonder if John Vallance is related to the late Jack Vallance , a brilliant teacher I had in primary school!

  7. nick  

    The level of distraction and interference in average students is huge. Many traditional skills are going by the wayside while “virtual” activities mimic skill sets the students should do for themselves.
    While they have uses we should limit their role in the classroom to those circumstances where they are actually of benefit.
    Well done John Vallance.

  8. In business very little is exchanged in handwriting. We used typewriters, then we used computers to type. Now we use emails to correspond. This is the life, it’s the future. Teach kids at school early to be savvy with computers. It’s an essential tool they will need to use when they start work for any business.

  9. W K Copland  

    A very good article . We ( as parents) understand that our children need to be tech savvy, our school students cannot spell ( spellcheck will fix it) and their handwriting is going backwards to a similar level of a 5year old .
    Get back to using paper please.

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