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Call for wi-fi revolution in classrooms

PARENTS have called for a wi-fi revolution in Scottish schools as part of moves to drive up standards.

The National Parent Forum of Scotland is urging councils to provide wi-fi internet access to pupils throughout the school day, and also wants to see greater use of portable devices such as tablets in schools.

Some schools already have wi-fi hubs but use is often restricted because of fears over access to inappropriate websites. Other schools either do not have wi-fi or have limited access to mobile devices such as tablets.

However, the body believes the technology can be used safely for educational purposes with appropriate safety policies such as pupil contracts and greater investment.

Iain Ellis, chairman of the National Parent Forum of Scotland, said: "We are aware there is wi-fi provision in a number of schools but that pupils are not yet being given access to this absolutely essential learning tool.

"While we fully understand pupil safety is paramount, we have to get to grips with using wi-fi technology in order to help young people to use the internet constructively for educational purposes.

"Increasingly, it seems that almost the only place pupils can't access the internet is in schools, when schools are the very place where young people can be taught the skills to navigate the internet safely and responsibly."

The call comes as the Scottish Government is considering whether pupils would benefit from having access to portable technology such as iPads.

Pilot projects are already taking place at 20 schools, with pupils given mobile devices such as handheld computers to use as part of lessons. Academics wil report next year on whether the schemes have improved learning.

Cedars School of Excellence, a small private school in Greenock, Inverclyde that has given all of its pupils iPads, believes the initiative has sparked a greater interest in learning.

Lee Dunn, an expert on the use of technology in the classroom from Glasgow University's School of Education, agrees.

He said: "Early evidence suggests young people who learn with tablets learn much faster and they tend to do better in attainment and performance.

"There is a stimulus when pupils use portable devices which is not necessarily there in the traditional classroom setting and, in today's technological world, it is how our young people expect to engage in their learning.

"Pupils will have access to smartphones and iPads at home, but when they go to school are faced with policies that tell them they can't use common websites such as YouTube, or perhaps they may be prevented from bringing their own devices into the classroom in the first place.

"It is no longer a question of whether we need to use this technology, it is about how we use it and how we integrate it so that every young person has fair access to it."

Jennifer Kirkwood, from Edinburgh University's Moray House School of Education, said the use of technology in the classroom was a crucial part of teacher training.

She said: "The aim now in teacher training is to increase confidence in using the new technology, but also to ensure student teachers continue to see themselves as the most important resource in the classroom."

"The benefits of these new technologies very much depends on the way they are used, and teachers should not just be technicians. They need to continually ask whether these devices are appropriate to learning."

The National Parent Forum of Scotland was founded in 2009 and comprises parent representatives from Scotland's 32 local authority areas.

Contextual targeting label: 
Education

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