'Wake-up call' over school use of tablet computers
Increasing use of tablet computers is distracting children from doing homework, a survey for teachers in Northern Ireland has found.
Two-thirds of experienced teachers also felt there was a risk of pupils accessing inappropriate material in the classroom, according to a study carried out for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL).
The leading teaching union is calling for urgent Government action over the growing use of iPads and other tablets in schools.
ATL Northern Ireland director Mark Langhammer said the research was a "wake-up call" that schools required better guidance.
"As things stand, there's a serious risk that the education and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of children could be compromised if the concerns highlighted in this survey prove to be justified."
The online survey canvassed the views of 376 teaching staff and parents from across Northern Ireland, most of whom had educational tablet experience.
Tablets in Schools: How Useful Are They? by educational research consultant, Dr Liz Fawcett revealed:
:: More than four-fifths (82%) of those who responded believed pupils could be distracted by other activities they could carry out on the tablet, like gaming or messaging, if devices were used for homework.
:: 72% believed pupils could become distracted when using tablets in classrooms.
:: 64% of teaching staff with tablet experience felt there was a risk of access to inappropriate material in classrooms.
:: 77% felt that the development of writing skills could be hampered by their use.
:: Around three-quarters felt the devices had some educational value in the classroom and 63% believed they made lessons more interesting,
:: 54% believed tablets provided children with greater opportunities for copying during homework
:: 71% felt it was wrong for schools to require parents to pay for the equipment as not all families could afford the cost.
Mr Langhammer added: "Our feedback suggests that a growing number of schools across the UK are moving towards making tablets a central aspect of classwork and homework.
"Yet there's been very little debate around the desirability of this move, and international research tells us 'the jury is out' in terms of the overall educational value of tablet usage."
The Department of Education has invested approximately £170 million to deliver the C2k Education Network to all grant-aided schools.
A spokeswoman said the safety of pupils is a priority and the C2k network has appropriate filters and security in place.
"If a school sets up its own school network, separate from the C2k managed service, with its own internet connection and internet service provider (ISP), it is the school's responsibility to ensure that the filtering system provided is of an appropriate standard to ensure the safety of its pupils.
"The department has provided advice to schools on this issue," she said.