Top school warns laptops ‘a distraction’ to learning

by Brett Henebery31 Mar 2016

The headmaster of one of Australia’s most elite private schools has called the in-class use of laptops a distraction to students’ learning outcomes.
 
Sydney Grammar School headmaster, John Vallance, said the billions of dollars being spent on providing students with laptops is a “scandalous waste of money” as grades gradually dropped across the country despite the investment.
 
Vallance told The Educator that despite recent media reports claiming the school had banned laptops, it has never had a laptop program. Instead, all students are asked to submit handwritten assignments until Year 10.
 
The long-serving headmaster of the elite boys’ school says most schools are “in much too deep” when it comes to the adoption and integration of digital devices in their classrooms.

“The history of technology in education too often has been a history of finding improved means to unimproved ends,” he said.

“We need to think and reflect much more critically than we have done about exactly what we are trying to achieve with class-based teaching.”

Last week, Vallance told The Australian that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibited conversation and was counter-productive to teacher-student relationships.

“Teaching is about interaction ­between people, about discussion, about conversation. We find that having laptops or iPads in the classroom inhibit conversation — it's distracting,” Vallance said.
 
“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.”

He added that the Federal Government’s multi-billion dollar investment to provide laptops to high school students had done nothing but to benefit tech-giants Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Apple.
 
“I think when people come to write the history of this period in education … this investment in classroom technology is going to be seen as a huge fraud.”
 
Vallance told The Educator he made the public statement he did by suggestions that public examinations will increasingly not only be conducted online, but marked – even in the case of pieces of discursive creative prose – using specially designed software.
 
Sydney Grammar has a long list of prominent alumni, including current Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, businessmen David Gonski and Westfield CEO Steve Lowy, late actor Bud Tingwell and poet Banjo Patterson.
 

COMMENTS

  • by SchoolITGuy 31/03/2016 12:31:33 PM

    "... it has never had a laptop program.". So... a single staff member at a school without a laptop program believes something that it has no evidence to back up.

    A laptop program can be excellent... if it's backed up and used correctly by staff.

  • by Lifelong Learner 31/03/2016 1:38:11 PM

    Similar have been said about pens, pencils and slates - thank goodness Banjo Paterson (former student) was allowed to (effectively) use the technology of the day!

  • by Stuart Kelly 31/03/2016 4:58:55 PM

    In most likelihood, this school has acted out of misguided fear and a misunderstanding that tech is no more or less a tool than pen and paper. What tech can do is transform and lift learning from a localized environment to a truly collaborative global learning context. Tech is not the issue, it's the use. I'm presuming the head teacher did not come to his place of employment via horse and cart.