iPads in school? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 09-03-2011, 06:54 PM - Thread Starter
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Cross-posted in "Blended Families" and "Special Needs Parenting"


We have a new dilemma in our blended family:  the iPad.


My biological sons (twins, freshmen in HS) have "Non-Verbal Learning Disabilities" (which, similar to Aspergers, puts them on the Autism spectrum) + vision and fine motor issues.  They're allowed to use assistive technology in school.  The original agreement with the high school (at the end of last year), was:

* As many of their textbooks as possible would be loaded on the Kindles their paternal grandmother gave them two Christmases ago (Kindles can blow up the font size of text);

* Much of their writing and note-taking could be done with Neos.  Those are small, portable word processors (updated AlphaSmarts, if you're familiar with those).  They're relatively cheap (~$170 new, or $50-$100 used) and offer the basic convenience of a laptop, without any of the sexiness.  There are only 4 lines of visible text, no graphics, no internet access.  (No distractions!)


Then, at the beginning of this year, the Vision Specialist threw a wrench in the works, by telling me (in front of them and my ex, their Dad) that the public school system (which she works for, although the twins attend a Catholic school) could provide them iPads!  She also went on about how the kids all think those are so cool and prefer them to the Neos.  Lovely.


Let's skim right over the fact that I was originally told the school system could not provide Neos, so I bought those myself.  (But they can provide iPads?!?!?!?)


My objections to the iPads - reasonable or not (please comment!) - are as follows:


1- The twins have a pretty normal, middle-class upbringing, with me.  In all fairness, I guess I'm more back-to-basics than the norm.  Our microwave broke and we realized we can live without it.  Same with the coffee maker - now we make coffee the old-fashioned way.  Our electronic stove broke and we replaced it with a beautiful 1940's gas unit, without an automatic pilot.  Our a/c broke and we realized that, in our well-shaded, well-ventilated house, we really only need to turn on its replacement when it's over 90 degrees.  We only buy used cars and drive them 'til they die...partly on principle.  You get the picture.


DH and I both use computers heavily, but have only owned used laptops, until we got super-cheap deals on our current, new ones.  The twins and my step-son (12, lives with us) shared a desktop unit, until DSS's grandmother bought him a netbook (cheap, as laptops go).  Then DH and I found good deals and bought the twins a netbook to share, for their birthday; and a 2nd one, for their next birthday.  So now all 3 kids have their own, rather basic computer.  I would really like a tablet computer like the iPad, but we planned to wait a couple years, until prices fall under $200, for me to get one.


I don't like kids feeling entitled to have the latest technology - or to own expensive things their parents can't even afford to buy for themselves.  I don't like buying kids things like laptop computers (even cheap ones) - which the kids know were a financial sacrifice, and something special...then replacing them with something more exciting only a year or so later.  


My ex grew up wealthy, with busy parents who bought him anything he wanted.  I distinctly remember when we were in our early twenties, with infant twins.  He had a great job, compared to most of our friends.  We had a nicer apartment than most of our friends and two cars - one was even very nice, and new.  We had fabulous health insurance at a stage of life when most of our friends were uninsured.  But we couldn't afford a digital camera when they first came out and cost $800.  My ex was too sensible to have bought one, anyway, while the early technological kinks were still being worked out.  But the knowledge that he couldn't walk into a store and buy one, had he wanted to rendered him depressed, moping on the couch, for at least a week!  I don't want my kids to wind up like that!!!!!  Since we broke up, their Dad appears to have become much wealthier than his parents, and there's the definite potential of the twins growing up just like he did.  Thankfully, my ex is considerate, when I ask him to refrain from buying them things.  I try not to take advantage of that and be too controlling.  But I did ask him not to buy them iPads yet, and he hasn't.


2- DSS is drooling for an iPad.  It seems horrendously unfair, to me, to let the twins have them (ostensibly because they "need" them, for school) and not to get DSS one.  DSS has his own issues, with entitlement.  There's a lot of bitterness and competition from his mother, who lives far away and does her best to try to sway DSS to announce that he'd prefer to live with her, in part by buying him all the latest stuff.  In the past, for example, we have refrained from buying DSS an iPod Touch for his birthday, because 6 months before his had Mom given him an iPod Nano and we didn't want to be competitive, or replace her special gift.  Then she bought him a Touch!  I don't want to feel - or have DSS or anyone else think - that we're actively trying to win that competition.  I don't think it's a competition parents should ever engage in, as it creates spoiled kids with unrealistic expectations for their future lives, when they're supporting themselves.


3- The twins really love technology, Facebook, etc.  I do worry that having anything "cool" or that seems like a full-fledged computer, in school, would be distracting.  And getting through high school is going to be a lot of work for them, as it is.


So, if you read this long thing, what do you think?  Am I wrong to consider DSS, in making decisions about the twins' assistive technology?  Should I be giving more weight to how having something "cool" at school might bolster the twins' attitude about learning and help them, socially?  Am I simply a nutty, old-fashioned killjoy?

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... twin sons:
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(HS seniors) ... step-son: 
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 (a sophomore) ... our little man: 
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#2 of 8 Old 09-03-2011, 08:20 PM
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As much as possible, I would try to keep the issue of which technologies would be helpful to the kids distinct from the family issues. I'd probably come at this by trying to understand whether the ipad has long term value for the needs of your sons
My guess is that it's more versatile than the Neo. I also struggle to integrate my understanding of the usefulness of technology with what my kids need, but their reality is different. Technology has a place for kids with needs, and I think it's not so much an issue of entitlement for our kids, as it is of making use of new tools.
Just my initial thoughts.
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#3 of 8 Old 09-03-2011, 08:44 PM
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I see your dilemma, and you've obviously given it a lot of thought. But I agree with the previous poster, that it might be best to separate educational issues from family issues.  What's best for your twins in school?


I have twins boys, too-- one of them has dyslexia.  He's only 9 and in 4th grade, so I don't think an ipad is right for him this year, but maybe next year it will be.  I will have no problem getting him (and not his twin, or his younger sister) a device that will help him better access his education, or make gains in areas that might be too difficult with traditional technology.   It is true that an ipad can be used for gaming,, but my understanding is that so many of the apps are fabulous for kids with learning issues.  I think it's such a burden to have a learning issue-- and his siblings understand that-- that anything we can do for my son to make reading and writing easier  (even if it makes him more cool), is OK.  


BTW, he also has a Kindle that he's allowed to take to school. His twin, a voracious reader, got one at the same time, but he has to leave his at home.  It's not an issue for either of them.  


That said, I do think you'll be fine either way.  



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#4 of 8 Old 09-03-2011, 11:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Jeannine View Post
3- The twins really love technology, Facebook, etc.  I do worry that having anything "cool" or that seems like a full-fledged computer, in school, would be distracting.  And getting through high school is going to be a lot of work for them, as it is.

I would ask this question of the school straight out. Depending on your children, the temptation posed by what can be a gaming device could make school more difficult rather than easier, unless the school has figured out how to address this. (laptops and iPods and such are allowed at my kids school, but they have rules about what they can and can't do on them, and if they break the rules, the device isn't allowed at school for the remainder of the year. If this is a device they NEED to do school work, having it set up without temptation is best. Kids at our school have lost the priveledge by watching DVD, You Tube, using wireless they can pick up from the neighborhood, etc. It's very hard to resist the temptation.)


On the other hand, iPad's aren't much fun without aps, and aps cost money. I'm not sure how well facebook even works without the facebook ap, and iPads never support flash. There is a certain amount of control possible because of their reliance on aps.


I agree with the previous posters that a lot of what you bring up is irrelevant. Let go of all that stuff, and figure out what is best for your kids.


the stuff with your DSS is complex, and I'm not sure what I would do. If the school system has set up the iPods so they really game on them and you give a iPod with games to DSS, you end up in an unfair place again.


If it were us, we would let the school provide the 2 iPods, and buy one for the 3rd child. I'm not sure that's the best thing to do, but I'm pretty sure that's how it would shake down here.

but everything has pros and cons  shrug.gif

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#5 of 8 Old 09-04-2011, 11:02 AM
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I also say let the school provide iPads for your twins and invest in one for your DSS yourself.

I am positive that the capabilities of an iPad are so much more so than that of a Kindle and Neo put together; I'm also assuming the school would prefer to work with iPads over the two devices when helping your teens at school. Apple is just easier, and the amount of apps (many which are free), especially designed for special needs, is going to be super helpful.

The school, I'm sure, will have guidelines and rules in place for using the iPad during class - otherwise they wouldn't be offering to provide them. Same as schools that require or purchase laptops for student use.

Not sure about the whole entitled thing with your DSS. I mean, obviously there is a lot you can't control when it comes to what his mom gives him, and i don't happen to think gifting him an iPad is going to be detrimental in the long run. My kids have iPod touches (they are younger than yours), and I'd certainly consider buying them iPads if they were teens (and they use mine now and enjoy it).

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#6 of 8 Old 09-04-2011, 04:41 PM
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if the district buys ipads, would they be allowed to take them home? If not then there is no issue with your DSS.


now they may be able to put the textbooks & such onto the ipad so they can streamline the number of things they have to carry around.


The schools here have restrictions on websites.  Facebook is not available for kids to get onto at school. These distractions may not be something that would be accessible.

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#7 of 8 Old 09-06-2011, 08:29 AM
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Well, I don't have an ipad so know nothing about it but it does seem like asking the school is a good idea. Maybe they have password protected wireless or have FB and other sites blocked so kids can't access them from school??


I would say you do not have to get your 12 yo one even if his brothers get one. I am the youngest of 4 and I can tell you that my parents did not get me things just because my older brothers got them. Tell DSS that you'll get him an ipad when he is 16 too.

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#8 of 8 Old 09-08-2011, 06:15 AM
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That's great that the school will provide an iPad for special needs kids!  Wish my son's school would!  I'm having trouble getting them to allow my son to bring his own in.

I couldn't afford an iPad myself but got one through the iPad campaign at www.a4cwsn.com (they sometimes have raffles for non special needs kids.)

They review/recommend Apps and often offer discounts or free apps!

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