iPads in middle school: One parent’s positive experience

My daughter turned 13 this past summer and we just celebrated her Bat Mitzvah last month. On her actual birthday, her Father and I gave her an iPad 2 to mark this milestone year (we don’t normally give huge birthday presents like that).

A few weeks after 8th grade began in September, she asked if she could start bringing it to school. My first reaction was “hell to the no!”

She kept asking. Her middle school has a SSR (silent sustained reading) policy. Students must have a reading book with them at all times. When there’s time left at the end of a period, or a delay before a program, they’re expected to be reading. If they have nothing with them to read, they’re given demerits.

Our local library is small and lacking. It was cheaper/easier for her to read her books on the iPad as iBooks or Kindle. But then in school she was complaining that she didn’t have an SSR, or she would be reading something on the iPad that she wanted to continue reading in school.

We relented and let her bring the iPad to school on a few conditions:

  1. It was entirely her responsibility. If it got lost, stolen or broken there is absolutely no excuse we would accept. It would not be replaced under any circumstances. She keeps begging us to test how responsible she could be. This was her chance.
  2. If I got even a single report of the iPad being used to entertain or distract there would be no second chance. It would never go back to school. There is no wifi for students in the building, and her iPad doesn’t have 3G.
  3. She had to ask permission of all her teachers (they all said yes, given the conditions we already set).

Last week I visited each teacher for parent/teacher conferences of the first marking period. Her report card was excellent and one of the best of her middle school career. Only one grade below 90 – an 86 in honors math – her toughest course. Last year, she was a solid B/low A student in her academic subjects. Definite improvement this year.

Each teacher I spoke to, in between raving about what a pleasure my kid is to have in class ::kvell:: remarked that the iPad has been a positive influence on her education. She’s been taking notes and emailing her teachers when she has questions (they all say they don’t mind). She uses iStudiez Pro to keep on top of her assignments instead of the messy paper agenda. They haven’t seen one minute of her using the iPad inappropriately or carelessly. In fact, a few have recommended apps to her she should try.

Finally, when she’s home she’s texting less and using Facetime to keep in touch with her friends. Full sentences. Eye contact. Conversation. Less misunderstandings, fights and teenage drama. Yay!


3 responses to “iPads in middle school: One parent’s positive experience”

  1. Great story – thanks for sharing. I’m currently trying to get my 10-y.o. kid to spend less screen time, and can’t imagine giving him an iPad for HIS bar mitzvah, but there’s lots of time between now and then. Did you consider getting, or helping/advising her to get, a SquareTrade warranty/insurance plan? Covers accidental damage (but not loss/theft) for $100/2 yrs, $130/3 yrs. I know that despite whatever warnings I’d given, I’d still feel so heartsick if I got something like that for one of my kids and something happened to it.

    • I didn’t know about SquareTrade. Bummer… I think I’m out of the window where I could buy it, since the iPad was purchased more than 90 days ago. Oh well. Will keep in mind for next time.

      As for screen time, I’m more concerned with limiting wasted screen time (games, mindless stuff, etc.) If she’s reading, or doing something that is challenging her brain I’m not as worried about it.

  2. This is great, thanks Judi. My girls are younger but I keep thinking about how to balance modern tech with foundational learning and this is a great story to keep in mind. I think a lot about handwriting vs. typing, board games vs. computer games, etc. and there’s one thing I simply cannot get past… myself.

    Simply put, I’m not ever going back to handwriting letters (ok, maybe on rare occasions) and while I try to give my kids my full attention, I’ll admit I check my iPhone often around them. So how can I expect them to act much differently? I’d rather focus on teaching good habits and responsibility like you have and encouraging outdoor and athletic activities to counter-balance all the tech.

    Besides… I think we should replace all textbooks with ebooks anyways. Just imagine the freedom and convenience of learning vs. our antiquated model of lugging 30lbs of text books around and flipping endlessly through pages to find a citation, oy vey 🙂