Apple angels and MySchool demons


Steve Jobs and Apple iPadIn the early hours of Thursday morning, two potentially life-changing events took place. One was the announcement of Apple's iPad computer reading tablet, and the other was the launch of the Federal Government's MySchool website.

Immediately Apple afficianados sought to turn the iPad into an object of worship, and educators who feared the consequences of the website demonised it.

British actor and tech guru Stephen Fry spoke of 'joining the congregation at the Church of Apple' for what amounted to a service to venerate the iPad. He said: 'You want to fondle it and lick it and play with it.'

Meanwhile there was fearmongering within the education unions, with Australian Education Union president Angelo Gavrielatos promoting concern about 'damaging league tables that will now only be one click away as a result of the website'.

Both the Apple iPad and the MySchool website will enhance our wellbeing if we use them responsibly and overcome the urge to deify or demonise. Each is a means to an end, and holds particular promise.

The iPad is priced to appeal to the mass market rather than an elite, and it could hold the key to a manageable large-scale transition from print to electronic books, magazines and newspapers. Such a move is both environmentally desirable, and inevitable, and it needs to be made as painless and equitable as possible.

Sydney Archdiocesan Executive Director of Catholic Schools Dr Dan White said the MySchool website could serve a useful purpose in providing rich, meaningful data about schools' achievements that would generate constructive dialogue between schools and parents.

But he stressed that simplistic 'one-dimensional' use of the data could be damaging, and his example hints that such improper practice could have a negative impact on some of the most needy students.

'Statistics can be deceiving, particularly in smaller schools, where the presence of two or three children with special learning needs can significantly alter the class average.'

There will be distortions too in the lives of Church of Apple worshippers and others who see technology as an end in itself, and fail to appreciate that right and proper function must come before beauty.

Michael MullinsMichael Mullins is editor of Eureka Street.

Topic tags: apple ipad, myschools, league tables, julia gillard, Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrielatos



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Existing comments

Pleased to see a positive spin on the Myschools site which I found interesting and informative as one facet of the many surrounding schools and their value to students

Judy | 01 February 2010  

Yes numerical data is powerful. As an experienced teacher from the UK I can warn Oz to be careful. There are many non educational/damaging ways of improving test scores. THe challenge is to ensure that Oz education does improve over the next 5 years not just that test scores go up.

paula | 04 February 2010  

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