Nov 18/13 Board Meeting: The Record Off The Record: Coastal Kindergarten / The K-5 WiFi Vote

F.3 Ferris:

That the Board allow the use of WiFi in elementary [K-5] schools subject to each school first obtaining the support of their school community. / Carried. For: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton    Against: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr

  • Ferris: Schools are waiting; communities will make their own decisions.

McNally: Motion to table. / Defeated.  For: Alpha, Loring-Kuhanga, McNally, Nohr      Against: Ferris, Horsman, Leonard, McEvoy, Orcherton      Back to main motion.

  • Nohr: We need to know the costs involved.
  • Alpha: Against the motion. SD61 has a huge deficit as a result of government offloading of the recent CUPE salary increase. CUPE deserves the raise but the Province should fund salary increases that the Province negotiated. SD61 does not have the money to install WiFi. Note re coffee being classified as a 2b carcinogen: We don’t allow k_5 students to have coffee, either. We need to use the precautionary approach.
  • Orcherton: Where would the money come from?
  • Superintendent: An access point costs $800. [Cisco: multiple WLCs may be deployed at the same school if more than 250 APs are required or if a load sharing or higher availability.] The money will be found within the current IT budget.
  • Horsman: Thanks to VCPAC for the survey.
  • Loring-Kuhanga: We need to exercise caution regarding the health of our children; need to sort out students who may be impacted. We need to use the precautionary approach.
  • McNally: Was able to read only 4 pages of the VCPAC comments collection which included approximately 800 comments, as access to the document was down until a few hours before this meeting.  In just the first 8 pages, 26/76 comments or approximately 34% of respondents are not overtly in favour. Some stated they did not know there were possible health issues connected to WiFi. The VCPAC Constitution specifies voting procedures for Special Resolutions and recommendations to the Board. Only 20 votes would have been required – 20 votes District wide, in a school district with approximately 20,000 students enrolled. I use a 4th generation iPad and an LG Galaxy 4 smart phone occasionally when tutoring struggling students, for the novelty factor provision of educational games. I use the 3 G or 4G cellular connection, and download apps from my hardwired computer via iTunes in my home office. Students use the iPad safely on a table top, not held against their bodies, and for only a few minutes each lesson. I do not need WiFi. The students do not need WiFi to meet learning objectives.

Morning Glory School, a South Island Waldorf School, highlights its WiFi free environment : “Our European-style, custom built, main school for Classes 1-8 was given a certificate by the  BC Cancer Society Healthy Living School Program. It is a non-smoking, non-toxic, and WIFI FREE environment. 

Los Altos / Mountain View Waldorf School of the Peninsula takes in many students from families working in the Silicon Valley area. “Waldorf School of the Peninsula (WSP) was established in 1984 to provide children in the fast-paced, technology-oriented culture of Silicon Valley with a holistic education that addresses the heart and will as well as the mind. …Waldorf graduates enter adulthood with the “21st century skills” of confidence and self-discipline, the ability to think independently and work with others, mastery of analytical and critical faculties, fluency with creative and artistic expression, and reverence for the beauty and wonder of life.

The school’s technology philosophy page states “Today’s children spend far less time than earlier generations engaging with other children, caring adults, and nature. The lure of electronic entertainment in our media-infused society influences the emotional and physical development of children and adolescents on many levels, and can detract from their capacity to create a meaningful connection with others and the world around them.

Brain research tells us that media exposure can result in changes in the actual nerve network in the brain.  This can affect such things as eye tracking (a necessary skill for successful reading), neurotransmitter levels, and how readily students receive the imaginative pictures that are foundational for learning.  Media exposure can also negatively affect the health of children’s peer interaction and play.

Waldorf educators believe it is far more important for students to interact with one another and their teachers, and work with real materials than to interface with electronic media or technology. By exploring the world of ideas, participating in the arts, music, movement and practical activities, children develop healthy, robust bodies, balanced and well-integrated brains, confidence in their real-world practical skills and strong executive-function capabilities….

“Current studies reveal that the pervasive use of computers in the classroom is having a negative impact on key aspects of children’s learning.

“A 2012 study from Common Sense Media, a San Francisco nonprofit organization, revealed a widespread belief among teachers that students’ constant use of digital technology is hampering their attention spans and ability to persevere in the face of challenging tasks….

“The benefits of computers in the classroom are unclear; yet, more and more schools across the country are headed in that direction. According to New York Times reporter Matt Richtel (In Classroom of the Future, Stagnant Test Scores, September 3, 2011), “In a nutshell: schools are spending billions on technology even as they cut budgets and lay off teachers, with little proof that this approach is improving basic learning.” …

Exposing children to computer technology before they are ready (around 7th grade) can hamper their ability to fully develop strong bodies, healthy habits of discipline and self-control, fluency with creative and artistic expression and flexible and agile minds.

  • Orcherton: Who are we to know better than parents to deal with their children’s health issues? Let the school communities make the decision. We’re not forcing or denying anyone.
  • Ferris: A number of assumptions about WiFi have been expressed and about teachers’ ability to make decisions about safety for students. District installation is good. People have been bringing in their own equipment through the “back door”.

Vote on main motion: Carried.

About Diane McNally