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EMF Studies

18 November 2012

Wireless Technology Invades Private Schools in Switzerland, While Public Schools Resist

"Electronic tablets are entering the classroom"
(Drawing by Burki, 24 Heures - "pomme" = apple)
High-tech equipment (tablets and interactive whiteboards) connected by Wi-Fi are invading private schools in Switzerland. The authorities are talking about the financial (as opposed to health) cost. Public schools in canton Vaud are resisting this technology. Jacques Daniélou, President of the Vaudois Pedagogical Society says, “I am not confronted with demands from teachers ready to descend into the streets for more technology! On the contrary, I feel hesitation. We can hardly measure the advantages at this stage of a sudden, premature evolution.” Following the article appearing in the Swiss newspaper 24 Heures, read what two associations (in France and Québec) advocating for the health safety of wireless technologies say about tablets and interactive whiteboards. These technologies have numerous consequences for the health of children. The State Council of the canton of Neuchâtel has strictly limited use of wireless technology in schools. 

Technology in schools, a controversial evolution
by Karim Di Matteo, 24 Heures, 13 November 2012 (translated from French)

High-tech equipment, tablets in the lead, are invading private schools. The public sector hesitates.
Aygun faces his class at the Leysin American School. The adolescent has downloaded his exposé, “Forms of respect in the Turkish culture” to an electronic tablet. His classmates are following his presentation on the interactive whiteboard (TBI) where it is projected. Each student takes notes on his personal tablet in the form of a manuscript with a stylus or keyboard. At the back of the classroom, the teacher supervises with his personal tablet. Thanks to Wi-Fi, it’s easy to connect with the activities of his class in real time. Here there is no chalk, notebooks, crayons, text books or even school bags : the information is stocked on hard disks. When needed, the teacher will send it to others by E-mail.

Science fiction ? In South Korea, this scene is banal. The Leysin American School, like other private schools, is testing the latest system of an Asian manufacturer. After just two weeks’ trial, the enthusiasm of adopting a tool that it judges to be in tune with the times is already huge. We have students of 60 different nationalities, coming from different scholastic programs, explains the Director, Marc-Frédéric Ott. “The more advanced students evolve at their own pace, others work with a teacher, a third group works on a project. The new tools allow this flexibility.”

In contrast, the use of tablets in public schools in canton Vaud seems at this hour to be a distant mirage. Authorities and teachers do not hide their skepticism. The result: only about 500 classrooms in the public sector are equipped with a “simple” interactive whiteboard, that is, 10% of all classrooms in the canton, as opposed to 95% in the United Kingdom.

The projection of digital documents, resorting directly to the Internet to enrich or complete a course and the possibility of creating interactive exercises (the student moves around elements or delivers a demonstration at the tips of his fingers) are some of the arguments which have convinced certain communes to take that step.

In 2005, Crissier was one of the pioneers in canton Vaud. After seven years and 45 equipped classrooms, the Director of Schools, Pierre-Albert Jaques, gives a “very positive” track record : “I have not had one negative criticism from the teaching staff. I even believe that a step backward would cause a wave of protest.”

According to the business Galmar in Crissier, the provider of nearly half the equipment in French-speaking Switzerland, nine times out of ten schools are choosing an interactive whiteboard flanked by traditional whiteboards. The sign of a smooth transition. The manufacturers are not afraid of this inertia and are not slowing down their race to innovate. Listening to the most progressive forces, the interactive whiteboards are even outdated.

Orders increasing

The example of Crissier is being emulated. The lifting of the moratorium last year decreed by the canton in 2005 on equipment such as interactive whiteboards has given a boost to orders. “Certain schools have not waited until now to solicit us,” says Janik Leutloff, an employee of Galmar. “We already have orders until 2014.” On the financial side, most of the bill is not for acquiring the whiteboard whose price is equal to a good old blackboard. “The maintenance, renewal and personalized support of teachers represents a great part of the costs,” estimates Bertrand Magnin, supervisor of the Crissier project.

While awaiting a general concept for equipment for the canton, the bill is entirely in the hands of the communes. With the risk of a two-tiered plan : one for communities with sufficient means to initiate the digital transformation, the other without adequate resources to initiate a change, which, independently of the form it will take, seems inevitable.

Public schools resist information technology

« I see that schools are resisting information technology, » says Serge Martin, “Direction pédagogique”. “We are however in the process of defining a pedagogical concept which would facilitate its use in teaching. In effect, it does not suffice to make technological tools available in classrooms in order to improve teaching. Today, too few teachers dare to take the step or dispose of the means to do so.”

Jacques Daniélou, President of the Vaudois Pedagogical Society, says, “I am not confronted with demands from teachers ready to descend into the streets for more technology! On the contrary, I feel hesitation. We can hardly measure the advantages at this stage of a sudden, premature evolution.”

This is what associations advocating for the health safety of wireless technologies have to say :

Robin des Toits :

Tablets are connected permanently and by default to the Internet. The possibility of choosing a wired connection does not exist in the case of tablets. The result is that the user is permanently being bombarded with electromagnetic fields of the type 3G and/or Wi-Fi whose harm is today not seriously contested.

In January 2012, the study by Conrado Avendano, Ariela Mata and others (Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Norfolk, Virginia and Hascentis Medicine Reproductiva, Cordoby, Argentina, give evidence of its impact on masculine fertility. The scientific work of the American, G. Carlo, suggests a link between Wi-Fi and various neurological troubles, particularly in children.

Radiofrequencies have been classified as a « possible carcinogen » (category 2B) by the World Health Organization in May 2011.

How can we not see that however serious the risk, it is higher in children, whose organs are developing, whose tissues are thinner, and whose exposure will be much longer during the course of their lives?

Based on this, the Council of Europe (27 may 2011) like the Russian National Committee for Protection Against Non-Ionizing Radiation (19 June 2012) recommends a wired connection rather than Wi-Fi in schools.

The Quebec Coalition Against Electromagnetic Pollution (CQLPE) :

Pay close attention to interactive whiteboards with wireless connection to the Internet !

The CQLPE deeply deplores that the responsible authorities for adoption of this choice of technology [tablets and interactive whiteboards] have neglected to take into account the many health consequences to children from the vertiginous increase in the level of electrosmog (electromagnetic pollution harmful to health) that the installation of powerful Wi-Fi emitters of industrial force causes in teaching establishments in Quebec. Numerous alarm signals already indicate that, everywhere these emitters are deployed, more children are suffering serious symptoms during the weekday when exposed, symptoms that only a rare number of physicians are capable of linking to the presence of Wi-Fi so much does the problem of electromagnetic sensitivity remain unknown in Quebec. It is a real problem which could have serious long-term consequences.

The current and future health of our children is at stake.

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