Schoolbags can be stood on, dropped, thrown, ridden over on a bike, flung out a window. Set on fire. The possibilities are endless. Chances are these days there will be an ipad or tablet in the bag.
Like most, the kids at Donvale Primary School in Melbourne's sprawling east are all over their devices. There has been a boom in their use in schools, from the humblest state primary school to the loftiest private secondary college. With the boom has come a new set of rules and a whole lot of shattered screens.
The grade five and sixes at Donvale are on a 'parent purchase' scheme where ipads are compulsory and the school has an online portal to a chosen supplier. The supplier may or may not offer insurance.
The grade three and fours are on a BYOD scheme – 'Bring Your Own Device' – where they bring one in from home. Principal Lena Clark says if a family doesn't own one already they are often given to the child at the end of grade two or as Christmas presents. Insurance, once again, is left up the parents.
The school has strict rules about what the devices can be used for, but also how to treat them. "The kids can't take them outside, they have to leave them in secure areas while not in class. It teaches them to take ownership and responsibility."
Breakages occur. Tablets are fragile and schools are rowdy. This is where insurance comes in. If one child drops or breaks another child's ipad, the parents of the child who dropped it is liable. According to Steve Marks, Australia's only specialist insurer for school tablets, netbooks and laptops, schoolbags are often run over by mum or dad's car.
Grade 6 student Rose at Donvale Primary School. With the use of iPads has come a new set of rules and a whole lot of shattered screens.
"Mum or dad opens the boot, puts the schoolbags in the back, one falls out or is forgotten and then driven over. It's more common than you think."
Marks, from Wandong north of Melbourne, explains that most big private or Catholic schools provide devices including tablets to students as part of what their parents pay for. They get one for three years, then get another. If a tablet breaks the school pays the insurance excess and passes it on to parents. In BYOD schemes, common in state schools, everything is left to the parents. Costs for a broken screen repair would be between $100 and $200.
He says he gets more claims from schools in wealthier areas and fewer claims from schools in lower socio-economic regions. "I can't say exactly why but maybe they look after things better."
Kim Nickels, a grade six teacher at Port Melbourne primary school, says tablets bought by parents for their kids and then brought to school are "100 percent" better treated than those supplied by the schools. Her school has implemented BYOD tablet learning this year, where the devices are loaded with 56 apps to suit what is being taught, as well as a Facebook-style network called Edmodo which allows students to talk to teachers online.
The school's assistant principal Neil Scott says a written guideline on tablets was given to parents to sign. This covered appropriate use of the device as well as how to prevent damage: don't take it outside, store it in the school's cupboard and don't carry it around by hand. Carry it in your bag. Hopefully mum or dad doesn't run over the bag.
Glen Park Primary School does not have BYOD. All students have access to their own iPad, PC, DS , flip cameras and share iPods.