The Digital Education Real Illusion 18 July, 2011Posted by paralleldivergence in education, ICT in Education, Internet, Politics, technology.
Tags: DER, DERNSW, Digital Education Revolution
THE PROMISE. The challenge. The delivery. The difference. The Australian Digital Education Revolution was rightly heralded as a real gamechanger in school education nation-wide. When Kevin Rudd as opposition leader proclaimed, “This is the toolbox of the 21st Century” while holding up a laptop computer and subsequently promised access to a computer for every student in years 9 through 12, we knew this was something big. This truly was an Education Revolution.
I wrote extensively about that promise, the challenge, the delivery and the difference – but now I ask, what the Hell was the point? In the May 2011 Federal budget, the Government’s idealogical and aspirational education revolution was all but given the heave-ho! It seems that the actual promise was to provide computers to all students from years 9 through 12, one year cohort per annum, until all four years had them. And then….? Nothing.
In New South Wales public schools, the state authority with the most-cohesive and effective implementation plan, the DIFFERENCE was most obvious. High school teachers were adopting and adapting the laptops into their classrooms. Their lessons were changing. They started to focus on Digital Citizenship, they were provided teaching resources specifically incorporating the laptops and they started to document their journey in video form. They even got real, on-site technical support for the first time ever. For public schools in NSW, the Revolution was truly gathering steam. At this point, New South Wales is three-quarters of the way through. All students in the current years 9, 10 and 11 have their own laptop and although there have been problems, these have been within the allowed tolerances. At the end of 2011, the incoming year 9 students will receive their laptops, completing the Federal Government’s commitment. The announcement that no more funding is available for laptops for students beyond the 2012 cohort means that 1:1 laptops will be in high schools until next year’s year 9 students complete year 12, but in ever-decreasing numbers until they disappear totally.
And what else will disappear with them? All the great progress in teaching and learning that1:1 laptops provided. Without the laptops, without the ubiquitous connections and access, there will be little choice for teachers but to revert to the “old-ways” of “chalk-and-talk”, “drill-and-practise” and “rote learning”. Can the NSW State Government afford to take up the slack to see 1:1 laptops continue? Can they pay for the laptops and the ongoing support themselves? I truly hope they can, but I ask, why should they have to? When Kevin Rudd made that statement and that promise, surely he and his Education Minister and government knew that this had to be a commitment for the long-term. Otherwise, what was the point? Federally, with the budget announcement, it’s been more than a waste of money. It’s been one big education-tease. That’s why regrettably, I’m now calling it the Digital Education Real Illusion.