Rolling Towards The Inevitable

We have 10,000 netbooks being rolled out in a trial in Victorian state schools. See here for Bill Kerr's analysis.

We have 200,000 laptops of similar ilk being rolled out by the NSW DET. A spirited debate on this news is currently happening on the Oz-Teachers list (start here) - but at times sniping about operating systems, industry standard applications and local vs system distribution masks the bigger trend occurring here.

And what happens here in South Australia?

Yesterday, the SA Secondary Principals Association revealed computers remained in boxes at some schools because there were not enough funds allocated to install cabling, power points or wireless internet connections needed to run them.

Why isn't our State Government helping schools out and building on the DER funded computing resources being allocated to schools? Apparently, it is up to individual schools to find their own way. You can criticise the NSW DET and Victorian Ed. Dept for their choice of technology, their contradictory policies around filtering and approach to social media tools but I am quietly wishing that someone here in Flinders Street was thinking forward to the concept of students with their own digital device as an integral part of their classroom.

I know this doesn't solve the issue of teacher development - how we ensure that laptops/netbooks etc become the new connected exercise book and pencil case for the current generation of students? Tony Searl in a recent comment hints at things to come:

Maybe DET NSW 1:1 could just be the tech tipping point that forces some reluctant hands. If 30 kids show up carrying their weapons of “mass connection” it’ll either end in tears or salutes, the past fence sitting/avoidance will be diminished as an option.

Maybe it won't just force the teachers to act - maybe education systems will be forced into action of some sort as well. If I'm in an upper primary classroom in five years time and they don't all have a laptop of some description - well, then there is some massive governmental denial going on.

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5 thoughts on “Rolling Towards The Inevitable

  1. Russel Montgomery


    Points well made.

    Another one to consider is the inevitable arrival of wide area wireless broadband. Its here. Its just too expensive yet for the average student to be connected. Once the price point is within reach of the average student, we will have a different game to play.

  2. Tony Searl

    Last weeks DET NSW 1:1 announcement was bitter sweet.

    Compact Learning Devices are fine as an entree (and it should be national policy) but the best sweet of the NSW deal is the wireless connectivity.

    That will be the real deal in transformational access to informal learning, which is powerful AWAT (at school at least!) Imagine kids learning in their breaks whilst sitting on the oval chatting.(they always have, it’ll just be more powerful IF they use the laptops as well) Even better using those informal spaces outside the “classroom” during class time. Spaghetti learning indeed. That excites me.

    Conversely the software suite decision (Adobe/MS) is not so sweet.

    By letting the tender to a traditional proprietory software will simply perpetuate the same old same old tech ICT top down “control”. It is not the “advance” I was hoping for at all.

    The skills needed to implement the full power of the Adobe suite will be a major stumbling block in the implementation for already tech shy avoiders (or in fact keen 1:1 advocates who do not have an ICT background and NO skills in Adobe, ie me.)To watch Premier Rees stumble through his press conference was cringe worthy, he had no idea what Adobe was and clutched for cliches with furtive glances to minders to throw him a life line.

    The degree of difficulty between Adobe and most free, but blocked, cloud apps is a gulf the filters will have to address, urgently. If they want an uptake and embedd on real collaborative learning that is.

    Voicethread was one interactive participatory app I wanted to share at out connected learning conference in July. No it and most others on the top 100 learning tool lists are all blocked. Obviously DET want MS and Adobe software presenters, not connected learning advocates.

    I am certainly trusting more enlightened “connected” policy will now follow from DET. My comment re past avoidance is firmly directed at decision makers at the big end of town, their glacial/iceburg attitude frustrate the hell out of me, unlike many colleagues who are champing at the bit to get started now we have (partial) access.

    Massive government denial indeed.

  3. Dean Groom

    Excellent post Sir. I’d like to add, that professional learning (which is not provided inside systems at any serious level), is seeing the ‘quality’ resources and ideas being formed in ‘private’ networks. Teachers who have no access at school (their place of work) are creating the next generation of IP/Resources in their own time, and keeping it in their own networks.

    I wonder, as these laptops fester on desks, (there’s only so much powerpoint a kid ever needs to learn) – that those who are doing great things will pack up their bat and ball and begin to work in the growing private ‘online sector’.

    As teachers retire, and resources go with them – you have to wonder if all school have are ‘laptops’ with lag web access – how the actually benefits learning. All the ‘great stuff’ is now well outside the ‘system’ – as PD (as we knew it), moved online a long time ago.

    Australia needs to be united and equitable. Lack of access, and opportunity – is the responsibility of federal government – who seem opposed to investing in people – as they like to hand the money over to ‘tradies’ in it’s ‘nation building’ – what is the point of nutter fast web access, if all we teach kids to do is change their Facebook profiles or Goolge information at a Trillion to One odds of finding it.

    Great post!

  4. Graham Wegner

    @Russel Yep, wireless broadband access is definitely going to be something that schools are going to have to confront sooner or later. I can just see precious $$$ being spent to create wireless zones that block outside access within the school environment – after schools are pretty good at keeping the outside world, well, outside!

    @Tony I am very interested in your perspective from the inside of the NSW DET experience. If netbooks are the chosen hardware then the missing part of the equation is access to the actual net and the participatory web tools that you wish were part of the mix. It’s just frustrating that the SA approach seems to be to sit on their hands and watch how other states tackle the digital learning access issues – or maybe waiting for the Feds to solve the problem for them.

    @Dean I always feel guilty when you comment because it reminds me of how seldom I give you feedback when I read your awesome posts. So, I appreciate the fact you regularly add in your perspective on my ponderings. The private online sector sounds attractive and interesting but I’m betting that many people in these uncertain economic times will be staying out in their comparatively recession proof permanent teaching jobs (myself included) and concentrate on just moving their own classroom or school forward. The outward connections just help make their own personal craft better – I’m a much better teacher and offering my students much improved learning opportunities because of the connections I have made on my own time – but that is also what is fuelling the frustration! I struggle at conferences now – but still find myself going to them – but I’m more inclined to be a presenter or facilitator rather than a passive consumer. The “private network” is where I now find my motivation and inspiration and I try to share this as much as possible with my colleagues, but online connective learning is true personalised learning which mades very hard to transfer onto the skeptical educator who can’t see the value in the time investment from where they sit.

    Graham Speight who spoke to us on Tuesday at the Masterclass did tell the assembled leaders not to worry too much about the bureaucracy, because in his mind he could see the red tape dispensers becoming less and less relevant to where progressive schools want to go. But at the moment the big bureaucratic department holds a lot of power and systemic change is held ransom to it. I suppose we are seeing the cracks appear in the system and eventually the dam will break. Only those with lifejackets or who’ve learnt how to swim in this connected learning environment will have a chance of surviving and making the shift in what Treadwell calls the new Paradigm.

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