The announcement from last weekends COAG meeting on the roll out of laptops for NSW public schools, has produced a frenzy of comments in the media. While most letters to the ditor raised the inevitable- ‘why can’t the money be spent on toilets’ & ‘ I could get a cheaper deal through Harvey Norman’ I particularly liked the banner- ‘Laptops in schools will be antisocial’- A zippy internet connection? sure. A social network no way? The article goes on to decry the fact that students won’t be a ble to access MySpace or Facebook. Apart from the obvious policy/duty of care headaches in allowing free access- I’d argue that with 1.4 million students in the system, this constitutes a significant social network. With the release of the DET learning tools next year, the students will have access to social networking applications- oriented to teaching & learning.
The branding of the laptos in the media as ‘mini- machines or teenage friendly’ (mind boggles)-belittles the worth of the new generation of netbook devices.
Inevitably most teachers and principals I’ve spoken to, are also taking a deep breath and wondering how they’ll deal with the immeadiate logistics. But DET would do well to look at places such as Maine who have now provided laptops for over 7 years to their students. The practicalities of implementation have been well thought through including students undertaking a contract to take them home and not using them while standing. Also their procurement was an interesting model whereby the supplier (Apple) are responsible for networking, software, support and training (a deal brokered with only 34 000 students)- hopefully we can get similar leverage with 197 000. Some interesting comments on the experiences- but our challenge now is not to get too caught up in the pragmatics of the rollout- but rather the affordances. Bectas reports are interesting also from the perspective of teacher access to laptops/Tablets. The literature would suggest key benefits include:
- increased the amount of ICT use and the degree of integration of ICT across the curriculum
- increased motivation, and hence were likely to
- supported moves to more independent and collaborative study