Wednesday, 01 April 2009 | 9 Comments
I have watched with interest the Digital Education Revolution proposed by the Australia Government. Issues of cost seem to have been resolved and I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the NSW DET is pushing a one laptop fits all model (although I think it’s flawed). I’ve read the tender for the “DET Learning Device” and have even dissected it with my computing class. But today, 1st April – fitting really – a significant step to realisation has been taken with the announcement of the hardware and software to be supplied.
All along I have had concerns about this roll-out.
The Premier in his announcement notes,
Secondary teachers will begin receiving laptops during Term 2, 2009 to coincide with their professional learning programs.
Students and teachers will be using the same technology, and we’re giving our teachers a head start to familiarise themselves with the technology before it hits the classroom.
In a normal term there are about 4 hours set aside for professional learning (basically staff meetings). I have to assume this is the time that will be used for “professional learning programs”, as the Government cannot afford to give 25 000 teachers even a day off for training. This will not be adequate to equip teachers to deal with this massively disruptive change. Do not read me saying that there should not be change, of course there should, but the timing of this roll-out seems to be about State and Federal Government’s wasting time discussing funding and now pushing a change through to appease voters.
Reading the original tender, the focus was clearly on a hardware device. Statements about the suitability of the device for learning were generic. So, I have tried to get answers from the DET CIO, Stephen Wilson and from the Laptops 4 Learning section of DET as to the software included with this device for Mathematics. Some examples I included were:
I have been advised to wait to see what the tender delivers. Reading the announcement today, it delivers no specific mathematics applications. Not even Microsoft Math despite bundling the Office suite. It seems that education today according to Mr Rees is about the ability to “create videos, edit photos and make presentations for class assignments and projects.” Sure, great things, but our students need more.
Under Part 1: MANDATORY Requirements, the DET Tender states: “The device must provide a minimum of 6 hours of typical operation on a single battery charge”. This always struck me as not possible from a device currently on the market.
The device chosen, the Lenovo IdeaPad S10e lists in it’s specifications “Battery-life 6-cell: up to 5.0 hr” and any purchaser of a laptop knows that number is optimistic at best. And I think that the DET know this. The announcement today notes “extended battery life”... hmmm…
My school is still waiting for toilet upgrades, long promised. Carpeted classrooms, promised, but we don’t really want.
Personally, I’m just waiting for a VGA cable to connect my laptop to my projector (it’s been about 6 weeks now). I’ll end up buying other cables myself, because I can’t wait any longer.
Can the DET deliver? Track record suggests not.
I’m concerned because I can see ahead a massive challenge to teachers (a good thing), with a lack of support (bad), tools that are not up to the task (read battery life, software), continued frustrations with a knobbled internet and a Government pinning the blame back on teachers because they’ve given us this shiny technology so why aren’t students more engaged and achieving higher exam results?
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Simon Job — eleventh year of teaching maths in a public high school in Western Sydney, Australia.
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