Discernment vs digital

I was interested to read an article in the Sunday Telegraph, (Criticism for Rudd school plan, 6 April) in which (public) school principals expressed concern that the Government’s Digital Education Revolution had “failed to address a number of issues: funding for the ongoing maintenance and eventual upgrade of computers… associated infrastructure of traditional classrooms…professional development for teachers….”

These are certainly valid points and given the short time-frames involved in the first phase of the Digital Education implementation, I believe the government’s ‘promise to deliver’ has obscured some fundamental questions, which all educators should be asking. We have, for decades, been lobbying governments for more resources and support especially since the technology revolution. There is no disputing that our schools need to be well equipped for the reality of living in a knowledge age.

However, it seems that the first stage of the government’s agenda misses some fundamental points of why schools need ICT and how it can best be used to improve learning for all students. The government has responded to the question of ‘how’ do we give every child a computer and seems to assume that computers for each student will of themselves improve the learning and deliver the schooling society is now demanding.

We must learn to walk before we begin to run.  Therefore, we need to ask and answer six critical questions before we flood our secondary schools with computers.  I believe these are:

  1. What is today’s world like?
  2. How do young people learn in today’s world?
  3. How do you make schooling relevant?
  4. How do you support good learning?
  5. What are today’s pedagogies?
  6. What tools are needed to support todays pedagogies?

No-one wants to waste increasingly scarce resources; everyone wants the best outcomes for school communities.  But simply handing over equipment as the solution to learning has never worked as a stand alone strategy.  Why should it be different in the knowledge age? Let’s ask the intellegent questions and take some time to develop some intelligent answers.


9 thoughts on “Discernment vs digital

  1. Greg,

    You make some very good points here. It is all well and good to dump 300+ computers into a school, however we need to ensure that our teachers are supported in the use of this technology. Good professional development around the use of technology and the implementation of it into today’s curriculum is essential.

    We also need to consider the physical cost of these extra computers in our schools. We are lucky in the Parramatta Diocese as we have a good (growing) infrastructure and a good support structure setup. However I feel for the schools who have to work out basics things such as storage of the new computers (knowing that storage in a school is always hard to come by) and other schools (not in our system) who have to deal with the support and maintenance of the extra equipment. On average the TCO of a single computer is around 40% of the initial cost per year – and this doesn’t generally include the acutal infrastructure cost. I sympathize with the schools/school systems who still have to fund this cost from their own very tight budget.

    Anyway more computers for our kids is a good thing. Let all educator’s band together and take full advantage of what the education-revoulution is providing.

  2. hi greg,

    the “digital revolution” idea was one plausible way for rudd to distinguish his party from Howard given there were so many other similarities – matter of fact, rather than cynical voice here

    your questions are good but not the way government will operate, they are too big and all encompassing and imply some sort of mega-change, which I agree is desirable but not what the rudd government will want and in fact would meet with resistance from teachers too, overt and covert. Your web2.0 ideas might work in a niche supported by good leadership but how could it work across the whole system(s), I can’t see it

    by my reading of the international trends in education plausible change will centre around the issue of teacher quality – as flagged by the McKinsey report, Brian Caldwell (you had an earlier blog about that) last years Senate Inquiry and also by the Pearson / MacQuarie Uni “Teach for Australia” proposal for aboriginal education.

    Even there I don’t feel particularly optimistic – teacher quality is expensive and the razor gang is out there

  3. Bill

    I agree with you about the challenges of moving the agenda forward on such a large scale. The idea is to start at the local level by up-skilling people and giving them a taste of what’s possible. The challenge then is to connect them to an even greater learning network that is organic and participatory rather than the typical top-down approach.

    When teachers share good practice they inevitably raise the professional bar. This won’t happen overnight but I think the wheel of change is building momentum…..

  4. Greg, I think this policy was an expensive PR Job.
    It doesn’t do much good to the credibility of our policy makers. Although one could entertain the idea that the intentions were good.
    I think real change will only come from the bottom up….we just need more pressure in this pressure cooker of ours.

  5. Dear Greg,

    Another key issue in moving forward with changes in education is informing and assiting parents as well as teachers that changes need to be made. Most parents have been brought up in a world where learning is justified by how much information can be written in an exercise book and how well their child performs on a summative exam. They still see technology as an add on to education and that the core to learning is the rote learning of facts and exam performance. Parents often feel that the time that students spend on facebook, myspace, bebo ect is meaningless in terms of education. They do not see the collaboration, comunity building, communication that exists here. The reason for this is often because their child does not use these tools correctly. But who is teaching them to use them correctly?

  6. Dear Greg,

    I am sure you are very aware of our schools PBL project – being lead by Gavin Hays. What I am not sure you may be aware of, is that this is being driven by a Classroom2.0 environment. I spend a great deal of time in the ‘metaverse’ with global peers – so I am confident is saying that ’21st Century Learning’ is core to the PBL project. Although PBL is one significant discourse – the way in which we are facilitating is also quite unique. On your next visit to the Parra Marist – you might be interested in seeing it. I get the SHIFT, and we are entirly Classroom2.0 in facilitating PBL – and of course we are advocating this to the rest of the school – so have a number of what I would consider ‘model’ examples of how we are doing it for students, and how we are supporting staff in developing and re-inventing assessment tasks down to classroom activities.

    Dean Groom
    Parramatta Marist Educational Technologist

  7. Dear Greg,

    I agree with your six points for consideration. I think it is extremely important for teachers step outside their squares and take the plunge. They need support from those who can gently take them on the journey. Profession Development is essential but it needs to be accountable. As a College Librarian and educator I have started my own journey in the World of Web 2.0 taking small steps. Having listened to Will Richardson last week confirmed what Gavin Hayes was talking about. We can learn so much from our students, but we do need to show them how to use the tools correctly and appropriately.
    Gina Geoghegan
    MacKillop College, Warnervale.

  8. Good to see the positive responses and the optimism. It all starts with the first, as the chinese proverb says “the journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”.
    The key issue for me is that we are all learners and can continue to learn. Gavin this is the answer to the parent question you raise. Involving by giving them access to their kids schooling will rapidly change them. Everywhere I go the successful schools have robust virtual involvement opportunities for parents when, where and why they need it. Our current moels of info sharing at the parent teacher night is a far cry from this

  9. Hi. Thought you might be interested to check out the forum I have just created for teachers to discuss the uses, shortcomings, lesson ideas, etc of the NSW DER Laptops. Click on my name to visit the forum and please pass the details on to other teachers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s