One device per child

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An article appeared on Stuff today discussing how schools wanted funding from the Government for technology (see the article here). This was in response to recommendations in parliaments inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy.

One of the recommendations was that every child should have access to a digital device such as an iPad.

Principal’s are rightly asking for more funding in order to do this. I’m currently on the Boards of two different schools and I recognise that there is little room for what many people would call ‘extras’ in tight budgets. Most schools – Principals, teachers, Boards – recognise the need to have modern technology in the classrooms, but not all of them can afford to introduce them or increase their capabilities due to having to do things like maintain/upgrade buildings and classrooms with what is already limited funding. You can argue that there is set money for building maintenance, however I know that I am quickly learning that that amount is often not enough and schools are needing to break into operations grants or investments that have been made in the past – money/savings they are unlikely to ever have again.

In the article linked above, National MP Nikki Kaye said “the proposals were an opportunity to lead the world in digital literacy.”

I disagree.

The proposals are simply proposals – words in a document. The proposals themselves won’t do anything without the government choosing to act on them.

If the government wants to see New Zealand leading the world in digital literacy they’re going to have to begin investing in education rather than continually taking from it. The government needs to consider funding the majority (if not all) of what is required to put a device in the hand of every child in this country so that they have the tools required to live in this time; so they have the tools required to learn about digital literacy; so they have access to resources, information and experts right where they are.

They need to stop trying to fix something that is working and work on continually improving it.

Our children deserve to learn in modern learning environments that are not constrained by the four walls of a classroom, or the 50+ year old buildings. They should be able to have technology at their fingertips when required in order to learn, to share, to collaborate, to connect and to create.

 

Image source: Flickr – Cem K. (iyiinsan)

iPad 2 requirement at high school

This article about a high school in North Auckland requiring Year 9 students to purchase an iPad 2 has raised some interesting comments, both on the article itself, and also in my Facebook stream.

I happened to attend this high school from Year 9-11, so I’ve got Facebook friends who are alumni of the school. The comments so far on facebook have been quite negative – against the compulsory requirement saying such as ‘teacher’s teach children – not iPad’s’. There were also comments about the closed and over-priced nature of Apple, and that if we are to use technology in school’s we should be using open technology.

I have mixed feelings about asking parents to find $800+ to buy new iPad’s for their children for school. It is a large expense for a lot of parents. However, I do believe if a school is really passionate about using technology in education and is willing to provide the technical support for both students and teachers and the professional development to implement them successfully, then this could be an excellent move.

On the other side, I do agree with one of my facebook friends who suggested open technology such as what Albany Senior High School have done. This gives access to far more families as firstly the hardware is more affordable, but also with a lot of open source software – it is free.

What I would say, is that the school has made an important decision here. It has chosen to go with Apple and the iPad 2. It now needs to follow through with training and expertise given to staff; technical support for students; and an expectation that staff use them in possibly a majority of their teaching. If these things don’t happen then I would say that the negative comments are right. It is imperative that the school uses them wisely in order to see an increase in both engagement and achievement across the board.

We do live in the 21st century. Let’s make sure our schools are using the technology that is available. I’m a PC user who also has an iPad. It is a fantastic device with a lot of potential. There are other devices that are coming closer to it now, so there is choice in the world. Schools do need to consider whether they have an expectation like this, and they need to carefully think through what hardware to use and whether open technology is a way to move forward or not. It’s a tough decision, but it is time for a lot of schools to move forward.

 

Minutes after publishing this post, the following links were brought to my attention:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10739410

http://orewa.school.nz/dms/images/news_articles/Letter_to_Year_8_parents_24_June.pdf

It is important to note that from the letter the school is asking for students to bring a computing device to school. The preference is an iPad 2, however, they could bring a netbook, laptop or other device.
A computing device seems to be compulsory – not an iPad 2.