“The Australian Government supports the use of new technologies in Australian schools to prepare students to learn, train and live in a digital world.” (sic) SOURCE
It has reached the stage where the contradictions in government education policy in Australia are leaving satirists with very little to parody. In a time where we are ‘falling behind’ and need to become more ‘technologically savvy’ there is a credibility chasm, widening as each month rolls by on the education calendar. Dot points on new syllabus documents, policy pronouncements, ‘declarations’ and rhetoric are fine when they are backed by credible decision-making and leadership.
It was not possible for me to answer parent questions tonight, at our fifth and apparently final DER NSW laptop briefing for parents and their children, about our school’s provision of laptops post-2013. We have no funding to supply laptops or tablets and no knowledge of what plans are afoot to address this issue. We practically have a fleet of close to 800 laptops to maintain. One parent said, “how can you just stop supplying laptops next year to some kids while others have them”?
What could I say that made any sense?
More to the point the principal has no idea when he will know the answer either. We were unable to say we are moving to a BYOD policy and to recommend devices. We just do not know what is going to happen. How do we balance several years with Lenovos and other years with BYOD or nothing? We certainly want to make a decision but have no idea what funding is to be available.
Many critics of the laptop rollout do not undertand the the DER NSW scheme was the greatest equity policy in the last 20 years in education. Kids got opportunity and many flourished. This rollout also gave state schools a welcome boost in the eyes of parents. It certainly was not perfect but vastly improved opportunities for pedagogy and gave us a sense of forward motion. There were some teachers and schools that could have engaged more fully with the program but overall, the chalkboards disappeared.
I rarely feel angry or frustrated knowing that life is far too short for such emotions. One just needs to get on with it. However, last year, I became very angry after discovering that the ‘savage’ budget cuts in education made to balance the inevitable ‘black holes’ newly elected governments need not have occurred as there was an ‘accounting error’. Actually, 2011 had a moment of disbelief at the federal budget, then anger too which has not subsided. The results really make it difficult for school leaders and teachers to operate as effectively as we might.
1. Schools in NSW have had funding slashed at the moment a respected panel of eminent citizens advised government to provide significantly higher levels of support for those doing ‘the heavy lifting’.
2. The federal government agreed with Mr Gonski and panel but have not detailed funding arrangements for the states.
3. The federal government has ended funding for laptops and support that commenced in 2008.
4. State schools are unable to plan for their technology needs in 2014 due to lack of funding, political and leadership direction on this issue of fundamental importance.
5. A policy of Local Schools Local Decisions is increasingly being reported as in disarray by the media at the very moment when our schools need to plan in the face of change and implement sound ideas quickly.
It feels very bad to stand in front of hundreds of kids and their parents and say this is the last rollout of Year 9 laptops and there is no plan – at any level of our organisation, state or federal government – to sustain this or introduce improved technology in 2014 that I can share with you at this stage.
How can this be?
“I don’t think the Commonwealth Government can announce a programme of this importance, then say ‘that’s it’.”
What I know to be true, we cannot afford to tread water or go backwards…
What is your school planning to do in 2014 re: technology? Laptops, iPads, tablets or are just not sure how it is all going to pan out at all?