State schools in NSW are grappling with a post-DER world. The Digital Education Revolution funding from the federal government provided Lenovo laptops, technical support and wireless coverage to schools. For the last 5 years Year 9 students have been issued with a laptop. That has all evaporated with no funding from the state government to continue any aspect of the program, including Technical Support Officers who help students and teachers with their devices, managing all aspects of the rollout. There are approximately 600 devices in our school to continue to be managed but no funding to do so.
Our school does not know, due to administrative reform, our budget for next year. It is challenging to plan how we will fund technical support or what technology students will have in Years 7-9. There are three options we are considering:
- a) LOCKED DOWN – provide the laptops (or devices) for students
- b) REQUIREMENTS – Provide parents with the preferred devices, software and retailers
- c) BYO ANYTHING – as long as it connects to the internet
Option A will result in many parents not purchasing the device offered by the school and we do not have funding or a TSO to manage the devices the school as we have done for the last 5 years. Option B is the most likely to suit parents, teachers and the students. The devices listed need to be considered carefully. The key issue is to decide what software is a requirement and what will be provided. No support, other than connection to wireless will be offered. Option C is likely to limit what teachers and students can do and, at this stage of the school’s tech trajectory, is probably best avoided or deferred.
2014 looms large and decisions need to be made. Pedagogy must be considered first and foremost but considerations about the far-reaching decisions being made about the role of corporations in Public Education should be thought about deeply too. Digital citizenship becomes even more important, as does being critically literate in a rapidly-evolving, changing world. Although it sounds trite, one needs to make the best of the situation and find opportunity for students. However, just imagine the army asking all their soldiers to ‘bring their own weapon of choice’ due to funding cuts? Oddly enough, it personally suits me for students to BYO(anything) but teaching staff have a number of serious reservations about this approach. Equity is a key concern.
All three options will likely create equity issues that need to be resolved. It is challenging to plan for this reality at the moment as the school does not have a good idea of our funding, as a ‘Empowering Local Schools’ pilot participant. State schools await BYOD policy and legal advice to be completed and distributed. There are a range of issues that parents, students and teachers need to understand. A literature review and other resources are provided here.
In an era of managerial reform, there is an inherent irony that, regardless of what changes are made, students will have to write fast, in a pen and paper exam, just as their grandparents did.
Featured image: cc licensed ( BY NC SA ) flickr photo by Darcy Moore: http://flickr.com/photos/darcymoore/8617915931/