As computing is my main teaching method, the IT facilities that are available in classrooms is an issue that's fairly important to me. As such, the current situation in most NSW schools, especially public schools is a bit worrying. I'm not all that familiar with other states, so they may be better or worse.
In Australia, education has generally been fairly slow to pick up on technology, which is a little strange because on a whole, Australians are quick to adopt technology - we love new gadgets! Education seems to be an exception to this rule however. A vast number of schools are working with computing technology that's close to a decade old: Windows 95 or 98 and various hardware, most of which is equally as old. Schools are trying to use software like AutoCAD, Corel Graphics Suite and Adobe PageMaker and the computers simply can't keep up. Either the programs take minutes to load, or they regularly crash and/or loose data due to the lack of memory and processing power in the computers. Not to mention that a lot of new software requires Windows XP, and most schools don't have it (or have limited numbers of it). Schools are able to get software at academic pricing and seem to be able to get good application software, but it seems to be the hardware that's letting everything down.
The question is: why is this? Firstly, are there any hardware suppliers offering academic discounts like the software suppliers do? If not, why not? Secondly, I believe that this is an issue of funding priorities. The Dept. of Education is likely to fund the purchase of software over hardware for a number of reasons, but two main ones stand out:
- Hardware is more expensive and time-consuming to setup
- Being able to say to parents "we have the latest AutoDesk CAD software" is more attractive than saying "We have computers with AMD Athlon XP chips and 500MB of RAM", as most parents (not to mention teachers) wouldn't have a clue what that means.
There is a need to upgrade the hardware that schools use, and quickly. If we hope to be able to prepare students for life in the 21st century, we have to introduce them to the technology that they will be using, not the technology that their parents' used. Also, it's forcing teachers and students to waste valuable class time waiting for software to load due to insufficient hardware. This leads to students becoming disenchanted, not only with the technology, but with the school. They know what technology is available; they've probably got it at home! This often then leads to classroom management problems as students become bored with waiting when they know they shouldn't have to.
There seems to be in the Department, a problem with priorities when it comes to IT. There's not a single public school in the state that has technical support staff. All the department provides is an allowance equal to twelve periods a week for tech support, which generally means that one of the computing teachers picks up the tech support/systems admin responsibilities for the entire school network, which is a job that requires much more time than the allowance pays for, not to mention that they're required to do all their normal work too. This is a large strain to put on teachers, when very few computing teachers have experience in systems administration and technical support. May I point out here that I have nothing but admiration for the teachers that dedicate their time & effort to keep school networks running. You deserve more support & recognition than you get. I know how thankless a job tech support is.
While I understand that there's never enough money, I feel that this is an area where some money needs to be put. Yes, upgrading the hardware in schools is something that would cost a fairly large amount to begin with, but it isn't a regular expense and it could be rolled out incrementally. Also, once the hardware has been upgraded to current standards, it wouldn't need to be upgraded for a numbers of years to come. Also, while having full-time tech support for all schools may be implausible, maybe having a few tech support staff for each district who do phone support and then can schedule on-site callouts on request would work.
On this topic, there's a good article in the SMH's Technology section on the use of 'Smartboards' – electronic whiteboards that have had great success in Britan's classrooms.
"They act like a normal (data) projector screen," Kennedy says, "displaying what's on your laptop (to the class), but they actually react to touch. So pressing the screen (on the wall) acts like pressing the mouse... You don't need a whole suite of computers. I watched maths teachers play interactive maths games on the internet with their whole class."
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Posted by: l | Apr 19, 2004 3:19:33 PM
My school in Kansas faces the very problems outlined. I also find it troubling that we are to prepare students for the "real world" using technology/hardware that is so old. Many of the computers at my school are nothing more than glorified typewriters. Nice weblog - I'll check this out daily.
Posted by: MrC | Apr 19, 2004 11:54:43 PM
we have been using this online English reading and math for our classroom instructions (www.3ALearning.org). The program leverages the state-of-the-art technology and focus on individualized instructions. The innovative instruction management system allows teachers to track students progress and generate progress reports in real time. I highly recommend this to any teacher, parent who are looking for a high quality,comprehensive curriculum:
Posted by: victor | Nov 26, 2007 3:52:08 PM
Thought you might find this interesting...
Magazine’s Annual Education Report Reveals Anti-Literary Epidemic
November 2008 (RALEIGH, NC) – Educating potential gang members, an anti-literary epidemic, “real education,” and college prep scams are only three of the subjects covered in Raleigh Metro Magazine’s annual Education Report, on newsstands now in the November edition.
Senior writer Liza Roberts celebrates the efforts of one dedicated retired teacher from Los Angeles battling Durham’s high school drop-out and gang involvement through EDGE, a special school she founded that keeps kids off the street and helps them steer their lives back on track. EDGE stands for Education, Development, Growth and Employment. Despite the school’s quantifiable success, its future is threatened by a severe lack of funding.
Education expert George Leef discusses the concepts behind The Dumbest Generation, a new book by Emory University English professor Mark Bauerlein that insists technology is creating an anti-literacy epidemic, resulting in thin vocabularies and short attention spans.
“Bauerlein explains that the style of reading that young people adopt from their Internet immersion is marked by very limited vocabulary, aversion to lengthy passages and ‘scanning’ rather than close reading,” Leef writes. “Most Internet material is written with those habits in mind – quick, easy, chatty.” The problem with this? “Serious thinking depends on the ability to read and analyze difficult material,” he asserts.
Leef also takes a look at Charles Murray’s radical new book Real Education, “debunking the idea that because college graduates have higher average earnings we should try to put more kids through college.” Murray rocked the academic world with his first book, Losing Ground, an equally controversial look at conventional liberal viewpoints.
Nathan Allen, the author of several books on college testing, bares the truth about college prep courses in an article entitled “Are You Being Scammed?” What he reveals could save parents a bundle of money.
Metro’s Arch T. Allen discusses a new autobiography by Howard Lee, chairman of the NC State Board of Education, entitled “The Courage to Lead: One Man’s Journey in Public Service.” Lee, 74, was elected mayor of Chapel Hill in 1969 and has served in the NC Senate.
Established in 1999, the four-color monthly Metro Magazine has a circulation of 40,000 with readership from the Triangle area of North Carolina to the coast
Metro’s November content, including the annual Education Report, is also available online at www.metronc.com.
Posted by: Kim Weiss | Nov 21, 2008 4:04:14 AM