A summary of one perspective on the Digital Education Revolution

Have to give a 5 minute summary of an earlier presentation on the Australian Government’s Digital Education Revolution (DER). The following is a first draft of the summary.

Technological change and schooling

When do you think the following quote was made around the likely impact of a particular form of technology on the formal schooling system?

Our school system will be completely changed within the next ten years.

The rise of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) – as evidenced by the Australian government spending some $2.4 billion on ICTs for schools – might suggest that it is a recent quote.

In fact, Saettler (1968, p. 98) cites this quote as being from Thomas Edison in 1913. The full quote from Saettler is

Books will soon be obsolete in the schools. It is possible to teach every branch of human knowledge with the motion picture. Our school system will be completely changed within the next ten years.

Given what you know about schools, how did Edison’s prediction pan out?

The DER

The Digital Education Revolution is a Government program looking to invest some $2.4 billion into schools with the aim to (ANAO, 2010)

contribute sustainable and meaningful change to teaching and learning in Australian schools that will prepare students for further education, training and to live and work in a digital world.

Where a “digital world” is defined as (DEEWR, 2010)

a highly technological and information rich world that is rapidly changing

The problems

The problems with the DER are significant and plentiful, a small subset include:

  • The vast majority of the funding is going to the supply of laptops/computers/iPads to students.
  • These computers will be with students for four years and as time progresses will be increasingly underpowered for the tasks students will need them for.
  • There remain questions about funding for laptops for the next “generation” of students in 4 years time.
  • There remain significant infrastructure problems within schools around enabling these laptops to be effectively used.
  • Piddling little amounts are going to train teachers and teacher educators and set up infrastructure.
  • What little money is available for these tasks is being spent on approaches for which there is little evidence of large-scale, past success.
  • A range of other Government projects (e.g. standardised testing, performance pay etc) are argued to be the wrong drivers for whole system reform (Fullan, 2011) and appear to work directly against the aims of the DER.
  • The way schools are set up, the way they work was in response for a different type of world. The resulting “grammar of school” (Tyack and Tobin, 1994) does not appear to be appropriate for the nature of the “digital world” that the Government is trying to prepare students for with the DER.

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