Devices in Australian Schools

Modern devices and software offer many educational benefits, with Australian schools opting to take advantage of the mobility that new technology can provide. We haven’t quite landed on an ideal setting that includes equal access to devices for students across Australian schools. In 2007, Kevin Rudd jumped straight into the deep end, when he proposed a scheme for all high school students to receive a laptop. The cost and maintenance of this program was well overlooked, with students consistently having issues with laptop functionality, placing greater strain on schools and government funding (Wright, 2013). Six years down the track, Australian education communities are trying to come up with their own systems for equipping students with devices, which begin to raise concerns of access and equity.

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Following Rudd’s unsuccessful laptop scheme, the Department of Education has introduced a new policy for high school students, BYOD – “Bring Your Own Device” (Smith, 2014). Many schools have adapted this new policy in various ways, with some requesting that all students must have the same operating system (e.g. students can only bring in devices manufactured by Apple). While it may be more convenient for schools to run and maintain appropriate software and Wi-fi access for one operating system, it places financial strain on families. However, schools that have an open BYOD policy then struggle to ensure the quality of resources among students, as there may be gaps between devices functionality. Additional limitations include a school’s location and socio economic rating. There is also concern that too much technology can hinder the significance of interpersonal communication and cognitive function, being a major distraction for students. High school curriculums are undergoing a dramatic transition, being consistently challenged by the tendency of IT models in learning and teaching (Foo, 2013). Devices aid learning for students, whom can also help teachers with modern technologies – ultimately, we need to create an educational infrastructure that can achieve a balance in access, as well as usage.

References:

Foo, F 2013, Schools Make a Move to BYOD, The Australian, weblog post, 7 May, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.theaustralian.com.au/technology/schools-make-a-move-to-byod/story-e6frganx-1226636277661&gt;

Smith, A 2014, It’s BYO Laptop now as Schools End Free Program, Sydney Morning Herald, weblog post, 21 February, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/end-of-free-laptop-program-means-its-byo-device-now-for-many-high-school-students-20140220-334bz.html&gt;

Wright, J 2013, Computer Cash in Lap of Chaos, Sydney Morning Herald, weblog post, 3 February, viewed 11 April 2014, <http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/computers/computer-cash-in-lap-of-chaos-20130203-2dr65.html&gt;

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The Significance of Social Media

Interaction is a significant aspect of human culture. An article by Mike Laurie investigates the different ways social media has changed us. Over time many different forms of communication have evolved. From inconvenient, labour intensive technologies such as Morse code and carrier pigeons, to instantaneous connections through wireless devices. Rather than posting a letter or buying a newspaper we are now able to share, produce, and circulate endless amounts of information in simple and effective ways.

Skeptics consider social networking to be straining society with regard to social etiquette and identity. However, I would deem these to be issues within the media as a whole and not just social media. Consider a teenage girl reading a magazine – the collaboration of articles and images would produce something to the effect of: “Wear this. Wear that. Act like this around boys. If you’re thin and pretty you will be happy and popular”. In this sense, the consumer only has the option to do just that – consume. And while these same messages may be sprawled across the Internet, we are no longer lazy consumers of passive messages – we are active participants. Social media is about being connected, engaging with old friends and creating new experiences. Instead of being limited to the information in a 25-page magazine, we can now explore what feels like infinite amounts of content. Laurie describes time before the Internet to be when limitations of learning existed due to poor literacy and lack of access to books. If “knowledge is power” and you have access to continuous information distribution, your desire for knowledge is legitimately within fingertips.

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An article By David Wallace outlines the statistics with regard to the influence social media has had beyond the notion of socialising. Employment, news, law enforcement, education, political participation, economy, music industries and marketing systems have all been prompted and enhanced through social media. A report by PEW suggested that social networks have encouraged younger generations to be more involved in political issues, a fine example of society being more interested and informed with the world around us.

Through citizen journalism comes the rise of “gatewatchers”, where user-generated content flows freely among platforms. Axel Bruns (2003) states that social networks fabricate participant communities through various understandings and interpretations. Bruns states that blogging should be recognised as a significant form of journalism. Online gatewatchers may actually compliment the mainstream journalism industry through the diversity of discussion and debate, no longer being limited by the “gatekeeper”.