BILLIONS WASTED

Kevin Rudd’s vaunted Digital Education Revolution scheme was in place for some five years, the Commonwealth government spending billions to provide almost a million laptop computers for secondary students. Despite, or perhaps because of, the massive expenditure, the educational performance of Australian students did not improve.

The educational utility of electronic devices is not well established.

In the heart of Silicon Valley is a nine-classroom school where employees of tech giants Google, Apple and Yahoo send their children. But despite its location in America’s digital centre, there is not an iPad, smartphone or screen in sight.

Instead teachers at the Waldorf School of the Peninsula prefer a more hands-on, experiential approach to learning that contrasts sharply with the rush to fill classrooms with the latest electronic devices. The pedagogy emphasises the role of imagination in learning and takes a holistic approach that integrates the intellectual, practical and creative development of pupils.

But the fact that parents working for pioneering technology companies are questioning the value of computers in education begs the question – is the futuristic dream of high-tech classrooms really in the best interests of the next generation?

A global report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests education systems that have invested heavily in computers have seen “no noticeable improvement” in their results for reading, maths and science in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests. The OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher says: “If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they’ve been very cautious about using technology in their classroom.”

“Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately,” he adds.

Yet a proposed restriction on classroom use of electronic devices …

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham has come out in favour of locking mobile phones away during school hours.

“Classroom time is for learning,” he said.

“Not to be distracted from learning.”

He did concede mobile technology “has its place” as a learning tool, but said “there was no conceivable reason as to why students need to access their personal mobile” at school.

is not well received by experts:

But Dr Joanne Orlando, an expert on children and technology with the University of Western Sydney, disagreed.

“A blanket statement like that takes us a few years back from all the work we are doing in education and training,” she said.

“There are so many new ways that mobile devices can add to the classroom.”

Classroom use of electronic devices enhances learning through:

  • covert recording of lessons;
  • photographing or video recording of teachers or classmates;
  • game playing;
  • cyberbullying;
  • text messaging;
  • updating social media.

The potential upside is, however, greater than the downside:

The President of the NSW Secondary Principals’ Council Chris Presland said removing phones from schools was not something “that advantages students educationally”.

“We talk about trying to stimulate STEM education in our schools — science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he said.

“And at the same time it seems quite bizarre that we’re talking about banning the most obvious forms of technology at our disposal.”

He said there was an “issue” of cyber-bullying via a smartphone but banning it “actually diminishes the capacity to use it in a positive way”.

The educational benefits of electronic devices are iffy at best:

A global report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests education systems that have invested heavily in computers have seen “no noticeable improvement” in their results for reading, maths and science in the Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) tests. The OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher says: “If you look at the best-performing education systems, such as those in East Asia, they’ve been very cautious about using technology in their classroom.”

“Those students who use tablets and computers very often tend to do worse than those who use them moderately,” he adds.

 Other reports have raised concerns about the potentially negative impact of social media on young people, and the disruptive behaviour associated with use of mobile phones and tablets in the classroom is being examined in the UK.

Finland, a top educational performer, eschews electronically enhanced learning:

Finnish students and teachers didn’t need laptops and iPads to get to the top of international education rankings, said Krista Kiuru, minister of education and science at the Finnish Parliament. And officials say they aren’t interested in using them to stay there.

Sadly, Australian students can complete high school unable to properly, read, write and accomplish basic arithmetic. Such is the brave new world of leftist-dominated education.

 

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