The Internet is impacting on all aspects of people’s lives; how we communicate, how we learn, and how we access information is increasingly being transformed by the technologies provided to us (DCITA 2005). There exists little doubt that the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) in education can effectively strengthen practices and engagement. Devices that were once banned in classrooms are now becoming an integral part of student learning.
Kevin Rudd had big plans for the use of ICT in schools in 2007. The ‘Digital Education Revolution’ program was announced, which would provide students from years 9-12 with laptops and continual funding to keep them ‘cutting edge’ (Taylor 2013). Instead, the nation saw a slow start to the scheme, followed closely by its axing in 2013 due to lack of funding. The uncertainty surrounding the plans for the campaign left school teachers unsettled and also concerned about equity issues that would arise if the cost of laptops was shifted to the parents (Wright 2013).
This year, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies have begun rolling out in NSW secondary public schools. Public high schools students that missed out on the government laptops are now required to bring their own laptops or devices to school in order to aid learning skills and foster digital literacy (Smith 2014, DET 2013). Again, concerns arose about the digital divide that would be created between those families who could afford the technologies, and those that couldn’t and would suffer as a result (Smith 2014).
NSW Secondary Principal’s Council President, Lila Mularczyk, suggests that this equity isn’t an issue, as school communities have always helped families in need, and that this isn’t an exception (Smith 2014). There are also many other issues that come into play when considering BYOD programs in schools, such as distraction, privacy issues, security, storage and so on. I don’t believe that equity should be one of them.
With the prices of tablets reaching all time lows, devices can be purchased for under $150. Additionally, the costs of many traditional education requirements such as reading and writing materials are eliminated and school communities are generally willing to lend a helping hand to those in need. So why should everyone suffer?
In the digital age, it is essential that young people are skilled in the use of ICT. Being empowered technologically and participating in the knowledge-based economy from an early age will ensure effective use of ICT in all facets of life. These positives of ICT in education will far outweigh any modest inequalities that have been anticipated.
Department of Communication Technology and the Arts (DCITA) 2005, The Role of ICT in Building Communities and Social Capital: A Discussion Paper, DCITA, Canberra, viewed 11 April, http://www.archive.dbcde.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/23737/The_Role_of_ICT_in_Building_Communities_and_Social_Capital.pdf
Department of Education (DET) 2013, Student Bring Your Own Device Policy, NSW Government: Education and Communities, viewed 11 April, https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/policies/technology/computers/mobile-device/PD20130458.shtml
Smith, A 2014, ‘It’s BYO laptop now as schools end free program’, The Sydney Morning Herald, 21 February, p.2.
Taylor, J 2013, ‘Australian government quietly ends laptops in schools program’, ZDNet, 21 May, viewed 11 April, http://www.zdnet.com/au/australian-government-quietly-ends-laptops-in-schools-program-7000015650/
Wright, J 2005, ‘Computer cash in lap of chaos’, The Sun-Herald, 3 February, p.11.