This past week I was very interested to learn from Bruce Dixon, of the Anywhere Anytime Learning Foundation, that New South Wales (NSW) in Australia has rolled out the first student 1:1 laptop initiative with the Windows 7 operating system. The following five minute video from the NSW Public School System, “The Digital Education Revolution in NSW,” gives a promotional overview of the project. NSW has purchased over 250,000 Lenovo s10e Ideapads (netbooks) for students in this initiative.

Stuart Hasic, in his August 20th post, “Is this Technically the Best 1:1 Rollout in the World?” provides some additional technical details about the NSW rollout I found both intriguing and instructive. As we would find if we attempted a similar initiative in Oklahoma, Australian NSW schools had HUGE differences in the networking infrastructures existing in schools prior to this rollout. For this reason, project administrators opted to purchase and install a “parallel” 802.11N wireless networking infrastructure in each school, with at least one access point provided per classroom. This leaves existing networking infrastructures in place in schools, but provides a robust wireless connectivity layer in each classroom. NSW went with Aruba access points which include Power over Ethernet, a VERY smart choice since ceiling-mounted power supplies are generally not in great supply in older schools. To manage and track a quarter of a million laptops, NSW is using Absolute Software’s Computrace solution. (For consumers, this is sold as “Lowjack.”) Microsoft Office is included, along with the Adobe Creative Suite. This means NSW student digital storytellers won’t be limited to just PhotoStory3 and MovieMaker for their forthcoming video creations, but will be able to use Adobe Premiere.

Governors in the United States, are you paying attention?

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On this day..

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  • Unfortunately you have a situation in New South Wales where they have a 1:1 initiative and some of the strictest Internet filtering rules in Australia. So while they could make videos, educators will be less inclined because policies have made it too hard.

  • Have to say, with the exception of the quantity of netbooks there is nothing thrilling or remarkable about their plan. In fact, a little deeper exploration reveals that the project, like so many in the U.S., is all about hardware, with little-to-no plan for what they are actually going to do with it. For example, the closest thing to a plan is an incredibly vague, single page on their site, laden with the typical buzzwords and little else. Add to that the fact that they have already deployed TONS of hardware, all without a staff development plan of any kind (as of late June they were still developing their “Teaching in the Digital Age Work Plan”, with a paltry 11M budget) and their generally half-hearted comments about anything but the gear, and it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that the primary motivation here is not to develop an exceptional, technology rich learning program, but instead a photo op for the politicians and ed leaders in New South Wales.

  • Unfortunately, little to no thought has gone into the professional development necessary to ensure that the teachers of NSW (and other States of Australia that are seeing netbooks rolled out into classrooms)are adequately prepared to use them to their full potential in classrooms. Hardware is part of the solution, but ensuring our teachers feel confident in the effective and meaningful use of the hardware is the vital key to the success of this rollout. No keys apparent as yet!

  • Les Autres

    So NSW teachers claim this is not supported by professional learning and strategy? The Australian government has a series of Learning In an Online World publications that all states agreed to several years ago, and there has been PD in using ICT in education for at least the past 15 years in that state(I went to an event there in 1995 and it was well under way). Has NSW not been doing the things it agreed to do? Or have teachers not taken advantage of this?

  • To add some context to this discussion, Australia’s “Digital Education Revolution” was an election promise, and I discussed it here after it was first announced when we had a change of power in Canberra: http://paralleldivergence.com/2008/06/01/australias-digital-education-revolution/

    Professional development was a key requirement, but it wasn’t really discussed at the time. New South Wales’ interpretation of the federal government’s commitment has definitely included Professional Development and Learning resources, but these things are not politically “sexy” so they do not get highlighted. The NSW Education Department’s Intranet contains many resources to assist teachers with implementing netbooks in their classrooms. But it will require teachers to change. The federal promise was for student computers only. NSW realised that teachers must also get them and funded that themselves. There was a discussion about which teachers to allocate the first netbooks to: http://paralleldivergence.com/2009/06/26/which-teachers-should-get-a-t1-laptop/

    Finally, if you are interested from a student/parent POV, here is the NSW DER website containing FAQs and more: http://www.schools.nsw.edu.au/gotoschool/highschool/dernsw/

  • Simon Crook

    CEO Sydney rolled out laptops (Macs or HPs) to Y9s in half of its schools back in 2008. They would have rolled out the other half around the end of the year if DETNSW had not delayed their own involvement (a delay that affected the whole country for Round 2 with the creation of Round 2.1 to accommodate DETNSW).

    I believe DETNSW were heavily influenced by CEO Sydney’s model of rolling out laptops to Y9, albeit with different spec machines.

    As mentioned, PD is crucial to the success of the DER. To this end we have developed an Archdiocesan Strategic eLearning Plan and created many online and face-to-face eLearning PD opportunities. The uptake of teachers in online courses, undertaken in their own time, has been staggering (1240 in one course!)

  • Wes, there are some problems in taking this at face value. 70% of kids go to public school, and 90% of Web2.0 is blocked by the filter for staff and students. They claim duty of care, let that law also applies to private, the follow up argument has been bandwidth – which is vastly improved by the new infrastructure. The government prefers to create pilot projects, and internalise production – using Wonderwall, not teen second life, internal blog engine, not Edublogs etc., and only a tiny proportion of schools have access to showcase ‘technology’. The biggest issue is that PD is not being provisioned in anything like the same proportions – and DET remains a patriarchal bubble, leading to a) loss of staff to other systems or b) economy education. As to the video – that was professionally made, using kids from a performing arts school – and you’ll notice the images of ‘brave new world’ all over it in post production – yet no teacher voice. DER has done a good job rolling out the plan – however, you have to wonder how $6000 – the cost of one laptop per school – could have been used to develop eLearning – and how well execs, with little experience of eLearning are going to make effective use of the USD$6000 (per school-ish) allowance they have been given to ‘train’ staff. It is a beginning – but pedagogy remains missing – as most of the teachers doing amazing stuff – can’t do it inside the bubble (yet). Please don’t get the impression that the reality – is the video – which is designed to ‘rally’ the troops – who are tired of the politics and under-investment in PD. Developing whole school strategy at the individual school level remains problematic for most teachers in public education. My kids go to public school.

  • Jim/Jenny
    Yes on the limited information you have read you would be correct the focus is on the technology however please read the full information:
    – Curriculum Support & Professional Learning Materials: http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/digital_rev/index.htm
    – Professional Learning support for Leaders: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/der/index.html
    – Digital Learning objects custom for the laptops: http://www.tale.edu.au/tale/live/global/DERNSW/laptops.jsp? (there is 1000’s of other digital learning objects in TaLe but you need to be a DETNSW teacher to log in)
    – 6m Direct to schools for action learning projects, relief and professional learning specific to DERNSW (this is in addition to existing PL budgets) for the 09/10 year
    – 2.3m to Regions to support schools for the 09/10 year
    – First roll out of teacher laptops was as far away from students laptops as we could possibly make it (without federal political imperative would have been longer) with a another teacher roll out this year.

    The program delivering this is lead by a School Educational Director and comprised of Principals, Head Teachers and Teachers working very closely with IT. It goes without saying we have a very strong focus on teaching and learning.

    For an educational perspective watch this: http://lrrpublic.cli.det.nsw.edu.au/lrrSecure/Cli/Download.aspx?resID=9186&v=1&preview=true

    Ben 🙂

  • @Ben Thanks for posting the links to the work being done by the NSW Govt. I’ve taken a look and can see that a lot of time and effort has gone into this. My concern is that teachers aren’t learning how to develop Personal Learning Networks for themselves and making the connections with other educators who are on the same learning curve. To me, understanding the full potential of learning with laptops is understanding the connective environment that is enabled with this tool. It’s the people behind the screens who make learning interesting, and connecting with other educators and students can lead to very powerful learning opportunities. I may not have stumbled on it, but I didn’t see any reference or link to networks of educators like ‘The Future of Education Ning’ ‘Classroom 2.0 Ning’ The English Companion Ning’ etc or reference to Australian classroom practitioners who are writing about what they are doing in their classrooms to make experiences like this happen. (Please correct me if I’m wrong.) We need our teachers to be able to find people they can talk to. They can do this by engaging in discussion threads on nings or leaving comments on blogs. They can experience the effectiveness of learning this way first hand if they realise these networks exist. It may well be they will have to be led to them. If they begin to understand they can learn this way then we will see teachers begin to understand how they can make opportunities like this possible for the students they teach.

  • @Ben Thanks for the links – they should be a part of the main site. I was particularly pleased with the content at https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/der/staffdev/pedagogy.html . Couple things:

    1. I didn’t see a lot about actual implementation of the strategies. There was much about how pedagogy “should be” developed, but little as to how it “will be”.

    2. It appears that the intent is to handle much of this via online learning, which, in our experience, doesn’t result in broad and consistent adoption/success, largely due to motivation and time issues. Based on the budget, however, I don’t see how you can do it any other way, which gets back to the budget prioritization problems.

    3. I also didn’t see any sort of plan to build up a local support structure through the development of school based mentoring and modeling programs, which include critical out of class time to work on building up the staff. Again, based on our experience, a local champion is critical to consistent and widespread adoption, and these folks require lots of support.

    4. There still doesn’t seem to be much about teaching and learning in a classroom full of computers, short of some vague references to others’ strategies. A classroom with full-time access to laptops is a very different environment from a limited-access computer lab, so past practices and support content are far less relevant than forward thinking, transformational pedagogy. Continuous access changes the game from the traditional “technology time” mentality, however without strong leadership, mentoring, and modeling, 1:1 environments can easily devolve to that very model.

    5. And finally, in classroom management strategy appears to be rather lacking. Logins to Active Directory and an anti-theft policy are simply not enough. How will you empower teachers and students to solve their own problems? What sort of access to their machines will students have, and how will you address the ramifications of such access? What tools will teachers have at their disposal for monitoring student activities, controlling the laptops, sharing content, etc.?

    All that said, it does look like an exciting opportunity for teaching and learning in NSW that, I must admit, makes me a little jealous 😉

  • Jenny/Jim
    You both raise similar issues, the PLNs both virtually and physically are being setup by the regions (we are 540+ schools across 801600sq/km this is not easily done centrally). The 10 regions are setting up networks and online collaboration spaces (mostly using Sharepoint or similar). The regions are running a variety of programs including KLA workshops, action learning projects, light house schools, technology leaders, etc. As in other big education systems around the world teachers use the tools available to them to develop their networks as they see fit.

    An internal Blog tool is under trial now and will be rolled to all teachers and students that includes a media library and is integrated with our active directories so students and teachers can be added with ease. Following this roll out (a lot quicker as all the hardwork will be done) is a Wiki tool and an online collaboration tool similar to Google Docs called eBackpack giving students cloud based storage. (more info: https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/strat_direction/schools/ccp/index.htm)

    For more detail on specific laptop pedagogy (the https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/der/index.html is more focused at the school leadership level) this http://www.curriculumsupport.education.nsw.gov.au/digital_rev/leading_my_faculty/index.htm is a really powerful resource that focuses on the needs of key learning areas at the Teacher and Head Teacher Level.

    Jim your point 5 is something I’m really passionate about. Here in NSW we do have an amazing piece of technology for monitoring/controlling what students are doing with their laptop. Not only this our technology, understands curriculum, differentiates and personalises learning, provides welfare support and are really friendly to talk to. We call our monitoring technology “Teachers”, my favourate quote from the Denison video is “I don’t foresee any problems, its the curriculum that drives the management strategies”. Some research by Intel of 1:1 laptop in Australia found that monitoring/controlling software had a negative effect on the teaching and learning process because what would happen is the student would start to own their learning and work at their own pace, the teacher then assumed that they where off task and locked their machine.

    Ben 🙂

  • @Ben I agree with your perspective on control to an extent, however I disagree that there will never be situations where a teacher might want to keep an eye on student activities within their own class and, at their discretion, make appropriate choices based on the tasks at hand. While I appreciate the Utopian ideal of your statement, the practical reality is not nearly so simplistic. I completely agree with your statement, “We call our monitoring technology “Teachers””, however these teachers will be most effective if given the tools, talent, and discretion to make the decisions that they believe will most effectively drive learning in the classroom. To suggest that those tools do not include something to, at the very least, view what their students are doing, demonstrate procedures and functions, and collect information/feedback is simply shortsighted, and I can guarantee will hamper your adoption rate in a dramatic way.

    I also think you overemphasize the last part of my 5th point while ignoring the rest. Will the students have root access to their machines (administrator rights for Windows folks) to do with as they please and, if so, what mechanisms for recovery from failures will you have in place? There is nothing worse than being the one student in class whose laptop doesn’t work because of a simple (or even complex) software problem that, with the proper foresight, can be resolved quickly and effectively, perhaps even instantly. After all, you are already at a disadvantage as you are starting with Windows (shameless plug for open-source here 😉 )

  • @Ben Based on my experiences with Sharepoint, I’m figuring that hosting blogs and wikis in there will mean they are of a walled garden variety; locked to members only? This approach (if that is how it is going to work, and please, correct me if I am mistaken)goes against the kind of thinking displayed by thinkers like Stephen Heppell and Mark Pesce, both who feature as links for teachers to listen to in the NSWDET links you have posted. Where’s the opportunity for a global audience?

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  • Jim
    I think we will have to agree to disagree with the monitoring software versus hardware. Yes it has some benefit but I’m yet to be convinced on a cost benefit analysis when compared to using quality teaching as a management tool.

    Your request for more information on device security is a good one, whilst I understand the technology stuff I much prefer to focus on the teaching and learning, so here is the technical security for your enjoyment:
    1. Computrace – reports on any unwanted hardware/software changes direct to the school based technical support officer so they can locate the device and repair it.
    2. No screwdrivers TSO support – if the TSO can’t fix it on the spot the student is instantly allocated a replacement (all managed through paperless asset tracking. The broken device is sent away for repair, files backed up to the local server will automatically synced back to the new laptop.
    3. Windows 7 SSCM – It is aware of what the laptops image should look like, will self repair if folder error detected. All updates new applications and group policy is served through the SSCM server.
    4. Windows App Locker – Only approved applications can be run on the device
    5. Local stored image – User can re-image device on demand (after authenticating)
    6. Locked down system, user can not access registries or BIOS

    Jenny
    We are not using sharepoint for our Blog & Wiki tool (although not sure if you have seen SHarepoint14 as it does B/Ws much better than current version). We are making custom tools, the teacher can opt to make public and interact with a global audience.

    Ben 🙂

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