Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Parents' Group

The deadline for the first payment of a deposit is approaching.
The statistics for this blog (the number of visits) has made it obvious that people are still concerned about the 1:1 netbook program (39 visits yesterday).
Those who are still considering their choice, even if they have signed up might want to think further about the following issues before they commit to the next step.

Firstly, it is an individual choice whether you sign up - its not compulsory. Many of those who have not signed up feel that this was the only opportunity to make any input into the ICT education program of BSW Primary.

As advocates for their children parents should satisfy themselves that the 1:1 netbook program proposed is in the best interests of their children's education, home life and future development. They should feel confident that any challenges for their children or their family will be addressed.

A number of parents feel no clear case has been made for the implementation of 1:1 netbooks on the basis of its educational value or the preparedness of the school to deal with the many complex issues that will arise.

One solution which has been presented to parents by the department itself is a Parent Group or ClubThis is an explanation of the role of such a group from Parents Victoria's website.
from Parents Victoria website:

Aims and Objectives of a Parents' Group

The aims and objectives of the Club are:
• to contribute to the wellbeing of the school community
• to encourage the participation of all parents in the life of the school and the education of their children
• to provide opportunities for all parents of students of the school to discuss issues concerned with the welfare and the general education policy of the school and to assist in the development of a shared parent view
• to contribute to proposals on school policy and other educational issues to the school council
• to provide opportunities for parents to get to know each other and to be informed about their child’s school
• to provide information for parents to extend their understanding of school issues
• to work in cooperation with the school council and the principal
to raise funds for the benefit of the school (optional).

About Parents Victoria
Parents Victoria is a statewide democratic organisation representing parents of students in Victorian government schools.
Parents Victoria provides parents with a voice, presenting an organised parent perspective to State and Federal Governments, educational bureaucracies and institutions, community organisations and the media.
We are not affiliated with any political party. We pursue the broad goal of ensuring that education remains free, compulsory, secular and available to all, whichever party is in power.
Supporting Parents
Parents need to be well informed. The management of schools has become a more local concern and parents have a vital part to play.
Elected parent representatives need parent clubs to assist them to access parent views. The parents' club is in the best position to provide an on-going forum for the discussion and development of parent views on the wide range of issues relating to children's education and welfare.
They must have a ministerially approved constitution which must comply with current regulations. Parents Victoria has a package of information to assist.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The netbook is absolutely not a notebook

The screen and keyboard are too small to make them an effective learning tool.
They have a reputation for being very slow especially with Win XP/7 and antivirus software.
Eye strain and cramped shoulders, headaches and neck strain will increase from the tiny screen, keyboard and mouse pad.
Any extended use -20 minutes or more -the netbook should be positioned in a cradle to try to mitigate these issues - another expense (OH&S guidelines from Worksafe Victoria)
How do you stop a child who has their own laptop with music, photos and homework etc from NOT taking it into their bedroom?
When it is not a communal computer for general use but a personal one it will encourage continual use which is not what netbooks are for- with resultant health issues

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


Having families pay for the computer raises serious questions of equity.
What happens to large families and those with fixed incomes or other financial constraints?
How can we knowingly set up a situation of haves and have nots in the free education system? Andrew Boot a parent at BSWP who attended the Student Council on the13th of September and works for Pearson Australia the education publishers is what you would call an expert although he made the disclaimer that he works for the opposition in this situation, at the meeting he pointed out that computer access has to be uniform, the system cannot work where there are children sharing computers, it is the same with textbooks, you cannot have some children without a book. They will get left behind.
I suspect many parents have signed up for this reason and I am so disappointed that all the other reasonable and fair choices which can bring IT to the classroom without families being forced to buy a netbook have never even been broached. WHY?????

Monday, September 13, 2010

OH&S with Netbooks

Hi Mim,
Another point I am not sure that you covered in your blog is that a
netbook is absolutely not a notebook, the screen and keyboard are too
small to make them an effective learning tool. They also have a
reputation for being very slow especially with Win XP/7 and antivirus
software. This issue has been covered in APC technology mag in the
context of business productivity but the same applies to kids. The
times I have used them I get eye strain and cramped shoulders from the
tiny screen keyboard and mouse pad.
You are welcome to add this to your blog, I could not log in.
Jol Blazey (Software Engineer)

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Winter of Our Disconnect

This is a Radio National broadcast of a discussion from the Brisbane Writers Festival. Dr Susan Mouseheart has written about The Winter of Our Disconnect when she convinced her family to drop the devices for a while. Amusing and revealing.

Friday, August 20, 2010

The long term implications.

These following twelve tips for safe Internet use present the two main points that I feel are cause for real concern for parents of children who have 1:1 netbooks, namely:

How do you stop a child who has their own laptop with music, photos and homework etc from NOT taking it into their bedroom? Particularly when it is not a communal computer for general use but a personal one?

How do you monitor amount of use when your child has been using it at school?

I was expecting to fight this battle with a 13yo not an 8yo.

From the site:

1 Spend some time with your child enjoying the exciting things on the Internet and discuss the ways they can use the internet for education and fun.
2 Information on the Internet comes from many sources. Not all is reliable. Encourage a careful approach to 'information' found on the Internet.
3. Be aware of what your children are doing on-line. Have the computer in a public area in the home, not in a bedroom or children's playroom.
4. Too much time sitting at a computer can be unhealthy. Extensive use can result in repetitive stress injuries, eyestrain, obesity, and social isolation. Set a limit (an hour at most) and encourage your child to get out and explore the real world too.
5. Encourage children to tell you about anything that worries them and have family talks about the dangers of the Internet.
6. The Internet is fun, but full of strangers. Children should never give out personal information such as names and addresses.
7. Many Internet sites have questionnaires and competitions. Ask your children to talk to you before filling in any forms.
8. The Internet is a great place to make friends. However, not every one is who they seem to be. Children and young people should check with their parents before arranging any face to face meetings, and ensure that such meetings are in a public place, with an adult present.
9. Encourage children to send e-mail only to friends, so they will have no need to correspond with strangers.
10. Some information on chat lines is not appropriate for children. Teach them to say 'No' to messages, or to leave a site that makes them feel uncomfortable.
11. If your child brings something inappropriate to your attention, tell them you are pleased they did and discuss it calmly.
12. Encourage your child's school to develop a CyberSafety policy too.

Plan B: Reason and Philosphy

I'd so much rather teach the children reason and philosophy.

The following is a link to a 5 min piece about why it is so useful for kids....

Peter Ellerton:
As it happens, after a career of teaching Mathematics and Science, I now teach a subject in Queensland schools called Philosophy and Reason. I was quite struck by how the three strands of the course, Deductive Logic, Critical Thinking and Philosophy, manage to get across just about every thinking skill I have come to believe is essential for good citizenship. Not only that, but state-wide testing shows these students performing at the very highest level across all scientific, numeracy and literacy arenas. As they come from both humanities and science backgrounds and are often unaware in choosing it of the exact nature of the subject, there may be some justification in labelling the subject matter itself as the cause of this worthy effect.

It's not rocket science and it doesn't take a lot to resource a course like this. As one of the cheapest, demonstrably beneficial and most demanded curriculum elements, perhaps we may yet see critical thinking take up its proper place on the national stage, alongside numeracy and literacy. Then again, this argument is over 2,000 years old. I wonder what we've been waiting for ...?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Quote of the Day

Today I listened to a talk on a topic called Social Acceleration, and the lecturer posted this quote:

'What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.' (Herbert Simon)

Friday, August 13, 2010

NY Times article on the effects of computer use on the developing brain

First of a series of three articles published earlier this year.

Mr. Nass at Stanford thinks the ultimate risk of heavy technology use is that it diminishes empathy by limiting how much people engage with one another, even in the same room.

“The way we become more human is by paying attention to each other,” he said. “It shows how much you care.”

That empathy, Mr. Nass said, is essential to the human condition. “We are at an inflection point,” he said. “A significant fraction of people’s experiences are now fragmented.”

Screen Time and Brain Development

I would like to commence the discussion with a bit of screen time for adults

Here is a link to a 55 minute video of Baroness Susan Greenfield from the Sydney Festival of Dangerous ideas in which she explains very well the current thinking around why we have to be very conscous of the amount of screen time we allow growing brains to indulge in.

'Between a child's 11th and 12th birthday in the UK they will spend 900hrs in the classroom, 1277 hrs with their family and 1934 hours in front of a screen. I think that's grounds for investigation at least'

Brunswick South West Primary Netbook Discussion

The proposed introduction of netbooks at BSWP presents many important issues that some parents of the school feel need to be discussed.

This blog has been set up so that a discussion that commenced with the school committee and has continued amongst parents in the school grounds can be shared with the whole school community.

It would be a pity to hurry into a financial and educational commitment that can have profound effects on our children's behaviour, mental health and educational potential without a full and frank discussion first.

I am surprised to find that 1:1 netbook takeup by the school has been presented as a totally positive educational advancement without any discussion of some of the major issues which have been highlighted in the media, educational and academic literature. I have particular concerns around some of these.

On Wednesday 11th August parents were invited to an information session about the introduction of 1:1 netbooks at BSWP. However it was not possible to discuss any of the issues surrounding the netbook proposal as it was made clear that the decision had been made by the school council that the rollout will happen if there are sufficient numbers of parents accepting.

Once a certain number of parents sign up to the program it will have been decided to have passed the parent 'vote' and even those parents who have misgivings will be forced to either take up the netbook leasing program or will choose not to with the attendant acrimony and emotional blackmail between parents and child over their 'missing out'.

The aim is to set up this blog, canvas the issues, distribute the blog details to all BSWP parents and encourage everyone to contribute to the discussion. In this way there is the opportunity for an informed and unpressured debate about a major educational change at the school.