Friday, August 13, 2010

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.


1 comment:

  1. Hi there

    I think it is a shame that the program has been presented to us as a choice between signing up or not, rather than first of all the school providing the information about the program, providing genuine opportunities for discussion of the issues, and then a process being in place for gauging the level of support, BEFORE asking parents to actually sign up. I think there will be quite a few parents who are ambivalent about the proposed program, but will decide to sign up mainly because they don't want their kids to miss out if the program is going ahead. The process we have does suggest that if we don't sign-up now, then our kids will miss out, but surely there will be opportunities to get on board later, if it does go ahead - what about new students who join the school in future, even as early as the beginning of next year? I for one think it is important that if people are not comfortable with the program that they don't sign up to it at this point.
    One of my concerns is that I find it hard to believe the school can afford to pay the costs of setting this program up and properly servicing it once it is in place, given we are always told funds are so limited. I would be interested to know what the costs to the school will be, and to consider what other things the school might choose to expend those funds on, such as more electronic whiteboards, LOTE teaching extended to junior school students, general maintenance and upkeep of the school facilities,a decent music program ... there are many things we can all think of. Is this a priority generally shared by the school community - the teachers AND the parents?
    Another of my reservations is the very intensive use of resources, environmentally speaking, that are involved in every child having a laptop which will end up in landfill in a few years time. No doubt they will all need new models when they get to high school. Is such intensity of use really justified? It seems that the answer to this, we are told, is that the school can't afford to buy class sets (such as might be contemplated if class sets were to be shared, say 3 classes use 3 class sets for one term at a time, and then the class sets go to another three classes the following term, for example), so parents are being asked to foot the bill(whatever happened to free, public education?). And in order to foot the bill, it has to be personalised to each child having their own one. That's my understanding at least. Does individual laptop use really need to start in primary school?
    Having raised a few issues, I must say that it is not a case of my being of the view that children should not have access to computers per se. No doubt new technologies can open up possibilities, bring about new and wider connections between people, etc, etc. It all depends on how they are used and how they are integrated into curriculum in innovative ways. They can also be used as a filler and stop gap, or to play games, with little real benefit. I think the observation about the girl who was more interested in formatting and personalising her presentation with colours and font styles, rather than interested in content, is quite telling of the potential for computers to distract kids from more substantive learnings, as well as to diminish their own physical skills, whether it's handwriting, or drawing a picture or heading. Kids love how computers can make things look so good, compared to when they try to draw and write them themselves. But one wonders if this will lead to a real deskilling of childrens' abilities to make stuff for themselves. I guess it will cut both ways, some gains and some losses. I still come back to the question about whether this intensive, personalised, 1 to 1 computer use needs to start so young. Why can't it wait until they get to high school?