Saturday, November 19, 2011

Oh Labour, Why Can't You Think?

Back in July I had a look at a paper about how the government could give kids devices for e-learning.

I was appalled with it. It missed some of the most obvious bits needed to make a 1:1 program successful. Anyway, it seems Labour's education policy, in the section titled "E-Learning and Engaged Young People", has actually been silly enough to think that a government pushed programme of this sort is going to work.

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project identified that it's not enough to just give out the laptops. It's all very well for the country's government to come up with the funds. However, if there is no sense of ownership in the device, problems over care start to pop up.

In the Manaiakalani project this has also come up. The sense of ownership is also an opportunity to teach things like warranties, insurance, finance etc.

I can't emphasise just how important this is. Ownership of the device is absolutely key.

The devices themselves do not make e-learning work. In fact, drop the e. It's just not important. It's all just learning. What needs to happen for learning to work? You have to have buy in from the staff and the staff must feel supported. So a majour investment must go into the ongoing professional development of staff. No two ways about it.

Schools need to be thinking about what they want to accomplish from these devices. This really should involve the community. What do parents want their children to be learning? What do parents fear about the online world and how can those fears be mitigated? In other words, PD (Professional Development) for the community as well.

Government is a hammer. No two ways about it. They prescribe ways of doing things. Thus, the community, nor the school, will ever feel they own the programme if it comes from the government. This sort of thing works best from the bottom up. The best way to put an end to any positive talk about 1:1 programmes, in my opinion, would be to push it on people.

So what do I believe this money should be spent on?

  • The development of software and platforms that create a sustainable software stack that address New Zealand school children's concerns.
  • Enabling the schools to put in structures to develop a program. i.e. for the Manaiakalani project we have the Manaiakalani Trust that must have a certain amount in the bank to underwrite all of the netbooks.
  • Professional Development, Professional Development, Professional Development. If all you're doing with your computers is using a word processor, you're not really learning. I don't believe any school can do this on their own. We're lucky in that the people behind the Manaiakalani project keep looking around at other projects around the world.
I know, it would've sounded a little less grand saying "We'll enable schools to put together learning programmes around 1:1 devices" than "We'll give your poor kids computers!" but, it would have sounded well thought out. This is what is really missing from any policy I've seen during this election. 

None of them really reason things out and figure out what the government's involvement should be and all seem to be a bit of flash to gain votes rather than coming up with real policies that actually do something positive. Imagine it - an election where you didn't feel that you were just voting for a name rather than how much good you think they would do in parliament based upon what they're saying they're going to do. The number of times I've heard "What's the point? None of them keep to their promises anyway". I think I'd be horrified if they did..

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