A new report by the federal government’s Digital Education Advisory Group (DEAG) has stressed the importance of transforming teaching and learning through digital education. The advisory group’s Beyond the classroom: a new digital education for young Australians in the 21st century report notes that, while current initiatives have been successful in bringing digital education into classrooms, there is still a way to go before schools are providing a truly 21st-century education.
Digital Education Revolution: The federal government’s $2.4 billion Digital Education Revolution (DER) has supported the use of technologies in the classroom in order to prepare students to learn and live in a digital world. DER initiatives have included the National Secondary School Computer Fund, which achieved a one-to-one computer–student ratio for students in Years 9 to 12, and the One Laptop per Child Australia Project, which has provided students from remote communities with purpose-built, high-quality laptops and education software.
Tablets in the classroom: Schools across the country have participated in iPad trials through initiatives such as the iPads for Learning program in Victoria, which targeted a mix of primary, secondary and specialist schools. As a result, many schools have since integrated tablet use into classroom teaching.
Blended learning: Alternative learning models have also made their way into schools, including the blended learning model, which combines class time with off-campus online learning. One school that has implemented blended learning is Hawker College, a government secondary school in the ACT. The school’s mathematics faculty offers three senior secondary mathematics subjects online, with students attending weekly seminars that support the completion of online learning modules.
DEAG has made several recommendations that it hopes will be implemented by schools in the future. The implementation is likely to be shared between governments and individual schools.
Some of the key recommendations include:
Increasing funding for digital resources: DEAG has recommended that government funding should continue to target the distribution of digital resources that are required to support the new Australian Curriculum. Priority would be given to resources that support the development of ‘21st century skills’ and those that focus on enquiry-based learning and design thinking.
Moving to a ‘Bring Your Own Device’ model:A key recommendation is for the increased availability of ‘smart devices’ in school settings through a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model. How this is implemented will vary between schools, as ‘bring your own device’ has already been interpreted in different ways, including bringing a device from home (such as a tablet or laptop) that can be used on the school’s network or, alternatively, having access to school-owned devices that can be taken home for private study. It is expected that implementation of the BYOD model will be made easier by the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN). For more information about BYOD programs, see BYOD in Education — a joint report by Dell and Microsoft concerning BYOD in the Australian and New Zealand education systems.
Strengthening partnerships in education: A further recommendation is to strengthen partnerships between schools and cultural, non-profit and commercial organisations. Resulting contributions could range from the supply of IT infrastructure to the co-development of resources to support teaching and learning.