The educational digital divide

Dapto nbnImage source: NBNCO

In Australia there has been a shift in educational materials, especially within High Schools. Gone are the days where you find yourself walking around a store with your parents searching for the correct stationery. Schools this year have seen the implementation of bringing a device such as a Tablet or Laptop to class as a requirement. Caringbah High School has seen this policy implemented with 150 of their year nine student’s stated to be ‘embracing’ the policy (Smith 2014).  Though this policy has the potential to create economic class warfare as the child’s family’s economic status will decide which device, if any, that they will be able to bring to school.  Smith (2014) described this as a “digital divide” though is this inevitable? Laptops are now part of the culture of education as are pens and paper (Wright 2013), thus, this is an issue which needs to be overcome.

With the Federal Government no longer funding the Laptop for school’s program, schools have had to find alternative solutions. Some schools have made arrangements with a private provider thus allowing parents to buy a laptop under $1500 or provide a renting scheme (Wright 2013). This perhaps will allow those with a lower socio economic status to provide their child with a sufficient laptop.

Laptops do provide benefits within the class room by connecting students to organisations and other teaching facilities across the globe. However, to allow these students to efficiently use these devices better broadband infrastructure needs to be implemented. The Labor Government started to implement upgrades on current communications infrastructure under the National Broadband Network (NBN). Though this infrastructure has not been installed in many areas, it has been installed in my area within the Illawarra (Dapto and Kiama), with 11 900 homes in Dapto soon to be connected to the NBN (Lynch 2013). Therefore students from Dapto High School will be able to benefit from this implementation and their students will have a fast and more efficient internet usage.

This is beneficial to Dapto High as Smith (2014) states student’s devices must be compatible with the school’s existing Wi-Fi network. Though with the implementation of the NBN it would guarantee up-to-date Wi-Fi connection infrastructure therefore allowing all devices to adequately connect.

There are clearly obstacles in implementing a device driven education structure. It can create class warfare between students and communication infrastructure needs to be updated to allow this education system to effectively provide students with the learning benefits that computers can provide.

References:

Lynch, C 2013, NBN rolling out in Dapto, Stephen Jones MP, Website Blog post, 31st July 2013, viewed 9th April 2014, < http://www.stephenjones.org.au/nbn_rolling_out_in_dapto >

Smith, A 2014, “It’s BYO Laptop now as Schools End Free Program.” Sydney Morning Herald, 3rd February.

Wright, J 2013, “Computer Cash in Lap of Chaos.” Sydney Morning Herald, 3 Feb.

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