Having ensured that every school student between years 9 and 12 in Australia has a laptop, the government will now focus on what other teaching tools are required for the Digital Education Revolution (DER).
Speaking in Budget Estimates last week, department secretary Lisa Paul explained that since the government met its target in 2011 of giving every child between years 9 and 12 a laptop, it is now looking at what students should be learning using those laptops, and what tools teachers need to be able to effectively teach about the digital age. The department has a digital education advisory group consulting national and international research on the matter.
While the focus of the DER was for a long time about the devices, networks and infrastructure, Paul said that there has also been a lot of money put in to "digital content, and also in preparing teachers for actually teaching using the latest tools and content".
"We are on the cusp of exploring cloud technologies and social networking, and all of the available technology that our young generation uses on a daily basis," she said.
The aim is to ensure that the technology the government rolls out as part of the DER is being utilised effectively for teaching.
As the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is set to pass 201 secondary schools with fibre by October 2012, the government is also thinking about tools that would previously not have been viable because they require high-speed broadband access.
"Videoconferencing has enormous potential with high-speed fibre broadband," department group manager for national schools Louise Hanlon said. "There are examples of how that is being utilised for sophisticated simulations and accessing specialist teachers in areas where it is more difficult to deliver. Videoconferencing is an important aspect of a new wave of teaching which requires high-speed broadband."
Ongoing funding for the laptops-in-schools program, to maintain the one-to-one ratio between students and computers, costs the government $200 million per year. It is a joint agreement with the states, which fund 30 per cent of the cost while the Federal Government pays the remaining 70 per cent. There is another 12 months left on this agreement, and Hanlon said there is a funding review being conducted before the government announces any new agreements on continuing the roll-out.
Liberal Senator Brett Mason highlighted the fact that there have been significant changes in state governments since the initial agreements took place, with Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria all switching from Labor to coalition governments. Mason questioned whether this has resulted in any indication from the states that they might like to change their funding provisions for the program. Hanlon stated that none of the states have mentioned any funding concerns.