Last week, we found out that the government's program for providing computers in schools has been such a success that they've actually bought more computers for schools than originally intended.
Education Minister Peter Garrett said that over 911,000 computers have found their way to Australian schools — many more than the 786,000 target.
The original plan had been to provide every child in years 9 to 12 with a laptop.
The schools had $1000 per student for the laptop, and $1500 for installation and maintenance. The Australian quotes Julia Gillard as saying that the extra purchases were due to flexibility, with Peter Garrett's office saying that the states got more bang for their buck. This is great, although I did have concerns that schools might have gone for cheap and nasty in quantity over quality laptops that will last.
But whatever happened, you'd think that we must have more laptops than children.
Or do we?
The education departments also said that some schools have opted for tablets, such as iPads, freeing up cash for extra purchases.
I've been thinking for hours: does buying iPads go against the government's original intention for the policy? Can you still say that the goal has been achieved?
My conclusion is that schools know their students and their curriculum best. They will know if their students already have laptops and need a more portable, instant-on device. And they will know whether they'll be able to make better use of tablets to access textbooks than laptops to do assignments on.
After discussing it with my colleagues at ZDNet Australia, we decided that if you really need a keyboard to get your work done, then you'll probably be using the family laptop/desktop at home.
So, if we put aside worrying about school bags breaking fragile screens, then it's probably not really such a bad idea for schools to have opted for iPads.
Of course, given that I did a reasonable amount of homework on a bus to athletic carnivals/in the car to netball/on the boat back from rowing training, I think I'd still have wanted a laptop.