More laptops than kids, seriously?

More laptops than kids, seriously?

Summary: 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.

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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.

Topics: Government, Government AU, Laptops, Mobility

Suzanne Tindal

About Suzanne Tindal

Suzanne Tindal cut her teeth at ZDNet.com.au as the site's telecommunications reporter, a role that saw her break some of the biggest stories associated with the National Broadband Network process. She then turned her attention to all matters in government and corporate ICT circles. Now she's taking on the whole gamut as news editor for the site.

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2 comments
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  • I would think one would want spares in each school.

    After all, laptops tend to get cracks at the lid hinges and students are not the most careful with devices, especially if they did not pay for them.
    Patanjali
  • How about some fact checking, please - Victorian Government schools were limited to purchasing computers from a pre-approved panel of suppliers and models.

    http://www.education.vic.gov.au/management/ictsupportservices/ictproducts/desktopnotebooks.htm

    http://www.education.vic.gov.au/management/ictsupportservices/ictproducts/notebooks.htm

    To quote from the first link: "Use of the above ‘Authorised Suppliers’ is mandatory for purchases using funding under the ICT Grants – Increased Access to Computers and the National Secondary Schools Computer Fund (NSSCF)."

    I cannot speak for other state schools, but at least in Victoria we weren't allowed to buy iPads with NSSCF funds.

    You're right that the schools, rather than the State or Federal governments, are better placed to decide which devices to buy - however, having our choices limited to that of a supplier panel makes the point rather moot. That's not to say the devices on the panel are cheap and nasty - just not what some schools would have put down as their first preference.

    (Disclaimer: I work in the IP department at a DEECD school)
    doctorjbeam