I’ve reproduced here an email I sent to the current Federal Minister for Education (Julia Gillard), and her potential successor (Christopher Pyne). I would encourage everyone to do the same as the Federal election grows nearer.
Dear Minister and Shadow Minister,
I am the Head Teacher Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) at Erina High School in NSW. We were recently lauded by the Minister in a speech to the Press Club about the work that we are doing with laptops as part of the “Education Revolution” funding made available by the Federal government. The issue of education funding after the upcoming Federal election is the reason for this, my first foray into political lobbying.
I don’t think I can quite describe adequately the massively positive impact that the laptops have had in my school in particular. Certainly, there have been implementation issues to overcome, but we do this willingly because we see the “big picture benefits” that this particular initiative has provided us, and will continue to offer, should the funding remain available. When I say we, I mean everyone involved in this initiative: the staff, students and invaluable technical support from the NSW Department of Education and Training.
I’ve seen first hand “hard to engage” students buy into learning activities for seemingly the first time because a combination of the laptop technology, the teacher and the resources used in the lesson inspired them to participate. I’ve also witnessed hardened and sceptical teaching staff, including those who initially had limited technical skills or interest in technology, become invigorated and find new challenges and rewards in their work after training with the laptops. They now leap into their own learning with vigour and take on new things together with their peers and their students.
The pedagogical variety and depth has changed almost overnight, with staff wanting to apply technological solutions to areas that they have found to be traditionally hard to teach.
But most dramatically, the quality of what we do in class has seen the greatest changes. We can now instantly place what we do in the real world and have students create, problem solve, collaborate and communicate in a way that appeals to their unique generational instincts.
That’s not to say that traditional teaching goes out the window – my faculty area relies on practising very interpersonal, human skills to be successful. However the “revolution” that is the availability of laptops in my room, in the hands of my students has changed the way I think about teaching, for now and probably for the rest of my career. This new synergy between old and new educational techniques is, I think, moving my teaching practice along with contemporary society.
Which brings me to my point. I would like a straight answer from both the current Federal Education Minister, and her potential successor. As the funding for the Digital Education Revolution (DER) laptops for students in NSW comes from the Federal government, will the next Federal Education Minister guarantee that the funding will continue to be available?
I’m sure I speak for my colleagues in NSW when I say I certainly hope so.
Yours sincerely, Brendan Jones
PS – if you would like to see first hand the professional dialogue that the DER program has generated in NSW first hand, search #DERNSW on Twitter.