Sunday, 21 September 2008

It is Right in front of your nose...SEE?

Ok loath as I am to start getting political and ranty - there comes a time. On Friday I had a great email from Dr Craig Smith from Innovations and Excellence at the Dept. letting me know that we were able to be the only govt school to receive funding for the Powerful Learning Programme run by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson. This is a great honour and I am so pleased my school will be able to access this programme and the knowledge it will provide for staff. The funding is fantastic and I have the awesome Jenny Luca to thank for the recommendation.I was so excited about this and I have the holidays to read up about the programme and discuss with others how best to make use of it. Super - love some good news, especially after the excitement of the arrival of our new macs.
I wondered why I have no comments under my new movie after tweeting it a few times to see what folks thought. It was my first real attempt to use iMovie and though very rough and full of poor camera work- because I was so excited I forgot I was filming on several occasions- and I felt I had really started to work it out. But no-one came or those who did , didn't comment. Disappointing I thought oh well.. never mind. But when I think about it it is so tiny in the sea of other peoples achievements and what they are doing. Five laptops in a school of 1200 students - do the math and the techies are having real trouble working out how to add them to the network. Reality check Sue and so I went back to planning how I would make use of them.
Then last night I was chatting to Sue Waters who was bemoaning the inability of twitter to be reliable- a four hour outage- and we chatted about my week. Somewhere in the conversation I mused about the fact that the PLP programme was great but the eternal issue of 'I've run out of Internet money Miss..' would raise its head and she was aghast. Yes our kids have to pay and yes if we do anything substantial eg my use of the amazing Carrot Mob movie (short version below) to discuss optimism and social change and the kids blow all their money on the download and I have students telling they are $7 in the red because of the movie I told them to watch.
YES Susan - THIS is what is stopping adoption of more web 2.0 technology and teaching more than anything else. No the teachers are not slack or luddites, it is just that anytime they stuck their heads out of the sand they failed because the system doesn't allow them to succeed. Students get $2 at the start of the year and they have to top it up all year. Many forget or protest, many parents refuse thinking their child has been playing games or just can't afford it.
I have had conversations with many classroom teachers about this and admin people as well. Our school budget and the plan we have been locked into by the department make it very difficult to change and what might happen if it were made 'free' worries these folk greatly.
So let me know- how does your school fund the internet? Do you students pay a levy? What plan is your school on? I need some solid help here and some suggestions to help change REALLY happen. Thanks to Sue Waters who then posted about this and has made me see what is in front of my nose and really try to do something about it.


Suzie Vesper said...

Hi Sue,

Make that two aghast people. Paying for the internet??!! I've never heard of anything like it. Certainly no school in New Zealand does anything like that. Noone would every use the technology at all then and there are enough barriers already. All I can see is good luck! I hope you manage to get around this somehow. I have colleagues involved in that programme with Sheryl and Will - looks to be a good one!

etalbert said...

Hi Sue,
I was totally lost for words weeks ago, when I heard that in Victoria students have to pay for internet access.
Is this the case across the whole state?
What polices of government or your Department have created this situation?
What do your school leaders think?

This situation must create serious disadvantage and I agree it is time for action. But what are your best avenues for action?

dean said...

I have never heard of such a thing. Firstly being a 'global citizen' is fast becoming not only vital, but a basic 'right' of students. Being able to access information, connect with conversations, people and events is key to their entry into the global society. Making students pay to do this is at the very least, discriminatory.

MCEETYA in the draft declaration for Australian Youths National Goals states "ncreasing global integration and interdependence, as well as increased mobility and migration, are
driving the need for greater religious tolerance, an appreciation of cultural diversity and a sense of
global citizenship and commitment to peaceful conflict resolution among all Australians. "

There are numerous passages in this, and in the core requirements under the Rudd Government's Education Revolution to which this idea of 'pay for access' is totally oppositional.

I don't think Sue, that this is a school issue - so much as an example of the digital divide that the government and MCEETYA is focused on changing.

If my child could not pay for internet access, then they are disadvantaged. As one of my kids can't advocate for his own learning needs yet - I am one of those parents that has to 'call out' systematic floors and bias. I would not pay for that access - but I would fight the school tooth and nail over such a biased and discriminatory approach to learning.

It's fantastic you are on the PLP - Right now I am not sure that school executive - including mine - realise just how much impact Will and Sheryl are having on grass roots educators. I am sure that this policy will be picked up globally in that regard.

Its a 'global citizenship' issue is something that concerns everyone. It would make an excellent question to ask my students who are now very aware of audience and the power of connected learning.

Not Good Enough.

FManning said...

Hi Sue, as a teacher in a Primary school in NSW I was amazed at this situation. We take for granted that we have access whenever we want.

Our teaching relies on this access and we have encouraged our teachers to continue to intergrate ICT's into all curriculum areas-to encourage purposeful, engaging, real life, relevant learning for all our students and staff.

I cannot believe that students in your school are being restricted in their use of this important learning tool because they have to pay for access. Free access to the internet should simply be a given in educational institutions. We use the internet to research, communicate, publish and share work in our school.

Free and ready access to the internet is an essential requirement in learning situations in today's world.

Jane Nicholls said...

That is just ridiculous! I can't believe it? You must be joking! We need to support you to get this changed! Personal learning network unite!

Heather said...

I'm a teacher in a Victorian state secondary school. I hadn't realised that other states "didn't" make their students pay for access. Our teachers often complain about students not having any internet credit and how that interferes with their lesson plans but one thing they can do is request specific sites be made free for students to access for a period of time. In addition there are a number of sites that are permanently free, some part of an educational "cache", others at our request.
I agree that we should be providing access for free. At the same time as having the problem of kids running out of credit we also have kids spending time on educationally irrelevant sites, specially, but not only, outside class time - it's harder to justify asking them to stay on track when they counter with "I've paid for it"!

Anonymous said...

No students or staff are ever charged for internet in NSW public schools...though we are constantly and severely hampered by the blocking and limiting of access to a wide range of sites.

The biggest site that I want access to is gmail! Students should be able to access a private email account, as well as their Google RSS feed reader, and create and share Google docs and spreadsheets etc. Currently this is all blocked, along with YouTube and Blogger.

That combined with the overall slowness of the schools computers can sometimes make even the most avid user of e-learning tools dread a computer lesson.

mindelei said...

Honestly, this sounds bizarre to me. In the US internet is either available or it isn't. To my knowledge, there is no "pay to play" type of program. How do you keep track of billing and such? What is the rational of having to charge for it? Is it really that expensive? This all seems so strange to me. I hope that you are able to find a reasonable solution to this issue.

Colin Becker said...

This is absurd.
When we were charged per MB by our ISP, we used to give students an internet quota and if they ran out, we would give them some more. (We did the same with printing at one time and while there was a dollar amount, it wasn't actual money that they had paid.) If they had been using access for non-school work, then their request for more may have been refused.
This is many years ago. For the last 5 years at least, we have been on an unlimited download plan and while we educate students about wise and valid use, their access is unlimited and paid for by the school. The process of checking internet usage took up so much teacher time that we abandoned it even before we went to an unlimited plan.
I would have thought that the education dept would have a plan that wasn't charged per MB and therfore amount of use doesn't really matter. I can't believe that they are actually charging students for use. What's more, they are charging students for accessing material that is already in the cache - ie the video is only downloaded once and then it is cached and other students should be accessing that copy and not a fresh download.

Sue Waters said...

Hi Sue, had dinner with Lauren O'Grady last night and we talked about this. It was funny how her immediate response was Victorian schools have to pay -- it was sort of like that how it is and has always been. So I'm glad you told us about this because it shouldn't be how it is!

loonyhiker said...

In my district here in South Carolina, all of our schools have access to the internet. In fact we have computer labs and labs in our libraries for students to use and the internet does not cost them anything. The cost of the internet is in the school budget and taxpayers contribute by paying their property taxes here. It's a shame that your district is holding kids back by holding the internet hostage this way.

diane said...


Charging students for Internet use would be seen as elitist and exclusionary in the U.S. Do your students also pay for library access? What about materials in science labs?

Do teachers have free access to online tools? Are they hesitant to assign research projects that would utilize digital resources.

This policy seems incredible to me - can't wrap my mind around it.

Emma said...

I've just read this & hadn't realised you're in Australia! (I got here from Sue Water's post). I've just come across a similar situation - in Beijing. Here, the students aren't (as far as I know) limited to the amount they can download, rather they pay either for local access or (considerably more) for international access. So, planning classes which involve Internet research is difficult.