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Monday, 8 November 2010

Virtual Me

Today all of the HOFs (Head of Faculty) have a cosy little get together and discuss items of importance to our faculties and our school. We normally discuss things like exam arrangements, changes in NZQA rules and regulations, ERO vists etc.  Anything which can impact on our students learning and our teaching can be on the agenda.
This meeting will mostly be about our class structures for next year; who's teaching what, in which room.
But there is an extra item on today's agenda.  Ringo is going to talk to us on Virtual Learning.

Some schools in our region are trying out the use of netbook computers for their students, where they are used to generate electronic portfolios of the student's work, allow access to research tools on the WWW and to participate in an electronic forum, to exchange ideas and concepts, ask questions and hopefully, get answers.

It sounds like a good idea, and there is nothing intrinsically wrong with it, but I'm going to oppose it.

Not because the idea is from RIngo, we're both (I hope) too professional to allow personal differences to intrude.  No, it's because I think it's a waste of money.

To set this up, just for one class we would have to buy 30 Netbooks at about $500 each, install a high bandwidth wireless network and develop some sort of security scheme so our little angels won't be tempted to nick the netbooks.  The whole thing would cost about $20,000 to set up and maintain for the first year.

We have no money in our budget for this.  We, like most NZ schools are so strapped for cash that we;
charge the pupils for their printing
charge the pupils for their work books
charge them for their ID cards
sell compulsory uniforms at a profit

We've just spent on new servers, switches and network infrastructure to the sum of $140,000
We're just about to place an order for 90 new desktop computers to keep our system up to date (about $850 each)
We're going to upgrade to Windows 7 and Office 2010
We've got a higher ratio of computers to students than most schools in the region, because we want our kids to get the best education we can possibly afford, and many of the newer courses (Tourism, CAD) are designed to be delivered via computer.  We really need another classroom of full desktop computers to allow our Integrated Learning classes from Year 9 to fully develop their ideas, and spending money on these limited use Netbooks seems wasteful to me.

Netbooks are great if all you want to do is access the Internet/WWW.  It has been argued that they could use things like Google Docs, or other web based tools, and they can.
All of these web based applications originate on US servers, and the communications pipeline out of NZ and Australia is relatively narrow, and quite slow.  Our pipe out of Nuova Lazio is also narrow, and we don't get good bandwidth, so using web based applications isn't on for the next few years.

The rationale given by Ringo seemed to be that using these systems would allow our pupils to become familiar with social networking software and usage, and the forums would allow them to freely exchange ideas, and the e-portfolios would allow them to maintain a historical sequence of work and ideas.

Apart from the cost, why?
Our kids don't really need to be familiarised with social networking or forums.  When I'm teaching our Year 10s HTML tags, I was surprised this year how many (well over 75%) already knew how to use and create tags for HTML.  They use them in their facebook and other forum pages.
If they want to store historical documents, the current school network gives every pupil 500Mb of storage, which will expand to 5 Gb next year, so they can store documents to their heart's content and can recall anything they've made since they started in school.

I just think the whole idea is a waste of money and effort.  We should be focusing more on the basics, like attendance, class discipline, and even making sure our kids get fed before they come to school.

Just to keep Fflur happy, here's a picture of a blond without any clothes pole-dancing.



  1. My son is attending high school next year, and it will be compulsory for him to have a netbook - at my cost - yes thats right we the parents have to buy them. I don't get it, can't they work on computers at school and then access their work via moodle and google docs from home like we do at East? But we only had two choices for high schools: Rongotai - and I was not sending him there and Welly High - so that is where he is going.

  2. I preferred the scantily clad young ladies.

  3. You could always send him to Nuova Lazio. He's sure of a quality education here.

    What sort of quality I couldn't say, but it'd be different.

    Richard [of RBB] so do I, but Fflur (and Nicola seemingly) needs a respite from all the competition.


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