Saturday, November 17, 2007

"education revolution", NOT

Rudd's "education revolution" amounts to putting more computers in schools, so that "every Australian student in Years 9 to 12 has access to their own school computer"

And 99 per cent of school children would be given access to broadband connections of up to 100 megabits per second

In response, Howard, was at pains to say that he too liked computers, in this painfully amusing bit of on the run electioneering rhetoric:
"I didn't come here to attack computers. I think we all like computers and we all find computers are a marvellous aid and we love them and they make our life so joyous. We get so much information and they are terrific"
Quotes from The Advertiser, Thursday November 15th, pp. 6-7

No surprises from our pollies here. Their thinking is entirely quantitative - more computers, faster broadband, more information. There is not the glimmer of a hint that computers might be used to transform education in a qualitative sense, to create new sorts of powerful learning experiences that are much harder to create without computers.

I'm not aware of a single Australian politician who understands this issue.

4 comments:

Mark Miller said...

As I once read somewhere, writing can be transformative. I wrote a post on my blog subtitled "The pop culture", taking off from one of Alan Kay's quotes. I put up a bunch of examples of this pop culture. As I did so I realized the basis of it. The mantra of the pop culture is accessibility: Take what used to only be accessible to the professionals and make it available to more people via. economies of scale. It matches the business ethos quite well: faster, cheaper, better. That's pretty much it. What this does is turn an old thing into a "newer old thing". There's innovation at the lower levels of the technology that enable the spreading of the technology to the masses, but the thing people are really using isn't that new at all.

I think the McLuhan quote you put up earlier was apt: "Innovation for holders of conventional wisdom is not novelty but annihilation." The "education revolution" is more evolution. It's newer, but it doesn't threaten the existing order in the schools. It replaces memos with e-mails, web sites for posted bulletins, and word processors for typewriters. It's dynamic "old stuff". IMO when most people use terms like "revolution" in relation to this, they're really talking about automation. This does change things, but not as dramatically as really innovating. Though for a lot of people just going from analog to digital is revolutionary.

Tony Forster said...

If there was any deeper thinking by the advisers who put the policy together, it would never surface in the media releases and doorstop comments in an election campaign.

Maybe from depth interviews with education ministers and shadow ministers at quieter times.

Bill Kerr said...

Rudd's "education revolution" was mentioned a few times at VITTA and VITTA itself promoted its conference on the theme of revolution

This represents an artificial use of language, which has become all too common - words like revolution, literacy and web2.0 are used in ways that obscure meaning and understanding.

The way language is used at educational ICT conferences makes me want to throw up, the list of buzz words is enormous, eg. "21st Century skills" are most definitely limited since they seem to involve forgetting about critical or historical analysis of the past 40 years of computing not to mention 300 years or more if we go back to the Greeks of Enlightenment thinking

After some VITTA conversations I became more curious and searched for some of the fine print of the Labour Party education policy. I found these documents (pdfs):

The Australian Economy needs and education revolution (Jan 2007)

Do a search for "comput" -->> zero hits. Computer promises were not part of the original "vision"

The vision is/was human capital investment, based on quite fuzzy analysis:
19th C industrial revolution
20th C technological revolution
21st C human capital revolution

The sections demonstrating how australia has fallen behind are quite good. It's easy to critique Howard, more difficult to develop a new vision of substance. Instead of a real vision we get "revolution" rhetoric. Why can't the Labour Party use language honestly and call it "evolution" or "incremental reform" rather than use grandiouse rhetoric?

Come election time and the populist digital / broadband / increased access message emerges:
A School Computer for Every Student Years 9-12
Labor's Digital Education Revolution

Noticeable that there is no mention of programming in this revolution. There is some talk about new things that will become possible through broadband

I still think better things were being done at 1990 at Methodist Ladies College (logo on laptops) and that the OLPC which now offers a real take home computer with 3 programming environments (squeak, logo, python) and lots more represents a superior vision

At any rate, these papers do flesh out the ALP policy substantially.

Bill Kerr said...

Revolution of the Mind

Greg Whitby is also skeptical about Labour's education revolution, pointing out that it's teachers not computer hardware that will be the decisive factor in change