Monday, 03 October 2005 19:05

Education institutes must catch digital wave

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A report prepared for the ACT Department of Education and Training suggests that portable devices, like iPods and mobile phones, will become essential pieces of equipment that every student at school, TAFE or university will need to own.

Rather than disruptive devices that should be banned from educational settings, the report , by education.au, found exciting education and training uses of technologies and devices like these both in Australia and overseas. 'In some ways the education and training sector hasn't kept up with the technologies its students are using on a day-to-day basis and appropriated them for education and training purposes,' says Gerry White, CEO of education.au, the national ICT agency owned by all Australian Ministers of Education and Training.

'It's starting to happen, but it will be some time before the technologies students are using as a matter of course are also a regular part of their formal learning experiences.'

In the education future, the MP3 player probably won't look quite like the current generation of devices - they could look more like a memory stick with a roll out screen, and have a memory capacity sufficient to carry not only a student's lifetime of notes, but all her/his essential references, assignments, presentations, portfolios - all in rich media - along with a vast personal library of songs, audiobooks, photos, and movies. This device will be an essential requirement in the digital backpack of students in the 21st century.

The report provides an overview of new and emerging technologies that could or do have education and training applications - from infrastructure technologies like wireless LANs through to identification technologies like Smartcards and RFID, to devices and technologies students of all ages and types will use as part of their day-to-day learning experiences.

'Infrastructure and purchasing decisions by education departments and organisations must take into account the technology future on our doorstep,' says White. 'On the one hand we need to utilise student's digital literacy for learning purposes, and on the other manage the risk of deciding on a particular solution.

"Once an organisation commits to an infrastructure and set of devices then they have to be maintained, upgraded and supported. With the wide variety of devices and technologies currently available, new ones constantly appearing, and the fast rate of change, being able to predict the future is becoming part of the skill set needed by those responsible for developing strategic directions and making purchasing decisions.

"This report helps ACT DET look into the future and provides a framework they can use to evaluate the relevance of emerging technologies to their needs.'

The report identifies a number of key trends for consideration such as mobility, interoperability, and convergence, and points out the importance of the wider environmental context in making technology choices. It also provides examples of how educational use of new and emerging technologies can have benefits for disengaged youth, distance education students, students with disabilities, and in addressing the various learning styles of a student cohort.

'There are huge potential benefits for students if educational organisations harness emerging technologies for teaching and learning,' says White.

'Today's students are already 'digital natives' and the education and training sector needs to ensure that students' educational experiences are relevant to the modern knowledge economy and to their experiences outside the formal education environment. It is very encouraging to see education departments, like ACT DET, taking the initiative in thinking carefully and creatively about how they can best utilise what technology has to offer to achieve better educational outcomes.'

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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