The school where I have most recently worked has had a laptop program for staff and students (from years 9-12) for the past five years. This was a major investment that was very popular in the community for the first few years, where we were quite early to take up the introduction of one-to-one. For the past two years it has been evident that the machines have been past their best years and as the school moved towards evaluating and moving on, repair or replacement of components like power cables etc became problematic.

In regards to networked equipment, most classrooms have a hardwired PC, projector and screen and some have an interactive whiteboard (although not any that I have taught in). Capacity to mirror devices has not yet been possible and getting some teacher-owned devices onto the network has not been possible.

Use of technology over the time of the laptop program has been far from optimal. Many teachers are reluctant to really invest in innovative, engaging use of technology and many students are happy to appear engaged with a device with very little real learning occurring. Students have used their devices most often for word processing, internet research, social media around network blocks and gaming with very little other constructive use. As stated in my previous blog post this is a school with compliant students, so it is not always obvious when students are not engaged in learning as desired.

The driving force behind innovation in this school comes from some of the college leaders as well as a small group of staff who are early adopters. There are many staff who remain skeptical that technology can really enhance learning and who are fearful of the extra learning required from them to stay near the top of what they perceive they may need to know. It is not the safe teaching option to test out new possibilities and risk appearing to lack competence with an apparently tech savvy class of Year 9s, and many staff lack the confidence to try, fail and reevaluate.

Recently a company was employed to conduct a needs analysis where all community stakeholders were given opportunity for input and extensive recommendations were provided. This has led to a move for staff supplied devices to a choice of a tablet or small laptop. Student devices will be re-evaluated in the upcoming year and as BYOD was one of the recommendations, it is likely this college will move in that direction; although considerable work is required to set up the necessary infrastructure.

As technology needs and possibilities are changing so rapidly it is very hard for schools to maintain the infrastructure required (both in regards to financial costs and human resourcing) to evolve at the pace that we might want them to.

The bottom line is the question, “will it make a difference to teaching and learning?” At this point in my most recent school, some aspects of technology use have improved systems and efficiency, particularly in an administrative sense; however the actual use of technology for teaching and learning still needs considerable evaluation and consideration.