Ageing IT equipment and inadequate wireless networks, along with variable student and teacher access to devices are reducing the effectiveness of technology in NSW classrooms.
An audit report unveiled today by NSW auditor-general Margaret Crawford has found that a central funding model for ICT in NSW schools is not meeting current needs.
“Many schools are struggling to keep up with growing ICT needs within available funding,” Crawford said in the report.
She said the NSW Department of Education needs to review whether its current technology programs provide schools with sufficient resources and support to meet the needs of its goals for 21st century classrooms.
“The department is not sufficiently monitoring the digital literacy of NSW students, which has declined in national tests. Teachers could benefit from support to assess these skills at a school level.”
Crawford said the department needs to investigate the links between student use of ICT and learning outcomes, so they can better support teachers with evidence-based approaches to enhancing learning through ICT.
The education department’s vision for ICT to enable ‘any learning opportunity, anywhere, anytime’ is at risk due to an ageing stock of devices and wireless networks, the report said.
It claims that the average age of devices in NSW schools is more than four years. Older devices are less reliable, require greater maintenance and support, and can’t run demanding applications – limiting the number of teacher and students who can access online content on wireless networks at the same time.
No increase in funding
Funding for the NSW government’s Technology for Learning program to deliver technology to schools has increased since 2004 despite an increase in the number of students and emphasis placed on ICT in teaching and learning during this time.
“The department’s current funding model for ICT is not adequately addressing a growing gap in the provision of contemporary ICT in classrooms between schools able to access funding from other sources and those who cannot.”
The federal government’s Digital Education Revolution program provided teachers of secondary school students with laptops from 2009 to 2013.
Providing desktops, laptops or tablets for teachers is now a school-level decision and arrangements vary across schools.
“Each school must trade-off between allocating devices for students and teachers. Most other states and territories provide all teachers with a laptop for use in and outside the classroom or offer subsidised ones,” Crawford said in her report.
The report asked that the education department better monitor current trends, and identify emerging needs to determine future direction and how to best support schools.
“For example, the Department does not currently know how many devices are allocated to teachers or how many schools have implemented a ‘bring-your-own-device’ scheme,” Crawford said.
“The affects how schools are using ICT, and places demand on the network and the type of support the department must provide. An assessment of ICT maturity of schools would help the department target its resources to schools requiring greater assistance with planning.”