Digital education

Labor has put in a new plank in their broadband policy: they are going to provide computers and wire up all secondary school students in Australia. It will cost $1 billion and will cover public and private schools. Going across these is a good idea although the precise terms are something that will be interesting to look at.

This is a better way to do e-Education than wiring homes up. It is targeted on that activity and is part of education — something provided by the government. I was critical of Labor’s broadband policy as I didn’t see it as a public good. This aspect, however, does fall within that rubric and is a potentially sensible use of public money. Someone get Steve Jobs on the phone. Surely, we don’t want Vista everywhere.

6 thoughts on “Digital education”

  1. Sure, get Steve Jobs on the phone so we can inject a few more hundred million taxpayers’ dollars into another US company.

    How about we keep the money in the country (and save some too) by employing Aussie IT consultants customize a free computer system like Linux for education?

    “Oh boo hoo, children need to learn how to use Microsoft Office at school so they can get a job.” Linux these days looks like a solid clone of Windows, except it’s cheaper. That means that once kids know how to operate one computer system (which is usually learned at home at age 3), they know how to operate them all.

    Back to the topic in the post’s heading, I too like the idea of investing in technology in schools rather than in homes. If you “wire up” every house in Australia with broadband, with the rationale being education, you’ll be wasting money on helping people download TV shows illegally. If you wire up the schools instead, you’re only helping a few school IT admin staff to do so.

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  2. I agree with Pat; the more computers in our schools, the more important it is that we use free software as much as possible.

    Education policy I think is a state govt thing (which the feds seem to enjoy meddling in).

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  3. GNU/Linux and open standards should be used by governments and all public services for as much as possible. The idea that Apple products have any kind of “alternative” cred is largely marketing spin created by the company, and fuelled by their obsession with design – the costs of which should not be passed on to poorer students.

    Using Free/Copylefted Software would significantly decrease the barriers to lower income families getting computers and computer software, as well as decreasing the cost of computer equipment for schools and government. Although it can be easy to use, it’s also possible to go “under the hood” without much hassle, teaching kids how computers actually work. It’s easy to produce a whole operating system specifically targeted towards school kids, and international governments could share the costs and collectively reap the benefits.

    For those who aren’t aware, Free Software licenses basically undermine the inherently monopolistic tendency of intellectual property by forcing users/modifiers of that software to allow free use/modification if they pass it on.

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