ndary education in Australia is at the forefront of the technology revolution and educators across curricula are embracing the advances and accessibility that technology is creating. The ‘Digital Education Revolution’ (DER). was launched in 2008 by former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and has seen the allocation of over $2.1 Billion to fund the integration of information and communication technology (ICT) in to Australian schools. The majority of the budget has been allocated to the ‘National Secondary School Computer Fund’, which has designated $1,000 per computer and up to $1,500 for the installation and maintenance of the technology. (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, 2012). This program has seen more than 911,000 computers installed across the country throughout public, Catholic and independent schools. Aside from the allocation of funds to the physical rollout of technology, $20 Million is being invested by the Federal Government as part of The ICT Innovation Fund. The fund’s aims are;
i) Improving the capability of pre-service teachers.
ii) Enhancing the capacity of in-service teachers.
iii) Driving innovation through leadership.
The government intends to fulfill these three aims through four key projects;
1) Teaching Teachers for the Future
2) ICT in Everyday Learning
3) Anywhere, Anytime Teacher Professional Learning
4) Leading ICT in Learning
(Australian Government, 2010).
However, minimal research and investigation has been undertaken to assess the impact that this proliferation of technology is having on the students and teachers presented with it. As the Digital Education Revolution is still in its initial stages, the success of the program is yet to be assessed.
Studies have been undertaken globally to investigate the positives and negatives of this increased exposure to technology, however most results are still limited and in their primitive stages.
Although the Federal Government has devised a range of initiatives to educate teachers, parents and students in the effective use of technology in the classroom, it has yet to adequately highlight the risks and problems that can arise from this increased access and how this can extend beyond the school environment. One of the greatest difficulties for teachers and parents is that the children in their care can now live a vast proportion of their lives online and out of view from responsible adults. The frightening reality is that they cyber- profiles and interactions can be occurring without a parent or teacher having any idea. Gone are the days of a teacher being able to observe bullying simply by seeing it in the playground, or a parent being able to know who their child is talking to just by the location of their home phone. Now children have the ability and the resources supported by the Australian government to engage in activities that didn’t exist less than half a decade ago. Terms such as “cyber bullying” have been around for several years now, however newer terms such as “Facebook addiction”, “sexting” and “technology dependence” have only recently emerged due to the vast majority of the Australian population having access to the Internet through a range of devices. Telecommunications analyst Mark Novosel forecasts smartphone shipments to Australia will grow 30 per cent this year. Novosel stated that about 70 per cent of new mobiles shipped would be smartphones. “This is a strong increase from 2010, where 57 per cent of all mobiles shipped were smartphones,” (Foo, 2011). Although the statistics regarding Australian Facebook users can vary, estimates are around 10 million active users, including 6.6 million users that access the site daily (Kidman, 2011).
With 83% of social networkers naming Facebook as their primary source of social networking and Australia beating even US when it comes to spending time on social networks (Nielsen, 2010) the influence in today’s society is unparalleled. In additional to social networking, online and networked gaming have now been made available to a multitude of students who previously considered a laptop a luxury, not a right. Although there are studies that can highlight the benefits that gaming can have on children, the psychological impact and addictive aspects of games have been debated at the highest levels, including the European Parliament, who were discussing moves to legislate limitations on children’s access to games. (Gentile, 2009) NSW Public Schools released a video in 2009 to promote the Digital Education Revolution and it uses a range of students, working from script, to outline the benefits of being given a laptop by the government. In this advertisement, one student exclaims “Hello keyboard, games at recess…and lunch!” (NSW Education & Communities, 2009)
The challenge that arises for both educators and parents is that students are being given access to a resource that can present problems that society is yet to address sufficiently. Legislation, education, parenting and pastoral care are all fighting to keep up due to the rapid pace at which technology is advancing.
Australian Government. (2010). ICT Innovation Fund Guidelines 2010-2012. Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Canberra.
Barwick, H. (2011, February 3). Smartphone market to reach saturation point by 2015:Analysts. Retrieved October 8, 2011, from Computerworld:The voice of IT Management: http://www.computerworld.com.au/ article/375383/smartphone_ market_reach_saturation_point_by_2015_analysts/
Department of Education & Training. (2010). Professional Learning & Leadership Development. Retrieved August 9, 2012, from https://www.det.nsw.edu.au/proflearn/research/actres.htm
Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2012, January 1). National Secondary School Computer Fund. Retrieved August 7, 2012, from Digital Education Revolution: http://www.deewr.gov.au/Schooling/DigitalEducationRevolution/ComputerFund/Pages/ NationalSecondarySchoolComputerFundOverview.aspx
Facebook. (2011). Information For Parents and Educators. Retrieved from Facebook: http://www. facebook.com/help?page=937
Fay, B. (1996). Contemporary philosophy of social science: a multicultural approach. Connecticut:Wiley- Blackwell.
Gentile, D. A. (2009). Video Games Affect the Brain—for Better and Worse. The Dana Foundation, New York.
Foo, F. (2011, March 15).Apple’s iPhone leads Australia’s huge smartphone growth. Retrieved Oxrobwe 7, 2011, from The Australian: http://www.theaustralian.com. au/australian-it/apples-iphone-leads-australias- huge-smartphone-growth/story- e6frgakx-1226021287594
Kidman,A. (2011, February 11). Just How Many Australians Use Facebook? Retrieved October 10, 2011, from Lifehacker: http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2011/02/just- how-many-australians-use-facebook/
Nielsen. (2010). Australia Getting More Social Online as Facebook Leads and Twitter Grows. Nielsen. Nielsen.
Sullivan, B. (2011, June 7). Should 10-year-olds use Facebook? What’s your policy? Retrieved October 10, 2011, from The Redtape Chronicles on MSNBC: http:// redtape.msnbc.msn.com/_ news/2011/06/07/6798927-should-10-year-olds-use- facebook-whats-your-policy