The NSW Teachers Federation (NSWTF) recently warned that the Federal Government’s refusal to fund the final two years of Gonski would create a “digital divide” that will worsen equity issues in the nation’s schools.
However, according to one senior education consultant, this presents an opportunity for principals to engage with their communities and improve parents’ education about which device their child should be using – and how these devices may be more affordable than they think.
Pip Cleaves, owner of Design, Learn, Empower, a BYOD consultancy for schools, told The Educator that there are two main factors at play that are perpetuating a digital divide – both of which have a solution.
“The first of those is that when the parents of today went to school we never had these devices, so if I wasn’t an educator I wouldn’t know what I need that device for. Parents don’t have that experience to work on,” Cleaves said.
“Secondly, when it comes to buying a device, there is a lack of focus on students’ individual learning styles.
For example, if your child is a budding ICT geek, he’s going to need some great hardware, whereas if you’ve got a creative kid, you’ll need to think about things like Photoshop and see whether the device supports it.”
Cleaves said that given the equity gap in some communities, principals should engage with their communities to work out options for parents who are struggling with BYOD options.
“As a school leader you should have a dialogue with your community and see where price points work with them. Talk with them about what they’re prepared to pay and work out an equity solution,” Cleaves said.
She added that many schools already possess “great equity-levellers” in terms of available software that can help students improve their digital skills. This, Cleaves, said, should be utilised as much as possible by schools located in low-income communities.
“The fact that schools have free software like Office 365 and the full Adobe suite is an awesome equity-leveller,” she said.
“So I think that there are things in place to support families and, if parents are going to the devices for schools website, they’ll see that there are price points for them which can help.
“There is an online community that is quite engaged with BYOD called www.byodhub.com which provides examples of how schools have moved forward in that area.”
Cleaves said schools can use the information on this website to support parents in making the right choice of device for their child.
“We need to give them the information they need to make the right purchase at the right time. Let’s help parents know what options are available for different types of learners and then support those who can’t afford to go down the BYOD track,” she said.