Many in the channel have been rubbing their hands with anticipation at news of what the Rudd Government has dubbed a Digital Education Revolution. Neat slogans aside, new funding of $1.2 billion over five years is being earmarked for technology in education to target a growing need and desire for IT coming from the institutions themselves as well as from the business and wider worlds.
Some of the ready on offer sounds rather tempting.
According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR), a national secondary school computer fund (NSSCF) will grant up to $1 million per school for new ICT in Years 9-12 and up to $100 million for fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) broadband connections to schools in the Fibre Connections to Schools (FCS) plan.
There’s also $32.6 million up for grabs over two years to supply students and teachers with online resources that support the national curriculum, as well as conferencing facilities for certain subjects, and $10 million over three years to support NSSCF deployments. Teachers will also be guaranteed access to IT training.
The aim, according to DEEWR, is to make changes that will ensure students are as well prepared as possible for “living in a digital world”.
The big picture
Canberra-based Gartner research director, Steve Bittinger, works with various Federal Government agencies, some of which work on IT strategy and planning in education. He’s been getting feedback around the consumerisation of IT, which is happening in education as it has been in the corporate sector.
Students – and staff – are already bringing iPods, mobile phones, Web cams, digital cameras and the like to school and expecting them to work with the institution’s network, forcing IT managers to expand their thinking to support such technologies and grapple with resultant problems in keeping the school network safe, secure and functioning.
“What are [educational and technical] staff doing in order to be comfortable with what the students are doing?” Bittinger asked.
He said that you only need add all that to the trend in outsourcing of IT support and services to open a great many cans of rather wriggly worms.
“For example, Macquarie University and NSW Education have gone to Google and said ‘you handle our student email’. That’s a major shift in the balance of power, when outside interests are managing something like email at a university,” Bittinger said.
On top of the usual outsourcing challenges, universities and their service providers need to worry about compatibility, reliability and integration on top of the usual concerns about confidentiality and security.