I am not an overly politically active or opinionated person. However, during Australia's recent federal election I was really concerned about one thing; Tony Abbott and his party's aspirations for Australia's internet connectivity. Granted there are bigger issues at hand, particularly in relation to Asylum Seekers but since my job is so heavily reliant on quality technological infrastructure and its implications in education, this issue is important to me.
If you're an educator in Australia and haven't thought much about this issue, please read on.
Teachers in Australia are constantly coming under greater pressure and levels of responsibility in the workplace. The idea that most teachers clock in at 8:45am and cruise home at 3:15pm and do no work outside of those hours is a fallacy (although sadly, I have observed in a couple of cases) and the ever expanding roles of teachers beyond that of the job description is often unbelievable.Couple this with state government leaders who refuse to pay teachers what they're worth, regardless of the increasing costs of living, and you have got a level of work related stress that many people rarely experience, or if they do, receive a considerably higher salary.
So what has all this whinging got to do with Tony Abbott's Internet?
In case you're not sure how his and Malcolm Turnbull's ideas differ to the recently ousted Rudd Government, please read and support this.
When I look back at what different state governments have wanted from teachers in Australia over the past 5 years and beyond it's always based on greater results, more informed students, teachers who receive what they're worth, more accountability for teachers, and of course, 21st century teaching practice. Well, I'd like to think that I fulfill the government's standards for a teacher. That said, regardless of what I currently receive as a salary, I can't help but feel that the new Abbott lead Australia is going to stifle my potential as an educator and thus, the potential of my students.
As an e-Learning teacher and co-coordinator I want my students to have access to the best learning technologies available. A big part of this currently is the implementation of a 1:1 Bring Your Own iPad program. With our school's current internet service that is shared across more than 1000 schools across the state, the ability to access data across the internet via new, resource hungry devices is becoming increasingly difficult. My IT Technician works very hard to improve on what we have using the resources and budgets that are made available. This current push for 1:1 devices alone is only one of the many reasons why Tony Abbott's internet will be inadequate and will work against supporting our students and children's educational futures.
Let's look at one example - Governments wanting students to have a 21st century education. There are 2 big emerging technologies; 1:1 devices such as tablet devices; and Immerssive Technology like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality. Under current circumstances downloading an app on 1 iPad is a nightmare. It's slow and frustrating and often means teachers are doing more work on numerous devices outside of school hours (and outside of their role) so that they can create engaging and relevant lessons. Multiply this by hundreds of students and you have got amazing educational potential that is being inhibited by poor government infrastructure. This could all be alleviated quite easily and quickly if the Abbott Government continues with the FTTH NBN plan that is already in motion.
But what if Abbott and Turnbull stick to their guns and give us the already outdated FTTN NBN?
This is what scares me. On one hand you have Prime Minister Tony Abbott visiting Indonesia arguing for greater educational ties, yet his plans for Australia's internet won't be able to support emerging technologies that will encourage such ties with Indonesia. Imagine having your entire class being guided in virtual reality by classmates in another country. It's going to happen soon and it will need high-speed internet access like that which is offered by the FTTH NBN (not Abbott's). Developers and tech companies are only going to continue developing software and devices that require high-speed internet beyond that of Australia's current average speeds and Abbott's proposed NBN. Even now I struggle to stream 720p movies during peak internet periods so I shudder to think what this will mean with new ultra-HD TVs and live streaming of content for homes and schools.
What are the potential flow on effects that could leave teachers with the blame and frustrations for not providing a 21st century education?
Australia receives considerable revenue from overseas students. Our educational faculties and system are highly regarded throughout Asia, and many thousands of families from around the world helped to contribute over $16.3 billion in export income to the Australian economy in 2010–11. What will become of our highly regarded tertiary institutions if our internet services are inadequate in the face of emerging technology?
Australia's primary and secondary school teachers are often sought after by other nations because of their high quality training and knowledge of modern teaching pedagogy, this includes their knowledge and skills with modern learning technologies. Take a look at this video, A Day Made of Glass 2.
Sorry, parents but your child won't be experiencing this in their classroom without high-speed internet access which is available under the FTTH NBN. Australia's schools won't be able to accommodate such incredible learning technologies. This could potentially be useful though when educators enter into negotiations for pay rises. It would be more than convenient for political figures to say teachers in Australia are out of date and aren't delivering a 21st century curriculum.
There is a lot at stake with Australia's internet access and the direction it will take for the next decade. Big business is not the only important aspect to consider because our students and children, who may only be 12 years old now are going to be our next big leaders. Technological change is also driving educational change the likes of which has not been seen for the past 100 years. The way a classroom and the teacher function is also changing. Just take a look at 'Flipped Classrooms' and the SAMR Model of teaching. These are just some emerging ideas that offer change in education in conjunction with technology, change that allows for greater independent creativity by students and more globally aware and experienced students. Did I mention that Virtual Reality is just around the corner? Pretty soon your child's Social Studies class is going to involve them taking a trip to the Amazon via the internet. That's only if Australia's current government makes the right choice to provide Australia with the internet future it needs.
Please sign up for the petition here to make sure this view is heard.
Thanks for reading.