This was the headline at the top of page 5 of the Edinburgh Evening News this today. The headline on the front page read, ’58, 000 kids to get free little helper: plan to give all pupils a mini helper’. I had even heard mention of the proposal on the 6 o’clock ForthOne news as I was driving home from work this evening.
The initiative refers to the
proposed Learning Hubs project
which if successful will provide each student in Edinburgh, East, Mid and West Lothian with a PDA
/ Laptop. I have known about this project for a while, mostly from what I have
learned from Karen’s
blog (she is a member of the learning hubs project board) and following the
links that she has provided. The Learning Hubs
wiki is worth looking at to provide more information about the project. I suspect,
however, that for most teachers in East Lothian
the headlines of the Evening News today will come as a complete shock.
So what are my thoughts on
this? Well I am all for 1to1 (that’s one laptop for each pupil) and I have been
ranting about it since the first Apple 1to1 schools were set up in 1999 in the USA. I have
also blogged about other 1to1 schools in the past including the new Microsoft
School of the future and the proposed $100 laptop
project. We have also had success from 1to1 initiatives in Scotland and most recently in the news we have seen schools in Wolverhampton
run successful PDA pilots (see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/6247853.stm)
However the overwhelming response to the article in the Edinburgh Evening News (on the forum anyway) is that a scheme like this is a waste of money. I have to agree that I am not convinced with the idea of PDA’s. I am in favour however of students having their own laptop. The hardware and usability features are so much more robust than a PDA. If each student has one of these it would also allow a school to reallocate some of its computer hardware expenditure towards other areas of ICT, think of the money that would be saved on desktop computers in a school if one laptop per student and teacher could be secured via a separate budget (the EU is proposed in this case). Specialist software would be a problem, but then this could come down to negotiation with software manufacturers to provide software that runs off a memory stick?
One of the unfortunate things in the article tonight was the picture of the pupil using a Blackberry handheld device. The article made no reference to the Blackberry and I feel it would be completely unsuitable to what the project it trying to achieve. I think the project will go ahead – no matter what the sceptics think. I just hope we get it right. I know it will cost more but please let’s give every child a laptop not a PDA.
One final point. I read in the article that the Learning Hubs Pilot will be restricted to one P6 and one S5 and cost £80, 000. We would of course like to volunteer to be part of the pilot (although I should probably check this with my head teacher and our authority first!). If we can get it to work in Musselburgh, we could get it to work in any of the proposed education authorities. I would also like to volunteer to be part of the Learning and Teaching Committee for Learning Hubs, I see you are still looking for members of your committee.
since found out that actually the pilot schools have been chosen for this
project. See: http://121.wikispaces.com/Pilot+Projects
Looks like 24 pupils from Elphinstone
Primary will be East Lothian’s participants?