Encouraging news coming out of West Dunbartonshire this week, as the council have pledged £250,000 to fund Chromebooks for every P7 learner next session – over 950 devices. The Chromebook is a lovely, versatile and cheap device, and should bring real benefits for learning and teaching. Of course, any announcement of this sort throws up a raft of questions, some more cynical than others.
After all, this is the council that in recent months saw the first teacher strike in decades over proposed management restructuring in secondary schools, which was seen by many as stealth cuts. It may be that those striking teachers will look upon this outlay of cash as a statement that resources are worth more than teachers to those in charge.
Other questions, at least from those of us outside the council (one would hope those on the inside already have the answers) might be more concerned with the logistics. Do all the schools have wi-fi? Can the kids take the devices home? How much control do they have over what goes on them? What happens if they’re lost or stolen? What happens at the end of P7 – do the devices go with them to secondary school or do they get handed back, slightly scabby, for the next year’s P7? How do the teachers feel about managing their use?
However, these aren’t the questions that really need to be asked. What we want to know is how are they going to be used. What is the pedagogy underpinning the project? The article on the council website is unsurprisingly vague. We are told learners will “use the devices to present classwork and also for research and revision”. All very well, but do teachers, schools and the authority have a planned approach to ensure the best use of the powerful wee tools, or is this a knee-jerk reaction to HGIOS 4? The success or failure of these schemes doesn’t really have anything to do with the device itself; rather, it has everything to do with the learning and teaching. Do the teachers feel supported? Will the learners have direction and focus or, even better, opportunities for exploration and creation in a safe and gently guided environment? We really hope so.
The more successful schemes of this type we see with whole authority (or – dare we hope? – nationwide) backing and support, the weaker the arguments against incorporating technology into everyday learning and teaching become. To slightly paraphrase Madonna, we are living in a digital world, and we should we doing all we can to ensure that our children are growing up as digital girls (and boys!).