These columns were published in the Suns during October and November 2014. Please feel free to quote or use but in so doing please acknowledge the Suns Newspapers as publishers.
THE ‘B.Y.O.D.* AGE’ IS UPON US
* Bring Your Own Device
For many years, schools have been supported by Government in the acquisition of technological equipment. For many years the NT Government has provided hardware equipment and software programs supporting schools, teachers and students. In the NT, one of the most notable programs has been the allocation of laptop computers for teachers. Units are signed out to teachers and retained by them on transfer from one school to another.
Computers remain the property of the Department, with resigning or retiring staff having to return units to their school. Units are then re-issued to new staff members appointed to the school. Laptops have been maintained by the Department under leasing warranty and replaced by upgraded models after a period of years.
Computers issued to schools for student use have been allocated under a similar program. When hardware has been replaced, schools have had the option of keeping redundant equipment and also assuming future maintenance costs.
Costs of school computerisation has been a number one outlay for both the government and schools themselves. Included for schools have been outlays for licensing agreements and network establishment. Increasingly, school council fundraising has also been directed toward supporting technology in schools. It seems that budgetary requirements for technology and technological support can never be satisfied.
The pace of technological change means that equipment purchased for schools is outdated almost as soon as it is installed. Update needs are constant, impacting significantly on budgets. At the same time, government funding of computer needs is becoming less generous. This is placing funding onus more squarely on schools. Without doubt, technology is the most significant item impacting on educational costs. The question of affordability and the need to balance income and expenditure is pressing schools into the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) era.
Bring your own device is a requirement in a growing number of schools, both public and private in southern states. The approach is also creeping into Northern Territory schools. “The BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) program works like this: Kids in all year levels are free to bring in their own iPads to use in the classroom. … Parents buy the devices, kids take them to and from school, and everyone hopes like hell they end the day with screens intact.” (Kate Hunter ‘When a free education costs $650’ from Mummamia.com.au)
William Cohen a Sydney Secondary Education Teacher says this new approach is challenging. “Unfortunately, the switch to student-owned technology is not going to be a simple one. Leaving aside the equity issues that underlie a BYOD model … the options are so varied that some schools are now creating documents that give minimum device specifications.” (William Cohen ‘BYOD … Buyers Guide To Schools’, abc.net.au)
Whether we like it or not, BYOD is becoming the new way forward. Painful budget cuts and the need to carefully prioritise expenditure, will make this the only option available for many schools. BYOD may only be the start. As funding becomes even more scarce, parents and families may be increasingly called upon to make up the difference.
SCHOOL CROSSING MANAGEMENT NEEDS CHANGING
Over time, we have become increasingly conscious of the need to protect children as they are going to and coming home from school. The provision of flagged school crossings makes motorists aware of the need to watch out for children. The other is speed restrictions in school zones. In the Northern Territory motorists driving past schools must observe a speed limit of 40 km/h between 7 am and 5 pm each school day. Two schools, Milner and Wulagi have speed limit signage supported by flashing lights that warn motorists of the fact that they are entering a place of speed restriction during school hours. Signs elsewhere are passive.
Crossings exist in all states and territories. However systems elsewhere differ from ours in two key respects.
• Speed restrictions past schools are limited to a 40 km/h period each morning and afternoon, coinciding with children going to and coming away from school. There is not a blanket restriction of 40 km/h applying for ten hours each school day.
* In some states “lollipop people” are paid to control crossings during peak student times. Crossing monitors operate before school and after school each day. This adds extra security for students using crossings.
Fair Work Act spoils scheme.
NT Schools provide for crossing control if that is a school council preference. Some schools did employ people for a thirty minute period each morning and afternoon coinciding with the arrival and departure of students. However, the introduction of the Fair Work Act with a requirement that anybody employed be paid for a minimum of two hours for each period of duty, made this an unaffordable option; schools would have to pay crossing monitors 20 hours each week for no more than 5 hours work.
Schools used to pay crossing monitors for hours worked until the Fair Work Act was legislated. Nowadays, the only options available for schools is through volunteer crossing support or for school staff to control crossings. Having an adult on crossings during peak times adds to their safe use. Children running onto crossings without stopping to look for oncoming traffic can be a problem. Similarly, motorists can disregard and drive through when students are on or about to enter crossings. Supervision guarantees a degree of security for crossing users that is not otherwise available.
Change would help
There is no need for speed restrictions past schools to apply for ten hours each day. Cancelling the speed restriction between 9.00 am and 2.00 pm would make sense. While there may be some movement to and from schools during this time an accompanying adult would guarantee student security.
While traffic calming devices have been installed adjacent to some school crossings, their use needs to be expanded. In one case a school’s application for these deterrents was denied because the road was busy and installation would slow the traffic!
Additional warning to motorists by a modification to include flashing orange lights when they are in operation would be useful. Millner (Sabine Road) and Wanguri (Wanguri Terrace) are supported by this enhancement.
Speed restrictions and school crossings are necessary to help guarantee student safety. However change that considers both students and road users could be made for the good of all.