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The pace of technological change means that equipment purchased for schools is outdated almost as soon as it is installed.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.