The Oracle Australia and New Zealand Middleware and Technology Blog.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Future of Education in New South Wales

Earlier this month I attended an AIIA here in Sydney recently about the future of ICT in the NSW Department of Education and Training. Speakers were Michael Coutts-Trotter, Director General of NSW DET, Stephen Wilson, CIO, and Pam Chrisitie, Director of the Sydney Institute of TAFE NSW.

Michael Coutts-Trotter was up first. He opened by saying that he had good news for the mainly vendor audience - I was there representing Oracle, I saw Microsoft, IBM, Telstra, Fujitsu etc... Anyway, the good news for software vendors, was that the department spend a lot on ICT and they're going to spend a lot more. A round of chuckles from the audience and we were off, first up? Social networks of course!

He said that when he is in schools he talks to the kids about which social networks they use as a bit of an icebreaker and the results... Bad news for MySpace. Facebook and Bebo are anecdotally more popular.

If there was one single thing I took from the session it was this, "The use of social networking software for teaching and learning is of profound importance to the department".

He went on to sat that "professional development" for teachers is key in order to, "equip our staff to take advantage of the technology." By the way, the "average age of teachers in NSW is 47". The Department are currently rolling out a Learning Management and Business Reform (LMBR) Project (powered by SAP) which will, among other things, deliver "principal dashboards" to enable a school principal to easily see and ask, "why is attendance in teachers A's English class different to Teacher B's English class?". He was then at pains to point out that these dashboards would not just about management by penalty.

As far as putting technology in the students hands he talked about 1:1 Computing, "we want to put a laptop in the hands of every year 9-12 student. Estimated to cost $2400 per student over 4 years". And NSW are currently seeking extra funding from the Commonwealth. Michael finished up by saying that "the job of leadership in a school - done well - is one of the most extraordinary things you can see"

Stephen Wilson was up next. Some of the highlights from Stephens talk were that the Department "process 55M emails a month - 40M of which are spam". He talked about the roll-out of gmail for student email, and said that would be complete by the end of the month. He also talked about rolling out an eBackpack in "early 2009", and that this would be "4GB of online storage for students and teachers". He also said that along with 1:1 computing the Department are "wirelessly enabling all schools with students in years 9-12"

Pam Christie was the final speaker, some of her highlights where around a change of focus for TAFE from "school leavers to job seekers and up-skilling existing workers". she also spoke of how TAFE are, "moving to a Virtual Learning Environment... including access to Web 2.0 tools, virtual worlds, rich media, content management and learning management systems"

All in all I thought it was a really good event. As a parent with a child going through the NSW Public Education System and as someone who's worked in IT for 20 years or so I came away with a real optimism for the future of teaching and learning.


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