Magazine article Technology & Learning

Australia: Leading with Laptops

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Australia: Leading with Laptops

Article excerpt

How a vision for child-centered learning led Australia to pioneer a technology movement.

In the late 1980s, long before "anytime, anywhere learning" was even a gleam in Microsoft's eye, a group of Australian educators had a prescient thought: how would education change if every child had a notebook computer?

Ironically, the idea had roots in America, with MIT professor Seymour Papert's "constructionism," a philosophy that learners should be actively engaged in constructing new knowledge--in building "artifacts," such as computer programs, that are personally meaningful. David Loader, then principal of the Methodist Ladies' College, a private girls' school in Melbourne, seized on this notion of giving kids tools to create and better control their learning environment.

So in 1989, along with a team of committed teachers, Loader formed a plan to start a laptop program. They would begin with one class, then expand to include an entire grade level, and finally all classes and grades in the school. Then they made it happen. By 1990, each fifth-grade girl was toting a Toshiba T1000SE and using LogoWriter to create multimedia presentations across the curriculum.

The Methodist Ladies' College proved to be pioneers in this effort. Following their lead, several private schools--which comprise 40 percent of Australia's schools--launched laptop programs. This movement spread to public schools in the mid-1990s. Today, some 45,000 students and 60,000 educators across Australia are using notebook computers. The government also has joined in, providing more than 37,000 public school teachers in Victoria their own laptops for $150 per year.

Powerful results, now borne out in studies, show that students in laptop programs collaborate more, write more, and apply critical thinking skills more readily than other students. …

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