[Oz-teachers] 3G policy for schools

Tom Worthington tom.worthington at tomw.net.au
Sat Jan 22 11:10:39 EST 2011

zedman350 wrote:
> ... On 21/01/2011, at 5:39 AM, Tom Worthington wrote:
>> ... premium for wireless Internet access. ...
> ... 3G (Telstra) is about $39.95/month for 3GB and for the same price
> on ADSL you get about 30GB/month, so the factor is about 10x rather
> than "hundreds". ...

Okay, wireless is tens, rather than hundreds, of times more expensive.
But if you are on a cheap wireless plan and decide to watch a video, it
could be very expensive in excess data charges. This is something course
designers need to keep in mind.

> - ADSL or fibre is no good to you when you are not at school or at
> home. Today's students (and many of us) demand 24/7 "webtone" ...

Yes, I have argued for the NBN to include greater
emphasis on wireless:

However, due to the laws of physics (as some of the people on the Link 
mailing list keep reminding me), a cable can carry more data than 
wireless. As a result a strategy which allows for cable may make sense.

As the bandwidth available increases, new ways to use it will be found,
including educational uses. I am not sure exactly how many gigabits per 
second the link on my desk at ANU is, but it is much faster than the
wireless I use at home. This allows me to use applications on the campus 
I can't use at home.

> ... Using their 3G access for educational purposes can ensure that in
> most cases, the government pays ...

Also deals by education authorities may be useful. The Indira Gandhi
Open University (IGNOU) did a deal with Ericson for 3G Mobile access for
students. Given the limited access in some parts of India, they also
made innovative use of SMS for education and for students with hearing
and speech impairments:

> - The costs for schools to build, maintain and constantly upgrade
> their 802.11whatever WiFi is high. ...

Schools do not need to replace working equipment, simply because a new
standard has come along.

Also it might be interesting to see if a mesh network could be used in a
school. A small number of WiFi base stations would connect to the
Internet and then the student's hand held devices would relay the signal
around the school.

Paul Gardner-Stephen's Serval Project at Flinders University has
implemented this on Google Android smart phones:
A mesh network is also used by the "One Laptop Per Child" project:

> ... money to pay for better teacher professional development because
> they'd pay a *lot* less for tech  infrastructure/support. ...

It is risky to suggest saving on infrastructure to pay for teachers.
Infrastructure is cheap compared to staff costs and the administrators
may instead decide to replace the teachers with computers.

In terms of a paradigm shift, I started writing a submission to the
inquiry into the NBN, proposing a "Australian Learning Commons". This
would provide free online education across Australia, with public
libraries, schools and university campuses available for all levels
of education by all the community:

> I'm only a sessional (part-time) lecturer in Teacher education (ICT 
> integration specialisation) at a University though I also work for
> OUA (Open Universities Australia online) ... models of traditional
> university delivery (very text based) are not great models to follow
> ...

I am also a part time lecturer and my Green ICT course is offered
through OUA. Being a part timer I have limited influence over what the
organisations I offer courses through do. As a former public servant, my
inclination is to therefore make my courses look as much like an
evolution of the existing approach as possible, so as to get approval to
run them. Also I don't want to use the students as subjects in an 
experiment which may fail.

As an example, one tip a senior academic gave me was not to say there
were no examinations for my courses: instead say there is no "final
examination". This then emphasises there is assessment by other
traditional non-examination means. This gets the course approved and
also ensures that the students still have assessment they are familiar with.

> ... models of traditional university delivery (very text based) are
> not great models to follow ...

I used to think that text was not a good model. So I did a course in
video product at Canberra TAFE, to be ready to make training videos, but
never used those skills.

When asked to design an e-learning course, I envisaged lots of video and
interactive diagrams and automated quizzes. But the technique I was
shown used none of that, instead it uses mentoring and collaboration:

This approach is "talk based" rather than "text based". The key is
communication between the students and with the tutor. The communication
is computer mediated, but apart from that is like old fashioned
teaching, where the teachers and students have a dialogue. Students do
things alone or in groups and the teacher watches over, putting in the
occasional helpful remark. So the format of the reference materials does
not much matter, it is the people to people communication which is

> ... predisposition towards audio visual materials by our younger
> generations ...

Younger people also like talking and manipulating objects. This then
gets them out of the passive TV watching. But the cost and complexity of
producing interactive game like materials is very high. There is a whole
institution in Canberra (at a former TAFE campus) devoted to teaching
games development, the Academy of Interactive Entertainment (AIE):

> ... simply videoing lectures reminds me of the beginnings of the
> motion picture industry ...

Yes. When I used to give lectures I would record the audio, which the
students appreciated. But I could not see the point in recording a
"talking head" video.

> ... I have not seen many examples of where HD or even SD has provided
> an educational benefit over watching the same content in H.264 ...

Animated slide shows are as good. These provide high resolution images,
but without full motion video. ANU is using this for their "Hubs and
Spokes" engineering education.

Some research sponsored by Microsoft I read about many years ago showed
that you just needed a simple drawing to give the impression of a person
in the computer. What I suggested for ANU was to have a short video
introduction, so the students could see the teacher, after that switch
to slides and audio.

> I'm part way through the development of some school resource
> (textbook?) type materials for delivery on the iPad ...

The iPad is likely to be overtaken by assorted other devices by mid
2011. So unless you have a large budget for converting the material for
other devices, or have locked all your students into using iPads, I
suggest NOT developing materials for the iPad. Instead you can use web
standards to develop material which will work on iPads, iPhones, PCs,
and whatever other gadgets come along.

> ... I feel it is a waste of the medium if all it contains is "text",
but its quite an effort to do so...

Yes. I would like to produce really pretty materials, but no one is
willing to pay me to do that, nor do I think the students would
appreciate it much anyway. What the students appreciate is communicating
with their teacher.

> The 21st century text book should (ideally) be anything but...
> another reason Kindles won't have a real place in schools in my view,
> but iPads (and their ilk in future) will ...

Yes, I don't see the Kindle much use for education
<http://blog.tomw.net.au/2010/04/amazon-kindle-dx-first-hand.html>, but
nor is the iPad on its own. A tablet computer (or smart phone), plus a
docking station for the student to use it with a big screen and other
peripherals may be.

> ... you don't need to seek permission to have a view...

Thanks, as a newbie I did feel somewhat hesitant. I have no teaching
qualifications, so I don't know I can call myself a "teacher". But when
I nominated for a green ICT award, they instead gave me an education

Tom Worthington FACS CP HLM, TomW Communications Pty Ltd. t: 0419496150
PO Box 13, Belconnen ACT 2617, Australia  http://www.tomw.net.au
Adjunct Senior Lecturer, School of Computer Science, The
Australian National University http://cs.anu.edu.au/courses/COMP7310/
Visiting Scientist, CSIRO ICT Centre: http://bit.ly/csiro_ict_canberra

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