Sunday, June 9, 2013

21st century learning - inequitable access Scenario: A fictional newspaper article

The following is a fictional newspaper article of a possible future scenario for primary education, followed by comments by fictional readers.

Acme Corp. to donate 500 tablet computers to school

The hall in Smallville Primary school was filled with excitement when principal Seymour Skinner announced the $250,000 worth donation from Acme Corporation to equip all students with Acme tablets. “This is an exciting moment for our small school! We are a low decile school and we do our best to ensure that our students are given equal opportunities to develop their skills to prepare them for the world. We are really grateful to Acme for their generosity” principal Skinner says. “BYOD wasn’t an option for us as it was in other schools – most of our students could not afford it. I now see new learning opportunities rising for my students and for me as a teacher now!” Year 4 teacher Mr Garrison says.

“The world advances, technology advances and schools have to keep up. We understand how challenging this can be for low decile schools and we all need to do our best to give them a helping hand. This is the least that Acme corp. can do to contribute to the preparation of tomorrow’s citizens and employees” Acme representative Elmer Fudd says.


Mary B. 5 hours ago
Am I the only one who finds this suspicious? Acme’s charter High school was in the news last month for its low enrolment numbers. And what do they mean by employees? Their employees?

Susan G. 3 hours ago
I hear you Mary B. It just doesn’t feel right. I understand that low decile schools are in greater need of resources now but the so called 21st century learning is for the good of the public, then the public should fund these resources for low decile schools as well.

Brian T. 2 hours ago
I think this is a great move from Acme corp and a great example for other companies as well. My kids are very lucky to go to a school that all kids have access to computers – even those who can’t afford it they can hire laptops from the school. I compare this to my sister’s kids, they don’t even know how to use a search engine. Even if this donation is to attract Smallville primary students to their charter high school, these kids will be trained by one of the biggest multinational companies and they will secure their future.

Sally R. 2 hours ago
I agree with you Brian. My kids’ school is somewhere in the middle, some of the classes use computers, some other’s don’t. I am worried about my kids’ future and if I had the opportunity I would move to a better suburb to give my kids’ a better chance.

Mary B. 1 hour ago

I understand your concerns Sally R., I am a mother of three and I have the same concerns. But what happens to all those kids that don’t have the opportunity to go to a higher decile school? It seems to me that we increase the divide instead of decreasing it.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Scenario Planning for primary/secondary education in NZ

E-Learning is growing fast in New Zealand schools and has been one of the priorities of the Ministry of Education over the last few years.  Major disruptions in Canterbury schools, due to the 2010-2011 earthquakes have shown the potential of e-Learning to increase resilience (Davis, 2011). Schools’ involvement in the national Virtual Learning Network that enables students to enrol in online courses, regardless of their geographic area has further shown the potential of e-Learning to increase flexibility and student choice (Pratt & Trewern, 2011). The government’s initiative to implement Ultra Fast Broadband in Schools (UFBiS) with ongoing support from the Network 4 Learning ( and the enabling e-Learning website ( is expected to further increase the uptake of e-Learning in schools.

As a result of this, BYOD is one of the key trends in New Zealand primary/secondary education, which is also one of the key trends in the 2013 horizon report (NMC, 2013):
As the cost of technology drops and school districts revise and open up their access policies, it is becoming more common for students to bring their own mobile devices. (p.4)
In addition, the focus on 21st century teaching and learning is challenging the traditional role of students and teachers, a key trend that is also identified in the 2013 Horizon report (NMC, 2013):
The abundance of resources and relationships made easily accessible via the Internet is challenging us to revisit our roles as educators. (p.4)

These trends involve a range of uncertainties that can be placed on the two axes of the scenario matrix:  
Equity vs inequity: With regards to BYOD, it is normal to expect that, in conjunction with UFB, it will enable equitable access to information/resources/learning opportunities. On the other hand, the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ might become bigger. Therefore one of the key uncertainties is whether BYOD will increase educational equity or create inequity issues.
Traditional vs 21st century teaching & learning: 21st century teaching and learning involves the use of digital technologies in the classroom, but it also involves more learner control and less traditional direct instruction. Teachers’ needs for adequate PD will increase, not only in terms of how to use the new tools, but also in terms of  how to effectively implement them to facilitate (not direct) student learning. However, one of the key uncertainties is whether schools and teachers will eventually enable the 21st century learner or ICT will be used as a way to sustain traditional instruction with the teacher still being at the centre of the instruction.

Using the scenario matrix, the 4 scenarios for the future of primary/secondary education in New Zealand are:

1.  Traditional teaching & learning – equitable access: Schools are implementing BYOD with devices that are purchased by parents, with funding from other organizations where needed. Schools are connected and collaborating in clusters, depending on their needs/goals, often driven by the need to have access to more resources/content. Shared content is often copyrighted. Teachers are often involved in structured PD sessions within and beyond the school where the early adopters/experts share how to use new and existing tools. E-learning is implemented as a way to extend students’ learning experiences outside the classroom, with continuous guidance from teachers (online or onsite).

2. 21st century teaching & learning – equitable access: BYOD is funded by families/whānau or other bodies where needed. Teachers form their own communities of practice, with interest groups within and beyond the school, sharing educational practices and ideas. Student-centred, creative, collaborative learning is encouraged. Personal online learning environments are student-created, often shared with families/whānau, increasing the links between schools and the community. Collaboration between schools enables students and teachers to form their own learning communities, regardless of the geographic area of their school. Shared ownership of content and CC licensing is more prevalent.

3.  21st century teaching & learning – inequitable access: Schools provide a limited number of devices to students who don’t own one to use in school and/or to hire for use at home. Students who have and bring their devices in school are often sharing them with other students. Learning through collaboration is more prevalent. Teachers are engaged in PD within and beyond their school, often working in communities of practice, sharing open content/resources. Teachers and schools are more likely to join groups/communities that have similar access levels.

4. Traditional teaching & learning – inequitable access: Schools are working in silos depending on their access levels. Teachers are encouraged to engage in PD, mainly within the school. Links with other schools are seen as a way to increase access to resources and content. Schools are trying hard to protect the ownership of their resources/content. Students are encouraged to bring their own devices in class at times when a lesson is planned accordingly. These devices are often shared between students who are given direct instructions on how to use them.    

Reflecting on this attempt to use scenario planning for primary/secondary education in New Zealand, I find that this is a fascinating process, that engages the brain in constant thinking about the trends, uncertainties and involved implications. The more I engage with the scenario matrix, the more I have to face my own biases, which confirms to me that this needs to be a collaborative process. 

Davis, N. (2011). Online and blended learning rolling into New Zealand Schools. Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, teaching, technology, 23(1), 1-7. Retrieved from
New Media Consortium. (2013). Horizon Project Preview 2013 K-12 Edition. Retrieved from
Pratt, K., & Trewern, A. (2011). Students’ experiences of flexible learning options: What can they tell us about what they need for success? Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, Teaching, Technology, 23(2).