...isn't Teh Internets an evil place full of nasty padeos and bad identity thieves. Shouldn't Nanny Brown be keeping all the poor innocent kiddywinkles away from the Big Bag Interweb?
The schools minister, Jim Knight, has decided that every child in the country absolutely must have broadband at home, and has called on technology vendors to help him make it happen. More than one million UK children don't have access to a computer at home, according to government figures. Now it seems that the ministers …
This will of course be installed to work bi-directionally, just so the educators can see the kids are doing their homework. This will need a "viewscreen" in every room, of course provided by our beneficent masters (or at least they'll manage settings centrally, and check all email and IM for "antisocial content", in order to arrange re-education if required) in the name of opportunity for all.
What if the parents are subject to one of those control orders banning use of the internet?
What will happen if someone "unidentified" uses the computer in violation of the T&Cs of the ISP (perhaps filsharing), does the child lose their educational facilities?
Winston Smith, welcome home.
Clear evidence of the importance of internet to school kids ... at my son's school I gather there's a rush to get to the "Learning Resources Centre" (LRC is what was once called a library ... except today it has very few books and a load of PCs - n.b. this is in a brand new 35million school in Bristol - when we got to look round I was quite shocked by the lack of books) to get onto one of the PCs. In fact the competition is such that its common place to skip lunch to get a machine.
So what "learning" are they using these "resources" for ... I gather its mainly miniclip.com and flashgore.com.
This behaviour is, of course, then repeated at home whenever we suggest that their might be homework to be completed!
Taxpayer asked^H^H^H^H^H forced to bend over by government sponsored IT contractors but this time it's "for the children".
Would I be crazy to suggest it will take forever, cost billions more than it should and not actually work if it is ever delivered.
Would I be loopy to suggest that the money would be better spent on hiring and training more and better teachers than on allowing every kid in the UK access to MySpace, Facebook and those millions of 'free' movies and songs while providing yet another trough for the golden boomerang (bent, expensive and hard to get rid of) IT contractors, vendors and associated ner-do-weels and setting-up a nice retirement plan for whatever minster signs their paychecks.
How do we STOP this sort of blatent con-job?
Ah, this all reminds me of the introduction of interactive whiteboards into my wife's school 3-4 years ago. The LEA bought a set of interactive whiteboards to be deployed in the county's schools, using money which had been earmarked for the project (i.e. it couldn't be spent on books instead - you'll see where this is going in a minute).
My wife was one of the lucky staff to get a whiteboard for her classroom. In the spirit of ensuring value for money, an inspector was timetabled to come in a few weeks to "see it was being used effectively". So we had:
1x freestanding (not wall mounted) whiteboard to go in a classroom, alongside all the existing furniture
1x projector to be set up
1x projector table (to enable more sets to be bought, no money was available for ceiling mounted projectors)
1x laptop with whiteboard software
So we spent a happy weekend finding the best compromise to get all this lot into some sort (any sort) of workable state, solving one of those Japanese warehouse type puzzles where:
.The projector table would be least likely to be knocked by the children, meaning at least a recalibration of the whiteboard
.The cables between the whiteboard, laptop, projector and wall sockets weren't too bad a trip hazard
.The insufficient classroom blinds didn't result in the board being unviewable in daylight
.The board was visible to the children, yet low enough that they could reach to draw on it
.Neither the equipment nor the children consequently ended up under the leaky bit of roof
Would that it were better in newly built classrooms: sadly, the "installation by cheapest tender" results in good workmen wanting to get in and out as quickly as possible, so you end up with cabling being run in surface mounted trunking down the middle of the walls, meaning neither a black/white board nor a display board can then be put up. Whiteboard PCs are mounted on brackets on any free bit of wall, with no regard to how children will flow into and out of a classroom.
Returning to the article in question, once again we see gummint trying to find an educational silver bullet. Unfortunately for them education, like most other fields of human endeavour, has no silver bullet - good education depends on every component working well (teaching, resourcing, management, policy, parenting, supervision, catering, cleaning ... I could go on).
It's another step towards making parents pay for a state education, and consequently another step away from solving the problem of rich kids getting a better education than their poorer peers, which is something this government claims to be worried about. Ho hum!
Joined up government? I doubt these cretins can manage joined up writing.
Computer games have little or nothing to do with why Johnny can't read compared with the disaster known as the "whole language" reading method.
This method is the real reason why 8 out of 10 call center inmates can't read well enough to say my surname correctly. I usually get called "Mr Georgy" by them.
"Whole language" holds that as English is spoken, not read, you teach children to recognise whole words and ignore spelling because it isn't relevant. Unfortunately, if you don't teach kids to read and pronounce syllables you leave them without the ability to recognise, pronounce or understand any new word they come across. The consequence is a semi-literate generation who either can't read or won't read because they find it so hard its not enjoyable. They leave school with a reading vocabulary of around 1000 words, which counts as barely literate.
My teenaged niece tells me that she and her mates taught themselves phonics from sheer necessity. "Phonics" is the traditional syllabic way that reading used to be taught. If they hadn't done that they could not have read their A-level books or used a dictionary.
I'm simply gobsmacked by the crass idiocy of the educationalists who foisted "whole language" reading on the school system without at least running trials to show that it was worthwhile. But, that would require joined-up thinking so of course it wasn't done. It also requires that they understand the concept of evidence-based decision making: they don't. The politicians and civil servants who backed this fiasco also deserve a clunking kick up the arse.
The fact that Balls can blame poor literacy on computer gaming rather than teaching methods shows just how unsuited for office he is.
another dumb clueless burocrat - just like that ----wit of a fire minister.
How about you spend more money on getting in teachers?
How about you give teachers the power to run their classes again instead of letting the monsters have all the power?
How about you pay for renovations and new boilers?
More IT bullshit - literacy was great when all you had was a black board, a note book, a pen, some chalk, and a crisp uniform. Heavily sprinkled with discpline.
But nah, give the little shits broadband, that'll help them. When (if - it's an outside at best possibility) I have kids, they will be banned from using the internet unless supervised. They wont have a TV in their room. They will eat dinner around the table.
Sure once they become teenagers there will be blazing rows, hell they may storm out or get thrown out. They'll also get privilages, like maybe unsupervised net access, watching the TV till 10pm.
Worked for me. Worked for my other mate. The ones who didn't have a similar upbringing.. well ones a cokehead on the dole and the others about 30k in debt.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but computing at home *is* affordable. You can get a laptop for a few hundred quid and most company's actually have to pay people to take old desktop pcs off their hands because they can't get rid of them.
Most of the IT people i know use their old pcs as doorstops, stick them in a loft, or just chuck them out. All the government needs to do is set some way of redistributing old computers that people don't want and they will gladly hand them over for free (I have a funny feeling computer companies would step in and block a big government scheme though, probably microsoft too if you preinstalled them all with linux).
As for the internet, its handy but i wouldn't call it essential. not that thats unaffordable either, basic access can be had for under a fiver a month (a lot of people spend more than that a day on cigarettes).
I was involved with the rollout of the LGFL in Westminster and have seen the uptake (lack of) in schools. The gov thinks up all these grand schemes, forces the taxpayer to pay but never bothers to follow through to completion. Hundreds of cachepilot machines (£1000 cost to schools) are still sitting around doing bugger all as no-one knows how to use them.
I agree with the adore mentioned in that training must be given before more grand schemes. I've seen teachers who can't use a mouse..
If this is the way they insist upon going then there is absolutely no reason to not HEAVILY filter the traffic. And I mean at the home end router (which will be heavily locked down and not accessible to the user) so that the darlings are not using boatloads of bandwidth and hammering the fee-paying customers' contention ratio.
RM for sure have plenty of ability in this area. I would personally be locking it right down to only ports 80 and 443 to the RM upstream proxies.
And if we the taxpayer are providing the connecting computer then I think that ought to be locked down to the connection as well (by MAC address or connection client etc) as I am not in a hurry for my tax pounds being used to provide a free wifi connection to an entire street.
My son's primary school started to get interactive whiteboards a few years ago and the PTA decided to raise money so all classrooms could have them. After this was done it was observed that the Yr6 class rooms hadn't been fitted with them and questions were asked why ... and it was revealed that those rooms (added in the 60s) had asbestos in the ceiling which was perfectly safe unless some did something stupid like screw a data projector mount into it!
Needless to say this caused a major explosion amongst a group of parents who basically demand these rooms be immediately closed down/demolished/rebuilt safely (well at least before their kids got to year 6) as clearly anyone taught in those rooms was in imminent danger of cancer etc etc etc.
"access at home to a computer... [is] strongly associated with higher achievement in [literacy tests]".
I call bullshit on this one, too. The Internet clearly caused the part of young brains that appreciates proper spelling and grammar to disintegrate entirely.
To back up this statement, I cite every forum on the planet.
When will the Government realise that they will need to fully fund these stupid ideas. The burden on parents to supply school uniform, a calculator, books, pencils, sello-tape, rubbers, etc, is already high. A computer as well, along with Broadband, parents already pay enough...... Some of them might have to give up smoking to pay for this..... Nice to see our taxes are being used for schools rather than paying over-inflated salaries to Brown and his cronies....Maybe they should give up some of the 12% rise they all want to pay for some of this.
He's also hypothesized about Myspace access at school, about usage of i iPods in lessons, He's a great guy but he thinks that computers will solve all our problems and that using them makes kids more focused. I'm only 17 myself, and I know that isn't true.
Jim Knight, Get a grip.
For those who would like to look at some research: www.res.org.uk/econometrics/fuchs-woessmann.doc
In their research they found that the key to IT or computers generally contributing to educational outcomes (i.e. attainment) is proportional to the time that parents/teachers spend with them in front of the computer. Otherwise, the computer/internet becomes a distraction rather than a learning tool. As for "real-time" feedback on children: if the parent takes any kind of interest, this is not a problem that needs to be dealt with. If the parents aren't interested, no amount of free internet access will make them interested.
Typical poppycock based on no research (or ignoring disliked research).
Too right mate - just today we chucked out 2 perfectly good P3 450 machines with 256meg RAM, 10gig HD and 64meg 3D graphics cards that had sat under a table doing nothing for well over 2 years. Perfectly fine with a reformat and new OS for internet and office suite style computing.
OK so you can't play the latest generation of games on them, but then the government is talking about education...
Yet another minister pontification from the wrong end of his alimentary canal on a subject that he has *NO* knowledge of simply because the sound-bytes appear to be good and contain all the latest buzzwords and jargon.
Until the Labour (Blair+Brown) government stop handing megabillion quid projects to incompetent favourites, all this will *NEVER* succeed !! Japan is about the same size as Britain but they have the whole country covered for 100 Mb/s broadband while this country is still struggling to provide anything better than dial-up to some parts of it.
Every child on broadband ??? HA ! = (HAHA !!)/2
@Sam Millner - He has !! He has !! Just *NOT* on the right part of his anatomy !!
...they ignore the most obvious solution. RM over charge to schools, so try something else. Microsoft aren't affordable by any standard, and kids don't learn anything with double click, ready made machines etc, so linux is an obvious choice.
Maybe one of those eee pcs (and yes, i'm aware that RM package them in uk) but preloaded with, say, edubuntu would work. Internet is reasonably cheap anyway.
I work in a secondary school up north and I have been trying to get my head round CfP which the Goverment set up in 2007. Basically it involves throwing a load of cash at LEAs and asking them to organise along with secondary schools in deprived areas access to the internet at home by providing a networkable device (PC, Laptop, etc) along with a broadband connection. This is to go to the worst off kids, those who are typically on free dinners and who's parent(s) are barely older than themselves.
The thing about the cash is, it is enough to provide a decent machine, but in many cases not enough to cover a year's broadband, never mind longer than that. Many LEAs have just passed the money on to their schools and said "Here, you deal with it". As far as I am aware, there are no checks on how the money is spent in that case. In the case of our LEA and we are not the exception, they really have tried to help their schools to make best use of the money, organising tenders for the hardware, and trying to get someone to provide broadband. But it is a nightmare.
Many of our families don't even have phone line, never mind an acount with BT. That means it has to be 3G, but in Cumbria there isn't the best coverage. The funding states that it will provide broadband for a year. What about after that? There is nothing that says there should be pressure on the parents to pay.
Then there is the problem of support. True, the hardware will have a manufacturer warrantee, the broadband will have a helpline, but what about software support? Apparently, this falls on school techies. As if we don't have enough to do. Then there is the problem of support for parents. How do they know if their kids really are doing what they are supposed to? Are they even interested? Are they themselves going to use the equipment to run a dodgy outfit from home? What if they take the Laptop down to the car boot sale so they can buy cigs, £20 on the lottery and a whole load of booze?
Is it not plain to see that this whole thing is just another tick box, that it causes no end of work for those who have to implement it, and that there is no evidence that IT improves a pupil's education??? As has already been commented upon, better parenting, trained teachers, and school improvements would have a much better chance of improving education. But not ICT in a deprived home where there is no atmosphere to learn in the first place.
For half of my day I'm an 18 year old, year three student studying Business IT. For the other half I manage IT for a large print firm.
We use RM systems on our campus. Long story short, I can't stand the things. So much so I take my own laptop in, which runs Fedora 8. It stunned me when I fired it up that an entire computer class began to crowd around with inquiry as to what this 'new' invention is; lecturer included.
You see, educational institutions and examination boards bleach the minds of youths full of Microsoft products so much that it's a struggle to get by with open source software to complete work properly. One example that springs to mind is that I can not hand in database assignments because Access won't deal with Base's open .odb format, and Base won't save in Access' .mdb format.
By leaving the proprietary loop of software cost and license cost, schools could afford to buy 1000 extra computers and 1000 broadband lines for students. In fact, with all the spare cash I'd be willing to bet that they could actually improve the school buildings too. I mean, price up 1000 CALs for Exchange Server and 1000 licenses for Office alone and you're looking at enough money spare after computers and 'net access to actually recruit IT teaching staff that don't tell you Linux was 'bought by Apple and replaced by Macs'. You think I kid.
But this is typical of the narrow minded, self centered individuals that work in education. Not all are, but most. My dad used to say to me 'those that work in education work there because they couldn't get a job anywhere else'. Perhaps he's not far from the truth.
The IT support folk there are no use either and only seem to be there to administer the RM stuff. I connect to an unsecure AP every day, I am handed a dynamic IP, and browse any site I like anonymously, avoiding the 'RM SmartCache' software. Of coarse, the staff also use this wireless AP themselves with unencrypted emails going back and forth with confidential information. Wireshark anyone?
I've not met a single other student that knows their arse from their elbow regarding IT. This is not the fault of games, Mr excuse making minister, but down to the staff you appoint to teach said students and the resources available. When all of these resources come from companies like MS and RM, you're doomed for failure.
Education needs a huge (dual)boot in the Ballmer's.
when I was in secondary we had windows 3.11 with a netware server.
we also used to make pictures of willies and put them on the projector so when the teacher turned the projector on without checking there were a few giggles.
If you wanted to research something you went to the library, we had bbcs in there. You could play snake!
If you wanted to write an essay, you wrote it on paper. Or maybe stayed late and used the computer room.
Ahh good old days, the school was actually self goverened (my parents were very against all that (proper labour candidate was my mother) so I almost didn't go but in the end they decided it was far better then the other ways.)
Governement should get it's grubby claws out of education and the health service.
... TAKE A BOW, BEN!
I was itching to get my (lengthy) comments on here until I read Ben's piece...
...not only has he saved me the trouble, but he has put them more eloquently, AND he has made me feel much better that some of our younger citizens can see their own way forward out of the mess that IT "education" has become... brilliant!
For God's sake, let's get the Microsoft cancer out of schools and give all the kids a real IT education, not the Microsoft how-to-use-a-crappy-application-that-doesn't-work-properly will-be-replaced-with-a-new-version-when-Billy-Gates-is-short-of-a-few-bob brainwashing scripts that pass for IT lessons these days.. :-(
I get a little tired of hearing people talk about IT and it being instantly equated with MS Word.
It would be really good to actually find a definition of what IT really means. Is it really just using MS Office ? Money is thrown away every day in large amounts to teach people IT, when they are really teaching them how to format a document using MS word on a computer. Fat lot of use this is to most of the inmates at these establishments. They are sent by the DWP to improve their job hunting skills. So, a fork lift driver is now required to use elegantly formatted prose when compiling their end of shift report ? Bollox !
The lack of basic skills is alarming. Having a computer will never resolve this, it just cannot do it. Bit like watching people use a calculator to add two numbers less than 100. Oh dear. I can work out approximate take home pay given an hourly rate, in my head. That is what I was taught, we had mental arithmetic every morning, as with spelling. The teachers may have been kicked out of the gestapo for cruelty, but we did manage to retain something.
So, if IT is to be a subject, what is it supposed to contain. To me, it is about the engineering used to create a computer and to program a computer to do something useful. If my view prevails (?) then the software used should be capable of analysis, so open source software should play an important part. You can SEE the code, you can learn how it works. It would be really useful to have some sort of processor simulator to actually monitor pin out levels to watch the processor actually working. Too advanced, really ?, but isn't it so much more interesting than learning how to highlight a word and make it bold.
So Mr Minister, a chinese proverb "it is better to remain silent and let people think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt" comes to mind.
A while back I was involved with an ISP who had hoped to take on a major slice of the guvmints IT for schools program... we would have been able to undercut one of the major IT suppliers by a substantial margin on their computers and their broadband provision, and yet still rake in masses of money. We were simply staggered by how much some schools were being charged for a low-grade highly contended ADSL service!
Sadly, it seems that the guvmts job is to take our taxes and give them to the first management consultants who come along and promise some vaguely useful result one day.
IT does generally contain some technical concepts - But no more than is necessary to appreciate what the whirring box in front of you is.
At A-level the subject is split into ICT and Computing. Computing deals with programming and how a processor works whilst ICT deals more with using the computer to get things done. It is the difference between becoming a mechanic and learning to drive.
I would have loved to teach my classes in Malawi how to program the computers - But there is no point until they can use what has already been programmed. Most people are never going to need to program a computer, but the vast majority are going to have to use a word processor and an increasing number will use databases, too.
I think it is the neutrality of the syllabus (which stays away from naming specific products) that is part of the problem - If nothing is mentioned, schools and colleges just default to Windows + MS Office. It would be far better if the syllabus contained something along the lines of "candidates must be exposed to at least one non-Windows non-Office operating system and office productivity suite."
Or just allowing them to find the stuff they want and reword it to fit their own work which they then hand in seem a model pupil but have made little to no effort and haven't learned much in the process except how to regurgitate crap they can't even be bothered to understand...
@AndyS, spot on sir
as Anonymous Coward said at the top, this will cost billions over the planned budget, the machines will be overpriced crap RM machines filled with overpriced software which is not 'essential'
As said, yes, computers are affordable, you can pickup a base unit for maybe 200 quid? a laptop for 400? as for a monitor, i'm sure you can get a CRT free easily-
Now we have to remember, fair enough we may not want CRTs, due to space requirements, but we are paying for our machines, so it's not the issue. As this scheme is to bring computers to those who apparently cannot afford it, CRTs would do fine.
The internet is also not essential as stated, it will just breed millions more facebook/myspace/other horrific social networking site users. I pay 30/month for 16mbit ADSL, now how is that not dirt cheap?
I am sure we all remember being on dialup and paying for a subscription and on a minute by minute basis?
Net and broadband are both cheap-we should not be even entertaining this, it will as usual, cost the taxpayer, benefit government officials and the companies involved. No doubt the contractors will conveniantly be a close friend of some government official, and both will do very well out of it
Secondly, if these people are really so poor as to not be able to afford a computer, perhaps , it's tough? We all had to pay-we can't have a system whereby the poor have the same as the average uk working taxpayer! Most of the people who this applies to-will I would assume be on some form of benefits-? If they are (not all..but the ones who are) perhaps the government should have a look at things, and see how these benefit survivors, do infact manage to buy a pack of cigs a day and drink cheap nasty vodka...stop that and spend it on PCs, or go without
Microsoft are by far and away the biggest cause of higher computer prices these days...
While the price of hardware has steadily decreased, their software has become more and more expensive.
While hardware that's a few years old, and therefore obtainable very cheaply, is more than adequate to run Linux, it cannot run the latest microsoft bloatware, and buying software from microsoft could more than double the price of the hardware.
Look at the new cheap computers becoming available, the OLPC project, the $200 PC walmart has been selling, and the Asus eeepc, all of these come with linux by default, are more than adequate for most peoples needs (certainly more than capable of allowing schoolkids to do online research) and wouldn't be able to run the latest microsoft software at a usable speed.
What the government really needs to do to achieve their goals is...
Move away from microsoft OS's and proprietary apps. By using open source apps they can save money for themselves and for the students, and as a side benefit schools can provide copies of open source apps to students.
Recycle old computers, companies throughout the compay discard thousands of computers every week, either because they schedule replacement on a regular basis, or because they are no longer powerful enough to run current bloated proprietary software. Many companies pay to get rid of these machines, and they cost money to dump/recycle. With the correct incentives these disposal companies could provide these machines to schools cheaply or free. Such computers could easily run linux, and could be provided free or cheaply to schoolkids. Free computers could be restricted to families below a certain income level or claiming benefits etc.
Introduce a national "basic" level of broadband, that is enabled by default with any phone line. Doesnt need to be anything special, maybe 64k or such. Quick enough for educational/research needs etc, and ensuring that everyone has connectivity, but faster connections would still be available to those who want more throughput. Failing that, perhaps offer a free dialup for school students, maybe even have a usage time limit or something.
I think most people here are under the impression that schools / LEA's pay reatil ro OEM prices for software... thay don't. Think 1000 CAL's of Exchange for £500, and Office 2003 Premium @ £20.. And support for free. M$ pay their way into the system, so no Linux will ever get into schools.
"As said, yes, computers are affordable, you can pickup a base unit for maybe 200 quid? a laptop for 400? as for a monitor, i'm sure you can get a CRT free easily-"
Spoken by someone who has never been poor, or attempted to live on a fixed income. 600 quid, in one lump, is an absolute *fortune* to some.
Fortunately, this idea is a non-starter. The first rule of computer security is that if the attacker has physical access then you've already lost and we know what teenagers are like. Can you imagine what the Daily Mail would to with "state-funded porn to every household"?
On the other hand, and recognising that the internet will be an essential part of life within a few years if it isn't already, is there a simpler solution? Indeed, is there a cost-free solution piggy-backing on something that we've already decided to do? Ah, yes, here it is...
A few months ago the government was bouncing up and down about schools being open from 8am to 6pm, to help working parents. Such schools already have IT equipment, which could be securely and professionally maintained. (The above horror stories suggest that it sometimes isn't, but it could be.) Children will be able to use the school facilities to do their homework after lessons finish, and there's a 48-hour limit on the working week that ought to apply to children anyway, so there simply isn't any need to have expensive facilities at home.
If the Schools Minister is seriously thinking these PCs will be used for anything other than surfing pron and wiring up the XBOX to, he's clearly even less in touch than I took him for.
Yes ANOTHER massive expense to the general exchequer to appease core labour voters at the expense of everyone else. I bet the afflulent middle-england-middle-class (who generally already have Broadband and PCs) will not qualify for this (undoubtably means-tested) act of largesse. The people who qualify will be those from "Disadvantaged" areas, who generally vote Labour. Those people in less poor postcodes will merely be expected to pay for it.
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