Netbooks on the rise (European overview of national laptop and netbook initiatives in schools)
Recently, Anja Balanskat and Valentina Garoia on behalf of the European Schoolnet publish a report about netbooks in schools. The report includes several issues concerning Greece.
Based on the belief that personal ownership of computing devices (e.g. netbooks, handhelds or mobiles) is highly motivating for students and also for teachers, the latest national ICT
programmes increasingly focus on 1:1 initiatives by providing personal notebooks and netbooks to students, teachers and families. 1:1 computing is a new phenomenon in educational settings, indicating the ratio of items per user, i.e. one netbook per learner and referring to the current trend of low-cost computer devices, ranging from mobiles and handhelds to netbooks. Even though laptops are not a new phenomenon in educational settings, several European countries have started in the last years to invest further in low-cost computer devices, and netbook initiatives are developing more and more in schools and other educational contexts.
Moreover, at European level, European Schoolnet, in cooperation with Acer, is involved in
a netbook initiative, which started early in 2010. The Acer-European Schoolnet Educational Netbook Pilot is aimed at understanding and documenting how learners and teachers can use netbooks in various educational contexts. The aim is to explore how the introduction of netbooks and 1:1 pedagogy in schools could change teaching and learning processes. Until June 2010 the pre-pilot involved 10 classes in 6 countries (UK, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Turkey), while the full deployment phase will run from September 2010 to June 2011 involving 40 classes in each country (www.netbooks.eun.org).
Netbooks on the rise- from general provision of ICT to 1:1 initiatives: This report identified 33 initiatives in 18 countries: Austria, Czech Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The aim is to give a general overview of national initiatives providing laptops/notebooks or netbooks to schools as identified in a number of European countries. Over recent years the general provision of ICT in schools has increasingly focused on 1:1 initiatives providing one laptop/netbook per pupil.
Large and small-scale initiatives: The largest initiatives in terms of number of netbooks provided in relation to the number of schools in the respective country can be found in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Norway, Portugal, Spain and the UK. As well as larger national initiatives, which include laptop/netbook provision, we can see the emergence of a high number of smaller-scale scattered initiatives, mainly research pilots and individual school initiatives, e.g. in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.
Students and teachers as the main target audience: Most of the 1:1 initiatives presented here target students in the first place, teachers in second place and families in a few cases. Some initiatives in focus aim to tackle digital divides (the access divide) and specific target groups, e.g. disadvantaged families, children in kindergarten or with special needs, and rural schools. However, these are very few in relation to the overall number of initiatives looked at.
A focus on personal ownership of ICT and modernization of equipment: Initiatives are driven by the technology itself to further reduce computer/student ratios and to modernize the equipment for teachers and learners in and increasingly outside schools. Initiatives come with a wider package offered to schools including, more often than not, interactive whiteboards, wireless connections or Internet access (in the school but also in communal areas or at home), projectors, specific educational software and educational resources and training for teachers.
Pedagogical aspirations related to netbook use: In addition to a technology-driven approach, national or regional initiatives also aim to fulfil educational goals, such as the use of ICT in all subjects, to foster competence-based education and to exploit the possibilities of mobile learning (learning anywhere and anytime). Pedagogical aspirations linked to laptop/netbook initiatives lie in the personalization of learning, and supporting individual learning styles and different types of learners.
Public-private partnerships at the core of provision: Regarding the organizational framework, Ministries of Education are the principal initiators of these programmes. Sometimes national or regional governments, together with ministerial agencies also participate. However, some initiatives are run entirely at regional/local level or even at school level. Private enterprises are also involved in several initiatives since they are the main providers of laptops/netbooks: in the framework of the latest initiatives, public-private partnerships are becoming more and more common.
Financing models that benefit students in the first place: Benefits can be assigned to schools, students or directly to parents and families. When targeting schools, the provision of laptops is in some cases class-oriented. Individual classes or schools can create a pedagogical project and apply for a grant to buy ICT infrastructure to use laptops in class. In other cases awards are granted to schools or classrooms with ICT competences. In most cases students are the direct beneficiaries of the initiative, and are provided with netbooks or laptops at no cost to themselves for their own personal use both at home and in the classroom. These initiatives can be nationwide or cover only one region with the intention of later enlarging the scope. In a few initiatives families (e.g. low-income families) are the main target and may be awarded grants or other kind of incentives to buy laptops.
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