Laptops vs Libraries

27 11 2008

According to Emma Macdonald in the Canberra Times today, the Federal government is now spending more than $2 billion dollars to provide every Year 9-12 student in Australia with a computer.  

Laptops which get vandalized, lost, stolen, and will mostly be used for? Learning????  Yet we know that school libraries which are well stocked and staffed make a significant difference to student learning and literacy. (See our Research pages.)  We don’t know that computers have the same impact on literacy and learning!

How badly off are some of our government school libraries? Surveys of school libraries in the NT indicated last year that most schools had less than $1000 a year to spend. (No wonder the ABC has pitched in to help buy books for indigenous kids.)

Let’s see.  Average price of a book c. $30.  Government schools (you know, the ones which educate two thirds of the nation’s students, but only get one third of the federal funds.) 6,853.  How many books might that money provide for every government school, especially the ones who now have library budgets of $1000 to $5000 per year.  Check my maths.  $291,843 per government school or 9728 books each!!!  That can’t be right, can it?

Almost 10,000 new books to share, or one laptop not to share.  We know what Phillip Pullman would say!  He and other UK authors have let Chesterfield school know  “that it will become a ‘byword for philistinism and ignorance’ if it goes ahead with the closure of its library” as it becomes a  ‘virtual learning environment’. 

Let your federal member know what you think.  Libraries or laptops??






4 responses

17 12 2008
Brett Burgess

I cannot agree with this. Text material need not be replaced by computers they are both vital. this suggestion makes no sense. On line material can be viewed by multiple people at once a book cannot. By the time many books are printed the information is either out of date or irrelevant. I cannot get anywhere/anytime access with library material that I can with online material. The computer that the Government is supplying in theory allows access to all knowledge or in fact every library book anywhere at anytime. Educators cannot be so narrow and backward looking.

18 12 2008
Tom McCabe

Yes but laptops go “boing” and they flash. Books do neither of these. With a laptop students can spend many hours doing PowerPoints (the 21st century equivalent of colouring in). They can change the font and re-design the background. They can make titles spin and wobble. You can’t do that with a book.
A computer of any kind is a tool. It is not a teacher or instructor in any shape or form. I wonder what would have been the reaction if KRudd had said he was going to give every student a food processor? Or a chainsaw!

27 01 2009

Perhaps the point was not made clearly. A great deal of money is being spent on putting computers into the hands of students, while little is being spent on books and school library staffing. The question is not really one or the other, but on prioritizing literacy and the staffing of school libraries with teachers librarians who are specialists in literacy and information literacy – using that processor (food for thought:-)

28 01 2009
Gemima Chan

Libraries AND laptops

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