Laptops 4 Learning

Wanted to get down some of the big ideas (and fast facts) that have come up over the past two days at the Laptops 4 Learning Forum.  There is so much I could say – and will say, in some more blog posts over the coming week.  For now…

Big Ideas:

  • Schools should work toward developing a ‘digital culture’ by using technologyas a tool, rather than scheduling technology events.  The laptops should become part of the learning environment, like pens, papers and whiteboards.
  • Laptop use in schools has the potential to make classes and projects more student-centred.  The increased capacity for project-based learning through connectivity (and nifty software) can mean that the technology can have a positive impact on pedagogy.
  • Teachers will need to develop their skills in classroom management to accomodate problems with the technology…but this is no reason to give up or shy away.  We already do this when the photocopier breaks, or the OHP bulb blows!
  • Laptops are exciting, and the potential for student engagement is huge.  Rather than facing their work and asking  “why do I have to do it?”, this will get them asking “can I do it this way?” (This great point from Steven Plummer, who is leading the English KLA project)
  • Barbara Bober gave us a great metaphor – some teachers will be like Formula 1 drivers with the technology; most will ordinary, but competent and perhaps even excited drivers or smaller vehicles (to extend the metaphor for those who worry about teachers losing control in laptop lessons – in this metaphor, the teacher is still the driver!)
  • When planning, we should consider how the laptops will impact on the students, the teachers, the pedagogy, and classroom management.  All are important factors
  • There isn’t a need to re-invent the wheel.  As well as imagining new and foreign possibilities, we should be looking at current curriculum and pedagogy and asking: what can be enriched?
  • Ken Olah explained that feedback to kids has the largest correlation (1.4) with increased student learning.  Imagine the opportunities for feedback that constant access to personal laptop creates!
  • It will be a bit messy to start off with…but it is worth it.

Students Talk:

In one panel discussion two students talked about what they saw as the benefits of having and using laptops.  They suggested:

  • Being able to do bits of work ‘here and there’, rather than only being able to access desktop computers at certain times will relieve some stress around homework and assignmetns
  • Homework etc. will be more easily recorded in a school diary or calendar on the laptops
  • Work can be saved, and easily shared – no more lost sheets or notes if you are away
  • Having computer access at school.  Students reported often having trouble getting into a computer lab or finding a free computer in the library
  • Assiting group work outside of school hours
  • Better access to whole school information – they suggested school notices being distributed electronically.

Fast Facts:

  • Students will get their laptops in Term 3.  Teachers will get theirs before students do, probably in July.
  • Wireless is getting installed in April, and this is bound to be a bit disruptive.  Libraries plus one classroom will get it first.
  • Every school will get one full-time technical officer to support laptop use.  There is a 4 year funding commitment from federal governemt for this, and this person is employed regardless of whether your school already has ‘an IT person’ – their sole job is to support the laptops
  • Schools will have spare batteries and laptops for students to use if they don’t have their laptops (and policies will be in place to curtail repeat offenders)
  • Students are expected to charge their laptops overnight and bring them charges to school.
  • Operating system is Windows XP
  • Software installed is Microsoft Office 7 (standard suite plus One Note) and Adobe (Connect, Presenter, Captivate, Photoshop Elements, Premier Elements, Dreamweaver, Flash and Acrobat Professional)
  • Disk size is 160 GB, but about 50 GB of this is used up with the software
  • The Lenovo laptops have two USB ports,  an Ethernet port, Bluetooth an SD memory card reader, and an inbuilt webcam

As I said, there is so much more information to come.  In the meantime, enjoy a peek at the new laptop 🙂

dsc00446 dsc00448

  1. #1 by darcymoore on May 8, 2009 - 6:31 am


    Taa. So, you used a laptop?

    So, what did you actually learn about PD that will happen?

    How many people participated in this forum?

  2. #2 by Roger Pryor on May 8, 2009 - 9:25 am


    Thanks for such a concise summary of some great key messages. I’ve shared these with a number of people across our Region as they are the sorts of thoughts that are really useful to get thinking happening well. Another good example of the efficacy of us using credible school based people to share ideas and practice, collaboratively building a widening pool of capacity and culture.

  3. #3 by Troy on May 8, 2009 - 5:59 pm

    I am not surprised about the size, thanks for the water bottle comparison!
    I am so happy they had students along, I find your sumamry of their insight the norm from talking to my own students…I can not wait.
    We already have wireless installed.

  4. #4 by paralleldivergence on May 8, 2009 - 8:48 pm

    Thanks for the report on the L4L forum Kelli. As an ICT-aware educator, I know you’ll take these netbooks and lap them up with your students. If only we could say the same about our peers. We certainly have some challenging times ahead of us. Almost a year ago I wrote this article: and many of the questions it raised are still unanswered.

    On Australia Day, I posted this article – – we’ve been motoring on with getting the “stuff” but doing very little if anything to ensure the operators will know how to best use the “stuff”.

    One positive I can say is they’ve agreed to include this:

    Keep up the great work Kelli. You’re and inspiration to your fellow teachers. If we ever needed trailblazers, we need them now. 🙂

  5. #5 by Rageeb on May 8, 2009 - 11:24 pm

    So how does this work – every student gets a laptop to keep for the year or is it forever? Will this effectively abolish the need for computers at the library? What’s keeping the students from formatting the hdd and bypassing the net filter (if it comes packaged with any)? What’s the meaning of life?

  6. #6 by paralleldivergence on May 9, 2009 - 9:27 am

    Rageeb: Q1: Every student years 9 through 12 will receive a laptop. They keep it with them the whole time (even taking it home). If they complete year 12, they get to keep the netboook (i.e. after four years of school with it).

    Q2: Years 7 and 8 don’t get them at this stage, so there will be a need to maintain desktops and notebooks within the school – especially for the more complex applications which will struggle on a netbook.

    Q3: Built-in security will stop them fiddling. The DET Flieter is centrally based, not on the netbooks themselves.

    Q4: 42.

  7. #7 by stuart Scott on May 9, 2009 - 11:57 am

    As principal I am very excited an please that staff and students are to receive a laptop. Question will this process be started in Primary School say Year 5?.

    I know my staff are very keen to have these lap top in year 9. we have started to change how we present lesson already.

    Stuart Scott

  8. #8 by Simon Job on May 10, 2009 - 9:31 am

    “Wireless is getting installed in April, and this is bound to be a bit disruptive. Libraries plus one classroom will get it first.” is a bit of a concern.

    Only one classroom! That is going to severely limit the usefulness of these machines for maths/science where word processing is not the focus.

    Also, as per Darcy, the PD has not started, yet it’s week 3 and we’re about to enter the busiest part of term. Is the PD going to be substantial or “here’s a laptop and here’s how to turn it on”?

  9. #9 by paralleldivergence on May 10, 2009 - 10:16 am

    Well April’s passed for a start… 3 high schools were installed. The rest will follow shortly. Wireless will be in two phases – Phase 1 covers the Library and some classroom areas around it (if there are any of course), but Phase 1 will also cover the wireless network design process for the rest of the school. Phase 2 will be the installation of wireless across the entire school. Close to 500 schools need to be wirelessed. If they did the whole school to start with, (1) they would make mistakes (2) the schools at the end will be waiting a long time without any wireless. Phase 2 is supposed to be completed by the start of term 2, 2010.

    As for the PD, I’m pretty sure there will also be “here’s how to turn it off”.

  10. #10 by Simon Job on May 10, 2009 - 11:10 am

    @paralleldivergence you may also know… will the internet connection to schools be upgraded? Our seems pretty slow, and with additional clients, will just get slower.

  11. #11 by Lyntiernan on May 10, 2009 - 11:18 am

    Thanks Kelly, I really appreciate your blogging on the forum (I would love to have been a participant!)

    I’ve been thinking about the ‘delivery’ and how it might change my lessons. There has already been a considerable change in my pedagogy with the Connected classroom. I did a bit of ‘digging’ around in the holidays and found so many interactive resources that will work really well when kids have laptops.

    One thing I already do when we are timetabled into the computer room is put my lesson on a word document with links then load it into the lesson drive on the school intranet. Kids access directly and I am thinking that this will be a useful practice with the laptops?

    What I really want to learn more about and have a ‘go’ at is wikis. And I am hoping that the PD includes some serious training on all the software I am not already using.

  12. #12 by paralleldivergence on May 10, 2009 - 11:27 am

    @simon: Currently all schools are being changed over the to Telstra NGEN service. Most were at 2MBit/s, this will take them to 10MBit/s, but it’s scalable, so theoretically, with a flick of the switch at the exchange, it can be toggled to 100MBit/s when the local exchange is ready for it. That would be when KRudd’s broadband initiative goes through. Close to half of our school’s have been NGEN’ed

  13. #13 by kellimcgraw on May 11, 2009 - 1:39 am

    Yes, I did hear once at the Forum that while schools were currently in the middle of getting upgraded to 10MBit/s, it would really not be that long until we see that upgraded again to 50MBit/s. Now, I’m not sure if they were just speaking about the potential to do this once K-Rudd upgrades everyones broadband, or about something else.

    One thing the IT technician mentioned in our school when I asked if she was excited about getting the upgrade to 10MBit/s (we got ours recently) – she said that without upgrading the network within the school, we weren’t going to be able to get the most benefit possible. Techies – does this sound right?

  14. #14 by kellimcgraw on May 11, 2009 - 1:40 am

    @Darcy I would guess there were about 7-10 people from each KLA, plus some people from CLI, Curriculum Directorate, PLL and the L4L Project team. So… bit <80?

    I did use a laptop, and it was nice to use, though the screen is small so only shows a letterbox section of a document or website, and it got very hot on my lap in the mock teaching session – went as red as a beetroot!

    The PD is going to come from the KLA teams (I am in the English one) in the form of teaching resources – strategies, lesson/unit ideas, lesson plans, some marking criteria etc. Materials will largely come through Curriculum Directorate and TaLe I believe.

  15. #15 by kellimcgraw on May 11, 2009 - 1:42 am

    Oh, and the KLA teams will be doing 15 PD workshops across NSW in term 3. Obviously we’d like more, but I anticipate there will be materials coming from the professional associations, such as the English Teacher’s Association, soon enough.

    (There has never been a better time to develop your PLN!)

  16. #16 by Rageeb on May 11, 2009 - 2:18 am

    Well, the 50MBit/s MIGHT be possible. They were probably talking about KRudd’s new NBN but there’s a 8year build time on that so it’ll be ~2years before we see scattered coverage across Australia. Once this is done yeah – we can give anyone practically limitless speed (theoretically it’s something like 25TBit/s & real life we’ve seen 40Gbit/s so far) simply by putting a different ‘code’ on the cable. This is all assuming that it passes the senate AND that Australia gets enough international pipes to actually have enough bandwidth to give everyone 50Mbit/s.
    As for the schools network it would really depends on what the bottleneck is at the moment. If Cat5 (150Mbit/s) cables are being used for the network at the moment then it might be worth while to put in some Cat6 (10Gbit/s) cables just for the sake of future proofing. But, imo, the problem at our school is the server, it just cannot handle the load. It’s good to hear that the flaky wireless is getting overhauled too, those things were a real pain.

  17. #17 by Michael Murray on May 12, 2009 - 11:23 am

    Hi Kelli,

    This is a terrific blog – and causing quite a stir here at Ryde. It has been picked up by people beyond the English team and held up as a model of good practice to get out important info and encourage discussion among teachers. Let me know if you pick up any interesting ideas that could feed into our work. I may not always have time to keep up with the conversations.

    Great to have you on the team!

    Best wishes,
    Michael Murray
    Chief Education Officer, English

  18. #18 by kellimcgraw on May 12, 2009 - 11:40 pm

    Wow, thanks Michael 😀
    I am always encouraging people in my school to develop their online personal learning networks, even if it is just by collecting RSS feeds for a couple of blogs they find interesting. The extra time spent at home contributing to professional dialogue is well worth it!
    I’m tracking my key ideas for our project on the L4L Ning, but posts on this blog relating to the ‘new technologies, new stories’ project are tagged with ‘narrative’.

    @Rageeb – you answered my question entirely, thanks! I just hope our school wireless IS getting overhauled, and not passed over because we ‘already have wireless’.

  19. #19 by Prue Greene on May 13, 2009 - 12:23 pm

    Well done Kelli on you explanation about the two day forum. Good to see so many positive comments.

  20. #20 by Michael Murray on May 13, 2009 - 12:27 pm

    Now the assistant director here at Curriculum Directorate has asked for access to the blog!

  21. #21 by Pixeltoy on May 16, 2009 - 8:38 pm

    Great, Yr9-12 students will have access to a netbook by the end of … Term 3?
    I’d like to quote Marko from over on (1 June, 2008)
    “As a high school teacher in Queensland, I’m terrified of this project. Not terrified for me, but for the 70% of teachers at my school that refuse to use technology with the students. I think you’re absolutely right. We need to change the syllabus and integrate the ICT resources into all subjects.”
    Over the last 10 yrs we have had nothing but bandaid fixes to problems. This current ‘bandaid’ will leave more problems than fixes.
    Remember the English syllabus back in 92/93? Just dumped on schools and districts with a ‘create your own training’. Schools/teachers are still coming to terms with their English syllabus.
    Coming from a K-6 background I cannot stress enough the amount of work we put in to using technology as part of the learning process. Then I hear disappointing stories (similar to Marko above when our students get to high school where they don’t…
    As @paralleldivergence says “until EVERY teacher has a laptop AND uses it for education purposes, we’re really going to struggle with this Digital Education Revolution.”
    This was a fundamental ERROR back in 97. It’s like saying, this is how you paint a picture with these great paints. Now, go and try at home and then with your students. When at home all you have is a lead pencil.
    Before I head back over to my corner let me just add 1 last thing that I haven’t heard mentioned. Does anyone take into account WHAT skills these students are coming to the table with? My 4 yr old Amory has been using ICT since he was able to. This is some of his work (all I did was put it together in iMovie with a soundtrack- the photos are his). He also gets up in the morning, grabs my iPhone and tells me what the weather will be today. I often find him on my Macbook trying to get into a game of ‘City of Heroes’. In 1 yr he will be starting Kindergarten. If he is lucky he might have a teacher that will let him touch a digital camera. If he is like the other 95% of students out there he will be told WHAT to do and WHEN to do it.
    Don’t get me started on my sons that are in yr9 and yr11 who haven’t touched ICT at all this yr- both are in PUBLIC High Schools in 2 different suburbs. What Marko says (above) may be an under-estimate.

  22. #22 by kellimcgraw on May 17, 2009 - 1:10 pm

    Pixeltoy, you make some excellent points about the difficulties that we face in integrating ICT into our teaching. However, I’m not sure that changing the syllabus is the answer. Hoping you can continue the discussion on my new post. Why is it that teachers are so reluctant to use ICT in the classroom (easy question imo), but more importantly – what do we need/what can we do to change this?

  23. #23 by Roger Pryor on May 17, 2009 - 9:22 pm

    Well done Kelli. I’m also sharing the URL on the Grapevine at

    Isn’t it powerful when we connect, collaborate and create 🙂

  24. #24 by deniselofts on May 17, 2009 - 9:45 pm

    Hi Kelli, This is an amazing blog! well done. I am only just coming on board with PLN. Yours is a fabulous example which I intend to share with my executive. Our Technology team have a wiki space, edublog, however looking at Word Press, it appears more powerful and reader friendly.
    Thank you

  25. #25 by Lynne Mullane on May 18, 2009 - 11:18 am

    Kelli, Thank you. A lot to consider. I look forward to further comments. Your blog is now a ‘favourite’. I will pass on your details to other staff members. Regards Lynne

  26. #26 by Whitey on May 19, 2009 - 8:20 pm

    After doing some reading i noted that the government has been making less link to years 10-12 getting a laptop and mainly focusing on year 9 students.
    Are the year 10s-12s still getting laptops and just having to wait a bit longer OR do they not get them at all?

  27. #27 by kellimcgraw on May 19, 2009 - 9:24 pm

    Unfortunately current Years 10-12 will miss out entirely. Each year from now on students will given laptops in Year 9 only; so, eventually by 2012 all students from Year 9-12 will have their own laptop.

    I’m not sure of the rationale for leaving Years 7-8 out of the long term planning. Perhaps another reader knows more?

  28. #28 by paralleldivergence on May 19, 2009 - 10:05 pm

    @whitey and @kelli – There is logic in distributing the laptops this way. This year it’s all year 9. Next year, it’s all year 9. The year after, it’s all year 9. The students keep their laptop all the way until they leave school, and if they leave at the end of year 12, they get to keep that 4 year old laptop (we don’t want it anyway).

    So, all students in a year have the same laptop, all students get a new laptop, all students have the same model laptop as the peers in their year. The teachers only have to cope with introducing 1:1 one year at a time. The bring it in in year 9, they use the skills they’ve learning and avoid the problems they found with the next year 9. They don’t have to worry about trying to introduce it across four years in one go. So yes, the current years 10-12 will miss out on a personal laptop, but they will have access to them as all schools will get a “pool” of extra laptops for loaning out with other years.

    Why not years 7 & 8? This is a KRUDD frederal project. He is the one who said years 9-12. He budgeted $1000 per student for that portion of the enrolment only.

  29. #29 by Michael Murray on May 20, 2009 - 10:58 am

    It’s my understanding that schools will be allocated enough laptops for all Year 9 and one between two for Years 10-12. I suspect that some schools might choose not to distract their HSC students with laptops at this stage of the game and perhaps give laptops to all Year 10 as well as Year 9. Not sure about what flexibility schools have in this regard.

    Don’t forget too that no laptops will be issued to schools until they have their extra techy person in place.

  30. #30 by paralleldivergence on May 20, 2009 - 11:16 am

    @Michael, yes, this is the extra “pool” I was referring to. Allocating them to year 10 is not a great idea because they will not be allowed to keep them when they leave school (until the laptops are 4 years old), so they will have to hand them back when leaving. Alsop, this “pool” is meant to be there for teachers to borrow until they get allocated their own (it’s a rollout over time for teachers too), and as hot-spare replacements for student’s whose laptop has died or requires reimaging or has a fault etc. The left overs can be used with notebook trolley’s etc, loan in the library etc, etc. It will be the “techy” person’s job to coordinate all of this, meaning their job will be more administrative than techy.

  31. #31 by Simon Borgert on May 23, 2009 - 4:06 pm

    An excellent blog Kelli – thanks!
    Was there any discussion regarding the longevity of the L4L programme? i.e what happens after the four years?

    It will be interesting to see what happens regarding fibre optic cabling of areas schools that don’t have them in order for the wireless points to be installed

  32. #32 by paralleldivergence on May 23, 2009 - 5:04 pm

    @Simon. Here’s a timeline:

    Nov 2007 – Rudd Govt elected
    Feb 2008 – Year one starts of the 4 year DER funding
    July 2008 – NSW Govt rejects the funding until more is allocated by the feds
    Dec 2008 – COAG meeting approves NSW’s additional funding request
    Dec 2008 – NSW puts out tenders for Netbooks and Wireless
    Mar 2009 – Lenovo chosen for netbooks. L4L project starts
    Apr 2009 – IBM chosen for wireless (Aruba solution)
    May 2009 – First trials begin in 3 schools
    End 2009 – All year 9 students and most HS staff have their netbooks
    Mar 2010 – Wireless installs finished in high schools, netbooks continue being supplied
    Nov 2010 – Next federal election (who will win??)

    Nutshell: This is a $2b project. We are in the “worst recession since the great depression”. By this time, we will have $300B of debt and the biggest deficit in history.

    So to answer your question, nobody knows what will happen, but there are many funding reasons why it won’t continue (wrong economic climate, we can’t afford it, possible change of government, was it educationally effective? etc). What WILL see it continue?

    – Demand from students/parents
    – Demand from teachers (what chance for this?)
    – Positive
    – Government priority
    – If labor gets back in, broken promise backflips are embarrassing
    – Failure of such a massive project is embarrassing.

    What will actually happen? god knows.

  33. #33 by Nerida McGeachie on May 26, 2009 - 1:15 pm

    Kelli this is a very positive tool you have established giving teachers an opportunity to share info as well as concerns. It is a shame of course that the ones who will need it most are not the ones who will logged on supporting social networks e.g. blogging. In my rile at region I will use this as an example wherever possible to engage teachers and hopefully sart breaking down (little step by little step) the fears in schools.

  34. #34 by Brad Bennett on June 2, 2009 - 4:03 pm

    This is brilliant! As a student in year 9 I am very excited about the netbooks we’re receiving. I find it funny how teachers get them 1 month before students to learn how to use them.
    I have constantly been searching the internet for more information about the Laptops 4 Learning program, and I think this post says more than all the government websites and Nathan Reese’s blog put together.
    I’ve made my own wordpress blog, (named after a city in the Philippines) where I post everything I know and everything I have found out about the program, mostly to inform my friends who are always asking me questions.
    It’s mainly related to my school, since there are teachers opinions and such, but even if you don’t go to Lake Illawarra High you might find it interesting.

  35. #35 by Michael Murray on June 3, 2009 - 10:27 am

    Thanks for these enthusiastic comments, Brad, and for sharing your wordpress blog. It is great to find a Year 9 student who is ready and rearing to go with the netbooks. I’m sure there will be plenty more like you.

    I’m still marvelling at the technology that allows me to communicate with, and learn from, a Year 9 student. The implications of this technology for the democratic sharing of knowledge are amazing.

    Michael Murray
    Chief Education Officer, English

  36. #36 by kellimcgraw on June 3, 2009 - 5:00 pm

    I agree, Michael. Brad, thanks so much for adding your comment to this post – it is so exciting to see students getting involved in all of this. Really involved!

    When teachers, students and administrators work together collaboratively and with mutual respect, amazing things can happen and everyone benefits. I can’t wait to start working with my year 9 class and school SRC to see what they can do to support the school in using laptops effectively!

  37. #37 by Cheap Dell Laptops on June 9, 2009 - 4:20 pm

    Nice post.

    On a humorous note – did you know that the terms “how to get on my space at school” are searched 2,406 times per month according to

    The student panel seem to leave that out. 🙂

  38. #38 by Robyn Howson on August 5, 2009 - 9:49 am


    I have been popping in and outof this blog for a few weeks now! Has anyone figured out how to use the quickmark webcam??Is it a webcam??it says its a bar code reader??? I wanted to try and use it for SAM animation…. Any info would be helpful or a referral to the appropriate website??

  39. #39 by Surrency on December 18, 2009 - 11:50 am

    Do you tweet and have a twitter account so I can follow you?

  40. #40 by kellimcgraw on December 27, 2009 - 6:42 pm

    yes I do – I am @kmcg2375

  41. #41 by on June 23, 2013 - 3:55 am

    Howdy! This article could not be written any better! Looking at this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He continually kept talking about this. I’ll send this article to him. Fairly certain he’s going to have a good read.

    Thanks for sharing!

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