There is no doubt with the massive penetration of IT hardware into the average household that nowadays it is not unusual for families to have a computer, digital music player, cell phone, and/or some other digital portable device. Manufactures are making these devices cheaper, more seamless in integrating them to your daily life, and often they are seen as a tool, which you use for a while and when they do not work anymore… you buy a newer version and throw away the older one.
Schools traditionally have taken it on to provide these tools (computers, printers, digital cameras and other digital devices) for student use. The logic has been in a public school system often the student population comes from the full spectrum of the economic scale of society, and are not able to have access or use to these tools outside of the context of schools.
In International Schools the economic spectrum is drastically different. International School student populations tend to come from middle to upper middle class families with a healthy disposable income. Their access to digital tools at times can be greater in the context of their home than in some the international schools they attend. This is changing no doubt.
So what is the Learning Portal concept? Simple why are international schools spending money on hardware and digital tools, which most kids already have at home? My point is that International Schools should adopt the philosophy of providing the Learning Portal tools but not the hardware. This means kids bring a laptop from home, and the school provides the hi-speed internet connection in a open wireless environment, and invest, spend the budget on providing a pedagogy which engages the student fully with the rich diversity of Information Technology tools and process which are critical in today’s global economy. Thus investment in IT PD for teachers, schedule adjusted to allow time for an integrated curriculum to blend in IT tools, a greater focus on the ethical aspects of IT tool use in the home, work place and outside world. A clear articulated vision of making the full integration and use of IT within the schools day a non-negotiable. This Learning Portal access tied remotely to the student, via a web interface (web page –intranet, extranet, teacher generated podcast streamed through RSS feeds to student digital audio players and/or course management system)
There still would be a significant investment in structural hardware to support this learning portal philosophy but on the student side let us shift the monies and time not on maintaining and purchasing machines, but on the learning, integration and actually essential understandings which will make them key players in our digital world.
Fair enough there are a million variables which need refining…to make this full proof… that is okay…. MY POINT: let us shift our thinking as international schools away from a hardware centric philosophy and also trying to juggle the learning portal philosophy to a single focus for our kids; Learning Portals in the Digital world for schools.