Thursday, January 28, 2016

Internet Use by Australian School Students

Goodwin, K. (2016) interviewed just over one thousand parents in Australia on their children's use of the Internet for learning. Half were from capital cities, half with primary school age children and half secondary school. Three quarters of parents said that Internet at home helped children learn. About half said their children use the Internet at home for research, watch tutorials and collaborate with other students.

The research was commissioned by NBN Co, an Australian government owned company set up to provide a national broadband network. NBN Co obviously have an interest in talking up the value of digital technology for education. In particular the interview questions appear to have been designed to support the assertion that high speed broadband is needed at home to provide video for education. No questions appear to have been asked about the need to provide Internet for students outside the home.

It should be noted that NBN Co is providing high speed broadband, which is far in excess of the speed required just for educational video. The ABS (2015) notes that the OECD definition of broadband used by the Australian government is 256kbps. In contrast the minimum speed being offered by NBN Co. is 20 Mbps, more than seventy five times the OECD minimum and many times the speed required for educational video.

NBN Co. is only providing fixed broadband for homes and small businesses, it is not providing mobile wireless data, as used by smart phones and tablet computers outside the home. Mobile devices equipped with 3G and 4G wireless modems might render NBCo's multi-billion dollar fiber and fixed wireless network obsolete before it can be completed.

For comparison, Pegrum, Oakley and Faulkner (2013) report on the adoption of mobile devices in ten Western Australian non-government schools in 2011. iPads were most popular, followed by iPod Touches (a small tablet device) and iPhones. Lower level classes had shared devices in the classroom, while older students each had their own device. M-learning, was still being integrated into the teaching.

Pegrum, Oakley and Faulkner (2013) identify professional development (PD) for teachers in the educational use of computers as a major need. One program set up to provide PD is the CSER Digital Technologies MOOC (Falkner, Vivian & Falkner, 2015). This is a series of free on-line courses from the University of Adelaide to teach about the new Australian Digital Technologies curriculum. The course is initially being offered for teaching in Kindergarten to year six (K-6) but is being expanded to cover later years.

Teaching digital technology to teachers on-line is challenging. (Falkner, Vivian & Falkner, p. 66, 2015) note that the average Australian primary  teacher is a 42 year old generalist (secondary teachers are a few years older). These teachers are likely to have had minimal exposure to computers in their teacher training. Teachers are reportedly working 46 hours per week and 8 to 9 days a year on PD. Asking teachers to spend extra time to use IT to learn to use IT to teach IT is a challenge. CSER prepared seven MOOC Modules:
  1. Introduction
  2. Data – Patterns & Play
  3. Data - Representation
  4. Digital Systems
  5. Information Systems
  6. Algorithms & Programming
  7. Visual Programming
Falkner, Vivian an Falkner (p. 68, 2015) report that the first offering of the course had 1378 enrolled, 438 of who did not engage in the course and 99 completed. This is a 7.2% completion rate (10.5% of those encouraging), which is reasonable for a MOOC. The same course, offered with a tutor as a conventional e-learning course may be expected to have a much higher completion rate.


ABS. (2015, May). Discussion Paper: Consultation on topics emerging from submissions to the Information and Communication Technology Statistics Review, Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved from

Falkner, K., Vivian, R., & Falkner, N. (2015, January). Teaching Computational Thinking in K-6: The CSER Digital Technologies MOOC. In Proceedings of the 17th Australasian Computing Education Conference (ACE 2015) (Vol. 27, p. 30). Retrieved from
Goodwin, K. (2016). nbn Digital Parenting Report, NBN Co. Retrieved from
Pegrum, M., Oakley, G., & Faulkner, R. (2013). Schools going mobile: A study of the adoption of mobile handheld technologies in Western Australian independent schools. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 29(1). Retrieved from

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