Learning online at Star of the Sea Catholic Primary School: Ally Ainsworth, Hayden Price, Joseph Bannan, Mason Schellebeck and Mackenzie Price.
Learning online at Star of the Sea Catholic Primary School: Ally Ainsworth, Hayden Price, Joseph Bannan, Mason Schellebeck and Mackenzie Price. David Sparkes

Speedy internet key education tool

WELCOME to 2011, where the internet is revolutionising our schools. For those of us who grew up in the era of chalk and blackboards, it is hard to believe, but the National Broadband Network appears destined to become a key tool in the education of our children.

David O’Hagan, the assistant director-general of information and technologies at Education Queensland, said the state’s schools used the internet in the classroom for a wide range of initiatives but sub-standard connections meant some students were disadvantaged.

“Some schools are restricted due to limitations of the existing telecommunications infrastructure in their locality and experience slow or unreliable connections,” Mr O’Hagan said.

“The NBN will mean that broadband speed is no longer a barrier to learning.

“Students in regional, rural and remote communities will be able to benefit from real-time, interactive, personalised teaching opportunities, an experience previously limited due to current bandwidth.”

Gayle Cunningham is the assistant director of curriculum for Catholic Schools in the Diocese of Rockhampton, which includes Catholic Schools in Gladstone.

Ms Cunningham told The Observer that, while the internet was not a silver bullet for education, it had enhanced the opportunity for good teachers to educate students.

“It really engages students in a wider world,” she said.

“The internet just exposes children to so many possibilities.”

Ms Cunningham preferred not to enter the political debate surrounding the NBN but said she believed faster internet around Australia would bring benefits for education.

She said high-speed broadband could never be a substitute for good teaching but it did enhance the process of education.

As an example, she said students in a classroom in regional Australia could hold a conference with a scientist in Antarctica, provided broadband speeds were up to scratch.

She said it was a possibility teachers of specialist subjects could teach students in remote areas via videoconferencing.

“It’s not the be-all and end-all,” she said.

“But it certainly supports good teaching. There are endless possibilities.”