Smart card schools for laptop city

EDINBURGH is looking at a massive investment in information technology which could revolutionise its services. Roy Jobson, the city's education director, told The TES Scotland these developments would go well beyond the school to special laptops in the home to bring council services online and achieve savings within 10 years.

The authority has been running pilots with cordless computers and wireless technology at St Peter's primary and Trinity primary and video conferencing at Liberton, Broughton and St Thomas of Aquins high schools and all their associated primaries. It is also using smart cards for the new state of the art building for St Thomas of Aquins, due to open in August.

"We are developing smart cards, looking at basic administration - attendance, school meals, ordering, lesson planning and getting information to do with assessments for learning on to cards for kids to use, so they have got electronic records of what they are learning," Mr Jobson said.

"They simply swipe them into the computer. We are also talking to Lothian Buses, so that kids can get to school with the smart card."

Funding has come from various sources such as the National Grid for Learning Scotland, one-off sums from the Scottish Executive and the Modernising Government Fund.

The city is looking at providing every child and teacher with a laptop within five years and has been doing some "dipstick" calculations into how many youngsters do not have computers at home.

"We are looking at setting up an e-foundation, a trust which would enable us to work with manufacturers on a lease basis as one of the options," Mr Jobson said. "The figure of pound;5 a week is going around at the moment - there is a pilot in Nottingham. But that's on the assumption you buy off-the-shelf laptops. One possibility would be to simplify them for schools, so they are cheaper. Laptops now are at a higher spec than would be required, particularly for primary schools."

The department is working with manufacturers and designers to develop special laptops.

Online learning is growing all the time, Mr Jobson said. He was impressed by science lessons he saw at Liberton primary, where children were taught online by the secondary teacher at the high school.

"The Scholar programme (of school courses designed by the universities) is well embedded and video conferencing could effectively lead to a revolution in learning styles and the width of the curriculum," he said.

"For teachers, lots of time is wasted on administration that could be switched to electronic means. It's the same as ordering services - e-procurement to order and purchase goods."

Officials have had two meetings with the Scottish Qualifications Authority on assessment, "looking at areas of mutual interest on the 5-14 curriculum and testing, anywhere, anytime assessment and online marking."

The city's vision embraces everything from education to transport and rubbish collection. There have been talks with other services about how parents at home could also use the laptops. "It may well be that it's cheaper to provide them," Mr Jobson said.

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you