Cyber daft: Student laptops rendered 'useless'

Warren Wheeler and daughter Milli, 15, are frustrated by restrictions on using school laptops provided under the Federal Government program. Picture: GREG TOTMAN
Warren Wheeler and daughter Milli, 15, are frustrated by restrictions on using school laptops provided under the Federal Government program. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

As the roll-out of laptops for Year 9 school students continues, one parent has criticised restrictions placed on the technology.All Year 9 students in NSW public schools receive a free laptop as part of the Federal Government's $1.9 billion Digital Education Revolution (DER). The Lenovo laptops come with Windows 7 as well as $5500 of Microsoft and Adobe software, and a 160GB hard drive and 2GB RAM memory.However, Oak Flats father Warren Wheeler said the internet and download restrictions on his daughter Milli's laptop, which she received in November, made it of little use. Instead, Milli had to rely on the family computer to do most of her school work.Mr Wheeler said his daughter, a budding artist, was unable to install a graphics tablet he had purchased for her, or use her new generation iPod. "She also uses forum-type websites like deviantart.com to put up artwork and get feedback, but these are blocked," Mr Wheeler said."I understand them having protection, but when they are doing research it means they're limited to things like Wikipedia, which isn't the most reliable source."I think the laptops are a great idea, but they need to be functional. At the moment Milli can do little more than word process."A NSW Department of Education and Training spokeswoman said filters were present to block inappropriate material."Teachers can request that sites be blocked or unblocked and response time is about 24 hours," she said.The spokeswoman said that because of licensing implications only NSW-DER approved applications could be installed. However, a draft model for additional software requests was discussed in mid-February with the NSW Secondary Principals Council Digital Revolution Task Force.