The Acceleration of E-learning in Australia and Impacts of E-waste: Approaches to reforming e-learning in the 21st century
Edmund Horan, RMIT University (Australia)
This research tracks the rapidly growing use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Australian educational institutions with its resultant increase in the generation of e-waste. To counter these trends, it proposes interventions curriculum development and in waste management.
Australia, like many countries, has been driven to accelerate and transform teaching and education through e-learning and increase exposure to ICT (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2015).
The Australian Government has invested heavily into the digital education system, through a growing number of programs and policies that are all designed to support all aspects of digital learning in classrooms, outlined in the government strategy, Digital Education Revolution (DER) (ACARA, 2012). The DER represents a reform program designed to introduce and support a 1:1 computer to student ratio for years 9 to 12.
In 2006 approximately 65% of children aged 5-14 had access to internet connection. In contrast, the 2016 report, Household Use of Information Technology, shows this figure has risen to 97%.
As technology becomes more popular in everyday life and more innovative with each passing year, e-waste, or waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), has become the fastest-growing waste stream globally (Jayasinghe et al., 2013). Approximately 50 million tonnes of e-waste are generated each year globally. This impact is only exacerbated by the growing number of programs that aim to introduce increasing amounts of technology (Baldé et al., 2015).
In Australia, e-waste is responsible for 70% of the toxic chemicals that end up in our landfills, such as lead, cadmium, and mercury (Clean Up Australia, 2015).
The paper proposes how working with various stakeholders including business, government and educational institutions, government bodies can also push for sustainable management of e-waste that will consequently be generated as an outcome of other educational ICT programs.
Including e-waste initiatives or requirements into the national curriculum offers the opportunity to provide schools with a framework or guide to complement a nationally-led e-waste solution. It also allows educators and students to better understand the impacts of using technology, communicating the significance of user responsibilities and e-waste.
Keywords: e-learning, e-waste, curriculum reform