Hitting the digital divide

ANNA LOREN
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013
Laptops
ANNA LOREN

BRIDGING GAPS: Mangere College principal John Heyes says receiving laptops from funds raised from Ports of Auckland Round the Bays will level the playing field for his students.

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Not being able to access the internet can have far greater consequences than missing a Facebook friend request.

It can also put young people at a serious academic disadvantage, the head of children's charity Variety says.

Lorraine Taylor says the organisation's research shows the "digital divide" - the difference in achievement between students who have internet access and those who don't - is a serious concern for teachers.

There's a significant gap between students in low-decile schools and those who have access to "all manner of different technologies", she says.

"They're not able to compete with other kids who are more technologically savvy and they're really not able to participate in today's world."

That's where Laptops for Learning comes in.

The Variety initiative provides internet-enabled laptops for students at low-decile secondary schools.

The charity has distributed laptops to hundreds of disadvantaged kids nationwide over the years but this is the first time a formal programme has been put in place.

"It's essentially trying to level the playing field for those kids in our lower-decile schools. They can participate just like any other kid."

Variety is one of the children's charities selected to receive funds from this year's Ports of Auckland Round the Bays fun run and walk. It will use the money to deliver laptops to five decile 1 and 2 secondary schools in the Auckland region - Mangere, Otahuhu, Tamaki and De La Salle Colleges and McAuley High School.

Laptops for Learning partner The Warehouse has promised to provide 30 laptops for each of the schools and funds raised from Ports of Auckland Round the Bays will hopefully bring the total up to 50.

Mangere College principal John Heyes says the laptops will be a boon for his students whose lack of internet access is a worry.

Eighty-two per cent of the national population has access to the internet at home, a 2011 AUT survey found.

That number falls to just under 50 per cent for Mangere College pupils. And it's a statistic that's directly linked with poverty.

"Our community is the one that really has been hit hardest by the global financial crisis," Mr Heyes says.

"If our families are in work it's frequently a number of part-time jobs rather than a standard nine-to-five, five-days-a-week."

Computers are used in almost every class at Mangere College and for a range of uses, including word processing, online testing and developing e-portfolios.

It's integral to the students' success that they be proficient in using computers and the internet and the new laptops will go a long way toward achieving that, Mr Heyes says.

"This technology is part and parcel of most jobs that anyone is going to be doing - whether it's trades, whether it's retail or for that matter whether they're going to be going on to tertiary. So the more that we can get them familiar with using it, the better it can be for them."

Check out a video with John Heyes here.

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Fun run is all about the children

Ports of Auckland Round the Bays is co-owned by the Auckland Joggers Club and Fairfax Media, owner of the Manukau Courier and its parent company Suburban Newspapers.

Proceeds from registrations totalling $1.5 million have been donated to various children's charities over the past decade.

This year's event starts at 9.30am on March 10. Entry costs $10 for children 15 and under and $15 for adults.

Go to roundthebays.co.nz to register and for information.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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