Schools' 'BYOD' or 'Bring your own device' demands are a rising cost to parents
The rise of BYOD, or "Bring your own device", demands by schools is taking a big "byte" out of household budgets.
Vanishing are the ranks of clunky, school-owned desktop computers.
Instead, schools increasingly expect pupils to come ready with their own Chromebooks, notepads and laptops to log onto the school's WiFi hotspot when the bell rings.
And a growing number of schools are creating "menus" of devices parents can pick from, lifting back-to-school costs, and even requiring some parents to take on debt to finance the extra cost.
Survey data published on Friday by ASG, which provides savings schemes from parents, indicates the annual spend on "computing" by parents who use its financial products is now around $481 a year for a child at intermediate school or high school.
Even parents of primary schoolers are paying the better part of $300 a year.
With education going increasingly digital, the spread of BYOD demands is accelerating.
"Ten years ago BYOD was not a feature. Not, it is a significant cost," says ASG's John Velegrinis.
"A parent with three children would have three devices to shell out for. Even at the cheapest level of device, you are talking about a lot of money."
But BYOD can cause a financial headache for parents, and if schools aren't explicit about what pupils should have, it can be confusing.
Noel Leeming's Caroline Dewstow helps schools in Auckland work out their BOYD policies, hoping to profit by selling the devices to parents.
Best practice is for schools to give parents a strong steer on the devices required, or set out minimum requirements, and let parents choose a device themselves.
But many schools are treading carefully.
"A lot say if we could, we would like to recommend devices, but they know not everybody can afford it," Dewstow says.
"There's a hesitation around push back from the community," she says.
Schools now often give parents a menu of devices, with both lower and higher cost options, sometimes helped by businesses like Noel Leeming.
The "Power Up for School" menu for Rosehill College, for example, goes from a $429 Acer Chromebook to a $559 Acer Chromebook Touch.
By contrast, the menu for the Whangamata Area School goes from a $518.65 HP notebook to a $1196 Acer Aspire Switch.
The costs of devices means many families have to go into debt to fund them.
Financing offered by Noel Leeming is interest free for the first 12 months.
Spreading payments can help get devices into the hands of children from poorer families, which can have big benefits for their educations, Dewstow says.
It can be easy to end up spending on added extras like accidental damage insurance, and padded bags to defend against being dropped.
While not every school expects BYOD, a pattern is emerging.
School children today look likely to need around three devices during their educational careers, not including mobile phones.
The first may come in their later primary years. This is often a simple Chromebook, which is affordable, and looks and feels like a small, light weight laptop, and which will probably get them through intermediate school.
After that a windows-based notebook, or Apple laptop is likely to be required for the high school years.
Finally, something higher powered is likely to be needed for university.
COMMON BYOD OPTIONS
Phil Hodson, a tech specialist at the Open Learning Noel Leeming school of technology, says there are three broad types of device commonly pushed as BYOD options by schools.
CHROMEBOOKS: $200-$550 range. Cheap, light devices with long battery life and limited capacity due to having little or no memory. They are designed to be used connected to the internet using Google's free, online Chrome suite of software, where everything is stored in "the cloud". Used by school children for collaborative work, online research, email and browser-based work such as online maths practice.
WINDOWS-BASED NOTEBOOKS: $500-1200 for the ones schools will include in their choice menus. With bigger, better screens, memories and a hard drive, they are capable of a greater range of leisure uses, and to children with growing digital smarts, they offer far greater scope to develop their digital skills. They are heavier with shorter battery lives.
APPLE DEVICES: $1500-$4000. Wealthier families may send children to school with Macbook Airs and Pros. These are the tools of choice for tertiary students who prize them for their capacity, speed, long battery life, lightness, and display.