More pupils need portable computers

JAMES GREENLAND
Last updated 13:00 23/01/2013

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Wallets are being squeezed with more Nelson parents told to send their children to school with a $500 laptop.

As the back-to-school retail rush speeds up, local technology retailers have seen plenty of parents shopping for digital devices for their children to use in the classroom.

Harvey Norman salesman Shane Green said: "There has certainly been an increase in requests for computers for use at school.

"Parents have come in saying that it's compulsory for their kid to have a computer.

"Yesterday this Russian woman came in to buy a computer for her son. She looked a bit like she was under pressure, having to find the money for that on top of everything else at this time of year."

He said laptop computers had been selling best, because they were portable, powerful, and more durable than their thinner, tablet equivalents.

Noel Leeming sales consultant Codie Hansen has sold school-destined computers to parents too, adding that the more expensive MacBook laptops symbolised a "status thing" among older students.

Mr Hansen said data back-up accessories such as memory sticks and hard-drives were also being bought up by, or for, students.

New entrants at Garin College know they must have a laptop computer or similar digital device in their backpack when they arrive for the first day of school in the coming fortnight.

Garin is one of a small group of New Zealand schools that now requires students to bring their own computer or digital device to the classroom, and it's not the only college in the region embracing the new age of digital assisted or electronic education.

Last month the Government's education and science committee released an inquiry into 21st century learning, listing 48 recommendations, including that every student have access to a digital device while at school.

The Government has until April to respond to the report but some local schools are ahead of the trend, accepting that digital will be the sole medium for education in the future.

Nayland College is about to start its second year trialling a BYOD (bring your own device) classroom, which is made up of 25 year 9 students, each with their own laptop.

Students from the BYOD class last year, and now entering year 10, would continue using their own computers in class, principal Rex Smith said, while an additional year 9 BYOD class would be created.

Mr Smith said the 2012 trial had been largely successful, and was welcomed back by the students and their teachers.

He said the school preferred to "plan rather than react" to the digital learning environment they were being faced with "more and more".

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"A lot has to happen for it [the new electronic learning environment] to be successful, including a school wireless infrastructure which can support up to 1200 students online.

"We need to look at it and think ‘what opportunity does this give us to improve learning?'

"To get the benefits, a lot of learning organisation and school organisation need to be web-based.

"Get the infrastructure right, develop a learning management system, and the third aspect is teacher development."

Mr Smith said teachers at Nayland would allow students to bring their own devices to school, so long as they were being used for legitimate learning purposes.

"Not a lot are doing it, but more and more. We don't have a choice," he said.

Nelson College for Girls principal Cathy Ewing said students were not currently required to bring a laptop to class but it would happen the future.

"We plan, along with other Nelson secondary schools, that bringing a digital device will be compulsory for years 7 and 9 in 2014," she said.

Students were allowed to bring their own devices to school if they wished, at the discretion of each staff member in each class, Mrs Ewing said.

Nelson mother Beate Baden thought her 8-year-old daughter Carla would be "well equipped" for digital technology at Hampden Street School, which had a stock of Apple iPad tablets and desktop computers available for students to share.

Her daughter Nadia, 13, starts Nelson College for Girls this year, but won't be taking a laptop.

"It's a bit difficult, because I have four children and the financial aspect is definitely a factor."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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