Many pupils told they can 'bring-your-own-device'

STACEY KNOTT
Last updated 12:00 25/01/2014

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Many Nelson schools are now encouraging pupils to bring their own electronic devices to school, along with the staple pencils and pads, this year.

Most say they have computers, laptops and tablets for pupils to use, but allow them to bring their own as they believed working digitally helps their engagement in class.

Nelson College for Girls principal Cathy Ewing said this year the school had given families a "strong recommendation that all students have a device".

She said the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) initiative was not compulsory and students without one would not be disadvantaged because they had some available for loan from the library.

The devices were tools to assist in learning like a research book would, but would had the added benefit of being interactive.

"They will definitely be used as a means by which students will gain a deeper understanding, though it won't replace the traditional way of doing other things."

Mrs Ewing said the school would enforce "responsible and acceptable use of the devices."

The school held sessions last year to show parents the range of programmes the school could use with the device. She said the school had an "overall positive" reaction to the BYOD scheme, though there were concerns about parents wanting to buy the right devices and wanting to see the education benefits.

While it was in its early stages, she said students using electronic devices would mean "increased engagement in learning is a high likelihood, increased learning as well."

Nelson College for Girls students Lily Power and Mila Robertson were starting year 11 next week and both have received Mac Books for Christmas which they would use at school.

"It will be good for research, typing up documents and exchanging documents with the teachers," said Lily.

The girls said it was only in their English and math classes that they used books, and they did not take many notes using pen and paper, preferring to type them up on their devices.

They said using the devices would be most useful in history classes and assignments where there was a lot of research involved.

Garin College principal John Boyce said it was compulsory for year nine and 10 students to bring their own devices, and he expected this to roll out through the school next year.

He said the school had done plenty of reviewing after their first year of compulsory BYOD. "It was all pretty positive, the results academically were really good but there were lots of teething problems."

This included students breaking them when they forgot they were in their bags.

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Nayland College principal Rex Smith had a year nine and a year 10 class dedicated to BYOD. This would be the third year for this initiative.

He said they were running a "device-friendly school," where devices were seen as addition tools for learning.

"Those students in the BYOD classes, it creates a different classroom environment. There's instant access to a whole range of resources and learning available and lessons available online."

Nelson College headmaster Gary O'Shea said the college was not pushing the BYOD initiative.

Currently, any device the students bring can be made compatible with the school's wifi system, though the school was not making it compulsory. They had a set of notebooks that were moved between classes. Mr O'Shea said the vast majority of students had their own devices and they could also book out school ones from the library.

"We are intentionally moving slowly on the bring your own devices to class. It's a significant amount of money needed, and we need staff to know how to use them, not just be something the boys idle away at. It needs to improve outcomes."

They were looking for "educational benefits rather than the surface attraction, not just saying we are a wired up 21st century school, there needs to be clear benefits. Philosophically we don't see the need at the moment. If we leave it, then it's a longer time for the staff to acquaint themselves with the technology so they can implement it properly, the costs will come down and the infrastructure will come up."

He said there would be a focus this year on teaching the year nine students how to use the school's ultra-net as well as their own devices within the school system.

Primary schools were also allowing students to bring their own devices, and had students using them through all classes.

Neither Auckland Point nor Hampden Street schools have compulsory BYOD, but did allow students to use their own devices in class and also had a supply of devices for the students to use.

John Dorman, principal of St Paul's School, said they had an optional BYOD policy but the school had a fleet of devices it was leasing. Families paid about $25 a year to help pay for them. If students brought their own, then they opted out of paying. He said about a third of the students were using their own devices.

The year 7 and 8 students would use the Chromebooks and were doing almost everything digitally, while iPads were good for the junior students who were learning to read online.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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