Digital devices pupils' new pencil cases

'We need to tap into their worlds'

KIMBERLEY CRAYTON-BROWN
Last updated 05:00 26/07/2012
  	 Naomi Abraham
ROBYN EDIE/Fairfax NZ

LAPTOP LEARNERS: Central Southland College students Naomi Abraham and Heather Andrew with some of the devices students will be allowed to bring to school next year to use in class.

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Starting next year Central Southland College students will be able to "BYO" - devices, that is.

Deputy principal Kathryn Summers said the school had come up with the BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) idea last term when they were looking at a "big picture goal".

The installation of a commercial-grade wireless network would allow all 450 students and the staff members to connect their laptops, netbooks or tablets to the internet.

The teacher in charge of IT systems at the school, Alister Gray, said the new network would go hand-in-hand with the ultrafast broadband being rolled out by the Government.

The college was on the list of schools to be connected but did not know when it would happen.

Mrs Summers said they were still investigating the cost of the installation, and would open it up for tenders. The aim was to have the wireless and BYOD scheme up and running by the start of next year.

"The kids are excited, they are so mobile themselves we need to tap into their worlds," she said.

Mr Gray said there would be a "minimum standard" requirement, so students would not be able to use smart phones as their device.

"It needs to be a reasonably good sized keyboard to type up notes, look things up online and make documents."

It would not be made compulsory like it was at Orewa College, north of Auckland, this year, Mr Gray said.

These were learning devices and he thought in time they would be like cellphones, where most students had them.

Students did not have to have new devices, they could be second-hand, and as technology developed the devices and older models of them would get cheaper, he said.

Students also looked after the devices better when they owned them, he said.

"The core teaching won't change, just the kids' access to information . . . It's very exciting for teaching, not just our school."

Southland Secondary Principals' Association chairwoman Yvonne Browning, who is principal of Southland Girls' High School, said students using this sort of technology in class was becoming "the norm" and was no longer talked about as the exception. She thought there were several schools and subject areas in Southland where students already used smartphones, or brought laptops and tablets to school. "It's becoming like you bring your pencil case."

Mrs Browning was not aware of any schools looking at making such schemes compulsory.

Aurora College has provided iPads to its year 7 students for the past two years. The devices, owned by the school, were used in class to start with and also for homework as the year progressed.

The idea was for the students to take the iPads through school with them, with last year's group now using the tablets in year 8.

In 2010 a senior class at Salford Primary School in Invercargill became the first classroom in Southland where all of the children worked from laptops which were bought by parents.

Principal Marlene Campbell said they still had digital learning, staggered through the school.

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