Laptops are 'the first step'

SUE FRANCIS
Last updated 05:00 13/03/2014
waimate high school chromebook charlotte bootsma catherine nichol breanna pali
SUE FRANCIS/Fairfax NZ

HI TECH: Waimate High School year eight students, from left, Charlotte Bootsma, Catherine Nichol and Breanna Pali, working on a maths task using a Chromebook along with the traditional pen and paper. The school is one of the first three in the country to have free ultra-fast broadband, and has used the money saved on internet costs to bury computers for all year seven and eight students.

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Waimate High School has spent $50,000 providing laptop computers for its junior students.

School principal Janette Packman said the school was one of the first three in the country to have free ultra-fast broadband, and used the money saved on internet costs to buy computers for all years seven and eight students.

"It's the first step on our journey into a modern learning environment . . . ultimately we envisage being able to relay ultra fast broadband to Waimate homes so that all students with school devices can log onto the school internet provider," she said.

Each new intake of year seven students would be provided with the computers.

The board will get some of the money back, as families have the choice of buying or paying off the computers at a subsidised rate of $350. They can choose not to buy the device, and use it at school only.

Years seven and eight dean Tiffany Ottley said the Chromebooks complemented textbooks in the classroom and supported more self-directed learning.

Her maths class used the free online curriculum resource Khan Academy.

"It doesn't replace the textbook, but using Khan Academy they can work together and challenge each other. Ultimately I expect we'll be working 40 per cent with textbooks and 60 per cent with Chromebooks."

The online program was highly motivating, with students comparing results of how many points they gained on each level of the maths program.

"With this program the teacher is always there - for instance, if a student is working on something at nine at night they can send a question to me, or share it with other students."

Mrs Packman said a team of teachers, trustees, parents and support staff was doing ongoing research into modern learning environments. "The students suggested bean bags and coffee table-height desks, and other desks they could stand and work at." As a result the years seven and eight homeroom now has a combination of modern and traditional seating options.

"The kids created the space," Mrs Ottley said.

"My philosophy is that if they have high input, then they have high on-task. The more control they have over the learning space the more we see them on task. We're giving them a little more responsibility and allowing them to be more self-directed."

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- The Timaru Herald

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