iPads an iMust for schoolkids

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 19/01/2013
iPad in Schools
BRUCE MERCER/ Fairfax NZ

St Paul's Collegiate has made iPads compulsory for Year 9 students, leaving Year 11 student Winston Barrett-Hogg (centre) the task of tutoring Year 9 twins Benjamin and Daniel Wheeler in their use.

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More school students than ever before will have a laptop or tablet tucked in their bags when they return to class this month, with at least one Waikato school making the devices compulsory.

And an education expert says the future of the country depends on schools, parents and students accepting that computer-based learning is "the new normal".

It can be an expensive outlay for families, but a recent select committee report recommends that all children and teachers have access to a tablet or laptop.

Hamilton's St Paul's Collegiate has taken the rare step of making the Apple iPad compulsory for all year 9 students starting school this year.

"There're not many schools in New Zealand that have made a mandatory commitment to iPads," headmaster Grant Lander said.

"I think it's a quantum leap, it's a huge change."

He said a survey of students found 27 per cent were already using the tablet.

Warehouse Stationery's latest "Back to School" catalogue features notebooks ranging from $488 to $1199 and tablets from $169 to $569.

Hamilton store manager Dan Breed said there has been a "monumental" increase in parents buying devices for their children to use at school this year.

"It wasn't just a double, it was a massive increase."

In December, the Government's education and science committee released its inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy.

The report contains 48 recommendations, including that every child should have access to a digital device in school, committee chairperson and National MP Nikki Kaye, said.

"If we get some of these policies right we have a real opportunity to lead the world in this area.

"I think it's both beneficial at a social and economic level because if we can ensure that New Zealand students are the most digitally literate in the world then they will have more opportunities both at an education level, but also at a job level."

The Government has until April to respond the recommendations.

A number of Waikato schools already have device policies in place.

Some make it mandatory, some have a lease-to-buy arrangement, some make it optional for students to bring tablets or laptops to school, others provide devices.

Massey University education professor Mark Brown said children would need access to the latest technologies if they wanted to succeed in the 21st century, and parents shouldn't be left facing the burden of paying for them.

"The world really has changed and we now live in a very heavily dominated digital environment, and this is now the new normal.

"We can't expect that parents on their own are going to be able to respond by providing the type of technology that our children require. There's clearly a responsibility on the part of the Government."

He said the proposed changes have the potential to be a "true game changer" for education.

"It's fair to say that our future depends on it."

Waikato Principals' Association chair John Coulam said exercise books, pens and pencils would be phased out in favour of tablets and laptops in time.

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"I think a time will come where students will be required to have them just like they were required to have scientific calculators when they go to secondary school.

"I think the momentum's building and I think in the next five years you'll have more and more classrooms that will have the technology available to all students."

However, Hamilton Boys' High School headmaster Susan Hassall said she had no plans to introduce a compulsory device policy.

"I don't feel that it's a critical need for students to have one to use to learn effectively."

- Waikato Times

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