Dio laptops on backburner

By Adam Gifford

By ADAM GIFFORD

AUCKLAND'S Diocesan School for Girls has throttled back its plans to make itself a "laptop school," with every pupil having a computer for their own use, because of the high cost.

But it is sticking with its vision of making all its students technologically capable by the time they leave.

"We identified that, as opportunities arise for careers in future, they will need skills which will take them into meaningful roles in business," says Jill Fitzmaurice, one of two teachers responsible for integrating information technology into the curriculum.

Executive principal Gail Thompson says the continuing high cost of technology means the school has had to delay its plans to have all students, year-eight and above, using laptops.

But the success of a pilot scheme this year, in which pupils in two year-eight (form two) classes were given Toshiba laptops, has the school convinced it is on the right track.

Year-eight girls do not yet have the pressure of external examinations, so they can become familiar with using computers as tools for learning, rather than learning about the tools themselves.

Year-nine pupils will next year be able to go into laptop or non-laptop streams, with parents having access to Toshiba's SNAP (Student/School Notebook Access Plan) programme through which they can lease computers for about $100 a month.

There are 469 PCs in the school, giving it an IT infrastructure similar to many large corporate sites.

Some 150 are notebooks, 90 are used by the teaching staff and 60 are used by the year-eight classes.

They have more than 110 printers, six file servers running Novell NetWare and three technical staff.

The system uses 73 gigabytes of storage space and 284 software packages are installed and supported.

Diocesan is an independent Anglican Church school with 1400 primary and secondary pupils, mainly funded from fees of about $1900 a term.

Gail Thompson says that while it is a wealthy school in comparison with South Auckland, "I'm conscious of the huge sacrifices families make to send their girls here."

Technology will change education, she says, and the school is determined to be part of that.

"Teachers are changing from teachers to facilitators, so students become more responsible for their own learning."

The school's technology direction involved research into what was happening at other schools here and overseas. Gail Thompson was heartened by what she saw in Australian schools where laptops have become the norm.

"I was delighted with the way laptops are taken for granted. I'm really pleased they are not seen as precious."

The school also asked former pupils who have been in the work force for a few years to take part in focus groups.

They reported their progress would have been easier if they had come out with more technology skills. The current crop of students are already showing their comfort with technology.

A class of last year's seventh formers is keeping in touch with each other through a listserve one of the girls set up. And a senior class developed a CD-Rom of Maori language resources.

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