Chromebook era has pupils abuzz

By Peter de Graaf

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Ohaeawai School pupil Jessica Thomas, 8, from Kaikohe, reacts as she unpacks her Chromebook. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Ohaeawai School pupil Jessica Thomas, 8, from Kaikohe, reacts as she unpacks her Chromebook. Photo / Peter de Graaf

A scheme which aims to boost learning by equipping children at low-decile mid-Northland schools with their own laptop computers has now reached seven schools and about 700 children.

Last Wednesday saw the latest rollout of Chromebooks, a type of laptop, in scenes resembling Christmas morning as excited children unpacked their new devices.

Ohaeawai School pupil Honey Teur, 7, from Kaikohe, with her new Chromebook. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Ohaeawai School pupil Honey Teur, 7, from Kaikohe, with her new Chromebook. Photo / Peter de Graaf

At Ohaeawai School, east of Kaikohe, the scheme has been running for three years.

Pupils get a laptop, paid for by their parents, at the start of Year 4. All Year 4-6 pupils now use the devices.

The aim is to lift achievement, prepare kids for the future and get families more involved in their children's education.

Year 4 teacher Alicia Craig said one of the big advantages was that she was able to see students' work via her computer "dashboard", give feedback and make corrections in real time, instead of having to gather up exercise books.

Students' work was posted in a blog that could be accessed by parents, aunties, friends and classmates, who could add their own comments.

Mrs Craig said the children's writing had improved significantly as a result.

"In the past only teachers saw their work, now they have an audience and a purpose. Now they think: 'I'm not just writing for Mrs Craig, I'm writing it for my parents or my auntie to see'."

The laptops also allowed children to learn anywhere and at any time.

Ten-year-old Charlee Littin said when she took her Chromebook home she could keep up with what her classmates were doing.

"Since we've gone from pen and paper to technology we've been communicating more,
with each other and the outside world," Charlee said.

Riley Clayden, also 10, said learning on his Chromebook was fun because a lot of it was game-based, such as the Maths Buddy programme in which his character died if he got an equation wrong.

The other schools in the Kaikohekohe Network are Kaikohe West School, Kawakawa Primary, Northland College, Paihia School, Tautoro School and Waima School.

Lead principal Lee Whitelaw, of Ohaeawai School, said children had become more engaged and carried on learning between lessons and at home.

They were taught about cybersafety and how to behave online, and were only allowed to take their Chromebooks home after their parents had completed two "cybersmart" sessions.

While some people worried that children would spend all their time on computers, Ms Whitelaw said they still spent plenty of time outside, played sport and practised kapa haka.

Every parent had paid a deposit and committed to the scheme.

Payment options ranged from a one-off $560 to $3.75 a week over three years.

A Chromebook is a laptop running Google's Chrome operating system.

The devices are designed to be used mainly while connected to the internet.

- Northern Advocate

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