School wins iPad - but can't use it

By Jess Perenara of The Northern Advocate -
Parua Bay School in Northland will be unable to use their new iPad. Photo / Joel Ford
Parua Bay School in Northland will be unable to use their new iPad. Photo / Joel Ford

Parua Bay School in Northland has won a new iPad after entering a competition - the problem is they can't use it because there's no wireless internet connection to the school.

The Starship Mobile Phone Appeal is an ongoing campaign where New Zealanders can donate their old phones to Starship Children's Hospital in Auckland.

The phones are refurbished and on-sold in developing markets, with Starship receiving some of the sale proceeds.

Last year the School Phone Swap campaign was launched, which asked schools to collect old phones for Starship to receive rewards including interactive whiteboards and sports equipment.

Last month Starship ran a competition with an iPad 2 as the prize - each school got one entry for every 25 phones they collected.

Parua Bay School were the lucky winners, but the iPad cannot be used because the school has yet to receive the electrical and data-cabling upgrades needed for wireless internet.

Parua Bay School principal Jill Naidoo-Lees said they had been patient but were still waiting. She said one of her teachers had paid for a wireless modem so the children could trial the iPad.

She said the reality is that interactive technologies are becoming more integrated into schools.

The School Network Upgrade Project (Snup), managed by the Ministry of Education and subsidised by the Government, upgrades schools' internal cabling infrastructure, allowing for future network expansion and the use of ultra-fast broadband in teaching programmes. It does not provide schools with access to ultra-fast broadband.

Mrs Naidoo-Lees says it is unfortunate because next year the school wants to introduce more interactive technologies.

"We've got this wonderful piece of new equipment we want to use, and we have wireless right up to our door, but the Ministry haven't done the Snup yet.

"The hard thing is we are sandwiched between two schools and want to be able to say to parents, 'this is what we are offering', but we can't do that until we get this stuff done."

A Ministry spokesman said of the 149 schools in Northland, 65 had been upgraded. Upgrades are under way in another 18 Northland schools, but Parua Bay School is not one of them.

The spokesman says it is possible Parua Bay School will receive their upgrade in the next round, which depends on how long it takes for current upgrades to be completed.

Upgrades depend on how well schools fit certain criteria which include size, the school's ability to pay for their contribution and other work that may need to be done. Schools are given preference if they meet one or more of the prioritisation criteria, which is reviewed regularly.

As of July last year, this criteria included area schools, schools with high numbers of Maori, Pasifika or special-needs students, and schools with Maori initiatives. The Ministry says location has no influence on the selection of schools.

Mrs Naidoo-Lees says apart from this, the school is incredibly lucky.

"It's so good for us to have [an iPad] to trial because we have been doing all the reading, gone to the experts - we've been talking to the parents and we actually have the chance to trial one in our classrooms."

She says the hardest thing will be organising how all 215 students get a chance to trial the device.

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