Children risk losing out on the benefits of millions of dollars being spent on technology in classrooms, teachers say.
Sixty per cent of Kiwi teachers believe their students' information and communications technology (ICT) use is limited because of a lack of devices such as tablet computers and poor-quality internet access.
A Ministry of Education-funded national survey of primary and intermediate schools, released as school resumes today, also highlights skills and training as another obstacle.
Thirty-eight per cent of teachers said limitations were linked to their own knowledge and skills.
Devices such as iPads are now common in many schools and the Government has spent millions to boost the use of such technology.
Education Minister Hekia Parata told the Herald work to help schools included the rollout of ultra-fast broadband and a managed network.
"First of all we had to get fibre to the gate, then we had to be able to wire up the school so they could accept it ... we have done all of that in less than five years.
"The next stage is how we look at supporting schools in terms of better devices, better teaching in a digital environment and better online learning for kids.
"It's a bit like a house - you can't decide which Russell Hobbs kettle you're going to have until you've actually built the troughs that put the electricity cables in that bring it to the house."
Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye is heading a reference group looking at different models here and overseas and what works best. In one model, Auckland's Manaiakalani e-learning project, families of students at 11 schools buy subsidised devices and home internet.
A similar project is under way in Rotorua, with educators wanting every student to have their own device. Other schools have implemented voluntary or compulsory Bring Your Own Device policies.
Ms Parata said the intention was not to impose one model on schools, rather to provide guidance on successful efforts.
Dr Cathy Wylie of the NZ Council for Educational Research, who co-authored a report on the survey, said there was a risk that without official direction schools would waste the expensive infrastructure.
The three-yearly survey found principals and teachers still enjoyed their work but reported becoming overstretched with stress increasing.
Toughest for middle decile
Only one in five parents pay donations at some New Zealand schools.
A national survey of primary and intermediate schools has found most families in poorest areas do not pay voluntary donations.
The median amount asked for in decile 1-2 schools was $25 for one child per year, with an average payment rate of 20 per cent.
Decile 9-10 schools asked for a median donation of $145, which was paid 80 per cent of the time.
Principals' Federation president Phil Harding said the imbalance was somewhat addressed by the fact lower-decile schools received more government funding.
"If my [decile 10] school was decile one, my operating budget would be approximately double."
But that did not follow as much for schools that were decile 5-8, and the figures from the NZ Council for Education Research survey showed they took less in donations.
"They're not getting double the operational funding ... They are the ones that I think really do it hard."
Asked if $145 was too much to ask for, he said compared to costs such as sports fees it was reasonable.