IT classrooms of the future

By Lynley Bilby

Students and parents give their blessings to new e-learning computer technology

Max Sutton is happy with his tablet computer. Photo / Doug Sherring
Max Sutton is happy with his tablet computer. Photo / Doug Sherring

Meet the classrooms of the information technology haves and have-nots.

Marshall Laing Primary School, a decile-six multi-cultural school in the Auckland suburb of Mt Roskill, has two pilot classes based on the increasingly popular Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) electronic classroom.

Each day, 50 nine and 10-year-old children from the working-class suburb bring their iPads, laptops, tablets and netbooks to a class where pencils and exercise books are all but replaced by keyboards and screens.

Another 18 classes carry on as usual, using old learning utensils, with occasional access to the school computer suite.

Many of the country's schools have switched to e-learning, often thanks to wealthy benefactors, but most classrooms still rely on shared classroom computers or ICT suites.

Principal Delanee Dale, who shifts to Maungawhau School next term, said the e-classrooms were a model for 21st century learning and reaction had been positive.

She was keen to extend the programme to all year-five and six classes next year but the school board had yet to work out how to include families who could not afford the technology.

This year, every child who wanted to take part in the trial was included. But significantly increasing the programme, from 60 to up to 150 children, posed problems for families who could not afford it, said Dale.

"Equity is a big issue.

"The plan is to roll it across the year-five and sixes next year."

Some options included school lease-to-buy plans and increasing loan stocks of iPads and netbooks.

She said the school was the first in the area to adopt BYOD classrooms and neighbouring senior schools Blockhouse Bay Intermediate and Lynfield College were also moving towards full technology.

School board chairman Stephen Muir has a daughter in the class and hailed the e-classes a success. The school planned a staggered roll-out to three-quarters of the school in the next five years.

Muir said purchasing technology was well within the means of most school families. He said the school would provide netbooks for families who could not afford it or did not want to provide devices.


Remedy for Max in tablet

This time last year Max Sutton was struggling to fill his reading log.

Worried mum Nikola Sutton made repeated approaches to Max's school about his lack of progress, but four months after entering the school's experimental e-learning class, the 10-year-old's turnaround has stunned his mum.

"He's tenfold more willing to use his device to get his thoughts out," she said.

His latest work is a detailed written and photographic journal about his vegetable garden in the backyard of his Mt Roskill home.

Nikola said her young son chose the device but it had to meet the school's specifications. The family paid about $550 for the iPad2 and $100 for a protective case.

They also needed to buy a keyboard and school backpack with a compartment to keep the device safe.

Nikola said she would keenly support any efforts to roll out the programme throughout the entire school.

- Herald on Sunday

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