Students in low decile Northland schools are learning three times faster using electronic devices, a new report shows.

The University of Auckland's Woolf Fisher Research Centre tracked nearly 400 pupils aged 8 to 14 from six schools around the region who were using digital learning last year.

The cluster of schools were Manaia View School, Whau Valley Primary, Te Kura o Ōtangarei, Whangārei Intermediate, Tikipunga High School and Hikurangi Primary School.

Dr Rebecca Jesson, who led the research, said some of the students had made gains at more than three times the rate of the previous year.


"All lines are pointing upwardly for all year levels for both genders and all ethnicities, which is huge," Jesson said.

She said there was particular improvement in writing, which was a subject that often faced underperformance, and significant progress in maths.

Head of e-learning at Whangāre Intermediate, Karen Hinge, said she had seen a big growth in motivating the students.

"It removes the walls of the classroom because children can now learn anytime and anywhere. I'll be at home at night and I'll turn on my computer and see some of the students handing work in," Hinge said.

She said recently one of the students was having surgery in Auckland Hospital and managed to submit her work from her hospital bed.

Hinge said in the past if a student did a piece of writing she would spend ages writing feedback that many of students never read.

"Now, when I respond, and that can be done in lots of ways for example via voice response, it becomes a conversation between me and student and they engage far better."

The low decile schools decided to embrace e-learning through the Taitokerau Education Trust's digital immersion programme.


The trust aimed to raise achievement levels by making personal-use devices accessible to students from lower-income households.

Jesson said the flipped learning model was a key part of the digital immersion success.

Flipped learning allowed teachers to make lessons available to students before class as well as during.

It means that content can be accessed as many times as needed to gain a better understanding.

"We found the teacher would easily engage kids in discussion because the rest of class is participating in meaningful online activities where they can share their learning.

"And students are working together with high expectations for each other. We can see this coming through," Jesson said.