A team of technology experts are leading the charge into the future at Auckland's King's College.
While the school holds fast to honoured traditions, it is also embracing the new, with both students and teachers utilising the latest technology.
The South Auckland school, which has around 1100 pupils, has recently had its status as an Apple Distinguished School renewed for a further three years. Accreditation in the Apple programme is by invitation only and King's is one of only a handful of schools in New Zealand, and 470 schools worldwide, to have gained it.
Headmaster Simon Lamb says the status is not given lightly and rewards the school's dedication to accessing and using the latest technology.
"The college has been committed to technology for a long time, as part of the learning process and the advantages that it can offer," he says. "It is one tool of many available to teachers and it can really give students an advantage in terms of how they learn."
The school's technology programme is driven by digital experts — senior teachers in each subject area who drive innovation, keeping up with and spreading the latest developments.
"Within each department we have these experts who are designated to assist others," Lamb says. "These key teachers are always developing their own skills and advocating to make sure everyone is up to date with new developments, so they can be incorporated in the way students learn."
For example, the school utilises Apple's online iTunes U learning resource and new material can be incorporated into the classroom by the digital experts as soon as updates arrive.
Distinguished Schools are selected for their use of Apple products to inspire student creativity, collaboration and critical thinking and to personalise the learning experience.
Teaching staff are supported through leadership events, opportunities to engage with experts and collaboration with peers who share an interest in sustaining an innovative learning and teaching environment.
King's was an early adopter of Apple technology, with students trialling new personal computer products from the early 1990s. While back in the day it was the classic boxy Apple Macintosh desktop computer, today it's portable iPads and MacBooks. Apple hardware and software are used throughout the subject range, from mathematics to art, and in the running of the school behind the scenes.
"There is no question it gives staff an advantage in terms of how they run their learning, but also from a business and operational perspective. For example, student absences are recorded in the classroom live and the attendance officer can see immediately who might be absent and follow that up," Lamb says.
From Year 9, students have to bring their own Apple device to school, enabling them to access resources and learning materials both inside and outside class time.
"It means they can easily continue their learning at home, any time it suits them," Lamb says. "It also means the teacher is not seen as the bastion of all knowledge, but instead provides the students with the ability to access information in their own time."
Lamb stresses that computer-based learning is just one aspect of the school's educational philosophy, based on its founding principle to provide its students with "the best all-round education it is possible to obtain."
"Technology has the power to enable a number of the key skills we are aiming to encourage, such as collaboration. Students collaborate easier using technology and learn how to work collegially," says Lamb.
Exposing students to the use of technology is also a vital part of preparing them for the tech-savvy world they will live, study and work in in the future.
"It's one of the responsibilities that we have, to prepare them for that world, which is technologically advanced," Lamb says. "They are going out into a world where technology has an important role to play; we are able to teach them discernment and ways to appreciate the quality and accuracy of information they can access through that technology. That's an important skill, aside from learning to manage technology use themselves."
Lamb says some parents have a natural anxiety about the use of technology in the school environment and in particular how students manage themselves around it. The college regularly communicates with parents about technology use and recently included a session on IT in a parents' information day.
However, Lamb makes the point that often it's the young person teaching their parent how new apps or devices can be used: "The students are often much more familiar and courageous than some of their parents or teachers might be when it comes to trying new technology."
Read more about e-learning at King's College here.