Paying bills, doing a quick search on Google to see what time a shop opens or reading up on the 1952 summer Olympics all from the comfort of our homes are a few of the many ways surfing the net has become an integral part of life. But wi-fi at home is something many take for granted and the lack of at-home access has become apparent in the context of schooling. A survey by state-owned Network for Learning found this access has a link to lower-decile schools; a digital divide stemming from wealth. Principals in some of Rotorua's lower-decile schools have noticed this gap, saying a connection has huge impacts on learning, opening up a world of opportunities that would otherwise not be able to be explored.
Principals from low-decile primary schools in the Rotorua area are working to combat the digital divide in learning caused by a lack of internet access at home.
A survey by the state-owned Network for Learning (N4L) found at one in six of the country's poorest schools, less than a quarter of students had access to the internet at home.
N4L high-speed broadband to 99 per cent of NZ schools also found 56 per cent of low-decile principals felt the lack of internet at home had an impact on teaching and learning.
Owhata School principal Bob Stiles said internet access at home was a critical part of education and eliminated barriers of communication with parents.
He estimated about 20 per cent of families did not have access but the school was partnered with Rotorua Library and Ngā Pūmanawa e Waru to provide access to modems at home for families.
"It makes an educationally powerful relationship that we want with whānau," Stiles said.
The school used ClassDojo, a platform enabling families to instantly see the work their children were doing - Stiles said this was paramount in the all-around educational development children got.
Sunset Primary School principal Eden Chapman predicted a large majority of school families did not have internet access at home other than on mobile phones.
He said the school did not set a lot of homework other than reading and made sure hard work was put in at school so the lack of wifi-access did not impact learning.
Communication with families was done through phone calls and the school Facebook page was a popular way for parents to be kept up-to-date with events.
However Chapman said while school work was not affected, internet access at home opened up opportunities for children to explore the world in their own time.
"The more ways we can make sure everybody can have equity of access to resources the better," he said.
Chapman started at the school this year and said he hoped to bring internet to the homes of school families going without.
Child Poverty Action Group co-convenor Alan Johnson said the home internet data, included for the first time in N4L's annual survey of schools, was no surprise.
"While we have probably seen an increase in connections to digital services over the last four or five years because the fact is things are getting cheaper, the reality is that for people at the bottom, that is still a problem," he said.
"The big basic issue is lack of income."
Murupara Area School was part of the "Murupara Connectivity" initiative by Te Aka Toitū Trust which would provide free, unlimited, filtered internet access in up to 160 homes so children could log into Murupara Area School's network and access homework and assignments.
Principal Angela Sharples said she did a survey in 2016 and found 50 per cent of families had internet access, most of which was on phones.
She said the internet families now had meant children could keep learning and it was already clear children were growing as learners, aligning with her catchphrase, "anywhere, anytime and at any pace".
The school has had to discuss guidelines on how often teachers should respond to pupil work with activities being done as late as 9pm.
"They're continually learning at home and discussing what they learn with their whānau and teachers.
"We don't want the quality of education to depend on wealth," Sharples said.
- Additional reporting Simon Collins