MICHELLE DUFF investigates how iPads oust books from schoolbags
As thousands of pupils hoist their backpacks to head back to school this week, many will be carrying an iPad or similar tablet – which can cost up to $1300 – in place of exercise books.
In Wellington, Tawa Intermediate and Wellington Girls' College are among schools suggesting to parents that iPads and netbooks – a smaller and more portable version of a laptop – are brought to school by pupils as young as 10.
Tawa Intermediate School principal Carolyn Stuart said schools needed to reflect the modern world, which was increasingly digital.
"If you think about how much your life has been transformed by digital technology, we can no longer school the way we used to."
The school had stopped short of making the devices compulsory because they did not want to create a situation in which children whose parents could not afford the gadgets were at a disadvantage.
Although the devices were not listed as an item on children's stationery lists, pupils were invited to bring them, she said.
Wellington Girls' College principal Julia Davidson said that at a rough count last year, more than half of the year 9 pupils had either a tablet, an iPhone, a netbook or a laptop.
Some pupils used them sporadically, while others used them for all their notes.
Schoolwide wireless would be available for the first time this year, and pupils were free to browse the internet using the devices or iPhones in class.
However, Ms Davidson said making them compulsory was not on the agenda.
"We just don't think you can ask parents to do that; we would not ever insist on it, but if they want to that's great.
"We are trying to be flexible about what the kids can bring; it is the world that they live in and they are very tech-savvy kids – it's how they access information."
At Wellington High School, netbooks were made compulsory last year after a successful trial in 2010.
The school did not have a uniform, and netbooks were seen as an important tool in a 21st century classroom, acting principal Dominic Killalea said.
"The response was overwhelming; the parents really wanted it."
Graham McCready, Computers for Schools Charitable Trust Board operations manager, said the organisation had given out 30 netbooks or tablets among the 200-odd computers it provided to schools this year.
Tablets were becoming a must-have item. "What we are seeing is, before the big expense was the calculator; now, the tablets are the same."
An Education Ministry spokesman said new technology could enhance teaching and learning.
It was up to individual schools to decide which tools best supported learning and then work with families and local communities to ensure pupils had access to them.
MUM FORKS OUT $1500 FOR PUPILS' NEEDS
With four children back to school this week, mum Laurel Baird has already forked out $1500 – so an iPad did not quite make the shopping list.
The Tawa mother began buying stationery, schoolbags, shoes and lunchboxes for Henry, 15, Victoria, 13, Noah, 12, and Elijah, 8, in November.
Though she started stocking up early, so the bill would not come as a shock, it was still a lot of money, she said.
"We love our kids, and we love their schools but financially it will absolutely break you if you're not careful. The cost is still the same whether you do it at once or spread it out, it's just how much it hurts."
About $200 had gone on school exercise books, pencils, pens, and other stationery items. $260 went on a new uniform for Noah, attending Tawa Intermediate, while Victoria's Tawa College uniform cost about $380.
Then there was another $150 on shoes, $60 on haircuts, about $55 each for schoolbags, $40 on lunchboxes, and other sundry items – and that was before school fees, Mrs Baird said.
She would consider buying Noah a tablet later this year. "I think it's quite cool for kids at school to have their own little computer with them. School's hard enough on its own. If they have something that can help them then why not?"
- © Fairfax NZ News
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