About 70 students at the low-decile Paihia School have received brand-new Chromebook computers this week as part of a revolutionary new teaching system being rolled out across the Far North by a group of principals and educators.
Paihia School, Kawakawa School and Northland College are joining a group of low-decile schools leading the introduction of ‘digital classrooms’.
The initiative, led by the Kaikohekohe Educational Trust, seeks to improve academic results and reduce truancy. The founding principals are Jane Lindsay, principal of Paihia School, Lee Whitelaw, principal at Ohaeawai Primary, and Meralyn Te Hira of Kaikohe West School.
It gives children from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to embrace the wealth of learning resources available on the internet and to learn anywhere, any time and at any pace. At its heart is the concept of learning by sharing, something the internet has made much more possible than before.
The initiative has been made possible through the support of a $130,000 grant from Rotary International, which is being administered by the Rotary Club of Kerikeri. It will enable hundreds of Chromebooks to be introduced into many more schools now and in the future, and will fund the implementation of the project and the training involved.
Chromebooks are laptop computers with limited offline capability, designed to be used primarily while connected to the internet. They are the face of the ‘digital classroom’ system and provide access to a closed and secure environment where sharing, pivotal to this new approach to learning, can take place.
The Kaikohekohe Educational Trust has already introduced the new system in three Far North schools; Kaikohe West, Ohaeawai Primary and Tautoro. It has been in place here for a year.
Mrs Lindsay says students at these three flagship schools have already demonstrated higher levels of engagement with their studies and a greater willingness to talk about what they are learning and what it means to them. Parents are more engaged, too, and truancy levels have dropped substantially.
Students are reading more, writing more and far more engaged – sharing their work and learning from one another. So far the change has led to improved outcomes in all curriculum areas.
“It’s not a replacement for old-fashioned education values,” Mrs Lindsay said. “It is a replacement for old-fashioned education techniques which have been failing our children for far too long.”
Kaikohe East School, Bay of Islands College and Okaihau College have expressed interest in the Kaikohekohe Learning and Change Network. It is anticipated that numerous other local schools will join in the next few years.
Any school can apply to join the network but its approach is geared to be of greatest benefit to lower-decile schools.
The $547 Chromebooks come loaded with all the software and teacher management tools needed for students to share their work with their peers, pupils in other schools in the network and with their teachers. They also come with a three-year warranty and a robust case. They will belong to the Kaikohekohe Educational Trust until they have been paid for by the students’ parents. The parents of every child signed up to the programme must agree to make repayments of at least $3.75 a week.
The scheme is not mandatory but Mrs Lindsay said take-up had been “close to 100 per cent” in the three Far North schools in the network so far.
She said many of the students’ families had no access to computers or the internet.
“If a large proportion of them had devices at home we’d have followed the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) model, but the single-device Chromebook model is the best model for these schools in this community. By reducing choice we have increased opportunity,” she said.
The Rotary grant will be used primarily to fund the implementation of the project, the extensive training and professional development of the many teachers involved, and the salary of a facilitator and a part-time administrator identified as essential to its success.