Innovating education with technology.
Orewa College last month sent a letter home to the parents of Year 8 students saying they need their "help and financial input" to provide "affordable portable computing devices such as netbooks and laptops, iPads and the smaller devices such as iTouch and smart phones" for students.
The school says it is "grasping the opportunity to step into the 21st Century with the latest technology available". Opponents claim that the decision is divisive and that it will put unnecessary financial pressure on families that cannot afford the technology.
Do you agree with their decision?
(Read the full New Zealand Herald article... )
A compulsory portable computer for students in the equivalent of US 7th or 8th grade? Unfortunately the letter has either been pulled or not accessible to IPs in the US. Based on the news article it sounds more like any portable computing device will do but iPads are strongly preferred.
I'd take a little bit of issue with that as a parent. Then again how is this different then the school upping tuition costs and buying iPads for the students which they either keep at graduation or return, as other schools have done with laptops in the past? I also look at it from a stand point of rampant smartphone adoption for that age group even in lower income US public schools. It seems almost wasteful to not integrate such devices into the education system. Class calendars, timed alerts for homework, and more.
At the middle school and even early high school the focus should be more on certain feature sets then the device itself. Key would be ability to access the school's mobile formatted site, support CalDAV and WebDAV access, support for PDF viewing and annotation, and be able to share files between devices and school computers. I'm biased in saying the iPad would cover almost everything very well, the truth is a netbook or smartphone would work just as well. As long as all devices support the same rather open standards (CalDAV, WebDAV, PDFs) why get to pushy on self provided hardware? VNC or RDP access doesn't hurt either.
The main reason to select a single type of device is if you intent to write lessons specifically for that device, and have internally developed software (Apps).
Personally I'd start by phasing in support for such devices without it being mandatory. See if that free's up computer time as they seem to want. If it does at that point they should have more then enough data to support the benefits (if any) of the students using these devices, which will make the sell to the parents a bit softer.
I understand parents concerns but all i keep thinking is that early innovative people (schools) are always going to hit barriers. You wait... in no time at all (3-4 years) this will be the norm. I agree, schools should not be expected to provide a device for every student. They need to spend their funding on training for the teachers... not hardware.
Good on you Orewa College, don't back down. You will be a leader to other schools. If parents know that by a certain age students will need $500-$1000 for a device, then they can plan for that. Maybe the government can provide a subsidy to lower income families?
I taught in a honors high school where the administration wanted to show that it, too, was at the cutting edge. Even with very bright students, the pressure to meet content skills, especially for college bound students, precluded the ability of the faculty to immediately grasp the potential, define the best use and integrate it into the curriculum. A high cost to pay. fortunately it was the school's investment.
In the case of "smart" systems, not all are equal in their capabilities or equally adaptable to the tasks at hand. Running a "skunk works" with willing students and faculty to develop a sensibility, recognizing the rapid evolution of these tools seems to be the prudent path given limited resources- time, money of all parties.