It needs to be a community effort to successfully close the digital divide, Hastings Intermediate principal Andrew Shortcliffe says.
He is spearheading the group of 10 schools, following in the footsteps of the Auckland-based Manaiakalani Trust, which provides low-income families with a “financial pathway” to owning digital devices.
With help from the trust, Tamaki College in Auckland was the first state secondary school to go fully digital, in 2012, with more than 600 students using netbooks. The school doubled its NCEA level 2 achievement rates for Maori and Pasifika in its first digital year.
Shortcliffe hopes to see the same results in Hastings schools, and for Ngati Kahungunu and the council to underwrite a trust and support the logistics of the project.
He said community support was crucial, and quoted the adage: “It takes a village to raise a child.”
If a trust were created, it would buy the devices in bulk, which parents could then buy with a deposit and small weekly payments.
The project was about more than just giving children devices, Shortcliffe said. It would also guide parents on how to help their children learn in the digital age.
Parents would be given some basic “digital knowledge” before the children could take the device home.
When the child moved from primary school to intermediate, that device could go with them.
Shortcliffe said the initiative was a “leveller”, and would take down the barriers that some low-income families faced.
Having the East Auckland¬†Manaiakalani experience to draw on shows that throwing tech like iPads and notebooks at kids as young as 5 isn’t necessarily a waste of money and effort, the results speak for themselves. ¬†But where the invisible success takes place is in the community.
There is a much higher engagement by parents who are seeing their children being swept along with both the interest as well as bottom line results, and that in itself becomes a “multiplier” where the community as a whole feels engaged by and with the school.
Parent’s are now clambering to get their children into such schools, and children get the messages from home that the are very lucky to have this opportunity.
Schools going in partnership with private providers as well as charter schools can be a solution for areas where results aren’t met by a one-size-fits-all approach to education. ¬†Results can’t be argued with.
– Tracey Chatterton, Dominion Post