Paihia School pupils Eden Campbell (left), 11, Nicole Dantas Mink, 12, Nooroa Ratahi, 11, and Tremayne Williams, 10, try out their new Chromebooks while Rotarian Keith Day and teacher Mary Sweetapple offer advice. Photo / Peter de Graaf
Hundreds of children at low-decile schools in the Far North are getting their own laptop computers in a bid to lift achievement and get kids and parents more involved in learning. Seventy children at Paihia School received new Chromebooks on Tuesday, among them Nicole Dantas Mink.
"I'm really excited. Last night I couldn't sleep because of it. I couldn't wait to get to school. I've never actually had my own electronic stuff before."
The 12-year-old said she would use her laptop to "search up things that are important, study, and maybe listen to music".
Parents have to pay for the $547 laptops, at a minimum of $3.75 a week, but a $130,000 Rotary grant is paying for the scheme's implementation, teacher training, and the salaries of a facilitator and part-time administrator.
The Kaikohekohe Educational Trust initiative started last year at Ohaeawai, Kaikohe West and Tautoro schools.
Now that Rotary is on board the scheme is being expanded with Kawakawa Primary and Northland College next in line to introduce "digital classrooms". Kaikohe East School, Bay of Islands College and Okaihau College are also keen to sign up.
Paihia School principal Jane Lindsay, one of the scheme's founders, said children at the first three schools were reading more, writing more, sharing their work and learning from each other. Parents were more involved and truancy had dropped markedly.
"It's not a replacement for old-fashioned education values. It is a replacement for old-fashioned education techniques which have been failing our children for far too long," she said.
Kerikeri Rotary Club member Keith Day said Rotary money normally went to places like Vanuatu, "but this shows we can also do things for low-decile schools in Northland".
The club used a small amount of its own funds to leverage $130,000 from the international Rotary Foundation. About 500 Chromebooks had been rolled out so far with 300 more to come this year.
Mayor John Carter took part in the launch, saying it was a "seismic shift in education". One of its biggest benefits was that it brought parents back into the classroom. Every parent had to be involved and make a financial contribution.
Despite hardship faced by some families take-up had been close to 100 per cent because every parent wanted the best for their children.
Mr Carter said for too long people had believed responsibility for their children's education lay solely with schools. Teachers were not given the support they needed and were blamed when children failed.
"This programme sets these kids and their parents up for the future," he said.
The programme is open to all schools but is aimed at low-decile areas where many children have no access to computers or the internet at home.