New Zealand College Experiments with Bring Your Own Tech

Students at Garin college in Nelson, New Zealand, will be required to bring their own digital gadgets to class starting next year. To aid families that don’t know which tech tool will be most suitable, the school has drawn up a list of acceptable computers — from netbooks to laptops to iPads — and hopes to accommodate students from diverse income backgrounds.

School principal John Boyce explained that the decision to make such devices mandatory came as a result of three years of research and analysis. Boyce said that the school administrators even consulted with parents of year-eight students before announcing the new policy.

“I believe that if everyone has a computer, the way teachers teach and the way students will learn will be revolutionised.”
Lessons and exercises for about 100 year nines would be delivered via a learning management system called Moodle, enabled by fast internet delivered by the Nelson Loop fibre-optic computer network system used by schools in the region.

Garin teachers have been using laptops to manage the curriculum and deliver lessons in class for over a decade and the New Zealand government has recently invested money to upgrade the school tech infrastructure to enable universal wireless access. In light of this, Boyce felt it was time to “take the plunge” and allow the technology to play a bigger role in the classroom.

He also said that he hoped to see the move lead to the evolution of “flipped classrooms” in the school, where students exercise more individual control over their learning. Moodle assignments and lessons will be distributed by the teachers during the course of the school day and students can study them overnight to come up with questions to be asked the following day.

“Students will have all the information they need at their fingertips, so over the next few years there will be a real change in mindset. Education will no longer be about facts – it will be about students using facts, thinking, creativity and design.

“Even next year, I expect to see students deepening their understanding of what they learnt [the night before], rather than whole classes marching through material together.”

The universal adoption of the Bring Your Own Technology policy follows a voluntary pilot program where 25 student participants used their own digital devices in class full time over the previous year.

“They love it. They know they’re going to be using [modern technology] for the rest of their lives, so why not start now?”
Jordan Howley, 15, said he enjoyed using his laptop because “we don’t have to concentrate so much on what the teacher is putting up on a PowerPoint when we can look at it on our own screens”.