Computers compulsory at Garin, is Waimea next?

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John Boyce, the head teacher of Garin College, believes it is just a matter of time before most other schools in Nelson follow its lead and make computers compulsory for students.

The decile eight catholic school made laptops and other personal computing devices compulsory for all year nine students this year – a decision which is already being labelled a success. “This is the way of the world. I would expect every other secondary school to be in some form of this next year,” he says. “They will make trials this year with half classes so they’ll only be a year off.”

His statement is something that Waimea College principal Larry Ching agrees with, saying the school had targeted 2014 as a year when students would be able to operate their own devices in the classroom, just not as a compulsory restriction. “For two or three years it has always been a target but it’s certainly not a fixed date to make it compulsory. Part of the reason is that we have a slightly different student cliental here and a much bigger school,” says Larry. “We want to carry out a good consultation process with our staff and keep our parents informed as well. Whether we like it or not it’s going to be one of those things that overtakes us quite quickly.”

Larry says Waimea College is fully wireless and some students use smart phones for web research in class while others have brought their own laptops to use for assignments.

John says ten per cent of Garin College students used laptops at school before the decision was made to make them compulsory for year nine students only. But since the decision was made, there are now around 150 of the 380 non-year nine students with a licence to connect to the school’s network. “To have a licence you don’t need to bring it everyday, but most of them will and that’s close to half of the other students.”

John says one negative aspect has been the fact some students are operating laptops that were not recommended, because they would struggle connecting to the same network that the rest of the students were on. “Some got Apples and they’re struggling with the wireless. Some people have iPads and Androids and there are extra steps to take, but everything else is going great.”

A noticeable change has been the seating arrangement in classrooms with some students circling around plugs to charge their laptops. “The space around the plug in the wall has become very important,” he laughs. “Hopefully that is only during the second half of the day but the issue at the moment is when people are charging and there are cables along the floor it’s a bit of a safety issue.”

Facebook is currently blocked on the network, although John believes that should change during the course of the year.