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Tamaki College: Paperless Classrooms

This article was published in the local East & Bays Courier and on Stuff on May 16 2012

School embraces paperless classrooms


Bringing young people in a low decile school up-to-speed with the latest technology sounds like an expensive process but Tamaki College proves it doesn't have to be.

Students do lessons on their own netbooks and classrooms have become virtually paperless.

"It surprises people because we're a low decile school. They expect it to be a hand-out but it's not," deputy principal Russel Dunn says.

The school is part of the Manaiakalani Education Trust, which includes seven schools in the Tamaki area (East & Bays Courier, April 29, 2011). Parents lease-to-own the netbooks, paying them off at a rate that suits them. After a $40 deposit they pay around $15 a month, which includes wireless internet access at the school.

It means Tamaki College teachers are approaching their lessons in quite a different way using Google's free document sharing system. The teacher can see what every student in the class is doing and can give direct feedback to each one.

"So if the student hasn't touched an assignment in a few days, the teacher might send them a message to encourage them to get on to it," Mr Dunn says.

At the start of each lesson, students open their netbooks and click on the lesson the teacher has prepared. Since Google can be accessed from any computer, a teacher who is ill can even upload their lesson plan and communicate with the students from home.

"At one of our parent meetings it was suggested that there might not be a need for teachers any more," Mr Dunn says. "But surveyed students said that they still value their teachers.

"We've found that teachers are able to get more out of their students because they can engage with each one. They can send a comment without having to speak to them in front of the class."

Some teachers have set up their own websites targeting the particular learning needs of their class.

"To begin with some of the students found that Facebook was a distraction but that tends to wear off after a while. We teach them about being responsible digital citizens," he says.

The school is in the process of setting up a portal for parents too so they can keep track of their child's progress.

Eventually it hopes to create wireless access points in the community, so more of the students can get internet access from home.

Principal Soana Pamaka says parents understand the benefits of the system.

"It makes it very simple to see when a student is falling behind. You can show a parent that their child only has three documents filed while the rest of the class has 10. We've got to make sure they're getting an education that's going to stand them in good stead. It's important for the country's economy too," Mrs Pamaka says.

- © Fairfax NZ News




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