Orewa College: It’s not actually about the technology…

Looking behind the attention-grabbing headline of Orewa College forces parents to buy ipad I would like to stop for minute and introduce everybody to my laptop.

Pink seemed like a good idea at the time... (Photo by author)

She’s a Dell Inspiron 1420 that I ordered online back in 2007. The colour? I wanted something a bit different and for reasons unknown I went for a bright pink.  I guess that decision goes on the ‘boy was I wrong’ list, right above The Macarena but just below the skirts over trousers phase.

My laptop and I have had our issues in the past but we are now coming up on four year mark.  Yes the insprion is clunky, heavy and at times is prone to temper tantrums but yet our relationship endures despite the battery making the device a lot less portable these days.

It’s not as though I’m against upgrades.

I wouldn’t say no if someone offered me a macbook pro to use instead of this computer.  I love gadgets but when the decision between a plane ticket somewhere awesome and a gadget comes up the plane ticket wins every time (though I’m pretty sure they had to wipe my slobber off the floor in the apple shop in New York).

Apple Store in New York (Photo by Author)

The reason I’ve outed my laptop is because I think its important for people to realize that in order to take part in digital learning you don’t need to have all the new toys to play with it. Despite my love of social networking I don’t own an iphone or any sort of smart phone, in fact my mobile is a basic nokia but that’s ok. Right now I can access the internet, word process, edit videos, download and edit photos and faff around with itunes which is what I need to learn. As I mostly learn at home the lack of portability isn’t really a huge problem for me. If I was studying on campus, then I would be upgrading my device rather than coveting a plane ticket to India.

Looking at the letter Orewa College actually sent home to parents it doesn’t actually state that parents have to purchase an ipad but it does stipulate the school was moving to 1 to 1 devices. However students can bring in their own device or purchase the ipad2 which the school is only recommending as a device for those not sure of what to buy. Furthermore the school is looking for a way to work out a payment plan. This is entirely reasonable to me, the school acknowledges that the cost is high for parents and is trying to work out a cost effective way of getting devices into classrooms.

However reading through the your views section of the Herald and the comments on stuff I find myself in despair at the number of commentators  that think learning online or via social media is just a giant waste of time. I am going to come out and say that aside from my regular studies, which I am completing online, I learn just as much if not more from my use of social media like twitter and this blog. I simply can’t imagine a world in which I have people from around the world interacting with me and shaping my thoughts on teaching and learning. My teaching practice will be richer from this experience.

Because it is not about the technology, it’s about the learning.

If I was a parent and went into a school where the classroom looked like it did when I went to school, I would be very concerned. In a generation we have gone from information scarcity to information abundance and as a result the knowledge and skills that made a successful learner when we went to school are completely different for today’s students. If your school isn’t engaging with this new world then you should start asking questions as to why your children are being left out. Because not being able to successfully engage with online learning: being able to frame questions, analyse  information, connect with others and produce content, will make your children illiterate in a medium where the only constant is change.

At the guts of the problem isn’t that Orewa College wants to introduce 1 to 1 device into its classrooms,  in fact they should be getting a massive round of applause for doing so, it is that the funding of this learning always seems to be someone else’s problem when it needs to be a collective one. We shouldn’t be pitting parents against schools to get technology into classrooms, the rest of our society needs to support moving our students into this digital world. It will be interesting to see if the funders of the New Zealand Institute report into New Zealand’s ‘failing education system’ decide to put their money where their ideas are around e-learning. Likewise perhaps the New Zealand government could follow South Korea’s lead towards a paperless classroom by putting a tablet into the hands of every New Zealand school student by 2015.

Because it is not about the technology, it is about who pays for it.

25 thoughts on “Orewa College: It’s not actually about the technology…

Add yours

    1. Paul thanks for your comment.
      Ths pic is a great analogy. I think a lot of money in IT in education is wasted if we don’t know what is we are doing with it!



    1. Hi Carl,
      Thanks for stopping by. It’s a very easy issue to whip people into a frenzy about, ZOMG an ipad in school. I didn’t have an ipad, they’ll only play games etc. which is a shame. Because there are so many long term opportunities being lost while we think in the short term.



  1. hi stephanie. good on you for taking the time to say what many of us were thinking today. the media seems to enjoy making controversy rather than do their job: simply report. the two articles posted today (herald and stuff) will provide a real-life lesson in word choice for my classes when term 3 begins!


  2. Hi Kelly,
    Thank you for your comment. What I would like the media to do is look at the bigger picture and connect the dots. Look at the NZ report and what’s happening in South Korea and then saying there’s the research how are we going to get there.



  3. Amen Stephanie. If the entire education system committed to purchasing a tablet for every child I am sure they could get them for nicks from manufacturers (whether Apple or another manufacturer). It’s a no brainer.


    1. Thanks Ari.
      @farmgeek mentioned on twitter the idea of having an open source device sourced in bulk for all kids like a Pharmac for schools.

      Interesting idea.



  4. Great post Stephanie – I had a brief chat about the plans with the guys from Orewa at the recent NetHui (I think you were also there?) and I’ve been ranting at the radio everytime it’s been switched on today. It’s simply crazy, yet despairingly predictable that the media went this way on the story. I’ve enjoyed seeing some balance restored by your article – thanks 🙂


  5. Idea of government spending here is laughable. Sure . . . fast broadband will arrive, but schools will have to pay for it’s use.
    Schools get money for cable upgrades but not for actual hardware. I believe Orewa has funded fast broadband themselves.
    My own school cannot afford too many student 1 on 1 devices to join the network which it has funded or it will fail due to lack of size! Be great to teach with every student having access……… i wish. Cheers.


    1. Hi Barry,
      Thanks for stopping by. You are right New Zealand has a lot of catching up to do. South Korea made the investment in UFB right back in the 1990s and one of the reasons its film industry is so popular (do a google search of the Korean wave) throughout Asia is because they use the internet to spread content. Thus moving to tablets is an easy transition when the pipe is already in place. However moving 1 to 1 is possible, check out Point England school (which is decile 1) mentioned in the article I linked to about the New Zealand institute.



  6. Politicians are beating up on the school as well. One moment they ask WHY kids are not engaged and then they beat up on a school that is doing something about it.

    They should debate the pedagogy around digital learning tools.


  7. Hey, I actually go to Orewa College as a year 12. I am writing a letter for a class about the use of I Pads at our school. you said it doesn`t state that the school requires an I Pad but it does require a one on one device. You also don`t bring up the fact that the can get broken or stolen. Eg; last year I was walking out of English class, a student (Year 9) was playing on the I Pad while walking down the corridor. She walked into a group of people and smashed her I Pad on the ground. This has happened multiple times in all areas of the school. Not only that but it is a highly expensive device for the students to be walking around with. Yes, in school they may have the protection of the teachers to prevent other students stealing them. But what about outside of school, when they are walking home or on a public bus. There is no guarantee that they won`t get stolen. I als odon`t like writing with pen and paper but it is effective.


    1. I’m interested in how learning has (or hasn’t) changed since the inception of the 1:1 device:student initiative was introduced. Yes, pen and paper (or any other analogue capture method) is effective – and, if we look at the ancient scrolls unearthed around the world, they certainly have more longevity to them than perhaps we’d expect from one of todays digital devices.

      Yes devices get broken, that is also a fact of life not constrained to the classroom. In fact, when you head out into the workforce, you may well also be transporting the intellectual property of your company, or customer lists, or any of a range of other important information which must be protected. When you have that stuff ‘on device’ loss and theft becomes even more important.

      How are students dealing with the fragility of their devices? Ruggedised covers? Holding them more carefully when on the move? Have you been encouraged to protect your devices with programs to help you find it after a loss? How about remote wiping? Are these devices encrypted so no one but you can access the contents if they are lost or stolen?

      Could you go back to a solely pen/paper and textbook learning style?


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