Three lessons in using the web

New Zealand schools are replacing textbooks with the internet, encouraging children to make websites for children and webifying their records and reports, if the finalists in the "Excellence in the use of IT in education: primary and secondary" category are a good indication of scholastic trends.

New Zealand schools are replacing textbooks with the internet, encouraging children to make websites for children and webifying their records and reports, if the finalists in the “Excellence in the use of IT in education: primary and secondary” category are a good indication of scholastic trends.

Macleans College in Buckland’s Beach, Auckland is using computers to deliver the education of the fourth form science unit all year round. Head of science Jes Roddy says this means the children have no textbooks, homework is set from the internet and some of the old sinks have been removed from the science lab to make way for PCs.

“The advantage is we can save money and we have access to better resources, such colour pictures and interactive quizzes and games. But basically the module is not really about computers, but developing systems so we can have alternative learning styles and levels of learning in the classroom.

“I don’t believe any state school can afford to have sufficient computers to give kids a full grounding in ICT. Many students have PCs and the net at home. I want to bring these computers into learning rather than sitting at home playing games,” Roddy says.

For a economically midrange school with the usual funding challenges, sourcing information from the net is also cheaper than having to buy textbooks, Roddy says.

Kids making a travel website for kids is the name of the game of the Kids Ambassador Project from Christchurch-based Elmwood Normal School.

The initial motivation came from a chance discussion about the fact that children often dictate where families go on holiday, but publicity and websites are usually aimed at adults.

Professional development facilitator Mike Anderson says the school developed the website and learning programme with tourism promoters Christchurch and Canterbury Marketing.

“The English and social studies project people go out in the role as travel writers to attractions in Canterbury,” he says. They then bring back notes, digital video and pictures and combine it into the website made by children for children.

Anderton says the project is a very powerful way of using modern technology in a realistic and relevant manner. “We are trying to get them to use technology for new projects rather than apply it to old tasks,” he says.

The school is developing resource materials for other Canterbury schools to run similar projects and it plans to offer national materials later this year.

The entry from Nayland College in Nelson involves what it calls a Digital Portfolio, an online records and reporting package.

The project, which started two years ago, means that when a student leaves the college they now receive a CD of all their work, including reports, book reviews and learning analysis data.

Head of IT Geoff Scrimgeour says the portfolio forms part of the college intranet and website. The records can be accessed by teachers, parents and students, who can comment on online reports. Data includes pastoral care matters, academic records, sports accolades and newspaper events in text, video and audio.

Scrimgeour says the project will never be finished because the school is still discovering what the online records system can offer.

“We have found it a more powerful tool than we anticipated. It’s a whole package for all rather than for just the teacher.”

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