Pakuranga College deputy principal, Billy Merchant explains their ongoing community consultation process, which includes how and why students devices, and digital citizenship. Billy comments, "After a three year transitional phase, it’s got to the point now that if we didn’t offer a digital programme, I think there would be more kick back."
If you view it as a device, as a piece of technology with a monetary value, I think that’s what people want to be consulted about. But actually, if you trust schools that we’re actually going down this road because we believe we can give a far better, powerful, personalised, adventurous education by using e-learning, I don’t think we should be consulting our parents on, would you like that? Would you like a better education for your child? Someone was saying, did you do the big consultation with the community? And straight away you go, oh yes we must, but then actually if you just see e-learning as good teaching, we don’t do a big consultation on think-pair-share, we don’t do a big group consultation on, are you okay if we get the vivids out and get the students brainstorming? We had that kind of transition phase because we had the optional classes, so it’d been put out to parents three years prior to us going compulsory BYOD. That information and that model was already out there so our community was aware of the fact that there were digital classes going on here but we made the decision to go compulsory. We put it out there and we had hardly any, questions from our community at all. In fact, it’s got to the point now that if we didn’t offer a digital programme, I think there would be more kick back.
You know there’s a greater appreciation now that our Intermediates are so strong within that digital learning environment that when they come to secondary, if actually that digital opportunity doesn’t exist, parents are more concerned than what they are actually when we said we’ve got a digital programme. We’ve worked with our Intermediates, that’s been really powerful. So, I’ve gone along to the, our local Intermediate feeder school, I’ve gone to their parent open evenings. We had a year 8 parents’ evening here only last night and around the room, the vast majority of students already have a device that they’re using in their Intermediate School. And I think you know that partnership between secondary and intermediate, that’s been really powerful bringing the community on board.
At the year 9 presentation, we do quite a clear presentation of, “This is what happens when your student logs into our network”. We can track every student, what site they go to, how long they’re on it, what they’re clicking on. It’s that reassurance to parents that says, we do monitor our network, we are aware of what your son or daughter is doing online. Equally so, we also need to reassure them about what we’re doing on the teaching and learning side.
We’ve done an evening where NetSafe have come in and given a presentation to parents around staying safe online and that’s been really, really well appreciated by our community. We also had a company called Attitude from the parenting group that came in and spoke about teenagers in a digital world which was fascinating. So we’ve tried to provide information as much as we can. We’re fortunate that our Deans are also up to speed with digital technologies, you know, that they’ve evolved with us over this journey so they can actually tackle a number of you know parental enquiries. Each term we do a digital learning newsletter that goes out from our e-learning coordinator informing parents of a whole range of things in terms of the learning that’s going on. Our students are in Google classrooms so students can actually share their folders with their parents so parents can actually view their work folders. It’s enabling parents to have a connection and a window with schools and I think at secondary, we’ve always struggled with that, that distance. So the technologies here especially for our BYOD programme at year 9 and year 10 has just enabled that connection to be even greater here