Dominic Killalea, Deputy Principal at Wellington High School, discusses their key considerations for selecting student devices. Rather than saying students need a particular device, they identified set minimum specifications. Dominic highlights the different needs of junior and senior students and how this informs which devices and programmes are most appropriate.
Our original mindset was, it will be easier if we just have one device for our technical staff, for our teachers. The experience in 2010 was fine, you know, students coped fine with that. But to me, I wrestled with this idea that we were potentially taking a kid who had grown up using a Mac and then saying to them actually, now that you’re at high school you have to use a PC and it didn’t make sense of course. We then looked to change that and we said, “Okay, bring the device you’re using at home, you know, we’ll be able to cater for that and these are some minimum specifications.” And so we published those to our parents and caregivers. That was a bit more trouble for teachers the following year because if they wanted to do problem solving when a device wouldn’t work, it was harder for them with different devices. But that’s okay because we had technical backup and I didn’t want the teacher’s role ever to be about having to solve the technical stuff. So the next thing is that it needs to be an equitable environment so that if students can’t provide a device, if there’s not the financial means to do that then we as the school will take that as our responsibility.
We surveyed our teachers extensively and they told us that year 9 and 10, pretty much everything they did was web-based. They want students to have a device in the classroom. So at 9 and 10, there’s a reliance on the Google suite of products. So it’s a more casual environment at 11, 12 and 13 here. Some have devices, some don’t. There’s other students that are quite happy to sit there with a pen and paper.
Applications that you can use online are incredibly powerful. Doesn’t suit every single student but that’s what we’re moving into, that actually, that might suit some students in the class, that’s okay, there’s other tools that other students will use. At 11, 12 and 13, we now have maths courses saying that you need to have a device if you’re going to do this course. We’ve still got specialist labs for digital media, for computer science using particular applications. I think really, we’re looking at the fact that a student can get by at year 9 and 10 with a chromebook. That’s the minimum requirement. At 11, 12 and 13 they do need a more sophisticated device. So some parents might choose to make that purchase at the year 9 stage however, you’ve got to remember by the time that student’s in year 13, you’ve got a device that’s potentially five years old. And I can tell you, from the wear and tear that occurs, that’s a difficult decision. I think you need to go into this, or schools need to go into this, with the the mindset that actually there’s the device that will do them for a couple of years and then they’re probably going to need to purchase another device, and a more sophisticated device.