Out of 361 high schools around New Zealand, Havelock North High School ranks 102 in terms of the NCEA national exams with 73% receiving University Entrance in 2011. The high school website boasts, “The school motto is Aim to Excel. Whaia te iti kahurangi…Our students consistently achieve among the top marks in national examinations and competitions. In music, art and drama, the school is accepted as a national leader. Our sports teams are well regarded for their high levels of performance and for their sportsmanship.” but yet, the technology at H.N.H.S seems rather limited compared to what is seen in many classrooms throughout the United States. My question then becomes, Havelock North High School is already placing in the top third of New Zealand schools, but would increasing the technology in the classroom improve this status?
At this moment, there are no smart boards in any classrooms at Havelock North and limited, if any ELMOs. Most classrooms are equipped with a projector that can be hooked to a laptop and an overhead projector with transparencies. The teachers laptops can all connect to a limited wireless network in certain areas of the school, but many teachers still connect to the Internet using an ethernet cable. There are some MAC computers in a few classrooms. The latest professional development seminars have been about teaching the school staff how to use and implement Google Drive. To say the least, I was a bit shocked about all of this when I first arrived. It was only over these last 5 weeks that I realized most teachers at the school have created ways to design lessons that are still interactive and effective while using limited/no technology, yet they are still considered to have one of the best education systems in the world.
Over the next year or two there will be several changes in regards to technology taking place. The biggest one is the installment of a school-wide wireless internet system in every room and the courtyards. This system will also be able to block out/freeze any 3G or 4G devices that would carry their own signal when they are on school grounds. Along with this change, all students will be required to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) which will be used for the majority of learning in correlation with Google Drive rather than having students carry around and use exercise and assessment books significantly reducing the amount of paper being used. I wonder, then, “Will increased technology make it more difficult to monitor the playing of games/apps on pads or netbooks? How will those activities be controlled?”
Many of the teachers I’ve talked to are a bit worried about how this will all turn out. Some already use more forms of technology in their classes, but often that is in a media/music/or drama class leaving the regular education/core classes still maintaining a focus on books, writing, and films or worksheets and revision games. Several of the lessons I have planned while being here include the use of the projector in order to show short YouTube clips/videos, but I’ve learned that it is best to have a back-up plan or way to teach the concept if something doesn’t go quite right with the technology or it isn’t working correctly. This has been a more immediate issue over the last two weeks as all of the teachers in my department had to give up their rooms for exams and are constantly having to set-up and take down each class period. I will be very curious to keep tabs on H.N.H.S. as they make these technological transitions to really identify how it is affecting student achievement on the local and national scale.
On a side note: I’ve just visited Rotorua, a hot spot for Maori culture and thermal activity in New Zealand. The river I am standing in with a student teacher also here from Wisconsin is naturally hot water.