“[I] Was wondering what others on here from Blockhouse Bay Primary thought about the notice that we got today saying that they school want Year 5 and 6 students to bring $400 Chromebooks to school?” – Susanne
This started a lively thread on Facebook that intrigued us. What is going on at BHB Primary?
Mary weighed in: “Really? First I've heard about it and not happy. The expense, the possibility of damage or theft. I've been expecting BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] for high school but not primary.”
Several comments were positive and this one from Leanne was educational for us “Our daughter had dyslexia and it has helped her learning style.” That got us interested, as dyslexia is an issue that affects our family. Then one of our children joined the debate: “I was in primary school only five years ago and even then (with desktop computers, not iPads) you could easily go off task behind the teacher's back. Making sure 30 children are doing what they are supposed to on devices is like herding cats.”
So what is really going on? We contacted Neil Robinson, Principal of BHB Primary. He sent some background info and invited us to a parents meeting about the introduction of Chromebooks (Google based notebooks). We went along on a miserable rainy night expecting a boring meeting with a handful of parents. We were wrong. It was a vibrant meeting with participation from many families and even hardware vendors.
What we quickly realised is that primary teachers are facing the first wave of “digital natives” – kids who have been born into a high tech world and are as comfortable in it as fish in water.
In a presentation by two Year 6 students, Janae said “Our world is changing fast and we as kids are not afraid of this change it excites us and being able to be connected to the world prepares us for our future.” Ailis commented “Us kids today live in a digital world and it is our future. Lots of us will be in jobs that haven't even been invented yet. Setting ourselves up for this ever changing technological world sooner rather than later is definitely beneficial and essential.”
They spoke about their experience “On Chromebooks, which is a source of digital learning, you can share your work to as many people as you want, with the choice of being able to edit, comment or view our work. This lets our teachers and peers give us immediate feedback.
Another great thing about Google and Chromebooks is that there is an online classroom where our teachers can invite students to collaborate on work and also create assignments for us to complete as individuals or together with others.”
The parents were then invited to move around some of the many workstations so that the students could demonstrate how the technology works and benefits them. The evening wrapped up with a Q&A which showed that some parents were struggling to keep up with the kids.
We got schooled. Here is what we learnt:
Twelve years ago our own boys were involved with digital learning at Roskill South Kindergarten, with access to a MacBook, video and still cameras. When you look at the way technology is moving, one would have to ask, not “why are schools going BYOD?” but “what is still stopping some schools from making the switch?” How will that handicap their students?
On our first-ever visit to BHB Primary, we were impressed with the ethos of the school and the calibre of the staff. They are an asset to our community. It is hardly surprising that the school does not need to take in out of zone students.