Less than 10% of schools in New Zealand obtain a 4-5 year review cycle by the Education Review Office. You could count on only a couple of fingers how many of these schools are Decile 1 or 2. Aorere College is one of them. Why? Because every single staff member is committed to giving our students the best learning and achievement environment possible not just relative to other Decile 1 or 2 schools in New Zealand but ANY school world-wide. And what are the two best ways to achieve such a feat 1) awesome pedagogy and learning-in-place that is student-focused, student-driven, and that gives as much student agency as possible and 2) edtech that is world class.
Now one of the dilemmas of providing edtech that is world class is that it costs money, lots of money, lots and lots of money. The other issue that we have found out is that the age of our school (50+ years and counting) means that many of our buildings when built weren't exactly set up for modern and/or digital learning. Never-the-less, in 2015 our school made a philosophical decision to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to not just make our digital platform good but awesome and future-proofed. To put this necessary transformation into actual numbers, last year alone we spent tens of thousands of dollars on Fortigate filtering, even more on 60 new internal Wi-Fi access points and 7 brand new external Wi-Fi access points and installed another brand new hi-spec computer lab.
We also decided on and publicized the following BYOD position:
All Aorere College students are expected to have their own digital device for learning purposes. Aorere College recommends Chromebooks...
What was the result at the beginning of this year? Despite the vocal minority of nay-sayers, hundreds and hundreds of our students bought into such expectations and brought in or bought devices ranging from Macbooks to Chromebooks and countless smartphones. Many parents of low-income status went to great sacrifice to ensure that their child did not go with-out. It should be pointed that we didn't start from scratch in terms of the device philosophy. In 2015 students were allowed to bring in their devices but at this time, we did not have the explicit expectation of such devices in student possession.
What was made and is made very clear to me by the students and indeed many of the parents is that low decile meant that hi-tech was one of the only ways forward not just to improve student learning and academic success at Aorere College but was one of the most viable ways to lift the fortunes and futures of the families and community involved. To be low decile and thus low-tech is not only wrong, it's close to being unethical and condescending. Now we're hi-tech, we're still restless, still aspirational. We're now aiming for highest-tech. Here WE go!