“We had this kid who was in Year 4 last year, and got really into Adobe Photoshop. He started to do some quite interesting stuff, and his auntie said, ‘I can’t believe the difference in my boy. I now know what he’s going to be — he’s not going to be a painter like his cousin. He’s going to be…’ and she listed a whole lot of things. And she hadn’t thought about those things as possibilities before that.”
This is how Michele Whiting, the headteacher of decile 1 Corinna School in Porirua East, describes the early effects of the digital learning scheme that’s starting to transform the lives of the area’s students. At the core of the scheme is a Chromebook — a simple, affordable laptop — for every student, paid for by their parents in instalments over three years. But Whiting’s ambitions for the scheme go far beyond giving kids a lump of silicon: she wants to change the whole way her students learn and her teachers teach.
Whiting’s inspiration is the much-touted Manaiakalani scheme that has operated in a cluster of South Auckland’s poorest schools since 2012, and is credited with lifting student achievement significantly. In its first year within the programme, one school, Tamaki College, doubled its NCEA Level 2 results for Māori and Pasifika students — putting it among the 60 fastest-improving schools in the country.