One Rotorua school has made a courageous leap into the digital future of education, equipping most of its 400 students with a Sony Tablet S, similar to an iPad, from the beginning of next term.
The touch-screen tablets retail at $700, but parents need only cover the cost of $450 because of sponsorship and bulk buying.
Kaitao Middle School principal Rory O'Rourke said the first shipment of 150 tablets arrived last week. "Over 200 students have ordered one."
He said it was a courageous move for a decile-two school with families under financial pressure, but he was confident the technology would benefit student learning.
"Students are able to learn anywhere anytime with access to WiFi across the school. Our first project will be using the devices for digital storytelling. They can add music and download photos to go with their narratives."
Mr O'Rourke said students would hold a presentation at the end of next term to showcase their storytelling projects.
He said literacy and mathematics could be enhanced through blogs and mathematics games and the tablets would give parents a direct link at home to what their children were learning at school.
"It will make the home and school connection a lot stronger."
He said once the students received the tablets they were theirs to keep and the school offered affordable payback options for parents to pay off the cost of the tablets over time.
"We have got a really good deal with Sony. They give us a three-year warranty and it's an Android so most of the applications we need are free."
Mr O'Rourke said while at school the students would only gain access to internet sites approved by an $8000 firewall system.
He said other schools in Rotorua were watching Kaitao Middle School closely to see the benefits of the new technology.