NZ School Adds iPad 2 to Compulsory List for Students

New Zealand high school Orewa College has informed parents that year 8 students will be required to have an iPad when they begin the first term of their year 9 studies at the school. While students will be permitted to bring laptops or netbooks if they wish, the school standardized around iPads because of the battery life, form factor, and availability of educational apps for the devices.

For U.S. readers, Orewa College is what we might think of as a combined middle school and high school, teaching students between the ages of 11 and 17. Year 9 students are approximately 14 years old, and are essentially the equivalent to 9th graders in the U.S. It’s a state-supported school, but a board of trustees sets the curriculum and establishes requirements for the institution.

The requirement for students using an iPad is part of the school’s effort to update its IT infrastructure, including broadband access and a “reliable high speed wireless” network that covers the entire school. Beginning with that first term in 2012, the school is requiring a “one-to-one computing device,” as teachers will begin using such devices in their teaching, including homework and tests that will be turned in through them.

iPad vs. Netbook

Orewa College Compares iPads to Netbooks

“This is an exciting phase in educational delivery and we are pleased to be able to offer this to your student,” Kate Shevland wrote in a letter to parents announcing the new requirement. “The school is very positive about this transition and we are confident that parents and caregivers will embrace this educational opportunity.”

The plan has raised almost immediate controversy, as all such plans to require or give students laptops have in the U.S. throughout the last ten or so years. Chief among them were parents concerned about having to buy an iPad when they already had bought netbooks or laptops for their kids.

The school has been quick to point out that alternative devices are just fine, but at the same time, Orewa College has posted its own iPad vs. Netbook webpage comparing the virtues of each. Chief among the positive attributes of the iPad is its 10 hour batter life, but the lack of viruses, the instant start-up, form factor, cameras, and abundance of apps are are touted, as well.

On the other hand, students who know Windows will be comfy with their netbooks, so there’s that.

  • 10 Hour Battery life [original emphasis]
  • Instant start up
  • Slimmer than a book - easily portable
  • Video and still camera
  • No viruses
  • Auto update of Operating System
  • Useful for all the family
  • Abundance of Apps!!!!
  • Voice recording Apps useful
  • No known hardware issues
  • 3-4 Hour Battery life [original emphasis]
  • Slow start-up
  • Book size (not full size laptop)
  • Students familiar with Windows-type computers
  • Keyboard OK
  • Screen angle good
  • USB interface
  • Runs Flash
  • Will connect at home with normal router/Dial up connection

In addition to the comparison page, the school has posted a FAQ for the program and a pricing and financing options page for an iPad 2, as well.

In New Zealand, the program has gotten some mixed coverage from mainstream publications, including a somewhat positive piece from The Rodney Times and a somewhat less positive piece that put more emphasis on the financial burden the move will add to parents working through hard economic times.

Longtime TMO forum mod LaurieF assisted mightily with this article.