An Auckland school putting iPads on the compulsory stationery list says other schools will follow suit.
From next year, all year nine students at Orewa College must have their own notebook or laptop, and the school is strongly recommending it be a top of the range iPad 2, which sells for around $800.
In a letter to parents of year 9 students, principal Kate Shevland told parents that an "affordable computing device" such as an iPad or Netbook would be required in the classroom in 2012.
An information sheet was provided on how parents can buy the device, including the advice that a saving plan could be started.
"Retailers do offer flexi rent where you own the machine, but you pay a very high interest rate," parents were told.
The school said it could not "afford new machines", yet "demand for access to technology keeps growing".
"What we want is one to one access to technology, access to the internet as needed, when needed," parents were told in a letter.
"We can't afford to do that by ourselves. We need your help."
Shevland told ONE News there was a potential to use the technology "really well".
"There's a lot of pressure on the use of the internet and we haven't got sufficient computers for everyone to have one all the time," she said.
But sole parent Sarah Fairclough, who has a son at the school and a daughter starting next year, said "pens and paper" work just as well.
She told TV ONE's Breakfast it would be "a tough thing" to find the money for the technology.
"Over the Christmas period is when you're going to have to get them which is tough on everybody," Fairclough said.
She also said students could end up "sitting on Facebook".
"I don't think that's going to achieve any more learning than what they're doing now with pen and paper," Fairclough said.
The school said that meetings had been organised for parents over the technology requirement.
The Education Ministry said it was up to individual schools to decide which tools would best support pupils' learning as they progressed through the schooling system.
Schools should work with parents and local communities to ensure all pupils had equitable access to such tools, it said.
'Other schools will follow'
Shevland says Orewa College is just the first school off the block and others will follow.
"I think in five years time, I would be very surprised if most schools didn't have one on one devices of some sort," she said.
Secondary Schools Principals Association president Patrick Walsh agrees and says students at lower decile schools are at risk of missing out.
Walsh said it could be situation where the Government needs to step in and support those communities.
Parents could be offered a transition period, during which they can save up for an iPad, Walsh said.
The school's stance has provoked a huge response, with opinion divided on the issue.
Raewyn Fox, chief executive of the New Zealand Federation of Family Budgeting Services, said some parents already struggled to pay for uniforms and school camps without worrying about buying expensive equipment such as iPads.
Many families might have to go without something else in their budget to fund the iPads, she said.
Jayson Park posted on the ONE News Facebook page that "Year 9 is just a bit too early for adults to be buying their children laptops", while Vanessa Robinson wrote that "so many children these days get everything given to them, it's not good".
Jayne Toohey posted "I can't believe so many of you think its a good idea for STATE school families to buy laptops. The average Kiwi finds it hard just to feed their family let alone have to HP a computer", while Samuel Wang wrote "I think children need to learn to appreciate simple things in life, such as food on the table".
On the tvnz.co.nz messageboard on the subject, debate has also been fierce.
"There are far more important lessons to be learned in life which can be taught without technology," wrote Globi, while nztifosi posted "In such economic times this idea is obscene".
What do you think? Should the technology be compulsory? Have your say on the messageboard below.
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