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College keeps YouTube, Facebook in digital strategy

Published: 1:18PM Monday October 10, 2011 Source: ONE News

A technology journalist says an Auckland high school's controversial decision not to turn off YouTube and Facebook for students is part of its digital strategy.

The Government has recently announced that 221 schools will be connected to fast fibre networks by July 2012, and more than 100,000 school students will benefit.

Computerworld magazine editor Sarah Putt told TV ONE's Breakfast that Rangitoto College on the North Shore, with a roll of 3200, is one of only a few schools that she believes are fully organised for the rollout of ultra-fast broadband.

"They've basically created a digital strategy and they're asking parents at the beginning of the year to send their kids to school with a connected device," Putt said. The device could be a laptop, a tablet, an iPad or a netbook, but not a smartphone, she said.

Putt was asked to comment on concerns parents may have that their children could now have easy access to Facebook and YouTube, and whether they would be safe and actually studying.

She said she could only talk about the Rangitoto College environment.

"At the moment they're saying they're not going to turn off YouTube and Facebook, that this is part of the learning environment now, this is what our kids are going to have when they go into the workplace and so they might as well get to learn it and behave responsibly in a digital environment at school," Putt said.

"It's a very interesting and quite controversial approach, I think."

The rollout is part of the Government's $1.5 billion ultrafast broadband promise at the last election, which it has just signed contacts for. The rollout is going to take eight-and-a-half years, with schools, hospitals and businesses being connected first, Putt said.

It will mean schools have the opportunity to get the fastest connection in the country and possibly the world, she said.

"They can now start thinking about creating seamless technology environments. That means that they can walk into a classroom with any device and suddenly they're connected to the internet at ultra fast speed."

However, Putt said she one educationalist has told her he thinks only about five per cent of schools are planning for this seamless technology environment.

She said the first thing schools need to do is think very clearly about a digital strategy.

That means communicating with teachers and parents and getting everybody schooled up and thinking about how they're going to deliver this technology, Putt said.