Society

Smart education: Internet and cellphones

As a nation, we've grown accustomed to using the Internet – to purchase goods, laugh at cats, answer questions, or watch our favourite TV shows.
  • Image, young student using trackpad on laptop.

    Increasing Internet use

    In 2012 New Zealanders became increasingly mobile, with over 2.5 million Internet connections made through our mobile phones. This is up over 30 percent from 2011, and reflects the growing use of the Internet and smartphones in our daily lives.

    Our increasing desire for connectivity means Internet service providers have increased their data caps – allowing more flexibility and potential for New Zealanders to surf the web on fixed broadband connections.

    The total number of New Zealanders subscribing to a broadband provider increased to more than 1.6 million in 2012 (up 11 percent from 2011). At the same time, the number of subscribers with a data cap of 20 gigabytes (GB) or more increased by almost 500,000 – this group now makes up more than 50 percent of subscribers.

    The average New Zealand subscriber used around 16GB of data a month in 2012, which is equivalent to streaming about 142 episodes of Shortland Street. This is close to double the monthly data use in 2011, when the average was 9GB. This means we are each streaming the equivalent of 61 more episodes of Shortland Street a month than in 2011.

    However, our Internet use is definitely not restricted to New Zealand's longest running soap opera (which turned 20 in 2012) – Internet technologies and smartphones are increasingly becoming part of our educational system and being used to enrich our lives.

    Mobile and online learning

    Surprisingly, there are times when teachers allow mobile phones in the classroom. The mLearning Capability Pilot Project at Howick College, which started in 2011 and saw continuing benefits in 2012, is one example. This initiative was developed by the Ministry of Education, with Waikato University and Vodafone New Zealand, and tested using mobile phones in the classroom – to enhance and encourage students' learning.

    Students recorded material on their mobile phone in the classroom, on field trips, or during self-directed study. This enabled them to study and review the material when it was convenient for them. While teachers at Howick considered this to be a high-trust model of working, they also saw students taking the initiative to support their own learning. This was especially true in the classroom, where students used their mobile phones to conduct further research work – and took their classroom learning well beyond its walls and time constraints. 

    Ultrafast broadband is on its way to schools, thanks to the Ministry of Education’s ultra fast broadband and rural broadband initiatives. By 2016, 97.7 percent of schools and 99.9 percent of students should have access to ultrafast broadband. The most-remote schools will have improved wireless or satellite services.

    By integrating Internet and mobile technology with their learning environment, schools will be providing increased access to information and experiences. For students, this is expected to increase their engagement, encourage a passion for knowledge, and improve their results and learning.

    Source: Howick College, Ministry of Education, and Statistics New Zealand

Surprisingly, there are times when teachers allow mobile phones in the classroom.
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