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School’s tech transformation

Makoura College student Craig Oliver, 14, with a Raspberry Pi. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN


When Makoura College first opened in 1968, everything was typewriters and blackboards. Now, in the digital age, students have a near limitless supply of technology at their fingertips, writes Emily Norman.



Makoura College student Craig Oliver is a bit of a computer guru.

Well, maybe a lot of a computer guru.

The 14-year-old is a savvy computer programmer and is the go-to guy when it comes to Raspberry Pi.

Upon hearing about this mystical Raspberry Pi, and realising it was not a dessert, I met up with Craig who gave me the lowdown on what technology was being used in the modern classroom.

The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

The Raspberry Pi is a low cost, credit-card sized computer that plugs into a computer monitor or TV, and uses a standard keyboard and mouse.

It enables people of all ages to explore computing, and to learn how to programme in languages like Scratch and Python.

“It’s basically a mini computer,” Craig said, taking apart the Lego-styled exterior and exposing the motherboard.

“Once you’re on this and have it set up, you can basically do whatever you would normally do on a computer.”

Craig said the device was not as powerful as a regular computer, but served the purpose of exploring computer technology well.

“What I’m using it for is for Scratch or coding.

“Coding is basically the language of a computer. It’s how you tell it to do something.

“What I’ve done on the Raspberry Pi is I have gone on the command line, which is basically what you use to command it, and I’ve set a command to make it update and upgrade itself.

“I’ve done that for every single Raspberry Pi in our class.

“I don’t want to brag. I’m okay at it.”

Craig’s teacher Caroline Wilkins said his computer skills were more than okay, having won a competition for the best “overall game”.

He was awarded his own Raspberry Pi for the effort.

“Technology has become more and more a part of everyday life, and teaching,” Mrs Wilkins said.

“With the Raspberry Pi, students are using computational thinking, and it enhances their problem-solving skills being able to view things from different angles.”

Craig said there was other technology at his fingertips in the classroom, like Chromebooks and calculators, but he said the school had put a rule in about the use of mobile phones, which he understood – “but I don’t agree with it”.

He hopes one day to be able to work as a computer programmer.

Makoura College media studies teacher Andrew Hutchby has seen first-hand the technology transformation at the school, having gone through Makoura as a student and a teacher.

“I was in the Class of 1992, and at the time there was no internet in school.

“We had old Apple Macs with the green screens, and we did coding, but nothing like what is happening today.”

He said the most important thing to teach kids in the modern age of technology was to be adaptable and resilient.

“Things are moving so fast and technology is forever changing, so much so, that when these students finish school, the jobs available are going to be so different to what we have today.”

He said research suggested that the youth of today were expected to undergo 14 career changes during their lifetime.

“We don’t know what jobs there will be, which is why our education system needs to continue to open up kids’ minds and teach them to be adaptable.”

Founding student Wendy Neal said throughout her school life, technology consisted of typewriters and roller blackboards.

“Newsletters were typed on newspaper, and it was only later that our reports were printed in booklet form,” she said.

“I’m sure we had calculators, and for math work we would use a set triangle.”

She said in the earlier days, boys tended to take the technical drawing class, and girls would take typewriting.

Though it wasn’t long before girls began enrolling in technical drawing, and boys in typewriting.

“Our principal Noel Scott was very progressive in his thoughts about education,” she said.

“He was good at creating mutual respect between the students and teachers.”

During Easter weekend of 2018 (Friday March 30 – Sunday April 1), Makoura College will be celebrating 50 years of teaching and learning.

Makoura College principal Paul Green said there would no doubt be many vivid memories waiting to be activated by a return visit to the school, and the reunion weekend had been set up to provide a range of contexts for renewing friendships with familiar or perhaps partly forgotten faces from ‘old school’ days.


Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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