School throws out pencils and books

Technology such as the iPad is taking the place of textbooks for students in some schools.
Technology such as the iPad is taking the place of textbooks for students in some schools.

No more pencils, no more books.

Technology is invading classrooms around Australia and teachers and students in at least one school have heeded rocker Alice Cooper's call to throw away the textbooks.

The Buddhist Pal School in Sydney's south-west is set up to be completely paperless.

Students and teachers alike use tablets and computers for all school work.

Principal Panha Pal said the aim wasn't to be paperless but rather to make schooling more relevant to his students.

"Students are actually getting bored in the classroom because classrooms are just way too behind what their daily lives are all about, which is technology," he said.

"They're probably learning more out of school because of their iPad, their computers."

When the school took its first enrolments in 2013, teachers and parents had some doubts about the pervasiveness of technology.

But now, Mr Pal said, the students wouldn't go back to the "old ways" of learning.

Plus they don't have to carry heavy backpacks filled with books.

The school didn't have a whole lot of money, so it has primarily used free software and systems.

Students film science experiments and annotate the videos to refer back to later. They read interactive textbooks, listen to recordings and can even take control of their teacher's computer to give answers.

"Because of the engagement ... how much they're stimulated by the content has probably increased three or four-fold at the minimum," Mr Pal said.

Across the city at elite girls' school Abbotsleigh, students are looking far beyond the pages of their textbooks.

The school uses video conferencing to let students quiz Holocaust survivors in New York, scientists in Antarctica and JFK experts at the book depository in Dallas.

Even four-year-olds in the early learning centre have video conferences, learning how to make slime from scientists in the US.

Staff used the video link-ups to complement existing curriculum, not just for technology's sake, technology director Warwick Noble said.

"It's an extremely enriching addition to what they would normally do in the classroom," he said.

But it was not all about connecting with people on the other side of the world: the school recently held a career session with female academics from nearby Macquarie University.

Mr Noble said getting scientists to visit the school was difficult, asking them to pop into a room at the uni was much easier. AAP


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