The good, the bad and the useful

The good, the bad and the useful

Youths pick the mobile phone as the technology with the biggest impact on their daily lives.

“You know more about technology than a lot of people in our business,” confesses Russell Stanners, CEO of Vodafone New Zealand, to a group of high school students in South Auckland. His audience was some 30 students at the Youth Technology Forum at James Cook High School in Manurewa.

Vodafone hosted the forum – inviting 30 students from five schools in South Auckland to discuss the impact of technology on their lives. Vodafone held a simultaneous session in Wellington, with a summary of both forums along with recommendations for action to be submitted to the Government.

The location for the Auckland gathering has special significance for Stanners, who studied at James Cook High School in the 1980s “before the internet” he states.

These days, he says, “All of our students are digital natives. They know more about it than we do. We are teaching digital natives and we are not [digital natives].”

Interestingly, when asked which technology had the most impact on their daily lives, the majority of the students at the forum cited the mobile phone ahead of the internet.

Stanners says this is to be expected, citing studies estimating that by 2020 the mobile phone will be the most-used device to access the internet.

In fact, on a daily basis, students cite the mobile phone as the technology they most often use. And in five years, they foresee this to be an iPhone or an “all-in-one device”.

On the question of what they would tell Prime Minister John Key about improving technology in New Zealand today, the students’ wish list included getting more funding and resources for low decile schools; allowing phones to be used outside the classroom (This is a reaction to schools banning mobile phone use. They note, “If students can’t use cellphones in class then neither should teachers.”); better mobile phone coverage in rural areas; faster broadband; and better computer facilities, access to internet and wi-fi for schools.

The students said technology has made education easier through the use of projectors and internet access, and cited a range of ideas in bringing technology to the classroom. These include introducing smart boards in place of blackboards; having someone from Microsoft to come in and teach about technology; and getting younger teachers to teach IT. They cited the need for a "common room" that has no restrictions on the internet.

The students also weighed the good and bad sides of social networking. The most popular sites were Bebo, Facebook and MySpace.

The students say these sites allow them to gossip and meet new friends. They were forthright, however, in saying there are issues with cyber bullying, a lessening of face to face social skills and too much personal information being made available on these sites.

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