New rule: All students to purchase Apple MacBooks

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Keyboards and laptops have replaced the traditional pen and paper in Maris Stella High School as it is now compulsory for all of its students to purchase an Apple MacBook. As a parent, will you be supportive of such high-end digital learning in your child’s future?


Students required to use mac books for studying

Keyboards, laptops and touch screen monitors have replaced the traditional pen, paper and chalkboard in Maris Stella High School.

Sitting on a quiet hill along Mount Vernon Road, the school is unlike any other in Singapore.

For one, it makes it compulsory for all 1,500 of its students — all the way from Sec.1 to Sec. 4 from next year onwards – to purchase an Apple MacBook, which will be used for school assignments and projects.

That’s not all. The school’s ground-breaking “1:1 Learning Program” requires all teachers to conduct multi-touch interactive lessons using Nintendo’s Wii Remote and Samsung’s flat screen TVs.

Fewer worksheets are given out to students. Instead, teachers post class work and homework assignments on the Studywiz e-learning portal, and students access them via their MacBook while in school or at home.

Assignments are done in various forms of software — Microsoft Office for Mac (for creating documents) or GarageBand (for making pod casts) — depending on the teacher’s requirement.

Teachers actively use Google Docs to create forms for taking attendance during CCA meetings. Each student and teacher has their individual Maris Stella Google Mail address, and teachers can send e-mails to a specific group of students — class, level, CCA or the entire school.

Launched in September 2009, the school’s ”21st century classroom” is equipped with infrared LED light pens, remote controls of the popular Nintendo Wii gaming console, and Samsung’s flatscreen TVs, which act as a multi-touch whiteboard. The classroom can house two classes at one time.

Source: A student sharing his ideas on the interactive whiteboard with his fellow peers.

Students from disadvantaged families who cannot afford the MacBook will be rendered financial assistance and provisions will be made for by the school (an entry level MacBook on the Apple online store costs $1,488 while the higher-end MacBook Pro costs anywhere between S$1,788 to $3,398).

The school even has its own Apple Service Centre situated within its grounds in case students encounter any hardware or software issues with their MacBook.

To discourage the use of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter during school time, every student has a unique username and password to the school’s wireless network. As such, the school authorities can track down which websites have been visited.

Random checks are also conducted and teachers often use Apple Remote Desktop to monitor student internet activity.

In an interview with Yahoo! Singapore, Principal Mr. Joseph Lim said that the institution places a lot of emphasis on technology in education, and has an excellent Information and Communication Technology-orientated culture to inculcate a sense of responsibility regarding the use of technology in students.

When asked about the impact of the 1:1 Learning Program on students’ academic results, Mr. Lim said, “While we place a lot of emphasis on technology, there’s always a balance, and I don’t think it has affected much on our students’ academic results.”

Darrell Tan, a Secondary One Maris Stella High School student, supports the school’s whole-hearted embrace of technology.

“The 1:1 Learning Program gives me an entirely different learning environment and I’ve learned a lot from it — responsible use of technology, how to record pod casts and short clips, and tricks to better find information on the internet for my projects,” said the 13-year-old teen.

But what will become of teachers – will they eventually be replaced by technology too?

Ng Zhan Ming, a 16-year-old ASEAN scholar at Maris Stella High thinks that teachers will not be out of job even though it is a general thinking that technology reduces the need for manual labor.

“Learning does not equal education. Technology can aid learning, but can’t educate. Education is about personal development and social skills, not just knowledge. Learning is only knowledge, so there must still be a human element in education,” he explained.

As a parent, will you be supportive of such high-end digital learning in your child’s future?

Living in Singapore