NCCG Dates for 2016

The dates for 2016 are:

Tuesday 1 March – Wednesday 2 March:  Auckland

Wednesday 25 May – Thursday 26 May: Wellington

Tuesday 23 August – Wednesday 24 August: Whangarei

Wednesday 23 November – Thursday 24 November: Christchurch

Note the change in dates for August.

Private lessons for CIH families

Sylvia has been approached by her CIH tutors asking if they are able to provide private lessons (for a fee) to former students.  These are two older woman who have just started using computers and did struggle a bit in a class situation. They have approached the CIH tutor together, offering to pay for her time to provide additional support. One of the CIH participants has a disability that means she can no longer write so she is particularly motivated to learn more. Her grandchildren are helping but are younger so don’t yet know enough to help as much as she’d like. She also lives on the outskirts of town and can’t easily travel.

My comment:  We need to make sure that tutors do not put any pressure on participants to pay for more training – especially when we offer Stepping UP for free. It is clear from the above situation that the participants have approached the tutor and so this seems absolutely fine to me.

Di’s comment: As long as the tutor is not doing the lessons in the name of Computers in Homes, i.e. not using us as her credentials for private business or cash employment, this should be fine.  This was what the volunteer hours of the CIH Buddy was meant to be for, but we recognise this has proved to be too hard to manage in most regions.

Success stories needed for Mid-Term Report

I know the sun is still shining in most parts of the country and some of you might still think you are holiday BUT we have a mid-term report to produce for the Ministry of Education and our many stakeholders.  Stories were due on 31 December 2015, as well as   I a stunning hi-res photo uploaded to the media repository (Mid-Term January 2016 folder).  Only FIVE coordinators met this deadline and a further one has submitted a story since then.  The success stories we are seeking must clearly explain what a CIH family has achieved as a result of participating in Computers in Homes (and just attending training and getting a computer and internet connection is not enough  – this is just the means to help change something).  The question we need to answer is what difference has this made to the families we support?  What difference to their children’s learning?  What difference to parent engagement with their children’s schools?  We prefer that you identify someone who graduated at least 12 months ago – not someone in the current programme cohort.  New coordinators should check out last year’s mid-term report to see the sort of stories we need.  A special focus should be education outcomes, parent engagement with the school, children achievements – we are funded by the Ministry of Education and it is not unreasonable for them to expect to see lots of evidence of positive education engagement included in our reports.

I recognise this might be hard for new coordinators to identify families from over 12 months ago, but please consult with your predecessors and your Steering Committees to identify someone in your community.  We have supported 15,000 people on the programme during the last 15 years.  All I need from you is to identify just one in each of your communities.

So those of you who have not yet submitted a story, please do so immediately and certainly no later than Friday 29 January.

Skinny could be interesting

I am not talking about my diet, but rather Spark’s low cost pre-pay mobile provider called Skinny.  They are offering a whopping 60GB data cap for just $55 per month and the first month is free.  OK, there is a $199 connection cost to procure the wireless modem and SIM card.  But this is a giant leap forward from the usual 3GB monthly data caps provided for around the same price by other mobile providers.

We have been advocating for some time that an affordable pre-pay option for Computers in Homes families might be a more sustainable solution than fixed monthly charges.  And Skinny could be giving us this opportunity.

Alistair has been doing some homework for us about how we might operationalise this.  As a pre-pay service, there is no such thing as invoices and accounts.  Families require a debit or credit card and have total control over how much they want to pre-load their accounts. There appear to be very good mobile phone tools for alerting users as they approach their data caps.

We still have a bit of work to do to work out how we can top up a family’s account, but this is promoted as one of the features – to be able to top up your Skinny mates accounts.  So we know it is possible.  There is also an auto top-up feature, so provided these two features work together we should be good to go.

If it seems too good to be true, then it probably isn’t (I am sure today’s news of the single Flyby point to purchase a $1500 iPad is fresh in everyone’s minds!).  So what is the downside with Skinny?  Coverage could be an issue, as the service relies on 4G, but this can be checked on the Skinny website.

So anyone who is struggling to get a broadband connection for one of their families, plug in their address and see if Skinny is an option.  If so let me know and we can give it a whirl.


Safer Internet Day 9 February 2016

The 2020 Trust is supporting a Netsafe project to recognise 9 February as Safer Internet Day.  This is a global initiative that runs each year.  Sue Kini is alerting all our Stepping UP partner libraries and encouraging them to offer Internet Safety classes on Tuesday 9 February.  The Association of Public Library Managers (Public Libraries NZ) is encouraging all their member libraries to do the same.  We are providing the Internet safety Stepping Up module to any library that wants to take part.  If anyone has any other ideas, please feel free to share.

2015-16 CiH Google Doc – New columns added

Some new data fields have been added to the 2015-16 Google Doc.

(1) Column W (Premises):  We would like to get better statistics on internet connections by type of premises.  This is to help us understand the challenges for families, who we suspect are mainly in rental accommodation, in securing landlord permission to install new copper or fibre internet connections.  There are three options in the pull-down menu (Owner Occupier, Housing NZ, Private Rental).  You can capture this information from the 2degrees Internet Signup forms where we ask for the Landlord name.  The current signup form only asks for landlord details for UFB connections but we would like to capture this information for all connections, as we are striking problems with landlord approvals for copper connections as well.

(2) Columns BH – BN (Alternate contact details):  This information is also currently collected on 2degrees signup forms, but not recorded in our national database.  We think this information might help us contact families at the 12  month transition when we have trouble contacting them directly as well as help in the future for research purposes.

For those of you who have already graduated families in the current financial year, it would be helpful to populate these fields from the internet signup forms in your files.


Chromebooks and CiH

Chris Turner has asked a number of questions about chromebooks and CIH.  My responses are recorded here for others who may have the same or similar questions.  But just as a preamble, Sue Kini is testing the water in Whangarei, offering chromebooks to CiH families who are part of a BYOD cluster as an alternative to a refurbished computer.  The offer received a positive response from schools, which perhaps was to be expected, but it is too early to see how well this will work with families.  In principle, we want to be flexible about the type of computing device we provide as part of CiH, but we do want to make sure families are aware of the constraints around chromebooks and the absolute need for an internet connection  to do anything useful.

Question 1.  I’ve been having a look at Chromebooks preparatory to approaching two of my schools about training/offering their families a Chromebook.It’s going to require a change in training, which is not really a problem – most tutors would be able to cope with it.

Comment: We have a Chromebooks Stepping UP module;  Sue Kini will be reviewing the other CiH modules for a ‘Chromebook world’ as part of her pilot.

Question 2. Another consideration that I thought about is that we should still offer the family a choice of a desktop, laptop or a chromebook. 

Comment: Absolutely – we should offer all three options – there is a training module prepared by Patrick Harlow (one of Briar’s tutors) that trainers should use to help families understand the relative benefits of each type of device before they make a decision.

Question 3. The Chromebook that we supply them with is to be the family’s device, and not for the child to take with him/her to school, do I have that right?  

Comment: Our objective is to build parents’ and caregivers’ confidence in using digital devices, whether this be a desktop, laptop or chromebook, “to support their children’s learning”.  We will not be telling them what their children can or can’t do with the device.  In the Whangarei case, we definitely see the children taking the Chromebook to school, but parents would also have been trained in its use, so they can use it with their children at home.

Question 4. Difficulties arise when there are more than one child going to the same school and requiring a Chromebook as well.  I know that Taupo High School does have spare Chromebooks for those who don’t have one, so the device at home can stay there.  However, I’m not too impressed with the robustness of a Chromebook as a family device and am worried that a family with several kids and mum and dad will also find that it’s not suitable either.

Comment:  We are only funded to provide one device per family.  So this a factor families need to take into account when making decisions about the preferred device.  Patrick’s training module should also help families reach a good decision.

Question 5. I’ve found out that the child doesn’t have to have a Chromebook at home in order to do his/her homework.  Homework can be done online on a desktop or a laptop, files can be transferred with a pendrive from home to school and vice versa.

Comment: I totally agree.  The Whangarei pilot is a response to an economic situation.  Schools are requiring students to bring a Chromebook and asking parents to pay the device off over 2-3 years (like our BYOD pilot).  CiH families also need to contribute towards the cost of an internet connection.  Together these costs can be $20 per week.  However, if the Chromebook is supplied as part of CiH, families only face the cost of the internet contribution ($10/week).

Question 6. A Chromebook might not be popular with a family who likes to play games.  With a 16GB SS Hard drive, you can’t install any games, and you’d be limited with what games could be played off a pendrive!  It does have an HDMI connection, two USB connections and an SD card slot, so it could be connected to a monitor or a TV.  

Comment:  This is another factor that families need to take into account when choosing a Chromebook.

Question 7. Where do we buy Chromebooks from?  Dick Smith?  I went there yesterday and they didn’t have any.  Didn’t seem interested in ordering any in for me, either.

Comment: Dick Smith’s sponsorship funding for Computers in Homes has ended and any consideration of a possible renewal now rests with the receivers.  My view is that this is highly unlikely, at least in the short term.  So we are not obligated to purchase from Dick Smith.

Question 8. I’ll ask my trustees if I can buy one from Noel Leeming and give it a good test run.

Comment:  Good move.  Noel Leeming is actively advertising BYOD devices at the moment.