Reducing the device divide to enhance learning experiences at Hillpark School

Educators around the globe are tasked with preparing students for the jobs, challenges and opportunities of the future. This means that now, more than ever, students deserve equitable access to technology. However, with device equity a pressing issue for schools across New Zealand, students are at risk of unequitable outcomes. That’s why Microsoft Education New Zealand and HP New Zealand are partnering with schools to provide digital solutions, new technologies and education expertise to accelerate opportunities for all learners.

Microsoft New Zealand Education Industry Executive Lydia Kronawetter said they saw an opportunity to partner with Hillpark School to bridge the device gap, while providing professional development opportunities to support teachers integrate technology in all classrooms.

“Through the Microsoft Innovator Educator Expert (MIEE) community, we connected with a number of Hillpark School teachers and learnt about their aspiration to adopt technology in the classroom and meaningfully transform the way they teach – but they had a device equity problem,” Lydia said.

Hillpark School is a community-centric kura in Southern Auckland with over 20 teachers and an ethnically diverse enrolment of over 450 students from Years 0-6.

Gavin Beere, Hillpark School Principal said the partnership and the provision of devices was a critical enabler for the school to continue implementing elements of digital learning into the classroom.

“Our teachers are motivated and positive about delivering learning digitally, however we can’t expect that every student will be able to bring their own device,” Gavin said.

“The partnership with Microsoft and HP strongly aligns with our schools’ motto: Aspire, Grow, Achieve – Kia Mataara, Ka Tipu, Ka Taea – because it will enable both our teachers and our students to achieve their full potential,” Gavin said.

Narrowing the device divide

Bolstering the software and professional development support provided by Microsoft, HP contributed to the partnership by providing 32 HP ProBook x360 435 G8 notebook devices for students and two 15-inch HP zBook Studio mobile workstations for teachers.

Mike Jamieson, HP NZ Enterprise Sales Director, said on the ground at Hillpark School, the provision of these devices has allowed dedicated 1-1 device access rather than sharing between three or four other students.

“One of our main Sustainable Impact goals as an organisation globally is around digital equity and ensuring that everybody has the tools and digital literacy to use digital technologies to their full potential. By providing and empowering communities such as Hillpark School with HP devices we are helping to reduce the digital divide and opening up opportunities for students and teachers to participate in the digital world,” Mike said.

Carl Hansen, HP NZ Technical Consultant, said that the durable and robust HP ProBook devices were ideal for a school setting and will ensure that they can be used for many years to come.

“All the devices have high-quality cameras and audio, extending the learning environment beyond the classroom walls, enabling communication and collaboration anywhere, anytime,” Carl said.

“The students and teachers will discover a whole range of opportunities and creative ways to integrate these devices into their learning, all in a fun and engaging way.”

Revolutionising classroom learning

With many teachers, students and families already using Office 365 (O365), Lydia said an important shift was ensuring everyone understood the potential of the programs to enhance and accelerate teaching and learning.

“We were already using Office 365 tools in our professional practice, but it was yet to fully transcend into the classroom in a strategic manner,” Gavin said.

“The biggest benefit we have seen through this partnership is that our teachers are gaining confidence in integrating technology in the classroom. They are now looking to use programs beyond the O365 suite, such as Flip, Scratch and Minecraft in the classroom, and students are really engaging with the content,” he said,

Luisa Longone is a Year 5/6 teacher and Tui Team leader at Hillpark School, as well as an MIE Fellow – and she has been championing the use of O365 tools across year all levels.

“Digital technology is the way of the future. The children we are educating today have grown up with technology – so why wouldn’t we use it as a tool for learning?”

We are using Teams and OneNote to streamline learning activities by keeping it all in the one place, and I can push these tasks out from wherever I am working.

Luisa’s students are passionate about Minecraft, and through the use of Minecraft Education have built considered modifications to improve Auckland Zoo, which has helped the students develop problem solving and critical thinking skills.

Supporting educators with professional development

Digital equity goes beyond providing devices to students, which is why Microsoft has partnered with Using Technology Better (UTB), a global training partner, to work on the ground with Hillpark School to define their digital transformation journey and provide the support they need to make it real.

Nicole Brown, UTB Lead Trainer NZ, said that the priority for professional learning was on increase teacher’s digital fluency.

When teachers become confident in the technology and using for learning, this flows on to students’ digital fluency.

“Support and administration staff will also be supported with appropriate PD during our partnership so that everyone is on the journey together.”

While Hillpark School is at the beginning of their journey, there is much to look forward to as they progress towards joining the Incubator Pathway Program and Showcase School network. Joining these programs enables networking between high performing schools across the globe to further enhance and optimise the integration of technology in learning.

For now, the school will focus on building teacher’s skills in digital learning using the O365 suite of programs, while also working to build their leader’s capacity to own and champion the professional development program beyond the life of the partnership.

For more information on the Hillpark School project, or to enquire about starting your own please enquire with the New Zealand Education team on