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Prime Minister Connects With Rural Schools

Friday 18 February 2005

Prime Minister Connects With Rural Schools

Prime Minister Helen Clark connected with students at her old primary school, Te Pahu, through a Waikato schools wireless network today (Friday 18 February 2005).

While visiting Ohaupo School to open a new administration block, Helen Clark spent time in the combined library and computer suite participating in a video conference with students at Te Pahu School, approximately 15 km away, via a wireless network.

The wireless network is part of CRCnet, a research project run by the WAND Network Research Group, based in the Waikato University computer science department.

CRCnet uses wireless technologies to connect rural and remote communities. It has been running in both Ohaupo and Te Pahu schools for at least a year, and also covers eight other schools in the Waikato region.

Teachers and students in schools connected to CRCnet use the network to communicate, sharing ideas and creating new friendships between what are often isolated communities. Today, Te Pahu students used their time with the Prime Minister to ask questions about what their school was like when she attended.

During Helen Clark’s visit, Ohaupo students also demonstrated how they were able to talk with others at Ngahinepouri Primary (another CRCnet connected school), planning for a proposed school trip. They did this via a ‘Wiki’, the latest addition to the school’s computer suite. A Wiki is a piece of software, hosted on a computer at Waikato University, which can be accessed by schools through CRCnet.

The Wiki allows the schools to communicate securely by a message board, photo gallery and web pages that are maintained by teachers and students alike. An ICT Advisor from the University’s School Support Services works closely with staff and students in each school, to help promote the Wiki as a means of developing an online co-operative learning environment.

Ohaupo School teacher, Gene Bartlett, said that the Wiki was improving students’ writing skills and exposing them to new technology, as well as creating a bond between the school communities.

“Kids who are not confident speakers, or who don’t see the point in practicing their writing for no reason, are improving their spelling and communication skills by writing to other students on the network,” said Gene.

“The students pick up the technology faster than the teachers do. They find solutions and come up with new ideas every day.”

As well as the Waikato CRCnet, the WAND Network Research group have a network linking five remote schools in Rotorua and are working on a third in the Urewera National Park, which will connect the four most remote schools in New Zealand.

ENDS


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