Communities of Online Learning are not new to NZ
For immediate release
Communities of Online Learning are not new to New Zealand education
The staff at the New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education (NZCGE) read with interest Minister Parata’s recent education proposal regarding online learning opportunities for New Zealand school children. This is not new to the staff at the Centre, nor is the name. In 2003 the Ministry of Education and the George Parkyn Centre (now merged into NZCGE) entered into a contract under a Talent Development Initiative to deliver online learning opportunities to gifted children across New Zealand, COOL- a community of online learning.
The initial COOL programme ran for three years and fostered a sense of community for isolated gifted learners predominantly in rural, remote areas or in urban areas where they did not have access to other specialist opportunities. Students attended regular schools and checked in for part of their learning each week via online lessons, recommended activities and chat sessions. All support was delivered by a trained gifted specialist educator.
Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education discontinued the funding for COOL when the Talent Development Initiatives ended and without funding support numbers dropped. The Centre, however, saw the need for additional learning platforms for the diverse learners they supported and made the effort to keep the programme operating within their own funding constraints. For the most part, local community donations kept the opportunity alive as children, parents and educators desired and valued the service.
One rural educator states, “I have found this offers a number of opportunities for my students that I am unable to provide, including being able to extend her thinking with an open-ended problem solving focus and to share this thinking in a critical way with others.”
As technology improved and access increased, the programme was rebranded to Gifted Online and 13 years later is still very much alive and growing – still without financial support from the Ministry.
“The opportunity to regularly talk with other children who made connections and thought in a similar way was both reassuring and challenging”, said one parent of a 10 year old daughter.
Run by specialist educators, with NZ registration status, using the NZCGE curriculum designed for gifted learners, Gifted Online offers a variety of programmes from a full day, to part day, to specific talent development and is open to children from 7-15 years of age. Students 'meet' once a week in a class chatroom, where they discuss the topic and concepts for the lesson. Students, parents and their teachers also have access to 1:1 support as needed. Work is completed in school or at home, and may or may not be completed online, depending on the task.
Like all of the services offered by NZCGE, what works well is the combined approach of school, parent and the Centre to support the child. As a support for gifted learners, online learning can be a valuable tool and one the Centre would be keen to see the Ministry provide funding for once again.
To find out more about Gifted Online contact www.nzcge.co.nz
For media enquiries
Deborah Walker, CEO
New Zealand Centre for Gifted Education
027 4911182 firstname.lastname@example.org