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Learning@School - Trevor Mallard Speech

Hon Trevor Mallard Speech Notes

Learning@School

Thanks for inviting me to close your conference.

“Close’ is such a final word.

So I’m not going to do it. I’m not going to close this conference. Instead I’m going to leave the door open so that you are able to take the information you’ve picked up over the past few days ¡K and use it in the “real’ world.

Ultimately, what matters is the differences that we are making for our students - we can’t lose sight of them. Our expectations of student will shape their outcomes.

I know that ICT can make a difference for students. You may have heard that some wharekura (Maori medium secondary schools) are using videoconferencing so that their students can learn in te reo about subjects like maths. I’ve heard that these students would rather do maths over the internet than go to kapa haka practice. I don’t remember ever being that enthusiastic about maths!

Today I’m not going to talk for long. Your heads are probably spinning with all the speeches and presentations of the past few days.

I’m going to cover three issues: the new ICT strategy, a couple of important initiatives in ICT, and the question of where we go from here.

Before I do that, I’d like to share with you my vision for education.

Even before I became Minister, I used to sit down and think about the things that I wanted to achieve in education.

Above all, I wanted all students, irrespective of their backgrounds, to achieve to their potential, whether they attend a remote rural primary school in Westland, a private intermediate school in a leafy inner-city Christchurch suburb, or a bustling secondary school in South Auckland.

“Potential’ is a complex word. It can mean everything - and nothing.

For me, it has a simple meaning. “Potential’ means that all students get the chance to pick up the baton of necessary life skills that will help them face life’s many challenges: to develop the necessary knowledge, understandings, skills and attitudes.

When I say “necessary’ I think about that student leaving the classroom in South Auckland - I think of her being able to play a full and active role in her community and her country; finding a niche in a “wired world’; and perhaps most important of all, knowing herself and her roots: to participate fully in society, to achieve in a global economy, and to have a strong sense of identity and culture.

This, then, is my vision for education:

“for all students, irrespective of their backgrounds, to develop the knowledge, understandings, skills, and attitudes to participate fully in society, to achieve in a global economy, and to have a strong sense of identity and culture.”

I want now to discuss the ICT strategy.

I announced earlier this year that the ICT Strategy for Schools would be revised. I am delighted to put this before you for your feedback. At the heart of the strategy is my vision for education. Other key elements include goals, sub-goals and action plans that will help us achieve this vision.

I know that some of you have been involved in shaping the strategy. Thank you for the excellent work that you have undertaken so far. But, as with any great mission , our work is never completed. And we can’t afford to wait until someone else reveals the single best answer.

I encourage you all to look at this draft and tell me how we can make it better. I also want us to continue to share some of our successes and some of the lessons learnt. That’s why I have asked you to provide me with stories about what you have achieved. I want us to actively share these stories - Te Kete Ipurangi can help us do this.

We need to try new things. We need to make decisions about our practices using the best available information about what will make a difference.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your work to date. You are making a difference. Last week I received a report from the Education Review Office that indicated the extent of the change. Schools are working towards using ICT to improve student knowledge, understandings, skills and attitudes.

I’m not going to go into details now - you can access a copy of the report from the ERO website.

I still think that we need to keep sharing information about what is working and what we are learning along the way. Projects such as Te Kete Ipurangi and the ICT professional development clusters seem to be making a difference. To those who have worked long and hard to make these projects a success, congratulations.

We are making progress - but we still have room for improvement.

I want now to turn now to some important initiatives presently underway involving schools and ICT.

Many of you have told me that we need to do more around principals’ professional development. In the recent Budget announcements, you may have heard about the development of a professional development programme for principals. As part of this programme, 600 principals each year will receive online professional development and a laptop. New principals and those in the most remote locations will be first in the queue.

I have also had many requests for technical support for schools - again, the recent Budget included some funding for an ICT Helpdesk for schools.

Last week we launched one of the Digital Opportunities pilot projects: providing laptops to students in the Hutt Valley. The four pilot projects have been developed in partnership with businesses, such as Compaq, IBM, BCL, Telecom, Telstra Saturn, Renaissance and Microsoft. The successes and lessons learnt from these pilots will be shared with you.

I think that ICT can make a difference in teaching and learning. ICT can equip teachers with better and more focussed information and access to quality resources.

I want to place on the record today my belief that ICT can play a vital role in helping reduce teachers workloads.

Of course we need to;think through how this works in practice. We don’t want or need to add extra layers. - Our aim must always be to do the routine things, like administration, faster and better.

The Ministry of Education signed a contract with Compaq last week to develop a management information and resourcing system. This integrated system will:

- make it easier for information to be transferred electronically between schools and government;

- include the development of templates to make it easier for you to report to parents and government;

- allow you to get access to information about your own school.

I am aware of concerns about the comparison of student achievement information between schools. We currently have very specific requirements for financial reporting - while an important part of running a school, administration of funding is not the school’s sole focus. Student achievement is central to what schools do and must remain a priority.

Schools are funded by New Zealand taxpayers. And those taxpayers have a right to know that schools are focussing on their core business of teaching and learning. By including student achievement within the information to be reported, the government is being very clear about what it values.

This does not mean that national testing is being implemented in secrecy. Decisions about what information to report must remain at the school gate.

My third point today deals with where we go from here.

We spend a lot of time talking about how we can’t do everything.

How we don’t have enough resources¡Kor enough time.

The reality is we’re never going to have all the resources we think we need. Lack of money, time, and people are always going to be among the challenges that we face. That is why we have to think carefully about what we’re doing - we need to be smart about our priorities - and whatever we choose to do, we need to do it well.

ICT in education is not the sole responsibility of schools. Government does have a key role to play.

In some areas, the government needs to develop system-level solutions, for example, in the provision of adequate bandwidth. Individual schools are best placed to identify local needs, and I expect you to implement solutions that meet local needs. The government is working to reduce ICT costs where possible, but schools will continue to meet most ICT costs from their general resources.

It’s important for everyone involved in the ICT area to keep sharing stories - about what’s worked and what hasn’t; to learn new things.

Sometimes these experiences help you to realise how much progress you’ve made - and how much you don’t know.

We can spend a lot of time thinking and talking about what will make the difference to students learning - and this can be a useful part of the process - but what matters is the doing.

In conclusion, I don’t expect you to put into practice everything you’ve learnt over the past three days. We all know that is what would happen in an ideal world- but we don’t live in one.

Instead, when you’re travelling home tonight, I want you to think about the three most significant things - the most useful things - that you have learnt over the past few days¡K. And I want you to use them - in your classroom; and in your school; in your “real” life.

I can stand here and tell you how I think you can do your job - but I don’t know the answers for every situation - that’s why we need to pool our successes and the sometimes tough lessons we’ve learnt along the way.

As individuals, we can make a huge difference to the lives of our students. We have the chance to give them the best possible opportunities - but that takes courage, vision and determination.

Our challenge is to find the courage to create those opportunities.

At the start of my talk today, I said that our focus must be on helping those students be all they can be. I see this as a big responsibility - but an even bigger privilege.

Have a safe journey home.


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