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Compaq Education Conference

Hon Trevor Mallard

18 September 2001 Speech Notes

Compaq Education Conference

Thanks for inviting me to speak to your conference.

The topic “eLearning - shaping the future of tomorrow’s schools’ is right on the button as far as I’m concerned.

For the sake of our children’s learning and of our future as a society - and an economy- we must keep up with the fast-moving advances in ICT.

I want to ensure that no New Zealand school - or student - gets left behind in an increasingly digital world.

ICT has a big role to play in helping us improve New Zealand education, in helping our students be all they can be.

It is already bringing better learning, more effective administration, and stronger partnerships between communities and schools.

And most important, the kids love it!

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 been told that these students would rather do maths online than go to kapa haka practice.

Above all ICT is our passport towards becoming a knowledge society¡Ka knowledge economy.

At the start of July I released the draft ICT Strategy for Schools at the learning@schools conference.

To be frank, I think the document looks a bit woolly - sort of like it had been written by a committee.

But it does keep the focus where it belongs - on improving students’ knowledge, understandings, skills and attitudes.

The three building blocks to achieving that are:

- effective learning and teaching

- efficient management and administration

- development of the infrastructure New Zealand education needs.

At the conference, I challenged delegates to have a good look at the draft strategy and to come back and tell me how we can make it better.

The submissions received to date show that many people have thought long and hard before putting pen to paper - or should be mouse to mousepad.

We are seeing what might be called “passionate engagement’ with this vital issue.

We have seen a range of outstanding contributions from the people at the ICT frontlines, the people doing the business.

These will help ensure that the draft strategy stays a grassroots document - one that belongs to everyone involved in the ICT area.

It is not a case of Government sitting on a hill in Wellington and dictating what needs to be done.

Nor does it mean we don’t have to get it right.

We do.

We also need to acknowledge that we have a few runs on the board.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your work to date.

You are making a difference. The Education Review Office recently gave us a readout on the extent of the change.

We learned that virtually every New Zealand school now has internet access, that four out of five schools have at least one computer in each classroom, that half of all schools have computers networked across the school.

Our cluster system is working well and as a result we have a broad base of schools working at a more advanced level than schools in most countries.

So we are doing well in some areas. But we need to do better.

So what are doing to ensure that we harness ICT to create more opportunities and options for students, to keep on top of new ways of teaching and learning.

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

Leadership is vital in most enterprises - and the ICT arena is no exception.

Many of you have told me that we need to do more around principals’ professional development.

Over recent months, you may have heard about the development of a professional development programme for principals.

A key element of this is an electronic principals’ network.

Principals will be able to plug into a facilitated discussion forum and gain open access to examples of good practice.

From 2002, at least 600 laptops will be available each year.

This will enable principals to plug into new information and communication technology skills, and develop ICT leadership skills.

I have also had many requests for technical support for schools.

We have come back with funding for an ICT Helpdesk for schools that will start operating in January.

Up and down the country a range of exciting ICT initiatives are underway.

Two weeks ago I attended the launch of the Community Trust of Otago’s e-learning network. When I say attended, I was beamed in from Melbourne where I was visiting at the time.

This fantastic initiative is bringing bandwidth to all of Otago’s secondary and area schools, including small rural areas.

Regional initiatives of this kind are vital to help us bridge both the geographical - and the digital - divide.

I know that more are in the pipeline.

The Digital Opportunities pilot projects represent a partnership between schools, business and government.

It is proving to be a positive experience for everybody involved, including businesses.

The four pilot projects - FarNet, Generation XP, Notebook Valley and Study Support Centres are focussed on providing students with opportunities to enhance learning of science and maths subjects using the wealth of resources on the internet.

But more importantly, they also show us what works and, in some cases, what doesn’t.

ICT can make a difference in teaching and learning.

ICT can give us split second access to a wide range of information and quality resources.

I want to place on the record today my belief that ICT can also 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 has signed a contract with Compaq to develop a management information and resourcing system called MIR.

MIR will help us streamline some existing systems and develop a new web site - known as School SMART.

This encourages schools to interact with the Ministry over the Internet on a range of reporting and resourcing issues.

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.

Parents 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.

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.

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.

Schools will continue to meet most ICT costs from their general resources but the Government will always look at ways in which we can help out centrally. I think the provision of good quality online resources to suit the New Zealand curriculum is something that we do have to facilitate. Te Kete Ipurangi is meeting with widespread approval - even international acclaim.

Another matter that I promised to investigate is whether or not we could use our bulk buying power to negotiate a software deal for schools. I saw this as an issue of mutual benefit for the Government, on behalf of schools, and for the software companies. Current arrangements vary from school to school and while we have no central information, we are fairly sure that not all schools have been paying everything they are required to pay vis a vis licences. That is not a great position to be in when we are pushing the importance of intellectual property.

I'm delighted to announce today, that after a year of negotiations, that promise has borne fruit and we have finalised a deal with Microsoft.

It means all state and integrated schools will have access to

* Microsoft Office Professional (including Microsoft Office: Mac 2001)

* Microsoft Works

* Microsoft Windows Operating System Upgrades (all versions)

* Microsoft Front Page

* Microsoft Back Office Client Access License

* Microsoft Press Office Starts Here, (for on line training of staff)

* Microsoft Encarta Reference Suite

* Microsoft Visual Studio Professional (programming tools)

The deal is for the 2 calendar years of 2002 and 2003 and includes all updates and new editions over this period. The agreement will be renegotiated at the end of this time.

The deal includes some provision for installation and training. It also caters for schools that require the Microsoft Office for Macintosh.

The big benefit from our side is that all schools will now have up-to-date software and there will be greater uniformity across schools in their administrative capability. The cost savings for some schools will be considerable. As an indication, the three key pieces of software in this package would cost more than $800 off the shelf. The price negotiated is $65 per computer.

An interim part of the agreement that takes effect from 1 October is that there will be permission given to schools to use Microsoft software they have already purchased, on all personal computers in their schools.

Another aspect of it that may be of particular interest to you is that the package will also be available to all primary and secondary school teachers and other staff on their home computers.

I think this is a really important part of the deal. It will be a real boost to individual teachers' ability to make a huge difference to the lives of your students. Probably the most important point is that this software deal will be free to schools and teachers. Central government will bear the entire cost. I see this as a real contribution to the knowledge wave.

We have the chance to give students 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 our students be all they can be.

I see this as a big responsibility - but an even bigger privilege.

ENDS


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