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Learning Communities in the Far North - Speech

Hon Trevor Mallard
20 September 2001 Speech Notes

Launch of Farnet – Learning Communities in the Far North

It is great to be here at to help kick off the FarNet project.

Today we are launching a space-age Virtual School environment to help raise achievement in Far North secondary schools.

Ten schools are now wired into an online network based on high speed internet access, more than 150 desktop computers and notebooks, and the latest software.

Teachers fully trained in these new ICT resources will be able to deliver the maths and science curriculum to senior students in the digital classroom.

FarNet will give participating Northland schools a firsthand opportunity to experience the benefits of ICT as an aid to teaching and learning.

The FarNet schools are Bay of Islands College, Broadwood, Kaitaia College, Kerikeri, Okaihau, Opononi, Northland, Panguru, Whangaroa, and Taipa.

The thrust of this project is simplicity and speed of access - vital elements of a successful educational application of ICT.

FarNet is one of four pilot programmes in the Digital Opportunities Project, an innovative partnership between schools, business and government.

The programmes are focussed on providing students with opportunities to enhance learning of science and maths subjects using the wealth of resources on the internet.

The projects stem from meetings that senior Government Ministers began having with top New Zealand representatives from some key high tech companies.

We had a shared objective that no group of young New Zealanders should be excluded from the opportunities that modern technology offered. We did not pretend to know all the answers, but together we developed some ideas that could help us learn.

This project is part of that wider objective. Young people taking part in it will gain some amazing benefits. Their teachers and their families will also learn. At the same time, we will be watching closely to see what works well, and where improvements can be made in the future.

I know that a huge amount of work has gone into getting FarNet up and running.

This work has included wiring up the ten schools, convening regular meetings with principals and staff, loading the software, and training the teachers.

Thank you to everyone who has been involved in that work.

FarNet schools have been quick to take advantage of the professional development support on offer.

This will mean that every teacher will be capable of using the new IT resources as part of their classroom programmes.

That's really important because if teachers are not comfortable with the technology, it is really difficult for the students to get the maximum benefit out of it.

The Digital Opportunities Projects are one of the key initiatives in the Government's overall ICT programme for schools.

We recognise that ICT is important to help us improve New Zealand education.

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

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

Before closing I want to pay tribute to the business partners involved. IBM has supplied hardware including servers, desktops and notebooks, plus training. Renaissance supplied software, printers and know-how. Compaq has supplied computer hardware. Microsoft has given free operating software for a year. And lastly, Telecom has provided broadband internet access and free connection.

I wish you well with your endeavours.

ENDS

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