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Navcon Conference - Trevor Mallard Speech

9 July 2002 Hon Trevor Mallard
Speech Notes

Embargoed until:5.00pm

Navcon Conference

It is a pleasure to be back at a Navcon conference, surrounded by so much talent, so much intellectual firepower. A year ago at Te Papa, I closed the first Learning@schools conference open to all teachers. About 600 educators had just given up four days of their precious holidays to learn and share. It was crystal clear to me that they were energised by the experience. This year, 1000 people are here in Christchurch to share the magic again.

You represent the growing strength and size of the ICT PD cluster network – and also the increased firepower and leadership developing within it. I want to pay tribute, at this point, to our Australian delegates. Much of our work here follows in their footsteps, particularly in the Navigator schools of Victoria. Their example and experiences have inspired many of their New Zealand colleagues.

The theme of this year’s conference is ‘Navigating Innovation in Learning’. I’ve always loved hearing tales about the heroic voyagers from the Pacific who arrived here a millennium ago in their double-hulled sailing canoes. They were skilled navigators, looking to the stars to guide their way, and relying on prevailing currents and the flight paths of migratory birds.

A thousand years, later we are once again voyagers navigating new – and exciting - territory opened up by the digital revolution. Here in New Zealand, the map keeping us on track towards the digital horizon is our ICT strategy. Last month, I released the final version. I believe you have all received a copy in your conference bags and I hope you will pass on your comments on it to me and the Ministry’s ICT team.

This strategy builds on the successes of the previous document and works to help schools extend their use of ICT to support new ways of teaching and learning.

Quotes here from Tony Foster and Bronwyn Helm.

A central element of the strategy continues to be "collaboration".

What this means in practice is schools joining forces, enjoying a range of fresh approaches to using ICT. As a nation, we are working towards the collaborative model and away from the competitive one. We want to encourage creativity and enable people to take the risks and conceptual leaps that lead to innovative solutions.

We are also eager to see programmes put in place that reflect the realities of local conditions and priorities. This "grassroots" approach sometimes leads to questions about whether too many things are being done differently in schools around the country. But it doesn't change the fact that one size does not fit all. There are regional and local issues that undeniably need local solutions, and it is up to schools and their communities to pursue these. There are national issues that require national initiatives. Government is continuing - and will continue - to design programmes to address these.

Our commitment to ICT in education is, I think, well known to this audience. In the years ahead, we plan to keep harnessing national resources and maximising benefits across the areas of:

Learning: so that quality digital learning materials and ICT-enriched learning programmes are available to all learners

Access: so that schools have reliable and efficient infrastructure including bandwidth

Capability: so that educators are enthusiastic, confident and competent ICT users

We are making strong progress in all three areas, but as our abilities grow so do our horizons expand. In Budget 2002, we announced substantial extra funding, once again, to help schools set and reach new horizons.

In the area of learning, we have made a significant investment in the Learning Federation. Here the plan is to develop a body of nationally funded content that will be provided free to Australian and New Zealand schools. The content will be digital curriculum materials that can be used directly by teachers and students in the learning process. The materials will be highly interactive, engaging and will focus on using the special features of the digital medium to develop important ideas and skills in a variety of curriculum areas.
These materials are known as digital learning objects.
In the key areas of access, we have earmarked tens of millions of dollars to deliver high-speed internet access (or broadband) to most schools by the end of 2003 and all schools by the end of 2004.

Schools will need to decide how they can benefit from this improved service and develop their own plans to make this happen. Broadband service will improve schools' abilities to do much of what they want to do now and make it possible to do things they haven't been able to consider till now. Improving access is also the thinking behind laptops for secondary teachers. Here, we are working to provide better opportunities for access to ICT equipment and resources for teachers particularly in larger schools.

The finer points of the programme are still being worked out but delivery of laptops is planned to start in term 4 of this year.

I would encourage all principals and ICT leaders to start giving some thought to how laptops provided under this scheme might fit into their environment and their ICT and professional development strategies.

The third point regarding access that I would like to mention here is our digital opportunities projects. I’m incredibly proud of the work we’ve done on pilots to develop ways where all students can benefit from the opportunities that ICT presents. The success of digital opportunities was recognised a couple of weeks ago when it won the Most Significant Contribution to IT award in the Computerworld Excellence Awards. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the people involved in the project.

We are building capability in our cluster work. Big issues face both primary and secondary schools as they attempt to evolve the school learning environment and culture.

The ICT cluster programme and other professional development initiatives, such as LeadSpace, are helping schools to work through the issues and provide useful models for the future. These extra 20 clusters will bring the total number to 70 in 2003, and should see areas not yet represented and more secondary schools becoming involved.

In conclusion, let me wish you an inspiring and rewarding few days. A treasure trove of workshops, seminars and presentations awaits you. Like the navigators guided by the stars, we are heading towards the bright promise of the digital horizon. Joining forces at landmark events like Navcon gives us the chance to make the leap that can spark innovation in teaching and learning.

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