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Mallard: Learning for the information age

1 October 2004

Learning for the information age

Hon Trevor Mallard Speech to Navcon 'Learning for the Future' Conference, Christchurch Convention Centre, Christchurch.

Good afternoon everyone. I appreciate this opportunity to close your Navcon2k4 conference and to reflect with you on the importance of learning through information and communications technology (ICT).

Over the last few days you have had tremendous opportunities; both to hear of some of the diverse and innovative ICT developments happening in our schools and to consider what the future holds for us in terms of education and learning experiences.

It’s exciting to think what the world will look like when those who have started school this year leave school in 13 years time. Just think how the world has changed in the last 13 years. Who would have imagined how much technology would have evolved back in 1991?

That illustrates the huge challenge we face. As the world constantly changes, so too will our education system. We will need to be nimble and dynamic, and conferences like this one are a good reminder that we’re doing pretty well. I want to thank you as teachers, principals, facilitators and coordinators for your ideas, inspiration and hard work.

The challenges of the information age will require big changes in our schools. Our government is committed to working in partnership with schools and communities to make those changes happen.

Over the last five years, our commitment to ICT initiatives as part of Digital Horizons, the ICT strategy for schools, has grown from $5 million to $60 million annually. We have invested in videoconferencing services, in laptops for teachers and principals, in ICT clusters, in bulk buys of software for schools, in cybersafety tools, and in rolling out high-speed internet access through Project PROBE.

This work in education; these challenges we face together, are critical in the ongoing transformation of New Zealand into a world leader at using information to realise our economic, social and cultural goals.

New Zealand must continue to move forward as an innovative thriving knowledge society. Education and ICT play an essential role in making this happen, and ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to achieve to their full potential. Ensuring a fair go for everyone is key to our government's work.

This is why I have asked the Ministry of Education to develop - with your help - a national e-learning framework that will build on the Digital Horizons work. I see the e-learning framework as a coordinated effort between schools, the early childhood and tertiary sectors, business and government.

It will underpin our government's goals for education - creating an education system that is more fluid, more responsive to the needs of individual students, and less constrained by geography and time.

An e-learning framework will also ensure consistency, and collaboration and reduce the likelihood of duplicating work. It will provide the overarching vision, purpose and principles for our work in ICT and education.

To develop the e-learning framework there will be a formal process similar to the one used for Digital Horizons. Consultation will start over the next few months with most of the work being done in February and March next year.

Within this framework I want a new strategy for schools to replace Digital Horizons by around the middle of next year. Your assistance and input on this will be crucial.

As we develop our digitally-minded schools, we need to ensure that when we opt for innovation we use best practice from here and overseas.

We need to make sure the investment is financially sustainable in the longer term and we need to acknowledge that students have different needs so we cannot assume the 'one size fits all' approach.

The development of a networked education system cannot be achieved in a small country like ours without partnerships and collaboration. This might mean sharing the investment in infrastructures and sharing information about e-learning.

Project PROBE is a good example of our government working closely with telecommunication providers and local government to ensure broadband access to every school and their communities. We are on track to reach this goal. Most schools will have access by the end of this year.

Project PROBE is vital for ensuring that all schools get to the level of connectability that most of you take might take for granted. Just to illustrate the range of provision in schools around New Zealand, last year I launched PROBE at Meremere Primary School which is a decile one school with 80 children and four classrooms.

The principal's office has the only phone outlet for the school. Each classroom has a couple of computers with no network connection or server.

When the kids at this school want to use the internet they have to get a cable caddy with an internet connection cord which they plug into the principal's office phone outlet and roll out to their classrooms. When they do this no-one can phone in or out.

There are also lots of schools that only have one three-point power point in each classroom. It's scenarios like these that I think about a lot when I am prioritising funding, and I hope you will remember these as well. I have to take into account the schools that are not properly wired up into the internet age, as well as schools that may be at the cutting edge.

I am pleased to announce the final Project PROBE contract with ICONZ Limited for satellite coverage was signed today. The 63 schools and communities set to benefit from this, including schools in the Chatham Islands, can expect to receive services progressively from now through to the middle of next year.

With the final contract signed, I can reveal that our government has committed close to $48.3 million in total funding to Project PROBE. It will ensure the extension of high-speed internet access to the most far flung parts of this country.

This investment demonstrates our commitment to ensuring our very isolated and rural communities do not miss out on services that are taken for granted in urban areas.

Project PROBE is also an important initiative for economic development in the regions. Businesses in rural areas will find this very useful, and it will be able to be used for health services. All in all, Project PROBE is a great example of a partnership that covers more than one agency, and more than just one aspect of public services.

Innovation in education through the use of ICT is alive and well, and it constantly amazes me.

I know that on Wednesday Dale Spender spoke about a programme I saw in action recently at Wellington Girls College. Tech Angels really impressed me because it was such an effective and incredibly novel approach to using ICT.

Tech Angels works within the college to help teachers, while also improving student learning outcomes.

The Tech Angels are students who offer their time to coach and support teachers in their use of ICT, mentor their peers, and attend to computer-related problems in class or across the school.

In return, the angels receive extra ICT training and technology support from a tertiary education provider, Natcoll Design Technology, and staff at CWA New Media.

It’s a great programme that is delivering benefits all round.

Another really satisfying development in education is the six e-learning clusters. These clusters are already using video conferencing to share teachers and classes in order to extend the curriculum choice for their senior students. This means students in rural areas can now access the same opportunities as their city counterparts.

Earlier this year I took part in an OtagoNet digital classroom. From the Beehive I sat in on an NCEA level 2 history class via the video conferencing link. It was superb to see this class in action, and the students and teacher so proficient and comfortable with using this technology. Students from across Otago took part. Their teachers are also using the video conferencing service for professional development, saving them hours of travel time.

The Digital Opportunities projects are also a great example of schools, business and government working together to support student learning in the dynamic and challenging area of ICT.

Since 2001, our government and some of New Zealand’s leading ICT businesses have allocated more than $6.5 million to support a range of these Digital Opportunities projects, mainly in remote or low decile areas.

A series of new Digital Opportunities projects will be launched over the next few months.

I believe e-learning will lead to better quality teaching and improved learning outcomes, and I am keen to make sure we do what we can to develop teacher knowledge and skills to lift student learning.

With that in mind I’m very pleased to announce today the appointment of 10 new e-learning fellows for 2005.

These successful fellows, chosen from more than 40 applicants across New Zealand, include teachers from early childhood, special education, and primary and secondary schools.

They are representative of a growing number of educators committed to developing innovative e-learning practice that is focused on lifting student achievement, and that works.

In the year they have away from the classroom, these e-learning fellows will be exploring new and exciting ways of meeting students’ learning needs by combining teaching practice with cutting edge technology.

Findings from their research will give us valuable information we can share nationally and internationally.

Professional development, further extending the curriculum through e-learning and assisting our gifted students and those with special education needs are included in their research projects.

The 10 new e-learning fellows are:

Jo Colbert, Westmere Kindergarten Indira Neville, Glen Eden Intermediate

Keri Hunt, Tahatai School

Mark Edwards, Rutherford School

Andrea Trapp, Paremata School

Jennifer Charteris, Lytton High School

Rod Dowling, Lindisfarne College

David Okey, Western Springs College

Lyn Dashper, Northcross Intermediate

Judy Waterhouse, Kimi Ora School

I am sure you will join me in congratulating these future fellows and wishing them well in their studies.

I am very conscious that in terms of ICT projects, we do not have a re-enactment of the 'Incis' computer debacle.

That is why yesterday I announced a pilot project for a new student management system, which will improve school administration and enable the sharing of student information and records between schools and agencies.

This pilot involves funding schools to change to Integris - the only accredited student management system - to help teachers and schools in administration and management.

Use of the system will free up teachers to get on with the important job of teaching. It will also led to better quality of teaching as a result of the improvements in the storage and handling of student information.

Having integrated administrative, management and classroom functions in the same accredited system will improve access to information within the school - such as student assessment information. It will also smooth the communication with other schools, the Ministry of Education and the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.

We are committing $1.2 million to run this pilot using Integris in Term 4 of this year and Term 1 and 2 next year. About 150 schools are expected to take part, with the government funding the software and training costs of changing to the Integris system.

From the pilot we will learn more about the impact on schools of the student management system, and we will be able to iron out any glitches that may occur, before going to full roll-out.

The end of any conference is a time for reflection on what has been achieved and to think about the future and how we can make this a worthwhile one for all our learners. Turning this reflection in action is the next challenge.

Most of the Navcon2k4 workshops have been given by New Zealand teachers - sharing their ideas, their enthusiasm and passion for what they are doing, which augurs well for this future.

By attending this conference you have shown real commitment to your own professional development, and through that the achievement of your students. I would like to thank and congratulate you for that commitment.

I look forward to working with you to further develop the strengths of ICT into our classroom teaching and learning so all our students have the opportunity to achieve to the best of their ability.

Thank you.

ENDS

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