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Digital Opportunities Project Supports Learning

30 November 2004

Digital Opportunities Project Supports Learning

Education Minister Trevor Mallard today launched an innovative project at Wellington's Brooklyn school that will use information and communication technologies (ICT) to improve junior students’ literacy and numeracy.

“The CHaOS project will explore the use of mobile learning technologies such as
hand-held personal computers to support children's education,” Trevor Mallard said.

The project is one of several Digital Opportunities projects, which are joint initiatives between government, schools and businesses. The government is investing in the
use of ICT to support specific student learning needs and lift education standards.

“CHaOS will use interactive, portable, computers to support students with handwriting difficulties, and provide additional opportunities for learning outside the classroom,” Trevor Mallard said.

“The handheld ‘tablet’ computers have a touch-sensitive screen and children use a stylus instead of a keyboard. The frictionless screen surface enables easy editing of work, and can interpret handwriting if there are problems with co-ordination.

“The project is aimed at encouraging greater student motivation, interest, and ownership of their learning. The teaching uses student questions as a basis for curriculum design.

“Students will be able to use the new technology to take notes and illustrations from learning experiences at places such as Te Papa. The aim is to improve students’ literacy and oral language capabilities through multimedia presentations to their school, and to others via the Digital Opportunities websites," Trevor Mallard said.

Project facilitator Dean Stanley will aid the three-year project at Brooklyn School. The first year will concentrate on programme development and research into the effectiveness of the approach. It will then be extended to other classes, taking into account knowledge gained from the trial.

Trevor Mallard also launched a website today which will be the hub of information for the 12 Digital Opportunities projects 2005-07. The website will provide case studies illustrating the operation and development of the projects.

The website address for the Digital Opportunities projects is www.digiops.org.nz
A list of other ICT initiatives is attached.

Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Schools

In 2004/05 the Government will spend about $57 million on ICT initiatives in schools.

- Over and above this, $48 million has been allocated to project PROBE, through which high-speed internet access for all schools and their communities in regional New Zealand will be rolled out by mid-2005.

- Approximately $10 million is also each year provided on a per student basis for ICT support through the school operations grant.

- Principals and teachers of Year 4 to 13 students can access laptops, with
the government reimbursing up to two thirds of the cost. More than $14
million will be spent on the scheme in 2004/05. Since 2002 $26 million has
been spent on the scheme, 23,000 laptops have been distributed to teachers,
and 2670 laptops have gone to principals.

- More than $27 million is being spent over the next three years to ensure that all state schools have free access to Microsoft, Apple and anti-virus software licences.

- A free video conferencing bridge service for mainly rural schools, costing $2.7 million over four years.

- The government spends more than $500,000 on internet safety in schools. The Internet Safety Group (ISG) provides all schools with guidelines, training and resources plus the website www.netsafe.org.nz. In 2004/05, $200,000 has been provided to the ISG in addition to the current appropriation. This is to enable the ISG to increase its publicity and communication activities, its direct work with schools and fund further research on barriers to implementation of cybersafety.

- There are 83 clusters of schools working together to share best practice through the ICT Professional Development Cluster programme. This programme is the main method of providing long-term professional development in ICT to teachers. It serves to promote and promulgate effective practice for the use of ICTs in schools to improve students’ learning outcomes. Over 40 per cent of NZ schools have been or are involved in the initiative, which receives approximately $11 million per year. Other professional development initiatives include the principals' website, Leadspace, and their online network, PEN.

- E-learning fellowships have been awarded to 10 teachers in 2004 to investigate and develop the use of ICT to support learning. Another 10 fellowships have been awarded for the 2005 year.

- The Schools Network Upgrade Project seeks to support schools develop a robust computer network infrastructure in order for them to take advantage of digital teaching resources and various Ministry initiatives. Prior to June 2004 standards had not been in place for computer networks in schools and, as a result, there is a wide variation in network quality and performance. This project is providing important data on the quality of schools networks and has established minimum standards

- The Le@rning Federation is a collaborative programme with Australia to develop a continuing supply of high quality digital educational resources. An increasing number of digital learning objects will be made available to schools during 2005.

- Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) (www.tki.org.nz) provides curriculum resources, information and services to support teachers and schools. The use of TKI continues to grow and is consistently one of the top educational reference sites in New Zealand.

There are currently two Digital Opportunities projects where business and the government sponsor schools' innovative ICT projects. Ten new Digital Opportunities projects for 2005-07 have been selected and will commence next year.


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