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MindSpring launch enables share information online

MindSpring launch enables Kiwi students and teachers to learn, publish and share information online.

20 school pilot shows increased classroom efficiency and motivation to learn

The Ministry of Education today gave its stamp of approval for the DigiOps project, MindSpring™, a collaborative web-based learning environment, now available to all New Zealand schools.

Originally a pilot scheme for 20 schools, in 2005 over 30 schools will be involved with the MindSpring project, plus an increasing numbers of individual teachers involved in curriculum-based trials to create subject-related resources.

MindSpring was developed and driven by the New Zealand Online Learning Community (NZOLC), a charitable trust, in conjunction with Unisys, Microsoft, and through funding from the Ministry of Education’s DigiOps programme which aims to narrow the digital divide in schools.

MindSpring is an integrated suite of online learning tools which helps support teachers and students in schools. Since the pilot began in February 2003 hundreds of lesson plans and educational support materials have been published and shared by teachers from Kaitaia in Northland to Roxburgh in Otago. This has extended students’ knowledge base and enabled collaboration on teaching practices across the country.

Under the current pilot scheme over 7000 students have access to MindSpring. This lets them complete school assignments and homework online, monitor their own progress, get instant feedback, and do so anywhere, anytime. Students and teachers have been involved in rich collaborative environments. The browser format has stimulated the interest and attention of children struggling in the classroom, has increased attendance in schools, and encouraged them to do homework. MindSpring online access has enabled long distance learning for children absent from school. It’s also a key tool for students around exam time when a host of subject related information is available at the click of a mouse.

“The pilot has successfully shown how MindSpring can address the diverse needs of students, improve results in the classroom and raise the motivational levels of the students,” says Graham Warburton, a teacher leader and facilitator at NZOLC. “Teachers have also benefited – they can share resources and to become more efficient in planning and recording students’ achievements, thus freeing them up to concentrate on teaching in the classroom.”

MindSpring was created through the NZOLC’s collaboration with Unisys and Microsoft. Unisys provides the project management, systems integration, security and administration, and hosts the virtual learning environment within its Kapiti data centre. Microsoft provides software licensing for the applications behind MindSpring: Microsoft® Class Server, Microsoft® Exchange Server 2003, and Windows Sharepoint™ Services.

“When we were approached to project manage MindSpring we immediately saw the benefits for creating a virtual learning environment, for teachers and students to create, publish and share educational material,” says Brett Hodgson, Southern Regional Manager, Unisys New Zealand. “The Unisys team has worked side by side with the NZOLC and the Ministry of Education to deliver a powerful tool which has demonstrably improved learning in schools.”

The MindSpring pilot has already earned broad support within the education community, with approximately 300 teachers and 7000 students registered with the solution. MindSpring has received much praise from schools for providing a cost effective complement to traditional paper-based educational materials and an easy-to-use interface with a no-hassle managed service model.

Microsoft New Zealand Managing Director Ross Peat explains, "Globally Microsoft is undertaking a Partners in Learning initiative to enhance the use of ICT in improving teaching and learning in education.

"Locally, our involvement in MindSpring is a key part of the New Zealand Partners in Learning initiative. Partners in Learning is exactly as the name suggests, about partnering with others in the education sector including teachers, and students right through to the Ministry of Education to bring the benefits of technology to learning environments. At Microsoft, we are convinced that technology can transform learning environments and ultimately lives, families and communities."

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