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Digital learning network to kick off in Capital

12 February 2007

Digital learning network to kick off in Capital

A community project using cutting-edge technology to revolutionise the way Wellington’s children and communities learn will be officially kicked off at Te Papa on March 8.

The ‘Wellington Loop’ project aims to explore new collaborative online learning models by linking Wellington schools and communities together using CityLink’s high-speed fibre optic network.

The not-for-profit project aims to exploit Wellington’s unique situation with CityLink’s established fibre infrastructure to develop new shared learning applications and online education. The CityLink network is largely in place for the central city schools, but is being progressively extended to reach all schools in the greater Wellington area.

The project is being driven by five inner city secondary schools - Wellington Girls’ College, Wellington College, Wellington High School, St Mary’s College, Wellington East Girls’ College – and is supported by CityLink, Wellington City Council and Contact. Contact will host the official launch as a corporate partner and invite other Wellington businesses to also become Loop Partners.

Spokesperson for the Wellington Loop, Laurence Zwimpfer, Chairperson of the Wellington Loop Steering Committee, said the project was critical for ensuring that Wellington students had access to the very latest technology and learning opportunities.

“The Loop will bind Wellington businesses, schools and local communities with technology infrastructure - and the rest of the world - to create outstanding learning outcomes for the kids of Wellington. To achieve this goal, we need the involvement and support of Wellington business.

“By strengthening links between schools and business we believe we can create a more vibrant and engaging education system while at the same time creating benefits for business as an investment in future employees and customers,” he said.

“Today’s students expect digital learning opportunities that stimulate and engage them. For the most part these are beyond the resources of an individual school. However, by linking together we are able to share resources and develop new ones collaboratively. The Wellington Loop will provide enhanced access for students to global learning using the Government’s recently established advanced network for research and education, KAREN.

“Speed matters when it comes to learning and technology, and this project has the potential to change the way our children learn, and bring our different schools, cultures and communities together,” he said.

Laurence said similar community “fibre loop” projects are being established in other parts of New Zealand, including Nelson-Marlborough, Canterbury and Auckland. Other centres are facing the added challenge of installing the fibre-optic network itself, but Wellington city already has a head start with the CityLink network already in place. But there is still a lot of infrastructure investment needed to reach all schools and homes in the Wellington area.

“The Wellington Loop project is not about cable or fibre-optics but about communities. Students of all ages will be able to connect to each other using webcams in multi cast - can you imagine a classroom or community hall with students discussing the wind of Wellington, showing their own movies, making charts, talking, writing poetry and being connected together and developing new knowledge bases. It is all about connection and participation.

“This project will ensure that Wellington schools and their communities can provide the same cutting-edge learning opportunities to students as their peers in Los Angeles and Europe. We all know that young people are spending more and more time on the Internet linking to sites such as MySpace and YouTube; what we are creating in Wellington is an educational version, based on the same underlying principles of participation, engagement, creation and sharing. The Wellington Loop will bring real-time learning to this city and its young people.

“We also expect to achieve direct cost savings in running our expanding school ICT infrastructure by being able to share server infrastructure and network support.”

The Wellington Loop project will be officially launched by the Hon Trevor Mallard, the Minister for Economic Development, and Kerry Prendergast, Mayor of Wellington at a presentation to the Wellington business community at Te Papa on Thursday 8 March, between 6.00 and 8.00pm.


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