By Guest Blogger Mark Dashper, Facilitator for Faculty of Education at The University of Auckland, New Zealand
Education technology in New Zealand is rapidly changing due to the recent introduction of high speed broadband internet to schools across the country. Students have good access to technology in their classrooms, and some schools are beginning to integrate portable devices into their teaching and learning programs.
The New Zealand Information and Communications Technology Strategic Framework for Education states that all students should be able to access information and communications technology at school and have the opportunity to become confident and capable users.
To help, New Zealand’s Ministry of Education funds a program called the Enrollment for Education Solutions (EES), which allows schools to provide licensed programs for software. The Ministry also runs a dedicated video conferencing bridge and other e-learning services for schools.
Just as technology is dominant in classrooms to help students learn, it’s also being used for innovative professional development for K-12 teachers. That’s where The University of Auckland’s Faculty of Education comes in.
The Faculty of Education is committed to improving the quality and understanding of education and social services in New Zealand. It’s using a webcasting platform called Mediasite by Sonic Foundry to meet e-Learning requirements in schools across the country. The university delivers online professional development via webcasts available to teachers in 250 K-12 schools.
The Faculty of Education is building a series of Mediasite webcasts for Year 6 to Year 12 teaching and learning programs, and topics are centered on the new national curriculum. The program offers professional development across all regular curriculum areas, and a new bilingual webcast program is also offered to educators who teach in the indigenous language, Te Reo Maori. Teachers can watch these state-of-the-art webcasts live or on-demand, and they involve interactive polls, Q&As, links to resources and searchable closed captioning.
A variety of other technologies are also being used in New Zealand schools. The TELA laptop scheme, for example, gives laptops to all teachers to enable them to integrate e-Learning into all their programs. This initiative gives educators the opportunity to access a leased laptop for three years, with the Ministry of Education funding two-thirds of the total costs.
Interactive whiteboards are being replaced by interactive flat screen TVs in some schools, as fast-speed broadband rollout is introduced nationally. In a recent study (Research New Zealand 2011 ‘ICT in Schools’), between two-thirds and three-quarters of schools reported that the internet has had a significant impact on their teaching and learning. Also, 45 percent of secondary schools reported that they have purchased or leased room-based video conferencing equipment.
In order to measure the effectiveness of ed-tech in New Zealand, The Ministry of Education has funded and is collecting data from trial schools with online access. The evaluation involves a range of data collection methods including regular online surveys, monitoring of internet use, questionnaires, interviews and classroom observations.
The general sentiment in New Zealand K-12 schools about technology is that the cost for schools to access technology continues to be a challenge. The cost of equipment and upgrades, the speed of technological change and technical support all come with a price tag (about 11 percent of a school’s operations grant) , but in today’s 21st century classroom, technology is a necessity.