Derek Wemoth, the Director of CORE Education in New Zealand, tells us what's going on in his part of the world.
As the school year has not long started in the Northern Hemisphere, we’re looking ahead to the final term here in New Zealand, with summer on the horizon, along with exams and the usual end of year events.
As we view the year from this perspective, there are a number of things that feature on the landscape in terms of the role that digital technologies are playing in our lives and in our schools.
A recent report released by the NZ government titled Future-focused learning in connected communities, suggests ten priorities to help inform government planning around 21st century skills and digital competencies. The focus of this report is on transforming teaching and learning, enabled by technologies that are now widespread in our society. (http://www.minedu.govt.nz/theMinistry/EducationInitiatives/UFBInSchools/FutureFocusedLearning.aspx)
The concept of digital literacy is a key part of this report, placing an emphasis on preparing all learners with the knowledge, skills and digital competencies to actively participate in New Zealand’s rapidly changing 21st century economy and society. The report writers argue that to be successful in 21st century society, citizens must be able to operate effectively in an environment shaped by digital technologies, such as the increasingly pervasive use of the internet and social media.
The report goes on to recommend that the NZ Ministry of Education:
- Recognise digital competencies as essential foundation skills for success in 21st century society.
- Support digital competencies with cross-curriculum resources, a responsive assessment framework, professional development and a programme of evaluation.
The examination season will soon be upon us here in the Antipodes, and while it’s unlikely to happen this year, the prospect of the national senior secondary school exams moving fully online appears to be getting closer. The national qualifications authority (NQA) has announced its intention to explore a variety of online assessment forms and introduce them into the NZ landscape within the next few years. (http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11138311)
Asking students to complete exams online will only be possible, of course, if they have access to a digital device that allows them to do that. Internationally there is a growing emphasis on providing learners with digital devices, under the guise of BYOD or 1-1 programmes, they amount to the same thing – ‘how can we give every child access to a device that they can use to connect to their learning?’. New Zealand is no different, and in the build-up to our general election, the main political parties have all included some reference to this sort of strategy in their manifestos.
Ensuring all learners have access to suitable digital technologies, regardless of location, background, abilities or socio-economic status is one of the recommendations made in the Future Focused Learning report mentioned above. It will be interesting to see if this recommendation is acted on after the election.
Network For Learning
Access to devices is only a part of the picture, however. These devices need to be connected to the internet - the faster the connection the better! Like many countries, New Zealand is investing heavily in layout down a high speed (fibre) network throughout the country through its Ultra Fast Broadband (UFB) http://ufb.org.nz/ and Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) http://www.chorus.co.nz/rural-broadband-initiative programmes, due to be completed by the end of 2016.
As the network is rolled out, the Ministry of Education is working with a Crown-owned company called The Network for Learning Limited (N4L) http://www.n4l.co.nz/ to develop and operate a managed network for schools and to provide a range of education content and services to ensure that all students can benefit from the opportunities provided by digital technologies.
The N4L Managed network will enable schools to access the internet over faster and more reliable connections than the ones most schools are using now.
A key element of this network is the N4L Portal named Pond (https://www.pond.co.nz/) which is designed to act as a central hub for digital discovery and participation, where educational resources can be accessed and shared more easily and effectively.
eLearning Planning Framework
Computers have been used regularly in schools and classrooms in New Zealand for four decades now, and in that time there have been lots of exciting things trialed and learned about how the use of digital technologies can enhance learning. With the increased investment in digital technologies has come an increased interest to know that they are being used productively and are contributing to making learning happen.
This thinking has led to the NZ Ministry of Education to commission the development of a framework to provide schools and teachers with a self-review tool to gather evidence about practice and a "road map" for building e-learning capability. Called the e-Learning Planning Framework (ELPF) http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/e-Learning-Planning-Framework it is available to NZ schools as an online tool or in hard copy. This evaluative tool is now being used extensively by New Zealand schools and teachers to help them work towards their goal of fully integrating digital technologies and eLearning practices into their programmes.
About Derek Wenmoth
Derek Wenmoth is the director of CORE Education, a not for profit educational services organization in New Zealand. Derek is regarded as one of NZ education’s foremost Future Focused thinkers, and is regularly asked to consult with policy makers and government agencies regarding the future directions of NZ educational policy and practice. He was on the reference group that developed the Future Focused Learning report mentioned in this article, and a part of the team that developed the eLearning Planning Framework (ELPF).
In recognition of his work in this area, Derek was designated one of 2008’s “Global Six” by the George Lucas Educational Foundation which recognizes individuals making a difference in education. http://www.edutopia.org/daring-dozen-map-2008
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