Digital support a dial away

April 2015

 

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Most schools are now connected up to ultra-fast broadband (UFB) and the Network for Learning (N4L) managed network, but how can they translate their digital capabilities into student gains? Education Review checks out a new advisory service that has been launched to connect the dots.

GirlTablet.jpgOver the past decade, there has been a strong focus on getting schools’ digital technology needs up to scratch. The Government has pushed the roll-out of UFB to schools, upgraded their networks, and got them connected to the N4L Managed Network. Schools have pushed for BYOD and 1:1 initiatives in an effort to get a device in the hands of every student. Teachers are becoming increasingly savvy with apps and e-learning initiatives. Lately, it’s started to feel like we’re ‘there’; that schools, for the most part, are geared up for the digital world. However, we’re only just starting to see an impact on student learning outcomes. And even then, many teachers feel ill-equipped to manage a digital learning environment to good effect.

Recent research from the 2020 Communications Trust showed that over 75 per cent of schools surveyed are noticing that digital technologies are helping to raise student achievement, but only 14 per cent feel all their teachers have the necessary skills to manage classrooms with personal student devices.

“Schools are seizing the opportunities for digital learning to support their students by providing them with access to digital tools and opportunities to connect with other schools. Even
with this happening, they have told us they need access to expert advice because of the fast pace of change in this area,” says Dr Graham Stoop, Deputy Secretary, Student Achievement, Ministry of Education.

Free helpdesk service

The newly launched Connected Learning Advisory – Te Ara Whītiki – is aimed to help bridge this gap, ensuring teachers have the skills and knowledge to make the most of all this technology now at their fingertips.

The service provides “free, consistent and unbiased” advice on integrating digital technologies with learning for all state-funded schools and kura kaupapa Māori. Schools are likely to find the advisory service’s helpdesk most useful.

“[Schools] can fill in an online form or ring the advisory phone line, and they will get answers from digital learning experts. They will be directed to the resources, advice and professional learning they need,” says Stoop.

In addition to the helpdesk, the service will also offer face-to-face and online regional and national professional learning events based on identified needs.

The Connected Learning Advisory is provided by CORE Education on behalf of the Ministry of Education. It replaces the interim advisory service provided by Network for Learning from July 2014. The Government is investing $5 million in the service over the next three years.

The Ministry recommends that a school nominee who is best placed to represent a school’s digital technology interests – an ICT technician, senior staff member, or e-learning leader, for example – makes contact with the advisory service on the school’s behalf

The sorts of things schools can ask about include:

  • ƒƒwhat digital technologies and resources areavailable for schools/kura
  • How to use online technologies and digital devices to support the curriculum
  • Planning for the effective introduction of ultrafast broadband and WiFi
  • How to engage whānau and community using digital technologies
  • How to lead your school through technological change
  • Sourcing laptops, tablets, and other ICT
  • Equipment for your classrooms
  • ƒƒBYOD, software management, data storage, network standards, video conferencing, ICT infrastructure, and modern learning practices using technology
  • ƒƒtechnology purchasing decisions to ensure best fit strategically for learning outcomes.

The new advisory service is expected to complement rather than replace existing programmes. For example, the advisory service website contains links to sites like the Ministry’s popular Enabling e-Learning website (elearning.tki.org.nz) as well as e-learning community discussion forums.

Ultimately the Connected Learning Advisory is aimed at translating the investment in schools’ digital technology into better learning outcomes for students.
“This service will help ensure that government investment in ultrafast broadband infrastructure pays off where it counts – in the classroom,” says Stoop.

The Connected Learning Advisory – Te Ara Whītiki – helpdesk can be reached on 0800 700 400, Monday– Friday 9am–5pm. The online form for the helpdesk can be completed at bit.ly/1MlfWaD


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