EdTech sector Lights the way forwardJuly 2013
The inaugural EdTech conference this year highlighted opportunities for New Zealand to lead the way with learning technology. Education New Zealand’sMIKE BOOKER reports.
Educators and learners are at the centre of changes to New Zealand’s rapidly growing and evolving education technology (EdTech) sector, which includes learning-focused technology products and services such as games, apps, educational software, courseware, and environments.
The New Zealand EdTech sector’s energy and ambition was on display at the first EdTech conference held in Wellington in April. Globally, EdTech is big business, worth some US$15 billion per annum.
“In the past, New Zealand has received global recognition for its world class education system, for example, our progressive curriculum, pedagogy, and our approach to literacy,” says Education New Zealand’s General Manager Education Development, Clive Jones.
“There are now new opportunities for New Zealand to lead thinking in the development of world-class educational products that successfully leverage on learning technology – products and services that succeed because they can make a real difference to the lives of both educators and learners.”
EdTech customers include early childhood education centres, schools, tertiary institutions, vocational, and lifelong learning, as well as corporate and workplace training, consumers wanting personalised learning, and information at work and in the home.
Jones says the EdTech conference provided an opportunity to see a broad spectrum of companies really starting to use learning technology in a much more meaningful way. “We are starting to see smart, market-driven thinking, which puts educators and learners at the centre of the product development process”.
“The more closely EdTech providers work with educators and learners in the development of new solutions, the greater the potential.
“We’d like to see these ideas take off and become available to classrooms and to educators in New Zealand and around the world.”
One of the speakers at the conference, Dr Garry Falloon, Associate Professor in the Department of Professional Studies in Education at University of Waikato, says schools and teachers have much to contribute to growing the EdTech export industry in New Zealand.
“They can do this by their innovative approaches to teaching and learning and their willingness and ability to leverage the educational potential of new and emerging technologies for the benefit of their students.
“The Kiwi ‘can do’ attitude, and enthusiasm for working alongside researchers and content developers to trial and improve the quality of online and app-based educational materials provides New Zealand with a significant edge over other countries, in the developing EdTech field.
“Through such partnerships, New Zealand is ideally placed to lead the world in high quality content development.”
Falloon was previously project leader for the Ministry of Education’s e-Learning research initiative. He has just completed a study into the use of mobile tablets for supporting literacy and thinking skills with new entrant primary students, specifically examining app content and design influences on the quality of the students’ learning pathways.
He says there are developing opportunities for New Zealand teachers and educational leaders to work alongside schools in other countries, to help improve the ‘learning value’ they get from their digital technologies.
“There are many pioneering and leading-edge examples of schools in New Zealand that are using technologies to make a real difference to the learning of their students that other schools worldwide could benefit from involvement with.”