Helping schools connect to the digital world

Issue: Volume 94, Number 6

Posted: 20 April 2015
Reference #: 1H9cqk

The Ministry of Education launched a new Connected Learning Advisory – Te Ara Whītiki – service for schools in March this year, and it’s already helping schools get up to speed with teaching and learning in the digital era.

The fully funded service provides consistent, unbiased advice on integrating digital technologies with learning for all state-funded schools and kura in New Zealand. Accessible via an online request form or by free phone, the advisory helps schools make the most of the digital opportunities technology provides for better educational outcomes.

The Māori name for the service – Te Ara Whītiki – draws on the ideas of connecting people and expertise in charting and discovering pathways for learning. Schools contacting the service can choose whether to communicate with advisers in either English or te reo Māori.

The increasing availability of high-quality internet in our schools is opening up our classrooms to a new world of digital tools, resources and expertise. Learners are using technology to connect with students in other locations, teachers are using online networks to connect with colleagues and parents are forming stronger relationships with schools using digital services like social networks, websites and online surveys.

The Connected Learning Advisory provides advice to schools on what digital technologies and resources are currently available and how they can be used to support the curriculum, through to wider strategic planning, infrastructure and digital device purchasing decisions.

The service provides assistance at the point where technologies and teaching practices intersect to provide a vision for access, quality guidance and resources. As well as a responsive helpdesk, the advisory will develop resources directed at areas of greatest need and deliver professional learning activities for schools both regionally and nationally.

Lesley Hoskin, the Ministry’s associate deputy secretary for student achievement says that the service is designed to help schools integrate digital technologies with learning.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for schools to maximise the engagement, achievement and efficiencies possible with digital technologies. The advisory means we can provide consistent and connected support across the country. The team of advisers will draw on their knowledge and expertise to ensure the guidance they provide is tailored to meet the needs of individual schools.”

As digital technologies are influencing what, where, how and why students learn – as well as who they learn from – it’s important to have a place that schools can go to for support. Access to digital devices (like laptops and tablets) and the wealth of online resources available, means schools have the opportunity to design learning that is increasingly personalised, inclusive and relevant. However, to foster the learning opportunities for their students, schools and teachers must be confident in the use of digital technologies.

The advisory is part of a wider range of government initiatives to support the use of digital technologies in schools. These include the rollout of ultra-fast broadband, the establishment of the N4L Managed Network, the School Network Upgrade Project (SNUP), funding for teacher laptops and operating software, and the provision of support to schools through the Enabling e-Learning website and the e-Learning Planning Framework. Learning with Digital Technologies professional learning and development is also available.

While schools have grown in confidence and capability, there are still many teachers and principals who will benefit from support to develop and sustain their digital learning practice. The 2020 Communication Trust’s Digital Technologies in Schools 2014 Report noted that over 75 per cent of principals believe digital technologies positively affect teaching and learning, but only 14 percent felt all their teachers had the necessary skills to manage digital technologies for learning. The new advisory service provides the support schools need to develop these skills.

Early queries to the advisory have included topics like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), WiFi connectivity, digital citizenship and how to get started with using education apps. Feedback from schools on the advice provided has been very positive.

Keep a look out in future Education Gazette issues for our Connected Learning Advisory column which will highlight common questions that schools are asking and expert advice from the team of advisers.

Contact the connected learning advisory

Schools can call the advisory on 0800 700 400 between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Friday or complete the online form(external link).

We recommend that schools nominate one person as a contact point for the advisory service, for example a senior staff member, an ICT technician, or ICT leader.

Schools can ask about things like:

  • what digital technologies and resources are available
  • how to use online technologies and digital devices to support the curriculum
  • the use of technologies to support inclusive learning design and special educational needs
  • planning for the effective introduction of ultra-fast 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
  • BYOD, software management, data storage, network standards, video conferencing, ICT infrastructure, and modern learning practices using technology.

Teachers can stay in touch with the advisory through their Virtual Learning Network (VLN) group(external link) and in Pond(external link). Updates are also on Twitter via @enablelearning (#cla_nz) and the Enabling e-Learning e-newsletter.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 9:34 AM, 20 April 2015

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