More schools benefit from the N4L managed network

Issue: Volume 93, Number 4

Posted: 10 March 2014
Reference #: 1H9cti

Providing schools with a modern digital infrastructure enables students to develop the skills and competencies they need to fully participate in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world.

By 2016, all state and state-integrated schools will have an upgraded internal IT network through the School Network Upgrade Project (SNUP). Schools will be connected to fibre or alternative technologies such as wireless or satellite and will have the opportunity to connect to the Network for Learning (N4L) managed network. This significant investment by government in ICT infrastructure will maximise teaching and learning opportunities and help lift educational achievement.

The Ministry of Education is working with N4L as schools connect to the managed network to ensure that the ultimate goal of enriching learning opportunities through technology is fulfilled. Schools will be fully funded for an N4L package that includes access to the managed network providing schools with safe, predictable, and fast internet with uncapped data, content filtering, and network security services. The Government, through the Ministry, is meeting the cost for schools to connect to the N4L managed network.

Schools are already embracing these exciting opportunities. Since Waitakere’s Massey Primary School became the first to connect to the N4L managed network in November 2013, more than 150 schools have connected.

From Commodore 64 to connected learning

On 26 November last year, Massey Primary School’s staff and 424 students hosted an event celebrating their connection, which was attended by Prime Minister John Key, Minister of Education Hekia Parata, and Associate Minister of Education Nikki Kaye, as well as representatives from N4L, the Ministry, and the school community.

In his speech, Massey’s principal, Bruce Barnes, described the technological challenges that teachers and students have faced.

“Our journey began, like many schools, with Commodore 64s, and we built our capability from there. The focus in those days was on the technology, and we built computer suites which the students used once a week.

“The computers were slow and disruptive and only a few devices could be used at once. Networking was slow and IT was expensive. It was seen as a luxury and was used mainly to make work look nice.

“As technology improved and the paradigm shift in teaching began to occur, pedagogy and student learning became the drivers and IT became a facilitator of learning.

“The arrival of the managed network – with its reliability, faster connection speed, better devices, education apps, and software – gives us the ability to offer personalised learning driven by students and teachers. The future looks exciting.”

Massey Primary School is now using an N4L connection that is roughly 10 times faster than their previous ADSL copper connection. With N4L, there is no limit on monthly data usage. Massey’s new N4L connection enables the school to download and upload data at a rate of 100Mbps. Their previous internet connection limited upload speeds to less than 1Mbps. These faster upload speeds make it easier for students to move from being consumers to becoming creators of content, collaborating and publishing their own work.

Massey Primary is continuing to integrate digital technology into teaching and learning, and Bruce says he and his staff have greatly benefited from the professional development opportunities offered through principal and teacher leadership, as well as learning groups.

Engagement with technology

Thirty-five kilometres away from Massey is Mangere Central School in South Auckland, a decile 2 school with 462 students, which is now also connected to the managed network. Mangere Central uses the same N4L connection package as Massey.

Principal Maria Heron is a passionate advocate of digital learning. She is focused on achievement, community involvement, and incorporating technology into learning and has seen how technology has greatly benefited students over the 11 years she has been at the school.

“Engagement with digital technology is one of the best ways to get students enthusiastic about learning,” says Maria.

The school’s latest ERO report also recognises Mangere Central’s focus on digital technology, stating that “the integration of e-learning has increased student engagement and has helped students to develop relevant skills to support their learning. At times, students are teachers as well as learners and coach their peers and support teachers in e-learning.”

“The very nature of young people today is that they want to be connected at all times. Take the example of the Ministry’s Virtual Learning Network. Students are very keen to communicate in Japanese or Mandarin, for example, and to learn in that infinitely connected and communal model that digital technology affords,” says Maria.

“The ability to connect with the global community on more than just a social level will be crucial to the professional success of today’s students. The adult world is going to be very different for them than it was when my generation emerged into the job market. Young people will need to be equipped to relate to other cultures and connect easily with people from overseas. This is the 21st century, and digital technology is built into everything young New Zealanders do. They’ve grown up in a digital world.

“I think schools are used to putting up with connectivity speeds that are less than optimal. I think the N4L managed network is going to be fantastic in that sense.”

Bright future

By the middle of the first term of 2014, around 200 schools are expected to be connected to N4L’s managed network. By the end of the year, more than 700 schools are expected to get N4L connections, with all schools being offered a connection by 2016.

Deb Struthers, the Ministry of Education’s director for learning with digital technologies, says, “This is all about children and young people and their learning. The more we learn about how to best support every one of them to be successful through education, the more we can all benefit. Digital technologies offer new and better ways for us to connect with the people and the knowledge needed for learning opportunities that develop creative, actively involved, life-long learners.”

Online support pack

Together with schools and N4L, the Ministry has developed an online support pack for schools and boards to guide them through the process of connecting to the managed network. The information helps schools with the decision to connect, how to prepare to connect, and how to gain the full benefits of the N4L managed network once connected.

The support package can be found on the ‘Enabling e-Learning’(external link) site within TKI. 

The online support pack also includes:

  • information on the impacts of digital technology on students, staff, boards, and wider communities
  • links to cyber safety and security resources (including links to Netsafe and WiFi and Health)
  • a link to the e-Learning Planning Framework (eLPF), which is designed to support leaders and schools to identify their use of and plans for integrating digital technologies
  • Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) guidance.

N4L links

Register your interest in N4L online(external link)

Managed Network online support pack(external link)

School Network Upgrade Project (SNUP)(external link)

Support for learning with digital technologies(external link)

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

Posted: 10:31 AM, 10 March 2014

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