Future-proofing 21st Century schools across Aotearoa

Issue: Volume 99, Number 12

Posted: 31 July 2020
Reference #: 1HA9N0

In recognition of Techweek2020, we look at a programme helping to remove the burden on schools of monitoring, maintaining and managing their ICT network requirements - allowing teachers to focus on teaching.

“Quick and efficient” was how Mahana School principal Paul Shand described the upgrade of their school network equipment.

The 50-student, three-teacher school in Nelson was among the schools included in the pilot for Te Mana Tūhono, a programme to upgrade schools’ ageing ICT hardware.

Te Mana Tūhono

Technology is always evolving, with new features and capabilities making most network hardware obsolete within five to seven years. Schools need a robust network infrastructure to make full use of ultrafast broadband and to support teaching and learning opportunities.

Last year, the Ministry of Education, in partnership with Network for Learning (N4L), introduced Te Mana Tūhono to remove the burden on schools of monitoring, maintaining and managing their ICT network requirements - allowing teachers to focus on teaching. Loosely translated, Te Mana Tūhono means the power of connection. 

Part of the programme includes replacing schools’ ageing ICT hardware. The Ministry had initially planned to deliver upgrades to about 200 schools by 30 June 2020 as part of a pilot to inform a staged national roll-out. However, due to Covid-19, the upgrade schedule had to be revised. It will now deliver upgrades to 50 schools by the end of August.

Classroom internet in hundreds of schools to get a boost - Beehive.govt.nz(external link)

50 Pilot schools to be upgraded by end of August. Image supplied by the Network for Learning (N4L)

50 Pilot schools to be upgraded by end of August. Image supplied by the Network for Learning (N4L).

Bridging the gap

A 2019 survey of primary schools carried out by the New Zealand Council of Educational Research (NZCER) found 64 per cent of teachers believe that the major issues facing principals are the cost of purchasing, maintaining and replacing devices and ICT infrastructure. 

Findings from the NZCER national survey 2019(external link)

Smaller schools without a dedicated ICT staff member or maintenance contract in place, and those located in more rural areas, were found to be significantly reliant on ICT services. Te Mana Tūhono seeks to bridge this gap.

With the ease of internet access and the ubiquity of smart devices connecting to it, schools are choosing to offer more learning online. A more recent example is the NCEA online assessments.

A poorly maintained network infrastructure is a barrier to teaching and learning, and increases the risk of security breaches and cyber-attacks. Put simply, schools need the internet to work seamlessly and safely, without disruption, so they can offer the best online experience for students. Each school has varying degrees of capacity and capability to dedicate towards network maintenance and upkeep. Therefore, the Ministry ensures services, products or solutions provided to schools meets a recognised level of compliance in line with industry security requirements.

Pilot progress

Paul Shand says the process of upgrading Mahana School’s ICT hardware was straightforward.

“The upgrade of our network equipment was really easy - it was pretty quick and efficient - and there was really effective communication - we were notified ahead of time and given several reminders and the whole process took a lot shorter time than anticipated.

"We use the internet throughout the school - not just in classrooms, with a combination of laptops, Chromebooks and iPads, and we are almost at a one to one ratio of students to devices.”

He says he’s looking forward to the next phase of the upgrade, where their network will be made more secure by allowing the school to manage which devices can access its network, and what they can do when they’re on it.

To date, about 32 schools have been provided with new equipment, making the network safer and more seamless. Once the pilot is complete, the Ministry and N4L will collate the learnings to inform the wider rollout. A key focus will be drawing on the unique needs of small and larger schools to design a fit-for purpose ICT network.

Another school to benefit from the upgrade is Windwhistle School in Canterbury. In this video, principal Bronwen Seaward talks about how the upgrade has improved learning for the students who attend the small rural school.

Schools ICT Helpdesk support and future rollout

The Ministry and N4L will continue supporting schools not in the pilot to extend any warranty on licenses and replace hardware where required until the national roll-out is complete.

N4L will contact these schools closer to the warranty expiration date to scope what’s required for an upgrade. In the meantime, schools needing support, should contact the N4Ldedicated Helpdesk at 0800 LEARNING.

For more information about the programme, visit the Ministry of Education’s Te Mana Tūhono webpage(external link).

Ministry of Education and N4L

The Ministry of Education partners with Crown-owned company Network for Learning (N4L) to ensure tamariki and teachers have reliable, resilient, safe and secure ICT systems. There are around 825,000 users on the network, connecting some 2,400 schools and kura across the country. There are more than 3.5 million gigabytes (GB) of data being consumed each month on the school network. N4L plays a key role in helping the Ministry deliver a long-term programme to support schools.

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

Posted: 9:02 am, 31 July 2020

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