Rolling out distance learning across Aotearoa

Issue: Volume 99, Number 6

Posted: 15 April 2020
Reference #: 1HA74o

The roll-out of internet access, devices, materials and new home learning television channels will help children and young people all over New Zealand learn from home as part of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learning will look rather different for Millie and Rodie Whetu this term – as it will for tamariki and rangatahi around Aotearoa. The Ngāruawāhia siblings are all set for remote learning with desks and devices at the ready.   

Millie, 12, is pleased that she can fit her learning around family time.  

“I like getting to spend more time with my family, doing more bike rides and skating and walks and baking. But it’s hard not seeing my friends and managing my school work with little kids around – even though I love them!” she adds. Millie is big sister to Rodie, 9, Jonas, 3, and Alba, 5 months.

“The spread of ages and needs in our whānau is pretty diverse,” agrees their mother Amy Whetu. “We are doing our best to help them all learn and experience the online classes that the school has on offer, but also create opportunities to learn through everyday life and experiences, such as cooking, gardening and art.”  

Amy says that although it is challenging at times – particularly juggling the kids’ learning and routines with running their own business – overall, they are loving the experience.  

“We are chalking this one up to memory-making around ‘living through the lockdown’, a pretty unprecedented time in history that we all get to share intimately as a whānau together.”  

Supporting distance learning  

The Ministry of Education is rolling out an extensive, four-channel package to provide at least one distance-learning option for all families.  

The package includes:  

  • increasing the number of students and ākonga who have access to connectivity and devices  
  • supporting learners with hard copy materials for different year levels where possible  
  • a range of NCEA subject-specific hard-copy resources for delivery to Year 11–13 students and ākonga  
  • more online resources for schools and kura, parents, ākonga and whānau available through the Learning from Home(external link) and Ki te Ao Mārama(external link) websites  
  • providing insurance cover for devices that schools and kura send to student homes  
  • professional learning and development (PLD) to support teachers and kaiako, tumuaki and leaders to work remotely with their students, ākonga and whānau  
  • TV channels in English and te reo Māori offering learning programmes for learners from early learning to Year 10  
  • Extending access to the Virtual Learning Network.   

The Ministry is also fast-tracking ways to connect learning support coordinators with families and whānau remotely.   

Education Minister Chris Hipkins says the plan is broad enough to ensure every learner has at least one channel for accessing education.  

“We know that tens of thousands of households lack either an internet connection or an education device at home. We’re working with telecommunications companies and internet service providers to connect as many of these households as we can as quickly as possible.”  

The Government will prioritise the roll-out of internet access, devices and materials to students according to need, with the initial focus on senior secondary school students working towards NCEA. They will then move down the year levels from Years 10 to 1.  

Supports are also being prepared for households with children under five, to help parents and whānau keep their children engaged in learning through play.  

Preparing for every scenario  

Minister Hipkins says the Government is still working to a timeframe of a four-week lockdown, but is also planning for every scenario.  

“That means, in education, developing robust distance learning infrastructure and a more resilient system so that learners can receive education in any scenario.”  

The Minister reiterated that parents weren’t expected to become teachers during this time, and that teachers will continue to have the primary role in students’ learning.  

“Together we will support New Zealand’s efforts to save lives through physical distancing, while minimising the impact on children’s learning and wellbeing.” 

A new channel for learning  

Teacher Fern Webber was a bundle of both nerves and excitement as he prepared for filming on the new Home Learning | Papa Kāinga TV channel that will be rolled out this week to Kiwi households to support learners during the lockdown period.   

Fern, who teaches at Catholic Cathedral College in Christchurch, says the teachers involved with filming for the new channels have been well supported with lesson plans from the Ministry of Education.  

“The challenge is to be innovative, to teach the learning objectives with the limited material resources we have available to us at this time.”  

The Ministry has been working with teachers like Fern, alongside staff from the Education Review Office and Te Kura to deliver content for children and their parents and whānau. Lessons for those aged five to 15 years of age will cover a broad curriculum that includes movement, music, physical education, wellbeing, numeracy, literacy and science through an integrated approach to curriculum.  

The Ministry has also been working with Māori Television to make distance learning accessible for all ākonga and whānau. The programmes on Māori Television are for reo Māori learners of all ages, covering ākonga in kōhungahunga (early learning), kura tuatahi (primary) and wharekura (secondary).   

Programming will be aligned to Te Marautanga o Aotearoa and contain age-appropriate content that tamariki can do on their own, with their siblings or together as a whānau.   

Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis says the Government is also exploring working with iwi radio as a platform to broadcast educational content to ākonga. Radio content will be linked with the other rauemi (resource) in Ki Te Ao Mārama on Kauwhata Reo.  

The new Home Learning | Papa Kāinga TV channels will feature broadcasts that will run from 9am to 3pm on school days on TVNZ channel 2+1 and on TVNZ on Demand, as well as on Sky Channel 502. 

The Māori medium channel will be available on Māori Television.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 3:15 pm, 15 April 2020

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