N4L

June 13th, 2014 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand spends millions of dollars on software to work out what and when to feed cows to maximise the yield from dairy herds.

But Chris South, team leader at Ministry of spinoff , says that if you asked five history teachers at schools that were in the same deciles and areas, and had the same-sized rolls, what they used in their classrooms to help with their lessons, “you would probably get five different answers”.

“There is not just a disparity in knowing what resources are out there, but also in knowing how to use them,” he said.

“There are lots people getting totally different results from the same things.”

That could all change with Pond, a portal being developed by N4L.

It is designed to be the place in cyberspace that teachers will visit to find, use, adapt and comment on educational content uploaded by fellow teachers, professional providers of educational resources and useful material available on the wider internet.

Next year, the portal will also be opened up to students.

It could transform education or turn into an unholy mess. Failure won’t be through a lack of resourcing.

With a total cost of about $3.5 billion, the ultrafast broadband initiative is one of the country’s biggest infrastructure investments, and the priority is to hook up schools.

On top of its $1.35b contribution to the UFB initiative, the Government has committed a further $211m to pay for a managed network offering uncapped broadband to schools.

A big reason for all this spending is to provide better access to the content in Pond, which, like the managed network, is the responsibility of N4L, which has been set up as an independent Crown entity.

“The problems Pond solves are the difficulties of accessing fantastic content,” marketing manager Andy Schick said.

“We all know there is no such thing as page 2 on Google. You just look at page 1 and if it’s on page 2 it may as well not exist.”

So true.

I think the high speed Internet has huge potential for the education sector, It is potentially transformative. The investment in N4L could be one of the most important the Government has done – if it is managed well.

A few hundred teachers gathered in Wellington last month to get some hands-on time with the portal, which N4L is intentionally opening up only slowly to schools.

N4L is recruiting about 500 teachers to become “pioneer educators” in Pond.

Their job is to help N4L knock the portal into shape, so when N4L opens up Pond to the other 64,500 teachers this year there should be less chance of them navigating away forever in horror.

Trialling and testing is vital. 500 is a decent number to trial.

Also the Herald reports on a modern Christchurch school:

A high-tech new Canterbury school, which produces all of its own power and even boasts an internal radio station, was today described by the Prime Minister as a “window into the future” of what all New Zealand schools will eventually look like.

Pegasus Bay School, 30km north of Christchurch, is the first major school project completed as part of the Government’s $1.137 billion shake-up of greater Christchurch’s schools after the devastating earthquakes.

With solar panels on its roof, it is the first net-zero energy school in New Zealand.

It has ultra-fast broadband, its own radio station, and large, open classrooms — without any desks.

“It’s probably vastly different from what many people will have experienced in their own education but it’s the modern face of the future, and it’s what will be the hallmark of Christchurch as we build 21 of these schools as a result of the rebuild of Christchurch schools,” said Prime Minister John Key as he officially opened it today.

“This is a window into the future. All of the academic research shows you that these open, modern learning environments, with bigger classrooms, but with shared teachers, they are the way of the future, the way of making sure we life the professional development of teaching, but also doing the very best for our kids.”

The Herald has a photo. Looks great.

Ms Parata and Mr Key said that while Christchurch “went through a lot” while the government unveiled its education shake-up for the region, Pegasus Bay School has set the example for other schools as to what can be achieved.

“In the end, it’s like all of those things — people often resist change, but when they actually get to see the new product — as we said at the time of the debate — parents will be flocking to bring their [children] here,” Mr Key said.

I think parents and kids will e pretty happy.

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11 Responses to “N4L”

  1. rouppe (971 comments) says:

    With solar panels on its roof, it is the first net-zero energy school in New Zealand.

    My sons school has a swimming pool. It is under threat because it is too cold to use except for a short time in the summer. The cost of installing any solar heating won’t be met by MoE and its too expensive to fund out of current funding…

    We’d love to have enough solar energy to heat this pool

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  2. BeaB (2,123 comments) says:

    It is a pity Phillipstown School is fighting so hard to deny its kids (many of them already disadvantaged) the chance of a terrific primary education at a modern, well-resourced school.

    rouppe – that’s exactly the sort of project parents and the community should be raising funds for. Taxpayer funding should be going into the classroom.

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  3. Ed Snack (1,872 comments) says:

    Be interesting to see if all this investment has any actual affect on learning. After all, these are only tools, tools can make a difference but not necessarily. It may well “transform” schools in the wrong direction, I am wary of over-emphasis on any such tricks; but as I say it will be interesting to see if it does translate into net positives.

    As for solar on the roof, as schools only operate in the day I’m sure that’s an advantage, but I bet the cost will not be recovered in the lifetime of the school, so it’s another “showcase” of wasting taxpayer money for pointless PR.

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  4. Other_Andy (2,676 comments) says:

    “This is a window into the future. All of the academic research shows you that these open, modern learning environments, with bigger classrooms, but with shared teachers, they are the way of the future, the way of making sure we life the professional development of teaching, but also doing the very best for our kids.”

    No, please no!
    One size doesn’t fit all.
    It is ‘horses for courses’.

    Some students will do well in traditional classrooms, some in open plan.
    Some will do well in NCEA, some in CIE or IB.
    Some will do well in single sex schools, some in coed.

    Etc etc.

    Choice is the key for education.

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  5. Fentex (974 comments) says:

    “We all know there is no such thing as page 2 on Google. You just look at page 1 and if it’s on page 2 it may as well not exist.”

    I know no such thing. I work with technical issues that sometimes require resolving gnarly issues others experience helps with – and Google is a useful way to locate such information. I often find myself examining several pages of Googles results to try and find the most relevant and helpful reference.

    It makes me wonder about the value of peoples opinions who seem to think it is appropriate a superb resource like Google be treated so cavalierly without delving deeper into.

    It makes me suspicious that they have a respect for a magical kind of thinking that exactly what people want can be wished out of the stew of electrons we collect without users having to learn details or apply attention and discipline to solving problems.

    It smells a little like believing it’s possible to write an app to do peoples thinking for them.

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  6. OneTrack (3,104 comments) says:

    “All of the academic research shows you that these open, modern learning environments, with bigger classrooms”

    Last week all the research showed you had to have smaller classrooms with more one-on-one teacher pupil contact.

    I wish they would make up their mind.

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  7. OneTrack (3,104 comments) says:

    “A high-tech new Canterbury school, which produces all of its own power ”

    I know they said it, but is it actually true? Christchurch gets sun at a pretty low angle and it gets pretty cold on Christchurch (so I’m told).

    So when the heat pumps are running all day, are they still producing all their own power?

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  8. OneTrack (3,104 comments) says:

    “All of the academic research shows you that these open, modern learning environments, with bigger classrooms, but with shared teachers, they are the way of the future, the way of making sure we life the professional development of teaching, but also doing the very best for our kids”

    Except it sounds like an open plan, hot-desking office arrangement, which has resulted in dropped productivity wherever its been used. You want to actually sit, think quietly and concentrate on something? Good luck with that plan.

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  9. timmydevo (53 comments) says:

    I don’t know OneTrack. Just hit lunchtime, and my class was pretty noisy but incredibly productive. I’ve turned my classroom office into a small room where student may spend some quiet time if they need to. Many of these new school environments allow for breakout rooms where it’s quiet.

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  10. Bill Courtney (161 comments) says:

    What! Discussion on two examples of Innovation in the state sector being allowed on Kiwiblog!! For God’s sake, don’t tell Jamie Whyte / Rodney Hide et al. They still think the Soviet style central planning system has only one model that all must be fitted into and that the only solution is charter schools….

    Seriously, though, I’d still like to read more of the “research” on these “Modern Learning Environments”. What about the kids that don’t respond well to that type of teaching environment? Do they have a choice?

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  11. timmydevo (53 comments) says:

    Bill – what about the kids that don’t currently respond to status quo? Just a comment for thought. It’s a very fair question that you raise, and one many teachers are working through at the moment. Let’s make it clear though, apart from exceptions like Pegasus Bay School, which are new, purpose built schools, most schools are slowly evolving in their own way, still within the boundaries of the buildings they currently possess.

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