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 Education spinoff N4L, 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.”
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.
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.