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The average Kiwi teacher is a woman in her early fifties. She’s facing a generation of kids she wasn’t trained to teach who have grown up with Wi-Fi, the cloud and hand-held technology.
But a postgraduate digital course has more than 1000 teachers – many who completed their training before the internet was invented – pouring through the doors of Unitec’s Mind Lab since it launched mid-last year.
It is now on track to become one of the largest postgraduate courses in the country – with 800 scholarships available and plans to open branches in Wellington and Gisborne this year.
Mind Lab was designed initially to teach technology to children, but founder Frances Valintine said she needed to change its focus after watching teachers arriving alongside their students and becoming entranced.
“The first indication was when, instead of having one teacher per class, we had 10 teachers turning up with the kids.
We realised they needed the professional development.”
The full impact of digital kids was expected to hit over the next couple of years, as a critical mass of children now under 10 floods the education system, she said.
Ministry of Education data from 2012 shows that the most common age bracket for teachers was 50-54, with 5469 teachers.
Ages 45-49 and 55-59 were the next-highest categories, with 4567 and 5003 teachers respectively. There are more than three times as many female teachers as there are male teachers.
“Teachers and experts are facing a generation of kids they weren’t trained to teach,” Ms Valintine said.
The 2014 report Digital Technologies in New Zealand Schools highlighted the issue, saying only 14 per cent of schools feel that all of their teachers have the necessary skills to effectively manage student use of personal digital devices for learning. This is despite increasing numbers of schools requiring students to bring devices to school.
Mind Lab’s certificate course, which aims to give teachers the confidence to use technology at school, rather than make them experts, runs over 32 weeks. It features lab sessions – from 4pm to 8pm – and online collaboration.
Participants upload videos from their classrooms to share lesson examples with others in the course. It costs $2750 to complete but there are 800 scholarships worth $2000 available courtesy of the NEXT Foundation. Applications close on March 6.