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Will 2020 be the year of education technology? It seems hard to imagine anything positive from the COVID-19 crisis, but if we do it well, the New Zealand education system will successfully flourish.
The pace that the Ministry of Education and New Zealand’s schools have adapted to home learning is very impressive. In less than a month, the Ministry has identified ~80,000 students with no internet connection at home, is distributing free modems, connections and devices, developed two educational TV channels and have created new home learning resources. Network for Learning (N4L), the crown company that provides internet to schools, has adapted their online safety filter and is making it available, free to all households. This helps ensure students have safe internet access while learning from home. Instructions on installing N4L’s safety filter can be found at www.switchonsafety.co.nz.
During the last two weeks, teachers have quickly adopted digital tools, created online lesson plans and start teaching Kiwi kids tomorrow, when Term Two commences. I applaud all of those involved, as they have truly put the needs of Kiwi kids first. Undoubtedly, this is a major change and it won’t be perfect to begin with. Ultimately, teachers and students are using technology to support their learning and this is commendable.
Recent McKinsey Research shows the top barrier for teachers providing more personalised learning for their students is not enough time. They found that increased use of good technology is a start, however the real opportunity lies with AI enabled edtech. This isn’t about a futuristic system, but adopting existing edtech. Bringing the average school’s tech capability to the level of some of the best schools, will have a massive impact on a country’s future. Fortunately, for New Zealand teachers, we have a fast growing local edtech ecosystem.
So, if you are at home with kids during the lockdown, think about how you can help them with this new way of learning. Explore the new alternatives, experiment and be involved as much as you can. And if you’re a teacher, you’re not alone. NZTech, in collaboration with IT Professionals and the Ministry of Education is working on a way for tech mentors to ‘adopt’ a school to directly support principals and teachers during this time of rapid change.
Best wishes for a safe and productive week.
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