A large part of Te Ara’s audience is the education sector, and there is no doubt that technology is changing education. However, many schools still have to work with slow computers and internet connections. In this guest post Robert Douglas, director of ICT (information and communications technology) at Howick College, and Nathan Kerr, a mobile learning specialist and teacher who is now project leader for the mLearning (mobile devices and learning in classrooms) Project, write about a recent technology project at Howick College to speed up the net.

Robert Douglas

Robert Douglas

Ultra-fast broadband (UFB) in Schools

A partnership between Howick College and Vodafone New Zealand has allowed both teachers and students to access the internet 12 times faster than previously. The agreement gives the college free ultra-fast broadband (UFB) fibre internet for 12 months, allowing both parties to explore how UFB will and can be used by New Zealand schools to improve student learning.

Nathan Kerr

Nathan Kerr

Robert Douglas, the director of ICT at Howick College, said that the school was excited about the possibilities as ‘UFB unleashes new potential for student learning, including enabling bring-your-own device (BYOD) and cloud-based services. The school has been waiting for the capability before taking its next steps towards on-demand student learning through the provision of cloud-based student data.’

Both developments, UFB and BYOD, have significant potential to effect positive change in the New Zealand education system by allowing New Zealanders quick and ready access to global ideas, information and real time developments, resulting in better engagement of students with their learning. But this is only one of many possibilities that UFB enables. Video on demand, video conferencing, cloud-based backups and offsite file servers all become possible, greatly opening up the ICT landscape for school.

UFB has been in place for one month, with students and teachers immediately noticing the improved service and ability to stream video to the classroom. Further developments are in the pipeline that will make use of the bidirectional high-speed link to support cloud-based student data and BYOD devices. ‘Schools need to think through what they wish to achieve and how to best support those outcomes. A combination of school, people and technology, all working together, is required to get the best student outcomes from UFB,’ Douglas says.

However, before getting lost in the technology, it is important to realise that the partnership between Vodafone and Howick College is about student learning which will be the focus of the projects outcomes.

Bring-your-own device (BYOD)

The rise of the BYOD in education has been driven by students, who daily bring in devices the size of chocolate bars, with 1,000 times more computing power than what ran NASA’s Apollo mission, into New Zealand schools. Devices which have media players, internet browsers and software applications which, harnessed appropriately, will make real, positive learning outcomes in the lives of New Zealand students.

The m-learning project undertaken by Howick College and Vodafone in 2010 revealed how students use their mobile devices and their willingness to use them for learning. The BYOD concept is in fact not new, with many private schools running laptop schemes in the late 1990s. However, with the advent of smaller, more-powerful and cheaper devices, especially tablets and smart phones, all schools are now able to pursue personal one-to-one technology programmes.

Other schools that have made notable contributions in this area are Point England Primary and the Manaiakalani Project, Orewa College and Albany Senior High School.

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