The Ministry of Education has assured New Zealand principals that digital technologies are a key focus at an annual conference yesterday.
On the 30th anniversary of the Secondary Principals' Association of New Zealand (SPANZ) Annual Conference, Associate Minister of Education Nikki Kaye took the opportunity to look back at past successes as well as look to future.
Kaye says digital technologies are revolutionising the way students interact and learn, and acknowledges the need for the education system to keep up.
“For young people growing up today, the virtual world is as real as the physical world. Using devices to interact and learn is a natural state of being for them.
The challenge is to harness the range of technologies available and make sure they're enhancing student learning says Kaye.
“Access is only part of the equation. Just as critical is how digital technologies are used in schools to enhance the learning experience.
Digital technology has become so essential to modern education that the Government is ensuring ‘digital fluency' one of the priority areas of professional development.
“We've invested over $60 million to enhance professional learning and development.
“We've also set up a $1 million contestable fund, to support innovative learning projects that capture students' imagination, and help them become skilled in using and developing digital technologies.
The biggest advancements in educational technology at the moment are Communities of Online Learning. Kaye says these provide an entirely new world of teaching and learning opportunities.
“It's now possible for groups of students to have discussions with each other or collaborate on projects in real time, despite being in different locations.
Kaye acknowledged reservations around this movement to online, and dispelled the idea that classic learning environments are to be left behind.
“I know some of you may be cautious about this new initiative, so it's important to stress that Communities of Online Learning are about supplementing and complementing learning in the classroom, not replacing it.
The Ministry of Education is making sure New Zealand's education system is setting students up for success in key industries of the current economy. Kaye says they are working with many partners to ensure the curriculum reflects this.
“We must ensure we're equipping students with the right skills to participate in a 21st Century economy.
“If we're successful, we will help close the gaps for technology firms, precision manufacturers and modern agricultural enterprises, who are all currently reporting long-term vacancies that are hard to fill, because of a lack of suitably skilled candidates.
The Government will continue to support digital technology initiatives and are in the process of overhauling curriculum to mirror the moving face of technology.
“The new curriculum content and the progressions will underpin the development of the NCEA Achievement Standards, meaning clearer learning pathways for digital technologies across the whole of students' schooling.
“To support the new curriculum content we're developing learning progressions for the design of digital technologies.
Kaye concluded by commending the principals present and challenging them to keep up the progress. She says the best way to ensure these changes are successful is to uphold quality leadership.
“As school principals, you occupy pivotal roles in our education system and in ensuring student success.
“Really successful schools have really strong leaders. A core element of strong school leadership is promoting high-quality teaching and learning, which has the most powerful in-school influence on student learning.