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The Mind Lab: Igniting innovation in students and teachers

The Mind Lab by Unitec is an education offering for Kiwi children and teachers. It’s dedicated to science, technology and discovery and is designed to encourage a new generation of creators and innovators.

The hub was opened in Wellington at the end of March by Steven Joyce, Science and Innovation Minister, and was recognised as one of the country’s most innovative initiatives when it was named a finalist in the New Zealand Hi-Tech Awards.

The offering is the result of a collaboration between New Zealand’s Unitec Institute of Technology and a specialist education lab dedicated to enhancing digital capability and collaborative teaching methods in the classroom.

The Wellington lab will be located in the ground floor of the IBM Tower in Victoria Street, Petone. Mind Labs are also located in Auckland and Gisbourne, with more planned to open this year including one in Christchurch this June.

Matt Richards is the director of The Mind Lab, and joins the team from his previous role as director of EdTech and Innovation at St Columba School in New South Wales.

The lab is multi-disciplinary and offering integrated workshops for students and teachers across a broad spectrum of creative and scientific technologies.

It covers specialist topics including coding, 3D modelling and printing, science, robotics, game development, electronics, film effects and animation.

It also offers professional development for teachers with a postgraduate qualification. The Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning) is NZQA-accredited and runs for 32 weeks part time.

The course is designed to help teachers at all levels build knowledge, improve their technical capacity and confidence and learn new ways of engaging students in a technology-enabled world.

Philippa Nicoll Antipas, previously Future Learning Leader at Wellington’s Samuel Marsden Collegiate School, will run the postgraduate programme in Wellington.

In collaboration with NEXT Foundation, Wellington state school teachers are eligible for one of 800 scholarships to enrol in the postgraduate programme in 2015.

“To better educate our children, we need to help empower teachers, supporting them to use new technology, online learning tools and problem solving activities to transform their classrooms, their schools and their communities," says Frances Valintine, The Mind Lab by Unitec founder and chair.

“Teachers are grappling with how to teach a generation of kids that have access to devices that enable them to share, communicate and connect in a very different way to when they trained as teachers.

“Teachers want to be supported with development programmes that allow them to explore this world and integrate online learning practices into their teaching practice," she says.

“If we fool ourselves for even a moment that technology skills are not essential for future success, we risk preparing our students for a world that no longer exists.

“We need our future generation to be innovators, creators and inventors. We need scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs beyond the obvious economic benefits of developing highly skilled graduates who create tech focused products and services.

“There are many social gains that come from developing skills where there are great opportunities for our students’ future employment,” says Valintine.

Over the next five years additional new sites are planned with the goal of teaching 10,000 teachers and over 180,000 school students.