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N4L’s ‘Pond’ provides gateway to collaborative environment

24 Mar 2014

Network for Learning (N4L) has introduced its new digital portal ‘Pond’, a collaborative online environment for teachers, students and education administrators to connect and share educational content and services.

Education Minister Hekia Parata and Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye, together with N4L senior leaders, launched Pond at Auckland’s Festival of Education on the 22nd March.

“The portal will provide schools with access to trusted, high-quality learning resources and will make safe, online collaboration easy,” says Education Minister Hekia Parata. “Technology and digital learning are part of our modernising of the education system to raise achievement for all our children and young people.”

“At the heart of the portal’s functionality is the ability for teachers and students to create, share and rate the quality and usefulness of content,” says Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye. She adds that it can be challenging for teachers and students to find information that they can trust. “N4L is working hard to ensure that information from key government agencies will be accessible through the portal, including the Ministry of Education’s Te Kete Ipurangi, which provides schools and students with a wide range of trusted information and resources,” she says.

N4L are currently working with educators from around the country who are testing Pond’s core features, which include a sophisticated search function and tools that make it easy for teachers to discover, review, and share content and services with their peers. There are more than 100 organisations that have already created profiles within the Pond environment. These include DigitalNZ, educational video service eTV, Google apps specialist Hapara, NZ On Screen, the National Library of New Zealand and New Zealand Geographic.

Testers are using Pond to discover rich educational content that is often difficult to find using regular search engines. Future releases will enable teachers to create ‘learning bundles’ of curated content that can be reviewed, re-used and adapted by other teachers for their own use.

“This means that educators looking for material aren’t endlessly reinventing the wheel,” says N4L CEO John Hanna. “For example, educators that are new to teaching science, or who may be looking for a better way of teaching a specific science topic, can go inside Pond to see what other teachers across the country have used in their classrooms. We are working with educators now to ensure Pond is easy to use, highly relevant and is a rewarding experience for schools.”

One of the first testers of Pond is Taupaki School Principal Stephen Lethbridge, who will be encouraging his teachers to use the portal when it becomes more widely available. “It’s fantastic to have a central place we can go to share information and discover new ways we can use educational content to improve student learning,” he says. “Being part of an online community frequented by our peers allows us to learn from each other and share best practices. Seeing my peers’ comments on a particular video or online education program can really help a teacher considering using the resource in their classroom.”

In addition to those teachers already testing Pond, from the 5th of May a further 500 pioneering educators will be invited to populate, fill and engage in Pond. From July onwards, access to Pond will be expanded to the rest of the education sector. It is currently expected that students will have access to Pond in 2015.