Swapping tuatara for teachers is a challenge he’s relishing. But after 17 years in the profession himself new Education Minister Chris Carter is under no illusions of the size of the job ahead.
Are you enjoying the new job?
I am! I come to it with a bit of a background in teaching and an on-going involvement. I was a teacher for 17 years and my partner’s a principal of a large primary in West Auckland.
Is it a job you wanted?
I was expecting to get it … I was pleased to get it. It’s a bigger job than I thought it would be but it’s one that I’m finding more and more interesting. I’m enjoying the challenge.
What would you say are your biggest challenges?
At the moment, it’s settling pay claims! Otherwise, it’s to start to look at the importance of infrastructure to schools and effective learning. Although, the first job I did on my second day was to launch the new curriculum – nothing could be more fundamental to teaching than that.
How do you think the new curriculum will impact on teachers’ useof ICT?
I think it absolutely lends itself to the use of ICT because it allows a lot of flexibility in using classroom resources. It’s not a syllabus but rather a framework for guiding teachers and is really well-targeted to new technology being used to deliver education.
How important it is that teachers make effective use of new technology?
Very important. One of the things I’ve already been discussing with officials is that new technology is expensive, so if we’re going to be equipping our schools with extensive ICT infrastructure it has to be being used effectively. It’s not just about the technology but it’s about upskilling as wide a range of teachers as possible to be able to use ICT effectively.
What are you going to do to ensure that teachers are getting the skills, resources and training they need?
There are already resource teachers of technology in schools. We’re trying to promote the idea that school clusters will have specialists that will be able to be mentors and trainers.
Anything specific planned?
No. I’ve asked officials to investigate how we can best use new opportunities – looking in particular at what the Australians and Brits are doing. It’s interesting what you pick up. I heard the other day about a teacher at Meadowbank Primary School who had set up a videoconference between his class and schools in the United States and Britain. We’ve got to capture these sorts of local initiatives so that we can publicise and show to others the opportunities that can be created.
Do you think that’s one of the most important things, showing people what’s being done?
I think just getting that information out is really important. People have got to have technology and know how to use it – but they’ve also got to be able to see what sorts of lessons can be done and what others are doing successfully already.
You mentioned Australia, what do you make of the new Government’s Digital Education Revolution Policy? I’m really interested and have asked for a report from the Ministry. I’m also really excited to see that Mr Rudd’s determined to get all Australian schools on broadband and to really focus on a digital revolution in their schools. That’s the only way they’re going to get on top of 21st century technology and upskill their kids. We’ve got to do the same – we must follow.
Anecdotal evidence suggests schools here spend a lot of money maintaining old computers and networks. Is this something you’re keen to look at?
Yes. It’s one of the key issues that’s emerged from recent research by the Ministry. So, we’re looking at ways that we can actively encourage and support schools to move to a situation where they have much higher quality networks – it’s on our list of things to do!
Where does ICT sit on your list of priorities?
High. I have 27 schools in my electorate and try to visit them all once a year. Two things that I get constant feedback about are special education and ICT. More and more, schools see these areas as incredibly expensive and are concerned that they aren’t delivering as well as they could be.
On a more personal level, do you like to give things a go in the technology space?
When I arrived at Parliament I didn’t even know how to use a computer … although that was 14 years ago! I’m more literate and more aware now but more by self discovery than proper teaching. I suppose it’s my generation.
What do you see for ICT’s future in the classroom?
Fundamentally, the most important resource in the classroom we have is the teacher – but after that it has to be technology. I think that the classroom of tomorrow will be a very ICT-based and we want that to be as effective as possible.
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