Improving ICT infrastructure in schools is a high priority for new Minister Anne Tolley. Here she speaks to INTERFACE about standards and investment, as well as her plans for existing projects.
In terms of promoting and developing the use of ICT in schools, what will you be doing differently from the last Government?
This Government is determined to ensure that ICT infrastructure is ready for high-speed broadband. We’re putting up some real money. As part of our election campaign last year, Prime Minister John Key announced our intention to develop ultra-fast broadband fibre to the home and commitment to investing $1.5 billion to roll out ultra-fast broadband. Over the next three years, we’ll spend at least $150 million of this towards upgrading broadband in schools – we aim to bring all schools up to standard. Of this, $34 million will be available from the start of the next financial year, 1 July.
What specific plans do you have?We’re working through the details now.
What are your thoughts on the future of existing projects like TELA and the ICT PD Clusters?We’re having a look at what’s happening but we’re not planning on making any major changes. TELA is still happening. We certainly plan to continue with ICT PD Clusters.
What are the biggest challenges facing the Ministry to successfully implement ICT solutions in schools?What we’ve seen in the sector is varying degrees of standards of facilities. Some schools have networks in place, good quality hardware, lots of PD, and are getting on with the job. We have some where it’s average and struggling; other schools have little or no ICT resources. The biggest challenge is this variability in the quality of infrastructure. We’ve seen a lot of investment in PD but not investment in infrastructure.
How important do you think it is for teachers to use technology in their teaching?Absolutely essential. We’re well beyond the point of seeing the value of ICT. I see teachers and students with very high expectations of what technology can and is doing in schools. Kids especially come in with a positive approach to technology and expect schools to be up with that.
You recently met with the 10 E-fellows for 2009. What did you think?It was really interesting to listen to them and hear about their projects. I’m amazed at the whole range of the research. It’s really exciting. The focus on literacy is also music to my ears.
What’s your association with education? What skills and experiences do you bring to your role as Minister?I’ve had a big involvement with education but always on the sidelines, as a parent or in a governance role. Although, a long time ago I was a temp PE teacher at Hastings Girls High.
What was your reaction to being given the Education portfolio?Really thrilled. It’s a fabulous post because I believe it’s one that can make such a positive contribution.
How would you describe your own use of technology?Haphazard. I did once train as a computer programmer on Cobol and Fortran. I’m not afraid of new technology. It’s a tool. However, I don’t use it as much as I could … or should.
Does ICT have a particular role to play in Maori education?Te reo teachers are in such short supply that videoconferencing is already used a great deal. I think there is scope for technology to play a large part. Maori education is a real target, young Maori boys in particular figure highly for us. We have got to target them and use technology to encourage them.
What about using technology in Early Learning?It’s not too soon. There are a number of ECE centres that do have technology available, but it’s not a priority for us. Our focus for ICT is on the compulsory sector, primary and secondary.
When you look back at the end of your first 12 months in the job, what do you hope to have achieved?I really want to get the network upgrade underway.
Minister of Education Anne Tolley was talking to INTERFACE Editor Greg Adams.
Anzac Taiapa Posted: 18/03/2009 8:28 AM
Andre Kneepkens Posted: 17/03/2009 11:46 AM
All this sounds great but what I’m not hearing is where the extra funding for technical support in schools is coming from. Saying it’s already in a schools operating budget isn’t good enough. It needs to be targetted and set. Without technical support all the latest technology including ultra fast broadband will mean nothing. Unless we can hook our equipment up to networks within our schools it will never be more than a white elephant. It’s a little like giving me a jumbo jet. Unless I know how to pilot it, or you supply me with a pilot it will sit on my front lawn going nowhere. Schools are bleeding money for technical support. Surely it must be possible to work out a per machine cost to keep networks running. Ballpark figures I’ve calculated suggest around $250 per machine per annum. Everyone needs to lobby the ministry to address this issue. The days of a few enthusiastic IT literate teachers maintaining complex networks are well behind us. Interested to hear what others think.
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Categories: Issue 14