Levelling the playing field for kiwi kids

Mathletics, Reading Eggs, Spellodrome, Class Dojo… if any combination of these is a frequent sight on your browser history, chances are you have a child at school somewhere in New Zealand.

Technology has opened up a world of opportunity for educators and readily available internet access is key in making sure all New Zealand’s school kids can learn and keep up in the changing digital world. Providing this access to those who, for reasons of affordability or remoteness, wouldn’t otherwise have it is a task being tackled by a number of local initiatives.

One of those is Network for Learning (N4L), a government programme that provides free, uncapped, fast, and reliable internet connections for schools, run over the country’s ultra-fast broadband infrastructure – that’s the same infrastructure we use to deliver fibre broadband to homes and businesses across New Zealand.

The first school was connected to N4L in 2013. Just nine months later, the project was 88 days ahead of target, with 700 schools connected. As of March this year, over 96 percent of the country’s state and state-integrated schools were hooked up to the network. That’s nearly 800,000 students and teachers, from over 2,400 schools, who are now using N4L to enrich learning – and it looks like they’re making the most of it.

N4L says that in November 2016, schools across the country chewed through more than 1.4 petabytes of data. That’s more than 1 million gigabytes which is a whole lot of Mathletics, Google Classroom, Skyping, and video learning.

While your child has access to reliable, unlimited broadband at school, providing the same digital learning opportunities at home could be beneficial. Making sure you have the best available broadband connection at home means easier access to get through homework and could also finally give you an answer to ‘what did you do today?’ as your children will be able to simply login and show you. Visit www.askforbetter.co.nz to see what connection is available at your place.

Waikoikoi School is a 23 student, two classroom rural primary school 20 minutes from Gore and 10 minutes from Tapanui.

Back in 2014, principal Lynne Hall could barely download her emails on the school’s slow, unreliable internet connection. These days, the students have iPads and Chromebooks, and regularly use learning apps like Google’s G Suite for Education.

Back in Waikoikoi, Lynne Hall says the only time they have trouble with their internet connection is when the power goes out.

“With N4L, we are now able to offer the students lots more opportunities for their learning that we couldn’t offer before. For example, popular online learning programmes like Reading Eggs.

“Last year, most of our seniors went to Wellington for a school camp, but a few couldn’t go. As part of the trip we went to Capital E [a not-for-profit focusing on young people and creativity] and the students made their own television programme. We were able to Skype back to the students left at school, so they could be involved. It felt like we were all in the same room. We never could have done that if we didn’t have N4L’s high-speed managed network service.”

For a more in-depth look at Network for Learning, check out this article over on The Download.

 

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