10 Network for Learning
Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy
This is the text of the report presented to the New Zealand Parliament in December 2012
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The Government has established Network for Learning Ltd, a Crown-owned company, to govern the operations of the Network for Learning. We understand that the board is still in the establishment phase, determining its scope, role, and areas of focus, and we hope that our observations can be incorporated in its planning. We also understand that the board of Network for Learning Ltd has appointed a chief executive for this organisation.
A number of submitters raised concerns about the rollout of the Network for Learning. We heard uncertainty from submitters about what exactly the Network for Learning is, and what it is designed to achieve, and we understand this uncertainty extends to a number of principals. We note that from July to September 2012, “Learning Without Limits” seminars were held in 24 locations to disseminate greater understanding.
Some submitters believe the Network for Learning is admirable in principle. We heard that it should build on the experience and diversity of current school networks.
Network for Learning Ltd could be well placed to provide leadership in the use of ICT for learning. This might include promoting a national vision for 21st century learning; provision of the appropriate ICT services; communication with all education-sector stakeholders—boards of trustees, principals, teachers, and education sector agencies; support to sector groups to develop 21st century skills and tools; and reviewing the network’s services and content annually against stakeholders’ needs.
We heard that the Network for Learning should not constrain teachers’ and students’ access to the vast range of resources available on the Internet. We consider that it is essential that all schools have access to high-speed Internet connection.
Submitters suggested the Network for Learning should also enable teachers to share material easily through the Virtual Learning Network, and incentivise sharing by providing tools for developing and sustaining virtual communities of practice.
Submitters suggested that some core technology components should be provided, funded, and managed on a national basis, rather than assigning the funding and decision rights to school boards of trustees. We heard that ensuring these core components are available to all schools would leave boards of trustees, principals, and teachers free to focus on the use of the technology to deliver 21st century learning. The request for proposal for the Network for Learning lists the core services that will be provided as “internet services, managed firewall services, managed content filtering, managed network services enabling school-to-school connections and school-to-content and service-provider connections, management services, helpdesk services, implementation, and transition.” Submitters suggested that these components should all be funded and provided on a national basis, rather than requiring individual schools to make technical and investment decisions that may be outside their expertise.
One submitter was developing a “global log-in identity” so that students could use a single log-in to access content, and move between campuses and teachers without losing access to their e-portfolios. Such a log-in facility is an example of a core ICT service that might be provided nationally on the Network for Learning. We heard that core ICT services to be made available through the Network for Learning could be defined, mandatory for use by all schools, and funded centrally, and that the systems should include, at a minimum, identity and access management, a student management system, a learning management system, e-portfolio, e-asTTle, (an online tool for assessing progress in reading, mathematics and writing) and e-Admin systems such as ENROL, eReturns to the Ministry of Education, and NCEA returns to the New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
We heard that other systems outside the core group could be made available on the Network for Learning for schools to use as they see fit. These systems could also comply with interoperability standards so that schools could use systems and tools seamlessly on the Network for Learning.
We heard that the Network for Learning should be accessible from anywhere, so that students can use virtual programmes from any location—home, marae, church, library, or community centre. We heard that Maori-medium communities in particular should be supported with Maori language menus, content, and resources to allow immersion learners to use the Network for Learning.
We heard from a submitter that the Network for Learning must not only provide raw bandwidth and high-speed Internet connectivity but, equally importantly, the Network for Learning must promote the development of a collaborative community.
35. We recommend that the Government consider whether the Crown-owned company Network for Learning Ltd be required to actively seek New Zealand content and services for delivery to schools.
36. We recommend that the Government consider whether the Network for Learning should be accessible not just from schools’ premises.
37. We recommend that the Government consider how Network for Learning Ltd can provide affordable access to high-speed Internet connections with unlimited data to all schools.
38. We recommend that the Government consider the benefits of implementing and operating a single system for core ICT services in schools, including identity and access management, a student management system, a learning management system, e-portfolio, e-asTTle and e-Admin systems such as ENROL.
39. We recommend that the Government consider whether access to high-speed Internet and core ICT services should be funded nationally.