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The UFB (Ultra Fast Broadband) and RBI (Rural Broadband Initiative) have the potential to revolutionise education. They will result in both increased connectivity speed and capacity.

Speed refers to the lack of connection latency or delay while capacity refers to the amount of concurrent activity. In short, the UFB will allow lots of quick activity all at the same time

Educational opportunities are, at present, limited by physical location.  With the exception of the few learners using video-conferencing as part of the Virtual Learning Network, learners and teachers are always in the same classroom.  If, for example, a particular school does not have a Te Reo Maori teacher then the school has limited ways of ensuring learners have access to quality opportunities for learning in this area. In future, learning need not be limited by where a learner and a teacher happen to be.

The need for UFB in schools was made very clear by the Minister of Education at the 2009 ULearn Conference. [1]

"Our educational future must have young people at the centre of a digital system with access to educational content and research topic information. Students and educators must be connected to communities of learners and to parents and experts beyond the classroom. And to fully succeed, students must have access to timely assessments and feedback.

Teachers must be able to select from a broad range of teaching resources and to participate in professional learning networks. They must have real-time access to information, student progress and diagnostic tools to enable them to individually tailor programmes to meet the needs and levels of all students.

We need seamless interfaces between early childhood education, schools and tertiary sectors so that educators can access information and share ideas to enable our young people to move smoothly through the education system."

UFB will improve educational outcomes by removing physical barriers to educational opportunities and reducing the risks associated with providing ICT's in schools.

UFB can overcome physical barriers to education by:

  • enabling teachers and learners to be in different locations (e.g. by using desktop video-conferencing)
  • making possible the use of high-definition video-conferencing which increases the 'social presence' of virtual meetings
  • allowing teachers in different schools to work together as though they were in the same school
  • connecting learners with 'experts' outside the classroom (e.g. at Te Papa)
  • allowing schools to collaborate in the provision of minority or hard-to-staff subject areas
  • bring educational resources from around the world to learners, teachers and schools
  • fostering a network of schools that actively co-operate to improve education in our region

UFB can reduce the business risks associated with ICT's in schools by:

  • enabling technical support to be more centralised and resilient
  • allowing the dispersed ICT needs of schools to be aggregated (e.g. servers/storage/printing)and hence more economical to provision
  • making the use of hosted cloud-computing services such as virtual-desktops, Learning Management Systems, Student Management Systems, ePortfolios possible for schools

In summary, UFB for schools is about the 4 i's:[2]  Interconnection, Information, Innovation and Interaction.