Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The more things change, the more they stay the same

In my recent post NZ Research & Articles - Online Teaching & Learning, I commented on the similar themes coming up in the research from nearly two decades of learning online. To illustrate this, and just because history really interests me, I want to share this report.

Te Pouaka Whakaako ki te Kāreti o Ngata
Telelearning and Contexts of Awareness at Ngata Memorial College. Report prepared for Te Puni Kōkiri by Ken Stevens (1998).
This case study of telelearning at Ngata Memorial College in Ruatoria, compares students who are telelearning with those who aren't and what their perceptions were of the wider world.
Telelearning (audiographics) provides students with a connection with the world beyond school and extends educational and vocational opportunities for students and adults in remote communities.
In this report Steven's raises the government's commitment to equality of educational opportunity and how developments in ICT have  wide ranging implications for schools, in teaching & learning, and administration policy.
He unpacks in detail the differences between telelearning and distance education in relation to how each was positioned to serve the society of the times. Distance education belongs to an industrial age model; telelearning to the information age. Steven's goes on to describe the changing educational environment where:

  • schools are inter-connected through ICT networks, 
  • technologies are used to provide new and better ways of learning, 
  • ICT skills will provide employment advantage, 
  • there will be an urgent need to provide the mass provision of appropriate technologies to classrooms. 
These are key themes that are still important today, as are individualised model of teaching and learning and the changing role of the teacher, which are also discussed.
This report was written just on the advent of Tomorrow's Schools and describes a highly centralised system of education without which small schools would be challenged to provide a quality education in a increasingly competitive environment. This has been a huge change since this time and in itself has been a key driver to the growth in collaborative online networks in the decade to follow. Steven's mentions the growing reality of the virtual classroom with the development of Cantatech & TOSItech and a developing East Coast network (which could be the precursor to the KAWM Network).

There were a number of recommendations from this report to the Ministry of Education. Some are summarised below:
  • Recognise their pioneering role in telelearning education and support the expansion to other NZ schools;
  • Expanding links to Colleges of Education;
  • Recognise the Māori cultural context and consult with the broader Māori community;
  • Be recognised as a special technology school, 'a valuable educational laboratory' from which other schools could learn;
  • They should no longer be considered a small school but be funded as a virtual school.
It is interesting to see the work that was pioneered by Ngata Memorial College is still very relevant today. Maybe now we are 17 years into the 21st Century we will start to see the change that the Information Age has promised being realised for NZ learners.
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