Inquiry into digitally aided education

National MP Nikki Kaye says Select Committee inquiry will help to set technology-aided education in the right direction

National MP Nikki Kaye says an inquiry she has persuaded Parliament’s Education and Science Select Committee to undertake into “21st century learning environments and digital literacy” will be helpful in setting the ground for policies to point technology-aided education in the right direction.

This will help New Zealand properly exploit the benefits expected from the Ultra Fast Broadband and Rural Broadband Initiatives and the $1 billion Network for Learning project, which the Ministry of Education is laying on top of the basic links.

Kaye is proud of the fact that as chair of a select committee where the government only provides five of 10 members, she was able to get Labour and Green MPs to agree to launch the inquiry.

It is rare, she says, for a Parliamentary inquiry to be undertaken with such support from across the political spectrum.

Kaye initially called for the inquiry as an individual MP, for Auckland Central, but early in April was able to confirm in her role as committee chairperson that the inquiry would go ahead.

She says there has been an encouraging response so far – though she is wary of giving too much detail of submissions or of her personal view on the question, for fear of being accused of biasing the exercise.

She is keen to see not only educationalists and technologists but the students that will be the target of the training putting in submissions to the inquiry.

Widespread use of digital technology has changed the shape of education, Kaye says, and responsibilities of teachers and students in the new environment could benefit from re-examination.

The terms of reference for the inquiry are to “investigate possible options for the best facilities that support teaching and learning in 21st century schools.

“In particular, investigate more flexible teaching spaces, and investigate possible changes to the timing of when learning can occur, given the spread of handheld devices.

It will consider how the rollout of UFB will affect teaching techniques and processes, and whether additional resources or training.

In addition it will investigate the impact of increased digital literacy on learning.

On the last point, Kaye concedes that there are many definitions of what digital literacy means; it is the committee’s role to come up with a clear definition, she says.

Aspects that will be tackled are likely to include “peer-to-peer learning” facilitated by digital social networking and the results of more general research into how 21st-century children learn.

Cyberbullying and the scope of restrictions on suitable content for schools are also likely to be examined. Deadline for submissions is Friday May 11.

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