Schools get $200 million to boost kids' ICT knowledge

The project will also provide remote schools with satellite broadband

Another $200 million is to be ploughed into the nation’s schools, over four years, in a bid to modernise education using ICT.

Riding on the back of the Probe initiative, which “brings broadband to every school gate”, the new “e-learning action plan” will expand video-conferencing, digital communications and software use, to support e-learning. The aim is to ensure young people have confidence in using ICT tools, says Education Minister Steve Maharey.

The project will also provide remote schools with satellite broadband at a subsidised rate — including schools in the Chatham Islands and on Pitt Island — at a cost of $700,000 over two years.

Laptops for all teachers account for the biggest item in this year’s “action plan” budget — at a cost of $17.58 million. And $4.1m will be spent over three years on the Learning Federation, a joint Australian-New Zealand initiative aimed at providing interactive digital content for schools.

The programme was announced last week, at Wellington’s Brooklyn School. It allowed the ministry to demonstrate the country's first “tablet classroom”.

From now on, all 120 Year 5 and 6 students at the school will use Hewlett-Packard tablet computers and styluses, in place of exercise books, for 80% of their work. Next year, the trial will be extended to all students and, potentially, later to other schools. This could prove to be a major source of revenue for HP —one of the few vendors still selling tablet PCs.

The tablets provide portable access to a range of software, such as word processing, character recognition, spreadsheets and databases.

An early trial involved a class measuring the speed of vehicles going past the school gate and performing statistical analyses, such as assessing whether women with passengers drove more slowly than men with passengers.

The children say the tablets provide for a quicker method of recording data in real-time, but say they would prefer a simple spreadsheet rather than the specially set up, but perhaps inadequately explained, database entry form provided.

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