A project launched by Associate Education Minister David Benson-Pope last month aims to provide trained technicians to support the growing population of computers and their users in schools.
“Technical support can be difficult and expensive to access in remote or rural communities," Benson-Pope said. "The Community Technicians Project is about removing these types of barriers, which might be preventing schools from gaining the maximum benefit from their computer equipment."
Ten technicians have initially been recruited on the recommendation of local schools from Kaikohe in the north to Tuatapere in the south. They will be supported with a scholarship, living expenses and equipment through the Ministry of Education and commercial sponsors IBM, TelstraClear and Renaissance to take an 18-month Diploma in ICT course at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology (CPIT). Support in total is valued at more than $15,000 per technician, project manager Gary Falloon says.
Each technician will be based at a ‘host’ school within a cluster of schools that they are expected to support.
Initial recruitment was done through an advertisement in the Education Gazette, says Falloon. This was considered an appropriate vehicle since the Ministry was looking for recommendation from schools of candidates in their communities.
None of the “pilot” intake of 10 is a teacher, though some have been teacher aides. “We didn’t really want teachers as technicians,” Falloon says. “Teachers have their own job to do”.
After the initial intake has been though their course and spent some time in service, the pilot project will be evaluated to see whether aspects of it can be improved.
The community technicians project is one of a dozen under the heading of Digital Opportunities. Others cover areas as diverse as using image technology to improve the socialisation of disadvantaged students, and technological enhancement of courses in maths and environmental studies.