Wider education challenge all about communication

A videoconferencing project has allowed young New Zealanders to "meet" people as diverse as visiting forensic experts who worked on the OJ Simpson case, multiple Oscar award-winner Richard Taylor and climate change scientists from overseas.

A videoconferencing project has allowed young New Zealanders to “meet” people as diverse as visiting forensic experts who worked on the OJ Simpson case, multiple Oscar award-winner Richard Taylor and climate change scientists from overseas.

Wellington-based CWA New Media developed a programme called Digital Conversations to bring the world into the classroom and the community. The concept is one of the finalists in the Excellence in the Use of Information Technology in Education: Tertiary, Community and Commercial category for the Computerworld Excellence Awards.

The company says it is a simple idea, blending a mix of teaching expertise and live television production experience.

“Digital Conversations has enormous potential to connect dots and provide the means for people to meeting people to discuss ideas and share knowledge.”

The growing video conference network is now available in 100 schools. CWA’s e-teachers prepare online materials about the guest and associated readings. The company provides the video conferencing equipment and studio from which the guests participate.

Video footage is paper-edited before being put on a non-linear video editing system and finally converted and prepared for the web in Cleaner. The clips are prepared in Quicktime format as downloadable files and placed on the Digital Conversations website. The company aims to run multiple conversations every week.

Using recycled computers meant the Computers In Homes project, another finalist in the education category, could introduce more families to the world of computing and connect them to the internet, for a fraction of the cost of new ICT equipment.

The scheme not only provides opportunities for low-income families to access IT, it is accompanied by training and support to help both parents and children -– raising educational outcomes for both.

Parents enter an agreement with their children’s school to receive a recycled PC, six months’ free internet access, free training and support. Neighbours and extended families have also benefited form the passing on of skills.

Obtaining funding was the main difficulty but it was addressed by fundraising by the 2020 Communications Trust and the use of in-kind support from tertiary educational institutions, local community and businesses.

Projects are now being planned for Gisborne, Taranaki, Hokitika and Invercargill.

A third finalist is the Taranaki Information Network project, which provides each library, school and visitor information centre in the Taranaki Electricity Trust area with hardware and internet access and dedicated broadband access to the Puke Ariki website and selected and approved sites.

The aim of the project was to tell the stories of people of Taranaki, allow free access to Puke Ariki’s resources from one easy to use site, connect Taranaki to the world, support the region’s students and teachers with Taranaki-focused education resources and provide online access and contacts o the teachers’ centre at Puke Ariki.

The last finalist is the Auckland Regional Council for the Urban Settlements Resource, an internet-based education facility designed primarily for use by schools but intended for use by the regional community. It is a combination of data and activities assembled with a view to improving the understanding of the character, dynamics and issues of Auckland’s urban area in particular.

It was designed to be directly applicable to the year 12 Geography topic “Urban Settlements”, but has been structured to be sued at any secondary school level and has application for developing an understanding of Auckland’s urban history and issues for the general community.

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