Online education impresses teachers

Teachers say an 'electronic textbook' developed in New Zealand will revolutionise classroom teaching.

Teachers say an “electronic textbook” developed in New Zealand will revolutionise classroom teaching.

Online tutoring system Coolcoach.net is being trialled in Southland. While teachers say it won’t cost them their jobs, they say the program is the way of the future.

A team of 20 teacher-writers developed the system, headed by Neil and Clayton Riley, directors of curriculum developers Educoaching Ltd.

Coolcoach.net is backed by US-based network specialist David Bock, an internet marketer who helped develop the forerunner of the internet, Arpanet.

Coolcoach focuses on the English curriculum for students aged 8-17, including the syllabus and course details. Other subjects are set to follow. It comes with a browser for safe internet access, a search engine, online dictionary, online reference centre and a virus-protected in-house email system.

Teachers can log on to www.coolcoach.net in class and use the site as an aid to their lessons. It can also monitor student’s progress and programs can be customised for schools. Students can work from it either in the class or at home, see what homework needs doing and even send homework to the teacher. Coolcoach costs $10 per student a month and is also funded by banner advertising. A 15% discount is offered to schools signing up this month.

Schools taking part in the trials include Southland Girls’ High School, Southland Boys’ High School and Waihopai School. They began early this year.

Teacher Denise Randall of Southland Boys’ High says say the program is good, easy to use and works really well.

“It is right on the button for school certificate. Everybody can work at their individual level. It has great potential,” she says.

Her school uses Coolcoach as a back-up for teachers and says as children become more computer-literate, they are able to work alone. But Coolcoach will not replace teachers.

“I don’t think kids have the focus to work alone but it is the way teaching will go. We will become facilitators,” she says.

Randall already plans to use it in more classes next year and adds it will “change the face of education.”

Waihopi School principal David Begg says the system is “quite impressive”, and “definitely the way things are going”.

“The thing that excites me is the children who like fiddling around might get sucked in,” he says.

Neil Riley, a former deputy principal, says Coolcoach.net will give teachers a tool to get on top of literacy and numeracy problems and save them time in planning, marking and photocopying. He says the system will also help New Zealand “close the gaps” within itself and with the world.

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