All four entries, says this category’s convening judge Barbara Craig, were at the cutting edge of innovation, but Learnz 99 was the winner as its “virtual field trips” offer the best of teaching practice.
Learnz uses “a remote voice” to bring the taste of the outdoors into the classroom. Birdcalls and pictures are taped for stage-managed audio-conferences.
The students and teachers submit questions to the Department of Conservation, whose staff then answer the prepared question.
Teachers agree with Heurisko’s Peter Sommerville that the remote voice heightens interest and inquiry for the children.
The computer and communications technology also gives authentic learning experiences to children about places and activities they are unable to experience directly.
Craig says Learnz trains teachers about ICT and scores very highly on impact and scale of adoption. This year 130 schools are formally registered with their online activities and the Learnz Web site receives close to 90,000 hits every month, many of which are from offshore.
Learnz has a long-term plan and is thinking ahead to future developments.
“We also commend Learnz for its conservation theme and the exciting way in which its activities promote an awareness of our environment in our school children,” Craig says.
“Finally we commend Learnz for its involvement of local communities in developing resources. The current Tongariro activity has required close consultation with local iwi and strengthened the focus in the learning experiences on the Maori view of heritage resources.”
Craig says the other three entries were also good in making classes more exciting; they linked technology and education; they were well supported by their developers; and they were making an impact on the national (and sometimes international) education scene.
The other finalists were:
- Kaitao Middle School in Rotorua, which is using extra government funds and community support to train 500 teachers from 24 nearby schools. As well, it’s giving its own students a broad range of IT skills to help save them from the dole queue. All classrooms have Internet, scanners and digital cameras, plus there is a TV and radio station at the school. Staff also enjoy “paperless” administration.
- Auckland Regional Council is using Geographical Information Systems to educate 50 schools in the region on a variety of land management and environment issues, achieving backing from Eagle Technology.
- Masterton-based 3D Achieve has a software program that streamlines administration, records and planning and is credited with “giving teachers a life again”.