Schools plug into online community

New Zealand schools will be the first in the Asia-Pacific region to join Oracle's free online education community Think.com.

New Zealand schools will be the first in the Asia-Pacific region to join Oracle’s free online education community Think.com.

The government’s web-based teacher community TKI (Te Kete Ipurangi), run by The Learning Centre Trust, will train local teachers on how to use Think.com, help roll it out to schools and provide links to TKI content.

Think.com vice president Nicole Melander, who was in New Zealand yesterday for the launch, says Think.com isn’t about content but about tools that facilitate content. “So we will look at the [TKI] unit on, say, numeracy and think about how to bring communication and collaboration to that lesson. Think.com will supplement what they’ve already done.”

About 600 principals have been identified to start the rollout followed by a pilot involving 300 students.

“The reality is, there’s a fairly long learning curve with using [information and communication technology] in the classroom. It’s about an 18- to 24-month adoption cycle.”

Think.com is used by 85,000 students in the UK and US and is being rolled out in New Zealand and Chile with emphasis on online communication, debate and interviews. For example, students from 10 schools in London and 10 schools in Los Angeles are working together to write a play based in Los Angeles, says Melander.

Think.com had its genesis in talks between Oracle head Larry Ellison and UK prime minister Tony Blair when Blair approached Oracle about providing every UK student aged between seven and 11 with an email account.

Melander says Ellison challenged Blair, saying it’s not just about an email account. Blair responded that if Oracle can do more and still do it for free, we’re interested.

Following the UK, Think.com was launched in the US last June. Melander says Oracle wanted to launch Think.com within each region of its business units. It chose Chile for Latin America and considered Hong Kong and Singapore for Asia-Pacific.

“But we wanted a smaller country as well as one where there is a commitment from the government to move to a more knowledge-based economy and to introduce technology at an early age.”

This week Oracle started technical trials to assess internet access between New Zealand and the US, where the Think.com website is based.

“We’ve tried to focus on more of a text-based environment because we didn’t just want it to go to schools with a T1 line going in or with lots of multimedia capability.”

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