Students from a Hutt Valley school are the latest to benefit from pilots the Ministry of Education is involved in to provide free, filtered internet access in homes.
More than 120 children from Rata Street School, in years five and six, are to be connected to the school’s learning network – part of the Government-funded Managed Network - in their own homes from later this year.
They have been provided with their own digital devices, a Chromebook, which they soon will be able to work on at home as well as at school.
Rata Street School student Isoa Revell embraces digital learning in the classroom, with his Chromebook.
The pilot is one of three initiatives around the country that the ministry is involved with, in partnership with other agencies such as Network for Learning (N4L), community organisations such as the Hutt’s Taka Trust, local government, and telecommunications companies such as Chorus.
It is estimated there are around 35,000 households with up to 100,000 school-aged children without access to a suitable internet connection.
Rata Street School Principal Dave Appleyard says "digital literacy is now a critical part of teaching and learning at school".
He estimates half of the Naenae school’s students do not have access to the internet at home, and this initiative will enable them to share their learning with their families.
"It’s about giving them this choice to learn at home if they want to, because before this they didn’t have the option."
A similar pilot has already been started in Christchurch for Haeata Community Campus students to log into the Managed Network from home and access the same safe, uncapped internet experience they get at school.
Meanwhile, the Ministry is supporting existing initiatives such as the provision of community internet in the Bay of Plenty by Te Awa Toitu Trust. This solution involved installing receiver towers, and connecting school students and the entire surrounding community to the internet in remote Murupara.
Ministry of Education Deputy Secretary of Early Learning and Student Achievement, Ellen MacGregor-Reid, says these initiatives are part of an Equitable Digital Access Programme, which is helping identify ways to address the connectivity challenge for students who don’t have internet access at home.
She says the programme is complemented by the New Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko curriculum content that will be rolled out in schools by 2020. A $38 million implementation package includes professional support for teachers to learn how to integrate digital technologies content throughout the curriculum.
"This is not just about teaching students how to use devices like computers, tablets and smartphones. It’s about teaching them how digital technologies work so they can develop their own digital solutions.
"All these initiatives are designed to help students gain the skills and experience at school, and at home, that will better equip them for the digital world."
Education Minister Chris Hipkins, fourth from left at the rear, launches the Rata Street School pilot recently. He is joined by students with their new Chromebooks, and from left at rear: Chorus CEO Kate McKenzie, Hutt City Mayor Ray Wallace, Taka Trust Board Member Ken Laban, N4L Board Director Karen Poutasi, N4L CEO Larrie Moore, N4L’s Will Graham, Taka Trust’s Joni Araiti, and chairperson Matt Reid, and School Board of Trustees chairperson Nic Drew-Crawshaw.