The aim of this book is to archive the impact and implementation of the national ICT in education strategy in New Zealand, 1999-2009, from the perspectives of the people who effected that implementation. It is a story of both policy initiative from the ‘top down’ and local innovation ‘from the bottom up’, as seen through the eyes of the politicians, bureaucrats, industry partners, consultants, principals and teachers who lived the experience.
The brief given to the chapter authors was both simple and general: provide a personal account of your involvement in the implementation of the e-learning strategy since 1998, and comment on the main issues that that experience gives rise to as we move into the second decade of so-called ‘21st century learning’ in New Zealand. It was important to us as editors that these stories were told by the authors based on their own personal experiences, in their own voices, and in their own narrative styles. The result is a collection of individual reflections and commentaries, each told in a different but fairly informal style, and with each narrative contributing a particular participant perspective on e-learning in New Zealand in the last decade. By giving them such loose rein in terms of chapter style and structure, we wanted to better evoke a sense of the various authors’ professional experience of implementing the e-learning strategy over the last decade than would be achieved by either a series of formally academic ‘research reports’ on the one hand, or by a collection of unconnected and ill-evidenced ‘opinion pieces’ on the other. We hope we have achieved that balance.
The section structure of the book is derived from the key ideas and types of initiative announced in the various ICT Strategy documents themselves.
In the first section, the overall political context and the political ‘vision’ for ICTs in education that guided the strategy is outlined from the respective perspectives of the Minister of Education who had the longest direct association with the strategy (Trevor Mallard), and the Ministry manager responsible for its initial evolution and development (Carol Moffatt).
Over the period 1998-2006, the key strategy documents announced funded initiatives in three major areas (ICT infrastructure, teacher capability, and ‘online’ content and communities), and these provide the framework for the three central sections of the book. In the infrastructure section, Lawrence Zwimpfer provides a perspective on some of the hardware and networking issues facing New Zealand schools and centres, and outlines the history of government-business partnership that has characterised this aspect of the implementation of the strategy.
In the capability-building section that follows, several perspectives are offered on what has arguably been the ‘main’ focus of the strategies – at least until the last year or so. That is, the professional development of teachers on the use of ICTs for teaching and learning. In this section, there are chapters giving the perspectives of: a Ministry contract manager on the DigiOps projects (Garry Falloon), of national and cluster facilitators working with teachers in professional learning programmes in schools and early childhood settings (Nick Billowes and Ross Alexander, Trevor Bond, Ann Hatherly), of primary and secondary school principals in ICT PD clusters (Lesley Tait, Linda Tame, and Jasmine Kaa and Nori Parata), and, of course, a teacher perspective (Allanah King).
The next section of the book deals with the strategy initiatives related to developing ‘online’ resources and the increasingly important area of the management of ‘online’ modes of schooling, teaching and learning in New Zealand. In this section, chapters provide perspectives on the evolution of Te Kete Ipurangi as New Zealand’s focal online resource (Ross Alexander), on the growing significance of online communities (Phil Coogan) and online learning management systems (Mark Treadwell) in education, as well as on cross-school networking for blended/online lesson provision (Rachel Roberts).
The teacher and classroom perspective is predominant, too, in the next section, which draws on some of the practitioner research done around student outcomes as part of the various strategy initiatives. Dr. Kwok Wing-Lai provides a critical overview of the current state of New Zealand research on the use of ICTs for teaching and learning in New Zealand classrooms, while the remaining chapters outline some of the specific research and action research projects investigating the role of e-learning activities in the specific contexts of literacy development (Sue McDowall), enquiry learning (Jan-Marie Kellow), learning languages (Gayleen Mackereth), and documenting learning in the early years (Tania Coutts and Beverly Kaye).
Often publications synthesising educational policy initiatives and their downstream implications for education take a single perspective – that of the policy makers themselves, or the principals and managers in schools and centres, or the teachers, and so on. In this book, we have attempted to ‘trace’ the national experience of developing and implementing policy by balancing all of these perspectives against each other, such that the story told is not just that of the development of an educational policy but also that of the educational practices that have accompanied, and at times even driven, it. We hope we have achieved that balance too.