Prerequisite - A prerequisite for reading this Chapter is ISO 9000. The page is only a keypoint overview and does not describe the structural elements of quality assurance in an organisation, nor the personell organisation, job descriptions, and responsibilities required to integrate quality into an organisation. For more information on these refer to :
Your appreciation of much of this chapter relies on your understanding of Quality Systems.
Policy is a statement of general criteria which are used as a guide to decision making. When a decision is being made its possible outcomes are checked against the statement of policies. The decision outcome that best conforms with the policy statement is in theory the one that should be chosen.
Policies are generally expressed in a general and loose language which reflects a community or nation's value system. When we apply a policy statement we make some assumptuions:
That the policy actually does reflect the communities aspirations, and not just the wishes of those who wrote the policy statement.
That the relatative weighting of the statements in the policy are well understood and relate closely to reality.
That the policy statements remain relevant in the current environment.
A policy is usually written in response to a perceived need by the community. For example the MoE reiterates the policy of reducing the disparity between acheivers and non-achievers in the school system. And a second policy of raising the level of achievement overall. These are both laudable aims.
But it is not good enough to just have Policy statements. If we make strategic decisions based on policies we should track the effects of the strategies and determine if they are in fact supporting the strategy or not. This means that we must define an empirical base for each policy statement that we can measure against and observe change. When we say raising the level of educational achievement overall what do we mean. We could mean any number of things:
More students matriculating to university.
Students leaving school with higher grades in each of the curriculum areas.
Less studetns leaving school illiterate.
But even here we have a problem with the relevence of the measure to what we think ought to be happening. Students may be leaving school with higher grades, but may not be trained to do the jobs that employers have available.
As well as an empirical background, Policy must have an environment. Policy is not created in a social vacuum. It is created in response to social environment. Therefore the social climate and factors which sponsor a Policy Statment must also be stated and reviewed.
In the case of the MoE it is the Government expectations of the MoE to supply the labour market with people qualified to meet its demands, and to maintain the Governments own Policy of maintaining a one-class society. These requirements can be seen reflected in the MoE Policy items mentioned. But there are other expectations.
The Government has a social contract with parents to mind their children for 6 hours, 5 days a week, and take responsibility for their immediate care in that time. This contract is part of what parents pay their tax for. The community at large also has expectations that the childcare contract is upheld. The childcare contract is an assumption that is often not openly discussed, despite the fact that it is legislated for quite carefully. School days and hours are strictly regulated and children are required to attend school. The requirements for exemption from school to do homeschooling have strict compliance requirements, almost prohibitive.
While parents want to know their children are somewhere safe and properly occupied, the community wants to know that children are at school and not roaming the streets committing crime for which they are not held to account for in NZ. The Government has been dropping the ball in this regard and has not been enforcing truancy laws. Indeed the Government did not even monitor this aspect until recently, when the situation became so bad - with a number of high profile murders committed by teenagers - that the Government was forced to start to perform its side of the contract.
The Policy statement should be able to be analysed and argued to be conformant with the environmental factors within which it is framed. There is no point having Policy if it is not in conformance with observable factors. The days of absolutism died with King Canute. In an environment in which very roughly 50% of teachers and principals are not able to adopt the skills of using computers, and learning to use them in a teaching situation, a divide must open up in schools between those that can support a teaching staff with those skills, and those that cannot. The more that computers are used in schools, the more sophisticated this useage will become in successful ICT schools. Schools that cannot meet this challenge will stagnate, while the adapting schools will stride ahead. The goal to close the disparity between schools requires radical measures if it is not to be regarded as hypocracy. Parents are not unaware of this development.
Ideally, problems of this kind should be addressed before the Policy statements are approved and Policy should conform to the observable environment in a manner which makes it clear that the policy is feasible.
Any Policy statement, whether it is at Ministerial level, Departmental level, school board level or whatever level, should have these components:
Policy Statements - in a clear language, with nearly all words in each statement explained as to their intended meaning or application.
For each statement - an empirical measure for the goal which addresses the goal accurately, especially with respect to the meaning or intention of the words in the policy statement. This measure should be able to be evaluated on an almost continual basis, at least annually for natioanl policy and up to monthly for school policy goals as appropriate.
All the environmental social factors which determine the presence of the policy statements. Each factor should be evaluated as to its relative importance. How important is it to ensure the safety of children at school, compared to providing them with a opportunity for higher achievement. How important is it to keep children with a criminal bent off the streets, compared to maintaining safety for other children if these problem children attend school.
A discussion of the feasibility of the Policy goals given the environmental factors should also be expounded.
Up till now ITC in education has been concerned with the integration of computers into the classroom. We can now see that this is no longer a useful perspective to take. We must now look at a future in which the computer replaces the blackboard, the book, the paper, the pen and the library. Teachers may well be replced by parents as guides to learning with the assistance of teachers in the changed role of tutor, both to parents and students, similar to the Susuki method used in music. The classroom will shift from the school to the home.
Social and economic forces will dictate this move. Private companies will see the chance to develop the new field of education and provide the resources and services. Education will downsize and the cost of education per student will drop. Governments will recognise the economic benefits of reducing even slightly one of their largest budget items. A drop of 1% of DNP is one of the biggest savings that any government can hope to make at present with high pressure in other sectors such as health.
This change requires a radical rethink of the Poicy Infrastructure, not just of ICT in schools, but of the whole education system. But because computers will be integral to this change, it becomes one and the same problem.
The previous chapter on the Future and the future of education revealed that the path forward in the next 10 years is a dangerous one. Huge changes will take place and if these are not managed properly major crisis points will occur:
Parents are unhappy with the peer group dynamics in schools, and the prevalence of drug use which they know impairs their childrens ability to learn. They will move to homeschooling en masse as soon as they see it as a feasible objective. This simply requires a multinational company like Microsoft to come up with the product and service system.
Teachers are stuck in a time warp. They are an aging population unwilling to embrace ICT in the classroom. They are currently in demand and see themselves as a critical resource with bargaining power and with secure job tenure in schools. They do not see the future change to education partly because it is being hidden from them.
Governments have been informed by their Treasury officials of the coming change in education. Governments look forward to reducing the education budget, closing schools and capitalising them and releasing land for development in cities, (though it will be manily small rural schools that close). Here in New Zealand the government is placing a squeeze on teachers salaries, to the extent of precipitating rolling strikes which effect students access to education and parents sense of security about the future of the education process as it stands. Indeed the NZ government appears to be undermining the stability of its own education system.
The ad hoc implementation of ITC in schools has meant that each school has developed its own solutions and that a teacher shifting from one school to another must relearn the ICT infrastructure at the new school. There are no uniform solutions that allow for easy relocation of teachers with ICT skills. This means that teachers with ICT skills will become critical to maintaining ICT in schools in pocket locations, with the potential for total gaps to appear. This is akin to the problems that rural communities have in retaining doctors which may contribute to the death of the community or to rural hospitals retaining anaethetists which contributes to the closure of the hospital. Since ICT is not a critical factor in the activity of most schools yet, this is not seen as a current danger, buit as a potential danger if the school does rely on ICT too much. This fear inhibits the integration of ICT into the school and makes it apper backward to parents.
The above are a few of the factors which could contribute to the sudden large scale closure of schools and the denial of access to education for children.
The large scale move to homeschooling is not a certainty, nor is its timing known nor the possible speed of change. But its possibility as a major force in the practice of education needs to be openly acknowledged and planned for now in order to avoid crisis in the next few years. Indications are that governments are already taking positions which back a move towards homeschooling. It is good for the budget, it represents a shift to community and family values, it provides an opportunity to close schools which represent negative social forces of crime and drug abuse.
The key to managing systems in change, and the development of new systems that perform well is quality assurance. Quality assurance has been developed over many years with particular application in mission critical areas such as airlines, and the manufacture of dangerous goods. From this experience has developed a collection of quality management principles which are described in ISO 9000 the international standard of quality assurance. This standard is required to be adopted by any company in the export market as it is an internationally recognised indicator of a company which embraces the concept of quality service and products. The ISO documents are required reading in order to understand the rest of this chapter.
The education industry, and the MoE in particular should adopt ISO 9000 practice as a means to assure taxpayers and the parents of fee-paying students that a quality service is being delivered, rather than "whatever we can manage within the budget". The first principle of quality is to focus on the customer, not on the budget.
Within New Zealand there are two main education entities:
The Ministry of Edication (MoE) which reports to the Minister, and has a quality assessment body, the Education review Office (ERO). The customers of the MoE are schools.
Schools. These do not have any self review processes but rely on the ERO as an external audit of performance. This is not a good quality assusrance model. They do have a Board of Trustees constituted of parents, Head Master and perhaps some teachers, which has limited control over some aspects of school policy. While the school children may be the clients of the service, the customers are their parents.
Prior to 1990 New Zealand had a system of an authoritarian MoE dictating a syllabus which was applied fairly uniformily across all schools. Schools had a Board of Trustees (BoT) which had a limited power to make some policy decisions. Parents could be represented on the BoTs. However schools had limited ability to respond to parents (customer) concerns because of the dictates of the MoE, and the MoE did not consider parents to be its customers. The MoE considered itself to be the servant of the Minister. Thus the MoE policy was directed by whichever educationalists the Minister chose to direct policy. This meant that parents felt ineffective in helping shape their childrens education needs and withdrew from school boards. The BoTs became governed by education professionals grappling with an apathetic parent body. This is a natural consequence of adopting such a system.
Around 1990 New Zealand brought in the "Tomorrow's Schools" program which required substantial parent involvment in BoTs. At the same time a new, more flexible curriculum was introduced. This program shifted school policy desicions from the elistist and staff level to parental level by requiring parental involvment at board level. In some schools parents grasped this opportunity, in others they rejected it. With the parents as "customer", it is not necessary for parents to be involved in school policy decisions, and indeed this may be counterproductive. Its a bit like letting the customer of any service barge into the company board room and require that things be done "their" way. What is necessary is for the School to be actively responsive to parents (customers) concerns about the quality of the service that the school delivers. With the new curriculum there was some flexibility over curriculum issues and the Boards were given more power and responisibility with regards to governance. However most control was still held by the MoE and by legal constraints. For instance the policy regarding expulsion from school is governed by law, and allows the BoTs no latitude for interpretation. Pupils can only be expelled if their behoviour poses a "danger" to other students and even then they have to be found another school. Drug taking is so prevalent in society today that taking drugs at school can hardly be described as a danger to other students. So schools are hampered in their abiltity to maintain a "learning" environment for their students. The law only supports them in providing a "safe" environment.
The "Tomorrow's Schools" program, while a move in the right direction, falls far short of what is needed to maintain a viable quality education system.
The education system needs to be rethought in terms of quality assurance at the level of MoE and at the school level. The next two sections cover these two entities.
The principles of quality assurance are not at odds with democratic systems of government, indeed they support it. In a model in which the taxpayer is the customer and the government the service provider, quality assurance works to provide better service more efficiently. In this model quality assurance can be seen as a fundamental democratic tool. However the model is subverted when political parties step between the government and the taxpayer. While political parties rely on responding to public concerns for their mandate, this is only applied at election time on key issues of the moment. This is not a process for sustained fine-tuning and continual improvement of government. The focus of Minister as the perceived customer of a government department is also not in line with the quality assurance model.
The Minsiter should instead be seen as the director of the organisation, implementing policies which deliver quality service. The minister would ensure that the ministry develop a close and responsive relationship with the customer, in this case parents. The division of the education system into ministry as overseer, and schools as service provider is also a model that is out of synch with the quality assurance model. Quality assurance needs to be implemented at every point in the service network as an integral self-defining and self-evaluating aspect. The MoE has an important role to play in managing resources at a general level, and as such is a service provider to the schools. This aspect of the MoE's work appears to be well understood. But the role of the Education Review Office (ERO) is not understood at all and consequently becomes a political football.
The current situation in New Zealand is that despite there being a number of policy documents, there does not appear to be a coherent policy plan thought through so that schools have some policy guidelines to follow. At present schools make up their own minds about what they feel is the place of ICT in their curriculum. While this may be appropriate, and schools should do just that, they should also be well informed about general trends before they make policy decisions. It is this general policy information that seems to be missing. In addition there is no critical appraisal of what the educational benefits are of different policy approaches. The first part of this chapter is a general preamble about general policy issues regarding the place of ICT in schools. It asks "What should we teach and When?" and offers some answers. The answers are not fixed and are going to change with each passing year, but the answers attempt to outline trends and directions in which we can expect to have to move.
The next section "Policy Infrastructure" describes the organisational structure required to house policy decisions and monitor them to see that they are achieving policy goals. This is a particularly wordy and boring section of interest mainly to people aquainted with quality control systems and procedures. But if you get the feeling that you are bashing your head against too many brick walls, this may be the section to read in order to diagnose your problem and formulate corrective action.
The third section is a review of Government Policy regarding ICT in schools. Quite a number of policy documents and ancillary documents are critically reviewed.
The final section is about the policy issues of interest to School Boards. Some documents on Professional Development are reviewed.
There are a number of policy decisions which can be made in order to help a school decide what it should teach.
Is basic computer literacy an issue which effects a students social enfranchisement. This is an issue comparable to reading or writing.
The answer to this question depends on the kind of society that a school is based in and the community's social values. It should not be determined by resource issues, such as availability of computers or teachers.
Another factor which determines this issue is population mobility. If students are going to other schools with different policies will students be disadvantaged by leaving the school without computer literacy. Will this hinder the rest of their education elsewhere?
A third factor is whether computer literate students will have an advantage over other students and effectively create a social gap of haves and have-nots at an early age?
In an under-developed area where no foreseeable access to computer technology can be envisioned, it should be considered just how quickly technology is making the web available in the remotest parts of the world. With the use of cell phones and satellite dishes and a generator the web will be available almost anywhere in the world. This technology is still perhaps 5 years away for the most destitute areas of the world that lack any infrastructure, but virtually anywhere that now gets TV reception can have a web connection.
It is reasonably clear from these points that a school would choose to ignore computer literacy as an issue only if it was dedicated to maintaining a computerless subculture. Basically if you are reading this on a computer then your school should have well-defined goals and policies regarding computer literacy.
Should basic computer literacy be a core or an optional activity.
A number of factors will effect the core level decision.
The major issue will be whether teaching in various subjects is dependant on computer literacy. It is quite foreseeable that in the very near future computer literacy in senior classes will be a requirement in order to do the course. This is because much course material will be web-based. This means that a core policy may be considered necessary from year 11 and above.
A school may wish to adopt a core policy at the point where it is prepared to commit to teaching students to the point where they can leave school equipped for careers paths requiring computer literacy. This might typically require a core policy from year 9 at the latest in order for students to develop skills to the level where they are confident in their use. This is a consideration even for reasonably basic jobs such as receptionst.
Again the issue of the gap created by a computer literate class within the school should be considered. This gap is now occurring at the earliest school years and there is already an obvious gap between computer literate children of 10 years old and their not-so computer literate teachers. There are issues of morale, respect and social class to consider here. This issue may be a major driving force to lower the target for core computer literacy to Year 7 at least.
There is the issue of availaility of suitably trained teachers. This is perhaps the major impediment to lowering the age at which the core level can be introduced.
The factors effecting the optional level decision are a little different. Here we assume that some students express an interest in pursuing computer oriented studies for a career path at a stage early enough to leave school with the necessary basic skills for the job.
The school needs to decide which career oriented courses it will provide. A typical example is a secretarial job for which the basics of computer use incuding net services such as the web, email, newsgroups should be known, as well as the use of several basic packages such as Word Processing, Appointment Schedulers, Spreadsheets and Databases and start with such skills as touch typing. Other examples are draughting and graphic design. These are all major courses that should be introduced at year 8 at the latest.
Again staff resourcing will be the major limiting factor here.
What achievements must be met before computer literacy should be introduced?
Obviously reading and writing is a prerequisite. The net should not be underestimated in its ability to return us from the comic book society of TV cartoons back to the literate society where the written word takes precedence.
Psychologists studying child development are concerned about computer use in younger children sidelining important developments that only take place at certain age levels; skills such as drawing. While most of us are never going to be great drawers the simple act of drawing is very important to our developement. Drawing a circle teaches us hand-eye coordination, and tactile responses, and neorological relationships are formed in the brain. Circles are felt as a physical reality, rather than only ever as a abstract idea. The same principle applies to drawing many commonplace objects in our lives, our use of colour and observation of real objects. Drawing from life in the open is a different and very important learning experience from drawing from the imagination on a computer. Outdoor activities also need to be developed in childhood and such entertainments as computer games not allowed to usurp the developmental process.
Other major policy decisions may need to be made because they require dedicated long term resourcing. These are:
Maintaining a computer system which provides services to students. This may be a standalone system with a local network. It would allow students to use the resources and tools on the computer to prepare essays and projects.
The alternative is not to provide a computer system at all, but rather require students to supply their own laptops. This alternative currently is only viable for rich kids but may become more viable in the future. Many issues point to students providing their own laptops as being a satisfactory alternative to operating an intranet. But there are reasons for expecting that over time the intranet will become a necessary part of school infrastructure.
Maintaining a webserver and other servers such as mail and ftp for student use. There are technical problems inherent in having a class of 20 students all accessing the same webpage on a server somewhere across the world at the same time and downloading it through the schools system. Instead web access should be limited to access to the schools webserver for more controlled access to specific information. The schools webserver could also be used to host student and class webpages. Without a webserver, these would need to be uploaded to the schools ISP provider. Both these options are currently used by schools.
Maintaining a homework class where computer facilities are made available to students who do not have their own. This would need to be supervised. WWW net access is probably something that should be done at home. However the school may wish to provide a mechanism whereby children in poorer families have access to the web in order to avoid further economic disadvantage.
A school may decide to equip itself with a fully functional computer classroom for use by itself and surrounding schools.
Many schools have already made these decisions. Some schools have tried all of these options. What should be remembered is that just because something may not have worked for some schools 2 years ago, does not mean it will not work now. Changes in the types of software available and the types of services currently available from Te Kete Ipurangi and those being developed mean that old options that failed may now work better.
A complex infrastructure is required to support Computer and Information Technology, starting with the supply, installation and maintenance of the computers, and also the resourcing of computer literate teachers. While the people skills are the most important part of the process, it has been shown that nothing much can start to happen until the computers are provided. The infrastructure is too big to put in one section and has been dividied into several. This section only deals with the policy infrastructure required to see a coherent consistent implementation of ICT in schools. The complexity of the policy infrastructure is required because the development of ICT is so dymanic. Every aspect of the policy setting and monitoring process needs to be externally audited because the environment is changing so fast. Basic assumptions can become irrelevant in six months time by the advent of new technology.
The Policy Infrastructure required for Information Technology is not so different from that for any other discipline. However within the structure certain important statements need to be made in order to support the development of IT. In addition, the support structures required by the policy are still being formed and are undergoing constant change. It requires special attention to ensure that they are performing as required by the policy statements.
There is nothing particularly novel about this diagram. It represents a model that is applied to all aspects of Education Policy . However it is recognised that ICT Policy in schools is a volatile process that requires special skills to develop. The above diagram is concerned only with the delivery of ICT Policy, and the performance of that Policy. It does not cover teacher performance in ICT skills, but only the setting and reviewing of teachers ICT goals. Similarly it does not reflect the explicit IT curriculum, but rather the way in which general ICT goals are embodied in the general performance of the curriculum. The only activities which are reviewed are those of the Government Agencies appointed to observe and correct significant underachievement and the process of setting and monitoring the policy.
If goals are set and minimum performance measures stated, then there is a responsibility on the part of the governing body setting these goals and performance levels to observe that they are being met and that corrective action is taken if they are not being met; otherwise the whole process is meaningless. The external audit verifies that this is the case and as such is a review of the quality procedures of the governing process.
The "Internet Use Policy" item is an example of the types of generic policy statements that might be at the tail end of the School Policy Document. Some schools publish comprehensive policy statements in their admin webpages and are an example of their dedication to providing quality service to students and their parents. This tells local parents and parents of prospective international students the kind of commitment to quality service that they can expect their children to receive. This will become an increasingly important part of every schools "shop window".
The Government should also set specific minimal reasonable expectations of goals in the ICT Implementation Policy, taking into account current staff ICT skills, size of school, Years taught by the school, special needs factors, economic percentile rating, isolation of the school, access to support services, and rural/town/city community environment.
The Government should also specify sub-minimal levels at which it is prepared to step in and support the school.
By not providing essential emergency backup education services the governement is setting up some schools to fail catastrophically, that is to not be able to teach pupils to a level from which they can progress to a higher level of education. For instance, not be able to progress to Year 7 or Year 9 levels. Such catastrophic failure has occurred in the past with many illiterate students entering High Schools and requiring remedial classes. The most damaging aspect though is the fact that for the student, the value of "learning" as a valid social activity has been debased. Computer illiteracy will only exacerbate the gap between the educated and the socially disenfranchised. Computer Literacy is now a requirement at many High Schools at Y12 level and most High Schools are lowering this at a rate of about 1 Year/year. In 5 years time, most High Schools will be expecting their Year 9 intake to have basic computer skills. Students who have missed out will be seriously disadvantaged because in five years time much course work will be provided over the School Intranet.
There are three major problem areas for bringing schools up to the starting mark for implementing ICT Policies.
Isolated rural schools with no staff with computer skills. These tend to be in depressed economic areas due to the withdrawal of rural service infrastruture into larger economic centres. The same problems are experienced in rural communites in trying to retain medical professionals and centres for basic health care. Surprisingly it takes only one teacher with good computer skills to turn a school with no ICT policy into a National model for success. The government could actively fund the placing of staff with computer skills in schools which are at risk of failure to implement ICT policy at a minimal level at any year in the next five years. In five years time there can be an expectation that sufficient new teaching staff with computer skills will make such a support measure unneccesary.
This emergency support staffing should be dedicated over a long period of time, rather than on a temporary basis with implied prospect of withdrawal, perhaps with the view to permanent staff placement. The teacher may be based at one isolated rural school and visit other isolated schools in the district for a day or two per week. There would need to be a community will to adopt this teacher and provide as much support as possible as the teacher will be extremely reliant on the community to supply resources to the school to implement ICT in the school. But this will also have the benefit of introducing ICT to the community.
A second similar situation is correspondence students. Current policy points towards a requirement that in two years all students have ready access to a computer and the net. Some correspondence students are so isolated they have neither power nor phone lines. Computers do not need a lot of power to run and even a hand cranked generator battery pack is quite adequate to run a laptop. Net access is a little more difficult but can be done by use of a satellite dish. A project could be sponsored to develop this technology and make it available to correspondance students. It would also be useful in many other places in the world.
However this requires that the students home environment be amenable to adopting this technology, but this may not be the case. There are always a few areas where retro-subcultures exist that reject technological innovation and in some cases reject qualified medical attention in favour of other remedies such as "God's will". As in the cases of not providing adequate health care for children, the government may have to consider the level at which guardians fail to provide an adequate education for their children. This is more a social issue than an educational one. However it is quite possible that even some recognised schools operate in a retro-subculture and some government policy needs to be stated for this.
The third area of major difficulty is in poor economic areas with large schools. These schools will be able to implement some level of ICT Policy but may continualy fail to meet their goals due to economic pressures. The Government should determine a minimal level of extra support that is required for such schools to at least maintain some level of progress. They should certainly not be allowed to stand still or fall back, for instance by losing their only staff member with computer skills. The most likely reasons for failure will not be simple economic ones because setting up a computer system does not require a lot of money, but rather skills at finding and assembling available resources. Lack of staff skills, and a "climate of failure" in the student population are more likely reasons for ICT goals to not be met.
Another reason for supplying minimal emergency backup resources is where there is a critical failure in the ICT implementation. An obvious example may be the accidental death of a key staff member. But there are other more likely problems caused by the pressure that the government places on schools to look to the private sector for services. Private sector services such as an Internet Service Provider who may be contracted, or maybe even volunteer, to maintain the Schools wepbages, email system, class internet access and a whole raft of other support services, may themselves suffer catastrophe. Some policy needs to be determined as to what should be supported as essential in-house services to operate the school's ICT policy.
It is quite possible that these issues can be covered by providing up-to-date administrative advice. Such as recommending ways that schools can back up their computer files to avoid catastrophic loss, such as having a High School in the area act as an archivist for Primary Schools. However for Schools just starting out on the ICT path and finding themselves reliant on free community support that could suddenly vanish, these issues can be difficult to cope with and may require special assistance and guidance.
A national policy should be made that allows schools who are dependant on outside services to access an advice bureau that can tell them how to protect themselves from catastrophic events. It should be noted that this probably only applies to schools just starting out on the ICT path. But there are also many general issues such as informing schools of new insurance options as they become available, or how to protect the computer cabling from being eaten by rats.
Schools should not exist in a climate in which they are allowed to drift in an unrecognised state of underachievement or failure. Goals should be set in accordance with the range of criteria and approved by the Education Department as part of the schools compliance criteria. Failure to meet the mutually agreed goals implies that there is a mutual failure that requires Education Department intervention of some kind. Schools should be given objective measurable goals to achieve which can be self monitored. As soon as performance falls short of the targets, the school should be encouraged to file a Problem Report so that the situation can be readily addressed.
I look forward to the 2004 to 2010 version as my crystal ball indicates a gulf will have opened up between the achieving and the non-achieving schools by 2009.
MoE Statement of Intent 2004-2009
MoE Statement of Intent 2005-2010
As of May 2006 the Statements for 2004 and 2005 have been released. These have not been reviewed. The 2005 statement shows significant progress in addressing critical issues. The 2006 statement will be released at the end of May 2006.
Digital Horizons - Learning through ICT is the revised ICT Strategy Plan for the Education System.
This policy document has basic policy goals which are then expanded into further policies and suggestions for initiative. It was reviewed in Aug 2003 here. A revised document was issued in Dec 2003 which has not been reviewed.
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GOVERNMENT - Essential Information for New School Trustees dates from about 1999
been withdrawn and is now replaced by Guidelines provided through the New Zealand School Trustees Association STAservice. Despite the documents demise, some points raised are still relevant and so the following comments on the document are retained here.
Documents provided to Trustees are now held more closely by the STAservice, available only in hard copy on request. While most of the material is of interest only to Trustees to help them, it is of some concern that these documents may be used to deliver policy about the ways schools are to be run which is not open to public inspection. This is a retrograde shift from the objective of open government. Trustees can find their task overwhelming and are unlikely to analyse, let alone challenge policy that is handed to them as a directive. Documents containing policy directives to school boards should be published openly and readily viewable for public and parental debate.
The Education Review Office (ERO) produces publications of a general nature as well as specific reports on individual schools which are not generally public. While the reports on schools are part of their quality assurance brief, the public reports are input documents to the policy process and influence government decisions and policy directives to the Ministry of Education. Therefore these reports are part of the policy "loop". Only a few of these reports are concerned with ICT directly but other reports have relevance to the role of ICT in schools in the future.
E-learning in Primary Schools - February 2005 - is yet to be reviewed.
E-learning in Secondary Schools - February 2005 - is yet to be reviewed.
This is as much as I feel I need to say at this point in time (Aug 2003). I have consulted with academics locally and overseas. All are concerned with the immediate issues of using ICT in the classroom. Noone is looking at the long-term outcome of this technology in schools. We saw social dislocation when new technology was introduced in the 1970's, then is was adults, those later in their working life who were most effected. With the coming changes it will be our children who will be most effected and the outcome will shape the rest of their lives.
Three major forces are at work.
The failure of many schools to become complit in the first place, in spite of the obvious need seen by government, parents, children and employers. This will create a 2 class system, with possibly up to 50% of NZ schools coming to be seen as ghetto schools.
The continuum disparity created by leading schools using ICT to better advantage, particularly in administration, to meet students needs, and improve student outcomes.
The education sector becoming a global market and NZ schools becoming the satelites of foreign educational companies.
NZ is one of the countries best placed to deal with these issues. The BoT system is a key aid, and NZ's size, its insistence on equal opportunity, its compter literacy, its progressive curriculum framework - are all key ingredients many other countries lack.
NZ needs to invest in the future of education as well as just 'progress'. Putting computers in schools is one thing, but computers are tools which are used to do specific jobs on the basis of a specific cost benefit analysis. In other words, they should be doing something specific and useful, and they should be doing it well. Toys for boys is not the right approach.
We need a careful rethink about what the real needs of the country are and how we can use computers in education to specifically deal with the issues in real quantifiable terms.
Piopio College has published a for ICT and related the ICT skills to the Essential Learning Areas. The actual matrix was published in MS Excel format and I have taken the liberty of recasting it in HTML here.
To meet the Age of Information Technology a school needs two things, the computers and the computer literate teachers. Without the teachers there is no point getting the computers so the teachers come first. In theory teachers can teach the principles of IT in the absence of computers. The demands of information techonolgy require web literacy also and one teacher should be qualified to act as webmaster.
Question - how many teachers can do the job of webmaster?
Every school should have a designated webmaster with a job description and plenty of time allocatted to perform these special functions. Because the schools website is its shop window to the rest of the world it should be given a dedicated resource and care should be taken to ensure the website knowledge base be maintained within the school. Many schools have grasped some initiative and then lost it.
Experience indicates that the best way to raise computer literacy in a school is to give each teacher a computer to work with. This should be the first goal.
The next issue is to what extent the school should equip with computers for students. The answer to this question is determined by a number of factors which are constantly changing.
The perception of the place of a computer in the classroom. While a student is working on a computer, the teacher is out of focus. But students are in a class with a teacher to be taught by that teacher. Computers in the classroom should not interfere with this process. Therefore much student use of computers should be done at home or in the student's own time.
Many basic computer skills have been taught for many years now, such as keyboard and word processor skills. For this it is helpful to have a cohesive networked system provided by a computer laboratory. But the laboratory should not be seen as a tool to be used for general classroom work. It is possible that not all that many class periods need to be spent in the computer laboratory for students to acquire their skills. The laboratory can be used as a homework centre outside school hours and for night classes. The computer laboratory will always have a place but it is possible that a school only needs the one. Some schools have underutilised laboratories and it is possible that schools could share.
The fact that computers are becoming smaller, cheaper and more powerful is constantly changing the relative economics of making a large investment in a particular kind of computer system or network. The way things are moving it might be best to have classrooms equiupped with simple serial cable sockets, have a server computer on a trolley that can be brought into class when required, and students connect to the server using their own laptops running on battery power. Even powerful computers are now so small and mobile as to make a dedicated laboratory redundant. This trend is continuing at a pace that has shown no sign of slackening in 30 years.
The economic state of the area the school is in is a major factor determining what may be required. Schools in poorer areas may need to provide much more computer resource. But if the economic status of the area is changing then planning is even more difficult. Even in economically stable areas changing economic forces create anomalies. In particular, well-endowed schools in well-to-do areas have invested in laboratories only to find themselves overtaken by the new trend of students all having their own laptops. The laboratory becomes redundant, but a resource available to less fortunate schools.
The size of the school. A small school can become highly computer literate by sharing a few resources within the small local community.
If any rough guide can be picked up from these trends the following approach could be undertaken.
Equip teachers with laptops.
Equip the school with servers - a dedicated school server for admin and the school webpage and school publications. A server to be used for computer skills classes. A server to be used for classwork interaction throughout the school. This last is the server that students would connect to while doing homework and preparing projects. The library may also have a server for the net and serving information off CD's like Encyclodaedias, and for scanning and printing.
Teachers laptops could be passed down to students who dont have their own.
Teachers are aware that they have to undertake professional development to upskill in the use of computers. But what about theoretical areas?
Does a Technology Teacher need to know the basics of Graph Theory in order to use PERT or GANT charts to manage a project? Does a Social Science Teacher need to know Probablility Theory in order to guide students through a social survey project?
Are there resources suitable for teachers to access for these situations?
Bellingham have a page of assessment resources for teachers and students. The teacher self-assessment is simple and well-graded and provides a scale upon which teachers can set their goals for the next year.
The web has opened up a whole new world of communication forms. These forms are not just passive. It is easy to think that publishing a simple document is a passive activity - Martin Luther may once have thought so - but this is not the case. The written word is the most powerful force in society. The web creates a dais not just for the written word, but also a vast amphitheatre for immedate and active dialogue throughout the world. This space is not just about the exchange of ideas, plans, ideals, methods, structures and a whole lot more, it also impacts on reality via the commercial world. You can bid for antiques, buy airline tickets, and add your bit to a wiki. We may think that there is a lot of information on the web, but the information as such is only one small factor of the whole picture.
Imagine the web to be a vast space. What can we see inhabiting this space? A lot of information, but by no means everything that is in the libraries of the world yet, so not such a lot of information. Imagine this to be particles of dust scattered throughout space. Within this space we can observe collections of dust particles in the form of webpage repositories such as geocities. People look at these dustballs but there is not a lot of activity. A site such as eBay fairly hums by comparison with the chatter of on-line bidding. There are other objects in this space which gather no dust, but dust passes into them and is refracted out in many directions - these are the chatroom applications.
It is possible to go on in poetic style describing various types of web application such as MUDs, SETI searching and so on - you get the idea by now. But you may also get a glimpse that webspace is still a very empty place and that it is yet to be populated by a huge diversity of creatures of unimagined shape and function. New creatures are being created everyday, some variants of existing applications, some entirely new. Many of these new applications on the web arise within a socialised context derived from commercial and practical necessity.
Within the educational sector we have many sites developed at the behest of the MoE, by sponsorship, by schools themselves, and by teachers. But the education sector has been very slow to fill in the space and outside agencies are doing this. These are the "wild creatures" - web applications that manifest in the social vacuum. webscool is one such wild creature. It was the result of a request by an IT Adviser to offer some suggestions on how to implement IT in the classroom in the vacuum created by the publication of the Technology Curriculum. webscool has since been exploring a lot more of the vacuum. The world of the web is still an expanding universe, and it seems from this author's view that there is increasingly more and more vacuum.
Wild creatures come in a huge range of varieties, some such as webscool are benign bystanders, others are phantasms and some are just plain theives. There can be no complete taxonomy of wild creatures but there are enough of them around now to be able to classify some of them. It is important to identify types of wild creatures of the web, because just like real wild creatures, we need to have some general rules on how to respond to them. Some are dangerous, some will hurt you, some will make you look foolish, some will make you laugh, and some will help you.
Thieves are websites that take your money under some pretense. A classic example was a duplicate site for the Sydney Opera House that included the guided virtual tour and seat allocation plans, that allocated seats at performances, took your money and sent no tickets.
It is easy enough to bump into such a website if it has a good looking domain name which you locate using a search engine. How are you to know it is not the real McCoy? Under these circumstances you can not easily distinguish the copy from the real. Complexity, size and other "material" qualities are no aid to judgement here because everything can be copied. What is not easy to copy on sites like this are the databases of information from which the websites operate and which are isolated from the parts of the website which can easily be copied. Sites which appear to have pages dynamically generated are also no gaurantee of authenticity, since it is easy to copy the generated pages and present them as though they are dynamic. If you can observe a database process operating behind the scenes then it is more likely that the website is genuine. For instance check that the price of an item listed on the webpage matches the price in the dynamically created shopping basket. This may require that you check the page source to see that the price is not transmitted from the webpage form to the shopping basket, but does indeed come from a database. Somebody copying a site can easily copy the webpages, but cannot easily copy the database nor the cgi script that constructs the shopping basket.
This is a class of web applications with huge potential benefit to schools and are good projects to take up in their curriculum area. Here is an example. www.poetry.co.nz was set up as a website to promote poetry at secondary school level in New Zealand. It asked that classes select 3 best poems from their students and submit them to the site at a cost of $1 per entry, to be published on the site and to enter a competition and be published in a forthcoming book. Many schools responded, but by the due date there was no sign of a judging or a book being published. Teachers began to ask "Was this a scam ?". Well - obvioulsy it was not really a scam because for their $1 the students got their poems published in a well organised website with a good database-driven index and access.
But questions must be asked. A similar site with competition and publication exists for primary schools sponsored by an educational publisher. There was a vacuum for this particular kind of site, why was it not already filled by a structured process conjoined by secondary schools, the MoE and sponsors? There was a social vacuum in webspace and it got filled by a wild creature. Is poetry not an activity of worthy social value at secondary level to warrant this kind of interest from teachers and schools? What are our social values in this regard ?
One can protest and say where will it end ? Will we have a national secondary school drama contest stite? - national secondary school short story contest site ? a national secondary school haiku contest site ? a national secondary school dirty limerick contest site ? The answer to these questions is - in time yes to all of these.
The issue here is which of these wild creatures we wish to take on board as exemplars of social values which we wish our education system to support and nourish.
When you start to canvas the school curriculum you realise that you can list 100 areas in which a national website competition could be set up to showcase students work. There is in fact an enormous vacuum in New Zealand's educational structure for these websites. How to fill them ? Let cohorts of secondary schools set them up and manage them as projects for Y12-13 classes.
For instance, the National Secondary School Poetry site would make an ideal project for Y12-13 students in a group of connected schools to operate as a part of their Language/Communiaction course structure, from getting sponsorship, to engaging some of NZ's leading poets in the project, through to organising a prize function and publishing the poems.
Now consider that the web is no respecter of national boundaries, and that such a site could be aimed at Australaisa or even The International School Poetry Competition in <the language of your choice>. It is first pickings for the most prestigious position in a huge open field for which the schools can win internatioanal prestige and attract international fee-paying students.
Competition type websites are just one example of the kinds of sites that can be set up in Secondary Schools.
The previous section describes a website www.poetry.co.nz which sets up a website on poetry, a topic that does not win the ratings in New Zealand Society. As such, the site begs the question, where does the balance of educational social values lie in New Zealand's educational system. It raises questions of social values and by its existence challenges the social mainstream to either adopt it or reject it. What choice do we have ? By rejecting the notion of a National Poetry Competition we are sending students of all ages a message that poetry is not something of any real social value - so why study it ? The existence of the website forces us to respond with actions rather than stand with our hands solemnly crossing our hearts proclaiming the virtues of poetry. It exposes humbug! As such it can be viewed as being socially subversive.
Teenage students are not naive,(they have been raised in the cynical world of the Simpsons) and will quickly see that websites can be used to expose social hypocracy, humbug, indifference to professed ideals, blatant propaganda, mismanagement, misinformation, chain-dragging and so on. The Social Studies Curriculum is a hotbed for such topics. Students no longer have to study these topics and then find themselves forced to sit on their hands because they do not yet have access to the political system in order to effect change. The web is a tool for change which they can access and use skillfully to explore social injustices and confront the perpetrators. There is a huge range of issues that students will want to explore because they find their lives touched by tragedy and wonder why it happened and why something was not done to prevent it. Often the answer is the indifference and negligence of government agencies. Students will realise that they do not have to live with this outcome as their parents did, because they know that the web gives them the power to confront indifference and negligence in government agencies.
Students have the power to create subversive websites by themselves, but the result may not be heplful. If it comes out that a "National Missing Persons Website" is the brain child of some students who wanted to address the situation because a fellow student had gone missing, they feared for the student's safety and the Police did not appear to be mounting a concerted search to find the student, then the media flak may have an adverse affect on the student's attempts to help find their lost friend, and it will reflect on those around the students , their families and their school. The students themselves may end up even more disaffected than they were to start with.
Social subversion can be a dangerous business, but often angels step out while the world-weary sleep in their chains.
These experiments in social subversion via the web will take place simply because the web exists as an affordable tool, and the problems exist. We can however not let this be a replay of Romeo and Juliet and a 100 other tragic tales, we must face this phenomenon. This requires teaching students about this kind of activity (an activity which has not really been observed yet), of its potential dangers, repercussions, and how to use this process skillfully to good ends. Its really no different to showing a child how to use a knife, a gun or how to drive a car.
The education sector is concerned with disseminating information, and doing it over the web to a greater extent. Webpage design is still a developing art, as well as a developing technology. It is easy to create webpages that do not deliver to the reader.
This lack of delivery can occur at a number of levels:
The page way have poor colour design which makes the page unpalatable to the reader, or illegible. Some people are naturally distracted or have a strong negative response to some colours.
The page may load too slowly
The page may degrade the clients computer operation
The page may be too distracting (busy)
It is important to remember that the education sector is not like the commercial sector.
The education sector has a captive audience, while the commercial sector relies on enticement. If a commercial page alienates a client it loses a possible customer. It is the responsibility of authors in the education sector not to abuse their clients with poor webpages.
The education sector has a number of different target audiences with different profiles: teachers, classes, students at home. The assumptions that can be made about the clients systems in each of these cases are different.
The manner in which information is presented to these different classes of clients can also be broken down into subgenres. A page telling sudents about a particular subject will be very different for Year 1 and for Year 12 students.
The education sector is more concerned with content than with entertainment. We all know that children like pictures and animations, but that does not mean that trigonometry texts are written as cartoon books. We dont expect to see decorative animations in an ERO Report.
The three different target audiences have three different hardware/software profiles.
Teachers will tend to have reasonably up-to-date computers and software. They have spending power available to keep up to date. However they will tend to use laptops for mobility and laptops have limited resources compared to desktop systems, though it is true to say that modern laptops are more powerful than many of the desktop systems in use. However it cannot be assumed that laptop users have the resources to read documents in "any" format. .pdf is a popular format with a reasonable footprint ( the impact it makes on the computers resources ). Postscript has a quite large footprint for Windows and Mac systems. TeX format also has relatively large footprint. Teachers will be using software on their computers to write material. The formats that they choose to write in and the software they choose to support those formats dictate what they can read. It may be possible for teachers to define some standard sets of authoring products which they use on Linux, Mac and Windows systems. Then these standards can be born in mind by authors writing webpages for teachers.
TKI is a classic example of a site which writes for this target audience. As it is sponsored by the MoE, the design policy it uses is an indication of the level of sophistication that the MoE feels it is appropriate to support in the teacher audience. TKI does not currently have a policy statement in this regard. But teachers do report technical difficulty reading some pages.
Laptops may have 28 to 56 kb modems typically operating at a tenth capacity, so that 3000 to 6000 chars per second can be transmitted.
Classes should have access to the school intranet system and a wide range of up-to-date software. Classes currently rely on being able to read webpages from all over the world in an uncontrollable variety of formats. Schools are limited in the kinds of material they can present in a class by the software that they run. Since there is a trend in secondary schools not to use the web in classtime, except for particular purposes, this is not so much an issue of the readers sophistication. The main issues are at the low end of the scale, Y1-6, in which it is recognised that image content and entertainment factors aid content delivery at this level specially for low acheivers.
The use of presentation graphics software such as Powerpoint, Macromedia, Flash, animations and video can put a strain on any intranet system. It must also be remembered that many schools have limited bandwidth and what bandwidth they do have is stretched to the max. This means that they effectively operate at 3000 to 6000 chars per sec delivery.
Some "rich" schools, where the pupils can afford laptops, cater for these to be used in class. Again high bandwidth cannot be assumed to be available, and as in the case of teachers, laptops impose limitations in the formats which an author can expect to be supported by the client.
This is the audience about which virtually no assumptions can be made. Students cannot afford to buy up-to-date equipment and are reliant on whatever falls to them. This may be a 486 with Windows 3.x and Netscape 3 and no hope of an upgrade. To upgrade such a machine would cost more than to buy a new machine. Also many "poor" schools find themselves in a similar situation of having to use whatever hardware is available even if it is over 5 years old.
Students cannot afford to buy ISP time themselves. Again they are dependant on parents provisions. It cannot be assumed that students will have any but the most basic modem access, and possibly only for limited amount of time, so this time should be used to best advantage.
The common factors from this list is low bandwidth, which precludes large animations and video. Pages directed to student home use should use the simplest technology. Pages to students and teachers should use a small set of freely availble software and formats.
It would be useful for the MoE, perhaps through TKI to publish a recommened set of guidelines for designing webpages for these target audiences. Together with examples of good practice in several general areas and examples. The advanced webpage section gives a clear indication of just how difficult it is to design webpages which look OK on a variety of browsers, even state-of-the-art ones.
The next Chapter suggests some general commonsense guidelines for webpage design given the lack of any such guidelines on TKI.