6 Policy

being revised June 2006 - links updated
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ContentsIntroductionBasicIntermediateAdvancedFuturePolicyInfrastructure
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6.1   Prerequisite        

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.

6.2   What is Policy ?        

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:

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:

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:

6.3   Introduction        

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:

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:

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.

6.4   Quailty Assurance for the MoE        

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.

6.5   What should we teach and when?        

There are a number of policy decisions which can be made in order to help a school decide what it should teach.

Other major policy decisions may need to be made because they require dedicated long term resourcing. These are:

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.

6.6   Policy Infrastructure Roadmap        

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.

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.

6.7   Government ITC Policy Documents        

6.7.1   Statement of Intent - 2003 to 2008        

Statement of Intent - 2003 to 2008

This is a welcome document and a first step towards creating a quality education system.

A critical review of the Statement is given here.

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.

6.7.2   Digital Horizons - Learning through ICT (revised Dec 2003)        

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.

6.7.3   IN PARTNERSHIP WITH GOVERNMENT        

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.

6.8   Education Review Office (ERO)        

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.

6.9   Analysis        

This section has been withdrawn for review.

6.9.1   Suggested Strategies        

This section has been withdrawn for review.

6.9.2   Closing Statement        

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.

  1. 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.
  2. The continuum disparity created by leading schools using ICT to better advantage, particularly in administration, to meet students needs, and improve student outcomes.
  3. 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.

6.10   Government Policy with Teeth        

This section has been withdrawn for review.

6.11   School Policy Documents        

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.

6.12   Computers and Teachers        

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.

If any rough guide can be picked up from these trends the following approach could be undertaken.

6.13   Policy for homeschooling cohorts        

6.14   Teacher ICT Policy Goals        

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?

6.14.1   Professional Development Policy Resources        

Bellingham Public Schools

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.

6.15   General Policy Issues        

6.16   Wild Creatures        

Cute title - so what are "wild creatures"?

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.

6.16.1   Thieves        

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.

6.16.2   Wannabees - Vacuum Fillers in the Education Sector        

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.

6.16.3   Social Subversives        

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.

6.17   Policies for Webpage Design        

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:

It is important to remember that the education sector is not like the commercial sector.

The three different target audiences have three different hardware/software profiles.

Teachers
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.

Teachers want ready and immediate access to specific information (text). Content and specific indexing to content are the important factors. Teachers do not want to have to browse past animations, or wait for javascripts to run in order to see the page content.

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
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.

Students
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.

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