Welcome to the world of a teacher-less classroom

Nikki Kaye
Nikki Kaye

A classroom where a digital teacher delivers a lesson from another city is being touted as the way forward for education in the 21st century.

The education and science select committee's "Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy" focuses on redesigning education and creating modern schools.

The committee has set out 48 recommendations from 90 submissions and if adopted in full, every student will learn from their own device, possibly in their own time and potentially in a different location to their digital teacher.

Associate Education Minister and committee chairwoman Nikki Kaye called for the inquiry last year after finding digital literacy varied across communities, and no other governments had acted on the issue.

"We heard [submissions] that said there will also be more opportunities for students to access content from around the world, or a teacher in another New Zealand location.

"We believe that the future of learning will be blended; students will combine learning from online and video technology with group work and individual study.

"The skills of a teacher will need to reflect this new blended learning environment," Kaye said.

"We already have a pretty amazing education system, but we know we need to do better for some of our most disadvantaged students and I can see if we get both the technology and professional development policies right, and we get the sector on board, then we can provide not only opportunities for disadvantaged students but we can also raise achievement for all students."

The committee is also working on the Education Amendment Bill and among its proposals are changes to regular school hours.

Students of the future could be learning from a digital device outside normal school hours.

"One aspect of the report was to raise the issue that in the world we live in and in a world whereby . . . there is more opportunity than ever to get children to learn at different times of the day," she said. "Obviously the Education Amendment Bill is relevant to that because it does cover provisions to school hours, but there are already communities and schools that have been thinking about this.

"There are parents that have been thinking about this, they can naturally see what their children are doing in terms of learning at home because they can download an app and see new learning programmes."

The inquiry also heard that teachers will have to operate differently.

"We heard that due to the online environment, there are changes occurring in when and how students have access to teachers. We heard this could have implications for teaching time and the sharing of resources."

Advice given to the committee was that the cultural change proposed could even take several decades but the committee was optimistic and felt it could be "effected much more quickly".

Teacher training institutions could also be measured and evaluated on the quality of digital learning training. Kaye said a range of recommendations have been put in place to cover professional development.

"There are some New Zealand teachers and principals that are leading the way and I think the opportunity in the future is to better identify those schools and teachers and principals that are showing leadership in the area and partner them with other professionals around the country to ensure we have more of that innovation happening," she said.

Kaye said it wasn't necessary for every student to have an individual device as the focus of the inquiry was to give disadvantaged children digital resources.

"There are recommendations around device policy, there are recommendations around every student having access [but] that's not necessarily an individual device.

"But again I would emphasise that it's not about the technology itself, it's about what that technology can do to provide opportunities."

Sunday Star Times