Learning using digital technologies
Find out why and how schools and children are using digital technologies for learning.
What are digital technologies?
When people in education talk about digital technologies they mean things like computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
They also talk about the infrastructure that schools need to use digital technologies, like fully funded, safe and reliable access to ultra-fast broadband and wireless (WiFi) access to the internet.
Is WiFi safe for children?
This is a question that parents sometimes ask about the use of WiFi technology in classrooms. The Ministry of Health has looked into this issue and has confirmed that the evidence shows WiFi does not pose a risk to children.
Read more about the safety of WiFi. The Ministry of Health's website has information that you can check out. The Ministry of Education has also produced a flyer with more information for parents on WiFi [PDF, 1.2 MB].
Why are digital technologies being used for learning?
Education is changing. For many of us, where our children learn, what they learn and how they learn is very different from what we experienced at school.
As our world keeps changing we need our young people to be confident, creative, connected and actively involved life-long learners. We need an education system that supports the development of values, knowledge and competencies, and sets them up to do well in the world.
Digital technologies are an important part of your child's world. Your child uses them to connect with each other, to learn new skills and pursue their interests further than has ever been possible.
They also offer new opportunities for teachers and leaders, and new ways for you, your whānau, iwi and community to contribute to your child's learning.
Digital technologies can enable:
- learning to happen anywhere and any at any time, not just in the classroom
- your child to connect and collaborate with other students and teachers outside their school and even across the world
- your child to understand challenging concepts in virtual worlds that would not otherwise be possible
- easy access to the huge range of resources available on the internet to support learning (websites, apps and more)
- you, your family, whānau and community to become more involved and contribute to your child's education, for example through school Facebook pages and student blogs, and
- your child to follow personal interests and talents and access experts not available to them locally.
How are schools using digital technologies?
It is up to schools to decide how they use technology to support teaching and learning based on what is best for their students and school community.
School use ranges from having a traditional computer suite in a separate classroom, to providing wireless internet across the school and allowing students to bring digital devices such as tablets or netbooks from home to use for learning.
You can check out some videos of schools using technology to support learning in the Ministry of Education's Enabling e-Learning media gallery:
- Nayland Primary School shows how learning with digital technology is part of learning every day, in all subjects and every classroom
- St Hilda’s Secondary school discusses how digital technology has transformed teaching and learning in their school
- the inclusive education clip shows how digital technologies are making a real difference to teaching students with special learning needs.
How can you support your child?
Access to digital devices at school
Some schools let children bring their own digital devices (tablets, laptops, mobile phones etc) to use at school.
Schools are also responsible for making sure all children in their school can participate in digital learning opportunities at school if they can't bring their own device.
If you are considering buying a tablet, laptop or other digital device for your child there are a range of things to consider. You may want to talk to your school about choosing a device that:
- will work with the school’s systems, and,
- has the features needed to support their learning.
Internet at home
Access to the internet outside of school can help with homework and self-directed learning at home. If you can't provide access at home you could talk to your school about using school internet after school hours or consider community internet access (eg in public libraries).
Digital technologies can have many positive impacts on learning and offer challenging activities and opportunities for real world problem-solving activities.
It's a good idea to make sure your child’s ‘screen-time’ is balanced with other activities to ensure their health, safety and happiness. You may want to talk to your school if you have any queries or concerns about getting the balance right for your child.
What about internet safety and security?
While internet access and digital technologies provide many benefits, they can also present risks to your child, like cyber-bullying, sexting, access to inappropriate web material, scams and concerns about privacy.
Schools are aware of these risks and school boards are responsible for making sure an appropriate level of safety and security is in place for their school. They must have policies and procedures in place that everyone follows, and they should include children in this.
Schools receive government funding for content filtering and firewalls to protect their systems and block inappropriate material.
They are also encouraged to consider additional measures like implementing cyber-safety and digital citizenship programmes.
You can read the information provided by the Ministry to schools about content filtering and firewalls and the information for schools about digital citizenship and cyber-safety on Enabling e-Learning
As a parent, you need to be involved - you need to know what your child is doing online, both at school and at home, and you need to actively support them to be safe online.
Netsafe is an organisation that, in their own words "promotes confident, safe and responsible use of online technologies". They are a good first stop to learn more about how your child might be using technology and how to support them. Check out the Netsafe website for information, blog posts, to report incidents and for free resources to help you.
Make sure you have good security and firewalls on your home devices and keep them up to date.
Keep the lines of communication open with your child. Talk to them about how to keep safe online. Use the Netsafe resources together.
You can also talk to your school to understand more about how they are using digital technologies for learning, what their internet safety and security policies are and how they are being implemented.
How does my school get access to digital technologies?
The government is supporting schools by investing in people and infrastructure so that learning is enabled by the use of digital technologies. By the end of 2016, almost all schools will be able to connect to ultra-fast broadband, have an upgraded internal IT network and be offered a fully-funded Network for Learning (N4L) Managed Network connection that provides fast, high-quality, predictable internet access and uncapped monthly data for school use.
Teachers and principals receive laptops and can also access professional learning and supporting information to ensure students are best placed to take advantage of technology for learning.
Other Government assistance supports the use of digital technology in the wider community. The Computers in Homes programme receives funding to provide socially and economically disadvantaged families with a computer, internet connection, training and technical support. In addition, the Ministry of Education provides guidelines for schools with ultra-fast broadband that want to become a ’digital hub’ by sharing their connection with their local community.
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