The issue of fibre connectivity is top of the list of topics for discussion in almost every school meeting I attend at the moment. With the announcement of the NZ government’s plan to roll out a fibre network to 97% of all New Zealand schools in the next 6 years, people are now waiting anxiously for details of how this money will be distributed, who will be first to be connected, what it will cost etc. While all of this is obviously important in order to achieve the goal – a more fundamental question needs to be explored and teased out, that is “what’s the vision that’s driving all of this?”,”what is the future we are endeavouring to create for our young people?”
I her address at the Communications Day Summit in Auckland, Labour IT spokesperson Clare Curran claimed, “the bigger picture hasn’t been properly articulated and therefore isn’t there to be strived for.” I’m not sure that I’d fully agree that the bigger picture hasn’t been properly articulated – however, I would agree that it hasn’t been widely communicated, and certainly isn’t well ‘owned’ and a part of the discourse at the school level – and therefore isn’t strived for.
Ms Curran paints a picture of a broadband enabled future that includes a view of education where… “schools teach creative content, ICT is an integral part of teaching and learning across the curriculum, where there are clear pathways from school in further training and a myriad of careers. Well paid jobs that are transforming the New Zealand economy.”
Now whether that is an articulation of a vision we agree with or not, the point is that such a statement provokes thinking about what it is we’re aiming to achieve, and, if you unpack each part of it, demands that it is supported by the “how”. I’d like to see more discussion occurring in our staffrooms and at principal’s meetings around these bigger picture ideas, before they’re dismissed as being “too way out there” and refocusing on the things immediately at hand.
I’m very pleased to be a part of a team in Christchurch that has been working towards fibre connectivity for several years now, with an increasing number of principals and school leaders coming on board with the vision of a connected school system – not simply to become fibre-enabled, but with a vision of what the outcomes for students and future of learning might be.
The key thing here is that nothing happens by accident – it takes forethought, planning and commitment – inspired by vision. This is what has driven the Christchurch initiative, and it needs to be the case at all levels, from government through to local businesses and schools.
A broadband enabled future is something we must seriously address and engage with – and it presents a huge challenge to the existing mindsets in our schools, businesses and government, because it represents (please excuse the cliche) a genuine paradigm shift in the way we operate, the technology involved and the opportunities it creates. Thus vision and leadership becomes really important. As Ms Curran states in her speech, “The role of government? Courage and vision and a willingness to take on the dinosaurs and the behemoths in the industry, to reshape it, stimulate demand and have some faith in kiwi ingenuity.“