GCSN continues to be motivated by the realisation that the power of the internet, connectivity and mobile technologies pose a profound challenge and opportunity for New Zealand education. It is committed to ensuring better student engagement and learning, particularly for lower decile schools in Christchurch.
GCSN: Celebrating our achievements
Over the past 10years GCSN has celebrated a number of successes in bringing technology, internet, information and devices to students, teachers and the Greater Christchurch area. To fully understand where GCSN is going, let's have a look at the achievements of our past.
Prior to 2010 it was becoming apparent that Schools throughout Christchurch were finding it difficult to gain access to all the information they required to make informed decisions when connecting to the internet. As a result, the GCSN came into being to bridge the gap between schools and the New Zealand Government's UFB rollout plan.
In 2010 GCSN was established by the Canterbury Development Corporation, Enable and COREEducation. Led by Carol Moffatt and a small team of volunteers. It was the vision of GCSN to create a focal point for schools that were seeking access to information, expertise and professional development regarding the benefits of accessing ultra-fast broadband.
The National Education Network Trial (2010)
During 2010 GCSN oversaw the development of a report to the Ministry of Education on 30 Christchurch schools (including 18 secondary schools) on the National Education Network (NEN) trial of fibre cable connections. This resulted in many Christchurch schools connecting to fibre cable, as well as enhancing the use of fibre cable connections within the schools.
The trial had three focus areas that have continued to provide a platform for GCSN work in Christchurch schools.
· Increasing confidence and capability within the GCSN community in using the advanced network to enhance teaching and learning activities.
· Continuing to work with principals in supporting their leadership role in the GCSN community.
· Fostering e-learning leadership in schools.
Increased student activity
· Using the advanced network to access and enhance learning opportunities.
Networked learning and infrastructure and services
· Supporting schools by brokering and facilitating to get independent technological advice for improving infrastructure and services.
· Maintaining an online collaboration and sharing space for all GCSN community.
· Further to the National Education Network trial, the GCSN submitted a report to the Ministry of Education in May 2014, which contributed to the formation of Network for Learning (N4L).
The impact of the Christchurch earthquakes (2010-2012)
The 2011 earthquakes had a huge impact on Christchurch schools, highlighting awareness of stresses that already existed within schools and their communities, particularly in the hard-hit eastern suburbs of Christchurch.
With obstructed internet connections after the earthquakes, and limited access to IT devices, some students were placed at a significant disadvantage compared to other schools in New Zealand. The GCSN quickly identified this need, and with combined efforts from the Ministry of Education, Canterbury Earthquake Appeal Trust, Canterbury Community Trust and the Canterbury Development Corporation, schools in Christchurch were assisted through these challenging times.
In the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, GCSN raised over $3.5 million, through a combination of charitable trusts and private donations. These funds were used in 2013 to distribute computer equipment to schools, with a highlight of their efforts placing one iPad between four students in lower decile east Christchurch schools. All Christchurch secondary schools received high definition video conferencing units.
IT infrastructure upgraded (2011-2013)
In addition to the earthquake response in 2011, damaged IT infrastructure in many schools was replaced or upgraded, allowing professional learning and development opportunities in the use of the internet. GCSN also contributes further to school’s IT by providing a valuable communication portal for schools via their website.
Research on Internet into the Home (2016-2017)
During 2016 and 2017 GCSN contracted researchers from the University of Canterbury to undertake a digital learning project - Internet in the Homes of Priority Learners in Eastern Christchurch - aimed to improve opportunities for students who were notable to access online learning and other web-based resources outside school hours.
GCSN was able to provide naked broadband via a wireless modem and, where necessary, a school Chromebook for these students to use at home. The project was situated in a full primary school and focused on two groups of Year 7-8 students. In addition to the technical and logistical factors, school leaders understood that teachers needed to be prepared and supported with the technological and pedagogical skills, confidence and capability to use and manage digital devices for effective learning in their classroom, and that teachers, students and whānau needed to understand how to operate safely in digital environments.
Another key finding centred on whānau understanding and awareness of benefits of Internet access for student learning. The project identified the benefits of providing such Internet access as well as noting the difficulties in providing access in lower decile communities. The research findings were shared with the Ministry of Education and with a working group set up by the Ministry to look at issues surrounding the provision of Internet access to all New Zealand students.
Te Tihi o Te Mātauranga (TToM) Professional Learning and Development(2014-2019)
In 2014, GCSN successfully negotiated a contract with the Ministry of Education to provide a group of Christchurch schools with 1:1 professional learning and development. CORE Education and Cyclone were contracted by GCSN to deliver this programme.
After an initial 1:1 training programme from October 2014 to February 2015, GCSN sought feedback from teachers, principals, the TToM Management group and PLD trainers about further PLD needs. The feedback was unanimous. All agreed one the benefits of one-to-one training for teachers and the targeted training for small groups of teachers, including next steps for those on the digital learning journey.
This PLD approach has been a positive and valued part of GCSN’s work in schools for the last four years. GCSN has worked with all TToM schools and trainers to identify individual school and personal training needs and content, and schedules and times.
Helping whānau and families obtain computer devices (2016-2018)
In late 2014 GCSN focused its efforts around potential ways to increase the number of devices in the hands of TToM school students, and bridging the digital divide for those who were struggling to be able to afford technology.
GCSN began work towards an approved trial leasing programme. Following the limited trial leasing of Chromebooks in one school, the results highlighted the different conditions faced by TToM schools and difficulties in running the programme. GCSN then moved towards finding a partner that was better placed to take over the leasing programme, which would offer a weekly repayment provision over two years.
In 2017, other suppliers came on board to offer alternative competitive packages for devices that included leasing of the devices, GCSN’s efforts then turned towards internet connection in the home to ensure devices could be used outside school hours.
Through partnering with the Spark Foundation, GCSN supported the introduction of its Jump programme which provided a low cost wireless modem for families and whānau. This provided another option for financially stretched families to ensure students had internet access outside school hours.
In 2017, GCSN began a pilot programme with N4L and Chorus for the extension of Haeata Community Campus’s internet service out into the homes of its students. A cost-effective solution had been reached to enable families to bridge the digital divide for students with free monitored internet services, in a project named ConnectED Haeata.
ConnectED Haeata has now moved to the implementation phase. In 2018 Chorus installed Wi-Fi access points onto telephone poles in an Aranui mesh block within Breezes Road, Wainoni Road, Pages Road and Anzac Drive. This provides free internet access through the school’s N4L system for students, and is combined with options for leasing to purchase devices.
2018 and Beyond
GCSN continues to facilitate tailored professional development and training for schools in theGreater Christchurch area, as well as developing and implementing initiatives for bridging the digital divide for students and their whānau.