Edtech World Tour, Chapter 8: New Zealand, Kia Ora!
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New Zealand: Kia Ora!

New Zealand’s high quality and innovative education system has proven a perfect ecosystem for Edtech when combined with its entrepreneurial and creative culture. The past couple of years have seen the rise of dedicated organisations and groups (such as EdTech New Zealand) that are organising conferences to showcase the potential of Edtech and export (Education is New Zealand’s 5th export industry and the country relies heavily on the Asia Pacific market). The country has a number of growing companies who are developing a diverse range of learning-focused products: thanks again to Education New Zealand and our wonderful host Adele Bryant for taking us around!


What have we been up to this week?


Bud-e Digital: bringing together Education and Gaming

We kicked off our NZ exploration by meeting with Tracy Strudley and Chris Bulman from Bud-e Digital. Tracy Strudley co-founded Global Ed, a leading educational resource publishing company in NZ with literacy educator and writer, Jill Eggleton. Having attended the first Edtech4Export conference in 2013, she was inspired to form a new company with a game developer: they have partnered with game studio Custard Square to produce a pioneering app for early childhood fusing the best literacy practices with gaming techniques.

Edtech is an opportunity for children to be engaged 24/7, wherever they happen to be, it doesn’t have to be in the classroom” (Tracy Strudley)


Point England School & Manaiakalani: 'The Hook from Heaven'

We visited Point England School in Auckland where teachers use e-learning to transform the lives of children from low income areas. Staff and students are high-level users of ICT across all curriculum areas, and make extensive use of online projects and communications.

More than half of the students are from Pasifika families (where often the main language at home is not English) and another quarter are Maori. We sat down with Russell Burt, Principal of Pt England School, who told us about the history behind the the initial cluster of Manaiakalani schools wanting to find a way to engage children. Edtech proved to be the ‘hook’ to guide the whole community to better educational outcomes: their aim is to guarantee equity and access so that “priority learners” have the same opportunities for 3rd millennium citizenship as everybody else.

From a device perspective, all students in the cluster from Year 5 upwards have their own personal computers on a lease-to-own basis: the cheapest possible device that is capable of online access at a cost parents can afford (NZ$3.50 a week for four years thanks to a micro-loan system by a charity).
This video, made by students, is a good insight into the innovative school. Instead of learning passively by listening to a teacher speaking to the whole class, children are being active participants in a process called "learn, create, share". All the kids have their own blog: by publishing their work on the internet and attracting feedback from around the world, their motivation for school has skyrocketed.


Hapara: a pillar of the Manaiakalani project
Hapara used inspiration from teachers at Auckand’s decile 1 Point England School to develop the company’s flagship product, Teacher Dashboard, which allows them to monitor student activity from their own computers. Nathan Torkington, Head of Partnerships & Lead Educator Lenva Shearing introduced us to this pillar of the Manaiakalani project (which aims to raise achievement among various schools in a low-decile area of Auckland).

With over 1m users in 40+ countries, Hapara partners with institutions to improve academic outcomes through its products. The kiwi success story since then has truly gone global: the majority of their clients are overseas.


Hobsonville Point Secondary School: co-designing innovation

The state-of-the-art new school was designed, educationally as well as architecturally, to meet the needs of modern learners and provides exciting spaces to work in for both staff and students. We were privileged to have a tour of the new school by Steve Mouldey & Danielle Myburgh, who is also the founder of #NZEdchat (an online community using Twitter to connect New Zealand educators.)

Edtech is there to amplify a learning that is already going on” (Steve Mouldey)

You can check Steve’s blog or Danielle’s for more information on their innovative practices.


N4L & Pond: fast broadband and future-focused schools

We were introduced to the platform by Carolyn Stewart, former school principal and Education sector lead. Future-focused schools that were outgrowing their internet package can continue at their thriving pace now: ultra-fast broadband is critical in enabling schools to explore more innovative approaches to teaching and learning. N4L’s fully government-funded managed network has been designed specifically for schools: to date, more than 2050 schools (over 80% of all New Zealand’s) are on the Managed Network.

Pond, the second activity of N4L, is an online environment aiming to unite New Zealand teachers, school administrators and students with providers of educational content and services: it is designed to act as a central hub for digital discovery and participation, where educational resources can be accessed and shared.


The Mind Lab: a new generation of teachers for a new generation of learners

The Mind Lab is an inter-disciplinary learning lab offering science, creative and technology programmes for school groups and professional development for teachers: it delivers a very interesting postgraduate certificate in Digital & Collaborative learning for New Zealand teachers, a part time qualification to build on knowledge of emerging technologies and teaching methodologies. Fee McLeod, General Manager of the Mind Lab by Unitec introduced us to the programme that ccovers topics including coding, 3D modelling and printing, science, robotics, game development, electronics, film effects and animation in over 6 cities in NZ. Over the next five years additional new sites are planned with the goal of training 10,000 teachers and over 180,000 school students.


We were lucky to be joined by Booktrack CTO Craig Wilson, Judy Stevenson from SunshineBooks. Judy Stevenson has been working for SunshineBooks (Wendy Pye Publishing) for the last 22 years after a career in teaching. They digitized most of their content and are trusted amongst their customers because of their track record. Over 500 schools use SunshineClassics for free in NZ, with a clear focus on literacy.

We had the chance to meet Craig Wilson, CTO of Booktrack, another literacy tool that synchronizes movie-style soundtracks to e-books which significantly increased reading engagement. Over 12,000 classes and 2.5M users around the world use this free product.



A lunch at VUW (Victoria University of Wellington) with EdPotential: help all New Zealand schools to improve student achievement
We met with Gary Ward and Bianca Grizhar. The pair introduced us to the programmes VUW has developed to identify innovative and commercially viable ideas within Victoria University's digital and design spaces and grow these from research to investment ready status. EdPotential is a Viclink (the organisation
helping researchers to transform their discoveries into marketable products or services) spin-out company for which Bianca is Commercialisation Manager. It was developed in partnership with Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Education, that enables schools to inquire into student performance, analyse students’ assessment data, identify strengths and gaps and act to target solutions.


StoryPark: engaging parents in the child’s learning journey

Sonya McIntyre and co-founder Jamie MacDonald provided us with an opportunity to see Storypark in action in one of the numerous kindergartens that use it, Owhiro Bay Kindergarten. With over 100,000 users, Storypark helps increase family involvement in the child's learning path.

Teachers can use the app through their own device, which has significantly increased usage and parents engagement. It makes planning faster, renews the mandatory documentation of kindergarten’s daily activities and the family contribution to the child’s learning journey.


Ministry of Education: ensuring equitable access to digital learning
Now is a clear time to focus on 21st century teaching in NZ as the infrastructure is mostly in place, with its fully funded high-speed broadband with uncapped data in over 80% of schools and innovative learning spaces beginning to be built.

We sat down at Te Papa, Wellington’s famous museum, with Ed Strafford, Senior Adviser on Curriculum for an overview of the work of the Ministry of Education regarding Edtech in New Zealand, harnessing the power of digital technologies to enhance achievement.

The policies and research put in place by the government deserve an article in themselves, and we’ll write more thoroughly about those best practices in our report. In the meantime, you may have a look at a few different resources that were put to our attention and that are fostering the right kind of innovation:

  • On closing the digital divide: 2020 Trust

  • R9 Accelerator: an original 3-month accelerator for teams made up of entrepreneurs and public servants

  • KiwiConnect: an organisation building bridges to connect global talent, impact capital, and high-tech innovation to the NZ startup ecosystem


Edtech Meetup in Wellington

We were happy to share our first batch of findings at the Wellington Edtech Meetup, hosted by David Glover and attended by a diverse crowd of Edtech specialists, educators and curious locals. Thanks for sharing your precious knowledge with us!


Dunedin’s largest industry is tertiary education: Dunedin is home to the University of Otago, New Zealand's oldest university (established 1869), and the Otago Polytechnic. We were greeted by Sarah Gauthier, Export Education Coordinator at Dunedin City Council and James Nation & Richard Fogarty from Bracken Learning, a SAAS startup that provides an LMS to corporate, sport organisations and schools for their corporate learning. Lynda Davison introduced us to Otago Polytechnic, the Signal ICT Grad School and its various programmes: a one-year qualification for those without an ICT background who want to be a part of fast-moving industry (SHIFT), a course for teachers who want to lead programming subjects in high school (EDUCATE), amongst others.

Education Perfect: analytics and assessment

Used by over 300k students from 1,000+ schools, Education Perfect is a powerful tool for students’daily learning, revision, and assessment: the platform is built on a spaced repetition algorithm which encourages and rewards students for revising questions on a regular basis over the school year. Co-founder and CIO Shane Smith & Joel Labes from the Language Perfect team introduced us to the Dunedin-based company.

Education Perfect hosted the 2015 National Pilot Online Assessments programme for the New Zealand Qualifications Authority in September 2015, and was able to present new data looking at the effectiveness of the platform: it was made available to students free of charge in the lead-up to the NZQA National Pilot Online Assessments.

A teacher that upskills themselves with the analytical features, and then uses them effectively could substantially impact the results their students achieve in assessments.

Craig Smith, CEO Education Perfect.


ADInstruments: When Edtech meets Medicine Education

We were given a tour of the company’s HQ by David Newstead, Head of Education at ADInstruments. Their tool, KuraCloud, targeting 1st year university students in health sciences, is helping to shape the future of tertiary education across a variety of fields, including physiology, pharmacology and medicine with content developed in collaboration with experts in the field and an innovative approach to active learning.

To learn more, watch this talk by Chris Wright, Head of Business Development, ADInstruments & KuraCloud.


What’s next?

  • We’re now in Australia, where the SydEduTech community has given us a warm welcome already. Know anyone we should meet in Sydney or Melbourne? Feel free to make an intro!


More reading!

  • We wrote about Startup Chile & the seedfunding opportunities for the Chilean Edtech landscape (in French) on our Educpros blog!
    Merry Christmas everyone, and thanks for reading!

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