The new internet portal for schools, which has been named Pond, was unveiled last weekend at the Festival of Education in Auckland by government ministers and N4L leaders.
Network for Learning (N4L) is building the portal, with a small group of school teachers from around the country currently testing its core features. These include a sophisticated search function and tools that make it easy for teachers to discover, review, and share educational content and services with their peers.
Feedback from the testing group is being used to refine and improve the Pond environment before the next group of teachers will be invited to use the portal in May, with all teachers getting access by the end of the year.
The teachers testing Pond now are using the search tool to discover rich educational content that is not normally easy to find using regular search engines. Examples include the educational resources available at Digital NZ and eTV educational videos, which do not feature prominently in regular search engine results.
In a later release of Pond, teachers will be able to create ‘learning bundles’ of content which can be reviewed, re-used and adapted by other teachers who are looking for classroom resources.
“This means that educators looking for material aren’t endlessly reinventing the wheel,” N4L CEO John Hanna says. “For example, educators that are new to teaching science, or who may be looking for a better way of teaching a specific science topic, can go inside Pond to see what other teachers across the country have used in their classrooms.
“We are working with educators now to ensure Pond is easy to use, highly relevant and is a rewarding experience for schools.”
Taupaki School Principal Stephen Lethbridge is one of the first few educators inside Pond and says he’ll be encouraging his teachers to start using it once it is more widely available. “It’s fantastic to have a central place we can go to share information and discover new ways we can use educational content to improve student learning,” Mr Lethbridge says.
“Being part of an online community frequented by our peers allows us to learn from each other and share best practices. Seeing my peers’ comments on a particular video or online education program can really help a teacher considering using the resource in their classroom.”
Other Pond users include organisations providing content and services to the education sector. More than 100 of these organisations have already created profiles inside Pond, including educational video service eTV, Google apps specialist Hapara, NZ On Screen, National Library and New Zealand Geographic.
Mr Hanna says Pond’s development team will be continuously releasing new features and tools over the coming months, while closely reviewing all user feedback to ensure the portal remains relevant and responsive to teaching needs.