The Mind Lab By Unitec

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A meeting of minds: Activate Tairawhiti made The Mind Lab a reality in Gisborne.

Andrew Ashton, 6 April 2016, The Gisborne Herald

 

JUST one year after a state-of-the-art education facility opened in Gisborne, scores of teachers and more than 5000 students have been given access to world-leading digital learning programmes.

The Mind Lab by Unitec, a public-private partnership between New Zealand’s biggest polytechnic and a specialist education lab dedicated to enhancing digital capability and collaborative teaching methods in the classroom, opened its Gisborne facility last April.

Speaking at a function this week to mark the anniversary, Mind Lab Gisborne education director Tim Gander said the first year of operation had been “an amazing experience”.

“In the last year we have had 5500 students and 84 teachers come through our doors. What I’ve learned over the past year is that it’s not technology that is going to transform education — it’s going to be the teachers and the educators.

“What technology allows us to do is to create an education system that is more humanistic. Things are always going to change. We just need to enable our students and our learners to be adaptive and change with the times.”

Mr Gander said the dedication of the Mind Lab staff meant the facility was one of the leading education systems not just in New Zealand but in the whole world.

“What we are trying to do with our teachers is say you should not be one step ahead of the students but one step beside the learner. You should be walking with them.”

Huge community support

Mr Gander said none of the past year’s achievements would have been possible without “huge support” from ECT and Activate Tairawhiti, as well as community and whanau support. 

The Gisborne facility was the first Mind Lab to be established outside Auckland, and was the result of a deal initiated and negotiated by Activate Tairawhiti and funded through a $500,000 ECT grant. This fully subsidised teachers to study for a NZQA-accredited Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning). It also allowed schoolchildren to attend high-tech digital learning programmes for just $1 an hour.

Te Wharau teacher Shanon O’Connor said although the technology available was “amazing”, the real benefit of going through post-graduate study at The Mind Lab was the ability to share experiences with like-minded teachers and educators.

“It encourages you to attempt things in your own classroom.”

Tairawhiti Technology Trust chairman Russell Holland said The Mind Lab was a “fantastic addition” to Gisborne.

“It’s also a really neat way of getting the teachers engaged to use ICT to teach any subject because that was our challenge. The perception was that we were trying to teach people about teaching ICT, but it’s not. ICT should be like the air-conditioning — you don’t realise it is there but you are using all these amazing things to transfer knowledge.”