- How do schools get involved in the Digital Opportunities projects?
- How does the funding work?
- What happens to the projects once their funding finishes?
- How are the projects being evaluated?
- How are partners brought into projects?
- Is there a minimum or maximum time period for a project lifespan?
- How do we get news about our project profiled on the DigiOps site?
1. How do schools get involved in the Digital Opportunities projects?
The Digital Opportunities projects are offered by the Ministry of Education on a three-year cycle. There are three strands to the Digital Opportunities Projects, they are: Teaching and learning innovations through ICT, A national needs- based project, and a technological innovations project. The first of these is primarily school-based, where schools are able to apply for funding from the Digital Opportunities funding pool to develop an ICT innovation which is aimed at using ICT resources to assist in meeting specific and targeted student social and learning needs. Invitations to apply for funding from this pool are lodged in the Education Gazette in April and May, at the end of the three-year project cycle.
The funding is available to all registered primary and secondary schools in New Zealand, and applications are assessed by a selection panel against a set of predetermined criteria which are indicated on the application form. The projects themselves are joint business, school and Ministry of Education initiatives, and as such applications should reflect how ICT- related businesses are able to contribute to the project in some way, usually by the provisioning of expertise or resource support.
3. What happens to the projects once their funding finishes?
One of the criteria for applications to respond to is the extent to which the proposed project is deemed to ‘have a life’ or is sustainable after the cessation of the Digital Opportunities project funding. Some projects may be seen to be ‘proof of concept’ pilots, which are able to inform or be used as models for wider roll-out on a national scale. Other projects may be more targeted and localised, but the basic principle which must underpin any Digital Opportunities initiative, regardless of its scope or scale, is that the results from the project must assist in informing and progressing the use of ICT in New Zealand schools. This is why qualitative case study data forms the basis of reporting project outcomes – so they are in a format which is accessible and useful to other practitioners and the wider ‘education public’.
4. How are the projects being evaluated?
Some projects have built into their structure an embedded researcher – usually a post-graduate student, who is usually paid a scholarship to track the progress and performance of the project over time. Some of these researchers utilise an action research design which allows them to have a more formative role in the development and form of the project, while others have adopted more of an interpretive case study methodology.
All projects are evaluated externally by a Ministry of Education research contract, which evaluates each project against its set of identified deliverables generated from the contract negotiation process.
Milestones are presented by the project holders at various points during the initiatives. These act as formative points for interaction between the Ministry of Education and the schools, where changes are able to be made to reflect significant project findings, or to deal with issues as they arise, and before they can impact negatively upon project performance.
Click here for information on Ultralab Souths evaluation researchers.
5. How are partners brought into projects?
Business partner relationships are developed from a core of leading ICT-focused companies in New Zealand, who have expressed interest and support for the Digital Opportunities projects in schools. The partnerships are brokered by the Ministry of Education’s project manager, so that the services and resources available through the partnership best meet the needs of the project holders, rather than being driven by the sort of equipment or services the business has to offer. Where possible, partnerships are arranged whereby a business is able to have a strong and leading ‘identity’ or relationship with one or two projects at the most, rather than being ‘scattered’ across the whole range of initiatives. In this way, it is hoped that the business will be able to forge a strong and beneficial working relationship with the project, to mutual benefit.
6. Is there a minimum or maximum time period for a project lifespan?
Most Digital Opportunities projects run for three years, but some shorter 2 year initiatives have been accepted in the 2005-07 round. All projects are revised at the end of their first year, to reflect changes to the scope and nature of the project revealed during the project trial phase in year one.
7. How do we get news about our project profiled on the DigiOps site?
Simply email our DigiOps editor, Jane Thomson, and let her know about your project.