Not all heroes wear capes
Manaiakalani and Fusion deliver next-level tech to low-decile schools
Since 2011, Manaiakalani Education Trust has dedicated itself to bridging the digital divide for students in low decile schools. It does that by helping their parents buy netbooks, providing decent internet access at home, and helping teachers better understand the digital world.
That’s a big task – especially for a charitable trust. So Manaiakalani looks to the private sector for much of what it needs.
In 2012, Fusion was tasked with solving connection issues at schools, upgrading equipment, and supporting under-resourced IT departments. Auckland’s Wesley Intermediate was the first cab off the digital rank.
The challenge was to execute a strategy that would not only solve Wesley’s unique issues but have the flexibility and capacity to be quickly rolled out to other schools. Fusion first audited Wesley’s existing IT gear before helping the school decide what desktops, netbooks and servers they should buy with Manaiakalani funding. We backed that up by delivering a powerful, integrated and affordable wireless network, which had the potential to easily be rolled out to other schools.
With servers, we pushed the limits of technology – as a result, Wesley’s network can handle hundreds of students online at the same time, while maintaining speed and stability..
Thanks to their new netbooks – mostly iPads and Chromebooks - students can now research and share content through the school network, or from anywhere with an internet connection. They can also receive ongoing support and technical guidance through a Fusion online portal specifically designed for schools and Manaiakalani.
"Fusion helped in every single aspect of getting our school fully digital; it's been a seamless process," says Wesley Intermediate Principal, Nigel Davis.
Wesley has since been followed by several East Auckland schools. Fusion set up the Tamaki Learning Network to boost connectivity for students and their families in Point England, Panmure and Glen Innes. For less than $5 a month, they can enjoy a reliable wireless internet connection right in their homes.
With Fusion, participating schools are relieved of hiring permanent IT support staff. Our consultants meet regularly with school ICT coordinators and principals to iron out issues quickly and simply, minimising disruption for teachers and students.
Not satisfied with limiting our contribution to school, we’re also helping students prepare for the workplace through the Fusion IT academy, where they’re trained in assembling and reassembling hardware, discovering the functions of Google Docs, coding, and other IT essentials.
This programme is a growing success. From Albany Senior High in the north to Wigram in the south, Fusion engineers now manage the Manaiakalani programme across eight national clusters and 65 schools. Manaiakalani CEO, Pat Sneddon says Fusion are great problem-solvers who, “think differently about how we might actually best address the issues in a way which would substantially improve the [community’s] circumstances.”
And the results? Participating schools report increased digital confidence among staff and students, improved academic performance, students staying longer at school, and wider career pathways for many.