Reimagining P-TECH and online learning

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Author: Monique Simpson, P-TECH New Zealand Industry Liaison, IBM Global Markets

Pre-Lockdown, P-TECH Mentoring on Orientation Day, February 2020, IBM Auckland

Pre-lockdown, P-TECH Mentoring on Orientation Day, February 2020, IBM Auckland

We are now emerging out of lockdown. As we head back to school and some of us return to our workplaces, I hope that we capture some of the successes from learning and working during this time, and continue to take a ‘big picture’ approach to education. For me, this focuses on wellbeing, adaptability, resilience, problem-solving, and wraps community and partnerships into classroom learning.

Like many low decile educators around the country, we had to rethink how P-TECH and online learning could work best for students who live in communities where the digital divide is one of the widest.

P-TECH, or Pathways to Technology, is an in-school partnership programme co-created by IBM by IBM between business, industry and education that helps create a five-year pathway to a career in technology.

At the start of lockdown, about a quarter of our P-TECH students in New Zealand didn’t have access to a device. One of our P-TECH partners, The Warehouse Group organised laptops for the students, which meant no-one was left out. All students could engage in learning online and could work alongside their mentors when term two began.

We all missed the structure of our daily routines. For our students, this was also hard. It was great to see a community of support between mentors, students and teachers as we all adjusted to online learning and working from home. I was particularly inspired by the relationships mentors were beginning to build with the students and the two-way conversations between them.

These sessions between mentors and students have shown me how resilient people are, and the importance of the big picture of education. Learning is not just about what you are doing in the classroom at any point in time. Our wellbeing and our communities support are vital to our success.

Lockdown has also been an opportunity for students and teachers to explore some of the free online learning resources available. We’ve used technology to rethink learning and reimagine the curriculum. Learning has included opportunities for students to engage with industry solutions, analyse possible outcomes and learn from experts within the field – making learning authentic. Some of the students, who have struggled to motivate themselves to complete assignments and hand in work, have enjoyed earning industry recognised badge credits for topics like cybersecurity and AI on the Open P-TECH platform.

The future ahead looks bright. Together we’ll continue to build pathways for our students that focus on the big picture, including wellbeing and resilience, alongside community partnerships and support, and bring out the best for our young people.

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