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Physical and IT environment

A modern learning environment supports 21st century learning by integrating the IT infrastructure , and encouraging a more open and flexible approach to teaching and learning.

Consider how the current physical learning environment supports your vision for learning with digital devices.

  • What does the shift away from a teacher disseminating content, toward more collaborative and individual project-based learning, mean for classroom design?  
  • How will you organise your learning space?  
  • Will a mix of areas be needed for individual study, collaborative small group learning, and large group activities?
  • How can learning spaces and furniture be reconfigured to be flexible and responsive to different learners and learning contexts?
  • Does the environment allow for teacher collaboration and working together in teams?
  • How could the timetable support individualised and project-based learning?
  • How does the environment support different modes of learning and individual strengths?

You can create flexible learning spaces, for example by combining two classes into one and team-teaching, splitting a class into small groups and spreading them over a wider area, or combining different classes studying complementary learning areas.

Some schools have created a learning common, or hub, which is a central teaching and learning space that can be shared by several classes. The ability to observe and learn from the teaching of others, and be observed in return, is an important part of collaboration.

Digital technologies can help provide flexible approaches to learning and teaching to meet the varied needs of learners in your school. In an inclusive modern learning environment, there are opportunities for different styles of learning, multiple means of representation, action, expression and engagement with learning. Digital technologies can help to provide all students with equal opportunities to learn.

Tyler is a Year 6 student at Parkvale School. He has dyspraxia. Using a netbook gives him the freedom to write creatively instead of being inhibited by the speed of his handwriting or his ability to form letters.

Anywhere, anytime access to resources, and the ability to collaborate virtually is provided by 1:1 technologies. There is often a mixture of wireless and wired technology, which means students have access to technology as and when they need it within the flow of their learning. 

As schools extend use of technology, it may provide the opportunity to redesign classrooms and reconfigure school layout to better support technology use.

For further information and school stories go to:

IT Infrastructure

The IT infrastructure that supports use of digital devices at school is just as important as the devices themselves.

Your school’s internal network and internet connection will affect the speed, reliability and security of the devices. It will impact the cost to the school, the ease of use of devices at school, and the ease of administration of the 1:1 digital device or BYOD programm

Some IT infrastructure aspects to consider are:

  • Scalability (current and future number of users, bandwidth requirements)
  • Power requirements (device charging policy and facilities, power consumption, alternative energy sources – for example solar)
  • Internet providers (the N4L managed network will provide all schools with fast, predictable access to the internet through a Government funded connection)
  • LAN/WAN design (see Required infrastructure section on Getting connected to the N4L overview page )
  • Server infrastructure and capacity (on-premise servers/hybrid/cloud-based storage and network management)
  • Security (network security controls, filtering and firewalls, identity and access management, data protection and recovery, device storage, building security)
  • Access to school resources (printers, photocopiers, presentation equipment, shared drives, subscription-based catalogues, school portal/SMS, email)
  • Network and mobile device management software (application/i-book licensing, software deployment and management, device controls, network administration, and reporting).

The Government and Ministry of Education are investing in infrastructure and services to ensure that schools are well placed to take advantage of the learning opportunities of digital technologies. Investments to support schools include:

Schools as digital hubs

Schools with ultra-fast broadband can now share their fibre connections with their local communities. There is information on the Ministry’s website to help you understand what becoming a community digital hub entails and the process to follow. This includes the Third party occupancy: approval process .

Cloud computing

The cloud refers to a service, infrastructure, or application that is hosted on a third-party virtual machine or data centre. These are accessed via the internet. By storing data in the cloud or using cloud based applications, hardware and software demands on the user's side decrease – the need for large servers to store data is reduced or eliminated. Using cloud based applications such as Google Apps and storing data in the cloud  means students and teachers have anywhere, anytime access to content via the internet. Read more about learning in the cloud (Education Gazette article).

Schools need to make their own assessment of prospective suppliers of cloud services in relation to:. The NetSafe website provides helpful information about:

  • personally sensitive information
  • related resources.

School stories

Developing the infrastructure for new technologies
Principal, Jane Danielson shares the thinking that went into planning their technological infrastructure at Hingaia Penninsula School.

Developing the infrastructure for 1:1 devices
Systems manager, Alistair Montgomerie describes the infrastructure set up at St Hilda's Collegiate to enable all students and staff to use the Internet as part of their 1:1 laptops programme. He explains their wireless network upgrade and why they needed ultra-fast broadband.

Confidence in a managed wireless network
Part of Balmoral School’s strategic plan focused on developing a 21st Century learning environment. It began with a BYOD programme, facilitated by a managed wireless network. This article from Interface magazine describes their technical solution.


Modern learning environments
New Zealand teachers and school leaders describe and explain their modern learning spaces, their vision and the pedgagogy that underpins their design and practice in this Ministry of Education website. 

Ministry property toolbox  
This section on the Ministry of Education website contains useful resources for Boards to make property and infrastructure decisions

Open learning spaces
Chris Bradbeer, Associate Principal, blogs about modern learning environments.

Canterbury professional learning group for MLE
This professional learning group is based in Christchurch. Join the group via the Google site or register for the planned school visits.

PLG open learning spaces
A professional learning group based in Auckland. Join the group and meet face-to-face monthly or look through the site at the resources on modern learning environments.

EDtalks – BYOD
A series of videos from teachers and educators explaining different aspects of introducing BYOD into schools.

For more information and school stories visit the Technologies section :

Community discussions

Join the groups in the VLN to participate in the discussions

BYOD in schools group
-Which device?

BYOD group
-BYOD 1:1, 1:2 database
-1:1. 1:2 classes across New Zealand database (Google doc)