Frances Valintine, Founder and Chair of The Mind Lab by Unitec advocates teachers are the answer to preparing our students for a super charged world.

Award winning The Mind Lab by Unitec is a learning facility fundamentally designed to enable children to get excited about technology. But, while its focus is on the students of today it is equally focused on teaching the teachers of today. Call it a multiplier effect, by developing teachers The Mind Lab will make a big difference in the learning outcomes of a student.

“To better educate our children, we need to help empower teachers, supporting them to use new technology, online learning tools and problem solving activities to transform their classrooms, their schools and their communities,” says Frances Valintine, Founder and Chair of The Mind Lab by Unitec.

Technology has fundamentally changed how we communicate, share and learn. This change has come with both opportunities and challenges.

“Education has been slowly evolving over many decades however today the system is challenged by the demands of a digital era where students are growing up in an entirely digital world.”

The education model is challenged by supersonic speed digital technology that demands new digital learning techniques where teachers can prepare students for a digital economy.

“Teachers are grappling with how to teach a generation of kids that have access to devices that enable them to share, communicate and connect in a very different way to when they trained as teachers. Teachers want to be supported with development programmes that allow them to explore this world and integrate online learning practices into their teaching practice.”

The Mind Lab has many different facets – a programme for schools to engage their students’ onsite, holiday programmes and a postgraduate programme for teachers. And, technology is treated as an enabler and a tool rather than a subject or topic.

“We have bus-loads of teachers and kids that are exposed to new active ways of learning. They can roll up their sleeves and immerse themselves in 3D design, film and animation, engineering, coding or robotics. We want teachers to introduce a broader range of subjects at a young age. We want to spark their curiosity about science and technology.”

The Mind Lab offers a postgraduate qualification that upskills educators to implement new digital and collaborative learning practices. The programme is a 32 week part-time certificate that enables teachers to study while working. During that period they can gain insight and first-hand experience in the new technologies and collaborative pedagogies that are shaping 21st century education.

Funding from the NEXT Foundation will be used to subsidise the costs of 800 teachers to embark on the postgraduate programme.

“Next generation teachers want to continue their engagement and create a dialogue with their students that is relevant. This qualification is a significant opportunity for teachers to arm themselves with the tools and knowledge for today’s classroom and prepare their students for tomorrow’s world and workforce.”

“We live in a super charged, fast moving world where replacement body parts can be printed on a 3D printer, where cars can drive themselves and where you can book scenic flights to outer space. If we fool ourselves for even a moment that technology skills are not essential for future success, we risk preparing our students for a world that no longer exists.”

“We need our future generation to be innovators, creators and inventors. We need scientists, technologists and entrepreneurs beyond the obvious economic benefits of developing highly skilled graduates who create tech focused products and services. There are many social gains that come from developing skills where there are great opportunities for our students’ future employment.”

Currently in Auckland only, The Mind Lab is planning to open Mind Labs in Wellington, Gisborne and potentially Christchurch in the next year.