Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
EdNA Directory Service, Mitchelton High School, Brisbane, 1.00pm Friday 28 November 1997: speech at launch.

Minister, Mr O'Hanlon-Rose, ladies and gentlemen.

I am very pleased to be here today to launch the EdNA Directory Service. This Internet service is unique in its scope, technically innovative and has enormous potential to meet the information and communication needs of the Australian education and training community.

The Commonwealth Government is committed to a comprehensive package of education and training initiatives which recognises and encourages lifelong learning. The Government is working with the education and training community- - Governments, non-Government organisations and business - to achieve outcomes which will lift Australia's economic performance and enable all Australians to participate in a more prosperous future.

Using information and communications technologies effectively is vital to the success of these initiatives. These technologies are not just the latest, but they are tools to apply to improving performance. They help us keep ahead of the game and offer exciting possibilities for the way in which we learn, work and live together in our society.

It is pleasing to see energy and commitment in all sectors of the Australian education market on this issue. Australia, because of our geography and population density, has a proud history of the innovative application of distance learning technologies. As a nation, we are early adopters of technological innovation.

Both public and private education institutions and providers are recognising the need for innovative delivery of the education product, using the latest technological tools available. Through such enterprising approaches, educators are providing increasing choice and diversity for learners and contributing to a future of strong economic growth.

Education Network Australia is an excellent example of enterprise and innovation. The Commonwealth has led the establishment of this collaborative framework across the nation. EdNA, as it is known, aims to maximise the benefits of information technology in education and training across all states and territories and all sectors of education, including lifelong learning.

The EdNA collaborative framework helps all stakeholders avoid duplication of effort and resources: we have already seen significant cost savings through purchasing arrangements and the sharing of software. We can be very proud of this high level of cooperation and sharing across the nation in relation to IT in education and training.

The EdNA Directory Service, which we are here to launch today, is a key outcome of this broader EdNA process. It is an ambitious undertaking - nothing less than a single entry point for quality online educational resources and services for people of all ages and in all areas of Australia.

We all welcome this initiative - a service that helps us make sense of the chaos of the world wide web. The Internet is often touted as the information superhighway to a prosperous future - a panacea for everything from education to commerce. Those who use the Internet, though, know that it can be time-consuming, frustrating and even lonely!

Educators and students - across all sectors - are looking for tools that will help them use the Internet more effectively, find resources that are really relevant and useful to them, and provide opportunities to communicate with others who share the same interests and aspirations. This Directory Service is just such a tool.

There are a number of impressive things about the EdNA Directory Service. While there is not the time to list them all - and you will see them demonstrated in the video presentation to follow - I would like to mention a few that seem to me to be particularly important:

. its comprehensiveness - with more than 5000 core approved sites in the EdNA directory and direct access to over 20,000 more;

. its ease of use, with a comprehensive Help system and tutorial;

. its Australian perspective;

. and its quality assurance processes - so important in reassuring parents about the appropriateness of material for their children.

It is also very impressive that the Directory Service can be managed through devolved structures - its technical flexibility allows groups of users to have control over particular parts of a service in which all users can fully claim ownership.

Perhaps most important of all is the capacity EdNA has for linking teachers and students across the nation - and indeed, across the world. Through EdNA, people in all sectors of education and of all ages can share ideas with one another and learn together, with particular benefits for those who are isolated by location, disability or illness. Through EdNA, Australia can truly become one classroom.

At a school like Mitchelton High School, we are able to get a glimpse of the physical school classroom of the future. Computers for every day use, a resource centre where using a computer is as natural as using a book, and where the full range of technological tools support learning and extend students' horizons. If we were to go to a nearby TAFE college, or a university, we would expect to see similar changes taking place. Then there is the classroom without boundaries - beyond the physical classroom we have the unseen links across the nation and out into the world beyond. Exciting indeed.

As we move towards the next century, many educational commentators question current structures for schooling and speculate that new technologies will fundamentally change the way people teach and learn.

Let me say that I am not one who subscribes to this view. I believe that the fundamentals of teaching and learning will continue - the importance of the basic skills of literacy and numeracy, the essential role of the teacher and the opportunities that education provides for social interaction and civic development.

While these fundamentals remain, we must always be looking for new and creative ways of achieving better learning. For example, in the area of civics and citizenship education, a wide range of new resources developed through the Commonwealth's Discovering Democracy Programme is now available on the Internet and can be accessed through the EdNA Directory Service. These resources will be demonstrated by students here in the Resource Centre as part of their demonstration of what the EdNA Directory Service has to offer.

In conclusion, I would like to stress that a launch is both an end and a beginning. The launch of the EdNA Directory Service marks the end of a period of intensive development: the establishment of policies and protocols for the operation of the Service, the impressive technical development and the building of content.

I would like to thank all those who have participated in this development stage, in whatever capacity. The Service is a tribute to your commitment and expertise.

Most importantly, the launch marks a beginning: the handing over of this Directory Service to you, the users - all who are teachers and learners in our society . And is that not all of us?

I am now delighted to launch the EdNA Directory Service and encourage all Australians to use the Directory and to participate in its growth and success.

I now ask you to join me in exploring what EdNA has to offer.