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Ben Long
22/02/2017
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UOW IT chief Fiona Rankin named Education CIO of the Year

Awarded for program that uses technology to improve opportunities for children in regional and remote areas

University of Wollongong Director of Information Management & Technology Services (IMTS) Fiona Rankin was named CIO of the Year in the Education category at the 2017 iTnews Benchmark Awards in Melbourne last night (Tuesday 21 February).

Ms Rankin was presented with the award for UOW’s Early Start Program, which uses technology to break down barriers to early years education and give children and educators in regional, rural and remote areas access to learning and teaching tools.

Early Start partnered 41 early childhood education and care centres in disadvantaged communities across New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, equipping them with technologies like video conferencing, iPads, and smart whiteboards and tables to give the children at those centre “the best start in life” regardless of their location.

The early childhood centres use video conferencing to connect into the Early Start Facility at UOW’s Wollongong campus, which offers research rooms and a Discovery Space that students and teachers can tap into despite their remote location, providing them teaching and learning tools that would otherwise have been unavailable.

The project required a significant amount of integration work as well as training for educators. It also had the added challenge of ensuring its chosen technology solutions were robust enough to withstand both the challenges of remote locations and the sometimes less-than-delicate hands of young children.

In accepting the award, Ms Rankin emphasised the collaborative nature of the project and the significant amount of work put in by team members from both IMTS and Early Start, in particular noting the contributions from Early Start Engagement and Professional Development Specialist Michelle Gregory and IMTS Project Manager Karen Love.

“There are so many people and organisations that have contributed to the vision of the Early Start Program and made it reality - including the Abbott foundation, state and federal governments and funding from the University of Wollongong,” Ms Rankin said.

“I accept this award knowing it was delivered by creative, exceptional, insightful, and talented professionals who are deeply committed to good outcomes. This includes the amazing UOW researchers and academics.

“I have to thank the whole IT team including the unique Karen Love, the technology project manager who continues to take an active interest in Early Start’s operations.”

The $44 million Early Start initiative was established with $31 million in funding through the Federal Government’s Education Investment Fund (EIF), with an additional $7 million coming from a philanthropic gift from a private donor (The Abbott Foundation) and the University providing the balance.

Caption: UOW Information Management & Technology Services Director Fiona Rankin accepts the Education CIO of the Year award at the 2017 iTnews Benchmark Awards. Picture: Courtesy iTnews

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