Monday, 22 September 2008

Sustainability of eLearning clusters

On Friday, Jan Collier (CoroNet), Janet Ackhurst (Baylink), Carolyn Bennett (FarNet) and Sue Winters (eP Mentor) met to discuss our presentation on sustainability of eLearning clusters, and what factors were critical in ensuring clusters survived beyond projects and project funding.

These were a few of the things we came up with:
  • Context - where has the cluster come from. (Whakapapa of the cluster)
  • Relationships - between principals at the various schools. Need to see the cluster as being beneficial for their school. The Cluster has value for each school. Principals Collaborate and co-operate.
  • Relationships - between ePrincipal and Principals; between ePrincipal and staff at each school.
  • Collaboration and co-operation between staff across the cluster
  • Cluster vision - lead by the principals. This gives the cluster status within each school.
  • Commitment by each school to the cluster vision.
  • Someone to drive the cluster and the cluster vision - ePrincipal/cluster leader.
  • Cluster leader seen as an extension of each schools SMT.
  • Funding - from MoE and from each school. Need to have a sustainable funding model. This has ramifications for the size of clusters. Optimal size seen as 10 to 12 schools in a cluster.
  • Leadership - the cluster needs strong leadership from principals - principals take ownership of the cluster and what happens in it.
I will be adding to this as I refer to my notes for the day.

Video conferencing - critical success factors

Having given some thought to what factors will support our students when doing courses via VC, I have listed the following factors which I think impacts on the quality of learning:
  1. Quality teachers delivering the course.
  2. VC training for eteachers
  3. Time allowance for teachers to deliver the VC course. Guideline is 4 hours per week which includes the VC contact time.
  4. VC accepted as part of the mainstream school and not an add-on. i.e. VC courses are accepted as viable options to face to face classes.
  5. Good support for students at their school. The students have a learning centre to go to when not doing VC, so that they can get on with their course work; they have support from the eSupervisor and from their deans who monitor their academic progress.
  6. Students vetted for the ability to succeed in a distance learning environment. Students need to be fully aware of what doing a course via VC will entail. It is NOT an easy option.
  7. Good communication between the student and their eTeachers.
  8. Good communication between the eTeacher and the students' eSupervisor and deans.
  9. Student reports done every term by eTeachers
  10. Well organised eTimetable
  11. Regular meetings between ePrincipal, eTeachers and eSupervisors.
  12. Student and eTeacher feedback (done through survey).
  13. Parents understanding of the learning environment.
  14. Principal and board support for video conferencing. They need to see value in VC for the students at their school. Without this, most of the issues above will not happen

Monday, 15 September 2008

Educators talking about Learning

The videos embedded below come from a site called EDtalks.
Check it out. There are heaps of really outstanding educationalists sharing their views. The two I have chosen are centred around inquiry learning, as this is an area of interest for teachers in our cluster, and a personal interest of mine. If I were to say how I would like to teach it would be as follows:
Inquiry based with a focus on collaborative learning and assessment (COLA - thanks to Dr. Paul Lowe), using formative assessment to guide my practice all underpinned through the use of ICT technologies

Sharon Freisen on New Roles for Teachers in the 21st Century

Sharon Freisen on Inquiry Learning

Last week I was mostly...........

Well, after a couple of days in
Ohakune, where I did not get to see too much of the wonderful Mount Ruapehu, I made my way to Putaruru College to spend a couple of days with the good folk there. I managed to get in a wee bit of PD on the VC gear, went to a VC meeting with the Maths teachers from around our cluster and attended the ICT committee meeting. There were only three teachers at the Maths meeting, which was disappointing, but in spite of the small numbers, a very fruitful meeting I think. The ICT meetings are always full on with ideas flying everywhere. The school is currently involved in equipping its classrooms with data projectors and interactive whiteboards. There was a lot of discussion surrounding installation of DPU's and screens and also around having computers in classrooms. It was felt that in order for teachers to take advantage of the flexibility and variety offered by technology and the internet, DPU's and computers in the classroom were becoming mandatory. The aim is to also have at least four computers per classroom. The big question is whether teachers have the equipment, and then learn to use it, creating a period of no return on investment, or whether we tease teachers with the possibilities, give them the PD, and then provide the equipment in the knowledge they know how to use it in a pedagogically competent manner. While we could have the chicken and the egg arguement here, most of us learn by doing, so it seems logical to get a zero return on investment for a short while as opposed to having frustrated teachers who see no point in PD when they never get the chance to use it.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

New Zealand Curriculum

I subscribe to a blog which is maintained by a fellow ePrincipal, Darren Sudlow. His most recent entry includes a slide show delivered by Rachel Bolstad from NZCER on the new curriculum and 21st century learning. I highly recommend that you check this out at, especially given the focus many of our schools are giving at the moment to the new curriculum.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Ruapehu College - A school with a view

Today I have been at Ruapehu College. Unfortunately, the view is not like the one above as the wind is howling and the clouds are low. I still have another day here so will see what tomorrow brings. Things we have been looking at today include:

  • Needs analysis - Looking like Physics and Chemistry for L2/L3 and maybe Japanese.
  • 2009 VC subject offerings - L3 Accounting
  • LMS issues - Training - Look to make this a focus for term 4 and 2009
  • Presentation to the board - Preliminary set for 23 Sept. at 7:30 pm via VC
  • ICT vision and plan for 2009 - ongoing
  • Presentation to students/deans - Set for 8:45 on Sept. 11 via VC.
Also worked with teachers on downloading youtube videos for teaching purposes.

Appraisal - who benefits??

Over the last couple of weeks I have been carrying out VC teacher appraisals. I have only done three so far, but I am finding it a well worthwhile process. As I observe my colleagues at work I am continually reflecting on how I would have done it, or perhaps how I would do it differently. I never saw the process as part of my PD, but it definitely seems to be working out that way. Killtwo birds with one stone. Hopefully, my colleagues will get as much out of my observations as I asm doing by observing them.


Thursday, 4 September 2008


Based on some of the work that the other ePrincipals have been doing with LMS's and looking at work done by Mount Albert Grammer with the Myclasses LMS, I think I can see the potential this tool has for teaching, but I believe that certain conditions need to be met:
  1. Teachers need computers in their classrooms to allow for spontaneous and easy access to the technology.
  2. There needs to be school wide commitment to the establishment of effective pedagogy surrounding the use of LMS's and associated technologies.
  3. Students need to be shown how to work with the LMS, and the expectations surrounding its use.
  4. The LMS should not be used simply as a document repositry. It should be seen as a point of contact and collaboration and not simply a point of content. The use of complementary software such as hot potatoes, wikis, google docs, etc should form part of the strategy when working with, and developing lessons on an LMS.
  5. Teachers need to be clear about how the technology compliments and supports their practice.
  6. Teachers need to realise that making greater use of an LMS gives away control, but provides the opportunity to work alongside students instead of in front of them.
  7. We must accept that the way we work with students in this environment will change the way we teach. We also need to coach our students to be able to work within this environment, not necessarily the technical aspects, but the learning aspects.
Does the fact that this technology gives rise to any time, any where learning mean that it also gives rise to any time, any where teaching? How does this impact on how schools operate?

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

My f*#!%ing goosebump story

I have just received an email from a colleague of mine, Darren Sudlow, regarding a blog entry by Tomas Lasic, a teacher in a tough Australian school. This really outlines what education is all about, and the role ICT can play in education, no matter what the circumstances. Check out his blog here.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

A Day at Reporoa College

I spent today at Reporoa College working with teachers on eLearning. PD was mainly centred around using Hot Potatoes, Myclasses and showing people how to use the VC gear. I was busy all 5 periods which was awsome. The teachers I worked with saw the potential in the VC, online learning environments and the associated tools. The nice thing was that they saw the tools as simply ways to improve their teaching, or ways to differentiate their teaching. Learning was still central to what they were about, and it was acknowledged that no matter how good a tool you have, it is only as good as the practitioner applying it.

Can Kid's teach themselves?

Well, it's 5pm and I have just come from a VC meeting with the other ePrincipals. Quite a few items on the agenda including collaboration regarding course offerings for 2009. It's clear that our students' needs are not being met, so we need to see how we can improve that.

Watched a good video clip today from TED.
See Below.

Sugata Mitra: Can kids teach themselves?
Speaking at LIFT 2007, Sugata Mitra talks about his "Hole in the Wall" project. Young kids in this project figured out how to use a PC on their own -- and then taught other kids. Given this, he asks, what else can children teach themselves and each other? Watch this talk >>

Monday, 1 September 2008

Well, it's been a busy day so far for finding new stuff. Two new survey tools have been released by the NZCER, one looking at student engagement in years 7 to 10, and the other being a teacher workplace survey.
Go to to check out these new survey tools. I reckon all the schools in the cluster should have students in years 7 to 10 carrying out these surveys, and their teachers carrying out the workplace survey.

Picot Now - Comments on EHSAS

Keith McKenzie (Principal Tongariro School), directed me towards this website come Blog by an educationalist called Kelvin Smythe. Not being in NZ that long, I am unaware of the work of this person, but having read what he has to say about EHSAS and the use of ICT in education, I can definitely say that he challenges the popular trends in the name of education. Therefore he is a MUST read, even if it is simply to balance the unending barrage of need to's and have to's, surrounding ICT use and improving student achievement. One word of caution - he does go on a bit, so be prepared to give each article at least 20 minutes to read and digest

Check out his site, and this article called "Picot Now".
There is another good article called computers:battle lines which looks at computers in education

Inquiry Learning

I was at Tongariro School in Turangi today and was chatting with Denise New, the DP of the middle school. They have recently been following the work of Pat Nolan, but looking to find out how to apply the theory in the classroom. This search lead them to the work of Trevor Bond, whose work centres around an inquiry learning model called SAUCE. This model has been developed by Trevor using parts of all the other inquiry learning models, taking out and combining the parts he really thinks applies to inquiry learning. Have a look at the
Quest website and also at the SAUCE model.

I was looking through the breakouts for ULearn08 and came across a presentation by Andrew Church on VARK which is a learning styles assessment tool. So naturally I googled VARK abd came across the website "Vark
-- A guide to learning Styles". This look very interesting and has application for both primary and secondary teachers.