Friday, 31 October 2008

This week I have been mostly doing.........

This week I have spent time at Tauhara College in Taupo (two days) and Forest View High School in Tokoroa (two days).

I had the opportunity to give a presentation on the Volcanics Cluster and Virtual Learning Network to the Board of Trustees of Tauhara College. They are a newly appointed board, so it was thought it would be a good idea to give them a bit of background on Volcanics and introduce them to the VLN and how Volcanics operates in, and through the VLN. I also had the opportunity to assist some teachers at the College with putting resources up on to their LMS (UltraNet). There was also some good discussion around the educational value of an intranet (LMS) and the pedagogical benefits of tools like hot potatoes, especially when using a discovery learning model of teaching. Again it was shown that it is not the technology that is important, but how it supports the pedagogy. I think we concluded that Hot Potatoes would be fine for certain learning activities, such as building a learning scaffold, moving from the simple to the complex by introducing more and more complex questions, on the basis of achieving success at the easier levels, but would definitely not be an appropriate tool in a true discovery learning situation, other than to test understanding of what had already been discovered or learnt. I also managed to fit in two video conference classes.

Having not been to FVHS for some time, there was a lot of catching up to do. The ICT department is involved with the new Digital Technology Guidelines (DTG) with Heather Williamson and Bruce Dowdle attending a two day conference in Auckland in November. Three other schools from our cluster will also be represented at the conference, namely Reporoa College, Ruapehu College and Putaruru College. All of these schools are trial schools for the new DTG's. Heather will also be in Wellington during November working with NZQA on the TIM domain and how unit standards within this domain can be assessed on the basis of achieved, merit and excellence. This will be interesting as I am wondering what this means for unit standards in other subjects.

Managed to get some PD done, on basic emailing and file organisation with one teacher, who originally came to have PD on using powerpoint. We ended up talking about renaming files, creating and renaming folders and attaching documents to emails. What did I learn? That I need to, again, carry out a needs analysis survey in our cluster schools.

There was discussion around how wikis, blogs and google docs can be affective learning tools, and in what learning situations they would be appropriate. This obviously took us into the realm of when these tools would NOT be the correct learning tool to use, which is part of the whole ideaof making sure you use the correct tool for the job. There was also concern expressed as to whether these tools are simply just the latest fad which will eventually be replaced by the next latest fad. The answer to this comment is "NO". Wikis, blogs, etc are not a fad. Over 100 million users cannot be that wrong, but yes, they will be replaced by something else, and most likely within the next year or so given the rate of change in the technology environment. However, collaboration, contact and connectedness using the internet is here to stay, as is personalising your virtual space and hopefully personalising learning. However, what this virtual environment will look like in five years time is anyone's guess. There was also more work done around the use of online learning environments and the tentative beginnings of setting up a meeting between teachers involved with GATE programmes within our cluster. The opportunity for our gifted and talented students to collaborate, co-operate and perhaps compete across schools in the cluster, using the technology we have, has definitely got potential. Thanks to Kris for putting this idea forward. There are other GATE groups collaborating in other clusters who we can also contact which could widen the net and the experience for our GATE students.
Work was also done on looking at how EHSAS is going at the school and the definite need to clarify and focus direction for the cluster in 2009 onwards. The word used by Ian (DP) was coherence, which in one word explains what our strategies need to achieve. ICT is still on the agenda though, as is VC. The big question is how do we ensure that VC is a positive and successful experience for our students, and how do we ensure that ICT becomes systemic and is used in a pedagogically effective way?

Have a good week-end.

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