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  • Our guys speak to their submissions at the Select Committee Inquiry into 21st century learning environments and digital literacy last month.

    "from Checkpoint on Wednesday 22 August 2012

    MPs are being warned children are losing interest in school because their teachers do not know how to use new technology in their lessons."

  • A couple of weeks ago we held a day (and night) long meeting for CantaNet Principals in Tekapo.  This was a significant event and the very first time we had got all the principals together since the amalgamation.  As you could imagine it was a perfect opportunity to get everyone on the same page.  The focus for this meeting was to develop a shared vision for the future of the cluster and develop clear goals and actions for the next three years.  While we didn't quite get those concrete actions we would have liked to, we did develop very clear goals and priorities for the cluster which you can see outlined in the graphic below.

    I did make sure principals had lots of reading prior to the meeting (although a little later than I would have liked) so everyone had an opportunity to prepare themselves and we could then use the time for what was needed - discussion.  This included a full agenda, a strategic document (see below) that highlighted the major issues and a booklet of relevant blog posts from this site (using Fastpencil).   The morning session still consisted of information giving, but I did really enjoy the panel discussion on the future of communities of schools.  The panel consisted of Professor Niki Davis (University of Canterbury), Ken Pullar (OtagoNet), Carol Moffat (GCSN), Trevor Storr (CantaNet), and Eddie Reisch (Ministry of Education).  Each one of them contributed to a very though provoking discussion which raised some key issues.  The big one being "Where to from here?"  No easy answer to that.

    The afternoon session was more focused on developing a response to the various challenges we face.  This took a while to get going, but I think that it had a lot to do with how the room was set up.  We were seated in a rather large U shape which is not ideal for facilitating discussion within such a large group.  Things really started to move when we broke into smaller groups which then fed back.  This then led into dinner and a quick evening session where we wrapped things up.

    While we didn't get those concrete actions we wanted we have clearly identified our priorities and I am very confident all principals have a common understanding of where we are going and why.  While the online programme was the priority for virtually all, it was heartening to see support for the future development of blended learning and  teacher collaboration.  This has been a significant focus of our three year Ministry funded regional cluster with WestNet.  The challenge now is to look at how we can continue the momentum without Ministry funding.  It is do-able, but will require some careful thinking and planning from us and our schools.

    The issue of resourcing / funding is always one we come back to.  Basically we have hit a ceiling as a cluster.  The financial contribution from each school will not be increasing, but we have a long way to go to really mature what we are doing.  We have basically proposed and received endorsement from the principals to explore other ways of organising ourselves and alternative funding streams.  As always, much to do over the next few weeks.

    [scribd id=106204452 key=key-uk2wj1srk5bxsu6menn mode=scroll]

  • Social Media and Ethics is very relevant to us in the VLN Community with so many of our teachers engaging with students in online spaces and using social media to connect for learning.

    The NZ Teachers Council has prepared a website resource for teachers that are structured around the Teachers Code of Ethics. This week they presented it in a webinar - you can find out more and join the discussion here and you can view the recorded webinar here.

    I will be very keen to check this out when it becomes available and share it with our eteachers.

    Teachers Social Media

  • Cross posted from the VLN Primary group

    Howard Baldwin from the Ministry of Education has offered to run a follow-up VC/Webinar session to their Learning Without Limits Seminar series on Tuesday 18th September 10 am. If you missed the face to face sessions or need further clarification this would be a great opportunity to participate. This would be something that would be worthwhile for Board of Trustees members to participate in also. These sessions will only run if there is interest from schools. Find out more and register your interest

  • Thanks Ken for sharing:

    Is the mind a bucket or a muscle? Now there's a question to ponder. While you're thinking about that, you might want to tune in to hear one the world's foremost 'learning, change and leadership' experts, Prof Bill Lucas, as he shares the latest research on the matter and discusses how every teacher can help their students become smarter. This FREE webinar, 'Learnable Intelligence, and how it's changing education' will take place from 8am-8.45am on Tuesday 11 September with LNNZ and Bill Lucas, live from the UK. Perfect for a staffroom / brekky / team get-together - click here to register (limited spaces).

    NB: Bill's also running a series of leaders and teachers sessions while he's out here in NZ late Oct / early Nov. Click here for details.

  • Just because you have fibre at your gate doesn't mean you can hook in and use it! (No surprises there for some)

    With much hype and media surrounding the rollout of RBI (Rural Broadband Initiative) it has been a frustrating reality check for schools to find that they are unable to find a RSP (Retail Service Provider) to hook them up (or one they can afford). Out of the 400 schools signed off as 'connected' only a couple have been able to hook up so far! There has been quite a disconnect between the expectations of schools and the wider community with the reality of rolling out a huge and complex project such as this one. So large is this project it is taking - two government departments, and various sub-projects in various stages - RBI, RBI Phase 2, UFB, RSBI, & the Chathams (still in it's proposal form). No wonder it is so bewildering to make sense of for many - i have been following this closely and i struggle. Throw into the mix SNUPS and the proposed Network for Learning and you have got a recipe for a mental melt down.

    QuestionsIt has been the topic of much discussion through the VLN Community and MLE group listservs where we have tried to share a clearer picture of the process and choices that schools will need to make. What makes this so challenging for schools is the number of variables that are in play - has the school been snupped, if not when will this happen? Although fibre may be dropped to the school, it may not be enabled at the exchange. There are more technical variables Handover Points, HSNS, GPON (all of which mean little to me) that will be different for different schools around the country. So with all of these variables it seems to be every school for themselves to make the best of it...

    Recently though some Retail Service Providers have begun to make offers to schools - in particulary Call Plus, SNAP & Orcon. With the help of some colleagues I have started a draft comparison document so that schools can consider the possible choices. Schools should also factor into their decision-making joining the Network for Learning (N4L). Though scheduled to be available to schools mid-2013, it will likely have a 'soft start' with a few schools ironing out the wrinkles for the rest to follow, so consider being able to access this early 2014. So do you need to go into mental meltdown now - or just wait for the Network for Learning? My advice to schools i work with would be unless you are really struggling with your current connection (unfortunately quite a few are) then taihoa and see what the N4L will bring for you. For more advice and information check out this Principals' Briefing Document prepared by Trevor Storr (CantaNet)

  • From the Golden Bay Weekly last week:

    "... Principal John Garner invited the secretary to visit Collingwood earlier this year when he found out that coming from England she had little knowledge of area schools.
    During her visit the secretary was able to observe Marta Barham delivering a Year 13 calculus lesson to students in Karamea and Hokitika through video-conference. She was keen to learn about this and other options for senior students to get as wide a range of options as possible."

    Keep sharing the story Smile

  • I have finally gathered all the data together from the students surveys completed at the beginning of term two and shared them below.  I have included last years' results at the top so you can cycle through and compare.  There is one new question which asks students whether they feel their self-management skills have improved since taking their course(s).  I will summarise the key findings below and then look at solutions to any identified issues.


    Some of the  positives

    • The majority of students are finding their course interesting and engaging
    • The video conferences are largely interactive and involve the students (not all teacher talk).  Although this could be disputed based on one or two VCs I have watched recently
    • Students are getting some opportunities to work together, despite the challenge of distance and current internet speeds
    • The approach to learning is not totally based on one size fits all (so some variety in practice)
    • Most students believe they are developing self-management skills by taking online courses (note I'm not calling them VC courses).  I agree with them.  Even the student who struggles to manage their time and is constantly being chased for work will learn something about self-management.
    • More students are feeling this is an equal (or better option) to face to face.  In my opinion this is significant

    Things to improve

    • There seems to have been an increase in the number of students who find the courses difficult to follow.  The issue of understanding what to do is one that students identify as a major challenge in working online.  This is no surprise.  Developing courses with clear instructions on what to do is a challenge for teachers.  How do you know the student at the other end understands what to do?  Teachers need to make sure instructions aren't just text-based.  It is not that difficult to support text with visuals, screencasts and quick videos.  Also supporting a course with a forum where students can ask questions of others (including the teacher)  is integral to an online course.  It should form the backbone of any course and is also an important place to develop community (also identifies as an issue)
    • Many students don't get any opportunity to interact, connect or collaborate with their online peers.  Reducing the distance for students is vital, and one way of doing this is putting a lot of energy in developing a sense of community.  One aspect of this is the VC which is why it is important that students get an opportunity to interact.  Another aspect is using a forum (or something similar) as I have mentioned before.  Learning online should potentially provide more opportunity to connect with others not less.
    • There are still major issues in not only internet speeds and technical infrastructure, but also access to computers (or mobile devices).  The latter should be a fundamental part of school support for their students.  In terms of internet speeds, the reality is we are doing something that is well ahead of its time.  The roll out of fibre will make a significant difference to this, but we will have to wait a while yet before all our schools have the connection they really need.

    I have little doubt that our programme is an improvement on what we had five years ago, but continued improvement is slow.  What we need for the future is an ongoing programme of professional learning and leadership building for our eTeachers and eDeans.  What we have at the moment is ad hoc and sporadic.   More on this at a later dater, but I would be interested in any thoughts out there.

  • A reminder about the Virtual School massive online open course (MOOC) entitled Introduction to K-12 Online Learning Research that will held from 10 September-07 October 2012. This MOOC will be designed to provide a broad overview of the field of K-12 online learning, specifically what is currently known based on the research that has been conducted in the field. You can access the initial site for the Virtual School MOOC at:


    The MOOC will be managed by a variety of scholars in the field of K-12 online learning in an asynchronous fashion covering eight different topics over a over four week period.

    1. MOOC Introduction and Classifying K-12 Online Learning
    2. History of K-12 Online Learning
    3. Overview of Research into K-12 Online Learning
    4. Design of K-12 Online Learning
    5. Teaching of K-12 Online Learning
    6. Facilitation of K-12 Online Learning
    7. K-12 Online Learning from an International Perspective
    8. Concluding the K-12 Online Learning Research MOOC

    Each of the MOOC topics will provide participants with one of more open access readings, asynchronous static content created by the scholar leading that particular topic, and one or more videos from that same scholar. These resources are the starting point for participants to explore the research on K-12 online learning on each of these topic. There will also be some kind of activity for participants to complete and post to their own blogs, and for some topics an additional specific discussion prompt for participants to consider. This MOOC does not include traditional assignments. Rather, the MOOC includes challenges. When you complete a challenge successfully, you a receive a badge.

    If you are interested in participating in this MOOC, I would encourage you to visit http://virtualschoolmooc.wikispaces.com/participants and sign up.

    Note that K-12 in North American terminology would translate to schools sector in New Zealand terminology.

  • DEANZ webinar: Blended teaching and learning in New Zealand schools: A case study of a rural secondary school.

    DEANZ Wednesday, 25 July 5-6 pm online http://connect.canterbury.ac.nz/deanz/

    Free - please pass to others who may be interested

    Pinelopi Zaka, MEd student and research assistant at the University of Canterbury e-Learning Lab, in conversation with her Masters supervisor, Niki Davis, professor of e-Learning and president of DEANZ. Pinelopi will present her masters research into blended teaching and learning in a CantaNet rural secondary school. Using an ecological perspective, the roles of multiple stakeholders and their organizations impacting on and being impacted by the development of blended teaching and learning are discussed, giving rise to several recommendations for teachers, school leaders and policy makers. A DEANZ webinar in association with the University of Canterbury e-Learning Lab.

    DEANZ members will be able to access the recording

    (DEANZ individual membership only $60 p.a.)