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The VLN Community - Home of the Learning Communities Online (LCO)'s blogs

  • Google Hangouts

    Today a few of the VLNC met for a communications group meeting. It was a lesson in communication in itself to get us all working together in Google Hangouts - what a great collaborative, real time tool. At one stage we were running the meeting in both Hangouts, Docs & Adobe simultaneously as we ironed out some technical problems... As Darren noted it will be awesome when this is a tool that we can use with our students (currently it's limited to Google + with an R18 restriction)

    Notes from our meeting are accessible here.

    Key points from our meeting are: 

    Learning Exchange - keep working with the development of this. There has been some frustration with this. It is our tool designed for the support of our community. If there is a feature we need, or a problem feedback straight away through the Help button at the bottom of the page. 

    Central point for contacts on the VLNC - ask Glen to create a filtered system for downloading this as a spreadsheet so that eDeans & schools can have contact information at their fingertips. There is no need to create separate Google spreadsheets to keep updated when we have a system - make the Learning Exchange work for us. If we look to solutions outside of this then we are only making more work for ourselves and not developing a robust system that works well for us all.

    Sharing Resources - VLNC google docs are working well for meetings & reports from the Community but what about all those other resources that clusters can share? Set up a repository page that links to where the clusters have their resource collections - we have begun this and would like to invite clusters to share links to their resources. Resources can also be shared through the resources feature on the VLN in this group and in the LCO Handbook.

    COPs - we talked about promoting & developing these amongst eteachers and curricula/interest groups and will invite the community to discuss their ideas further to support this. 

    Engaging the Community - we need to keep getting news about our activities out there in our own VLNC and the wider community. Please share! A short article, link to something topical, join in or start a discussion. We need people to actually write a few words from time to time. If we had some news coming through then we could periodically put together newsletters to our membership and to keep our profile up and out there. 

    We are looking at how we can have notifications of activity on this VLNC group site to be published on the VLN listserv to keep the information stream flowing.

    Your ideas and feedback are invited :-)

  • Computers in NZ Schools  

    The  first issue of Computers in New Zealand Schools for 2012 is now ‘live’! 
     Go to http://education2x.otago.ac.nz/cinzs/

    Computers in New Zealand Schools has been reporting on the use of computers and other forms of information and communication technologies (ICT) for over two decades. In that time, articles have identified the power of ICT to enhance and even transform the learning and teaching occurring in our schools. However, “As Diana Laurillard (2008, p. 1) observes wryly, ‘education is on the brink of being transformed through learning technologies; however, it has been on that brink for some decades now’" (Selwyn, 2010, p.66). 

    The articles and columns in this issue of CINZS all report on ways that ICT can, and in some cases should, be transforming education in New Zealand. 

     Research Articles 

    • In her article “Does digital immersion improve students’ digital literacy skills?”, Jacqui Land reports on a study that compared the performance of two groups of Year 9 students, one of which had been involved in a 1:1 project whereby they had 24/7 access to a tablet. In contrast, the other group of students had much more restricted access to technology. She compares similarities and differences between the groups in terms of several aspects of ICT skills. 


    • Judy Lymbery explores the role computer games can play in a classroom in her article titled “The potential of a game-based learning approach to improve learner outcomes”. She looks beyond the common use of computer games as a reward. Referring to the literature that reports on the use of games in classrooms, she explores the range of games available, and identifies a variety of ways in which they can be used to enhance learning. She has also noted several issues that face teachers who are considering utilising games in their classrooms.
    • In her article “Blended learning in secondary schools is a start in the right direction”, Kerry Boyde “champions the integration of blended learning within secondary schools” (p. 40). She makes a strong case for blended learning, which is defined here in terms of combining traditional classroom based work with use of a variety of forms of ICT, in secondary schools. She explores issues associated with making changes such as this, and argues that a student-centred approach to teaching and learning, making use of blended approach, will best prepare our students for the future they face.
    • While the previous article explored the effect of Web 2.0 as part of a broader discussion of blended learning, Sue Parkes and Donna Morrow focus on these tools. In their article, “Web 2.0 tools do have important roles in high school student learning: A position paper”, they note that students are using Web 2.0 tools in their everyday lives, and argue that such tools “have an important role in high school student learning” (p. 54). While focusing on high schools teachers, this thought provoking article challenges all teachers to consider their views on Web 2.0 tools, and their place in our schools. They identify a range of Web 2.0 tools and identify how they can be used to enhance students’ learning.

    Columns  and reviews 

    • In her regular column, Niki Davis reports on recent happenings in the world of virtual schooling in New Zealand. She draws our attention to such events as an upcoming Parliamentary inquiry, the recent DEANZ conferences, and New Zealand involvement in international research collaborations.
    • Lisa Oldham’s library column focuses on “Creative Commons Copyright”. She explores the very important but often complex issue of copyright. Lisa highlights the importance for teachers and schools to understand the rules around copyright, to protect them from legal - as well as moral - issues, before describing the Creative Commons licensing system. Her very clear explanation of the issues associated with licensing make this essential reading for everyone involved in using material gained elsewhere. 

    Please contact Ann Trewern if you have an article in mind for November 2012 or March 2013. 



  • Future Learning

    Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching - a New Zealand perspective

    "This research project draws together findings from new data and more than 10 years of research on current practice and futures-thinking in education. The report discusses some emerging principles for future learning, how these are currently expressed in New Zealand educational thinking and practice and what they could look like in future practice. 

    Author(s): Rachel Bolstad and Jane Gilbert, with Sue McDowall, Ally Bull, Sally Boyd and Rosemary Hipkins [New Zealand Council for Educational Research]"

  • I came across this amongst Eddie's collection of Press Releases. I must admit i haven't been following these all that closely as i get tired of the continual political spin in the media over UFB. But here lies a hidden gem - and how many other hidden gems are there out in the VLN Communities? Please share your stories, research & practice here!

    Research into elearning relevant, educator says
    RESEARCH recently published by Northern Southland College deputy principal Wayne Duncan is timely, considering the Government is spending $1.5 billion upgrading broadband access to schools, he says.
    Dr Duncan, who recently completed a Massey University Doctor of Education degree, researched how empathy functioned in elearning classrooms where the teacher communicated with pupils in a variety of locations via the internet.
    Throughout New Zealand, a growing number of pupils are able to connect to the internet and take part in lessons taught in another location.
    Mr Duncan said his research was pertinent at the moment, with the Govern• ment spending $1.5 billion on broadband technologies.
    ‘‘This is research into an area where a lot of money is being spent.’’
    Empathy — ‘‘the ability to interpret the internal frame of another’’ — was an import• ant ingredient in the way teachers related to pupils.
    ‘‘[Empathy] is a cornerstone of successful learning and teaching.
    ‘‘A really good teacher is one that relates to students really well — a teacher cannot relate to students unless they can empathise,’’ he said.
    Teachers who might be separated geographically from pupils but taught them online still needed to be able to establish empathy with them.
    His research found out how teachers did this.
    ‘‘With the advent of the internet, teachers and learners are creating new ways of interacting online,’’ he said.
    The research also was particularly relevant in Southland, which was leading the way in elearning.
    ‘‘This online teaching will only rise as the traditional classroom morphs into a worldwide classroom,’’ Dr Duncan said.

    Doctor in the school:
    Northern Southland College deputy principal Wayne Duncan has recently graduated with a Massey University Doctor of Education degree after completing a thesis about how teachers build empathy with pupils in an online classroom.

      Wayne Duncan


    Retrieved from Gore Ensign 8/06/2012

  • image

    From our recent AGM in Wellington last month. Welcome to new VLNC Council members - Robin Ohia, Niki Davies & Gary Pasco.

    All documentation and reports from the AGM can be found here.

    Thank you to our special guests Honorable Minister Hekai Parata & Michael Barbour. Michael's presentation we discussed in the afternoon session is below:

  • imageThe Journal of Open, Flexible and Distance Learning is a refereed journal published at least twice annually by the Distance Education Association of New Zealand (www.deanz.org.nz). It publishes articles relating to primary research investigations, literature reviews, the application of distance education innovations, and the experiences of teaching at a distance. This is a call for submissions for the themed issue to be published in April 2013 on the theme: Primary and Secondary Distance Education: Expanding the knowledge base in the schools sector. Focus of the themed issue: Despite a history of over 90 years, to date there has been little published research on the use of distance education in the primary and secondary environment in New Zealand or other countries in Australasia. Barbour (2011a) examined 262 articles from the main distance education journals for Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States (including the Journal of Flexible, Open, and Distance Learning) from 2006 to 2010 and found only 1 of the 262 articles related to distance education in the schools sector in New Zealand. Further, during this five-year period only three of the 21 articles published by the Journal of Flexible, Open, and Distance Learningrelated to primary and secondary distance education in any country. Unfortunately, this lack of coverage in the academic literature is not consistent with the level of activity that is occurring. For example, at present:

    • The Correspondence School/Te Kura is making the transition from a primarily correspondence model to incorporating more and more online delivery of their curriculum.
    • The e-learning clusters of the Virtual Learning Network are maturing, becoming sustainable, and expanding in their traditional rural areas, while the development of urban clusters or loops are starting to occur.
    • Over the past two years a cluster focused specifically on providing distance education to primary students have been established.
    • The number of tertiary institutions providing distance education opportunities for secondary students is increasing.

    There are many different and diverse models of distance education delivery happening in the schools sector, much of which is going unnoticed by the larger distance education community. This situation is not specific to New Zealand. With the exception of the published material focused on primary and secondary distance education in the United States and Canada, the same could be said of most countries in Australasia. However systematic research into distance education in the schools sector is needed now. In the last two years, various publications have highlighted the discussion related to the future of the New Zealand schools sector (Barbour, 2011b; Wenmoth, 2011; Davis 2010, 2011; Parkes Zaka and Davis, 2011). It is timely to highlight empirical work into distance education in the primary and secondary settings. References: Barbour, M. K. (2011a). The promise and the reality: Exploring virtual schooling in rural jurisdictions. Education in Rural Australia, 21(1), 1-20. Barbour, M. K. (2011b). Primary and secondary e-learning: Examining the process of achieving maturity. Christchurch, New Zealand: Distance Education Association of New Zealand. Retrieved from /mod/file/download.php?file_guid=114023 Davis, N. E. (2010) Canterbury ’quakes and virtual schooling grows to cover the fault. Computers in New Zealand Schools, 22(3). Retrieved from http://education2x.otago.ac.nz/cinzs/mod/resource/view.php?id=124 Davis, N. E. (2011) Online and blended learning rolling into New Zealand schools. Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, Teaching, Technology, 23(1). Retrieved from http://education2x.otago.ac.nz/cinzs/mod/resource/view.php?id=139 Parkes, S., Zaka, P., & Davis, N. (2011). The first blended or hybrid online course in a New Zealand secondary school: A case study. Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, Teaching, Technology, 23(1). Retrieved from http://education2x.otago.ac.nz/cinzs/mod/resource/view.php?id=149 Wenmoth, D. (2011). Business case: Virtual Learning Network Community (VLN-C). Christchurch, New Zealand: CORE Education Ltd. Submissions:The proposed issue of JOFDL seeks to advance understanding of distance education in the schools sector in New Zealand, Australia and other Pacifica countries. Contributors will focus on some aspect of distance education in the schools sector. As a guide, submissions that address the following areas will be considered for publication in this special issue: a) the challenges of providing distance education to primary and secondary schools in rural and remote areas; b) the transition from more traditional methods of distance delivery to methods that take advantage of Internet-based tools in the schools sector; c) the use of Web 2.0 tools, as opposed to more traditional learning management systems, to deliver distance education in the primary and secondary environment; d) the actual implementation – including the design, delivery, and support – of primary and secondary distance education; e) the unique challenges for implementing primary and secondary online learning in urban environments; and f) the movement of tertiary organisations into distance education for the schools sector. This list is not exhaustive, and all submissions related to distance education in the schools sector in New Zealand, Australia and other Pacifica countries will be considered. Ideally, submissions will include a carefully developed argument in response to a single issue. Such responses may include empirical work; critical literature reviews which form scholarly responses to relevant questions related to distance education in the schools sector; or contextualised accounts from the schools sectors that are linked to established theory in distance education. Engagement with recent scholarly publications is expected. All submissions will receive a minimum of two reviewers undertaken following a ‘double blind’ peer review process. Prospective authors will need to register with JOFDL and make all submissions online:


    Articles should be submitted by December 1, 2012 for consideration and review. Please select the “Special issue - Primary and Secondary Education” section during the submission process. Questions and/or one-page article abstracts for preliminary feedback can be directed to the issue editors Michael Barbour (mkbarbour@gmail.com) and Keryn Pratt (keryn.pratt@otago.ac.nz).

    Crossposted at http://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/call-for-submissions-themed-issue-of-the-journal-of-open-flexible-and-distance-learning/


  • Rachel asked me to cross-post this from my blog at http://virtualschooling.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/virtual-learning-network-community-vln-c-annual-general-meeting/


    This morning I had the pleasure of sitting in on the Virtual Learning Network-Community‘s (VLN-C) annual general meeting.  For those who don’t know, the VLN-C is a charitable trust that was created as an official mechanism to encourage collaboration and cooperation between the individual Virtual Learning Network e-learning clusters.

    The annual general meeting went down like most annual general meetings would.  It began with an acceptance of the meetings from the previous annual general meeting.  This was followed by a report from the Chair and then the Treasurer, along with a report on the services that the VLN-C, the Ministry, and other digital learning programmes.  There were some amendments to the constitution, along with a discussion of other constitution amendments that would need to be considered for the constitution to evolve as the trust evolves.  The election also included the election of three new members of the council, who were added to the existing four council members (so the council has a total of 7 members).

    The trust is actually composed of members from the individual e-learning clusters, or more specifically the schools that participate in each of the clusters.  At present there are 124 schools that have a membership in the trust, mainly represented at the AGM by the leadership of the cluster.

    Following the elections, there was a discussion of the business plan for the VLN-C.  The trust commissioned Derek Wenmoth to create a business case for the VLN-C.  While that document was submitted to the VLN-C, in some instances it threw the ball back into the court of the VLN-C to be able to refine some of their own activities and directions.  This session was an overview of the first draft of the next step in that process.  It was an interesting discussion, as the virtual learning system in New Zealand continues to mature and really to expand beyond its initial rural, secondary roots.

    After lunch, the Minister of Education came for 30 minutes to speak to the group.  After a quick overview presentation, a question and answer session began (with prepared questions that had been shared in advance – at least that was my understanding).  It was interesting because in response to the first question she blamed unions as a barrier to change here in New Zealand (even though the PPTA has actually been quite supportive of e-learning in the country, I’d argue even moreso than the Government in many instances).  In response to another question she focused on the generational differences of today’s students, and how this generation of students were digital natives and that we needed to reform the education system to cater to these new ways of learning (and longtime readers of this space will know the problems with the generational differences literature, and the total lack of research support for Prensky’s digital natives-digital immigrants).  She did talk a lot about the problems of funding schools by student enrolments, and with the nature of tomorrow’s schools here in New Zealand underscores those challenges even more.  She also talked a lot about student performance, and making decisions based on the ability to improve student performance (granted, the Government’s – and this Minister’s – support of charter schools indicates that, like many legislators in the United States, they are more interested in ideological change instead of research-based and data-driven decision making).

    That was about it for her 30 minutes.  Then it was my turn to present the work that I did last year with the Virtual Learning Network clusters, which included a brief discussion of the session and the day in general.

  • image

    Image Attribution: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gforsythe/5552385806/

    This resource was created to provide professional readings and practical ideas for eteachers.

  • Our eDean COP put these video together (one made by the students) detailing what it is like being an eStudent.  They are designed to provide new students some idea of what the experience is like.


  • By way of Michael & DEANZ - this elearning report out on Education Counts. Though this is tertiary research there is much of relevance for the schooling sector.

    "Peter Guiney (Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis) has released an annotated bibliography of literature related to participation, retention and success in e-learning. The key finding of this annotated bibliography are:

    • Teaching practices and pedagogies, institutional support and student characteristics and attitudes are all critical in tertiary learners’ retention and success in e-learning.  Of particular importance are appropriate teacher-student interactions.  Courses need to be designed to incorporate e-learning’s strengths.  This includes selecting appropriate technology and ensuring that e-learning is linked to assessments and authentic learning experiences.
    • For best results, institutions need to provide ‘user-friendly’ systems, processes and appropriate pastoral and technical support.  Students also need motivation, self-direction and independence as well as having prior experience in e-learning.  Students with positive attitudes towards technology tend to do better in e-learning than learners with negative attitudes towards technology.
    • E-learning provides additional flexibility to traditional delivery by allowing students to study at a time, place and pace of their choosing.  E-learning can also reduce isolation by better connecting learners to their peers, teachers and institutions – especially for learners studying part-time or through distance education.
    • E-learning can provide greater access to a wider range of resources and experts than is available through traditional delivery.  The fact that all students can equally access these experts and resources is of benefit to non-mainstream learner groups e.g. disabled students.
    • The evidence supporting younger learners being more successful than their older peers in e-learning is inconclusive.  While some studies support the assertion that younger learners are more effective in e-learning, others do not."