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FORUM: New technologies and collaborative processes | An Enabling e-Learning event

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Have you ever been in a meeting where ideas were bounced around the room? How did it make you feel when your concepts were embraced by others? What happened as a result of this collaborative process?

As the old saying goes,‘Many hands make light work’ and teachers are good at sharing planning templates, resources and ideas for teachable moments. Check out this video from Roxy Hickman on, Teacher Collaboration from her post in Collaborate to Enhance UDL.

In this podcast (24m.11s), Ewan Macintosh talks about the complexities of collaboration between different people, but equally highlights the potential for creativity.

imageSo, how can we harness that potential for the wider good? What e-tools can we use, that enables several people to come together (beyond our local contexts) and co-construct new knowledge - anytime/anyhow/anywhere? How might we encourage our students to do the same?

Screen Shot 2014-06-17 at 8.30.35 PM.pngThe education system is moving towards an increasingly collaborative model. One of CORE Education’s 10 trends for 2014, describes Networked organisations as; more fluid, borderless, relationship-based organisations, where new partnerships are formed and collaboration encouraged and respected within a high-trust model.

The hierarchy has changed and now anyone can network together socially or professionally to meet personal or common goals, through the use of web-capable mobile devices and social networks.

"Better community connections are an obvious way for schools to access the resources they need to provide 21st century learning experiences. Stronger engagements between the education sector and other sectors will also be needed if there is to be engagement by the wider community in supporting the kinds of changes and innovations that have been argued for across the future-oriented educational literature." Future-oriented teaching and learning A New Zealand Perspective, NZCER (p 54)

The potential of our Virtual Learning Network community, is the ability for each of us to drive our own personal learning, within a culture of continuous learning - right across NZ. Take a look at what happens when teachers connect and co-construct new knowledge together in the VLN.

Registered Teacher Criteria 7: Guiding question

How can we promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment that embraces e-learning and engages learners?

As schools evolve into more networked organisations (within and beyond the school itself), students are also adopting more collaborative, co-constructed approaches as part of the learning process.

In this Enabling e-Learning video, Developing key competencies through writing collaborations (2:13) students share the process of story writing (crafting, modifying) using Google docs, which have helped to develop key competencies - such as critical thinking and relating to others through constructive feedback.

In this Enabling e-Learning recorded webinar, Tim Gander shared how his secondary students reflected on their learning in a collaborative manner, using video and Google apps. You can read more about this process in Tim’s blog links: http://bit.ly/VjA7uN and http://bit.ly/14VkARF.

Want to know more about collaborative skills and abilities? Here’s a useful definition in, What are learning skills?

We’d love to hear from you too. We’d love to know more about how you, your teaching colleagues and students are using technologies to promote communication and collaboration and why this has been beneficial to the learning process. Any barriers, pitfalls or lessons learned - all welcome! 

Please feel free to share your examples below >>>


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  • Sandy Dougherty (View all users posts) 24 Jun 2014 10:06am ()

    hi there, I have been working with students online for a number of years now. I have trialled as many technologies as I have had at my disposal with varying results! I think first and foremost students need to feel safe and secure and part of a positive community before they will respond effectively and productively. Building that community feel is not really what this discussion is about but I felt the need to mention it. Once students are feeling confident I feel that they generally get a lot from any type of collaboration. There seem to be few students who prefer to work on their own all the time. Google docs is a really easy platform to use and the comments and thoughts are easily captured and recorded as well as shared. 

    I think it's quite important for us to consider that to appeal to all learning styles and personalities it’s important to use different types of tools so that students can record using audio and/or video. I think it's easy to assume that today's students will find videoing their ideas easy but in fact my experience tells me that they often find this hard and need time to practice. A tool like Voicethread offers all forms of recording so that students can choose and this can work really well. The first time I used it the student response was so good I was bowled over. Further attempts to use it were mixed and I realised that I had to plan the activity very carefully and not just assume that the tool would make the activity work. Important lesson!

    Just some ideas from me. I have seen some Skype tweets that interest me and haven’t as yet followed them up. I wonder if anyone here is using that effectively? However I better get back to report writing. I will keep an eye on this discussion with interest.



  • Tim Gander (View all users posts) 03 Jul 2014 10:20am ()

    Hi, just as a quick intro as Tessa mentioned me earlier in the forum - My name is Tim Gander and I teach at Gisborne Boys High School on the East Coast of the North Island.  GBHS is a decile 3 school with about 800 students on role, it is a traditional boys school and we are slowly and cautiously adopting a blended e-learning approach with staff and students.  As a school we have been using Google Apps for Education (GAFE) since 2009, and have been using chromebooks in classes for just over a year.  I am an authorised Google Education Trainer and CORE education e-fellow this year, I write on my blog nzteachnology about my journey as an educator and the challenges of implementing e-learning in a traditional environment.

    My original posts which Tessa referred to allowed students to share their opinions about class dynamics and peer interaction through anonymous Google forms, providing immediate and uninhibited feedback for classmates, as a class we could then unpack the associated thoughts and ideas about our group interactions and how we could make it a more enjoyable experience for everyone - and hopefully earn some credits for social responsibility!  


    This year I have been focussing on allowing the students to collaborate and work together on the Google social network ‘Google+’ throughout the entire year.  This has been successful in engaging the students through a mobile platform that they are familiar with, it allows them to tag/mention people and develop a presence online by commenting and ‘+1ing’ comments or posts.  The community is divided up into separate categories, to enable different opportunities for interaction - discussion, lesson feedback, fitness resources and pictures, this infrastructure has been designed to be clear and not overwhelming (an overview of this is on this post).  The students are motivated to use the community as I make it media rich through uploading plenty of pictures of lessons and clips that are relevant to the learning, they also have to demonstrate and reflect on their posts in a separate document that shows the journey of their learning and understanding.  


    So far the overwhelming benefit of using this community was engaging the learners that we don’t often hear the voices of - everyone has those 3 or 4 students who will always be keen to ask and answer questions, and it is often hard to hear the voices of the other learners beyond them, but are the ones who are quiet and seemingly dis-engaged not learning, how do they demonstrate reflective thought if they are not confident in voicing their opinions verbally?  I read some really insightful comments from boys who often seemed like they weren’t really thinking about much - this is an authentic example of the importance of embracing UDL, allowing multiple means of representation and communication.  However, by using an online environment are we potentially opening the door for students to be ‘lurkers’, associating invisibility with a lack of motivation to learn or a lack of self direction, it is hard to guess what people are thinking or doing if you can’t see them - is this ok, or do students need to understand the importance of contributing to a community?  After all it isn’t a community if there are no people involved, and it is very hard to collaborate if you are the only one doing it!

    I think that using a collaborative learning community as a way to meet one of the key issues in using online learning as highlighted by Hannum & Mccombs (2008) by supporting "learner-centered principles and practices (we) are: building ways to meet learner needs for interpersonal relationships and connections"(p.18), the Google+ community enhances these relationships by allowing learners to develop their own connections and online identity as well as supporting the dominant constructivist view that learners are motivated and engaged when they can create their own knowledge (Zepke & Leach, 2010).

    Has anyone else had experience of using a collaborative social network or collaborative activities to add value to learning?

    Hannum, W. H., & Mccombs, B. L. (2008). Enhancing Distance Learning for Today ’ s Youth with Principles, 1084 (1084), 372–381.

    Zepke, N., & Leach, L. (2010, 12). Improving student engagement: Ten proposals for action. Active Learning in Higher Education, 11(3), 167-177. doi: 10.1177/1469787410379680

  • Carol Dickinson (View all users posts) 12 Jun 2016 7:52pm ()

    New technologies and collaborative processes

    I have seen many examples of collaborating by using new technologies for older students, and think these are great opportunities for engagement for students and making the important connections with families. As I work with younger students entering school, I am debating whether my role is largely scaffolding the process to prepare students for collaborative environments, or should I be working on more independent opportunities in the classroom? And if so, how has this been effectively implemented and sustained in similar classrooms? I do value the collaboration process, and student voice and in this post I am exploring about what we do at present in our school, and looking for ways forward.

    Collaboration in education has been encouraged over the past few years, and its implications go beyond the learner and the teacher in the classroom. The education system is moving towards an increasingly collaborative model. One of CORE Education’s 10 trends for 2014, describes Networked organisations as; more fluid, borderless, relationship-based organisations, where new partnerships are formed and collaboration encouraged and respected within a high-trust model.

    This is reflected in the eLearning Framework that guides and supports school, providing a rubric to help schools reflect and review where they are on their journey, highlighting a strong emphasis on collaboration. Examples that are considered empowering in the dimensions outlined (e.g. leadership, teaching and learning and beyond the classroom the framework), show that collaboration is emphasised through Student-centred, authentic, higher-order, collaborative teaching and learning is enhanced by ubiquitous technologies and blended communications enhance the way partnerships actively engage in sustained response to the impact of technologies. Using new technologies to support the collaboration process encompass the learner, school staff and the community. Schools are expected to use community and networks to work in partnerships to reflect and plan, and teachers are expected to work collaboratively alongside students to create personalised, higher-order, real-world learning, to be effective. Collaboration is also expected as  one of the PTC’s is to promote a collaborative and inclusive learning environment. I used the following question to help shape my thinking. What e-tools can we use, that enables several people to come together (beyond our local contexts) and co-construct new knowledge - anytime/anyhow/anywhere? How might we encourage our students to do the same? 

    Over the years teachers have been engaged with learning that can be used effectively for students too. Recent technologies have allowed us to further develop relationships for collaboration. Supporting teachers in school using PD and scaffolding effective processes will provide confidence to staff who may feel overwhelmed by using new technologies with students who see it as their second (or primary) language. The ways in which our school up skills teachers in using technologies to collaborate, and in turn providing opportunities for students to create higher-order, collaborative learning are:

    • Online resources- Teacher have been using online websites to research and collect resources. They have used different ways to share with students such as youtube to engage and explain concepts. Pond is one way our staff have created a collection of relevant resources that they have found to share, especially for our school PD and inquires. Creating a storage place for students such as google classroom or Verso has been used for students as well. Using free online resources makes learning accessible to all and allows for equity for all as they can used on any device, and they are not closed (e.g. I once used a book creator app, until I found it published in ibooks and I was not able to share). Some programmes are accessible for students at home to cross physical boundaries for learning. Using the SAMR model to review your resources will help teachers to promote a more collaborative, inclusive learning experience.
    • Communications- We have used online surveys with staff to understand their learning needs and also for audits into . We have also used the NZCER surveys, Wellbeing and Inclusive practice to not only gain student voice, but also community voice to drive the direction of the school. "Better community connections are an obvious way for schools to access the resources they need to provide 21st century learning experiences. Future-oriented teaching and learning A New Zealand Perspective, NZCER (p 54) We have also used email to contact parents and parent portals to inform parents of student achievement and important dates and events. Using Facebook is another to connect with parents who find it harder to connect with school due to work commitments. Our students are already using online networks both socially and academically, and in the future they will use it professionally as well. As teachers we need to encourage and support students to prepare for future. Also see e Portfolios.
    • Planning- Using Google docs supports teachers planning and sharing ideas, which in turn allows teachers to reflect and refine work. The use of Hapara Teacher Dashboard has speed the process of sharing, giving and receiving feedback with students. Using Google docs to share team-meeting minutes allows teacher to add their voice before the meeting and provides clarity on learning. This is true for students too as they can go back to their documents and add or delete, and sharing with them has the LI and goals clearly laid out. In staff meetings and PD we have used Google docs as a platform to share ideas in an effective way, e.g. bus stops but them the ideas are automatically recorded and stored in a shared place that is easy accessible for all. 
    • e Portfolios – Our school made the decision to use e Portfolios for the students three years ago. To enable the transition the teachers created and used the e-portoflio for personal use initially. This was a place they could store their inquiry planning and resources, and collect and share evidence for their appraisals. The following year students shared their learning with their parents. The e Portfolio is a place that special needs students have also uploaded videos, using positive self modelling, to demonstrate what the KC’s look like in practice.

    New technologies do open up another way to communicate with students, teachers and whānau, and I look forward to hearing more about effective practices for our youngest students in school. However, I will not forget the importance of face-to-face communications, and building those important relationships with parents and students at the beginning of their school journey. New technologies are another way to support these fundamental connections. 

  • Hannah Simpson (View all users posts) 26 Jun 2016 7:50pm ()

    Hi Carol- thank you for your post, you make lots of very interesting points and raise some really good questions. I am responsible for a Y1 class but also teach collaboratively Y2-3s. I have been thinking about the point you made about collaboration and the younger student. We encourage lots of collaboration and team-work in terms of working together on tasks and projects and peer assessment in writing for example- building collaborative skills face to face- but not with digital technology- I am not sure google docs would be a suitable vehicle but I would also be really interested in hearing from some junior teachers who do use digital technology for collaboration, and how that is working.


  • Leah Boldero (View all users posts) 27 Jun 2016 12:46pm ()

    Hi Hannah 

    In our school we use an online learning system called dB Primary, we are a year 1-8 school and all our teachers love it, because it is designed to cater for 4 year olds all the way up.  (Primary Specific).

    It has e-mail , blog and forum options (Our seniors use it almost like a secure face book as well)

    It also has all the creative tools like paint, audio, and video.

    It can be accessed at school and home, so can be used at home for online homwork.

    Teachers can set activities for reading/ maths groups, view progress and provide feedback.

    It also comes with set differentiated activities in reading, writing, spelling, maths and codeing.

    Its worth a look - contact details are inbas@newerait.co.nz or www.newerait.co.nz



  • Hannah Simpson (View all users posts) 25 Aug 2016 3:37pm ()

    Hi Leah- this looks really interesting, I will take a look-thank you!

  • Christine MacDonald (View all users posts) 02 Jul 2016 1:26pm ()

    Hi there, it’s been interesting to read your comments Carol, about having a collaborative environment in schools where the student, parent community and staff are all consulted and involved as well making this equitable for all and inclusive of all types of learners.  We have started on this road!

    I’m in a small school (year 1-6) with 4 teachers and around 85 children. We are a low tech school with plans to develop our e-learning for both students and teachers.  In the past our strategy for accessing ICT for students was to seek grants from the community and we were successful with some of these and have purchased some 4 laptops (now over 7 years old) and 15 netbooks (around 4 years old) and 5 i-pads (1 year old).  These have been useful devices for our school and have been mainly used for researching, presenting and publishing work but some are getting old and slow.   

    As a school we are planning to integrate more learning using ICT as we are aware that our approach in the past has been piecemeal.  Last year we trained and encouraged our staff members to starting using Google docs (which is used some of the time). We have continued to consult with staff and are keeping in mind the need to upskill most of our staff to move into a more fluid and seamless learning environment.  We are currently consulting and collaborating with the school community about what their ideas and views are on their children using ICT for learning and have had 2 meetings so far to discuss this.   As Carol said, “Using new technologies to support the “collaboration process encompass the learner, school staff and the community”.  We are trying to do this as it is really important to get the buy-in from all who will be affected by the change.

    Last year, I trialled BYOD in my class with a group of children with learning differences.  This was successful and these children were able to access the curriculum and made progress in their learning.  This year I don’t have those students and am aware that they are continuing to use their own and school devices for learning.  Feedback from parents in this trial indicated that they are keen for their children to learn using both BYOD and school devices as they could see what was being learned as well as their child’s confidence had grown and impacted positively on their learning.

    I’m not in a position to answer your questions Carol or Hannah, but I do have some of my own. My questions are these, what PD have other schools utilised for staff development to help migrate staff from traditional learning environments to modern ILEs?   What other advice would you give us as a small school moving on this future-focused learning journey?   

  • Whaea Merenia (View all users posts) 18 Jul 2016 10:37am ()

    Since I've been reading a few comments, gone onto links, watched videos from various people there have been some key words that are seen and used and referred to commonly: collaboration, learner agency, reimagine, learner orientation, ubiquitous, engagement, interactive, pedagogy, innovation, creativity, design thinking, synergy - words that certainly promote reflection on how important it is to make sure that our learners needs are being met and our pedagogy is reflective of this - student orientated practice - we restructure ourselves to best meet the needs of our learners. I read what Tessa Gray had to write and listened to a Podcast from Ewan McIntosh, read interesting things from Tim Gander and it made me realise a number of things: The pedagogy behind e learning, collaboration, and communities is vital. Collaboration with e learning are a strong partnership because they lead to student agency, dispel the notion that learning is contained in four walls, and that learning stops after 3pm.  When I listened to Ewan McIntosh founder of 'No Tosh Ltd'  he speaks about how to develop collaboration. He says that collaboration needs to occur between a range of people from a range of different backgrounds. Are our schools the best places for this? We're decile 2 - many, not all, of our children experience the same home lives, the same experiences, the same backgrounds so maybe a way to combat this is to overload them with content, this would hook them in to inquire and then this would also mean that children would have to share within a group, so that when they come together it's genuine synergy and collaboration because person A has to share with person B who knows something different from B and so on. If elearning is used effectively as Tim Gander is doing with google+ than he is meeting the social and academic needs of his learners - by meeting the needs of a variety of learners and it's interactive. Tim Gander uses this quote to support the importance of positive interactions online. McLoughlin & Lee write that by using online communities "rich possibilities for students to create and share ideas, connect, and participate in broader learning communities that are not confined to the spaces in which formal teaching and learning activities take place." (2008 p.15)

    I've enjoyed reading and listening and comparing it to how I think and how I have to have a shift in my own practice, my own pedagogy and it's exciting. Our school is beginning this journey especially the shift in thinking in many of our teachers who have the desire but unsure about how to have a more blended class, more student agency, who have to reimagine their roles as teachers.

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