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Encouraging Successful Digital Citizens - Kura Iwa Cluster Initiatives

The Context

The Kura Iwa ICT cluster, is made up of nine Canterbury Schools – Bamford, Bromley, Christchurch East, Linwood Intermediate, Ouruhia, St Albans Catholic, St Anne’s, St Mary’s and Tai Tapu, with eTime facilitating their ICTPD programme.

During 2011 the cluster have had a strong focus on providing students with opportunities to engage in online learning environments.  Every class in the cluster has access to either a class blog, wiki or ClassSpace (Ultranet) learning environment. Professional development has been targeting using these environments to support classroom programmes and to encourage critical thinking and Inquiry. In addition to this, across the cluster teachers have implemented programmes that heighten student awareness of the issues associated with online engagement and develop strategies that promote successful digital citizenship.  

The cluster have continued to use the Kura Iwa Teaching As Inquiry model to plan and reflect on their professional learning.

The Research

Earlier in the year, the cluster explored the research of Downes(2006) and Richardson(2006) to launch discussion around the issues that arise from interacting online.  Following this the cluster joined the Learn Guide and Protect network (provided by netsafe.org.nz).  This network allowed us to explore a range of articles and resources related to cybersafety, including the Google Digital Literacy Programme, Hector’s World Resources and LearningLab.org.

Principals and lead teachers also explored initiatives implemented through the Department of Education and Early Childhood in Victoria, Australia. One of these initiatives was the use of Student Action teams. This is a student-centred active educational approach to connecting the school community and developing a shared understanding and commitment to cybersafety. It is about empowering groups of students to promote awareness of cybersafe behaviours and practices in their school community.  As a cluster we recognized that the starting point for us would be to educate our students of the risks and how to manage them effectively – within a structured programme of learning.

A Presentation of our Initiatives:

The Outcomes:

Challenges Faced

  • Accessibility to the Internet
    • This was a big issue for some school communities where families did not have access to computers or the Internet at home.  To overcome this the school had to take responsibility for improving community access to the Internet by promoting the ‘Computers in Homes’ scheme and allowing the community to utilise school resources. Also – through schools communicating the benefits of online learning experiences, increasing numbers of parents are recognising the importance of having a home computer (ie “some families don’t know what they don’t know – once they see what you can do with online learning, it increases the buy in from parents”)
    • Some schools had unreliable internet connectivity due to the area they were in – this is an ongoing issue that is limiting the use of the Internet in classrooms. However through wikis and blogs, teachers are encouraging students to utilise these from home where they hopefully have an improved connection
    • Communication of school Internet policies – cluster has recognised the importance of clearly communicating Internet policies with parent/whanau community.  Many parents are denying their children opportunities to engage online because they don’t fully understand the policies that they sign
    • $$$$ - knowing what to purchase, how to prioritise funding.  For example, our cluster are starting to shift from the purchasing of expensive interactive whiteboards to iPads where they get more ‘bang for their buck’ to give students access to online experiences.  The challenge lies in finding out what tools are going to align best with your school community, expertise of staff etc.
    • Buy-in from all staff.  Many teachers still finding eLearning quite daunting.  This year the cluster has recognised that ‘change’ takes time and often accelerates when 1 – 2 teachers really come on board – this starts to filter through the rest of the staff, particularly when those teachers were originally the ‘not-so-confident’ rather than the ICT gurus.
    • Future proofing – setting up the infrastructure that will support online learning opportunities.  For example – many of our schools have struggled with wireless systems – this needs to be addressed to ensure teachers and students are experiencing success with their use of online technologies.  It is only when teachers experience success – that they are motivated to move ahead with their learning.

 Next Steps

  • Revisiting and reinforcing positive online behaviours on a regular basis
  • Increase involvement with parent/whanau community - helping them to understand the risks that come with interacting online and how they can keep themselves and their children safe
  • Increased involvement in online networks to provide students with plenty of opportunities to communicate online in a responsible manner and recognise the benefits (ie setting up online buddy classes and collaborative projects)