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Establishing Professional Learning Groups

e-WRaPpER cluster Summary

November 2011

Goal

to help teachers integrate e-learning effectively into their practice to create an exciting and learning environment for all students  (National Goal 3)

Background & Context

e-WraPpER cluster is a group of 5 urban & rural primary schools from the Manukau and Franklin area of Auckland. (Everglade School, Ramarama School, Waiuku School, Reremoana School and Papatoetoe Central School) The schools are a mix of Y0-6 & Y0-8. We are currently in our 2nd year as a cluster.

The focus of our e-learning journey is about improving the teaching and learning for our students, by raising engagement and providing both authentic and exciting learning contexts and media.

Aims & Purpose

We aim to have both highly enthused students and teachers who are excited about their teaching and the learning opportunities they can give their students!

What was important for us?

  • To establish across cluster “collaborative discussion spaces” about e-learning, with the aim of improving teacher practice and student learning   
  • We named these Professional Learning Groups “PLGs”

Why was this important?

  • to improve teacher practice, leading to higher student engagement & improved outcomes, by providing a place for teachers to seek help from others and to share ideas
  • To utilize the strengths, skills and knowledge of cluster personnel

What did we do?

  • As a cluster we wanted to establish an “across cluster space” where teachers could share ideas & resources, discuss issues & celebrate their successes with others. We had been intending to do this earlier in the contract, but felt the time and purpose weren’t established until this year.
  • In the first year of our contract we established both a cluster wiki and individual school wikis for sharing of resources.  http://e-wrapper.wikispaces.com/
  • This provided a rich base of resources for teachers to use to improve their teaching programmes and learning environments.
  • It was felt it was important for the teachers to have an initial “face to face” meeting before they could be expected to contribute to discussions online. As the schools in our cluster are spread out over the Manukau / Franklin district, it was strategically planned to have the face to face session at a cluster conference day in the July 2011 holidays. This meant specific time was set aside for this get together- no rushing to get somewhere after school!
  • Before the conference day all teachers across the cluster were assigned to groups in their class year levels eg Y1&2, Y3& 4, Y5&6, Y7&8. The main e-leaders from each school were asked to facilitate the 30min “get togethers”.  These were held in rooms around the school after the conference breakouts.  The e-leaders from different schools were buddied up so they had each other for support and to encourage across cluster collaboration.
  • A set of basic prompts was established by the e-leaders to facilitate conversation. While these assisted the e-leaders with their role as facilitators, it also ensured the same messages were given out across the cluster. 
  • In small groups teachers were asked to discuss what they had learned from the keynote and breakout sessions during the day, and what they were going to try out once back at their school. The emphasis was on implementing digital elements into their classroom programmes.
  • All teachers were expected to start their online discussions by entering posts about the following  

       What are some of the things you want to try out/implement in Term 3?

         How will you go about this?

  • Timeframes were established for teachers to enter their first 2 posts. The e-leaders in charge of each group were asked to followed and promote conversations.  
  • To promote contributions schools initially scheduled in time for teachers to do their posts (eg twice a term staff/ team meetings )
  • Some teachers from schools outside of  our cluster also attended our July conference and were invited to join in the PLGs’

What happened, as a result?

  • Teachers across the cluster were able to meet others teaching at similar year levels. This enabled them to form a collegial relationship which they could then build on through the online environment.
  • Teachers have begun sharing resources & hints and asking for help from others.  
  • Our online discussions may be viewed or contributed to through the links below.

http://e-wrapper.wikispaces.com/message/list/Year+0-2+PLG

http://e-wrapper.wikispaces.com/message/list/Year+3-4+PLG

http://e-wrapper.wikispaces.com/Year+5-6+PLG

http://e-wrapper.wikispaces.com/message/list/Year+7-8+PLG

What have we learned?

  • We have realized that the timing and setting up of initiatives is crucial for success.
  • Having an initial “face to face” session was very important in establishing online relationships.
  • As we are part way through the contract the teachers are more familiar with trying out new tools and sharing their reflections and successes. This may not have been the case had we tried to establish PLG’s at the beginning of the contract.
  • Setting up supportive systems for reflections and online discussions is important, so that all teachers at various stages of learning are confident and willing participants
  • Once teachers have developed more confidence in using online discussions they will be more likely to use these spaces with their students.
  • There must be authentic opportunities for teachers and students to participate in online discussions otherwise they will not become embedded in our practice.

 What are our next steps?

  • We have identified that the e-leaders of the PLG’s will play an important role in sustaining the “across cluster discussions”
  • While initially we had specific e-leaders to facilitate each Year level PLG, we have now invited all e-leaders to contribute to and promote discussions throughout our PLG network.
  • Next year will be an opportune time for e-leaders to introduce teachers to areas of the “VLN” and the “Enabling e learning” space through links in the PLG area.

http://www.elearning.tki.org.nz/

/

  • Leadership PLG-Next year we will aim towards establishing a “Leadership PLG” as part of our move towards sustainability once the cluster contract has finished.