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Extending our Wikis/Blogs/LMS to Connect, Communicate and Collaborate with others

 Table of Contents

Who are we?

We are a diverse range of schools from the Manawatu that make up the ‘Town & Country ICTPD Cluster’. Our schools include; Awapuni, Central Normal, Cloverlea, Hokowhitu, Kairanga, Longburn, Tākaro and Tokomaru.

What is important to us?

To extend our cluster, school and class wikis, blogs and Learning Management Systems across our cluster and beyond, to connect, communicate, and collaborate with others.

Why is this important?

Earlier this year we worked as a cluster on ‘Developing Wikis/Blogs/LMS to enhance learning’. Since then our aim has been to enhance our use of these learning hubs so they provide us with a stronger connection to the outside world, including other students, teachers, principals and communities.

Our cluster goals and the New Zealand Curriculum gave us a strong pedagogy for implementing our context.

Our Cluster ICT Professional Development indicators included:

  • Groups of students will collaborate face-to-face and then via Web 2 environments as part of the development of collaborative and cooperative learning environments.
  • Principals and Teachers will participate in online learning opportunities, discussion and collaboration.
  • Class blogs/wikis will be evidenced in all classrooms.
  • Families will be provided with digital opportunities to share their children’s learning.

‘The New Zealand Curriculum’ (September 2007) states:

  • Principles: Community engagement - The curriculum has meaning for students, connects with their wider lives, and engages the support of their families, whānau, and communities.
  • E-learning and pedagogy - Information and communication technology (ICT) has a major impact on the world in which young people live... For instance, e-learning may:
    • Assist the making of connections by enabling students to enter and explore new learning environments, overcoming barriers of distance and time.
    • Facilitate shared learning by enabling students to join or create communities of learners that extend well beyond the classroom.
    • Key Competencies:
      • Using language, symbols, and texts – They confidently use ICT (including where appropriate, assistive technologies) to access and provide information and to communicate with others.
      • Participating and Contributing - This competency is about being actively involved in communities. Communities include family, whānau, and school and those based, for example, on a common interest or culture.

What did we do?

As a cluster, we have continued to build on the results shared in our earlier reflection, Developing Wikis/Blogs/LMS to enhance learning, as well as introducing some new initiatives.

Class blogs, wikis or LMS were created that other teachers, students, principals and the community can access. Each school/class had the freedom to create their online hub in a way that suits them. New ways of enhancing the use of these spaces have been part of on-going professional development throughout the year. The online hubs may include combinations of the following:

  • Information about what is happening in the class
  • Guidelines on safe and responsible use of your blog, wiki or other website
  • Links to online learning activities and relevant information
  • Links to buddy class(s)
  • Embedding files and links from other sites
  • Examples of children’s learning
  • Comments and feedback from other students, the teacher and the community

Our ICT Mini Conference was held in the July Holidays, including keynote speakers and workshops run predominantly by Lead Teachers. The Mini Conference encouraged the use of online hubs through:

  • All bookings and workshop information were organised through the cluster wiki
  • Workshops were held on setting up and enhancing your blog or wiki
  • Other workshops introduced Web 2.0 Tools that could be linked to your blog or wiki
  • A Mini Conference survey was embedded in the cluster wiki
  • Feedback about the conference was gathered using the ‘Discussion’ tab on the cluster wiki

Intra-cluster buddy teachers, from similar year levels, were introduced to each other during the ICT Mini Conference. The aims set for the buddy teachers were to communicate with each other about what was happening in their classes and then to set their own students up as buddy classes. This process encouraged:

  • A summary of professional discussions to be recorded on a ‘Discussion’ tab on the cluster wiki covering the following information:
  • How you integrate ICTs into your class programme
  • New applications, software, or web tools you are trialling
  • Problem solving
  • How your classroom practice is changing through the integration of ICT
  • Buddy Classes to first contact each other and come up with project they would like to collaborate on. This process may have included:
    • Skype conversations
    • Sharing content or learning via class blogs or wikis
    • Providing feedback on blogs or wikis
    • Buddy students creating learning experiences together via blogs or wikis

A group of Year 4-5 students from each school were invited to attend a workshop on animation and take that new knowledge back to share with their school. The results of this workshop have been shared on our cluster wiki so that the wider community can share in the enjoyment and learning that happened during that day.

Schools have organised community events where parents were invited to come and celebrate learning that has been happening in the school. Examples of these events may include:

  • School Assemblies where ICT is used as means of celebrating what has been happening in the school
  • 3 way conferences where the student’s learning is shared by using blogs or wikis
  • Students e-learning celebrated at the Manawatu Digi Awards
  • Parent Evenings held to educate and celebrate student’s learning

In-school Professional Development has been lead by the Lead Teachers, and supported by the Principal and Facilitator, that has included:

  • Intra-cluster professional readings, with feedback shown on the ‘Discussion’ tabs of the cluster wiki
  • Setting up and adding to blogs, wikis, LMS
  • Web 2.0 tools that can be embedded or linked to from the class blog or wiki
  • Time to answer individual questions

Principal, Teacher and Student Voice has been captured as a video response to the effect that digital technologies are having on learning at our cluster schools.

Principals are members of the ICT Management Team that meets once a term and a space for recording these meetings is the cluster wiki. Principals were also set up with a Buddy Principal to communicate with. A shared space on the cluster wiki was created to record thoughts and reflections of principals.

What happened as a result?

During the second and third terms of 2011 teachers and students within each school have continued to develop their wikis/blogs/Ultranet pages to reflect what is happening in their classes and to connect with the community.

Awapuni School have introduced their students to making appropriate comments on blogs and modelling digital citizenship through responsible usage of their class blogs. Students have shared their learning experiences by commenting on other student’s work and uploading ‘Photopeach’, Slideshows, Music Videos, Comic Life, writing and presentations to their class blogs. They have also used digital presentations during school assemblies to share with other students and the community. Student’s work has shown the increasing use of digital research and creativity through integrated studies and in creating entries for the ‘Manawatu Digi Awards’.

Central Normal School students have demonstrated appropriate online behaviour by following the Central Normal Cybersafety Agreement that was developed in consultation with families. Each Teaching Team has continued to develop their classroom blogs with some teams also having a team wiki. Students, teachers and parents have been encouraged to comment on class blogs to provide feedback. Students entered the ‘Manawatu Digi Awards’, showing their creative side and some small-group blogs have been created to enhance learning in specific areas.

Cloverlea School have created class wikis and blogs with a set of rules that have been negotiated and agreed upon by students. Curriculum tasks and links are connected through the classroom wikis and blogs so that children can access these regularly. The cluster student workshops encouraged children to teach other students about the skills they had learned and to enter items in the ‘Manawatu Digi Awards’. Children are able to locate relevant information for their research by using Internet sites that are linked on class blogs and wikis. Teachers are beginning to set up reflective professional development blogs, starting with literacy. Families are being encouraged to leave comments on the class wiki to do with their child’s learning.

Hokowhitu School have been using their class blogs to keep their community up to date with what is happening in their classrooms. Most class blogs have a blog info page detailing the expectations of behaviour when using class blogs. Classes discuss what it means to be a digital citizen and the expectations of how to behave correctly when using online tools. Some students have contacted their buddy class through their class blog. Wikis have been created to investigate new tools. Teachers and the principal are commenting on children’s learning. The ‘Manawatu Digi Awards’ and a workshop from Stuart Hale have provided students with the opportunity to expand their creative minds.

Kairanga School have continued to develop and use their class wikis to so that students are able to directly access relevant learning activities at school and from home. The class wikis have also enabled the students’ learning to be shared in an online environment. Web 2.0 Tools such as StudyLadder and SpellingCity have been linked to class wikis, that allow students to practise skills at a their own level. Teachers continue to use the school wiki to record their e-learning professional development.

Longburn School have re-introduced their students to the ‘U-Space’ function, where students record their learning as a reflective log, on their ‘Ultranet’. ‘U-Space’ and ‘Class-Space’, along with the introduction of modules from the CyberSmart website, has allowed class teachers to teach and model Digital Citizenship using authentic contexts. Students have agreed to Cyber wits and Cyber-bullying pledge to encourage positive online behaviour. Activboards have continued to be used regularly for whole-class and small-group activities. Students attended the cluster student workshop on animation and shared with fellow students what they had learned. Students in one class are using skype to communicate with a class in Japan.

Te Kura o Tākaro have been developing ways of using their interactive whiteboards to create literacy resources for their Māori immersion classes. The digital stories that are written by the students are then linked to their ‘Class-Space’ on the School Ultranet so they can be accessed and re-read later on. Students attended the cluster student workshop and taught other students about Scratch animation. Some students emailed their buddy class to introduce themselves. Some teachers are setting up classroom discussions on Ultranet, as starters for their students’ learning journeys and to set tasks. Research is becoming an ever-increasing part of what ICTs are being used for at Tākaro School. Teachers have used online tools such as Lino-it to collaborate and reflect on professional readings. Teachers continue to have professional development on the use of Activboards in their classrooms.

Tokomaru School have blogging guidelines on each of their class blogs to reinforce positive online behaviour in their students. Positive and appropriate commenting on student’s learning is encouraged. In the middle and senior classes, the use of individual student blogs has continued to be fostered through encouraging students to publish their own learning and experiences on these, in addition to the use of class blogs that have links, collaborative feedback , learning shared and comments from the community. Making connections with other schools has also added another dimension as students can blog with each other. Some classes have communicated via Skype with their buddy class. Voice-thread has been a useful Web 2.0 Tool that has been used to collaborate and share ideas. A lunchtime ICT Club has been started so that students are able to learn new skills and pass them onto their peers. Teachers have used Google Docs to collaboratively plan for classes and for meetings.

Principals have made some contributions to the Principal Voice page on the cluster wiki. Two buddy principals have set up a wiki to share their thoughts and ideas. One principal has used Google Docs to share planning with his release teacher and Voice-thread to collaborate with other schools on writing moderation. One principal has an extensive ‘Personal Learning Network’ and adds professional readings, articles and resources to the cluster wiki, as part of his role as director. One principal has contributed towards the electronic newsletter on the newly developed school website. All principals have spent time developing their school ICT infrastructures and evaluating ‘School Management Systems’.

What have we learned?

Building on our learning from term one, our cluster has continued to see the value of developing online communities where ideas and learning is shared and where collaborative experiences are developed.

We have found that the buddy teacher model was very hard to sustain. It worked very well for some teachers and classes, and less well for others where keeping in contact with a buddy teacher was seen as an extra add-on to an already busy workload. Teachers found that their own class learning had to remain their top priority.

Schools are beginning to integrate the concepts of ‘Digital Citizenship’ into their students through the use of blogs, wikis and Ultranet. These online spaces have allowed the students to learn about appropriate and responsible online behaviour within an authentic learning context.

Schools are beginning to see the community-wide benefit of having online blogs, wikis and Ultranet pages that children and parents can view and add to out of school hours. This access also allows learning activities to be tailored to the individual levels of students and supports the principles of the New Zealand curriculum where E-learning, “…has meaning for students, connects with their wider lives, and engages the support of their families...”

Principals have seen the positive effect that the blogs, wikis and Ultranet are having on their teaching staff, students and the community. They acknowledge the need for them to continue to become more actively involved in an online environment, in order to be able to lead the school in their on-going E-learning journey.

An ever-increasing engaging student voice has encouraged our cluster to think about the future that our students have to play in continuing to develop E-learning as a driving force behind communicative and collaborative learning opportunities.

What are our next steps?

Schools will continue to develop a Digital Citizenship model that is based on the authentic learning environments within their school community.

Class blogs, wikis and Ultranet will continue to be essential hubs of learning and will extend their coverage to classes from other schools. ‘Quad-blogging’ will be explored as a way of extending the authentic audience for the students and relevant Web 2.0 Tools will be embedded and linked into the classroom hubs.

Our cluster will have blended meetings in year level groups, facilitated by the Lead Teachers. Each year level group will divide into sub-groups based on interest. The teachers within these interest groups will collaborate together on a project and their classes will become buddy classes.

After school workshops will be run, in the first instance by Lead Teachers and then by class teachers, to inject enthusiasm and fresh ideas into cluster teachers on the use of Web 2.0 Tools, Applications and Hardware that enhance the learning of students.

Student leadership will be encouraged across the cluster by providing opportunities for students to attend and lead workshops with each other and at the cluster conference. Students will be encouraged and advised on creating an entry for the ‘Manawatu Digi Awards’.

Principals and Lead Teachers will join up to interest groups within the ‘Virtual Learning Network’, with the aim of becoming more active and collaborative members and to gain from the knowledge and ideas of other leaders and teachers within the virtual community.

Want to find out more?

Below you will find the link to our cluster wiki:

  • The link will take you to each individual school’s Lead Teacher reflection and Principal reflection on their progress towards meeting the national, cluster and school goals. Each school in our cluster has taken our cluster focus and goals and interpreted them in a way that suits the culture and make-up of their school. There is also a report from the Director, reflecting on the role of the Facilitator.