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Southern Central Divide: Milestone 4 Reflection

What was important for us?

  • To develop communities of practice where teachers can support each other to develop blended learning opportunities for their learners.
  • To continue to develop our core group of teacher leaders so that they are able to act as elearning leaders within their own school and within their community of schools
  • To challenge school leadership to raise their own expectations of what elearning can offer to their learners and also establish the critical role of school leadership within and across communities of schools.

 

Why was this important?

Blended learning offers a means of engaging learners and encouraging learners to take responsibility for their own learning, provided that pedagogical styles support this approach. Additionally, by establishing communities of practice we aim to provide a support mechanism for teachers changing their pedagogy and also lever economies of scale to provide both pedagogical and time benefits to learners and teachers. The key role of school and communities of schools leadership is essential if any changes to pedagogy are to be sustained at a system-wide level.


What did we do?

  • We facilitated the attendance at ULearn of 14 SCD delegates.
  • We (SCD delegates) presented four separate presentations at ULEARN
  • We facilitated PD meetings for our CoP of of lead teachers
  • We facilitated the seeding of other CoP’s in the cluster
  • We facilitated a collaborative project involving WestNet
  • We facilitated a leadership/blue skies visioning event
  • We reviewed our activities

 

What happened as a result?

In general terms, this milestone period has been relatively quiet from a cluster perspective, but as the year draws to a close, cluster activity is beginning to increase again. The ‘quietness’ is probably due to the needs of senior students consuming teacher efforts: many project teachers have been completely absorbed with ensuring their senior classes do as well in NCEA examinations as possible.

The core group of lead teachers, whom are developing themselves as blended learning pioneers are now largely self-organising and self-motivating. It has been an extra-ordinary journey for them and their attendance at ULearn was both a reward and rewarding! This group almost entirely organised themselves for the conference (apart from transport and accommodation) by having virtual meetings and collaborating online (using google docs) to produce their presentation. The group functions as a healthy CoP. Looking forward to 2012 a major challenge will be to ensure that this CoP sustains beyond the end of the project funding. It’s survival will likely be a function of both the individual group members and the support that their schools provide to the group. Some of our lead teacher CoP presented at ULearn. This marked a major shift for the group as it signified a shift from being receivers of PD to an acknowledgement that they have developed expertise that is worthy of sharing with others. The cluster facilitators also presented 3 workshops with the purposes of: sharing the cluster story, inviting comment on what to do next and in light of the proposed Network for Learning (which post ULearn is now confirmed) suggesting educational policy changes which will allow collaborative blended learning across schools to be more easily organised and funded. We recognise and are actively engaged in promoting a vision and practice of blended learning that extends beyond the SCD cluster.

We provided seed funding to facilitate CoPs as suggested by teachers in the cluster. The uptake of these CoPs has been sporadic and the impact of Term Three (see above) has been high. As Term Four progresses, these CoPs will be more active.

We organised and facilitated a leadership event for principals and senior leaders during Term Four. This event was designed to challenge leaders to: take ownership of the cluster as a collective, understand the potential of a N4L and it’s impact on schooling and wield the influence they have as a collective to improve educational outcomes in the region.


What have we learned?

We have learned that the CoP of lead teachers is now maturing. The CoP is self-organising and very useful to it’s members. We have also learned that seeding CoP’s is difficult and it is ‘hit and miss’ if suggested CoP leaders actually do as they suggest. We have also reaffirmed our learning from earlier in the project that targeting school leadership needs to be a priority for the remainder of the cluster funding. Combined, our learnings reinforce our opinion that CoP’s that operate across schools require deliberate interventions - at the level of teacher, facilitator and school leader level if they are to thrive and (eventually) have a positive impact on learning.


What are our next steps?

Our next steps are a logical progression of the project thus far: continue to develop our lead teacher group as teacher leaders; work with school leaders to implement a vision of collaborative blended learning, support the development of CoPs across cluster schools.

 

Who are we: The Southern Central Divide Cluster consists of the 30 or so area and secondary schools that comprise WestNet and CantatNet, geograpically we are between Oamaru and Karamea.

Southern Central Divide

Southern Central Divide

The Southern Central Divide Cluster (SCD) is joint project between the CantaNet and WestNet eLearning clusters, spanning the Southern Alps (the 'Central Divide') of the South Island of New Zealand