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Case Study - Online Languages 2009

Prepared by Jo Gibson 2010

Case Study B: Year 7-8 Languages
Level: Year 6-8, 2008-2009
Leader: Rick Whalley, Principal, Matapu School
Source: Matapu School, Taranaki; Cambridge East and Pukeatua Schools, Waikato
Languages: Spanish and French 

This pilot programme addressed the provision of learning French and Spanish languages between three schools: Matapu School in the Taranaki, coordinated by Principal Rick Walley, Pukeatua School and Cambridge East School, as coordinated by ICTPD Facilitator Pauline McLeod.

With the introduction of learning languages as a curriculum area within The New Zealand Curriculum, especially for Year 7-10 students, small and rural schools were concerned at the lack or availability of getting language teachers that would be able to come to their schools. With an agreement adopted between Matapu School and the Ministry of Education eLearning Department, a model of teaching and learning began, similar to a secondary school model that existed on the VLN, but with the use of Adobe Connect, as a more broadband friendly and cost effective web conferencing alternative to video conferencing.

One half hour session per week for each language was offered through Adobe Connect web conferencing and MOE-sponsored audio conferencing. French lessons were provided by Sandra Weston, a fluent French speaker from Cambridge East School, at 11.00am every Friday. Spanish lessons were provided by Jarad Chittenden, a Year 6-8 classroom teacher from Matapu School, at 11.30am every Friday. The programme at Matapu School ran during their school ‘Options' programme. 

Principal Rick Walley coordinated all communication for the learning of languages by email, with interaction occurring between ePrincipals, school principals, and classroom teachers. Language teachers, Jarad and Sandra, occasionally connected with associated staff from participating schools by email, as well as using blog and wiki environments for students.

Following consultation with the Ministry of Education, the administration of weekly lessons ran through Adobe Connect as the web conferencing environment at the centre of all live sessions. Both Jarad and Sandra used a blog for students to access outside their teacher-student session.

ePrincipal Pauline McLeod, initiator of language learning from the WaiLite cluster, identified that the learning of French as being a school elective at Cambridge East School, as well as Spanish provided as an option for student choice.

The French and Spanish teachers were released from routine class duties by their principal for the provision of lessons only. The students who received French at Matapu School were fully supported by Jarad, while the students at Pukeatua School worked independently at a distance when present for Jarad's Spanish class. During the first two sessions, students were fully supported. The Pukeatua School principal was on hand to ‘trouble shoot' if necessary.

Liaison with schools    

Email to interested schools from Rick Whalley, November 2009: 
"With the introduction of languages as a curriculum area within the New Zealand Curriculum for students from year 7-10. Small and rural schools were concerned at the lack of or availability of getting language teachers that could or would be able to come to their schools.

Through Eddie Reisch at the Ministry a few of us asked how we could provide this to our schools. The secondary schools already provide classes to student through the VLN and video conferencing in subjects that are not available within their schools  to their student. So the question was ‘can we provide something similar to our intermediate students'. Eddie suggested that we use the adobe connect site to provide second languages ( as this takes less band width and would be available to most rural schools). So we began in term 2 with Jarad from Matapu School taking a French class.

From the start the agreement has been that ‘You must offer to receive'. With this being the case not many teachers or principals felt confident enough to take on this new teaching/learning style. So Jarad said I'll start and then we can all see how it works. With Jarad being the mentor teacher in this, the other teachers can see how Adobe works and those that are more fluent in the language can take over. This has happened with French and Sandra Weston is now taking the French class and doing really well.  We are now offering Spanish, once again Jarad is not a fluent speaker of Spanish , but we have new schools involved and therefore new teachers who are exposed to adobe connect as a teaching tool. Hopefully someone will take the reins and say ‘I can do this' and either take over or come up with something new to teach. This way we will build from our One French class into a series of languages that are taken by a number of teachers and offered to a number of schools.

We started with 3 schools, now we have 7 schools and hopefully as word gets out, we can bring in more schools and therefore more talented teachers that can provide languages to our students. We have started with languages but as we grow we can start thinking of  other curriculum areas that we will be able to benefit from as small and rural schools.

The secondary schools started out in 2001-2002 with around 12 schools, they now have around 200 schools throughout new Zealand with approx 1500 students benefitting. So the potential is there to be able to provide all  of our students with learning opportunities that we are not able to provide in our individual schools."

Tutors and resources 
The language teachers, Jarad and Sandra, were both classroom teachers, who prepared content and collaborative activities as part of their core teaching responsibilities. They were released by their Principal for the hour involved for both French and Spanish lessons, and preparation was done in their own time.

Jarad first taught French to five students within his own school and a group of six students from Cambridge East School as a way of demonstrating the ease of an online presence. The students at Cambridge East School were first supported by Sandra Weston, initially a participant with them, under the facilitation of Jarad. Sandra took over the teaching role during the second term into the programme, and Jarad introduced and facilitated the learning of Spanish from that time.

Student numbers ranged from 9-15 students taking part in French lessons with 10-20 students involved in Spanish. During the fourth term at Matapu School, the Year 7-8 contingent were bused off to attend scheduled technology classes each Friday, which left a remaining team of five Year 6 students to continue pursuing language classes.

Extensive use of both PowerPoint and whiteboard applications enabled students to experience the written and visual cues of each language taught. Audio conferencing provided the auditory component. Both Jarad and Sandra used a blog for student use outside their virtual teacher-student sessions. PowerPoints created by the teachers themselves were uploaded for independent student study, following the virtual lesson through Adobe Connect. YouTube clips exposed students to additional activities, language immersion, and practice.

Jarad was aware of the wealth of searchable web resources as activities but found that he was more able to personalise the learning that he facilitated by creating his own material. Involvement in the Ministry of Education's eLearning Virtual Professional Development initiative will enable Jarad to explore more of the tools available for use with students, such as LAMS. Jarad also used his iPhone to source web translations for Spanish during the course of student programming. In the future, it is anticipated that a peer-peer student relationship or resource with native speaking Spanish students could be fostered. This will be further explored in 2010.

Programmes of learning
Throughout 2009, Jarad and Sandra designed, developed, and implemented their own programmes of learning on a weekly basis for the purposes of collaborative learning through Adobe Connect web conferencing. Audio conferencing, sponsored by the Ministry of Education's eLearning Department complimented the session.

New material, via PowerPoint presentations was typically introduced and studied, during each web conferencing session and were systematically worked through. Each teacher had an online learning environment where resources developed were available for student download to support further study. 


French and Spanish lessons at Cambridge East School: French lessons were presented and Spanish lessons were received from with the AP or DP's office. While this room was small, thus limiting the size of group participation, it was quiet for audio conferencing. Students sat in a curved row around Sandra's laptop in order to view the material shared through Adobe Connect and used a speaker phone. Students did not need to lean forward to be heard by their peers as at Matapu School. Both Sandra and Jarad presented their lessons by PowerPoint in Adobe Connect and talked frequently to all groups using one school to interact with another. For example, the Cambridge East School students asked questions in French for the Matapu School students to respond to. Feedback was rich for both teacher and student responses. The Adobe Connect chat facility enabled all parties to interact over and above the audio conferencing. The camera was used on occasion but tended to interfere with download speeds. Text and pointer tools enabled students to focus on both peer and teacher participation. Sandra and Jarad taught with prepared material and spontaneously modified it according to student need. They also used the whiteboard tool to provide supplementary support.


French and Spanish lessons at Matapu School: Lessons operated at the front of Jarad's classroom during the Friday morning 'Options' programme. Up to 8 students not involved in the French lessons worked on independent programmes on computers at the back of the room, supervised by Principal Rick Whalley.

For Matapu School students, PowerPoint material on Adobe Connect appeared through a Smartboard at the front of Jarad's classroom. Students sat on chairs directly in front of it, away from their desks. Jarad facilitated the French lessons presented by Sandra and led the Spanish lessons in return. He prompted his students when necessary, and in turn, passed around the portable speaker phone to ensure clear levels of interaction during collaborative elements of the programme. 

Documentation of lessons
The learning material presented by both Sandra and Jarad can be found in their respective online environments:
Sandra Weston: www.buenosdias.edublogs.org
Jarad Chittenden: http://frenchonline.wikispaces.com/

There was discussion about the need to record sessions, especially for students who missed a group session and were consequently unable to follow subsequent sessions with ease. It was recognised that professional development in this area was needed. While Adobe Connect had recording facilities, it was unable to record audio conferencing from sources other that its own. Adobe Connect audio conferencing was not widely used, as it interfered with broadband speeds, causing both delay in speech and a mismatch in screen and instructional presentation. 

Professional development
Rick Whalley, Principal of Matapu School and Rachel Roberts, ePrincipal of the Taranet Cluster provided Jarad with the professional development required to run his Spanish lessons. Upon subsequent contact between ICTPD Facilitator Pauline McLeod and Spanish teacher, Sandra Weston of the WaiLITE cluster, Jarad subsequently provided the professional development for Sandra, in order for her to implement a Spanish programme between Cambridge East and Matapu Schools.

Professional development included the following:

  • Adobe Connect web conferencing
  • Face to face one to one, just in time PD (for Jarad from Rick and Rachel)
  • Attendance at ULearn (Jarad)
  • Putting Jarad forward for VPD programme

It has been identified that the Virtual PD initiative in its pilot phase within the Ministry of Education's eLearning Department would be an ideal source of training for VLNC-Primary teachers for any subject. Currently, there are 10 teachers from around the country, one of which already includes Jarad.

Development of protocols and guidelines
There were no protocols and guidelines developed in this first year apart from what is mentioned in the letter above - the principles of participation being reciprocity - 'you must give to receive'.



Jarad at Work