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Merivale School. How we developed a Context for our Teacher Inquiry into Online Learning

Social Networking, strengthening relationships, developing supportive online Learning environments, are all part of learning with uspace @ Merivale school.

What was important for us?

Identiying the key drivers from ICTPD Cluster perspective: "developing maori potential" was our very first starting point. 

Goal 1: Integration of ICT to give effect to the New Zealand Curriculum / Te Marautanga o Aotearoa

Goal 3: Strengthen professional learning communities and increased collaboration within and across schools

Goal 5: Increase the school community's understanding of the educational contribution of e-learning.

Our cluster model for PL is based around Teaching as Inquiry model of Professional Learning (page 34 of NZC). We knew we needed to identify what was important and worth spending time on so that our long term goal was about improving student achievement first and foremost.

Localising the goals from our ICTPD contract was our next step. What was important and therefore worth spending time on @ Merivale School. This is what we came up with:

Whilst, NZC was providing the framework for Literacy and Numeracy @ Merivale, Te Marautanga 0 Aotearoa was our guiding document for all other learning. 

Sitting in behind this was the strategy document Ka Hikitia “ Maori enjoying education success as Maori”. 

From this document the  concept of “ako” was brought to the forefront.  

We were able to sit “ako” alongside our “Teaching as Inquiry Model to add even more depth to what we were trying to achieve with teacher professional learning and student learning:

“ako describes a teaching and learning relationship where the educator is also learning from the student and where educators’ practices are informed by the latest research and are both deliberate and reflective. Ako is grounded in the principle of reciprocity and recognises that the learner and whānau cannot be separated.

The key aspects of ako are: 
Language, identity and culture counts – knowing where students come from and building on what students bring with them 

Productive Partnerships – Māori students, whānau and educators sharing knowledge and expertise with each other to produce better outcomes.”


“What we soon realised was the potential of our online learning platform to be the 21st century learning “tool” to make this happen”.  (Jan Tinetti)  

Our Merivale school vision and Tapa Wha Learner Model also supported our thinking through our Key Vision Outcomes:

  • KVO 4 (maori enjoying success as maori), 
  • KV0 6 (learning environment is paramount)
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What we did and why we did it.

Once all this was realised the next step was to drill down to identify the key  drivers at the Teacher/student level.

School Professional learning was based around implementing inquiry. As part of our reflection cycle we noted that:

“it had been more difficult than we thought to move beyond immersion”

What were the teacher observations that prompted the statement above ?

ie: possible whys! learners not overly comfortable to take risks or think independently....

After much discussion it was soon realised that these children were in fact risk takers and have special talents and that we needed to foster and develop these.

“It's not that they can't take risks, it may be that they just "can't do it very well, yet"

So we looked at effective pedagogy and asked ourselves: Is there something that we need to change?  The guiding questions which arose from this question was "What can we do to further develop a supportive learning environment so that our learners are encouraged to take risks. etc.."

The next step was to identify what resources we already had at school which would allow us to do this?

This was when the idea arose to use uspace to create a supportive learning environment, facilitate shared learning, provide opportunities to encourage reflective thought and action..etc

Once we realised we had “the vehicle” to achieve our goal we wanted to link back to a structure, process that the students knew well, as a starting point. Starting with something we do well would enhance the relevance of the new learning: The Compliment Circle 

Could we do this better using ICT to engage our 21st century learners?

How can we keep the students motivated with compliment circles?

A Merivale School Student talking about his introduction to uspace

We could use uspace to "add value" to build on the wider concept of a learning community and link back to tapa wha model (values and relationships)

So what were the next steps for learning? Now we needed to provide sufficient opportunities to learn. - encounter new learning a number of times and in different forms---> far transfer / greater depth

We decided the students needed to experience a mix of informal and formal learning opportunities,through the context of the compliment circle (acknowledging each others strengths and celebrating each others achievements).

Informal online activities ie: chatting and messaging, commenting on work, updating profiles and about me pages  would provide opportunities for the learners (teachers and students) to:

  • build relationships
  • build on learners’ strengths
  • celebrate achievements
  • develop ownership over their online environment 
  • compliment each other 
  • reinforce the existing rules of compliment circle whilst allowing the learners to  continue to freely explore aspects of online communication without the environment being a top down/ heavily rule based environment.
  • experience their learning in real / authentic contexts outside of the four walls of the classroom.
  • celebrate their learning with whanau

All of these opportunities would then in turn guide richer learning opportunities 

  • “just in time” approaches to teaching and learning could happen as learner readiness is shown as they build up their understandings on what  they are doing, why they are doing it and how it is benefiting them as learners.

Throughout this “immersion” time the teachers’ focus would then shift towards using 21st century digital tools to support and enhance learning, engage learners with their learning and raise student achievement through NZC and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa.

The online learning environment would in turn support the notions expressed in “Ka Hikitia”: increasing the school community's understanding of the educational contribution of e-learning.