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Developing Successful Digital Citizens through Online Participation



The Context

The Kura Iwa ICT cluster, is made up of nine Canterbury Schools - Bamford, Bromley, Christchurch East, Linwood Intermediate, Ouruhia, St Albans Catholic, St Anne's, St Mary's and Tai Tapu, with eTime facilitating their ICTPD programme.


During 2010 the cluster concentrated on building teacher confidence in using ICT to support and enhance teaching and learning. Teachers attended practicums to explore a how a range of technologies could be used to enhance literacy programmes. The cluster developed the ‘Kura Iwa Teaching As Inquiry Model’ and every teacher was required to engage in their own Inquiry utilising the knowledge and skills gained from each of the practicums. Across the cluster teachers focussed on using ICTs for Communication, with a specific pedagogy focus of providing students with opportunities to help decide learning intentions and success criteria in a given activity.

A further focus for the cluster was for teachers to set up online learning environments for their students. Teachers attended a practicum where they set up class wikis (wikispaces). Towards the end of the year and start of 2011 many of our cluster schools chose to implement the Ultranet Learning Management System.


2011 Focus

With a change in national goals, moving to an emphasis on encouraging our students to become successful digital citizens, and given that across the cluster, schools are keen to further develop their existing online learning environments, the primary focus for Kura Iwa in 2011 is Online Learning.

The programme is divided into 3 key components:

  • Heightening awareness of our digital learners and the impact that online technologies are having on our daily lives (students, teachers, parents, whanau)
  • Identifying how we can support students in becoming successful digital citizens
  • Exploring how we can provide opportunities within our existing class wikis/virtual classrooms for our students to engage in online learning experiences and develop their abilities to effectively communicate in an online setting, think critically, inquire and collaborate with learning communities that reach beyond the classroom walls.


The ‘Kura Iwa Teaching As Inquiry Model’ was modified at the start of 2011 to better reflect a blended eLearning approach. Teachers will be required to engage in at least 2 inquiry cycles with the focus being on the use of their online learning environments.



The cluster has drawn on research from Downes(2006), Richardson(2006) and various video presentations published on YouTube that draw attention to two important issues that arise when engaging in an online context. The first is the issue that the mere volume of information on the internet is growing exponentially, therefore our students need to learn how to cope with vast amounts of information, learn to filter and validate information. The second is the issue that our students are increasingly becoming a part of that Internet, particularly with the rise in social media applications. The challenge is that our students don’t always understand the implications that this can have, the concept of a digital footprint, identity protection, safe communication and online social ettiquette.


What we are doing

Cluster principals and teachers attended a practicum facilitated by eTime, “Learning Through Online Participation”. During this session, teachers were introduced to the concept of a ‘Digital Native’ (through research and YouTube clips) and they collectively identified some of the challenges that our students face as they become a part of a rapidly growing digital world. Lead teachers/teachers had the opportunity to explore resources that can heighten awareness and educate students, parents and whanau about the potential issues and strategies for protecting themselves.

The teachers recognised that they could play an important role in heightening student awareness of the possible issues that come with posting online and with the help of a range of resources they could help their students develop strategies for dealing with these issues. They also recognised that in order for students to become successful digital citizens they needed to be provided with meaningful opportunities to engage in online environments.

Each teacher was required to further build on their existing online learning environments (either wikispaces or Ultranet) to provide opportunities for their students to express themselves in an online setting, utilising the following tools:

- discussion tab on a wiki

- VoiceThread

- embedded within the online learning environment (OLE)

- Wallwisher

- embedded within the OLE

- class blog attached to the OLE

- Media Gallery module (Ultranet)

- Discussion module (Ultranet)

- Wiki module (Ultranet)

The expectation was set for all teachers across the cluster to provide at least one opportunity for students to contribute/post online during Term 1/beginning of Term 2. Teachers will reflect on the success/outcome of this activity during the Term 2 practicum.

To document this process teachers used the Kura Iwa Teaching As Inquiry Model. The outcome of their Inquiry is to be shared with cluster colleagues (Cluster Sharing Sessions) where teachers are required to identify their next steps for their professional learning.



Due to the Canterbury Earthquake our cluster schools have experienced an interruption to our ICTPD programme. While all schools have resumed their professional development, at the time of submitting our VLN reflections, many of our cluster schools are still in the process of completing their inquiries. This video contains a case study from one of our schools (St Albans Catholic) that has completed their Inquiry. It also provides an insight into similar inquiries that are happening across the cluster at this time.


What we learnt

  • Students displayed high levels of motivation and engagement when interacting within the online environment
  • Providing the opportunity for students to contribute online often made the task more meaningful, particularly when they realised they were communicating to an authentic audience
  • Learning to use the online tool opened up the opportunity for students to mentor each other. Allowing the students to become the teachers was really motivating for the children but was also an efficient strategy for the teacher.
  • In the process of contributing to the online environments there was a natural lead in to discussion around the potentially global nature of the audience students were contributing to. This in turn lead to discussion around appropriateness of posted comments and identity protection.
  • The use of tools such as VoiceThread provided an excellent context for developing speaking and listening skills.


Next steps

The next step for Kura Iwa is to focus on the development of digital literacy, Inquiry and critical thinking skills in their online environment.