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Going It Alone Together – Forging Forward Without A Facilitator

A Reflective Summary For Milestone 3

About our cluster



The Rotorua Lakes Cluster consists of Rotorua Lakes High School (the lead school), Rangitahi College, Mokoia Intermediate and Whangamarino School.  We range between decile 1 – 5 with rolls between 87 and 650.  While we are a diverse group we have some similarities and we focus on sharing professional strengths and needs. Instead of a cluster facilitator, we have depended on the four Lead Teachers to determine the best path to take from our cluster goals.

Our cluster’s main focus

Our cluster’s main focus is to support teachers in the integration of ICTs in the classroom, in association with improving pedagogy.  We think developing critical thinking skills and inquiry processes are an integral part of this.  We want to involve our communities in interacting with their children’s work using ICTs.  To do this successfully we know that we all need, as teachers, to understand how we and our students will benefit and we need to ensure that appropriate support is provided so that we all have the confidence and the resources to make the changes.

What we did


A Teacher Only Day

What could we do together? We knew that other clusters had concentrated on inquiry learning and critical thinking models in developing their schools’ blended e-learning pedagogies.  SOLO Taxonomy was the particular focus for two neighbouring clusters. The Lead Teachers decided that this would be a good place to start in developing a culture of thinking; SOLO gave us a model that we could develop across the different sectors represented in our cluster. We invited Pam Hook to facilitate a Teacher Only Day on April 11, our first cluster-wide event. 


We are as yet to look at where to next at a cluster level; Mokoia has begun to revisit their own portfolio of critical thinking skills, established three years earlier and with parallels to Pam Hook’s and Julie Mill’s Hooked On Thinking.  Rotorua Lakes High, Rangitahi and Whangamarino are discussing how to integrate SOLO across the curriculum. A lot of excitement has been generated in the colleges.


Tech Angels and Tech Wizards Programme

The Rotorua Lakes Cluster has developed and implemented a Tech Angels and Wizards programme, inspired by a breakout at ULearn10, facilitated by New Plymouth Girls High School.


The Tech Angels are secondary students, at this stage from RLHS, with an invitation for students from Rangitahi College to join us in the future. These students meet with the Lead teacher (RLHS) fortnightly to share knowledge with each other and learn new digital skills. They have a dual directive; one to mentor and assist teachers with ICTs; the other to mentor younger students in the cluster. These “Tech Wizards” are from our intermediate and primary cluster schools, Mokoia Intermediate and Whangamarino School.


The Tech Wizards are Year 6-8 students who meet with the Lead Teacher at Mokoia Intermediate once a week.  Students from Whangamarino are currently joining with Mokoia students to gain photography skills in an eight week course facilitated by a local professional photographer.  The intention is that they will use these skills to both document what is happening in their own schools and to mentor other students.  The results have been really encouraging. Already students have been used as photographers for school events and have had work published on the school blog and in newsletters.


The RLHS senior Tech Angels attended our recent teacher only day and proved to be invaluable in the setting up of the presenter’s equipment which required some innovation as our system did not quite fit her equipment. They also collected video feedback from the teachers about the day. They were extremely professional and respectful and the captured teachers’ voice is of a good standard.


The first joint Tech Angels and Wizards session was held at RLHS in April 2011. Groups of two to three Tech Wizards worked with one Tech Angel with the aim of producing a 3-5 minute presentation on Cyber Safety, using digital technology. Students were provided with digital cameras, computers and an internet connection. The Angels were given instruction in Moviemaker and Photostory 3 before the day.


The session ran between 1:30pm and 5:00pm (minimising missed classes particularly for our senior students). During the entire workshop, all the students were engaged and the atmosphere was “buzzing”. Very little teacher intervention was required.  All students embraced the opportunity and the videos were fun to watch.  Further sessions have been planned for terms 2, 3 and 4.


Our intention is to invite parents and caregivers to view the presentations during the last half hour of the sessions. This will help enhance relationships between school, whanau and the wider community, as promoted in Ka Hikitea, Te Kotahitanga and He Kakano. We want whanau to see the student engagement that we have been able to achieve through the Tech Angels/Tech Wizards programme,

What else?

We were able to send nearly forty school leaders, teachers and teacher aides to the Learning@School conference in Rotorua at the start of the year. We are looking forward to sending a good contingent to ULearn11 in October; we are lucky to have both conferences held in our city, as we don’t have to cover accommodation or transport.


What happened as a result?

Students and teachers are more willing to offer and accept help with ICT use in the classroom; they want to use the tools and they know that there is support. It is very encouraging to see growth in students as they are empowered by the opportunities to help both teachers and juniors in use of ICTs.  Our students are recognised and becoming empowered as classroom and teacher facilitators; assisting with assembly presentations, taking photos for school newsletters, updating teacher software and setting up hardware. We believe it provides a “niche” for some students who do not fit into the traditional extracurricular activities provided by the school. The Tech Angels and Wizards have become another leadership group within our schools.


At a Lead Teacher level, developing this project is creating closer links and learning for us. Developing and implementing the programme has been more work than we initially anticipated, although terrifically rewarding; a time allowance is essential! The student-student mentoring aspect has been formalised in some schools with the Tuakana-teina programme to assist younger or less capable students.



For principals, it is exciting to see the building momentum in understanding and practice and to have the chance to participate.  Our schools’ visions for our 21st century learners will be realised more quickly because of these opportunities.

Our challenges

Going it alone has not been easy.  One of our Lead Teachers has the experience of belonging to two previous clusters.  We depend too, on the guidance of our national facilitator.  The VLN looks like becoming a repository of learning and contacts that will be important to us.  Conferences, professional development from conglomerates like Te Toi Tupu and sms providers are important as well as tapping into the strengths in our own collective staff.


There is no doubt that our teachers want to deliver the best possible learning opportunities they can and they agree that the implementation of ICTs into their teaching practice is beneficial to improving student engagement and ultimately raising student achievement.


The challenge is to keep workloads manageable.  Whether primary, intermediate or secondary, teachers are looking at changes and developments in other aspects of teaching, such as National Standards and changes to level one NCEA standards, at the same time as they engage in this professional development and implement changes in their practice. 

Our next steps


The process is ongoing.  In order for teachers to integrate ICTs regularly into their teaching they need to be shown the benefits of using the technologies, then given training and on-going support until they are able to use the technologies confidently. This will involve input by Tech Angels/Tech Wizards, other facilitators and Lead Teachers sharing their expertise between schools.


We recognise that it is essential for each school to integrate the provision of time and professional development into their strategic plan. Integrating an e_learning goal into the appraisal process is one way of ensuring that blended e-learning is a high priority and that each teacher will feel empowered to take those next steps.


Our planning for the rest of the year will centre on creating individual or small group goals and scaffolding a “Teaching As Inquiry” process within our collective staff.  The VLN may be invaluable for bringing people of like interest together within our cluster and across the cluster landscape.  The next milestone will ask us to report on what is happening within our classrooms.


We have talked about sharing the expertise from our cluster schools e.g. a teacher from Mokoia running blogging workshops at RLHS. This will occur within individual schools, led by lead teachers or staff who are skilled in particular fields. This will help ensure that we can meet the “just in time” learning needs of our teachers, share best practice and value the pool of talent that we already have in our ranks.


By meeting the needs of individual teachers and supporting them to further develop their pedagogy, we can better target the individual strengths, needs and learning styles of our students.


  • Pam Hook

    Hi Anne Marie,

    Is good to read about the ways different schools are using the new learning from the the TOD on SOLO taxonomy.

    I have created a number of resources that are useful for clusters/schools I work with who are exploring "Where to next?" - have housed them on the HOT Wiki page Learning to Learn: Programme Evaluation

    There is also some great use of SOLO in Rotorua Schools - would be well worth an intercluster visit or invitation to share.

    Should provide some useful provocation and dialogue



  • Tessa Gray

    Hi Annemarie, it has been rewarding to read how your cluster has been ‘going it alone’. Thanks for sharing this story. I understand this can be both beneficial (building internal capacity) as well as a challenge (you don’t know what you don’t know), but you are wise to utilise your lead teachers to share effective practice, to tap into external experts and to encourage cluster members to attend national hui to gain different insights into new ways of thinking and new ways of working.

    Using students is also a clever way to empower teachers –who may otherwise not have the initial skills. The challenge there is, that students often know how to use the tools, but don’t always how to integrate these appropriately for the benefits of increasing ability, understanding, knowledge or other desirables like critical, creative and reflective thinking. That’s where the teacher comes in - as you've already acknowlegded in your next steps.

    Teachers often need support in knowing what tools fit where, and how these might benefit learning, that’s why scaffolding onto models of Inquiry or reflective tools like SOLO are hugely beneficial. I have enjoyed the Hooked on Thinking matrices for ICTs and SOLO use, that you’ve no doubt accessed already. http://hooked-on-thinking.wikispaces.com/ICT+Progress+Indicators

    Part of managing complex change is supporting teachers with the skills to be able to integrate and infuse ICTs appropriately into learning experiences. I’ve since repurposed these ideas here: http://blog.core-ed.org/tessa/2011/05/25/managing-complex-change-skills-pt3/ and http://blog.core-ed.org/tessa/2011/05/25/challenges-of-integratinginfusing-icts/
    Thanks again for sharing, there may be others with similar thoughts or experiences to contribute. Smile