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MS5-Reflective Summary: Connecting across the cluster

Connecting across the cluster

The HigherLearning Cluster are in our third and final year of our ICT PD contract. Our cluster comprising of four small rural schools, sits along the western outskirts of Gisborne city, most being over an hour apart by road but only seconds apart thanks to ICT .

There have been many instances over the past two and a half years that this cluster have come together. The ICT EXPO gatherings have been focused on the programme goals within the contract. This has grown into teaching and learning moments that have captured other areas outside of the ICT PD contract. These have included, sporting events, gymnastics festival, end of year swimming outing, start of the year camp, Y7 and Y8 Leadership conference and the East Coast speech competitions.

While sustainability has not been formally discussed, the cluster are already operating in this manner and setting ourselves up strongly, to continue to collaborate and stay firmly connected post-contract. As one principal mentioned in an earlier cluster visit,

                  “The walls in  my classroom have fallen away and my classroom now reaches across the cluster. All planning is shared cluster-wide and the eBuddy programme has meant that connections made across Skype, have the opportunity to be cemented in F2F gatherings”

 The Clusters context

The cluster established e buddies in the first year of our contract and the students have kept regular weekly contact ever since through; e mail, skype, voicethread and face to face at the many cluster events.

The focus

It has been a goal to match buddies of similar age, gender and interests. Some of these kept the same buddy for the two and a half years and some have changed as rolls fluctuate within the schools, but all students remain enthusiastic about having a buddy.

Having access to the technology in our schools and the internet has meant that none of our students ever has to feel isolated even though there are only sixty students in the whole cluster.

Why did we choose this

As there were identified weaknesses in writing and oral language the senior students have been sharing reports and getting feedback/feedforward  from their buddies while the juniors are using skype. This has prompted a desire to impress their buddy and get positive feedback which has lifted the standard of achievement in these areas, while they demonstrate growing confidence and skill in the use of ICT tools.

What did we do and what happened

This year had started with so many camps, activities, workshops and technology issues with SNUP upgrades that the buddies had been rather neglected. Students were really excited when the second week of term two, our cluster came together for a student EXPO. The focus was to re-introduce and form new buddies to launch our term two eBuddy programme. We also wanted to address an Inquiry in our cohort groups and in so doing; we would meet all five of some of our programme cluster goals.

1.1 Increase students and staff awareness of copyright issues
1.2 Increase student and staff information literacy skills
1.3 Advance student use of effective e-learning tools
3.1 Students are active participants in their inquiries
3.2 Teachers are integrating new technologies in teaching and learning programmes innovative and exciting ways

In some instances, new eBuddies were formed. Once these were established, eBuddies had time to get to know their eBuddy very well.

Role playing by our teaching staff generated discussions with the 60 students from Y1-Y8. Questions posed and key words highlighted, went a long way in designing the cluster-wide set of guidelines, which easily met the success indicator set for the first goal.
The Inquiry, ‘Darting to Success’ covered the remaining goals and teachers ensured that these were kept at the forefront, throughout the duration of the day.

 

Programme plans and results for 2011
To date, the cluster remains on task as the Project Director takes some time out to welcome in her first born child.


Kathe Tawhiwhirangi-Perry, National Facilitator, National Blended e-Learning Programme

Shelley Cornwall- Motu School