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Reflective Summary Milestone 5 - Leading e-learning at Ramarama School

e-wrapper cluster VLN Template 2012 

National Goal 2

Principals to lead the integration of e-learning in their schools (strategic and operational)

Cluster Goal 2

To enhance the capability of school leadership to implement ICT strategic planning.

Ramarama School is a Decile 8 full primary (Year 0 – 8) school on the outskirts of Southern Auckland. Established in 1867, the school has a roll of around 210 students and nine learning spaces. The article discusses the importance of educational purpose driving the implementation of any technological solution, rather than the other way around.

What was important for us?

Ramarama School is in its final year of the BIended eLearning Contract. The contract along with the NZC created the impetus for the Board of Trustees, teachers and community to re-evaluate all aspects of our school. During the contract, the school has undergone a myriad of changes that have had the curriculum (Teaching and Learning) and home-school partnership at the centre of all of them.

Therefore it became apparent that we needed to ensure that we were building coherence (the quality of forming a unified whole) throughout the curriculum across the school and community. The way that we were reporting to parents didn’t seem to add to this coherence and at times seemed disconnected to the teaching and learning within the school.

What did we do?

We looked at changing the way we structure our reporting to parents so that it was utilising ‘next practice’ and the e-learning tools that home and school could take advantage of.

Using the Assessment for Learning practice led to a departure from traditional twice a year reporting to parents to an on-going learning conversation between student, teacher and parent. We felt that the current situation ended up only focusing on the summative part of assessment rather than involving the parents more in the ongoing nature of formative assessment. We believe that it will enhance the conversation between home and school with the express purpose to firstly initiate a conversation between home and school that is focused on the their child’s learning. Also more importantly, maintain it and have regular contributions throughout the year.

We used Knowledge Net to make this a reality, with their Learning Journal module. In planning for this implementation it was important to foresee the possible pitfalls and barriers for teachers, students and their caregivers. The leadership team enabled the teachers to start with a blank canvas to re-design what reporting could and should look like. This allowed the teachers to have more ownership of both process and product and kept the reality of the classroom at the forefront of development. Initial drafting was a process that operated at syndicate level, then shared at whole school level to compare expectations, progressions and consistency throughout the different year levels within the school. By the last week in Term One, we were able to report in this new way to our parents in the following areas – Literacy, Numeracy, Physical Education and a general section. The journals are a mix of pieces of evidence and reflections from both teacher and student. After three weeks, which included the two week holiday break, over 28% of caregivers that had made one or more comments in their child’s journal.

 What have we learned?

You need a variety of different strategies to engage parents to contribute to an online environment that supports their child’s learning.

Leaders need to give opportunities for staff to express any barriers to implementation and possible solutions. As the learning leaders of the school, they need to take responsibility over the implementation and work with teachers to overcome hurdles. Keeping a dual focus on the finish line and current issue is important to be successful.

Outlining expectations for all stakeholders as early as you can – parents, teachers, principal and students and then communicate the same messages repeatedly in different ways and in different forums to ensure engagement with both the theory and the practice of the change.

Talking to other schools that have implemented a similar system so that you learn intelligently rather than re-inventing the wheel. Spending three hours with an e-Leader from another cluster proved invaluable and helped accelerate our learning and enabled us to achieve our initial targets.

“If you hook the child, you hook the parent” – your students can make the difference between the success of how engaged the parents will be. They are the best advocates we have.

What happened, as a result?

Staff conversations about assessment focused on the ‘what’ and ‘why’ and then led onto the ‘how’ rather than the other way around. The technology is used to deliver what we need rather than the technology dictating the change. 

Staff and Leaders feel a sense of liberation from the standard reporting timeframes. 

Assessment is becoming more connected to teaching and learning practice rather than an add-on.

Reporting starting to represent a conversation between all stakeholders. 

What are our next steps?

To continue to work with our community to explore ways in which parents can be encouraged to respond and contribute in an online environment, where the parents are focused on supporting their child’s learning, progress and achievement.

We have begun a group Teaching as Inquiry project throughout the school that is focused on active reflections and how we can teach the students to make more purposeful reflections in their journals.

Heath McNeil - Principal