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Facilitating Collaborative Learning through Online Environments

Context

The Kura Iwa Cluster is made up of nine Christchurch schools in their third year of an ICTPD contract; Bamford, Bromley, Christchurch East, Linwood Intermediate, Ouruhia, St Albans Catholic, St Anne’s, St Mary’s and Tai Tapu Schools.

All schools across the cluster have developed online learning environments during 2010 and 2011. Their Teaching As Inquiry focus for 2011 was in using their online environments to engage the parent / whanau community and to encourage their students to become successful digital citizens. Reflections of these inquiries are available on the VLN within the Kura Iwa Cluster Resources.  These reflections revealed that the online environments were excellent platforms for providing students with experience in developing the necessary skills and attributes of successful digital citizens.  They also provided a way of better connecting with the parent/whanau community and better informing them about their children’s learning. 

The cluster aim is to further develop their online environments during 2012, ensuring that their use of these environments aligns with their school-wide vision for eLearning.

Findings from previous Inquiries and VLN Reflections

Through much discussion, the cluster identified that the success of the online environment was very dependent on some important factors that included:

  • Accessibility to computer resources within school and outside of school
  • Good wireless and Internet connectivity
  • Teacher/student confidence and skill level in using online tools
    • Many teachers felt self conscious about the appearance of their class online environment and were concerned about the perception of the parent community.  Often more time was spent on making the environment look attractive rather than actual student engagement with the site.
  • Efficient use of time – amount of time needed to capture and upload content
    • Teachers communicated concern over remembering the processes involved in uploading material (eg capturing material, downloading material to laptop, resizing, logging into the online environment, uploading material)
  • Online environment regularly updated
    • Feedback from parents suggested that they were more likely to visit the class online environment if they knew that the content was regularly updated.
  • Shared ownership with students
    • Usage statistics suggested that students were more likely to visit their online environment outside of school hours when could see photos of themselves or evidence of their student voice, actively contribute their ideas and assist in making decisions about the content.  
  • Teacher perception of how their online environment can enhance teaching and learning
    • Teachers more likely to utilise their online environment if they felt that it would have a positive impact on teaching and learning and improve on existing practices.

Focus on Blogging

To address the key lessons that have been outlined, most of the cluster schools are utilising class blogs either through the google blogging tool – blogger.com or through the ClassSpace tools in the Ultranet LMS.  St Mary’s, St Anne’s and Ouruhia Schools are using blogger as their primary online learning environment platform.  While teachers from Bamford, Bromley, Linwood Intermediate, Christchurch East, St Albans Catholic and Tai Tapu Schools are incorporating a class blog into their Ultranet LMS ClassSpace areas.  These teachers are using the cluster Teaching As Inquiry model to reflect on the success of their blogging intitiatives.

Spotlight -  Inquiry Implementation at Bamford School – Blogging via the iPad

Bamford Teaching As Inquiry Plan for Terms 1-2 2012

Bamford Reflections

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Principal Reflection

An ICT leaders thoughts on Information technology and how it is being integrated into classroom practices.

At a recent staff meeting some staff mentioned to me that they saw no point in uploading blogs and photos of children's work as only a portion of our community have internet access.My response was one of muted silence. I had two main issues running through my mind at this time and needed space to reflect on this comment.
I was also reluctant to tackle this "head on" as the comment came from a staff member who was not particularly strong in the use of ICT in the classroom.
I guess my first question was if the teacher was in another school environment would this teacher make the same comment?

I personally see any ICT that is carried out in class is not only an opportunity to share and learn with the students in our digital age, but an opportunity to share with the world the exciting things that are happening. Our world is changing at an incredible rate and like it or not, we have to ride above the deficit model and ensure that we can provide our students with the best education that is humanly possible to deliver.
I have gone back to this staff member and mentioned my thoughts to her. I have also said that I am not perfect and was willing to sit alongside her with her learning in ICT issues and to provide her with support. There is now an expectation that all staff will be aboard the digital highway as it weaves past our school heading towards the future.

 Colin Hammond, Principal

Links to Class Blogs

 Room 2: http://bamford.ultranet.school.nz/ClassSpace/43/

Room 3: http://bamford.ultranet.school.nz/ClassSpace/44/

Room 4: http://bamford.ultranet.school.nz/ClassSpace/45/

Room 5: http://bamford.ultranet.school.nz/ClassSpace/46/

Room 6:http://bamford.ultranet.school.nz/ClassSpace/47/

Next Steps

  • Giving students more opportunities to contribute directly to the blog and take ownership
  • Find more efficient ways of uploading video
  • Explore how we can provide parents with opportunities to access/view the blog (particularly those who do not have Internet at home)

 

Next Steps for the Cluster

  • Linking students from the different schools across our cluster to give the blogs a wider (more global) audience.  For example – having buddy classes that commit to viewing and leaving a comment on each others blogs on a regular basis.