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Rotorua Lakes Cluster Milestone 6 - Reflective Summary

There and Back Again...The Adventures of a Noble Band of ELearners
How we got on with the journey ourselves, over the Mountains of Mirkwood, through Riddles in the Dark, without Magicians (facilitators) but with a handful of Tech Angels and Wizards and earned our Reward
The Noble TravellersYear Level
Our cluster consists of a wide range of age groups:
Whangamarino School is a full primary with Years 0 to 8.
Mokoia Intermediate is a Year 7 and 8 school.
Rotorua Lakes High School and Rangitahi College consist of Years 9 through 13.

Cluster type
Our cluster is an ICT PD Cluster coming to the end of the three year contract.


Rotorua Lakes Cluster began its journey in 2010. This journey has not been an easy one; geography, sector difference and changes of personnel have all created obstacles.  Sometimes we’ve felt we are in the Wilderland and at others in Mirkwood.  There have been some dragons and some gold.

Geographically we are spread out.

Whangamarino is north east from Lake Rotorua, looking over Lake Rotoiti.  It is a small rural school with a strong Maori character.

Mokoia Intermediate is on the east side of the city of Rotorua.  It draws from a mix of contributing schools and deciles in the eastern suburbs.  

Rotorua Lakes High draws from the intermediate.  

Rangitahi College is similar in character to Whangamarino but more isolated and off the main highway in Murupara, a forestry township which has seen its heyday. Rangitahi is about to close, and a new Murupara Area school to be established.  This has had a profound effect on the uptake of cluster goals.

In the three years of the cluster contract, we have had three different national facilitators. Two lead teachers from 2010 were replaced from August 2010 - and Helen from RLHS and I took their place. In 2012, Helen got married and moved to Taranaki, and was replaced by Ann Eastcott. The cluster principals also made the decision to go it alone without an externally appointed cluster facilitator.  We would go it alone.

The Map of RLC Region

Research model used (Tools and Weapons to Keep us on the Straight and Narrow)
We decided to take our journey using the Teacher Inquiry Model depicted in the NZ Curriculum document, page 37:

Teaching as Inquiry

It was also important to keep in mind the work of Knoster, T., Villa R., & Thousand, J. -
“Managing Complex Change”

Managing Complex Change



Focussing Inquiry

The Cluster (variance) set us this goal:

Teachers to integrate e-learning effectively into their practice creating an innovative and exciting learning environment for all students

- Establish a strong culture of inquiry

- Foster collaboration at all levels across the cluster, with a view to sharing current good practice and supporting each other in further learning.

- Develop the capabilities and effectiveness of teachers in relation to elearning and its effective integration in practice

- Teachers integrate elearning to engage students and effect better learning outcomes

- Consider and implement a framework of thinking skills and self and peer assessment to inform the planning and implementation of teaching and learning programmes

Teaching Inquiry
a) Teachers integrate e-learning effectively into their practice creating an innovative and exciting learning environment for all students.

The First Year - August 2010
So how to begin?  Nearly a full year of the contract had gone by. No real start had occurred. As new lead teacher for Mokoia and with Helen as new lead teacher at Lakes, it was time to get on with it.  We were appointed as co-facilitators after a management meeting with our out-going national facilitator.  A decision was made by the principals not to appoint an external facilitator. Fortunately Helen and I  were on the same wavelength.

The four lead teachers got together to look at what we had in common.  The goals highlighted the need for ict integration, inquiry, distributed leadership, collaboration, principal growth for strategic planning, and community collaboration.

We’d just returned from Ulearn2010, and we shared all of our experiences. Minutes 21.10.10 
We were interested in:

We were really keen to go forward with SOLO Taxonomy and decided to contact Pam Hook. A teacher only day was arranged.

LMS development was also at the top of the list.  Maybe we could tell each other if we got people in to show us their systems e.g. Ultranet, KnowledgeNet, Moodle.  

Tech Angels and Wizards - Helen and I had both attended a workshop a
Tech Angel.jpgt Ulearn about the collaboration between different school sectors. We were to meet and come up with a structure.  This would work well within our schools and across levels.  We were keen to start with Lakes and Mokoia, and  ask Whangamarino to join.  

There was the problem of not having an effective infrastructure.  We knew this made some teachers resistant. We knew that this was something we would have to become more informed about ourselves. Managing Complex Change

We decided that as reflection was important, we should start our own reflective blogs and link these to our cluster wiki.  The VLN was only a twinkle in a wizard’s eye at this point.

Did we explore inquiry learning as well?  Mokoia was already looking at Problem Based Learning.  There was some worry that we might be doing too much if we looked at inquiry as well as SOLO at this point.

Surveys had already been completed at Lakes and Rangitahi. It seemed a good idea to find out what skills our band of elearners had and needed to develop. Rangitahi “skill audit”

From these we could  develop personal elearning goals for all staff for 2011 e.g. using email, starting a reflective blog, starting a wiki. This would give us another place to start developing a PD schedule for 2011.

The year began with two main events which defined the direction the cluster schools would take.
The SOLO Taxonomy PD showed us that our cluster principals had different agendas from the eleaders.  They were keen to participate from a position of little knowledge, but it was not going to become our defining shared goal.

We had a new national facilitator: Ann Sturgess.  She helped me facilitate a workshop for the principals and lead teachers on teacher inquiry using the NZ Curriculum model.

From this point, the principals decided on their emphases:  Principals and ELeaders finding out about the VLN

  • Rotorua Lakes High School would investigate integrating a learning management system; after investigation, they chose KnowledgeNet.
  • Mokoia Intermediate were focussing on writing and decided to look at blended elearing in this curriculum area.
  • Rangitahi began to deal with their devolution process.
  • Whangamarino were focussed on reading but knew that they were starting from an emergent stage.

These foci have allowed schools to look at PD which matches their strategic plans; conference workshops and external PD  have been chosen accordingly.  Mokoia intermediate employed Jill Hammonds to facilitate teacher inquiries and supply PD in blended elearning in writing.

The journey started in school inquiries has continued in 2012.  

  • At Whangamarino, they decided to appoint a .2 teacher to facilitate development in teachers and students.
  • RLHS have attended KnowledgeNet conferences, employed Knowledgenet tutors for in-house training, and appointed an ICT teacher aide to give 1:1 PD.
  • Mokoia Intermediate allowed teachers to run their own inquiries based on the PBL model. Goals needed to include writing, blended elearning and relationships.  Blogging was mandated as a development area. Blogging Display in Staffroom

A focus for this year has also been digital citizenship, so Tessa Gray was invited to talk to the cluster.

A clustershare was organised for term 3, and presenters successfully chose applications that crossed sectors and curriculum areas.

b) Students use self-assessment rubrics and peer reflections to improve their literacy across the curriculum.

Whangamarino joined Mokoia at a Moderation Workshop for writing.  They were well on the way to using rubrics for self assessment in writing.

This is an area being developed by Mokoia Intermediate.  The colleges are not really there yet; maybe it is timely to re-visit SOLO Taxonomy.

c) Evidence is collated in student blogs, wikis and/or portfolio formats.

Ann explored Edublog with her digital colas in 2011. this was disestablished in 2012, so she has not continued with her blogs.

Mokoia Intermediate has a school blog (administered by me). The laptop classes have individual blogs.  Some other teachers have single class blogs or group blogs.  we are still working out the protocols for using Blogger safely and efficiently.

Whangamarino has a school blog which they are using to showcase their ICT learning.

All schools took part in myPortfolio PD to explore ithe application’s use for appraisal and student eportfolios.

Learning Inquiry
What are we finding as we travel through the Mirkwood and where to from here?

  • RLHS are happy with their progress with integration of KnowledgeNet.  The research done by Ann and me on wireless infrastructures and BYOD has meant an upgrade to the network and new servers.  Teachers are asking for PD in applications and social media.
  • Whangamarino has seen a massive increase in student and teacher use of digital tools.  They have purchased digital equipment and now have the means to move forward.
  • Mokoia Intermediate has experimented with teacher owned inquiries.  Without deadlines these have lacked drive.  Blogs are developing but slowly. Next year will see an improvement to the wireless network.  Fibre will be laid and the SNUP contract completed.  Teachers who have attended ULearn are trialling applications such as Google Apps for Education.
  • Rangitahi staff have improved their use of digital tools and will take these new found skills into their next teaching jobs.

Now it’s up to the cluster schools to include elearning pedagogy and infrastructure in their strategic planning and budgeting. The Elearning Planning Framework is a great place to start. 

Tech Angels and Wizards have become established features in three of our schools and it’s planned to continue them into the future.

The people with passion and drive are still in a minority; school leaders  need to make sure that others see the benefits of blended elearning.

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