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Milestone Six Reflective Summary

Cluster Goal:  “Encouraging reflection and sharing” that has informed professional learning and ultimately teacher practice in our cluster.


The most challenging goal has been to increase the degree to which teachers reflect on and share their learning experiences so, throughout the life of the cluster, we have maintained a constant focus on encouraging reflection and sharing, both at a personal level and across schools.


In the beginning of the cluster this sharing mostly took place at the termly lead teacher days. We started on a small scale with teachers being asked to share snippets of their classrooms practice.  Teachers were encouraged to share a web tool, piece of software and/or an eLearning opportunity at a targeted time in each session.  For some, this was a huge leap as they had only ever been a participant in professional learning development opportunities- not taking an active leadership role themselves. Some still find this a challenge which is odd as most lead in class every day but feel reluctant to take a leadership role with their peers.  


Teachers fed back that this part of their time was most valued and was anticipated with keen interest. The notes from the day were recorded by the facilitator on documents linked to the cluster wiki. As time has progressed the expectation across the cluster is that we are capable of recording our own learning and, more recently, this has taken the form of a co-constructed Google doc - highlighting an increasingly the ability to access a variety of digital tools. 


At the very first cluster lead teacher day we showed the video ‘Lessons Learnt from the Dancing Guy’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fW8amMCVAJQ.  One of our messages from viewing this video was the need for the leadership team to achieve critical mass so that people would want to lead and share. All of the way through the life of the cluster we have encouraged lead teachers and principals to reflect on how they, personally, their teams and their schools are progressing in building their own and their school’s e-learning capacity. 


This year, apart from an obvious willingness to participate in Lead Teacher days, unconferences and other cluster events, we now have an increasing number blogging, tweeting and offering support. It is particularly pleasing that Lead Teachers are willing to front local PLD activities.  


The support given by the cluster to send people to Ulearn and Learning at School has been the catalyst for many teachers to prepare presentations to share with teachers from around New Zealand. Presenting in this way indicates a level of capability not present earlier in the cluster’s life. Nine cluster personnel offered workshops at ULearn in the last year of the cluster which is fantastic. As well as that nineteen other cluster teachers also attended to learn and share their journey. 


It is gratifying to see the number of teachers who promote blogging as a way of sharing their class practice with parents/whanau. The facilitator currently monitors and encourages 65 lead teacher or eLearning class blogs that are actively being added to. There are of course many others across the cluster. http://www.google.co.nz/reader/bundle/user%2F08856567353998288359%2Fbundle%2FCluster%20Class%20Blogs


Even more rewarding are the number of personnel in the cluster who also have a web presence and who share through their own edublogs.http://www.google.co.nz/reader/bundle/user%2F08856567353998288359%2Fbundle%2FCluster%20Teacher%20Blogs

By doing this these teachers practice how to blog for their classes, receive feedback from people within the cluster and further afield and come to appreciate the rewards of sharing their practice online.   Much of this progress is attributable to the outstanding commitment to reflection and sharing modeled by facilitator, Allanah King.


The innovation of Unconferences and Educamps have now become embedded into the culture of the many Nelson teachers. Nelson’s first Educamp was well attended with participants attending from as far afield as Hamilton, Wellington and Reefton. This cross-pollination of ideas is a fantastic way for people to share their practice in a non-threatening way and many people have told us how they appreciated the opportunity to attend and would like to see more. As a step forward we would like to see these opportunities supported by more teachers with a less of an emphasis on ICT related topics and more on teaching and learning. 


It is gratifying to see cluster personnel using the VLN to access information from time to time, to ask for assistance or to share their knowledge. The iPad Group still trends as the most popular on the VLN as people come to terms in how to best use this technology as it becomes widely adopted across the cluster.


Locally another development we have encouraged is the collaboration and connections made between schools both physically and virtually. Teachers with similar age grouped children have paired up and are supporting each other through blogging and commenting on one anothers class work through their blogs, thus giving children an authentic audience of viewers and contributors. Some schools have taken into their own hands to visit other schools and observe teachers in action and have a discussion around how and why differing schools are doing things in differing ways.


Through the cluster it has been fabulous to see some cross sector mingling with ECE, secondary and primary teachers attending the unconferences and cluster events like the CORE breakfast and mini-conference with Andrew Churches. The "Designing an effective PLD strategy", the third in a series of full day workshops with Cheryl Doig, was a powerful example of this and feedback regarding the cross-sector nature of this day was extremely positive!  Also, the facilitators were able to share their expertise and also provide iOS workshops and web workshops for secondary teachers on site. This is helping to break down barriers between the groups to make transitions more seamless.


Moving forward we are attempting to keep this reflection and sharing of practice going and to encourage it further by continuing the unconferences and Educamp concept and developing PLG groups based around eLearning.  The facilitator will continue with weekly email mailouts of new ideas and websites of interest and occasional after school workshops throughout 2013.


In conclusion, we have found effective ways of sharing with one another, our networks are growing and there are now established systems in place for these to continue to thrive.