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SCD Milestone Six Reflective Summary

Our overarching goal has been to develop develop the capacity of schools within our cluster to blend learning, and by doing so increase opportunities for student agency and collaboration at all levels. In this last year we have emphasised making sure we harness the opportunities that ultra-fast broadband will provide by exploring the role of networked schooling and networked learning in the future of the region.

An integral part of developing schools capacity to blend learning was the development of a community of teachers representing all our schools. The express focus for this community in the first year, was to provide ongoing and intensive professional development in good practice in online teaching and learning. This was facilitated through a partnership with Professor Niki Davis of the University of Canterbury, who led teachers through a tailor made one year course on best practice in online teaching and learning. We also decided that long periods of face to face professional development would be an important part of developing the community of practice.

While an intensive and tough first year, it proved a vital foundation for further growth. The face to face days were extremely important for developing relationships and the community of practice which could then be continued online. While some teachers found the going too tough in this first year and subsequently dropped out, the core of this group (probably around 20) continued throughout the three years and have now developed close relationships which will prove invaluable in sustaining progress in 2013 and beyond. As this core group developed its ability to blend learning they also started developing their own leadership skills which were then applied within their own school and often across the cluster as well. In fact many of the projects that developed out of this group were about leading change in practice or professional development of staff, rather than their own professional development.

It was also pleasing to see a growth in the size of the community in 2012 as new teachers came on board. Most of these teachers brought in a new set of skills and added a new dynamic to the
community of practice.

Over the last two years the scope of the project has broadened beyond our original vision which was focused on a pure blend of face to face and online teaching. This recognises the difference between trying to sell a vision for change and developing something that is shared and owned by all. We have allowed teachers to develop projects in areas such as BYOD, LMS introduction, and ePortfolios which are not strictly focused on blended learning. This has been an important part of sustaining progress by allowing teachers to draw on their own contexts and make the project directly relevant.

The University course that supported the teachers' projects this year proved both a blessing and a curse. While it did help drive teacher progress it was sometimes for the wrong reasons. Some teachers became overly focused on meeting assessment requirements rather than the needs of the project. It draws an interesting correlation with teachers frustration with students who just work for an assssment and nothing else.

It is also interesting to note the current enthusiasm for eportfolios nationally needs to be grounded in some careful thinking. Much of the teachers online work this year was done in their ePortfolio which to some extent had the effect of pulling the community of practice apart. While discussions in the forum continued, having to share in a community space things you have already done in a personal space can be an annoyance. Teachers personal space became more important than the community space which had a negative impact on the community itself. It also made it difficult for teachers and us to find each others' stories and artifacts. While a personal space has worth, it needs to managed wisely if you are trying to develop an online community of practice.

Lastly, the work that has gone in to slowly pull principals along with us, seems to be bearing some fruit now that we are at a new stage of the project. All principals are fully supportive of sustaining our cluster wide goal of developing blended approaches to learning. Most are very supportive of the teacher(s) who has been involved in the project and all seem to realise the imperative of continuing progress with fast broadband and the network for learning looming large.