Category Archives: eLearning

Pedagogically driven…?

Over the past few  years I’ve frequently heard the comments; “It’s not about the technology, it’s about the pedagogy”, or in relation to the advent of ultrafast broadband; “we’ve got to drive it from the teaching and learning.” These are well intended sentiments, but why is it that the technology still dominates much of the discussion, and so often becomes the starting point by default? And just what do we mean by letting the teaching and learning lead? How would you explain that to someone outside of education – or, for that matter, someone inside?

I’ve been thinking about this for some time now and this week I had a chance to share some of my thinking with Russell Burt, principal at Point England School. I’ve captured our jottings at the whiteboard in the diagram above (click on it for a larger version). Key points are:

The fundamental activity of students as learners is shown in the ‘process’ line, consisting of:

  • Learn – This is the part of the learning process where learners are exposed to intentional teaching, access to content, the development of pre-requsite knowledge and skills etc.
  • Create – this is where learners work with, manipulate and re-present the information they have gathered in the ‘learn’ scenario. This may be done independently or collaboratively, and may involve a range of tools and environments.
  • Share – where learners communicate with others what they have learned, being especially aware of the audience. May involve a celebration of some sort, and feedback where appropriate.

These three things are underpinned/supported by a comprehensive assessment process – both for and of learning. The assessment band is deliberately shown this way to emphasise the fact that it isn’t driving the learning, but is an integral part of the learning process.

Below that are the three principles that we think are key to developing an effective, future-focused approach to teaching and learning:

  • Ubiquity – focusing on learning that happens anywhere, any time, any pace and through/with any device. Learning is no longer confined to the ‘box’ of the classroom, the ‘fences’ of the school yard, or the period between 9-3 in a school day. It also reflects the underpinnings of life-long learning.
  • Personalisation – learners in charge of their learning, with the ability to make meaningful choices about all aspects of what and how they learn. Also recognises the imperative on teachers, as learning designers, to recognise that all learners learn differently and in ways personal to them. 
  • Collaboration – recognising that the ability to work with others is an essential skill in a future-focused world. Acknowledges the theoretical underpinnings of social constructivism and connectivism, and the need to recognised and work with each other’s strengths (and weaknesses).

The layers below this illustrate the way the services and infrastructure supports our intended learning outcomes/teaching approaches. Working from the top, it becomes relatively straight forward to see how the teaching and learning may drive the technology decisions. Take this example for instance:

Beginning in the ‘learn’ area, a school decides it is important that students have unfettered access to a broad range of online resources and materials to support learning in the classroom as it is required (just in time).

Acknowledging the ‘ubiquity principle, the decision is that access should be available anywhere on the school premises, but shouldn’t be confined to the school day and school premises.

This leads then to decisions about mobile, internet capable devices, school-wide wireless, cloud-based content servers and filtering solutions that aren’t unnecessarily restrictive.

Although this isn’t a particularly detailed explanation, and there are a range of other factors and possible scenarios that could be developed to meet the original ‘learning’ need, you’ll get the point. The important thing is that the model is an attempt to initiate some dialogue about how we articulate our teaching and learning needs, and how they can then be appropriately supported by the technologies available to us.

Online PD opportunities

Finding effective PLD opportunities for staff can be problematic, with many principals and teachers citing issues such as;

  • accessing quality facilitators, programmes and resources
  • the increasing costs of attending off-site PLD
  • limited numbers able to participate because of cost
  • the limitations of one-off workshops or seminars vs. ongoing PLD

With my colleagues at CORE I have been working on developing a range of online professional development options, drawing on our extensive experience providing face-to-face facilitation. I’m happy to announce that the first of these, an e-portfolio course, is starting in the coming week, with others following in the near future as the numbers of enrolments increase.The CORE Achieve suite of courses uses a mix of synchronous and asynchronous technologies to enable teachers to participate at the time, place and pace that suits them.

One of the things I am keen to see develop is the use of these online courses within schools as the basis of whole-staff (or department, syndicate etc.) professional learning and development. With the benefit of a well-structured course as the basis, providing high quality resources and learning activities – plus the benefit of an experienced and knowledgeable facilitator to guide things along, the person with responsibility for PLD within the school can confidently lead the process with staff. I’ve been trialling this approach with a cluster of schools in 2010 with excellent results, and look forward to exploring more of the same in the coming months.

eLearnings – a history of ICT in New Zealand education

At the recent hui for the National Aspiring Principals Progamme (NAPP) I had an opportunity to reflect on the history of the adoption of ICTs in New Zealand schools and the significance of this for school leaders and aspiring principals. When we are in the midst of such rapid change we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture and some of the things that have happened which in turn set the scene for where we are now. These sorts of understandings can be very important for us to be able then to chart some sort of trajectory for the future.

Over the past twelve months it’s been my pleasure to work with my CORE colleague, Dr Vince Ham, to bring together the thoughts and reflections of more than 20 New Zealand educators who have been at the fore-front of the ICT revolution in this country into an edited edition that we’ve called eLearnings: implementing a national strategy for ICT in Education, 1998–2010.

Few countries in the world have embarked on such an ambitious approach to a national ICT strategy for schools as New Zealand. This book archives the impact and implementation of the national ICT strategy in New Zealand, 1998-2010, from the perspectives of the people who effected that implementation. It is a story of both policy initiative from the ‘top down’ and local innovation ‘from the bottom up’, as seen through the eyes of some of the politicians, bureaucrats, industry partners, consultants, principals and teachers who lived the experience.

The book contains a collection of ‘personal perspectives’ from people who have been prominently and intimately involved in the implementation of the various Strategies over the last twelve years.

We officially launched the book at the recent Learning@School conference in Rotorua, however, the CHCH earthquake left the bulk of the books available sitting in our building in the central city which has been out of bounds – apart from the small window of opportunity we had to go in and rescue some essential items. I’m pleased to say that we did manage to retrieve just a few boxes and these are now available for sale via the CORE website.

I encourage anyone with an interest in understanding more of the context of change in the NZ schools and early childhood centres to read this collection of accounts that provide an excellent historical overview as well as some indications of where we might be headed in the future.

Resources for Canterbury Schools

There’s been a lot going on here in Christchurch over the past couple of weeks since the 6.3 earthquake wreaked havoc in our city. Our schools are now gradually opening up again, but many face difficulty in gaining access to resources that are no longer accessible in buildings that are out of bounds, or exist on servers or laptops that still lie in ruined buildings. In addition, we have a large number of students who must be catered for during times they are not physically at school, including students who are sharing schools for half days, or others who are not being sent back by their parents yet because the local school is still closed or they have travelled out of the city temporarily to escape the aftershocks.

Some of my colleagues in the GCSN have been working hard to assist by accumulating links to online resources that other teachers have found useful and can recommend. Spreading the word via lists, twitter and other social networks, this group has ‘crowd-sourced‘ a wealth of resources that are now available on the GCSN teaching and learning resources page, complete with the ability to rate the resource and provide feedback on its usefulness as a recommendation to other teachers.

This is just one of the initiatives that our team is undertaking to work alongside the Ministry of Education endeavours in the post-earthquake recovery phase. Next week we have Wayne Mackintosh and Jim Tittsler from WikiEducator coming to CHCH for a couple of days to work with local teachers on using WikiEducator to create and share teaching and learning resources that can be added to this repertoire.

In addition, a team are also working on populating a locally-hosted version of Moodle 2 with courses and course materials – some created locally and some being shared by schools and teachers in other parts of the country. The aim is to take advantage of the new community hub feature in Moodle 2 to enable this sort of sharing to take place.

I’m impressed. Out of adversity comes innovation, and I’m sure these initiatives will provide much more than a ‘quick-fix’ solution to the immediate need. If done properly, we may well provide a platform for a completely different way of thinking about the use and sharing of resources for teaching and learning within the education community.

Online learning reports…

I’ve just had a look at some reports released this week at the  iNACOL Virtual School Symposium. Each report provides some interesting persepectives on what is happening at the school level, and the tertiary level in the US. While the context is different, there are some clear messages here that we can be taking notice of in NZ (see my note at the bottom of this post).

The first report is from iNACOL itself, titled “A National Primer on K-12 Online Learning” which suggests the biggest emerging trends in online learning include the growth of (US) district-led online schools, the expansion of blended (or hybrid) learning, and the acceptance of mobile learning.

In talking about blended learning, the report describes two approaches. The first is defined as a “buffet model,” where a student takes traditional face-to-face course and also enrolls in one or more online courses. The second is an “emporium model” in which face-to-face courses that implement elements of online learning. Both models are growing  according to the iNACOL report.

The second report is from the Sloan Foundation. Titled Class Differences: Online Education in the United States, 2010, it is their is their eighth annual survey of online education in colleges and universities. According to the survey, 2010 showed the largest ever year-to-year increase in the number of students studying online, with nearly thirty percent of all college and university students now take at least one course online in the US. Other report findings include:

  • Almost two-thirds of for-profit institutions now say that online learning is a critical part of their long term strategy.
  • The 21%growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the 2% growth in the overall higher education student population.
  • Nearly one-half of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for face-to-face courses and programs.
  • Three-quarters of institutions report that the economic downturn has increased demand for online courses and programs.
The third report is published by the Evergreen Education group, and is titled, Keeping Pace with K-12 Online Learning – an annual review of policy and practice (PDF download). There’s plenty of good reading in this report – but I couldn’t help but note for my blog entry here the following quote which parallels the situation here in NZ where we’ve been experiencing considerable growth in online learning at the school level which has been driven from the ‘bottom up’, and where the greatest obstacles to progressing further lie in the lack of robust and future-focused policy work at a national level.
Despite the growth of online and blended learning, policy and access barriers still exist for many students who wish to take an online course or attend an online school, and for many educators who seek to start an online program. A continuing need exists for policymakers to develop a framework to allow and encourage online and blended teaching and learning to enhance, expand, and transform learning. Online learning has proven to be meaningful to students, igniting their passion for learning using real-world applications, stimulating their creativity and innovation, and communicating on the global stage—taking teachers and students beyond the class walls and beyond the class period in order to open new possibilities for both teaching and learning.

Reading these reports suggests emphatically that:

  1. online and blended learning is now gaining considerable traction in our schools, so schools need to be taking seriously the opportunity for engaging with this, and
  2. some serious work is required that involves knowledgeable people to create the supporting policy frameworks to allow this growth to continue.

100+ Google Tricks for Teachers

Just came across this great list of 100+ Google Tricks for Teachers from The list contains a wide range of tips and tricks, from super-effective search tricks to Google tools specifically for education to tricks and tips for using Gmail, Google Docs, and Google Calendar.

For anyone using Google Apps in education this list is well worth a read. It’s well structured, with the various tips and tricks organised under headings to make it easier to finds the things you’re looking for.

Useful mapping tool for learning

Looking for some more interactive, online resources – here’s one that will keep your and your students engrossed for hours. Titled Change the world one map at a time, this resource lets you select a subject from the top menu and watch the countries on the map change their size. Instead of land mass, the size of each country will represent the data for that subject –both its share of the total and absolute value.

I can see heaps of potential for this in classes – another good example of data visualisation for the classroom. Apart from the obvious approach of simply exploring the map and noting what is revealed, this sort of thing sets itself up nicely for a lot of predictive questionning – then using the map to discover what the pattern is, for example…

  • which countries have the most children? how does that compare with their overall population?
  • how many of these kids go on to primary, secondary, tertiary education?
  • where in the world do they use nuclear energy to generate electricity? Hydro-power generation? etc.
  • if uranium is required to generate nuclear electricity, where can that be found?

Extending beyond this is the opportunity to consult secondary sources of information to understand how accurate this visualisation tool is. Thanks to Mapping Worlds for this great resource!

Prezi Meeting

I’ve been very impressed with what Prezi can do as a presentation tool (used thoughtfully, and in the hands of a good presenter, of course!), and have had a couple of goes at working something up with it myself in recent weeks. Recently I saw a group of primary school girls working with it in a very creative way to present what they were learning in a time-line of events and saw first-hand just how easily it could add so dynamically to what they had to say.

So tonight I was very interested to see the release of Prezi meeting – bringing real-time collaboration to the Prezi platform. It is available for free to all Prezi users, but for private presentations and access to Prezi Desktop, users have to pay a monthly fee. Real-time collaboration tools have been around for a while – I’ve been using Elluminate and Adobe Connect for a while now – but what seems to make Prezi Meeting a little different is its interface in which participants appear as avatars in the online area they are editing. Prezi meeting allows for up to ten presenters to collaboratively build presentation storyboards, with team members seeing changes as they happen.

I’m looking forward now to trying this out with some friends!

Learning without limits

This morning I attended the Ministry of Education’s Learning Without Limits seminar in Christchurch. Around 100 principals, teachers, BOT members and other interested parties came to hear Douglas Harre and Marg McLeod from the Ministry of Education share an update on the progress being made towards the government’s plan for ultra-fast broadband in schools. The basis of the vision is:

  • 97% NZ schools (99.7% of students) will have access to UFB (100megabits/second) by 2016
  • 3% remote schools will have access to fast broadband (10Mbps) by other means eg.satellite or point-to-point wireless
  • Crown Fibre Holdings (CFH) and Local Fibre Companies (LFCs) are connecting urban schools, MED and rural broadband providers are connecting rural schools.
  • $150 million investment signalled to prepare schools for the rollout
  • $1.5 billion investment overall

A key part of what the Ministry of Education is doing is through the Schools Network Upgrade Project (SNUP) which aims to make schools fibre ready over six years. Key points about the SNUP programme are:

  • Provides subsidised upgrades to internal data and electrical cabling infrastructure
  • 473 schools have been upgraded since 2006 ($18m)
  • 100 more schools underway ($22m)
  • 80 % costs for state /68% for state integrated funded by MoE
  • Further 239 announced by Minister to start in Sept/Oct ($48m)
  • By end of 2011 approx 1/3 of schools will have been upgraded

The presentation also canvased activity in the area of laptops for teachers, capability building and resource provision before providing an update on the development of the proposal for a National Education Network (NEN) across the country. Not a lot of detail on this as it seems that there’s still a lot to sort out – but the NEN trial is currently going ahead with an extended trial of up to 200 schools until June 2011.

All in all a useful meeting – the first of a series that will be held throughout New Zealand. I’m a fan of open information sharing, and the more we can have of this sort of thing the better – providing an opportunity for people hear details directly from those working in the area, and also to have the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarifications in an open forum.


Some years ago now a colleague of mine and I put an idea to a potential funder to develop an online timeline for people to contribute photographs and stories that could be tagged to specific locations – linked to collections in museums. The proposal wasn’t successful and so our idea languished. So it was with interest I explored HistoryPin today, after the link was sent to me by Malcolm. Created in partnership with Google, HistoryPin allows anyone to contribute photographs and stories, linked to a specific location, building up a visual history book. Viewers can search for and explore the stories related to a certain location, and using the time slider, can find stories in that location in different times in history. HistoryPin also links with StreetView images so that comparisons can be made between historical views of locations and how they look now. As the resources on this build up I can imagine it being a really valuable reference for the classroom.