Friday, 13 November 2015

VLN Primary School Update & First Call for Participation 2016

VLN Primary School 
Term Four Update 2015
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VLN Primary School

Kia ora koutou

Thanks for reading our VLN Primary School newsletters. Our goal is to:
 Connect Schools for Enhanced Learning Outcomes.

In this newsletter we update you on the activities and achievements of our connected learners and teachers. This term we kicked off our Asian Languages Project and introduce you to our newest three eteachers; we celebrate success for our te reo Māori programme; share the adventures of our Rural & Remote Schools students; and make the first call for registrations for 2016.

We are pleased to announce that our current contract between Matapu School and the Ministry of Education has been rolled over for the 2016 year. A big thank you to our friends at the MoE who have been working alongside in support of our work. This relieves the uncertainty of how we will operate next year but we are yet to achieve long term sustainability. I have been cautiously optimistic that changes in our educational system would help bring a legitimate place for the VLN Primary School within the publicly funded schooling system. We have pursued these opportunities as they present themselves - unfortunately we have plainly been told 'we don't fit the policy parameters' for accessing resources for Communities of Schools and we also are not the right stuff for TLIF - Teacher Led Innovation Fund  - it is hard to see that we aren't innovative enough to access this fund? It is disheartening that these changes, although aimed at collaboration and innovation are quite inflexible and not accessible to us. However we will reframe our approach to TLIF, and will keep a watch on reviews to provisions of PLD & the Education Act. We are also looking for business & community partnership and support.  This year we have put in applications to NEXT Foundation, UNESCO and InternetNZ. We are looking for someone to join our Governance team with the right networks to open doors to business & community sectors and to help us develop those partnerships and sponsorship opportunities. So if you are that person, know that person or want to partner with us we would love to talk to you. 

R & R Kids at the Zoo
The Rural & Remote Project Camp was held in Wellington last week with 7 schools, 27 students & their teachers, and Sam the KiwiCan youth helper. It was an action packed week; some of the highlights were Weta Workshop, Trade Me offices, Gallipoli exhibitions at Te Papa and at the National War Memorial, Capital E - Gamemaking. We visited parliament and had 6 of our MPs spend some time with us - a first for the Parliament Education Centre. We also got up close with Prince Charles and Camilla and their entourage, and shared in the excitement of the All Blacks welcome, including some close encounters. Check out camp week told through social media here on our Storify. With our continued funding from the Ministry we will be able to extend our Rural & Remote Project in 2016 if you are interested in participating and leading a new cohort - contact Rachel.
The Rural & Remote Schools Project has been running for the last 3 years with the goal of reducing the social isolation of our students (& teachers) and preparing them for leaving their small communities and going on to high school. Our previous cohort of students (Class of 2013) are became good friends and still remain in contact.

VLN Primary Made Finalists for Nga Tohu Reo Māori

Congratulations to our amazing kaiako Nan Peeti & Koka Jules for their work they do with our students & school communities, that has placed us as finalists in Ngā Tohu Reo Māori.
Ngā Tohu Reo Māori is an annual Māori language awards event held to celebrate excellence and long term commitment to te reo Māori from across Aotearoa New Zealand. The awards, hosted by Te Taura Whiri i te Reo Māori, aim to recognise te reo Māori regeneration and innovation.

We have had a growing number of requests to extend and adapt our programme into te reo Māori PLD opportunities for classroom teachers, and are currently working on developing this for schools. If you are interested in participating in Virtual Rumaki and sharing the taonga that Jules & Peeti bring to your classroom and professional practice, please contact us to express your interest.
You can read more about our Virtual Rumaki here.

Congratulations to Fiona Duncan from Rangiwaea School who has been accepted on the Asian NZ Shanghai Business Forum for Teachers! This is a great professional learning opportunity and as Fiona is a participant in our ALLiS Project we will all get to gain from the knowledge & expertise that she will bring back. All schools will have an opportunity to participate in our ALLiS Project, student learning and PLD - contact us to express your interest!

Welcome to:

We are pleased to introduce to you our new eteachers who will be working with us on our Asian Languages in Schools Project. Each brings with them a wealth of experience in teaching their various Asian languages in NZ schools.

Lisa Wang

Ni hao, my name is Lisa. I have joined VLN Primary this year as an eTeacher of Chinese.
I was born in Taiwan and have lived in NZ for more than 20 years. I live with my husband, my dog Archie, and two international students. Before I was a Mandarin teacher I studied music at University. I have taught Mandarin Chinese for the last six years. I enjoy using different strategies to help students to speak with confidence. In my spare time, I like to learn how to cook new things, travel to new places, take my dog to the beach, dig in the garden, play piano, have coffee with friends, and watch movies.

April Hwang

imageApril was born in South Korea, where she gained a Bachelor degree followed by Master of Art degree in Korean language and literature. In Korea, she has been in various teaching roles since graduating from her Masters in Korea. She taught Korean language and literature in primary and secondary schools for several years. After moving to Auckland, she taught Korean to Korean students living in New Zealand at Auckland Korean School, where she also became the Deputy Principal. From 2006, she worked as a teacher-aide in Mt Albert Grammar School. Then she moved on to complete a Graduate Diploma of Teaching (Secondary) at the University of Auckland in 2010 and has been teaching Korean at several intermediate schools since 2012.
Ever since she moved to New Zealand with her family, April has lived her life in New Zealand regarding herself as a ‘moving Korea’.

Shona Salomen

Shona SalomenKonnichi wa. My name is Shona Salomen and I have just recently joined VLN Primary as a Japanese language teacher.
I lived in Japan for 12 years, returning to New Zealand with my family in 2002. Since then I have worked as a Japanese language teacher at Fiordland College. I have developed an interesting language programme, which includes a trip to Japan every three years. I am passionate about teaching, and try to introduce this fascinating culture and language in an easy and fun environment.
At the beginning of 2015, my family moved to Wellington, and I will be joining them in November. My son who is passionate about basketball and parkour, is training to be an arborist, my daughter is completing her Year 11 studies. 

Call for Registrations and Expressions of Interest 2016

imageWe are preparing now for 2016 and have started our enrolments process. Please put in any expressions of interest or enrolments SOONER rather than later. This will give us more time to respond to queries, tailor programmes more specifically to the need of  your students, and prepare the elearning support & PLD that needs to be in place to ensure our students are set up for success. Getting in early will also be an advantage to ensure your students get their first choices.

We intend to offer the following language classes:
Cook Islands Māori, Te Reo Māori, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, German, French, Spanish and Afrikaans.  (We are currently seeking new language teachers for: French and Spanish)
Our other classes are:
Asia Aware Enquiry, Astronomy, Extension Maths, Literacy - Poetry and Programming & Computer Science.
We are also inviting interest for PLD in te reo Māori, Asian Languages and Learning with Digital Technologies.
PLZ consider putting yourself forward as an eteacher, this reduces your schools participation costs and is a great way to get some PLD in teaching & learning online!
imageULearn15, as always, was a great time to make contact outside the virtual in face to face networks. To meet, make new friends and learn from each other.
The VLN Primary School presented two workshops on our Asian Languages and our Rural & Remote Schools Projects. You can see our presentation here. If you would like Rachel to present to your school, BoT or Principals group on these projects or any aspects of the VLN Primary School initiative please make contact.

Register Early for:
14th Annual Sole Charge and Rural Teaching Principals′ Conference:

Lead, Innovate, Educate:  Creating Communities

Havelock North, 18-20 May 2015

The conference will feature:
Communicate, collaborate and create community with Jennifer Abrams (USA)
Reimaging AKO across NZ Schools with Cherie Taylor-Patel
Effective use of banked staffing and school financial management tips with Wayne Facer

Teacher workshops include:
Student ownership of learning
Reggio Emilia in New Zealand classrooms
Tools and tips for online collaboration

Plus exciting Hawke's Bay experiences:
Amazing Race
Art Deco Conference Dinner
Local wines

Last years conference was a great success make sure you get along to next years - more info and registration form here.


What is the VLN Primary School?

The VLN is an amorphous phrase that can mean different things to different people - a Ministry online service, a teachers professional website, or online teaching & learning communities. To see what the 'VLN Primary School' is all about read this recent article published in STA magazine.

The VLN Primary School is available to all NZ primary schools providing:
  • support and leadership for virtual learning,
  • effective coordination of virtual learning programmes,
  • professional learning to enable quality online teaching and learning programmes,
  • personnel to advocate for virtual learning initiatives.
Please share this newsletter with your colleagues and school communities.

Ngā mihi nui


Thanks to our supporters:

Sunday, 11 October 2015

VLN Primary School in Print - STA News

Here is an article i wrote for the NZ School Trustees Association about the VLN Primary School. It gives a pretty good snapshot on who we are and what we do:

"At a time when schools are increasingly stretched to find the resources to provide a broad and relevant curriculum for students, they are also being challenged to become more collaborative and future focused. We are on the cusp of major changes both politically driven through IES Communities of Schools and technologically driven through the N4L managed network for schools. There is a drive to harness the power of technology to change the way we learn, make learning more student centred and personalised and for collaboration across schools. How are schools meeting these challenges? With a deluge of ipads, the ‘appification’ of learning (there’s an app for that), should we have 1-1, BYOD, Chromebooks, Google, Microsoft, Wireless, have we been snupped, when do we get on to N4L?  We are getting close to the point where technology is ubiquitous, a utility like power or water. Schools need to look beyond the digital network and environment to the people network that connects and learns in that space.

The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) Primary School has as its’ tagline “Connecting Schools for Enhanced Learning Outcomes”. It is a people network collaborating online and dedicated to providing equity and access to learning opportunities for New Zealand students. It aims to connect schools through a collaborative online network (the virtual school) in order to open up access to specialist teachers, share the best of our teaching strengths, and to build professional capability that enables schools to become more flexible and open places of learning for our children. It began as a school cluster hosted within Matapu School, South Taranaki, and has evolved into a Charitable Trust led by school leaders and virtual learning advocates. It is partly funded in partnership with the MoE and contributions from participating schools.  
The VLN Primary School builds on work that has been developed in the schooling sector, over the last nearly 20 years where programmes have been provided ‘virtually’ through online classes & projects taught by NZ based teachers. Approximately 80 primary schools and 1000 students have participated in the VLN Primary School to date since 2009. Learning opportunities are developed through the needs and strengths of the schools themselves and eteachers and tutors are provided by schools themselves or contracted into the network.There are regular weekly scheduled classes for extension maths, literacy, science, Astronomy and a wide range of languages - Te Reo Māori, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Cook Islands Māori, German, Japanese, Afrikaans, Korean, Bahasa Indonesian and Tagalog. 
In addition to this the ‘Over the Back Fence’ run by Rosmini College, has regular connections with schools in NZ, Pacific, India & globally focussing on Health & Environmental topics. Our Rural & Remote Schools Project brings together schools from Stewart Island, Great Barrier, Eastern Taranaki & Wairarapa with the goal of reducing the social isolation of these distributed students, giving them opportunities to learn alongside peers their own age and preparing them for leaving their districts to go to High School. There is a great opportunity to build on this project to extend the benefits to many other small and isolated schools, but sustainability of resources has prevented us from scaling up this very successful project. 
Participation in the VLN Primary School gives students a voice and choice in what they learn, how, when and where they learn, and who they learn with; regardless of their geographical location and economic means. It aims to provide teachers and school leaders across networked schools with professional learning and support to enable them to develop as future focused learning organisations. When you next think of your school network, think beyond the technology to the people network and how your school can become connected to an online community of learners."

Sunday, 4 October 2015

What's up for the VLN Primary School

We're coming up to the downhill side of the 2015 school year and we are still not sure if we have got funding to continue our VLN Primary operations into 2016 and beyond. This is a real challenge!

There is a strong need particularly among our rural schools to keep this collaborative, learning support happening for our students; there is a depth of experience that has been developed over the last 6 years in our eteachers, teachers and Principals, that we would lose if we lost our schools network. I had been cautiously optimistic that there would be a place for our work, within the changes that are happening in our schooling system at the moment. Although we (along with other VLN community clusters) have plainly been told 'we don't fit the policy parameters' for accessing resources for Communities of Schools. We also are not the right stuff for 'Teacher Led Innovation Fund' as we were unsuccessful in our Rural Schools application. It is hard to see that we aren't innovative enough to access this fund? Maybe we didn't get the right spin on our application so will try again in November. It is really disheartening to see the opportunities that are coming up that we are still not the right fit for....
So to keep ourselves afloat for 2016 until we can take our (rightful) place within the publicly funded schooling system,  I have  spent the last month in chasing up and writing funding applications through our charitable trust, breaking down various parts of our projects & operations to aim at different funding opportunities. I have all my fingers and toes crossed waiting to hear.

(one glimmer of good news is that we do have an Asian Languages contract with the Ministry of Education and will be continuing with Chinese, Japanese, Korean & Bahasa Indonesian)

Just been remixing our Virtual Learning Network Primary School Story, created by Kath after our last rural camp. What an...
Posted by Virtual Learning Network Primary School on Saturday, October 3, 2015

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

CRAM - Unpacking the Model with #DEANZ

This afternoon i joined a Google Hangout session with Bill Anderson from DEANZ. Today's informal hangout was to provide an opportunity for DEANZ members to connect and 'talk or ask questions about any of the newsletter items such as the CRAM model; Creative Commons Clinics; the National Digital Forum; the Blended Synchronous Learning Handbook... or any of the latest items about DEANZ.'

It was great to have an opportunity to meet with other like minded professionals and talk about not just whats new in flexible and online learning but how this reflects in our experience within our own institutions and teaching practice.

Bill unpacked the theory behind CRAM (Course Resource Appraisal Model), showcasing it as a tool that can help provide a framework for us to analyse the design and quality of our online courses. He advocates for it to be used as a reflective tool for inquiring into the quality of our teaching and not as a tool for institutional efficiency. From the newsletter:
'CRAM is an acronym for Course Resource Appraisal Model. Doesn't exactly sound 'sexy' does it?
Yet, CRAM is a little online tool that I think is really interesting, and well worth a look. It attempts to support tertiary teachers (and maybe others) who want an answer to the question
“Can we improve the quality of students’ learning experience without increasing staff
workload, even for greater student numbers?” and I think does a pretty good job helping them There is a caveat. To use the tool effectively (even to consider using it at all) you have to be familiar with Diana Laurillard's work on learning and technology – especially her most recent work “Teaching as a Design Science”, although a quicker read is the article “Making meaningful decisions about time, workload and pedagogy in the digital age: the Course Resource Appraisal Model” published in Distance Education here (Caution: You'll need library access or else be prepared to pay!)'
There were lots of good ideas to follow up on around learning design of online courses and support for teacher professional development. In following up on Diana's work in learning design, I found myself at this website  an early release version of an online tool for learning design. For the learning designers out there - do you have a particular model or framework that you use and/or specific tools that help you pull it all together. Please share, i would be interested to know.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

The Joint Initiative - A Better Plan

(Wordle based on the Joint Initiative Working Party Report)

Today the NZEI released details of the Joint Initiative - a plan forward with the MoE instead of the IES that was rejected by the NZEI collective.

Communities of Learning instead of Communities of Schools
The aim of this initiative is to give more emphasis on collaboratively improving students achievement outcomes and less on the roles and admin of a system change that was being proposed through IES.

Is it just the same thing but dressed up differently using different eduspeak? I am sure members will be discussing that as they meet to vote on this over the coming few weeks.

Louise Green, NZEI President, tells members, "We believe the new model is an exciting educational development, genuinely shaped by educators. Inevitably, as with any negotiations, we have had to make compromises, but we are confident that the progress we have made will genuinely improve teaching and learning."

Key Learnings from the Working Group were summarised as:

  • Communities of Learning should self-identify with clear pathways across the sector;
  • Their clear purpose is to improve educational achievement aligned with NZC, though they can define their areas of focus;
  • Data, evidence & research is used to target efforts;
  • Each Community should determine its own leadership, teaching, collaboration and support functions:
  • Some roles will be required for all and these will be appointed in conjunction with an external professional advisor;
  • Be flexible and prepared for change over time;
  • Each Community will assess it's own resource needs;
  • 'Whole of Community of Learning collaboration" is critical to success;
  • Commit to second stage - further work on priority areas - Māori, Pasifika, ECE, Support Staff, Special Ed, PLD;
  • Community roles will align with career pathways.
So what will this look like when we come to implement such a plan? 
How flexible will this plan be?
How will this work for the rural and isolated school, will they be able to develop CoL that are geographically distributed?
How do schools select their Community that has clear pathways when the pathways for many of our students are so diverse?
Where will be the tension between roles determined by the Community and roles required by the MoE - and how will resources be distributed between them?

One positive that were raised for me was that there was recognition of the roles across schools as well as within schools - this may provide some support for the role I have occupied across schools for years with no formal recognition, support or career pathway.

Another point to flag in this plan was the inclusion of Professional Learning and Support as an explicit feature to be worked towards in the second stage of the Joint Initiative. We have been waiting for some time as to the outcome of the Professional Learning & Development Review, so this may be the basket it is ending up in.

So still a work in progress, and a space i am watching closely with the hope that the 'Policy Parameters' of this plan are flexible enough to include the work of  the VLN Primary School.

Monday, 20 July 2015

A Call to Action - Equity, access, quality and teachers in the digital age

Embedded image permalinkThe ICDE (International Council for Distance Education) met in Paris recently for a Global Policy Forum. The aim of the forum was to build on previous work such as recently in Bali and to ensure equity, access and quality learning outcomes. This was framed with some urgency around the area of higher education with the prediction that in the next 15 years there will be a huge increase in the number of students seeking access to a quality education.

They are asking all governments, educational institutions, teachers and students, to jointly address the needs as outlined in the Paris Message (recommend you read this 3 page document) Key messages are around recognizing the importance of online, open and flexible learning to contribute to the quality & provision of education; the development of effective policy & regulation based on principles of equity; and that funding is critical to the initiation and sustainability of elearning initiatives. 
These are all messages that resonate strongly with my work with the VLN Primary School. Through open, flexible, online & collaborative learning (I added the last qualifier) we have the potential to unlock the gates to so many learning opportunities for our students. This is not just for higher education, but across the sector and community. Government and the educational sector are just starting to 'get it' in terms of understanding the contribution online networked learning can make and are still way behind in resourcing and supporting initiatives such as ours. A good part of my time is spent advocating, and applying for different funding streams because we as yet don't fit into any government 'policy parameters' of which there are a host beginning to be aimed at schools collaborating. This is quite a frustration as what we really should be doing is spending our very little time that we do have working with schools, teacher and students.
Image attribution: