Monday, 6 March 2006

TaraNet Hui

Now i have just a little bit of time up my sleeve i have picked up .2 FTE with the TaraNet schools cluster. TaraNet is a group of 'rural' secondary schools: Stratford, Opunake, Inglewood, Waverley, Waitara, Coastal College & a recent addition St Mary's Diocesan Girls School. I have been previously involved with TaraNet since it's inception in 2002 when i was teaching at Opunake High School. They have just exited their ICTPD contract but are continuing to work together to provide distance learning opportunities for their students. So that's where i fit in as 'e-Principal' of the TaraNet Virtual Campus. My role has been to coordinate enrolments and timetables, within the schools, within TaraNet and through the national network (VLN - Virtual Learning Network) and to look out for the needs of our students and on-line teachers. This is definately 'dancing on the shifting carpet' and there is quite some firming up to do with protocols & guidelines within our cluster and nationally but at this point we have been flat out setting up enrolments & timetable and expecting that everything will fall into place. Now is the time to really start looking at the bigger picture - new clusters and schools have joined the VLN and our own TaraNet enrolments have jumped from 4 students last year to over 40 this year!! All students have had their first video-conference with their teachers (they are timetabled one a week) and courses seem to be well underway. We had a cluster hui at Stratford last week with all our students and most of the on-line teachers and school VC coordinators participating. It was great to put a face to all these kids who had previously been enrolments on my spreadsheet... The main message we were trying to get through to all involved was Communication, Communication, Communication. This seems to have been the biggest issue so far. A good measure of flexibility, patience & a sense of humour are also important pre-requisites especially at the start of the year as timetables & enrolments can be all over the place. My next important task is to work with TaraNet principals to make sure the Virtual Campus is well supported - it is hard for these teachers and students who have really put themselves out on a limb to take up distance learning. We need to be behind them every step of the way.

Our students VCed with OtagoNet students to find out more about what they were in for this year :-) Our's were a shy bunch so we had to seed the 'right' questions in there - but i think they gained a good insight into what VC learning would be like. Teachers also had the opportunity to talk to Lynda Walsh-Pascoe an OtagoNet online teacher & past e-fellow. She was awesome - very down to earth, covered all the important stuff and put herself out there for our continued support. Thanks Phil for helping organise the venue & Rob for helping me get organised and for covering the technical aspects (not my strong point) I hope that when i get some more time (.2 FTE - hah!) maybe next term i will be able to sit in on a few VC lessons with our kids.
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