Thursday, 17 April 2008

What Does a Good One Look Like?

ePrincipals & their mentors gathered in Wellington to spend a week of intensive Professional Learning at the PDPC.

Our objectives for the week:

“To establish communities of learning amongst e-principals to provide ongoing professional growth and support:

  • To use an action learning model to underpin our approach (transfer)
  • To clarify expectations of the role of ‘e-principal’ (e-leader)
  • To provide e-principals with knowledge of personal learning styles and how this may impact on their role
  • To provide knowledge of and practice in some key interpersonal skills that relate directly to leadership in their role:
  • Coaching/mentoring/teaching/directing
  • Effective questioning/active listening
  • Difficult conversations/learning conversations
  • Action planning and change management”

We are a group of people who already have formed the basis of a strong supportive network through our collaborative work in schools and clusters though this opportunity has provided the forum to further strengthen our working relationships. It has given us the time to focus on our own professional learning needs, the skills & strategies to work more effectively in our leadership role and a springboard and structure for ongoing dialogue & collegial support.

Our first task was to introduce ourselves to the staff at PDPC with our own personal vision and cluster vision. We have vision statements, strategic plans & action plans that our TaraNet Principals have developed over the last year but rather than share these verbatim I chose to talk about my thoughts beyond our stated goals and documentation.

I think that elearning has always sat on the boundary of schools because we don’t seem to quite fit existing school structures (especially secondary schools) and that we need to move to the centre dovetailing into all aspects of school life (elearning becomes seamless within a whole school vision & charter without the need for separate strategies & supports all other initiatives within schools) Someday we may look back and laugh that we should ever put an ‘E’ in front of anything (elearning, eprincipal, ementor…..egads!) Though schools and clusters are beginning to collaborate to greater or lesser degrees it is time now to really do this in more strategic ways. Discussion that I picked up from others that I think is important is that we need to get away from the idea that VC is the only way to participate in elearning. There are a range of tools available that support online learning (Adobe Connect, Elluminate…) Encouraging schools to offer classes in other ways would be a healthy option for Virtual Learning and especially so for a handful of eteachers who are still at the stage where they are replicating traditional classroom practice within a VC environment. We should also look more widely than catering for the Senior Secondary Curriculum. What other areas of learning can be enhanced through our network and in what other levels of school? – through to junior levels in Area & Primary Schools.

There is too much to report directly back on and maybe some of it not suitable for blogging (in the words of Steve Dembo – be careful what you blog/podcast – your boss might not like it)

The practical sessions I have worked through here at PDPC will see me in good stead for the challenges I have ahead. These are things like handling difficult conversations, being a coach/mentor, time management etc. I don’t feel, though, that my thinking or my beliefs have been challenged at all or that I have been pushed outside my comfort zone (so far – still another couple of days to go).

As a group that are used to setting their own timetables, moving around frequently, multitasking & being permanently wired I think we have coped really well with being stuck in a small room in an air-conditioned building for 9 hours with no cellphones or internet. We have had a lot of laughs to help us along the way:

How specifically can we generalize? (Chris)

I’m proud of my E-ness! (Conor)

Are you going to strip now? (Conor to CAM)

You are so hot you are just about combusting. (Sue to Vicki in a game of Hide & Seek)

Yes I have lots of people telling me that ;-)

Friday, 11 April 2008

Supporting Student Learning


TaraNet Principals met at Opunake High School to visit their Student Support Centre & discuss how this was working in their own schools. "Personalising learning for secondary students working in a blended environment" was a reading we used ahead of our meeting and as a basis for thought and discussion. A special welcome to Te Aroha Principal of Patea Area School joining our group for the first time :-)

My ePrincipal report included our final student enrolment stats:

  • 74 total student enrolments – 51 TaraNet students, 23 other cluster
  • 27 students enrolled in TaraNet classes, 47 other clusters (Volcanics cluster our biggest provider)
  • 12 students withdrawn – other subject choices, 2 VC classes too disruptive for other classes.
  • 62 current student roll – another 25% growth from last year.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Coastal ICTPD

Coastal is one school which has invested time in their lead teacher support. Hamish is released .2 (thats a day a week) to support the school & staff in ICTPD. At the moment Hamish is working on developing his staff ictpd goals into more of a plan for action. We found some IDP goal setting templates (developed for the BardWired ICTPD cluster) which we hope will give more structure in creating a learning path to match those goals set.

How’s this for a laptop microphone? From the $2 shop – I’m off to grab one & try it out. To think of the money I have spent on headsets that my kids have trashed over the years… I know though sometimes there is no substitute for quality especially if you want the best sound for podcasting.

Hamish shared the work his class had been doing on their portfolios. Basically they are using Inspiration to map out their different learning areas and to link into examples of their work. A bit like a hyperlinked homesample book. Children will share these with their parents at their school interviews and later they will be burned to CD. The students are really enjoying making them and I bet parents will like to see them too. The ability to integrate this with an lms would make this sort of thing more readily available to whanau at any time.

Podcasting Te Reo

Today Rangiroa & I had a play with a cheap mp3 player $30 from DSE, we downloaded Audacity & recorded sound directly onto the laptop also. The longer term view is that we will set up a podomatic account and develop a range of audio resources & activities to support Rangiroa’s VC class.
A google search on the above title gives very little in return. There is the Maori Avatar on podomatic, something ‘coming up soon’ on , a range of podcasts on and some on . Apart from North Loburn School there is nothing I could find that is student produced.

So when Rangiroa and his class get a handle on this podcasting then they will be up there at the leading edge :-)

Thursday, 3 April 2008


Wahoo I won a 6 month subscription to ClickView. Now I need a server big enough to put it on…. and someone to make use of it.

I have offered it to Stratford High School and hopefully teachers will get onboard with it (I will work with them to make sure they do). We can use this like a trial and see if this is a useful digital resource for our schools. I know there is a significant investment involved in accessing ClickView – is the ROI worth it? Be interested to hear from schools that are using it

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Lead Teachers VC

Inglewood students found this little Ruru today. The first one I have ever seen & unusual to see them during daylight hours. Very cool :-) I spent some time making sure all was well with our VC students and Ross our eTeacher here.

After school lead teachers VCed in for their first meeting this year. Good to see some of the old & a few new faces too. On the agenda today discussion around the SMS roadshow, an upcoming ICTPD miniconference hosted by New Plymouth schools, taking our kids to TechHui08 and preparing for a workshop next term on Cybersafety education for students. The lead teachers are the group that really drive elearning in their own schools. There was much discussion on the role of a lead teacher within schools last year. There is no common job description, or time allowance or renumeration for all of these teachers. I came up with these descriptors for the role of lead teacher:

  • Main role staff development
  • Keeping up with changes in ICT
  • Those at the forefront of ICT in learning
  • Provide examples of good practise
  • Drive innovation in schools
  • Belong to a wider network (community of practise) - sharing knowledge
I think that lead teachers need to have a clear indication of their role within schools and be given the time necessary to fulfill that role. The ICTPD contract had previously provided for this now schools are left to resource this themselves & it varies greatly between schools. If you have anything to change or add to the descriptors above you can put it here.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Cool Kids Video @ Opunake

I was at Opunake today to attend staff briefing (bright & early ;-) and introduce myself to the whole staff. I need to do this in every staffroom soon now i am more regularly on deck in schools.
It is a great exercise to talk about elearning with the whole staff and scan the room to see whose eyes roll back in their heads......... and whose eyes spark up with interest.
One set of sparky eyes belonged to David who later showed me the work his students had been doing in his Y7 & 8 Technology class. It was a cool little video and as we watched it David pointed out all the learning outcomes the students had met in the production of their masterpieces.

Unfortunately we didn't get a lot of time for discussion as i would have liked to talk with David about using YouTube for student work. Should it have been hosted somewhere else where you don't get a lot of other innappropriate stuff appearing on your page?; maybe he was hosting it there - embedding it somewhere else; maybe teachertube would be a better option in this case. Then he could also submit his planning alongside the video for other teachers - that would be handy too.

ePrincipals - What do we do all day?

At our monthly national ePrincipals VC today, Darren shared with us the results of his survey of ePrincipals. As Darren is new to his role he really wanted to know about how other ePrincipals worked. This is a summary from his blog about what he found:

"The survey results suggest that the eprincipals were an experienced bunch in terms of distance learning; they largely work from home with only two permanently based at a school; they visit their cluster schools regularly with the majority doing it monthly, although a few do visit weekly; nearly all have a centralised online learning environment with Moodle the favourite, closely followed by Knowledgenet and Scholaris; they work 40-60 hours a week with a couple of maniacs doing 70+ hours; they intend reporting to the ministry using a mix of tools whether they be written, media or web based; half teach and half don’t (easy stats to interpret those); and they REALLY LIKE Eddie Reisch (or they are lying).".