Thursday, 29 May 2008

Energizing the Learning Landscape

I'm tagging along on the last day of the NZEI Rural Principals Conference in Palmerston North. NZEI President, Frances Nelson, started the day by repeating the message given by Karen Sewell at the beginning of the conference: schools need to look for ways to be more creative with the money that we have and stop looking for more to solve our problems. "Schools told to innovate and quit grizzling" No matter how much money you throw at a 'problem' you will never achieve a silver bullet solution and the best way to move forward is to take an innovative and collaborative approach. I think this is where we need to go as a cluster - how can schools fully support TaraNet & the VLN and achieve sustainability without continually going cap in hand to the MOE. I know there are creative ways to do this "If you had a school of 2000 students what curriculum could you offer" & how could you staff and resource this.

DSC01553 (Large)On another note Chris Carter was keynoting as well. His speech was mainly a pep talk, lots of discussion around the budget & questions and answers from the floor.He promoted World Environment Day (WED June 5th) by talking about a VC launch yesterday, of a website aimed at partnering schools globally to participate in WED "Environment website links world's pupils"

Here's a great opportunity for some VC learning opportunities with other schools.

Wednesday, 28 May 2008


DSC01551 (Large)A beautiful blue sky mountain day at Opunake as we all wait out on the field during a fire drill - This brings back memories ;-) 

Today i helped Andrea give birth to her blog http://kicking
She was blown away by how easy it was to set up & get started. Andrea wanted to use this blog to engage in conversations with her senior students about some of the bigger ideas that they just don't have time to chew over in class. I would be interested in looking at how other secondary schools are using blogging. There is only one listed on the edublogs site so i have set up a new page on edublogs for secondary schools sites. If you have a site or you know some plz head over there and put up a few links.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Remote Woes

One for the ePrincipal toolkit - always carry spare batteries for the VC remote control! I was all ready to hook into a VC PD meeting & found these important items were missing from the remote. No VC - reschedule...

Friday, 23 May 2008

Budget Boost?

"Education Minister Chris Carter said the $171.6 million increase spread over the four year period included $65.3 million to help schools meet the costs of Information Communication Technology (ICT)."

What will this mean in $$s for our schools? Is it enough to make a difference for some schools who still have significant infrastructure needs?



On Wednesday Colleen (HOD Maths @ Inglewood) and I joined the Studyit VC to find out more about using this site with students. I was hoping to get some tips on presenting pd online particularly in the display of webpages online. Unfortunately they had all sorts of technical problems, firstly we couldn't see them & then we couldn't see their laptop display. I think it was a real nightmare for the presenters but they soldiered through it. We were able to follow along on our own laptop (thanks to my 3G card) as they walked us through the site. This was organised by FarNet (thnx Carolyn) and there were schools from Kaitaia, Whangamata, Inglewood & Timaru attending. This weeks focus was on the Maths area & last week was English. Ben from Coastal Taranaki school attended the English session "It was great and I have since been plugging the site with my students. Well worth the time and I can highly recommend it."

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Learning Centres - what does a good one look like?

inglewood_carving Part of my time in schools is spent following up on the learning support for our elearning students. In every school i go to, the structure for this looks slightly different and i don't believe any of our schools are doing it exceptionally well and all have room for improvement.

I have talked several times about the Roxborough model as something to aspire to, and had Principals look at this and discuss this with a view to improving their own practise. Yet how do you push this along in our schools? How can you constructively criticize without some guidelines to show you what is best practise in this area. Time to work with our principals to set some criteria for this to help us move forward.

Inglewood has a learning centre but this is mainly only used by Spec (here they call it Link) students. Distance Learning students, VC & some correspondence, are scheduled to study in the library & their attendance is monitored by the Librarian. They do have Lorraine to oversee them & liaise with their provider schools but they don't get the learning support that could be provided by the expert staff in the Learning Centre (if they had the space & if they had the time).
After visiting the Opunake Learning Centre & seeing how much is going into the Spec programme I wonder if Spec isn't draining our learning support resources (quality teacher time) into one programme at the expense of others. Has anyone else noticed a change in Learning Support Centres since Spec arrived on the scene?

ICTPD @ Inglewood


In the last couple of days at Inglewood, i have been catching up with my elearners but i have also done a bit of ictpd and talked to individual staff members about their ictpd needs.

One recurring response from staff was their biggest ictpd need was time to explore using ict & to prepare resources. Some wanted specific training in  applications directly relevant to classroom use & a request was made for a digital story telling workshop using Movie Maker and/or Photostory. I will have to organise a cluster workshop for this.

I worked with staff who had a wide range of confidence & capability on things such as: using webmail effectively, using interactive maths resources, & digital learning objects, exploring features of the smartboard, we also looked at flickr, wikispaces & blogs. (though a lot of our time was spent unblocking website categories - grrrrr) It was interesting to note that when we unblocked most of the categories for Henry his internet ran noticeably faster than it had ever done before. I wonder how much the sina filtering system is slowing us down...

My 3G network card has proved invaluable to me as i work in different places around the school - 2 schools out of 6 so far all working well - I will see when i have visited all of my other schools if this 3G is going to pass the test or not. I'm not sure how to check my datausage on it though - any ideas - Darren?

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Who takes charge of the remote control???

DSC01540 (Large) I was watching our students getting ready for their vc accounting class this morning. And I found it really interesting that the one boy in the group grabbed the remote control as soon as he entered the room. The girls tell me that this is always the case & that he would have the control for all of the lesson. Hmmmm.... some parallels here about control of the remote.... Funny thing was that when Aotea College appeared in the VC class, they had 2 students, one boy & one girl - guess who had control of the remote..............;-)

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

ClickView Digital Media

DSC01539 (Large)

Mike from ClickView demonstrates the capabilities of this digital media library & management system to staff at Stratford High School. We held this demonstration in the VC room to enable other TaraNet schools to hook in (though there were no takers this time).

I was impressed with this system and left the session wishing i was a classroom teacher with all of these tools at my fingertips...

Things that impressed me were:

  • Learning Federation Digital Learning Objects can be stored and accessed through the clickview system - what a great way to make these learning objects more accessible to students than through the currently passworded TKI Digistore repository.
  • 'Snippets' of video can be edited out of the video and into My Documents for including in presentations or uploading onto learning management systems
  • Video can be bookmarked with a url - either a whole video or a certain starting point
  • Digital media can be 'exported' to 'the school bag' so they can be played on computers that have the clickview player but are not connected to the school server
  • Editing feature allows you to add subtitles to video
  • As well as video & dlos, there is photo collections, podcasts & a section for sharing your own video.
  • A feature for creating lessons - which can be accessed by all on the school clickview server. A great way to provide learning intentions, sequence digital resources and activities.
  • All digital media comes with accompanying learning activities & resources that can be accessed through Clickview as word documents & are customisable
  • NZ Exchange allows ClickView screens to share digital media (within the guidelines of the Screen Rights Licence)
  • Online tutorials on using ClickView

Areas for improvement? Security permissions for teachers to easily upload media to the system. Only administrators working through the Management server can add new content. Quite pricey at $4 a student p/a & approx $1000 setup. Though if a school is serious about providing easy access to a wide range of digital media and providing the tools to integrate them into learning this would definitely be a worthwhile system.

Any system though is only as good as its users so a challenge here to see how Stratford High School staff will work with this digital media available free to them for the next 6 months. Watch this space...


This morning i hooked into Ceri's Art History VC class to work with her & her students in using their flickr site to hold 'conversations' around the visual images they are studying. I guided the students through logging onto the site, accessing images (using tags to find groups of pictures), using the notes to highlight & discuss parts of the pictures & using the comments section to respond, raise questions & discuss their work.

The challenge for me in presenting this was the poor visual quality of sharing my laptop screen through VC. Any pointers from those of you who use display well from your laptops would be much appreciated. I had my laptop hooked up through the document camera though I've been told you can connect straight to the Polycom unit through s-video (must try this & see if it improves picture quality.

I tried out a couple of applications to zoom in to my laptop display. One was Zoom it. This gave a good zoomed in image of my screen (pics & text) but the downside was you couldn't operate any applications while you were zoomed in (such as click on a browser link)


Then i tried QuickZoom a Firefox addon. This did allow me to click on the page but only zoomed text and not the pics & when you zoomed it changed the whole layout of the page.

ZoomFox was a cool little addon that opens images in a new window and has controls for zooming & setting their size. This would be a really useful feature for Ceri to use when doing close study of visual images.

Another simple tip that i should have thought of first & will try next time first is Set screen to highest resolution doh!

Monday, 19 May 2008

3G? We'll see...

wireless I joined the 3G network today with a Telecom Mobile Broadband connection. I have watched the other ePrincipals use these devices (either Telecom or Vodafone) & seen how easy it is for them (in most places) to be connected anytime anyplace. I have had trouble in all of my schools working through their networks to get a reliable, fast connection to the internet and on top of this been frustrated by the filtering of sites. I am often working in all sorts of places outside of my kitchen table office. Telecom have a good deal on at the moment that lets you trial for a month (fully refundable) so what a great opportunity to try it out :-)

Windows Live Writer

In case any of you are thinking the same questions as Darren "How are you able to get your pics looking so fancy and uniform in your blog?  Does blogger allow you to do that or have you done it elsewhere?"

Great that you noticed.... i have started using Windows Live Writer for publishing my blog posts.

Live Writer installs on your PC & allows you to publish straight from your desktop with a whole wider range of formatting tools than you get with blogger wysiwyg editing (hence the photos are looking a little flashier) I also like the way it saves your posts locally on your own machine. I have always had blogger email me my posts (just like to have a copy of everything on my own machine) Pictures - you can just drag them straight on your page & they get uploaded along with your post - easy peasy.


Friday, 16 May 2008

Stop Press

Daily News reporter Harriet sat in on a VC lesson at Inglewood High School yesterday. Great publicity for us.
Read all about it here: Students get stuck into online learning

I checked all  spelling with her except for TaraNet!


Wednesday, 14 May 2008


Photo: PhillipC

I spent two days at Waitara High School this week. Just starting to get to know some of the teachers here. I had some catch up time with Lead Teacher, Marilyn; sat in on Ceri's Art History VC; visited David's graphic's class & shared Google Sketch-Up with them; and caught up with all of my elearning students :-) Waitara is struggling with a lack of infrastructure and the huge amount of funding needed to provide a networked school. Discussions with the MOE were not helpful as the subsidised infrastructure upgrades are no longer being continued. Have to sell a lot of cakes to wire this school...

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Mahi Tahi Talks eTeacher Appraisal

ePrincipals had a great discussion in our VC meeting to discuss developing an appraisal process and standards for eteachers. Chris, an experienced Principal helped guide our thinking and had some great insights. This one is a classic: "A great appraisal system is like great sex. It should be consensual, continuous, mutually satisfactory, and lead to enhanced performance in the future." ;-)
Our discussions centred around appraisal being a process for professional growth and not a compliance exercise. Though we didn't like the idea of using checklists and measurement we did think there is a need to develop aspirational (professional) standards for eteachers. These standards would provide guidelines for setting professional goals, and be supported by self & peer assessment, student feedback & observation.
DSC01471 (Large) DSC01463
Mahi Tahi is the name we have given our group of ePrincipals & mentors. This literally means 'working as one' These pics are of us working together at the MOE offices last term; Connecting with Adobe Connect & chatting to Jodi from Colorado Online School. More Mahi Tahi pics.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

20/20 ICT in Schools Report


The recently released ICT in Schools Report 2007 has a number of key issues as highlighted by Laurence Zwimpfer in an accompanying media release. They are the continued digital divide - varying quality of broadband access depending on where you live in the country, computers in homes, demand for increased bandwidth, the disposal of old computers, costs of ICT equipment. Positives noted were that 80% of all schools have now participated in the ICTPD cluster programme.

Some interesting results in relation to internet access when compared to the previous 2005 Report.

2005 2007
All schools have internet access. Nearly all schools have internet access. 99% primary schools.
Broadband - 93% Secondary, 78% Primary
Broadband - 86% Secondary, 84% Primary/Maori Medium

Hmmmm - there are a small number of school now that don't have the internet anymore (maybe they didn't respond in the first survey). Considerably less Secondary Schools have broadband access than they did two years ago....... i wonder if this result is more to do with our increased expectation of what broadband should be - and the speeds we are getting now just don't count as fast anymore!

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Personalised Learning @ Patea

DSC01535 Patea Area School are on the verge of joining our VLN . They have their VC gear up and running and are working now on developing a Personalised Learning Centre (PLC) to support students - not only those who may become online learners but all students who need a flexible learning space and support outside of the traditional classrooms setting for a whole range of reasons. It is really heartening to see Patea is putting the horse before the cart (learning before technology) and planning to have good systems in place before jumping into learning online. Te Aroha was really impressed with what is happening at Roxborough Area School and the whole staff at Patea have been involved in exploring the idea of a PLC and planning for its development.

We VCed into Turakina Maori Girls College to speak to Dawn Mitai-Pehi about how they are using VC in their school & with the Paerangi cluster. Though they are not currently running any VC classes they are using VC a lot for teacher PD, shared curriculum support & socialising for their students to keep in touch with whanau at other schools.