Monday, 14 December 2009

Ka Kite PPTA ICT Taskforce

Unfortunately i have decided to resign from the taskforce as i will no longer be working full time in Secondary Schools. It has been interesting to be part of this group and to coordinate their discussions back to teachers in my area through our TaraNet Lead Teacher Group. Hopefully someone from this group will put up their hand to take my place in the PPTA.

In reference to an earlier post about Connected Secondary Schools here are recommendations from that report:

  1. That the report be received; and
  2. That PPTA call on the Ministry of Education to undertake a consultative review of funding, staffing and IT support to better support collaborative practices in secondary schools; and
  3. That PPTA urge the government to recognise the innovative work of the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) by restoring funding for e-learning principals; and
  4. That PPTA urge the Ministry of Education to extend its present range of central purchasing to include multimedia copyright licenses; and
  5. That PPTA develop a campaign that places the expectation on all secondary school boards to pay for teacher laptops; and
  6. That PPTA develop a Code of Practice and safe working practices for the use of digital technologies.
  7. That PPTA support central purchasing and funding of a range of software and hardware for schools by the Ministry of Education.
  8. That PPTA call on the Ministry of Education to develop a plan to ensure that all students have access to appropriate hardware and software in their communities and/or homes.
  9. That PPTA urges the Ministry of Education to fund secondary and area schools for appropriate full-time digital technology support.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Just for Fun

Thanks Inka for sharing this one with us today :-) Very clever.

Made by Alan Becker His comments on this animation:

“ An animator faces his own animation in deadly combat. The battlefield? The Flash interface itself.
A stick figure is created by an animator with the intent to torture. The stick figure drawn by the animator will be using everything he can find - the brush tool, the eraser tool - to get back at his tormentor. It's resourcefulness versus power. Who will win? You can find out yourself.
-- This took three long months.. i think it's worth it.”

TaraNet Top eLearner 2010

2010 Deputy Head Boy Tama Porter (Large) Congratulations to Tama from Waitara High School who was top TaraNet eLearner this year. He is in his second year as an elearning student, this year studying L2 History with Rangiora New Life College in the South Island. Tama loves learning online and is always positive, enthusiastic and hardworking. Congratulations too Tama, Deputy Head Boy next year! :-) He receives a notebook computer from our generous sponsors Gen-i Taranaki.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Central North Island VLNC - Professional Development Days

TaraNet teachers joined with teachers from the Volcanics & CoroNet schools for two days of  very focussed professional learning at Stratford High School. There was such a range of experience, from those yet to begin to a few of the first original eteachers. The continuum of confidence & capability in elearning technologies was also very broad from the ‘old school’ not too sure of any of the technology but willing to give it a try, to the very technically savvy. All had something to share and conversations between eteachers was very important to those who spend much of their year in elearning isolation. We had  3 Spanish teachers so there was a lot of conversation happening there, as well as an ebaby, Sonia’s baby Amelia who was very happy for two whole days … thank goodness ;-)

A big thank you to all who contributed to our day – Lynda Walsh-Pasco (OtagoNet), Trevor Storr (AorakiNet), Derek Wenmoth & Jason Reid (SILC). Also to the staff at Stratford High who made the organisation of this day much easier with the allocation of classrooms, technical support and catering.

You can see our programme and resources here.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Desktop VC to H323

This morning i joined with Craig from GCI in Alaska, Janine from Michigan, & Janet my ePrincipal colleague from Baylink cluster to have a conversation about desktop video conferencing and integrating webconferencing (think Adobe, Elluminate) with H323 connections (what we know as ‘VC’).

Firstly we looked at the lower cost hardware options of webcam & echo cancelling microphone running through the desktop compared to an integrated H323 VC unit. Craig demonstrated the difference by switching between the two during our call. There was no noticeable difference at all. With USB extension cables attached to the camera set back from the laptop you can have a wider view (potentially including more people) than the close up view (compare my & Craig’s pictures). The only drawback is that the webcam (currently) doesn’t have the same functionality as a polycom camera of zoom, pan & tilt.

We then went onto discuss the Vidyo platform we were meeting in. Craig & Janine were both coming into the VC with their regular VC IP connections, Janet & I were coming through the open internet using our webcams from home. The beauty of this is that you don’t need expensive hardware or even a connection with Qos – Quality of Service (such as we currently have to use with SchoolZone to be able to VC). You can bring people in from just about anywhere providing they have sufficient bandwidth (I have nearly 2mb download & 512kps upload) & you can bring in users on a standard vc connection as well.

The possibilities here are being able to open up our online classes that are currently only VC to any school with web access or vice-versa. Those schools such as in SILC cluster with only web conferencing would be able to bring in VC connections also. Schools, particularly primary schools who want to join virtual fieldtrips won’t have to pay crippling internet service prices for a video connection or traipse down to a VC room at the local high school but be able to connect from their own classrooms.

This sort of solution to current VC constraints will really open up accessibility for the Virtual Learning Network and is something that our VLNC community needs to investigate further & put to the MOE to provide the support we need. The VLC has an infrastructure working party that has been looking at EVO which is being used by users on the KAREN network – very similar i believe. Hopefully something will come of this as we move into the high speed network era.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

LEARNZ Antarctica Field Trip

Today i supported St Joseph’s Stratford students make a VC connection to Scott Base in Antarctica for a conversation with Scott Base staff about the Wind Farm they are developing there. It is great that St Josephs have been able to link into our local secondary school & use the resources & expertise available to reach out beyond the walls of the classroom. I would really encourage Primary Schools to foster those links with their local schools to enable these VC opportunities for our students. Secondary Schools also should be reaching back to their feeder schools and invite them in to share their facilities.

The field trip itself was great with a view out of the window (I didn’t know Polar Bears lived that far south ;-) and lots of questions and answers from the students, ably assisted by the presenters penguin bringing up pictures and video on the laptop to share. LEARNZ fieldtrips are now supported by the MOE and free of charge to schools wishing to participate. They are not just one off VC or audio conversations but are part of a whole unit of study.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

MOE VLN-IS Lead Teacher Meeting

eddie Eddie Reisch from the MOE joined our TaraNet Lead Teacher meeting this afternoon. Although we didn’t have many Lead Teachers attend this meeting, those that did attend heard from Eddie about an overview of the VLN Internet Services, the roles of people involved, what Internet Services are being provided for schools behind the scenes (such as Adobe, Tandberg etc), how it is managed, and how through their cluster they can tap into these services. Eddie also spoke about how is Moodle is being supported by MOE for clusters and future developments with that. It is good to have our teachers engage directly with people like Eddie to be able to discuss their needs, concerns & give feedback to the MOE.

Friday, 13 November 2009

eTeacher Professional Learning.

I have spent some time with eteachers over the last few weeks reviewing their professional learning goals from the year. Joel has now put his L3 Statistics and Modelling class into Facebook. I am looking forward to following this in 2010. One of the areas that our eteachers have sometimes struggled with is engaging their students with communication & interaction online. This was also identified by our students as something they felt they needed more of in their VLN classes – more opportunities to interact. This is one way to produce an Open Educational Resource and to engage our students in interactive environments.



I have been collaborating with Conor & Jan from the Volcanics & CoroNet cluster to provide 2 face to face days of professional development for our eteachers & possibly also could include others in our schools who are interested in any of our workshop sessions. So far we have planned out the programme. Now to spend some time on developing the workshops so they are ready to run. I am really looking forward to hearing from Derek and also from Lynda with feedback from the NZCER research.

Inspiring our School Leavers

Last week i had the privilege of attending Senior Prizegivings at two of our TaraNet Schools. Apart from recognising the achievements of our students in the awards that are given, this is also a time to farewell them in their journey into the wider world beyond the school gates. (As one student put it ‘the real world’ – though we should be bringing  more of the ‘real world’ into school but that’s another story). Speakers at both of these events talked about the rapidly changing world our young people are moving into, the skills, values & dispositions they will need to develop to thrive there, and what changes schools will need to make to enable  young people to develop as life long learners. Both speakers specifically focussed on the power of web 2.0/3.0 to enable students to collaborate, connect, innovate & become global citizens.

Kelvin spoke at Stratford High School and shared this video to illustrate his point of being connected, collaborative global citizens:


Marg spoke at Inglewood High School and the video she used to illustrate her speech was this one:

Thursday, 12 November 2009

20/20 ICT in Schools 2009


New Report on ICT in Schools Released: Cost the biggest barrier to computer usage in schools

Schools have given a strong message to IT suppliers and government that they'd like more centralised procurement of computer equipment and services to help reduce costs. This was revealed in the 2009 ICT in Schools survey, released today by the 2020 Communications Trust.”

read more or download the full report here.

“In spite of equipment costs, the 2009 report found that New Zealand students have good access to ICTs in their schools. With one computer for every four primary students and one for every three secondary students, access is significantly better in New Zealand than in the UK.”

I think this idea of student access to ICTs measured by the ratio of numbers of computers in schools per student is fundamentally flawed. These statistics show that a student should be able to use a computer at least a third of the time at school? I don’t believe this gives a true measure of access at all and is too simplistic. Sure there may be lots of computers in a school  but are they readily available to students & when they do manage to get their hands on one what are they able to do with them? We should be asking our students questions to gain a true measure of access:

  • How often do you use a computer at school?
  • Can you independently access ICT equipment at school when you need to?
  • How do you gain access to a computer? (Where do you go, who do you ask?)
  • Do you know your user name & password?
  • Do you have a school email address?
  • What do you use ICT for at school?
  • Can you access sites you need on the internet?
  • Are the computers you use up to date?

Here are the answers to those questions from my Year 9 daughter (who by the way lives on the computer at home).

I can’t remember the last time i used a computer at school. I think it was for our Science Projects for research in August. I guess i could gain access to a computer if I needed to i would ask my teacher but i haven’t needed to. Yes i know my username & password. I don’t know if i have an email address i don’t think so. We wrote our essays for English on the computer. When we did computers i used a computer but thats obvious. In Maths at the beginning of the year we did a mini-project – research & publishing. In Wood we used the computers to find images for our work. Sometimes sites are blocked that we need to use but you can find other sites but it takes longer. Sometimes when i try and get onto a webpage it asks for plugins – not all the time though.

So its not just numbers of computers in a school that show the true access our students have to computers. It’s there ease of availability to our students – it shouldn’t have to be a mission to get your hands on one. It’s also about their need to use computers – why aren’t our kids needing to use a computer in school? 

I don’t think that students will have true access to ICTs unless they can use their own. With the costs of notebooks coming down that day may not be too far away. Who is of the generation that remembers when calculators came into general use at schools. How expensive they were yet some parents brought them for their kids & they took them to school. Before too long they became a standard item as they still are today.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Te Papa Colossal Squid VC

I am cross posting this from our C4 blog as this was such a great VC. I highly recommend you book this for your students!

Today was one of the highlights of our C4 class when we had Diana-Grace Morris & Melanie from Te Papa join our class to talk about and show us the Colossal Squid. Diana told us the story of how the Colossal Squid was caught and came to be on display at Te Papa. We learnt about the anatomy of a squid as Melanie dissected a smaller version. This would be a great VC to do with our own squids & scapels in front of us.


Students can follow-up (or prepare for) this VC with hooking into the Colossal Squid Website and ask anymore questions on their blog there. Good question Lewis about what they are going to do with the Squid when it comes off exhibition. Given that the little squid in the dissection above was pretty stinky (thank goodness you don’t get the smells over VC ;-) imagine how stinky the colossal one will be!


This is a great website, you can engage in questions and discussions through the blogs linked from there and ‘play’ with the interactives. I really liked the build a squid interactive, not only do you learn about the body parts of a squid but when you have finished it you set it free and can check in later to see how big it has grown and what it’s been doing.


Do you know that as of today there are 1071 Squids named Squidward swimming around in the Te Papa interactive!! Here is my Squidward above.

Remembrance Day


Today the RSA launched their speech competition for next year. This one is worth following up with your students as the winner gets to travel to Gallipoli next Anzac Day. (Yr 12 & 13’s only)

The resource page that supports the Speech Competitions is an awesome collection of links for all students studying the Wars.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Wordspace: The Sky is the Limit When You Read

image  image image

I facilitated another great WordSpace VC with authors Melanie Drewery, Joy Watson & Brian Falkner today. These authors were visiting schools in South Taranaki and so delivered their VC from Stratford High School. Brian is now an old hand at connecting with kids online and he was great at breaking the ice with students and drawing out the conversation with the other authors.

Students hooked in from Northern Southland College, Roxborough Area School, Te Aroha College, Mercury Bay Area School, St Kevin’s College & Ashburton College.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Social Networks for Learning Languages

Learning Languages is now a separate learning area in the new curriculum and compulsory for schools to provide the opportunity for Years 7 – 10 to learn an additional language. Primary Schools are now collaborating to offer languages across their schools & this project is now growing from 3 to 7 schools offering introductory French & Spanish (from small acorns grow… :-)

The following are some social networks for learning languages, that with supervision & guidance, be a useful addition to the language teachers toolbox.





 Guide to these & other sites



  “Learn a language with the Radio Lingua Network by downloading our free materials to your computer or mp3 player …”


Monday, 12 October 2009

Blogging Guidelines for Schools

“The purpose of this document is to assist schools in developing a policy for the safe and educationally appropriate use of web-logs or blogs.

Although the document addresses blogs specifically, the concepts can be applied to the use of a variety of read/write web tools designed to facilitate communication, commonly called Web2.0

  1. Why use a school blog
  2. Establishing an educational blog
  3. Monitoring and managing the school blog?
  4. Privacy and copyright
  5. Platforms and tools
  6. Discussion questions for your school”

You have until the end of the week to share in the shaping of these guidelines for schools. Many schools have closed the opportunities of Web 2.0 to their students because they are unsure of how to manage what is potentially a disruptive technology. These guidelines will be an important resource for schools as more and more they allow their students to safely step out into the Wide Wonderful World of Web 2.0.

image NetSafe are currently revising their Cybersafe Schools programme and are looking for contributions from NZ Schools about how we can ensure our young people have the skills and attributes to be good citizens in a digital age. You can register to become a member of the NetSafe Education Network here.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Ulearn Conference - Anne Tolley's Opening Address

Beehive - Ulearn Conference

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You can't run, you can't hide - there is no option:
"We have some schools that are racing ahead, some that have developed local solutions, some that are still trialling ideas, some who have experimented and given up, some who have made mistakes and learnt from them and some who are possibly hoping it will all go away. I have a message for them - this is not going away. Hiding from, or ignoring e-learning is not an option."

That's a pretty strong message - how is this going to happen? Not on the back of fibre connections & improved infrastructure alone, ICTPD provision also has to develop new models than the current clustering system to meet the needs of all schools. It used to be that within an organisation you should match the same amount of funds spent of infrastructure into staff support & training. How would this balance with the projected investment of millions into infrastructure - hmmm i don't think we would measure up anywhere close to that equation. A plea to the Minister be careful about putting your technology cart before the horse and invest in people to support the coming changes.

"We need to put together our collective knowledge and experience and structure a coherent, rollout of broadband and ICT to all schools. We cannot afford to continue to drift on in a fragmented fashion. It is time for schools to be seen as ICT leaders and to encourage innovation and development."

I most definitely agree - a great place to start would be within the MOE where the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing. There was many mentions of the VLN & it's various activities during the Minister's speech. She then goes onto talk about a National Education Network trial & extending that trial out to more schools.
Helloooo we have a National Education Network that has been active for the last 6 years - its called the Virtual Learning Network and it is going largely unsupported by the MOE. Again networks are about connecting people & schools and not just about fibre & wires.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Taranaki Pathways

image                                             image

Yesterday i had the opportunity to speak to STAR & Gateway teachers & coordinators at their Taranaki Pathways meeting. I was there in support of Education Taranaki’s shortlisted Taranaki Trades Academy & to showcase the STAR offerings available through TaraNet and the VLN.

Current tertiary providers on the VLN are – NatColl (Digital Media & Design), WinTec (Tourism, ECE, Flowers), Telford (Ag, Equine, Forestry…), Otago Polytech (Computing), NorthTec (Food Safety). Also the Aviation Engineering course provided by Caitlins School which looks set for further enrolments from TaraNet schools next year.

I also met the WITT Schools Liaison and so I hope to work with her next term to get WITT up & running with some courses on the VLN.  This would be particularly supportive of our students in the wider Taranaki area who often don’t take up the STAR opportunities on-campus because of the time & travel involved. Apparently WITT STAR courses are mainly made up of New Plymouth students.

It was good to hear from this cohort of educators and hear that the challenges they face are very similar to mine. Some of those challenges are those of schools structures & systems that don’t support the development of personalised learning opportunities for students

Thursday, 24 September 2009

C4 Student Connecting with Adobe

This is a crosspost from 

JeopardySt Mary’s students led today’s C4 VC. They were running a Jeopardy Quiz game they had created for the other students using Adobe Connect to host the Quiz & provide the communication medium for other students to respond with their answers to the Quiz.

Challenges were the ability to see the chat box (with incoming answers) while we were sharing our desktop. We overcame this by using two computers to manage the game. One which the QuizMaster controlled the game with and the other to manage the communications (our team of ‘adjudicators’).
Bandwidth was also a huge problem and reduced the fairness for all because of the varied response time. Coastal was the worst affected so we tried to balance this by allowing Coastal to contribute their answers through VC & making the Quiz available on VC as well as Adobe Connect.
It was lots of fun & a great example of student driven learning – once i had help them set up on the technical side of things it was a ‘teacher free zone’ and they were away laughing (literally).


Wednesday, 23 September 2009

The Connected Curriculum

Thanks to Phil for sharing this with us:

“We had Lester Flockton as a Keynote at the KN & NZC Conference – and MANY really appreciated his commitment to the revised NZ Curriculum, and his informed, sane and humourous approach to implementing curriculum change. 

Here is the link to the NZEI website where they have stored a dozen different video clips and PPT sections under appropriate headings related to the NZC (values, KCs, etc)

These video clips are downloadable (eg via Firefox and Videodownload Helper), and I noticed many of the slides are similar to what we saw, (including the humourous ones).  :-)  (The videos run better, of course, once downloaded.  They are Flash files, but FLV Player – free download – runs them as well.)

Hope that this is of some use for you/your school/your cluster.”

Below is the introduction to this video series

Desktop VC

I have been spending some time in the last week exploring the use of Desktop Video conferencing as opposed to using the integrated Polycom VC unit. My reasons for this are:

  • to have a VC system in schools that is more flexible & portable & therefore more accessible out in the classrooms
  • as a standby/alternative if our existing Polycom gear fails – we could have something up & running straight away
  • also potentially as a second unit in case of timetable clashes which looks more likely as our VC classes & timetables get fuller & fuller.

My findings so far are that you need a quality webcam and possibly also microphone & headset to improve audio quality & eliminate feedback. Also needed is an up-to-date computer. When i started trialling this on a dedicated laptop that happened to be 5 years old (it took me all day just to get this laptop updated & ready to install webcam & PVX) – my audio & sound quality were terrible. I then decided to move to my own laptop (although this meant temporarily reconfiguring all my IP settings) – the quality was markedly improved.

image Asnet – who manage the MOE VC bridge & the Polycom endusers have this to say on the use of Desktop VC:

a) This will have to be on a dedicated VC PC at the school, as this PC will have to be configured with the SchoolZone (VC) IP configuration, in order to work. No other Network.

b) PVX will be registered to the Ministry’s VC Infrastructure just like the VC End point’s are currently, meaning for every re-connection (after the initial) there will be a cost involved

c) PVX software will only be supported by us as far as the connection to- or from the bridge is concerned.

d) The PVX software installation/configuration on the actual Operating System (PC) will NOT be supported by us.


I have created a Help File to show how this works. I won’t publish it here as it has all our IP numbers of schools & global address book etc. But will be up on Moodle for our schools & available on request for other VLN staff.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Keeping up with our Kids Online

Recently I spoke with parents at Matapu School about NetSafety. My presentation was in support of the staff as they shared what was happening with elearning in their school. The presentation itself is pretty simple bullet-pointed ideas (feel free to download, adapt & use) but it is more of a discussion guide & what is really important is getting families talking about their safe & appropriate use of the internet – not just at school but at home too.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Online Audio Editing

This is the coolest thing i have seen for a long time. We have seen online video editing, online image editing now with the functionality of GarageBand or more simply Audacity is Myna.

Great for students composition, developing original soundtracks for podcasts or movies. Great also for language teachers to record & share audio (though you can do this on Podomatic)

You have 10 tracks, and can upload your own sound files, or record directly into the online application. They also a comprehensive library of sound files that you can use in your creations. You can download in a number of file formats & share by linking or embedding, as i have done just below. Try it out!


Wednesday, 16 September 2009


Via Stephen Downes:

image “John Concilus sent me this link, which is to a nifty application that helps you create your own online adventure games. These games can be used in a wide variety of ways to support online learning, everything from team-building and ice-breaking online activities to detailed quests requiring participants to learn concepts and background. Here's a step-by-step guide that gives you an idea of what you can create. You can then post your games online into the repository on the FableForge website and they can be embedded into your or others' websites.
John adds, in his email, "I see several potential classroom uses:
* Teachers create games to teach concepts, facts, or apply learning from historical readings, practical training, etc.
* Students individually or in groups to demonstrate competence on a concept or a unit by creating a game....rather than a quiz or test.
* Language Arts students could use this to create their own fables, or to show understanding of themes in writing...or even to illustrate plot lines that they create in their writing."

I’m going to try this one out with my C4 kids :-) & knowing them they will go on themselves to make their own games for each other…

Fibre Rollout Announcement

Finally THE announcement we have been waiting for that will get the ball rolling!

Key highlights

Key highlights of the government’ proposal include:

  • An open, competitive partner selection process.
  • Government investment will be directed to an open access, passive fibre network infrastructure.
  • A new Crown-owned investment company ('Crown Fibre Holdings') will be operational by October, which will carry out the government’s partner selection process and manage the government’s investment in fibre networks.
  • Crown Fibre Holdings will establish with private sector partners a 'Local Fibre Company' (LFC) in each region, to deploy fibre network infrastructure and provide access to dark fibre products and, optionally, certain active wholesale Layer 2 services.
  • The Government is open to national proposals and proposals aggregating any combination of LFC regions.
  • Expansion from 25 to 33 candidate coverage areas based on the largest urban areas (by population in 2021).
  • LFCs will be required from day one to be open networks facilitating access to their infrastructure on an equivalent basis to all users.
  • LFCs cannot be controlled by any party who also operates as a telecommunications retailer.”

So for rural areas (all of our TaraNet schools) which are not represented in the candidate areas (Hawera & New Plymouth):

“It is important to note that the absence of a population centre from the list does not mean that investment proposals covering those centres will not be considered. As discussed above, CFH will have the flexibility to consider economically rational proposals that include other population centres. In addition, the government is releasing a separate strategy for improving rural broadband. In general terms, it is not intended that the government’s UFB Initiative funding will be directed into rural areas.”

So is this the separate strategy? Time to go back to the drawing board & revisit our earlier discussions?

The official release with some Q & A

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Learning for Leadership – Time Management

“You may delay but time will not” Benjamin Franklin

Another great Learning for Leadership session with the Mahi Tahi group. Some notes & links below.

Time management is not just about being busy and ‘doing stuff’. Really identify what your purpose is, what is expected in your role, recognise your strengths & weaknesses, delegate, surround yourself with inspiring people. Plan your time around what’s important – now & in the future.

Is your leadership style – transactional or visionary? Visionary requires headspace & time for thinking. Need time to think to be creative & progress. 

Getting things done – Practical strategies

Quadrants – Steven Covey – Habits of Highly Effective People – Important/Urgent


image from

Focus on goals to help stay on track with what is important.

Thanks Chris for leading this session with us – it helps us to take the time to examine our work (& life) practises, to take a stock take on our priorities and to make more conscious decisions about how we are organising our time.

DOC Digital Conversation


Students from Stratford, Inglewood, Patea & St Mary’s joined with other schools around the country in the second of our Digital Conversations with DOC. Today Otago area was talking about Biodiversity of Freshwater Fish. It was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t see the pictures & slides the presenters were running & though we did ask for them to turn their screen around & zoom in on it, it seemed to present too much of a technical problem for them… Most of our students at the Stratford site went back to class to investigate the topic on DOCs website while the rest of us persevered. I think the cause of the problem would be the difference in Polycom equipment & compatibility. The delivery site was running with up-to-date equipment & our schools have probably got the oldest equipment still be used in the country. I will be spending some time with Asnet support to see how we can work around this issue.

Beehive - Preparing schools for ultra-fast broadband

Beehive - Preparing schools for ultra-fast broadband

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Monday, 14 September 2009

Conservation Week



Today students from Patea & Waitara joined with Murchison, Rotorua & Whangamata schools to participate in a Conservation Week VC with Sarah Bond from the Franz Joseph, DOC area office.

Waitara St Joseph’s joined Waitara High School students for today’s session – it would be great to see more of our local schools access these opportunities through our TaraNet schools.

Sarah had an interactive presentation that covered a range of interesting areas:

Kea: The cheeky kea, known to many of us for its high-altitude antics, is in trouble.

Ranger for a day: Not many kids are lucky enough to have a glacier and a rainforest in their backyards .

Bridge Building: On the West Coast, hunting can be pretty tough work, with long walks, steep terrain.

Kotuku: The Kotuku, or White Heron, is dear to the hearts of many New Zealanders.

DSC01325 (Large)

Student’s enjoyed competing with others to answer questions and at times when the questions were open to everyone it was a struggle to hear who said what! ;-) Thanks Sarah for a great VC.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Ask an Expert


I had two opportunities this week with students asking an Expert. In the first instance i was the expert for Jackie’s Year 3 & 4 when they skyped into me to ask me “What is a Shooting Star?” I fielded a few questions from the children and answered them as best i could :-)

Our C4 students met with Simon from Asnet to find out what more about video conferencing. They use this technology so much without even thinking about it. It was good to give them an understanding of VC beyond the Polycom that is sitting right in front of them & to see how it is used outside of the classroom.

There used to be a NZ “Ask an Expert” website where students could make contact with experts from various areas. I just can’t find it anywhere… This would be a good thing for the VLN to support. We are often looking for opportunities for our students to connect with others outside the classroom. If we made an area on the VLN that had a database of experts who were happy to be ‘contactable’ either through email or to set up digital conversations. Here schools could also put their needs & then the connections could be facilitated & targeted to the areas of interest of the students.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

TaraNet Lead Teachers Meet

TaraNet Lead Teachers met yesterday to discuss elearning in their schools.logo

Items on the agenda were:

  • Learning Management Systems – Coastal shared their schools implementation of KnowledgeNet
  • Adobe Connect PD ––– NatColl courses – Marilyn shared her experience of Blender 3D Animation course
  • TaraNet Photography Workshop – feedback from participants was positive
  • Digistore pd for TaraNet teachers in using digital learning objects planned for next term
  • In-house PD – discussed PD how schools are approaching PD with their own staff
  • eTeacher PD – planned for 3rd & 4th December in collaboration with Volcanics & CoroNet – opportunities for all teachers
  • Conservation Week VC series – these are taking place next week – all schools will be participating through C4 GATE students
  • Update – Fibre Networks, SNUPs – shared information from PPTA ICT Task Force MOE presentation
  • ICTPD Collaboration Programme: Regional Educational Cluster – discussed opportunities to work with secondary schools outside of TaraNet, not in a position yet to apply for support from contestable funding.
  • Connected Secondary Schools – PPTA Conference paper – link here
  • Moodle – cluster documentation (minutes etc) in staffroom area

Even though there were a few missing, it was good to catch up with this group & discuss & share what is happening out in schools. Without these dedicated teachers in our schools, we would never find our way into the 21st Century :-)

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Connected Secondary Schools

PPTA ICT Taskforce – Paper to be tabled at upcoming PPTA Conference

This paper is very supportive of the VLN, eteachers & ePrincipals :-)

This paper considers the inconsistencies that have plagued the digital revolution in secondary schools. It identifies the barriers that devolution of school management, a competitive ideology and funding constraints have put in the way of a coherent and effective information and communications technologies (ICT) network for schools.
As well as giving credit to the many boards, principals and teachers who have contributed to the enhanced learning that ICT offers, including the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), the paper also acknowledges those policies that give cause for optimism, including the laptop scheme, central purchasing of software and hardware, funding for network upgrades and the $1.5 billion investment in broadband.
Against this, the paper identifies continued problems with funding and coherency (including the threat posed by the digital divide), health and safety issues, the need for technical support, burgeoning electricity demands, teacher workload and the short-sighted decision to cease funding the VLN e-learning principals.
  1. That the report be received.
  2. That this conference call on the Ministry of Education to undertake a consultative review of funding and staffing to better support collaborative practices in secondary schools.
  3. That this conference urge the government to recognise the innovative work of the VLN by restoring funding for e-learning principals.
  4. That this conference support continued central purchasing of software and selected hardware (switches and routers) for schools by the Ministry of Education.
  5. That this conference urge the Ministry of Education to extend its present range of central purchasing to include copyright licences.
  6. That PPTA develop a campaign to encourage all secondary school boards to pay for teacher laptops.
  7. That this conference call on the Ministry of Education to develop a plan to ensure that all students have access to appropriate hardware and software at home and at school.

Monday, 7 September 2009

eLearning Award 2009


  • A big thank you to Gen-i Taranaki for their continued generosity in supporting our TaraNet elearning students. They will be awarding an HP Mini Netbook to this year’s top TaraNet elearner. Being an elearner presents a unique set of challenges that requires special qualities from our students. These qualities are being a great communicator, showing patience, perseverance & flexibility, self management, a positive attitude, a willingness to embrace new technologies and a good work ethic. The criteria for eligibility are:  they must be an elearning student from a TaraNet school enrolled in a course through the Virtual Learning Network; show a commitment to their studies (attendance & diligence); be a positive role model for elearning. Schools will be asked to nominate one of their students for this award commenting on how student’s demonstrate that they meet the criteria. Then eteachers are also asked to add their comments & support. Given the level of commitment shown by many of our TaraNet students it’s going to be a really tough choice to make again this year. Last year’s top elearner was Toni from Coastal.


Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Mashing it up!

I have been experimenting with online video editors to prepare for collaborative video editing with my C4 students.


JayCut was a lot slower to upload & convert files to use so more bandwidth hungry than the other sites. A good indication of this is the text that comes up on the screen as it’s working “Patience is a Virtue”. Had two timeline layers for video, meaning that to get transitions between my photos i had to alternate them up and down the two timelines (a little confusing). No ability to put text in – so no titles, & importantly no ability to credit sources if you are using someone else’s material. Can download the movie file which gives you flexibility to rework in another editor or on another site.


Masher was much quicker to work with. I liked that it had a library of video & music you could work with, as well as being able to upload your own video, pictures & audio. It also had a text feature, though no transitions which doesn’t give much of a polished look when you are working with photos instead of video. Another downside was you can’t download your video directly from the site but only embed or share the link, so if you wanted a copy on your own computer then you would have to use a stripper like Download helper to get it. I also don't like the way Masher autoplays in the browser. It is a bit distracting on this webpage to have video run on it's own!

Monday, 31 August 2009

Student Centred Learning

In this news article “Jump to High School too big for some” differences in pedagogies are seen as contributing to students’ difficulties in adjusting to the transition to high school and advocates for a focus on maintaining a ‘middle school’ Yrs 7 – 10. So why is it that when you get to high school the teacher becomes the centre of learning and not the student? Why should we change to a focus on ‘middle school’ to ease this transition? Why not work on changing teaching styles to put students at the centre – where they belong.

“Kay Matheson, from Victoria University in Wellington, studied the differences in teaching between Year 8 (form two) and Year 9 (form three).

Matheson's study found Year 9 teachers were more teacher-centred than Year 8 teachers.

"The focus shifts from student-centred learning to teacher-centred learning," the study said. "This may be a contributing factor in the decline in mathematics achievement that has been shown to occur at this phase of education in New Zealand."

The study observed teaching at a secondary school and one of its feeder intermediate schools. Three teachers of mathematics at Year 9 from the secondary school and three Year 8 teachers from the intermediate school were videotaped, each for three lessons.

"In the type of statements used there were significant differences," the study said. "The Year 9 teachers used instructional and control statements more than the Year 8 teachers ... Year 8 teachers had a higher percentage of explanatory statements. The study found greater use of "confidence-building statements" by Year 8 teachers." read more

ICT Connect


ICT Connect was an initiative discussed at our recent PPTA ICT Task Force Meeting (full minutes here). Instigated by the New Zealand Computer Society, it is aimed at encouraging young people into ICT careers, this website gives examples of CVs, tips about first jobs, links to NZ tertiary's that offer ICT courses & profiles of people within ICT Careers. ICT Connect also organises for people from ICT careers to speak to students – I can feel another Digital Conversation topic coming up. The NZCS also support YMedia a great challenge for tertiary students.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Publishing in Print


I guess i have published huge amounts on this blog over the years but there’s something very cool about being published in print. To pick up a magazine or journal, thumb through the pages & see your own work there. Finally after much redrafting & updating, to & fro between the editor, the Journal of Distance Learning is out with a revised version of “Video Conferencing in Distance Learning: A NZ Schools’ Perspective”. Hopefully this will do more to raise the profile of the VLN and the important role it plays now & for the future of our students.

“Key: 'hundreds of millions' needed for rural broadband”

The 75/25% split for fibre rollout just won’t cut it for the rural sector (which includes most of the schools on the VLN). John Key shows this concern too – hopefully a glimmer of light for getting fibre to where it’s most needed!

Friday, 21 August 2009

PPTA ICT Task Force Meeting

Some of my notes from ICT Taskforce meeting which I skyped into today.

Open Education Resources
Wayne MacIntosh providing a free pre-conference workshop at ULearn.
About creating & sharing resources. Internationally OER is more than just this it is a social & educational revolution with free & open courses being offered –a good example of this is the work of Leigh Blackall & Otago Polytechnic.
Discussion around Copyright – ongoing concern – fundamental to where we are going to go in the years ahead. The present understanding is the the work of teachers is Intellectual Property owned by the BOT. 65% of schools hold a Copyright Licence.
Trevor Storr been doing some work around Creative Commons Policy for Schools

Key Competencies
Concern that these shouldn’t be assessed in isolation in a tick box manner but integrated across the curriculum areas.

ICTPD Review
Recently undergone a review process, can see a change to ICTPD contestable funding but can’t see any report back about the review process. This is separate from Vince’s work – some conflict with the idea that Core-Ed has the contract for national facilitation of the program & Core-Ed also does the research around this program.

SLANZA report
Upgrade of website School Libraries Association  - wiki for members
Inquiry learning & Web 2.0 tools workshops well supported.
Ongoing work on raising standards & getting qualified library staff. (Very poorly paid.) Study grants available from SLANZA for staff to gain library qualifications – encourage your staff to apply for these.
Building membership – 700 members currently
SCIS – government’s withdrawn sponsorship – schools having to pay for this now. SCIS provides a more uniform system across school libraries & makes school librarians jobs much easier. Government still supporting EPIC – 20 databases on there now across the curriculum.
Restructuring of National Library. Reduced funding  Fewer advisors & more electronic resources.becoming SYNZ (Services to Young NZers). Working with the VLN give example.
SLANZA Conference coming up in September  New Zealand Association of Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers (recently formed subject association)
Conference held at MIT in Auckland and Christ College in Christchurch (another ULearn preconference choice) – telepresence link. Conference programme currently under review aiming to cover all strands of Computing depending on volunteers offering workshops. Improve recognition of subject – aim to widen participants beyond computing teachers (Principals, BOTs)

New Zealand Computer Society
NZCS ICT Connect  developing a programme aimed at y9 & 10s to capture their interest in IT before they choose their senior curricula subjects. ICT professionals talking with our students.

Howard & Douglas presenting what the MOE doing – some notes:

Software licensing – contracts going forward announcement to be made in the next few days.

eMaturity – investigating a model for NZ looking at what others are doing for example. Becta Self Review –  Building ICT capability in schools – assisting schools to self review. Victoria University also doing some work on this.

TELA – maintaining existing scheme as it is – no changes here. Schools paying for laptops – anecdotal info only – don’t ask schools that info. 80% of Taranaki Schools are funding TELA laptops for their teachers.

Fibre Rollout
“If you want to design a country that is bad for broadband – NZ is it” Having said that though there is no shortage of fibre – who owns it? how can you access it?
Where does your school sit on the broadband map?
MED – leading this. Intending to make announcements – delayed to the end of August
Government’s broadband policy is to spend:

•$1.5 billion on ultra-fast broadband to reach 75% of the population

•$48 million for rural New Zealand to reach the other 25% of the population

Not encouraging for rural schools - MOE advocating to them to be more inclusive of more schools. Giving MED advice around schools.
Again until announcements are made we can’t be sure of anything.

Schools Network Upgrade Project
Government has pledged $150mil. for this including $34mil. made available earlier in the year in a stimulus package. This funding will be targeted at making schools ready for ultra-fast broadband.
This version of SNUPs will be similar in that it will provide 80% of costs with schools meeting the other 20% (generally schools have used their Property funding for this. Will be different in that it will be more tailored to the individual needs of the schools.
There has to be a balance between local decision-making and global procurement – often a tension between these – all to do with scalability.
Currently RFPs out on: the national implementation of the SNUPs programme, network switches, cabinets & patch cables.
The average drop cost of schools is around $25k each – though this can be highly variable depending on the proximity of school buildings to boundaries. Cost allocation shown below.


•Urban and rural schools will be included in SNUP 3
•Sequencing based on proximity to ultra-fast broadband services and interest from schools
•Selection criteria includes involvement in literacy and Māori language programmes and ICT PD initiatives
•Schools will be invited to apply but Expressions of Interest accepted
•Up to 800 schools likely to be broadband ready by 2011

NEN National Education Network – schools trialled with KAREN purpose to test potential NEN architecture.
Range of content & service provided eg end to end managed network, off site storage, cloud computing, centralising applications such as SNS, LMS, library etc, virtualisation of servers – allow schools to get on with the business of teaching & learning.

Fibre is key to this.


One thing is clear to me is that once the MED have made their announcement, we need to move quickly to ensure we get out the gate quickly with fibre to our schools so we can take advantage of MOE initiatives such as SNUPs, ICTPD funding opportunities, networked services…

ePortfolios Consultation Document need portability assurance over a long period of time (student’s school life), long term storage, retrieval & security of data. Interoperability over time & across schools.

KN Conference

Is in the process of being transitioned to a centrally administered tool. This is dependent on schools connectivity. Concerns about timeouts making eAsstle unworkable. Watchdog filtering has been attributed to making this worse – this filtering slows down a lot of student’s internet activity. Any concerns with eAsstle contact Lisa Rodgers at the MOE.

PPTA Meetings via VC
PPTA head office & field offices are now equipped with VC capability. In the recent PPTA News “Now, instead of being flown around the country to various meetings in PPTA offices, members can join meetings without having to leave their locality or even their own school.” Today there were over a dozen people in Wellington for our meeting from around the country, a few grumbles about start times & coordination of flights, shuttles from the airport & i think the occasional person an overnight stay(?).
So what are we doing about it? Some regional meetings PPTA meetings such as CoroNet have  already had participants VC from their own schools – ahead of the PPTA offices being VC capable. There was reluctance from some to VC, they liked to f2f, they were concerned about the facilitation of a VC meeting for the number involved, they were concerned about access to VC equipment. After some discussion we agreed to trial this. Currently I attend via Skype, though i could just as easily VC and i will continue to do that. We also had a member join in with our meeting via VC during the day. I think once people have been involved in an effective VC meeting they may begin to realise the value of being able to communicate in this way. The ICT Task Force should be leading the way, walking the talk – not just in our own schools but within the PPTA. We need to change our carbon footprint to a digital footprint.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Independent Learning @ Coastal

DSC01320 (Medium)DSC01321 (Medium)I was at Coastal today working with our C4 group & also sat in on Joel’s Stats lesson. The content of the lesson went right over my head ;-) but it was interesting to see how Joel taught with a  process of demonstration and modelling, flicking between his laptop, resources online & resources & real time working out under the document camera. We had some discussion afterwards & I left him with the question “What would you do if your document camera died tomorrow?” I was really impressed to visit Coastal’s new Independent Learning  Centre. This provides the space and resources that students’ need when they are learning outside of f2f classrooms. It was a bright and open space with a number of office type desks with computers, desks in board room arrangement & a couple of couches. What a great space for learning!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Visually Googling Yourself!

Thanks to David Warlick for sharing Personas – an online characterisation tool. I ran my name through it & this is what it came up with. For anyone who ever Googled themselves this is a great visual representation. Interesting also to watch it go through it’s search to come up with this final profile. Give it a go!


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Coaching eTeachers

We had another excellent leadership session with our eMentor Sue. Today’s session was focussed on ‘Coaching eTeachers’. Though what we discussed would be relevant to any professional coaching situation. Sue has done a lot of work in this area and believes that coaching is the most powerful professional learning tool we can utilise. Here are some of my notes from this session:

Two Coaching Tools – Shadowing & Reflective Questioning

Shadowing write a record of what the person you are shadowing is doing, suspend judgement.
Follow up as soon as possible with reflective questioning

Reflective Questioning
is holding up the mirror & getting someone to see themselves from someone else’s perspective, and to make their own judgements & decisions about what they might do differently. Sue modelled this to us as Carolyn interviewed her following this process. This is really a process of active listening & facilitating someone to reflect on their actions. Three levels of questioning:

  1. clarify the details
  2. clarify the purposes or reasons for their actions
  3. reflect on the consequences of the action

Assumptions of eTeachers

  • all have a unique style
  • professional growth is ongoing & never complete
  • development is due to professional learning
  • student learning is enhanced


  • Professional learning should be based in the ‘classroom’ (not just in a VC lesson but in all of the online teaching space & communications)
  • Encourage eTeachers to observe other eTeachers (peer coaching is highly effective but needs facilitating)
  • Encourage eTeachers to seek feedback from learners, teachers & parents
  • Encourage eTeachers to enlist peer support
  • Use both reflection in action, and reflection on action (Schon)
  • Each eTeacher will develop their own philosophy

imageCoaching Leadership: Building Educational Leadership Capacity Through Coaching Partnerships” Jan Robertson (recommended reading)

Sue facilitates these sessions so well – to help us frame where to next we were asked to think in light of our discussions what we would do next week, next month next year? I decided that for next week i would focus on revisiting Learning Design, next month i would ensure that VC staff meetings encompassed professional learning discussion and not just nuts & bolts and that for next year i would redesign our eteachers PD to enable more of what we talked about today.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Social Media Revolution

More food for thought.

Turbo-Charge TaraNet

“How good would it be?”….

There has been lots of conversations here in the last few weeks about a local initiative to bring broadband/KAREN to all Taranaki Secondary Schools. I have been working with the group who have been developing this proposal to link & consult with schools and to try & gain a school’s perspective for the proposal. You can read about these conversations at our Wiki. My thoughts are that any proposal that is going to enable all of our Secondary Schools (as opposed to New Plymouth schools only) has got to have some merit and needs to be investigated. I have reservations whether a KAREN connection is going to provide the services our schools will need & wonder if it will make it more difficult instead of easier to maintain our VC connectivity with the wider VLN Community. I know for sure that schools would jump at increased bandwidth but am wary about the data costs that may result. I know that there has been a lot of work done by other regional ‘loops’ and that we need to tap into their expertise as we work towards fibre connections for our schools. We are all waiting…. and waiting… to hear what the National Strategy will be that is to be announced anytime soon about the mechanism for fibre rollout & how schools will be supported with this.

Thursday, 13 August 2009




TaraNet’s C4 programme began this term with 21 students from across 6 of our schools joining together to Connect, Communicate, Collaborate & Communicate.

We meet through VC every week and use our Moodle site to communicate between times. So far we have defined our theme of C4 and you can see by their Wordle above that there are more C’s than just the 4. Student’s are learning to find their way around Moodle by successfully logging onto the site (this has been a problem for even some of our senior students…. i don’t know why….), they have completed their profile & uploaded a Fact File to tell me more about themselves. We have had a strong emphasis on ‘cybersafety’ - appropriate ways of behaving when they are online, and protocols for interaction & publishing online. One of their tasks was to work through our VLN cybersafety module and we engaged in some interesting discussion about issues that surround being safe online. We have started to look at blogging to connect more widely than our small group & i have started the C4 blog to model this.

Everything we do seems to take so long – we are already into Week 4 & it seems on the face of it we haven’t done a lot. For almost all of our students they have very little time to involve themselves in C4 activities. Only one school has cleared more time in the timetable for them. Almost all these students (being the G & T kids) are involved in anything & everything else that is happening at school too. I think this is the age old de-motivator for these types of bright kids. More stuff gets layered onto them – when really the extension work needs to be ‘instead of’ and not ‘as well as’ the everyday school stuff. BUT fantastic attendance from all of these students :-) Its good also to get around the schools as each week i am VCing alongside our kids from a different school.

Our first project is called “Postcards from Taranaki” – a short movie or presentation about our place. We hope to share with students from other clusters.