Friday, 25 September 2009

Taranaki Pathways

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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

Shared via AddThis

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.

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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!