Monday, 26 January 2015

Online Learning Opportunities 2015 #Participate!

From our latest newsletter:

Tēnā koutou katoa

Welcome back to the 2015 school year! Here is a heads up on the year ahead for the VLN Primary School and an invitation for all interested students & teachers to participate.

VLN Primary School activities - online classes and projects are open for all NZ schools to participate. Please read our Protocols of Participation for specific details on how to participate and what costs are involved.

This year we have a wide range of languages available - 
te Reo Māori, Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, German; also Extension Maths, Science (Chemistry - Mixing things). Over the Back Fence  & Rural & Remote Schools, are long running projects that are welcoming interest from new participants.
There are several programmes under development, that are yet to be confirmed for 2015 - Tokelauan, Ngā Pūrākau, Asian Studies, Science (Plant Biology) and we welcome expressions of interest for participation in these. We would also love to be able to offer Cook Islands Māori, Astronomy, Extension Literacy, Coding & Minecraft challenge and are looking for teachers who are keen to run these programmes. (We have run some of these programmes before and have supporting resources available.)
We are keen to support new projects or classes getting started so please make your suggestions!

All schools wishing to register for online programmes for Semester 1 (classes begin mid March) should do so on this online form as soon as possible. For expressions of interest in anything mentioned above or queries please Contact Rachel

Check out our 2014 year's highlights

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Global Connections #Participate!

From my inbox today - can't find the web version of this mail out so will reproduce here.
If 2014 was the year of the webinar for teachers perhaps 2015 will be the year of global classroom connections? (now teachers are getting more confident).
Get with it teachers so many wonderful learning opportunities for our students and a way to increase their global awareness and understandings. See 'Healing the World One Classroom at a Time' for some excellent reasons why we should reach out beyond our classroom walls & beyond our national borders.

Skype in classroom

Transform literacy and learning in your classroom

Beginning on February 16th 2015, Skype in the Classroom is launching “Skype Celebrates Literacy”. This six week program will feature guest speakers from the publishing industry, lessons and resources to support and inspire literacy learning in classrooms around the world.
Literacy remains a high priority on the global education agenda and a core subject for classrooms everywhere. Lessons that involve reading, writing, speaking and listening – from poetry jams and reading aloud to author visits – have always been popular amongst teachers using Skype in the Classroom.
In 2014, you and your students travelled millions of virtual miles taking part in lessons around the world via Skype. Whether you collaborated with another classroom, played Mystery Skype, invited a guest speaker in for a Q&A, or went on a virtual field trip, chances are these experiences engaged your students’ literacy skills, perhaps without them even realizing it!
Here's how you can get involved:
1) Invite a guest speaker: authors, illustrators and storytellers will be available to join your classrooms via Skype. To make it easy to find and schedule a speaker to inspire your students, we’ve created a way to quickly schedule these calls. These conversations can be scheduled via Skype in the Classroom beginning February 9th.
2) Participate in World Read Aloud Day events: schedule a call on World Read Aloud Day or World Book Day (both the week of 2nd March) to celebrate the art of reading and writing. There will be a wide range of partner-provided content, tools, and resources to help with traditional reading and writing, including digital literacy and internet safety content too.
3) Literacy projects: we will have some very exciting literacy-related partner organizations including School in the Cloud, Microsoft, Safer Internet Day/ChildNet, and some very special guest speakers through those partnerships all coming soon.
4) Create your own Skype lesson: get creative and post your own literacy lesson for other classrooms to get involved in. Let us know about it @SkypeClassroom and we can promote it for you.
Join Skype in the classroom
Using an online Reading Level site, Mike Soskil, a teacher at Wallenpaupack South Elementary School in Pennsylvania discovered that “Our 4th grade students, who have been using a curriculum of Skype experiences and blogging as part of their Social Studies curriculum this year, increased their writing scores on average by half a grade level from October to December. The students using this curriculum are either in special education or low achieving.”
With a stronger focus on learning experiences that directly support literacy we hope to help teachers everywhere create even greater impact through the use of free accessible technology like Skype.
We hope to see you and your students join in all of the new literacy lessons. If you are new to Skype in the Classroom, we invite you to hop on a tour hosted by our Skype Guides, teachers just like you who are excited to show you the innovative and educational adventures that await your students. Don’t forget to help inspire others with your experience via our Stories PageFacebook andTwitter.
We look forward to a fantastic celebration of literacy.
Your friends at Skype in the Classroom
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2014 - the year of the Education Webinar

I don't know how NZ stacks up with the rest of the world in webinar participation but it feels like our teachers and the educational community in general are finally starting to 'get it' that they can connect with each other virtually and still have a quality professional learning experience.

We have been encouraging the educational community for some years to come into the virtual space so that our teachers can have access to professional learning opportunities that you don't have to drive miles to attend, find relievers to cover the extra time you need, or fork out loads of scarce PD budget for. Yes there is nothing so good as face to face but sometimes you don't really need to be there in person to achieve the learning outcome you are looking for. Blend it for balance - take the opportunity to f2f when it makes sense to and when you are thirsting for some more social contact or there are practical aspects that are easier to be there for - (conferences are great for this). Then make the most of a growing wealth of pld opportunities that fit more flexibly into your busy work life.

Originally through the NZed video conferencing network we collaborated to bring expertise to schools in our VC clusters for example - Julia Atkins, NZ Film Commission, MyPortfolio, StudyIt,  Now with a stronger, faster, more stable infrastructure, you don't need high end VC equipment or a dedicated bridge to connect, you can come in from the desktop (or mobile device) at school or home. Adobe Connect, Elluminate, Google Hangouts, Skype... take your pick.

ConnectEd Educator month was a real clincher for teacher participation in webinars, with many teachers connecting to a wide variety of sessions throughout the month, in Adobe Connect & Google Hangouts You can check out the recorded webinars archived here.

The Enabling ELearning team hold regular PLD webinars and these are archived here. Before this our VPLD team ran Hot Seat sessions - some sessions still worth checking out are archived here. Would recommend Karen's session on Social Learning (Karen is definitely the queen of the webinar - a fantastic & composed presenter :-) also Christina discussing Teaching as Inquiry.

And those are just our NZ webinars - there are so many opportunities to connect globally for example and Adobe Exchange. So make sure you follow whats coming up and plan your personal PLD for 2015. Love to hear of your recommendations of virtual PLD opportunities to follow!

Pinelopi Zaka from Science Alive running a PLD session on the Nature of Science, supported by the VLN Primary School.

A Vision Without Action is just a Dream - Learning Languages - A Global Future

Yesterday i had the privilege of collaborating with a room full of passionate language learning advocates from community groups, schools and supporting organisations. Our main focus was to discuss the challenges and opportunities for schools in developing and sustaining language programmes in schools and how we can provide support and guidance for schools in the ALLiS initiative.

There were many details discussed of how we can collaborate to support successful and sustainable programmes but what has been clear in this meeting and previous ones is that a national language policy & strategic plan for learning languages is critical to co-ordinate, drive and sustain this work. 

It was really interesting to meet Susan Warren and hear about the work of COMET educational trust and in particular the development of a Languages Strategy for Auckland. It makes a strong case for developing Auckland (and that should read - New Zealand) as a multi-lingual community and also a strong case for a National Languages policy. Here are some of the points that resonated with me - you can read the whole document here and there is still an opportunity to submit a response here within the week.

"Multilingualism is central to a diverse city: it allows us to value ourselves, build community, build tolerance, and live peacefully and prosperously.Currently, many Aucklanders miss out on the cognitive advantages of multilingualism. As a community we miss out on the potential of younger language learners because we fail to take advantage of the best windows for language learning and the most effective years for language maintenance. Auckland’s migrants, especially our older migrants, could receive much better support for their aspirations to learn communicative English. As a community we fail to grasp the cultural and aesthetic benefits of multilingualism, and many Aucklanders cannot garner the educational attainment that crosses language boundaries and unifies knowledge in varied domains. One of the more obvious impacts of the absence of a languages policy in New Zealand is seen in education.  Evidence shows that quality bilingual or immersion instruction in children’s first or heritage language brings measurable gains in literacy achievement in the target language and also in English[1].  However requests to the Ministry of Education for tailored materials or professional development for bilingual classes are met with an explanation that there is no policy to enable provision for learning through languages other than English, te reo Māori and NZ Sign Language.Most New Zealanders (93 per cent) agree it is valuable to learn another language[2]. Language skills and cultural sensitivity are now required for successful participation and engagement locally, nationally and globally in all spheres of activity. Auckland is well placed to harness its language potential.In the past, it has been possible to “get by” in English only. For our young people to thrive in the future, they will need more options and more experience as language learners. Because most of the world is multilingual this need will be felt even more acutely as today’s young Aucklanders spread their wings globally. Most English-dominant countries today require their young people to have another language; all of New Zealand’s associates in ASEAN require kids to learn another language from a young age. New Zealand identifies strongly with the ethics of team membership: being a team player in the 21st century will mean being multilingual."

[1] Asia New Zealand, 

[2] Ministry of Education (2008).  Teaching and learning for bilingual Pasifika students in New Zealand.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

No need for Learning Languages in the Future - Skype translator

The age of the Babel fish is nearly upon us? 

Will technology soon become so sophisticated that we can trust it to translate reliably and with correct expression and nuance that we won't need to learn another language but will be able to interact easily universally in our own languages? Another way that technology will be ubiquitous in our globally connected lives... not quite there yet, but definitely on the horizon.

Skype translator - some background.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Call to action for Governments & Policymakers - support Open, Online & Flexible Learning.

"Access to, and success in, open, online and flexible learning are key solutions to the pressing development challenges and needs of 21st century societies, emphasizes the November 2014 Bali message by ICDE’s higher education leaders.

Recommendations from a recent summit in Bali called on ICDE and UNESCO to continue their efforts to support and encourage governments to:
  • Create favorable frameworks for opening up education – making education at all levels available to all through open, online, flexible, blended and distance education.
  • Stimulate the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) – publicly funded educational resources licensed to make materials needed for learners freely available to all.
  • Enable learner mobility through the development of transnational qualification frameworks, which make the recognition and transfer of qualifications, course credits and learning within and between jurisdictions part of the fabric of an open, global education system.
  • Encourage the adoption of quality standards, guidelines and benchmarks for open, online and distance learning to be mainstreamed into quality frameworks and protocols.
  • Foster innovation in the form of new approaches to the assessment of learning outcomes, prior learning and work-based learning; new approaches to instruction, which both increase learner engagement and learning outcomes; and new ways of collaborating and connecting to learners and higher rates of student success.
  • Invest in research focused on best practices in the design, development, deployment and delivery of open, online, distance and flexible education; the use of open educational resources; the mobility of learners; new business models for the operation of educational institutions; and new models of public assurance and accountability."
Some key messages for our government here - not just for higher education but for the schooling sector too. These recommendations are not about bandwidth, networks or infrastructure but about building capacity in people, systems and open resources
More detail from the Bali UNESCO Policy Forum here.