Tuesday, 28 March 2017

NZ Research & Articles - Online Teaching & Learning

As part of my literature review I am collating as much of the NZ written/NZ based literature on online/virtual learning as I can find. Much of this I have read, and some I have contributed to, been a participant in, or even written myself. Some of it is before my time, but I believe our whakapapa and learning  journey contributes to where we are today, and where we will go tomorrow. I also see that what was relevant in a report for example on Telelearning in the early 90s, is still relevant today and is really a case of 'the more things change the more they stay the same.' Two decades and more down the track virtual/online learning is still on the fringes (and often not even a blip on the radar) of mainstream learning. However this may start to change as policy catches up with practice (see recent post on CoOLs).
Although technology brings us closer together (it is only 2 years ago that we were able to turn cameras on in our VLN Primary classrooms!), we are still challenged by many of the same things online teachers were in the 90s.  The need for schools to be open and collaborative, the professional learning needed by teachers (& students) to become more digitally fluent, the need to change teacher pedagogies to be more student directed; there are many more similar themes running through the literature some of which I will unpick more of over the coming months.

I use Zotero and have a group with shared bookmarks - genuine contributors welcome to join here. In this post I will share some key resources and include abstracts. There are many more in this Zotero folder & I am sure many new readings to discover.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Review of education funding systems - Threat or opportunity for NZ Rural Schools?

Following on from an earlier post about Rural NZ - A great place to live and learn, here is some context of what is happening in the educational landscape at the moment.

We are currently going through the process of legislative change and a funding review that will have the biggest impact on NZ schools since 1989 and the introduction of Tomorrow's Schools. For more on Tomorrow's Schools see Langley, 2009; Wylie, 2013.

The Education (Update) Amendment Bill proposes a range of changes, of particular relevance to my study is Communities of Online Learning (or CoOLs), which has been the most contested and provocative part of the bill. I write about this in another post.

The Education Funding System Review, that sits alongside the proposed legislative changes, has been in the consultation phase since last year (I recommend that you read the Cabinet Paper that sits behind what is on the MoE website) There has been one change of tack to the original proposal when teacher unions pushed back on Global Funding mechanism - this was seen as another way of bulk funding schools that was so strenuously opposed in the early 2000s. The reasons given for not proceeding with the global budget was
"schools indicated that the current system of funding delivery generally works well and can provide the flexibility required"..."Moreover, it is clear that neither principals nor teachers yet have confidence in governance and management to make good choices about the mix of inputs necessary to meet the educational challenge for their students." 
That last phrase is dynamite and should be of concern if the Minister thinks that after more that 20 years of self governance school leaders lack the skills to make good choices. Without going further into the politics of the discussion in this paper - here are the key points in relation to small and rural schools:

 The Proposed Model of Funding

26.1 a core funding model in both early learning and state and state integrated schools made up of two components:
26.1.1 a curriculum-based per-child funding amount - linked to the learning expectations of children and young people at each stage of the curricula. In early learning, this involves moving to per-child funding. In schooling, this involves a review of funding levels at each stage of the curriculum;
26.1.2 additional funding for individual challenges: targeted additional achievement allocation - for children and young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and to replace the current decile system and better align funding to the actual curriculum-based achievement challenge; learning support (special education) allocation - for those learning support needs that services and schools are expected to meet from within their funding;
26.2 for small and isolated early learning services and state and state integrated schools, supplementary funding to enable the maintenance of a network of provision;
Of importance to rural and small schools is section 70 - 73:

Defining small and isolated services and schools
70 To support education provision being located as close as reasonably possible to families, I propose supplementary funding for small and isolated services and schools. This takes into account population densities in rural and provincial areas and our objectives for choice and diversity in education provision, including for Maori medium education. 
71 Small schools face fixed costs in administration and curriculum delivery, including in providing subject choice at the senior secondary level. Isolated services and schools can face extra costs related to both teaching and learning and accessing trades and services. These services and schools would not be educationally viable if they received only the curriculum based per-child funding amount and the additional funding amount for individual challenges. 
72 I am seeking to develop an approach to these services and schools that provides the minimal additional funding necessary, supports our objective of increased collaboration across  and system,  and takes into account  the potential  over  time for  Communities  of
Learning I Kahui Ako  and for Communities  of Online  Learning  to mitigate  some of  the costs in the operation of small schools, including those associated with providing curriculum breadth. 
73 The first stage of this work involves establishing a coherent basis for defining small and isolated services and schools. The second stage of this work involves determining the extra costs that these services and schools face in maintaining a viable provision and, hence, the funding that they require over and above that provided by the core funding model. There is a close relationship between this work and that related to the per-student funding amount.

I can understand the need to simplify a complicated system, I can understand the benefits of network provision across schools, I can see a need for equity across our schooling system, I believe to move forward we need to make changes, and change is challenging. However lets make sure that we do this while retaining what is special about our small rural schools, and not just focusing solely on 'progress that can be measured at each level of the curriculum'.

If you are a supporter of our small rural schools, I would be watching this review process carefully, talking with Principals in your local schools and advocating on their behalf.

Langley, J., & Cognition Institute. (2009). Tomorrow’s schools 20 years on-. Auckland, N.Z.: Cognition Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cognitioneducationtrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/report_cognition_institute_john_langley_ed.pdf

Wylie, C. (2013). Tomorrow’s schools after 20 years: can a system of self-managing schools live up to its initial aims? The New Zealand Annual Review of Education0(19). Retrieved from https://ojs.victoria.ac.nz/nzaroe/article/view/1555

Sunday, 12 March 2017

CoOLs - Communities of Online Learning - A double edged sword?

Tomorrow the report from the Education and Science Select Committee, who are looking at Education (Update) Amendment Bill, is due. There are a raft of changes proposed in this bill, though the part that is most of interest to me is Part 3A - Communities of Online Learning.

With my work at the VLN Primary School, I have been asking for something like CoOLs for a very long time. Here are our VLN Primary Submissions over recent years, they all ask for better resourcing, support and for inclusion of online learning within the mainstream schooling sector:
Why the outrage from parts of the sector that say they have been blind sided by part 3A of the Education Amendment Act bill? That it came out of nowhere, and there has been a clear lack of consultation? Well no, for some that were 'gobsmacked' to hear about it, they just didn't have this on their radar because they aren't taking notice of what is already happening in our schools. It isn't through lack of engagement on my part, I have been trying to get these ideas through to the wider sector for many years, as have some of my colleagues & been frustrated by the sectors lack of interest and support.

I have to support the notion of CoOLs this is what I have been working for most of my professional life towards. So why would I be concerned that CoOLs is going to come back and bite us on the bum!

Because it's not just about the VLN and its not just about CoOLs alone, its about being part of a whole system change, with some contentious neoliberal agendas in the mix.

The VLN Primary School has always been about providing equity and access to our learners where ever they are through online learning; the flip-side some see commercial providers using online learning as a tool to provide cheap online education to the masses.

The VLN Primary School has always been about collaboration across schools and building collective capacity, networks and relationships where all are contributing to the education and well being of our learners; the flip-side the imposition of networks across schools with a focus on standards based learning and accountability of achievement, this may change the unique character or rural education in NZ.

If you want to know more about what has been happening with Virtual Learning in New Zealand, and have some myths about online learning busted, then watch my EdTalks video, screened at ULearn16.

CENZ presents Rachel Whalley from EDtalks on Vimeo.

If you want to read some of the submissions about CoOLs made to the Science & Select Committee you can see them all in their entirety, or you can read notes from some key submissions that I have collated here. This will give you an idea of many of the concerns that are being put forward about CoOLs, some of which I agree with.

Rural New Zealand - A great place to live & learn

This video from Barbara Kuriger, MP for Taranaki/King Country, prompted me to think and write about my focus on Rural Education.

Barbara is responding to this type of media report "Tough choices ahead for small-town New Zealand". These sorts of articles appear regularly in our media "Regions must adapt or suffer decline, says academic" or how about this lovely headline "Zombie towns looming, leaders told".

I believe that with affordable land and housing AND access to super fast broadband, not to mention a better quality of life for families then we could see a demographic shift away from the cities back to the regions and rural areas.

More professionals are now working remotely and running their businesses from home. In 2015 The Future of Work Commission found that:
"30% of workers in New Zealand now work full or part time remotely. 11% of these stated they were working full time at home which is double when it was last measured by the company in 2006.
It found further expansion might be on the cards as well with 39% of people saying their work could be done remotely and 68% of those who don’t currently work at home would like to. One of the major advantages it identifies from this is that it would enable the person to live in a different town or city if they wanted to." [my emphasis]
People can live and work anywhere, they don't need to be stuck in the cities. A Rural Renaissance could be just around the corner!

With fast reliable internet, and collaboration across schools and communities our children can also can learn anywhere with anyone. The small rural school that is open, networked and collaborative now has greater teaching & learning capacity than it's urban counterparts.
"For the first time in history, school size, as measured by students in daily, physical attendance, is no longer a measure of a school's teaching capacity. In an open learning environment it is the extent to which a school is networked that determines its teaching and learning capacities." (Stevens and Stewart, 2005)
Stevens, K., & Stewart, D. (2005). Cybercells: learning in actual and virtual groups. Southbank,
Vic.: Thomson/Dunmore Press.

So why do i love rural schools?

Growing up in Rural NZ (Stratford, 1970)
  • Where else can you have fresh blackberries picked for you for morning tea;
  • Build tree huts in the shelter belt;
  • Play in piles of autumn leaves at break time;
  • Look after lambs in the staffroom;
  • Have a weeks worth of cross curricular learning originate from the school woodpile - technology, maths, science, reading;
  • Have the whole school come in camouflage at the start of the duck shooting season;
  • Go to the harbour for creative writing and have an elephant seal oblige for story starters;
  • Have bush camp for juniors (and all your kids);
  • Have a conservation reserve in the middle of your adventure playground when a rare stilt nests there;
  • Join in the docking in the paddock next door after lunch;
  • Care for the kiwi in your local area;
  • Tell your Mandarin teacher that you need to learn how to count past 10,000 because that's how many animals you have at home;
  • Have a school trip/treat to the end of the road to meet the Mr Whippy van that stops for all Eastern Taranaki schools on a Wednesday afternoon on the way to Whanga. (I don't know if this still happens :)