Friday, September 25, 2009

Integrating e-learning - leading the change

Integrating e-learning across a school is challenging and complex. It is really important that the principal and other school leaders understand the complexity of the change process. I have been principal of my school for 18 months and what we are trying to do to implement e-learning across the school actually challenges the existing systems and infrastructure on many levels. Change is always challenging - and can be quite an emotional journey with many ups and downs. I think this brilliant clip expresses what can be a stressful roller coaster ride associated when making changes to integrate e-learning in our schools really well.

Dean Fink (2004, p3) argued that: ‘Leadership for learning is not a destination with fixed co-ordinates on a compass, but a journey with plenty of detours and even some dead ends. Effective educational leaders are continuously open to new learning because the journey keeps changing. Their maps are complex and can be confusing. What leaders require for this journey is a set of interrelated learnings looking at school leadership in a holistic rather than reductionist way. These learnings can be deepened, elaborated, nurtured, abandoned, and connected and related to other learnings as the journey progresses.’

We have introduced deliberate changes with many detours to encourage our teachers to be reflective practitioners engaging in strengthening effective integration of e-learning with the new curriculum

At our school we are promoting as part of our teaching and learning philospophy:

  • Habits of Mind (Costa & Kallick 2005)
  • The school inquiry learning model
  • Assessment for Learning Pedagogy
  • Student Led Conferences

Incorporating ICTs into administration ( in 2009 we have introduced electronic register, remote access, changes to reports, remote access from home, new electronic smart boards, online calendars, timetables etc, Online Learning Environment )

While integrating ICTs into administration is seen as easier that integrating e-learning into teaching and learning what has been achieved in 2009 was fraught with technical difficulties and has caused many frustrations. Teachers and students will not persevere and continue to try to use equipment that is either faulty or difficult, so keeping the systems problem-free has been very difficult.

The extent of the changes that we have embedded over the last year to encourage integration of e learning into curriculum and improving pedagogy at our school has been wide ranging.
These include:

  • Making the change to the New Zealand Curriculum
  • Assessment for Learning whole school contract
  • Numeracy Catch Up whole school programme
  • Changing the school management structure to give the ICT / Curriculum Manager high status
  • Creating new roles – including e-learning team leaders, Assessment for Learning Team leaders – roles that support the curriculum development, pedagogy and e-learning integration
  • ICT team leaders, one person in a year across teams, work regularly and systematically with teachers in their team
  • A rigourous professional development meeting schedule that addresses what e-learning is, what it isn’t and why it must happen.
  • Changing resourcing to ensure equity of access to technology across teaching teams to support e-learning ( electronic boards, data projectors, COW, mini books)
  • Team planning meetings on Classroom Release Days to encourage collaboration and a culture of support
  • Team planning meetings emphasise pedagogy, integrated curriculum, habits of mind, inquiry model and e-learning
  • Rewarding the early adaptors – (with status and resources)
  • Supporting staff who are prepared to take risks – (opportunities to attend courses, showcasing work)
  • Fostering change through opportunity to participate in the digital classroom project
  • Changing the planning expectations to ensure learning opportunities are based on authentic learning opportunities, habits of mind, new curriculum , e- learning, integrated approach.
  • ICT / Curriculum leader and Deputy Principal (current Acting Principal) leading learning – attending planning meetings , leading discussions about pedagogy and learning
  • Insisting on student led conferences rather than teacher led conferences
  • Parent meetings promoting the pedagogy and learning philosophy (evenings on assessment for learning, habits of mind, e-learning, cybersafety and student led conferences.
  • Mandatory class weekly reflections on learning posted on Knowledge Net.

What we are trying to do is to create a learning environment that encourages a metacognitive and constructivist approach to teaching and learning and loading teachers with lots of professional development around the concepts that we want incorporated in teaching and learning.

In terms of ICTs our teachers have been involved in the following in 2009:

  • Skills development:( knowledge-net, school reports, cyber- safety, smart boards, remote access)
  • Communication tools: (e-mails, bulletin boards on knowledge net)
    Administration tools on the network and knowledge net: (Calendar, booking rooms, help files, minutes, electronic register, remote access and updating files and reports from school to home, cybersafety protocols, shared learning resources)
  • Workshops promoting the school vision, and understanding the nature of e-learning integration with teaching, learning and pedagogy
  • Reviewing curriculum statements and reflecting on planning practices
  • School appraisal system and observations focus on the school pedagogy philosophy revied.
    Management team have had professional development on mentoring, coaching through University of Auckland and Principals Leadership Centre and Assessment for Learning professional development.

Where to Next?

Dias (2007, 11) suggests that e-learning needs to be “used in a seamless manner to support and extend curriculum objectives in a seamless manner to support and extend curriculum objectives and to engage in students in meaningful learning. It is not something one does separately; it is part of the daily activities taking place in the classroom.

The Ministry of Education publication Digital Horizons: Learning Through ICT: A Strategy for Schools, This publication advocates “systematic opportunities to develop digital and information literacy, and enjoy using ICT creatively and critically in extending their horizons and growing as lifelong learners.” (2003, p12)

Cleaverley (2004) promotes the idea that schools have successfully integrated ICTs into their curriculum when they align higher order thinking skills and the teachers capacity to utilize a range of teaching strategies.

Moyle, (2006) advocates that “ a team-based approach to leadership, where the leadership capabilities of others are fostered and developed and the leadership responsibilities are shared was identified as a useful strategy for identifying the extent an complexity of the work involved in incorporating ICT into teaching and learning.”

Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2009) in their TPACK framework for planning for e-learning integration suggest that teachers hold planning meetings to collaboratively develop the types of e-learning activities that support specific learning goals and pedagogy. This will provide a team approach to systematically improving focus on the pedagogy while improving the range of ICTs utilised for teaching and learning as a next step on our e-learning journey.

For example if the learning intention was around using descriptive language and one of the learning activities was to write a poem a set of possible e-learning activities could be:

  • Create collaborative poems on Google Docs or Knowledge Net – and include reflections on the success criteria and habits of mind
  • Class Blog of students poetry , where students post their poems and reflect on the success criteria for their own and partners poems. Include habits of mind reflections.
  • Use digital cameras to take pictures around school that relate to their poem, create a photo story presentation and include their learning reflections as above. Post on class blog.
  • Children present their poems on Movie Maker – followed by interviews by a partner to present their reflections. Embed in class blog.

Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2009,7) TPACK “approach is designed to help teachers to plan effective, efficient, and engaging learning experiences for their students. The process is based upon a series of deliberate,balanced, and well-informed pedagogical choices, which, when taken together, can result in an instructionally effective plan for students’ learning that incorporates digital and non-digital tools and resources in appropriate ways.”

Following the planning, the ICT team leaders supported by the ICT co-ordinator can provide team based professional development at the team level around the chosen learning experiences, incorporating peer to peer workshops, observations and coaching to encourage the shift from the lesson planning to adoption in the classroom.

This logic of strengthing teacher planning aligns with the five critical elements essential for developing a culture of support for building a professional community in schools identified by Kruse, et el, (1994, p2): “Reflective dialogue, de-privatization of practice, a collective focus on student learning, collaboration and shared norms and values.

This revision of the e-learning development plan will address the commitment to meaningfully integrate e-learning with the new school curriculum and achieve our goal of embarking on an exciting journey – Utilising ICTs to transform learning : To ensure our school students are digitally capable and confident learners.

This support will go a long way towards challenging our teachers to make the changes needed and commit to the intregrating e-learning into teaching and learning and make it happen.

Cleverley, B (2004). Practical straegies to consident when integrating ICT
into new entrant classrooms. Computers in New Zealand Schools, 16(1),

Costa, A. & Kallick, B 2005. Habits of Mind, [accessed
2007, September 20]

Dias, L. B. (1999). Integrating technology: Some things you should know. Learning and Leading with Technology, 27 (3), 11 – 13, 21

Fink . D (2004) Best Practice: A technocrats dream. Article accessed from ICP

Harris, J., & Hofer, M. (2009). Instructional planning activity types as vehicles for curriculum-based TPACK development. In C. D. Maddux, (Ed.). Research highlights in technology and teacher education 2009 (pp. 99-108). Chesapeake, VA: Society for Information Technology in Teacher Education (SITE).

Kruse, S., Louis, K.S., & Bryke, A.S. (1994) Building professional learning communities.Madison, WI: Centre on Organization and Restructuring of Schools

Ministry of Education. (2002) Digital horizons: Learning through ICT: A strategy
for schools. Wellington: Learning Media Limited

Ministry of Education. (2006) Enabling the 21st century learner. An e-learning
action plan for schools 2006-2010. Wellington: Learning Media Limited

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media Limited

Moyle, K. (2006) Leadership and Learning with ICT, Voices from the Profession. [On-line] Accessed 24 September 2009.

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