In the ever-changing landscape that is Christchurch post-earthquake, schools are focused more than ever on working collaboratively together to raise student achievement. Rebuilding and restructuring creates a natural backdrop for the development of modern learning pedagogies and spaces. Schools, like those in the Hornby Cluster, recognise the potential that digital technologies can offer their students - especially in the area of literacy development.
The Learning with Digital Technologies (LwDT) programme supports school leaders and teachers to improve student outcomes through the effective utilisation of e-learning. Facilitators work with schools, often in small teams, and support key aspects of teamwork and collaboration from the outset. LwDT facilitators model the practices of individual and collective inquiry informed by learning data. The e-learning Planning Framework (eLPF) and Te Rangitukutuku, the Maori Medium eLPF are used to support school-level strategic planning and to scaffold each school’s incremental steps towards success in the field of e-learning capability.
Over 5600 teachers/leaders from 258 schools/kura, including 28 Māori-medium, have been supported by LwDT in-depth professional learning and development (PLD) in 2015. These schools have a total of nearly 70 000 students. For more information and impact see the .
The Hornby Cluster (one secondary school, seven primary schools) is actively involved in the Learning with Digital Technologies programme, as well as the Manaiakalani Cluster outreach and Five Communities project, which requires some collaboration within and between PLD providers. There is an overarching focus on the process of change management and leadership development with a collective concentration on, 'How the cluster schools can collaborate more effectively to accelerate achievement in writing?' At times these projects dovetail each other to support the goals outlined above, including the need to address quality assessment and feedback practices, which in turn drives effective teaching pedagogies.
LwDT facilitators have been supporting e-leaders in the cluster (who in-turn work with teachers and students in their classrooms) with a particular focus around the effective use of digital technologies to support literacy development. This unified goal is addressed individually in each school within classroom, syndicate, faculty or school-wide contexts. While leadership and assessment PLD has concentrated on using e-asTTle to tease out literacy data to inform future practice, the LwDT team have facilitated learning conversations by asking, "What have you learned about your learners from the data and how can we now start to address that through the use of digital tools?"
One case: Hornby High School
There is a high ratio of Māori and Pasifika students across the school. After the restructuring of schools, 2015 is the full year where Hornby High School now caters for Year 7/8 students. Initial actions were undertaken at the beginning of the year to analyse the collective data (e-asTTle, running records, National Standards) which indicated a majority of learners were achieving, 'well below' and 'below' for literacy. It was also recognised that digital technologies were currently being underutilised to support or enhance literacy achievement. Therefore the priority for the school has been to 'increase students’ proficiency in academic writing by developing a coherent writing programme across levels'.
LwDT facilitator Ray Burkhill has been working with year 7/8 teachers, exploring the potential of existing digital devices (groups of iPads, Chromebooks) in literacy. In the initial visits, Ray observed how teachers were currently using technologies, acknowledged effective practice and ascertained what they were aspiring to do with the tools, for example, students using technology to give and receive constructive feedback on the writing process.
Processes for providing quality feedback during writing has been recognised as a key driver for raising student achievement in literacy. Collaboration with CPL partners has meant cluster PLD sessions have focused on quality feedback (see Google presentation) as well the introduction of appropriate e-tools (Voicethread, Google docs) to support peer/peer, learner/teacher and child/whānau feedback throughout the writing process.
Outcomes for leaders
There is an expectation for e-Leaders to engage in a teacher and/or leadership inquiry and teachers have taken on board the process and are now trialing and applying new content knowledge and teaching pedagogies in classroom. e-Leader Terry Mitchell has undertaken a professional inquiry into ways to support students to think about the audience they were writing for and how to use collaborative tools such as Google docs as a mechanism for providing critical feedback during the writing process. Story hui is a qualitative process for visualising progress during the inquiry process. The representation and explanation for Terry's inquiry is as follows:
We printed a hard copy of the story based on a persuasive writing template and space for feedback by two writing partners to be given on the hard copy. Original groups were too big, 3 is ideal. We are talking more about what quality feedback is and students are recognising when the feedback is not useful. Perceptions about writing is also being measured (start and end) and talking about how taking on feedback is helping to change those perceptions. Students are now valuing feedback and actively seeking it. (Terry Mitchell e-leader)
Teacher practice is much more targeted, pedagogically driven, rather than technologically driven with a focus on scaffolding specific critical feedback skills for students during the writing process. Next steps, are to involve grouping a small number of students with a common, very specific writing focus, so they can engage in tightly focused feedback conversations. Watch this space for more developments in this area.
Outcomes for students
Teachers are starting to see students gaining the confidence to coach and mentor each other throughout the writing process. In the sound recording on the left, Ray explains how the digital tools have created opportunities for students to engage with each other about their writing in new, more productive and constructive ways than previously.
Ray reflects that as a result of sharing during a recent cluster hui there was "almost a sense of relief" when e-leaders heard each other's stories as they soon realised they were very similar in terms of progress made across the cluster. There's an understanding that everyone is in this journey together and as a result, e-leaders are starting to make connections with each other to continue the sustainability of their own learning, within and between the cluster schools.