As our cluster is spread across a wide Christchurch area, it was important to provide our students and teachers with an opportunity to collaborate and communicate, particularly for the full primary schools connecting with the intermediate schools. An online environment seemed perfect.
In the first year of our cluster a focus was placed on providing teachers with the tools to engage family/whanau in school communities. Constructing a collaborative cluster wikispace was the ideal way to target these needs. The wikispace was set up to cover each year group across Years 1-8. The context was ‘Games’, particularly games creation, and it had a strong link to Physical Education.
The original ICT PD goal 3 was: ‘Strengthen professional learning communities and increased collaboration within and across schools’. The collaborative wikispace would target this collaboration and give teachers a ‘real life’ focus for their teaching and own professional development.
The original intention was for students to have the opportunity to collaborate with others in the cluster through digital presentations of the games they were playing in their classrooms. This in turn would promote effective teaching practice in PE through peer reflection opportunities.
A lead teacher with a background in Physical Education Teacher Training set up the framework for planning and assessment and with help from the eTime cluster facilitator, an online environment (wiki) was created for immediate collaboration. Cluster members were familiar with using wikis after workshops for engaging whanau earlier in the year. With support from the lead teams and the cluster facilitator, classrooms uploaded digital content to the wiki and evaluated other contributions, providing feedback.
You can see evidence of that here: Click on the image
The original collaborative hope was for the Year 6-8 students from full primary schools to interact with peers from other schools, particularly the Intermediate schools. This in itself was reasonably successful from a wider authentic audience perspective. Where it really took off was in the middle-junior schools where students were particularly excited about sharing what happened in their classes and teachers were challenged to deconstruct how they were teaching movement in P.E. The wiki became an insight into how, with strong critical reflection, teaching and learning could be improved without being the focal point. Almost an underlying level of change.
A variety of digital media was uploaded which demonstrated teachers and students were using tools they were comfortable with (from an elearning perspective). This also made for a more interesting viewing experience for the users.
It’s clear upon reflection conversations with teachers that collaboration amongst whole school environments is a bigger challenge that was first thought in our cluster. Its obvious looking at the wiki that it became a fantastic resource for teachers and an exciting opportunity for students to engage in an authentic e-learning context. The context itself would have succeeded in a class, but taking it to a wider audience was the real success. We were not only dealing with traditional opinions on ‘using the computer in class’ but also how Physical Education can be a far more engaging experience for kids when teachers are challenged to consider the way it is taught.
In order for an initiative like this to ‘work on the ground level’ and grow into it’s potential, requires an in-depth understanding of the structures required to provide time and access to support teachers and students, when needed. If this were to be repeated it would be beneficial to devote more time with support teams developing the internal model that will ensure a successful roll out into a wider range of participants. This would ensure support structures were in place across the cluster and the project content would be contributed to, from a wider group.
All involved would agree that there was a larger element of ‘users’ and ‘viewers’ than ‘contributors’ – particularly in the larger schools. But those who were active ‘contributors’ enjoyed the platform and this probably aligns with the reality of all collaborative forums - being that the confident and supported will contribute, the less confident will watch.
You can see the reflective process here and the two-fold impact that it created for teaching and learning: Click
Reflective comments prove that this was a challenging experience for teachers as they were forced to self-critique their own teaching of an element of the curriculum. With a video camera present and content to be added for a wider audience, this definitely challenged general teaching practices; not to mention asking for feedback from their own students and even having students providing feedback from other schools and age groups.