Blended Learning Project: A summary

The personalised learning activity in action

It was great to finally get things under way after soooo much planning.  The first day went fine, although there were a few issues…

A good start with virtually all the teachers making it to the University without too many hitches.  We started with an overview of the project where we examined the idea of personalised learning and how blended can play a part in enabling this.  It was really nice to see a lot of positive body language from the teachers, although whether they all fully understood is another thing (more on that later)

This was followed by an activity where teachers split into groups and brainstormed “you are going to reflect on what needs to change in your teaching, your school, the national education system and your learners”. This was an activity that I have seen work well in past and did again today, although time did become an issue.

One problem we had for the first day especially, was access to the network at the university.  While many were able to get on without a hassle, others had continued problems.  An issue to consider for future face to face days.

After lunch the group spent time learning Mahara. An important part of this project is the teachers developing their own ePortfolio which will detail the journey they take over the three years. One thing we were very conscious of over these four days was not leading the teachers by the nose. It was very important that they were self-reliant and able to work together to learn any new tools. This sort of approach did cause some angst though. The main problem was that the teachers didn’t really understand why they were doing it. Not that we hadn’t articulated the reasons why, but we obviously hadn’t spent enough time on it. It is something we returned to in day three after talking to the group.

Some progress was made though and the 7x9s at the end of the day were a real highlight. It was an activity that we finished each day with and involved each teacher presenting something of their choice to the rest of the group. It proved to be a real highlight of the four days and it was extremely interesting to see the range of stuff being done in the classroom.

Great for the group to be learning off each other. What this project is about after all.

The next couple of days focused on tool sets.  There was a lot of choice available to teachers, but the vast majority went for Moodle in the first session, while a small group went off and explored other things.  The Moodle group was led (yes we did decide to do a bit of that after day one) through the basics of using a Moodle course.  It became fairly clear that we had a diverse group on our hands, but it was heartening to see those who knew a bit more help the others.

These tool sets continued throughout the next two days and it was good to see other tools being explored and learnt.  Google Apps certainly created quiet a buzz and it helped to have our resident expert from Akaroa Area School Yvonne demonstrate what she has been doing with this tool.  Interesting to note how many of the teachers our now using Google Apps with their classes.

One of the highlights of the four days was Wayne Mackintosh’s presentation, Wednesday morning.  Wayne is well known for his work around open source resources and leads the Wikieducator project.  He was quite inspirational and the timing couldn’t have been better in terms of giving the group a lift.  From there things just moved forward in a very positive way and although we all finished quite shattered, it proved to be quite an experience for everyone.

All in all the four days were an excellent start to the project.  I think one of the most important gains was the development of a community who were willing to engage in meaningful discussion and share their expertise.  The development of community is vital for the continued success of the project.  Much of what we will do in terms of learning is built around Wenger’s ideas of “communities of practice”.  Things will go wrong, but if everyone is helping and sharing then teachers will cope.

Not that all quite understood where to go from here…

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