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Leading eLearning at St Margaret's College

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Brian Woods, digital learning facilitator at St Margaret's College, outlines their approach to supporting students and teachers with eLearning. The process was disrupted by the Christchurch earthquake which prompted further thinking about the place of eLearning for students and teachers.


At the beginning we started very slowly, integrating laptops into our classes and we started off on a process of our International Baccalaureate students having laptops. We then have gradually over the past eight years started bringing on year nine students - and we did it as an opt in option which we had one laptop class at year nine. The success of that meant that the following year that three out of the five year nine classes opted in and after that it was a total opt in by all the school.

So initially it started off as a decision that was not made by the whole school but we had key staff who bought into it and were willing to integrate and use the laptops as part of their teaching and learning. Then from there I think other staff actually saw the benefits of what were happening and slowly bought into it as well. We had a bit of a hiccup called an earthquake and we then had to - the school was closed for four weeks. After about a week we thought we need to provide some online learning for the students. At that stage we didn't have a learning management system so we used FirstClass, which each class has its own conference folder on there, so teachers and students can exchange information and ideas. That was also used a lot for pastoral care and communication to the students about what was happening with school at the time. So suddenly the teachers went from a small group of teachers, that certain year levels integrating digital learning into their course, to suddenly everyone with the expectation of - 'Yes I need to provide some learning for all my classes and all year levels online.’ So it pushed things up an awful lot quicker than it otherwise would have been. Some of it wasn't sophisticated, some of it was, but it actually made all the staff rethink about, ‘Well how could I do what I usually do in front of the class and do it online?’

Where to next is - I think the earthquake has pushed us into implementing a learning management system which we are, as of yesterday I think, it's just gone live. So we'll be, for the rest of the year, we'll be working at implementing that. Staff have a lot of other pressures at the moment because of the earthquake but it's not stopping our path into incorporating IT into all classes throughout all year levels. The next step for us is to start implementing and getting PD on blended learning.

It's a slow process but I think we feel that it's better to get it right rather than rush it in and teachers don't like change. So if you can do one step at a time teachers feel familiar and happy with it then it will be more successful than just sitting rushing in saying you will have to do this. So we'll be starting off as a opt in volunteer scheme and getting those people enthused and then for them being able to show their practice to other staff within the school and then let it snowball from there.

Published on: 10 Apr 2012