Teachers discuss the impact of using the Virtual Learning Network on their professional development.
I think experiencing working within the cluster group and working with VLN has really shown what should be happening within the classrooms. It’s a great experience for us to learn, and therefore it can be a great experience for our students to learn. So it’s about modelling best practice, within our staff and our learning, and then transferring that into the classroom.
It’s made me realise that the kids know a lot about technology, more than what we know, so it’s made me change as a teacher, it’s made me believe that the kids need to move forward in this way. I need to upskill myself, and that’s almost in front of the kids. I need to be one step ahead of them all the time, which is where going onto VLN, there’s other people who are three steps ahead of me, so following on with what they say gives me that little edge against the kids, so they’re not, you know, biting at my heels all the time. So bringing the iPads into our classroom, and bringing blended e-learning into the classroom, has been really easy, because the kids actually know everything already. They’re very skilled on computers.
So, into my literacy programme I’ve put in things like Ether Pad. Kids can go on and write a story together, they can have five, ten, fifteen users onto just one pad on the computer, so I can give them a sentence starter and the kids can finish the story collaboratively together as a group, or they can just add their own bits, and look at other peoples writing, to see what they’re doing. There’s also a comment box on Ether Pad where they can talk about their learning with other people. Myself, as a teacher, can go on and make comments about how well they’ve done, what they’ve done, what they could improve, and that’s right then and there. I had a pad set up for my kids to write about the production, and that night at home I decided to go on and have a look and see what they were writing and there were actually three kids on there at home talking about their writing and doing work that was essentially homework but they hadn’t been told to do it. So, it sort of shows that they are enjoying it in class enough to want to do it at home which is really fun.
Going to blended e-learning workshops down at Mana Education has been really helpful. We go there, and facilitators come in and tell us all the different things, show us all the different tools that we can use in our classroom. So it kind of gives you, when you leave, you have a bit of a boost and you think “Oh I’m going to try that tomorrow”, and then when you do go back, and it does work, it’s really cool, and the kids are always really excited about working in this blended e-learning way, and this virtual way in the classroom. It’s not so much paper and pen anymore. They can go onto Word, and they can do their draft with track changes; you can see all of the editing, all of what you’d see with a red pen and a book, you can see on Word with, you know, on the computer which is really great.
So through working within this programme, with blended e-learning, I’ve been able to see effective practice in mentoring and introducing new learning to our staff. So, it’s given me ideas, and it’s also given me opportunities to support the facilitator by – at school people coming and asking questions, people who, some staff have felt there’s a lot of learning for them to do, so they’ve come to see me and I’ve got alongside them, I’m working in their classrooms with them, and sort of, we’re together identifying some small steps that they’re going to do for their professional learning, first of all, and then how that can be transferred into their classrooms. It’s also people who have been completely excited by what we’ve been doing, as a development, and wanting to go further. It’s just been fantastic professional discussion for us, and a question comes up, we go “Gosh we don’t know”, and so we’ll pop into VLN and see what’s happening in there, and to see if there’s some discussions, and do some learning that way.
My next steps would be to grow the confidence, gain the confidence to actually post on VLN. I’ve got a lot of questions that I probably need answers to, so having that confidence to ask questions, and get the feedback, and start discussions would be really beneficial for me.