Pakuranga College’s strategic goal is to provide students with the skills, values, and attitudes they need to be successful now and in the future. Principal, Michael Williams explains how they use digital technologies as a tool to support that goal. He explains their long term plan is, based on gathering information from other schools, identifying good pedagogy and processes, and is built for the context of their school. All decisions are underpinned by their goal, “for us, it’s about good learning.”
Our strategic goal is a pretty simple one with a link to our mission statement, it’s about providing our kids with the skills, values, and attitudes they need to be successful now and in the future and that’s the fundamental for us. We often get asked how we use digital technologies to support that goal but I always take people back a step. And for us, to achieve that goal, it’s about quality learning and everything we do in the school. And for us there’s three main levers that we have a lot of control over, it’s what we teach our students, how we teach our students, and how we engage our students in the learning process.
Education should be relevant and authentic to our students so they’re linking it into our world now. Invariably, digital technologies is going to interact with those things. Digital technologies is not what we do, we use it to do what we want to do. When we unpack those three key levers, we look really closely at the curriculum and what we teach. Now, some of that impacts into digital technology so the strands within the curriculum where we’re actively addressing those issues. So for example, electronics into robotics. Much more impact starts to come through in how we teach. So as a teacher we’re thinking, “How can I get good learning happening here?”. That becomes a fundamental for us of everything we do.
We use an idea of adaptive expertise from Helen Timperly’s work, always thinking how can I do that differently? So, that is our key focus. When you start to then take that to the tools that are now available, so we start thinking, “How can I use this tool to achieve the outcome?”. And it’s the outcome that’s the critical thing. In our school, we’re not hung up on how we get there, we talk to the students about, “I want to achieve this outcome, I want you to demonstrate some learning to show me that you’ve learnt these ideas.” You can get to that outcome in lots of different ways. For us, that strategic approach around quality learning is really important. We, we’ve gone out, we’ve talked to people who are in front of us.
We’ve looked around at a lot of schools in New Zealand. We’ve gone to Victoria. Last year we took a group to California and looked at some of the schools in the United States. We look at what they’re doing and we bring it back and we look at it in our context. What would it look like? Because what might work in their context won’t work in our context. And, we also have to realise, this is not a simple solution. We’re talking about a long-term planning. For us as a school, we’ve been working on this journey for at least six years.
People sometimes want a simple solution and there isn’t one. It’s one that you’ll have to build in your context of what it looks like for you. One of the things in this evolution of where you’re going to, is clarity about what the end point is. For us, it’s about good learning and being really clear about what it is that that overall goal that we’ve got as a school is. That becomes our anchor all the time, our measure point and we think, are we still heading towards that, or are we getting side tracked on some flash bells and whistles or something that wasn’t really important? This is what it’s really about, it’s learning, preparing our kids for the world out there, the skills, values and attitudes they need to be successful, is this moving us towards that? And that’s what drives all of our thinking all the time.