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Leading e-Learning

NZC Online

“Schools should explore not only how ICT can supplement traditional ways of teaching but also how it can open up new and different ways of learning.”

The New Zealand Curriculum p. 36  

As principals lead their communities and schools in developing and reviewing their school curriculum, it is essential that there is a clear statement of intent regarding the use of digital technologies to support and transform learning.

Laptop on desk.

Specific leadership strategies fall into the following broad approaches:

  • Developing a school-wide understanding of the role and importance of digital technologies to enable successful learning for all students. 
  • Developing a school vision that prepares students for the future, which is supported by the use of digital technologies. 
  • Modelling technology use by senior leaders in the school, as well as making sure teachers appreciate and experience new technologies as learners themselves before being expected to use them in classrooms.
  • Encouraging teachers to take risks and use technologies in innovative and meaningful ways to improve student learning. 
  • Making the most of available technology.

Extending innovative e-learning leadership

Educational consultant, Julia Atkin, discusses the process of leading e-learning in a school. She explains the importance of creating a shared vision, developing a vision that reflects the competencies students need to develop, and the importance of identifying the staff's educational needs to ensure the vision can be put into practice.

"In our school, leadership ensures the whole staff is involved in e-learning strategic planning." 
e-Learning Planning Framework

Managing successful change

This diagram shows all the key components involved in managing successful change and the symptoms if one is missing.

Managing complex change diagram

See also: Educational Leaders – Leading and managing change

"Our school regularly reviews processes and systems for managing e-learning across the curriculum."

e-Learning Planning Framework

Staff meeting.

Key considerations

Start by establishing a clear structure for leading e-learning

  • How do you ensure the learning needs of all your students are being met? 
  • How is e-learning reflected in your school vision?
  • How are you engaging with your school community?
  • What systems have you put in place for ongoing professional learning and development?

Practical steps

How e-learning is led in your school should be clearly structured and understood

  • Establish a clear structure that shares responsibility for leading e-learning across the school and which involves senior leadership.
  • Select key personnel with clear roles and responsibilities for leading and supporting learning with digital technologies – develop e-leaders in your school.
  • Support individuals, teams, and whole-school staff development through planned and targeted professional learning opportunities.
  • Make sure organisational systems (time, space, infrastructure) are in place for the sustainable leadership of e-learning across the school.
  • Provide teachers with time and guidance to inquire into their practice and understand how they can use digital technologies to improve student learning, including a focus on using digital technologies to support learners at risk of not achieving.
  • Align reflection and review cycles to teacher learning and appraisal to sustain successful e-learning across your school.

In our school, the staff is actively involved in the review of our vision and rationale for e-learning

e-Learning Planning Framework

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Irene Cooper, principal of Hillcrest Normal School in Hamilton, talks about using the e-Learning Planning Framework as a basis for their strategic planning. 

What is strategic planning?

Strategic planning is the systematic process of:

  • envisioning a desired future
  • translating this vision into broadly defined goals
  • determining a sequence of steps to achieve these.

Getting started with strategic planning and e-Learning

Principals and school leaders

  • Form a strategy development committee to make sure that the school and community are involved in developing and reviewing the strategic plan for e-learning.
  • Identify the strategic gap between where you are now and your vision. Make judgments based on evidence – such as classroom practice, school documentation, audits, and feedback. Create clear, measurable goals (with actions, responsibilities, and timeframes) to move forward.
  • Ensure your e-learning strategy aligns with and is embedded in:
    • your school charter goals
    • annual school-wide strategy
    • the policies and practices related to diverse learner needs (Māori, Pasifika, gifted and talented, special needs)
    • financial plans – infrastructure, resources, budgets (short term, mid and long term)
    • professional learning and development needs
    • classroom planning and implementation.
  • Establish evidence-based reflection and review processes (aligned with teacher performance and appraisal) to review progress through your e-learning action plan. You should be able to describe the impact on students’ learning and achievement.


  • Be proactive about being part of the strategic planning process – show commitment, ownership, and contribution.
  • Put the strategy into action through careful planning and classroom practice.
  • Set your professional e-learning goals so they align with the school’s strategic direction and review them as part of your appraisal.
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Forming your e-Leadership team

The size of your school will affect how many e-leaders you will have and whether you create an e-leadership team, which may include your technical support, communications person, and e-mentors, e-coordinators, or e-leaders.

Practical steps in developing e-leaders

  • Identify staff members who are excited by/have strengths in using digital technologies to enhance student learning.
  • Develop clear roles and responsibilities for leading and supporting learning with digital technologies.
  • Support e-leaders with their own professional learning, this may be through sharing across a cluster, Kāhui Ako, or providing them with time for their own research.
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“Relationships are essential - the ability to establish and maintain genuine and respectful relationships with staff, students, Board of Trustees, and parents/whānau, as well as wider community and professional groups, is pivotal for innovation, change and productive outcomes”

Extending innovative e-learning leadership

The ISTE Standards for Education Leaders provide a framework for guiding digital age learning. Use it to explore the knowledge, skills and behaviors to develop as an e-learning leader.

Allister Williamson describes his role as e-Learning coordinator at Pakuranga College, which involves overseeing their professional learning programme. They have systems in place to support teachers with learning to use digital technologies effectively. These include - whole school audits of capability, a system of rubrics to support teachers with next steps for learning, and a professional learning programme based on teacher inquiry supported by e-mentors.

Sandy Bornholdt talks about her role as an e-learning coordinator and explains how she is working with kaiako to incorporate e-learning and STEAM in the classroom at Matapihi School, a full immersion kura. Sandy has enjoyed developing her cultural capability as part of the role. She brings strengths that can support kaiako to realise the potential that digital technologies bring.

Leading teacher PLD

In a continuously evolving digital landscape, the role of the e-leader can be crucial.

Teachers meeting.

By taking a leading role in ongoing professional development an effective e-leader can support deep learning enabled by digital technologies through:

  • researching, sharing, and modelling the effective use of digital technologies
  • reviewing e-learning strategies from different pedagogical perspectives
  • supporting teachers with their inquires
  • supporting teachers to take risks
  • promoting collaboration between teachers, teams, and school clusters in teacher planning
  • supporting teachers with using tools such as the SAMR model  to understand how digital technologies can impact on teaching and learning
  • increasing digital fluency and confidence, and reducing fear among staff by organising participation in hands-on professional development activities and modelling the use of new and existing technologies

Woodend School Deputy Principal, Adriene Simpson explains how to use the spiral of inquiry as a framework to identify how to move forward with innovative learning practices and learning with digital technologies. She highlights the importance of their e-leaders in this process.

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Building teaching capability

Achieving e-learning goals

Simply giving students access to digital technologies is not enough to make effective use of digital resources. An effective e-leader supports teachers to and students to collaborate and seek deeper learning outcomes using digital tools and resources.

Goals and actions for leading e-learning should be based on improving student learning outcomes. The table provides examples of goals and actions for e-learning. 

Pedagogical goals for e-learning  Strategies and actions for achieving e-learning goals                                
  • Increase student agency

Develop systems for students to define their own learning goals and seek out the digital tools they need to achieve them, for example:

  • graphic organisers to scaffold students into organising their learning
  • flip learning  – so students can preview, review and revisit key concepts
  • Encourage students to become active creators of knowledge
Provide access to digital tools for students to create and share their learning
  • Provide opportunities for collaborative learning – teacher-student, student-student, student and experts both inside and outside the classroom
Use collaborative digital tools
  • Identify and remove barriers to learning and provide an inclusive environment
Identify how digital technologies can be used to support all students to participate fully in the school curriculum
  • Support students to set realistic goals and be reflective learners
Digital tools can be used by students to collate, display, evaluate, and reflect on their work, as well as take control of their own learning
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Building and maintaining parent and community relationships

An effective e-leader can build communication with parents and community partners by:      

  • using social media to engage with parents, whānau, and the community  by updating school events on school websites, blogs, Twitter and/or Facebook
  • using digital technologies and social media to build a sense of school culture, for example, by encouraging students to promote school values by performing them in dance, filming it, and making the video available on the school website/Facebook page
  • maintaining a school YouTube channel that showcases events, student movie-making, and learning
  • using social media to increase student voice by allowing them to take control of projects and show them to the community
  • using blogs and e-portfolio platforms to place student work online to keep parents connected to their child’s learning
  • managing the ethical use of social media in schools by forming a social media policy
  • using collaborative tools to help staff work together with other schools, clusters, other institutions, and community groups
  • developing policy and systems for digital citizenship and cybersafety.

Teacher, Nicki Fielder and students from Apiti School explain the different social media tools they use to connect with parents and the wider community. These are all housed within a Weebly and have been selected for specific purposes. They include:

  • wikis for student e-portfolios
  • blogs for sharing student writing
  • a school YouTube channel to house all the student-created videos.
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Videos of New Zealand schools sharing their e-learning leadership. Use the filters to select videos relevant to your situation.

Planning for success for Māori across the Katote cluster

Planning for success for Māori across the Katote cluster

Supporting Māori learners success is one of Katote clusters goals. Woodend School principal, Graeme Barber discusses the process of inviting feedback from whānau. 

Planning for change

Planning for change

Graeme Barber, Principal at Woodend School, discusses the importance of having a shared vision as your prepare for change. When planning their new build, the community was involved.

BYOD – Planning your digital strategy

BYOD – Planning your digital strategy

Michael Williams, principal Pakuranga College, discusses some of the key questions they worked through when developing their digital strategy.

Supporting successful BYOD implementation

Supporting successful BYOD implementation

e-Learning co-ordinator, Allistair Williamson explains key steps for implementing BYOD at Pakuranga College. 

Planning for success – Be clear about your purpose

Planning for success – Be clear about your purpose

The principal and deputy principal of Pakuranga College talk about planning for successful implementation of BYOD across the school.

Pedagogy underpins practice in an innovative learning environment

Pedagogy underpins practice in an innovative learning environment

Gavin Burn and Cathie Zelas explain their process of moving from a traditional learning environment to an innovative learning environment at Halswell School.

Student working with teacher

Student agency challenges

Year 13 English students from Nelson College for Girls discuss the challenges of working in an agentic environment. Students share their experiences of increased learner agency, the role of the teacher, course planning, and the need to balance agency and expectations.

Students working together

Students owning their learning

Year 5 and 6 students at Hampden Street School talk about the positive impact student agency is having on their learning, how it’s changing their interactions with teachers and classmates, and the resulting lift in their motivation, engagement, and achievement.

The Leamington learner

The Leamington learner

The Leamington Learner concept, or dispositions, is the school’s strategic focus and foundation for enhanced achievement. Owned by the school community, technological capability is an integral component.

Developing e-learning at Hillcrest

Developing e-learning at Hillcrest High School

e-Learning teacher Mervyn Cook, from Hillcrest High School, discusses the connect between teachers and students engaging with technology to support e-learning.

The e-learning coordinator and principal working together

The e-learning coordinator role at Matapihi School

Sandy Bornholdt talks about her role as an e-learning coordinator and explains how she is working with kaiako to incorporate e-learning and STEAM in the classroom.

Three students sitting on the floor using iPads and one student sitting on a seat using an iPad

Matapihi School vision for using digital technologies to support connections with the wider world

School principal, Tui Yeager, talks about how they have been deepening students’ understanding of Te Marautanga o Aotearoa through digital technologies and the steps they have taken to do this.

Teachers working together at a table

Collaborative practice – Kaiako planning and learning together

e-Learning coordinator, Sandy Bornholdt, explains how their planning and PLD supports their design learning model and collaborative practices.

Two students working on laptops wearing green headphones

STEAM at Matapihi School – Setup and approach

e-Learning coordinator, Sandy Bornholdt, talks about how they teach STEAM in their school. They introduce different elements of STEAM each term, starting by teaching students how to be responsible users of IT.

Starting a makerspace

Starting a makerspace

Stephen Lethbridge (former principal) and teachers explain why and how they developed a makerspace at Taupaki School. (Filmed September 2015)

Hereora leaders discuss shared plans and goals

Hereoa – Clarifying goals using spirals of inquiry

Hereora cluster leaders discuss how the spirals of inquiry has been a useful tool to develop focus and coherence across the cluster. 

Hereora: Discussing future-focused collaboration

Hereora – A future-focused collaboration

Hereora leaders share how their cluster wide future-focused inquiry is providing students with opportunities to have agency over decisions around learning.

Hereora leaders share cluster development

Hereora – Becoming a truly collaborative cluster

Hereora cluster leaders share how a collaborative and future-focused inquiry has supported new cluster goals and a shared vision.

Strategic planning for e-learning

Strategic planning for e-learning

Irene Cooper, principal of Hillcrest Normal School in Hamilton, talks how e-learning helps to engage differently with students.

Orewa College - A vision for e-learning

Orewa College – A vision for e-learning

Mark Quigley, Deputy Principal, and Tony Zaloum, Director ICT Projects, explain their vision for e-learning as they embark on implementing BYOD for Year 9 students at Orewa College.

Implementing iPads in school - professional development

Implementing iPads in school – professional development

Grant's Braes School principal, Chris McKinlay describes how iPads were introduced first to staff then into the classroom.

Julia Atkin

Leading e-learning

Educational consultant, Julia Atkin, discusses the process of leading e-learning in a school. She explains the importance of creating a shared vision that reflects the competencies students need to develop, and identifying teacher needs to ensure the vision can be put into practice.

Technology supporting the school vision

Technology supporting the school vision

Principal Melissa Bell describes St Hilda's school vision and how it is supported and enabled by technology.

Selecting a device for BYOD

Selecting a device for BYOD

Michael Williams and Billy Merchant from Pakuranga College, explain their change in pedagogy from telling students which device to purchase to being "device agnostic". 

Professional learning – e-Learning coordinator role

Professional learning – e-Learning coordinator role

Allister Williamson explains his role as e-Learning coordinator at Pakuranga College, which involves overseeing their professional learning programme.

Jane Danielson

Role of the e-learning leader

Jane Danielson, principal of Hingaia Peninsula School, explains the role of their e-learning leader.

Planning the new build, a school and community partnership

Planning the new build, a school and community partnership

Halswell School principal, Bruce Topham explains key steps in planning and building an innovative learning environment that is part of the community.

Support for teachers

Support for teachers

Principal Melissa Bell and the e-learning leaders at St Hilda's Collegiate describe the professional development they have in place to support teachers with teaching and learning.

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e-Learning Planning Framework

The framework provides school leaders with:

  • a self-review tool for schools to gather evidence about practice
  • a road map for building e-learning capability
  • a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of e-learning programmes
  • resources and services to support schools as they build capability.

Educational leaders

Wherever you are in your leadership career, you should find information and ideas that help you to solve day-to-day problems and support your professional learning.

  • The future schools and innovation section provides current research and readings on leading and managing change.
  • Mentoring and coaching  – information and resources to support school leaders with mentoring and coaching by a peer partner.
  • Leading learning – resources to support creating a culture of sustained improvement.
  • Eight forces for leaders of change  – This article from Educational Leaders by Michael Fullan, Claudia Cuttress, and Ann Kilcher, outlines eight forces for managing the change process, and contains suggested topics for discussion and evaluation. This information is useful for those beginning a phase of change. It provides a useful reading to share with staff so that they understand the various stages in the process of implementing change in a school.
Education council logo

The Leadership Strategy for the teaching profession of Aotearoa New Zealand
The Leadership Strategy supports the growth and development of leadership capability for all registered teachers across English medium and Māori medium settings, in positional and non-positional roles. The Strategy sets out a guiding framework for teachers to develop their leadership capability – aiming to make leadership development accessible to everyone.
Author: Education Council NZ
Published: August 2018

Education council logo

The Educational Leadership Capability Framework
The Capability Framework is designed to support the Leadership Strategy to advance educational leadership in Aotearoa New Zealand. It outlines the core educational capabilities needed for effective leadership across different levels of the profession. The Capability Framework provides all teachers with a practical tool to identify, grow, and develop their leadership capability. It illustrates what leadership looks like in practice, in kura, schools, and early childhood education services.
Author: Education Council NZ
Published: August 2018

Education review office

Leading innovative learning in New Zealand Schools
The Education Review Office (ERO) visited 12 schools to see how they were preparing their students as 21st-century learners.

Extending innovative e-learning leadership

Extending innovative e-learning leadership  

This 2015 study by Niki Davis, Julie Mackey, and Carolyn Stuart gives examples of how schools in New Zealand are using digital technologies to enable e-learning.

OECD (2015), Students, computers and learning: Making the connections, Pisa, OECD publishing

For a broad overview of current international trends in ICT infrastructure, see this OECD report.

School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why – best evidence synthesis (BES)

The big finding of the BES is that when school leaders promote and/or participate in effective teacher professional learning, this has twice the impact on student outcomes across a school than any other leadership activity. New Zealand principals spend less time on those activities that make the most difference than many of their international peers.

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Extending innovative e-learning leadership

In this project, the researchers worked with experienced principals to identify and analyse effective e-learning leadership strategies, and make these visible and accessible for other school leaders.

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