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A blended approach to e-learning PLD

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Duration: 5:27

Teachers from Paihia School talk about the benefits of implementing a blended approach to e-learning professional learning and development (PLD).

David Rogers
Paihia School is a decile 4 school, and we have roughly 50% Māori population in this school.

Anna Harrison
The opportunity to engage in blended PLD, came about because the school had set up a Google domain and had started to experiment with ways of using Google docs.

David Rogers
We chose the blended approach because being in Paihia, it’s a lovely place to be, but it is somewhat isolated from specialist support services.

Anna Harrison
So the school is in a fairly remote location, so we were wanting to show them ways that they could engage in PLD that didn’t involve them always travelling to a bigger city, and Google docs was the perfect way of doing that. So Tania and I co-constructed a PLD session with the Principal, focussing on the learning needs of the teachers, and what we were going to be looking at, and worked out a way of doing that through a Google doc. We started with a few meetings with the Principal to review the development plan, so he became used to using Google Hangout or using Skype, and not always having to have someone face-to-face with him in the office. And those were quite successful, so we were able to take that a step further and engage with the staff through the Google docs.

David Rogers
For all of the staff it was a new approach to professional development. Clearly in the past most professional development has been face-to-face. But it allowed for people to move at their own pace, to cover territory in a non-threatening way, that they may not have covered before, and it gave them some confidence, I guess, as was evidenced following that meeting, to branch out and have a crack on their own.

Tania Coutts
For Anna and I the most important thing was to keep the tasks simple. So to begin with it was about the teachers learning how to use the technology to access the professional development.

Anna Harrison
And it was really important that we spelled out everything in the doc. So all the instructions, all the expectations, the ways of working were all there. And there were all different places for them to discuss in groups and give feedback, but being able to work in a way that suited them and in a location that suited them.

David Rogers
So, of the advantages were apparent fairly quickly. The responsiveness of the facilitating team to questions was quite quick. It was individualised. And one time I can remember going through a facilitated discussion that we were all in a Google environment, working through a Google doc, responding to some key questions, related specifically to the blended e-learning project, and as staff, were working through the questions; there was a really collegial atmosphere, and I felt that in that way it was quite supportive.

Anna Harrison
If I was encouraging another facilitator to engage in a blended approach, I would certainly say that you need to start with buy-in from the leaders of the school. They need to understand that face-to-face is not always the best way of working, or the only way of working, and that a blended approach has some real advantages. And the feedback we got from the teachers, after the PLD sessions we run in a blended way; we had comments like, you can’t hide in this kind of PLD, you get to hear all the voices of the teachers, not just the loudest ones, and that they really had to stay on track because even though they weren’t face-to-face, everyone could see what everyone else was contributing, so it really meant they had to buy-in to what they were doing. So an important part of working in a blended way, and not being face-to-face, is you’re not able to read the impact of the PLD on the teachers. So it was really important that we got some feedback from them, and we did that through a Google form embedded in the Google doc. So we were able to get some feedback from the users as to how the experience was. We then shared that feedback with the Principal, and we were able to plan forward with him about other ways this facilitation technique could be used with his staff, and then potentially opportunities for it to be used with students. We wanted this facilitation style to be sustainable in this school and to be something useful to them going forward. So we made sure that we increased their e-capability in the use of the Google docs. So we set them up with some model documents that they were able to adapt and use for administrative purposes, and also through this particular PLD modelling, the careful laying out of instructions so that you were setting up whatever audience it was for success. So we’re fairly confident, that in the future, they’ll know the techniques to having a successful staff meeting in a blended way.

David Rogers
As far as the administration, and planning, and collaborative nature of the staffing, of teamwork in the staff, there’s been some great growth within the school through that Google environment. Staff meeting minutes, for instance, the agendas are put together fairly quickly. If you have an agenda item, it’s just added into a Google doc, and in many cases we find that before we get to staff meeting, those agenda items are actually the discussions over before we get into the staff meeting, so we’re able to spend a lot more time on talking about the stuff that matters. Learning and the teaching. So all and all the journey’s been a very beneficial one to the school. I think the key point to make for us would be; it has taken time, and it needed to take time, and we’re far from the end of the journey. I think we’re well on the way now to having a good, solid, integrated approach to digital learning at Paihia School. So we’re thankful for the opportunity to be able to have done that.