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Kids Rewired - a student conference

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Duration: 6:51

Teacher Shelley Blakey and e-learning facilitator Sandy Bornholdt describe the inquiry process they went through with the students to develop this successful conference run by students for students. The aim was to achieve a learning experience at the empowering end of the e-Learning Planning Framework. Students were provided the opportunity to develop key competencies within an authentic learning context, documenting their progress on their blog. Shelly comments, "My children had to learn to communicate with a range of people in a range of different mediums. So I’ve got evidence of how their writing, spelling, punctuation, and communication changed over time." 

Sandy Bornholdt, e-learning facilitator, Tauranga Moana Cluster:
Kids Re-wired is a professional learning cycle both for teachers and for students, culminating in a conference, which is run by students for students.

The LMS Ultranet scaffolded the student inquiry as well as the face-to-face conference. Ultranet has a safe social networking tool built into it called YouSpace so the children are encouraged to participate and grow ownership in that space before, during, and after the conference.

Shelley Blakey, Teacher, Tauranga Moana Cluster:
The actual context of a conference was right outside my children’s understanding. It’s a very adult concept. So we had to very strategically plan and put things in place for the kids so they understood what a conference was. So we had to do a conference to them. We had a conference at school and they actually experienced what a conference was so it made it into concrete for them. They got so much out of that conference, as learners, they went in, they had experts come in and contribute to their lives for two days, teaching them how to use amazing ICT tools, so they saw value, they saw the purpose, so when the, the challenge was given to them, would you like to be involved in organising a conference? They were already hugely invested, they already saw that, a difference it made to their lives and doing it on a bigger scale, the, how many more lives they could contribute to.

Sandy Bornholdt, e-learning facilitator, Tauranga Moana Cluster:
The teachers put together virtual classrooms to support the learning with, in a blended nature so that people could interact with material, their workshop content. Children were able to introduce themselves to each other before coming to the conference which was really powerful.

Shelley Blakey, Teacher, Tauranga Moana Cluster:
There had to be a deeper layer of learning whereas it wasn’t just, “Oh cool let’s get the kids involved and they do a few posters and things like that,” it was actually we wanted them, and, and myself as a classroom teacher, I actually wanted some real, deep, rich learning with skills and knowledge that the kids could then transfer into their continued education.

Sandy Bornholdt, e-learning facilitator, Tauranga Moana Cluster:
We also wanted the learning, the use of the ICT tools within that learning to be ubiquitous so that they weren’t being pushed into learning at all but rather the pull was coming because the need was there to use that ICT tool.

Shelley Blakey, Teacher, Tauranga Moana Cluster:
So I already had structures in place about what I believed about teaching and learning, and about independence and you know, me not being the expert, and all those sorts of things were already in place. But I actually had to change my practice considerably, to be more, to be a more effective teacher and to actually get the jobs done.

I had five teams of kids that I had to manage every day and I logistically could not be with them. I could not be sitting with my communications team, being in depth with them, while my ICT team was trying to put together a website and they needed my help as well. So we had amazing tools already in place, we had Ultranet and Virtual Classrooms and iPads and laptops, we had everything there. I also knew what I had to do was embrace it and use it straight away and just in time really. I had to learn on the go all the time just before the kids got it so I was learning alongside with them and there was a real collaboration in the classroom, and they knew I was learning with them so that was another major change, is that we were on the journey together, and that yes I was the adult in the room but I wasn’t the expert in the room. They always saw me, “Oh I’ll just email Sandy and ask how to do this”, “Oh, do, shall we go to the help desk and ask how to do this part?” So that was a big, big change.

Sandy Bornholdt, e-learning facilitator, Tauranga Moana Cluster: 
The kids found that as well. Like they had to chuck things out. Those, those cycles of inquiry that were going on within the inquiry were very immediate and very flexible and they had to be prepared to go “Actually this isn’t working, what do we do now?” So the children were encouraged to reflect using this app so they could reflect by just recording video and sharing that in this on-line space as well. After the conference they could come back to it. The teachers put up the products that they made using the ICT tools were put on line so they could come back and share and celebrate with each other back in their own schools with their families, all that sort of stuff.

So if we were to reflect on our learning using the e-Learning Planning Framework, our aim was to achieve a learning experience that was at the empowering end of that continuum. We wanted the children to be able to participate in a new and exciting, and innovative event, but to do that beyond their classroom.

Shelley Blakey, Teacher, Tauranga Moana Cluster:
So with inquiry it’s often, you know a bit of a bug bear - how do you assess inquiry and things like that? We had a huge conference. It was successful and amazing. So the outcome, there was successful. But then if you break it down and you look at every single child, they had an important job to do. Every child was doing their job. Every child could articulate what their job was, why they were doing it, how it contributed to the greater conference and to the, our greater society, because that was the purpose of the conference.

And then if you get down to the nitty gritty, my children had to learn to communicate with a range of people in a range of different mediums. So I’ve got evidence of how their writing, and their spelling, and their punctuation and their, and how they communicated, how that changed over time. So I started in their books, now it’s all on line, on wikis and blogs, and things like that. There’s also the, the hugest and the biggest aha sort of assessment for me was my children all have amazingly different and diverse skills so some can email, others have to bring out the help sheet to remember how to use Gmail. Some can pick up a camera and go on off and interview someone at the drop of a hat while others can put together a menu and serve food and know hygiene so not all the children learned all the same things. I have not got a tick chart but I’ve got a group of learners in my class who feel valued, that they can relate to others, they manage themselves. They are keen to give everything a go. So the key competencies can be seen.

Sandy Bornholdt, e-learning facilitator, Tauranga Moana Cluster: 
While there’s nothing unique in this itself, what this conference did was embrace 21st century pedagogy with the mantra of using e-learning in new and different ways for children.

Tags: Primary, Student inquiry, Student agency