South Island Steering Group for Connectivity and Collaboration

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A South Island Steering Group for Connectivity and Collaboration

By Kymm McPhail, Ken Pullar, Vicki Smith, Trevor Storr, Darren Sudlow

Executive Summary

Increased connectivity between schools, as outlined in the recently announced Broadband Investment Initiative (BII) [1], has the potential to be a transformational agent for New Zealand schools. Collaboration between schools at both system, teacher and, most crucially, learner levels will be possible. This paper outlines a proposal for a South Island Steering Group for Connectivity and Collaboration. The steering group will enable collaboration in areas such as teacher professional development, teaching and learning, software as a service procurement and provision for the South Island.

The rationale that supports the need for the proposed steering group is that to maximise the benefit of increased connectivity we need to freely share the expertise and opportunities that are present within our clusters and schools in areas such as: Leadership of learning; co-ordination of resources (including personnel, technical, financial and logistical); provision and access to professional learning for teachers, web based services and solutions and technical expertise and support. Many of the relationships between clusters that will allow the open and free sharing of resources (of one kind or another) already exist while others need to be formed.

We propose that the steering group be formed from interested parties belonging to the South Island Clusters and Loop Schools. The business of the group will be to lead, co-ordinate and ensure that new developments and services, (both technical services and professional learning services) are available to all member clusters and schools and are efficient, resilient and timely. The group will also need to be a voice representing cluster and loop schools in relevant matters to bodies that will assist in enabling connectivity and collaboration.

We recommend that cluster leaders and interested parties meet and further define the aims, scope and responsibilities of the proposed steering group.

Phoebe, born 11 August, 1997


In 2013, Phoebe will be in Year 11. She can expect to have, with a single log in, access to an online space that includes:

⋅ Desktop web conferencing through an open source platform which allows access to her synchronous lessons led by her teacher living a considerable distance away. This also provides opportunities for her to meet and collaborate with other students across the country.

⋅ An online portfolio system which enables her to display evidence of learning.

⋅ An online learning environment that has blended learning courses developed by her face-to-face teachers, but also allows her to take courses that she would not otherwise have access to. These courses enable learning where she wants and when she wants.

Any learner in 2013 will expect to have enormous flexibility and choice to develop their own educational pathways. What they have, is a situation that is truly ’personalised’. Their school has been forced to consider the ’big’ questions about the future of education and their role in it. They now run a flexible, open timetable system that is not ruled by hour long periods. Learners wonder how different things will be in another five years time.

Now imagine you are a teacher in 2013. You have access to a rich environment, which allows courses to be developed that are truly blended. You have made online areas that support your face to face classes, but you are also running a course by distance that is fully online and is taken by a number of student from around the country. Significantly, there are also online areas which allow you to work with other teachers across New Zealand. This has enabled you to develop thematic courses than run across schools and regions. In this environment you see a marked increase in student engagement. The students enjoy the opportunity to meet and work with others. In terms of your own learning this environment has had a significant impact. A repository and search system allows you to share your resources with hundreds of teachers across New Zealand. You have access to an enormous range of resources that are relevant to your teaching. Professional discussion occurs both synchronously and asynchronously and takes place across the country. You are able to dip into courses that are designed to support your own learning. Your eyes have been opened to the enormous potential of learning in a collaborative environment. The wonderful thing is you are no longer tied to a timetable that restricts how you and your students learn.


The recently announced Broadband Investment Initiative has meant high speed broadband should, in the foreseeable future, become a reality for New Zealand Schools. The fibre roll-out will see all schools connected to each other with high speed fibre optic cable. This could enable schools to develop new ways of teaching and learning and explore more efficient ways to deliver services such as professional learning and web-based applications. To enable this to happen we propose a South Island ’super-cluster’ to lead these initiatives and develop strategies to enable maximum benefit to schools, rural and urban.


The BII has the potential to be a catalyst in changing teaching and learning.

As high speed internet has progressed, with the assistance of projects such as PROBE, to cover all schools in New Zealand, the potential to use server applications for collaboration in teaching and learning has become a reality. The challenge presented to clusters and cluster schools is to better connect learners, teachers and leaders within and between schools by providing:

⋅ Leadership of learning.

⋅ Co-ordination of resources, including personnel, technical, financial and logistical.

⋅ Provision and access to: professional learning for teachers, virtual learning spaces for students, technical expertise and support.

⋅ Cost effective, interoperable, scaleable, web based services and solutions.

To make this happen our clusters will have to work closely together. This will enable sharing of expertise in both pedagogical and technical fields and economies of scale in service commissioning and provision.

While the local context of this proposal is the South Island, the need, in a world where connectivity is paramount, for schools to collaborate in order to effectively provide for their learners is national. The proposed steering group would hopefully have influence beyond the South Island and contribute where appropriate to services, policy and events nationwide.

Our Proposal


The South Island currently consists of 6 elearning clusters and 2 ’loops’.
South Island Cluster map

Historically, until 2008, the 6 elearning clusters were separate entities that had little systemic collaboration (but note some collaboration between clusters had taken place prior to 2008). During 2008 and 2009, as a result of the ePrincipal’s Funding, the elearning clusters began collaborating at a systemic level in sharing resources and expertise. For example, at present, Otagonet, WestNet, Cantatech and Aorakinet are collaborating to provide a scheme to offer scholarship mentoring to learners in those clusters. The other clusters and loops have to greater or lesser extents supported collaborative initiatives either between or within clusters.

The Proposal

We propose that a steering group for connectivity and collaboration be established to ensure learners are able to gain maximum benefit from the anticipated broadband roll-out. The day-to-day business of this group will be to lead, co-ordinate and ensure that new developments and services are available to all member clusters and schools and are efficient, resilient and timely. We anticipate the steering group will facilitate the development of joint proposals and projects that will directly enable more effective and economical use of increased connectivity.

The membership of the steering group should be extended to interested parties from member clusters. The areas of interest of the steering group are likely to include professional development, digital services and representation of cluster and school needs. The rationale supporting the interest of the steering group in these three areas is outlined below.

Scalability of Digital Services

Many of the digital services that schools are likely to require in the future are more effectively and economically provided by schools and clusters of schools collaborating to share expertise and resources. If schools or clusters individually provide these services they face risks associated with

⋅ Cost

⋅ Leadership/Management

⋅ Technical expertise

Web-based services that schools require are most efficiently provided to large numbers of clients or schools. Commercial providers of web services are available to provide some of the web services that schools require, but other services remain unprovided for. Vendor led business models favour those that maximise profit, not learning. Schools need to take collective ownership of these digital services to ensure that our learners are able to gain maximum benefit from them. The technical expertise required to make future web services run needs to be shared freely to ensure the services are resilient and able to withstand changes of personnel and failures of commercial entities. We are not proposing the ’super – cluster’ will take operational control of hosting and running the anticipated services, rather that by acting collectively we will be able to provide these services to our schools more efficiently. There may be some instances though, where commercial hosting of services is either not possible or cost-effective. In these cases the ’super-cluster’ will have to consider internal hosting and provision.

Scalability of Professional Development

Professional learning and development that enables teachers to use the enhanced connectivity that the BII provides in a way that is suitable for learning with their classes is often overlooked by schools, or given insignificant resourcing. Teacher development and support is at least as important, possibly more so, than the technology and software teachers use. Schools have difficulty in finding expertise and providers of professional learning, as well as the resourcing of it - for example the cost not only of providing the professional learning, but also in teacher relief required to attend the professional learning.

In this context, pedagogy refers to the types of learning that can effectively take place online. Most schools do not have the expertise to develop effective pedagogies that can be implemented online. The danger is that online learning is implemented and used in a way that reinforces traditional classroom practice, rather than being used as a means to bring effective change in New Zealand schools.

With increased connectivity and collaboration there exists the potential to offer Professional Learning to our staff that is peer-based, timely and cost-effective. Sharing school-based Professional Learning at this scale will require a change in attitude by many schools and teachers. We do not know the models that will make this happen so developing these will be a priority of the proposed steering group.

Representation and Lobbying

The steering Group will need to ensure that the needs of clusters, loops and schools are coherently articulated to those bodies and organisations that are able to assist in implementing the vision outlined at the beginning of this paper. A shared voice will not only be more powerful than our individual efforts but will be able to speak on behalf of those schools that often are not proactive in this area.

Next Steps

With the approval of cluster leaders, interested parties need to meet and further define the aims, scope and responsibilities of the group.




Kymm McPhail


0212 634 156

Ken Pullar


027 446 8532

vicki smith


021 778 067

Trevor Storr

Aorakinet Director of eLearning


Waimate High School


03 689 8920

Darren Sudlow

Cantatech eLearning Leader


027 217 1121