Pakuranga College

Key points

  • Use of digital technologies to personalise learning
  • Students able to access their learning online, anytime and anywhere
  • Reciprocal learning: students give feedback on teacher practice.

Introduction

Seven years ago Pakuranga College set out on an e-learning journey that continues to this day as digital technologies bring about ongoing change in teaching practice and open up new opportunities for student learning and agency. The school’s success in transforming teaching and learning can in large part be attributed to its open‑to‑learning culture. See the Ministry’s Educational Leaders website for a description of ho9w the school’s leaders went about creating such a culture.

System changes

To focus on e-learning the school had to refine and align its systems. This meant:

  • allocating resources differently
  • introducing teacher inquiry, including goal setting
  • providing professional learning and development (PLD) aligned to goals
  • timetabling to enable curriculum initiatives
  • providing greater opportunities to exercise leadership
  • improving community engagement through the use of digital technologies.

The school views technology as another, albeit different and powerful, tool for learning. To ensure a robust infrastructure the board resourced provision of a reliable high-speed wi-fi network[19], with the servers updated each year.[20] Teachers and students set goals for improving learning outcomes through the use of e-learning technologies.

In 2010, Year 9 students were invited to bring their own devices (BYOD) to school; using them in class was optional. Uptake was slower than school leaders had hoped for and teachers were not making effective use of the devices to transform learning.

By 2014, all Year 9 students were bringing a device to all subjects, and two years later BYOD was in place across Years 9 to 11. To ensure equitable access, options were made available to those needing financial support.

Developing teacher capacity

Senior leaders use a school-developed matrix to identify how successfully teachers are using technology to enhance learning. They then tailor PLD to individual teachers’ needs. PLD is seen as a priority and a variety of strategies are used to support teacher learning. These include:

  • the appointment of an e-mentor in each faculty area
  • the appointment of coaches to improve the quality of teaching as inquiry cycles
  • modelling the use of Google docs in staff meetings by getting teachers to contribute their ideas to a shared document
  • sharing stories about classroom trials and explorations on devices at staff meetings and in blogs
  • videos of e-learning in action and how-to videos for staff who miss out on or want to review material
  • providing time for staff to visit classrooms and see e-learning in action
  • running ‘nerd nights’ with one of the tech support staff
  • providing pizza and refreshments at the end of after-school PLD sessions to encourage staff to stay and discuss what they have heard.

Curriculum and pedagogy

At Pakuranga College, technology is used for the purposes of delivering curriculum, giving feedback to students, clarifying expectations and engaging parents. Leaders are strategic about embedding e-learning as a means of personalising learning.

We believe that e-learning makes it possible for students (and teachers) to create, collaborate, share and differentiate their learning in a dynamic and innovative forum both within school and beyond.

– School leaders

As well as exploring how to effectively use digital technologies to enhance learning, some PLD has focused on integrating Habits of Mind into teaching. Teachers use split-screen thinking[21]to plan the process of learning in parallel with the content of learning. For example, they share learning outcomes with students: ‘What we are learning about?’ as well as ‘What Habit of Mind are we developing?’ Habits of Mind learning complements the school’s emphasis on e-learning.

For two days each year – Discovery Days – the timetable is suspended for juniors while the seniors have mock exams. For these two days the juniors work in tutor groups on a student project of their choosing – one that addresses a local or global concern. Each student also nominates and works on a particular learning habit.

The students thoroughly prepare for their Discovery Days project using a framework on Moodle[22], planning guides, and rubrics that support them to reflect on where they are at with their key competencies. In this way, the students learn how to plan, retrieve and process information, create something, share, evaluate and then reflect on the process. These skills align with the school’s vision and aims.

One of our core aims is to develop students who are equipped for the challenges of confidently contributing to society now and in the future.

- Principal

Student outcomes

Students learn to self-manage

Students like using digital technologies because they allow ready access to their learning and encourage creativity. Students value having resources and assignments available online wherever they are and whenever they want them. This means students are easily able to review work or catch up on material they missed, and they can make use of time that would otherwise be downtime – for example when commuting or at home sick.

Students use each other as resources, often using their year group’s Facebook page to ask questions. Teachers are available to help, in the classroom or online, when other avenues have been explored.

This is a photo of two male students self managing

Someone will know.

Everyone is willing to help.

- Students

Reciprocal learning

Students are taught everyday leadership skills from Year 9 and given opportunities to solve real-life problems. Over time they gain the confidence to be critical learners and to provide their peers and teachers with feedback, often online.

The students have developed a Pakuranga Effective Teacher Profile. They tell teachers what kinds of teaching will best support their learning, and as a result they have noted changes in practice. As teachers have empowered students and modelled what it is to be a learner, students have been increasingly motivated in their own learning.

Ako is embraced here. I am a learner. You are a learner. We are all learners together. When all are aboard, we are rowing together.

- Trustee


[19]       The school is connected to the Network for Learning (N4L) managed network.

[20]       The board acknowledges that much of this funding comes from international students.

[21]       A strategy attributed to Guy Claxton.

[22]       Moodle is a free, open-source Learning Management System. There are costs related to hosting,  installation, customisation and training.