Andrew Kirk's presentation explored how a pilot project
("Connected Kids") helped introduce 10 Te Kura (years 7 to 10) learners to new learning opportunities. All the students were provided with reconditioned students at home, as well as an Internet
connection. All the students had been identified as disengaged, and would otherwise have limited or no access to the Internet. Teachers worked with the learners to help design and develop personalised learning opportunities with the aim of engaging both the students and their supervisors. All participants were to keep the computer (solid, entry-level and would do the job, but not all whistles and bells) after the study, and the 'pay back' was that they had to study, submit work and participate in new ways of learning.
Previously the programme had to be paper-based, and was then shifted to Blackboard. Blackboard was used as the main portal, as well as using Open Office
suite, Google Earth
, Pivot Animation, PowerPoint
Students were most active and engaged when parents and immediate community was involved in learning. This led to improved reading ability, higher return rate of work, developing social skills, and improving ICT skills. Students' feedback emphasised the connections and that they were able to contact each other more easily. They enjoyed talking to other students, easier writing/editing, talking to the teacher on Skype about what they need or would like to share/show, using online interactive activities, searching and researching, and creating learning relationships.
The lessons from the pilot were multifarious. There were real positive results such as increase in achievement, but the scalability and sustainability are still under discussion. It was stressed that there needs to be full buy-in from the school.