Korean and Kiwi kids meeting online by Darren Sudlow


Approaches to online learning vary, but NetNZ is slowly developing a particular flavour of online learning that is ‘connected’. 

This represents an approach that places importance on the human factor in learning and the ability of technology to enhance rather than inhibit that. The internet has become a potentially limitless point of connection for people and we want this represented in our programmes of learning. Online learning can often be framed as a sterile, content driven environment that isolates teenagers from the world, but this does not have to be the reality. We need it to not be, and in fact, it often isn’t. 

We want programmes that connect our students with each other, their teacher and the wider world. Within this context the development of community, relationships, and collaboration are vital, but we also need our teachers to develop widely connected environments where we fully realise the possibility of a classroom without walls. One example of this in 2017 is the exchange of cultures taking place between Kiwi and Korean kids in Pre-NCEA Korean (see photo in header). This exchange is far less likely in a face to face class. Online, the distance rapidly disappears.

A ‘connected’ approach provides a ‘real world’ context which emulates how people interact in the modern world. It allows our teenagers to learn how to develop as digital citizens in a rich online environment that is managed and safe.

Within NetNZ the basis for a connected experience lies in the development of online communities using google+ communities. A large body of research and evidence reinforces the importance of developing community in online learning. Students need a sense of connection with each other, and they need to have an importunity to learn from each other in order to be successful online. The use of these communities within NetNZ has really develop over 2016 and into 2017. The beginning of this year has seen many teachers really focusing on providing students opportunities to interact, especially in those first few weeks. This is the time that the community needs to be established and relationships built. It won’t just happen by itself. So it is heartening to see so many examples of this from the first few weeks of term one. This padlet wall shows some examples of this.

We are far from developing this as an approach that is consistently applied across all courses, but there is little doubt that many teachers have taken this challenge on and are running with it. Developing a philosophy of learning that is a deeply embedded part of the organisation takes time and our first port of call is to ensure that all teachers understand what it represents and why we need to move in that direction. Watch this space in 2017.