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Making a connection: The Connected Learning Advisory explained

CLA-Feature-Image-01The Connected Learning Advisory (CLA) is a free advice service that’s helping schools integrate digital technology with learning, so they can get the best results for their students and communities, writes Nathaniel Louwrens.

When new Principal Denyse Healy, of Blenheim School, was looking for support with the use of social media she got in touch with the Ministry’s new service, the Connected Learning Advisory – Te Ara Whi-tiki. With advice on how to purchase devices, as well as managing social media in the school, she was able to make the necessary decisions and confidently move forward with the strategic plan.

“The Advisory was valuable and relevant,” said Healy. “As a first time new principal, I found it very easy to access and the advice was timely and useful.”

What is the Connected Learning Advisory?

The CLA offers state and state-integrated schools free, unbiased advice on planning for, managing and using digital technologies for learning, to achieve the best results for their students. Funded by the Ministry of Education and managed by CORE Education, it has assisted nearly 200 schools in its first 12 weeks of service.

The Ma-ori name for the service – Te Ara Whi-tiki – draws on the idea of connecting people and expertise as they plan pathways for learning. Schools contacting the service can choose whether to communicate with advisers in either English or te reo Ma-ori.

What are its aims?

“We know that digital technologies can remove barriers to learning, as well as empower school communities to explore new approaches to engage students in the curriculum,” said Project Lead Karen Melhuish Spencer. “We are working with school leaders from the Far North to the deep South providing light touch support as they make often crucial decisions related to managing and learning with digital technologies. With the combined expertise of the regional advisers we are able to provide a tailored response or connect schools and kura to someone else who can assist.”

The advisory ensures that there is guidance for school leaders as they make challenging, often complex decisions related to the management and use of digital devices for learning across the school.

How does it work?

Schools can lodge enquiries with the CLA Helpdesk through an online form or freephone helpdesk. The query goes to an adviser, generally someone situated in the school’s region, who makes contact with the school. Schools receive responsive support that is tailored to meet their needs at the time when they’re making decisions.

There are different levels of support through the service. For schools working in clusters or communities, the advisory may be able to offer face-to-face support or mentoring for cluster leaders. This type of support is intended to encourage school leaders to develop questions and talk them through. Representatives from the advisory are also available at conferences, as well as other professional learning events, such as the popular regional Educamps.

The advisory offers further informal support through free webinars, dealing with common topics that have come through the online helpdesk. It publishes articles based on common topics and is also writing guides to give schools a good starting point when exploring larger topics, such as managing the introduction and use of devices across the school.

What’s the feedback, so far?

Schools are already finding the service very useful, with one commenting that “it was pleasing to get the support from someone with knowledge. I feel we have made significant progress in terms of where we want to head”. Others have appreciated the way the advisory has responded quickly to their queries, talking through the issues and making recommendations for next steps: “[The adviser] has not only talked me through my problems, but has made recommendations and suggestions that have saved me days and days of work”.

How can the CLA team support your school?

We’re a group of skilled educators who can advise schools and clusters on strategic planning and learning with digital technologies, as well as support technical decisions.

The advisory can offer support on a number of topics, including:

  • what digital technologies and resources are available for schools, and how to best access them;
  • how to create an effective plan to introduce or assess digital technologies, ultra-fast broadband and Wi-Fi in your school;
  • how to engage parents and the local community using technology;
  • making decisions about purchasing laptops, tablets, and other ICT equipment; and
  • demystifying BYOD, software management, data storage, network standards, video conferencing, ICT infrastructure, and modern learning practices using technology.

Lastly, it is recommended that your school nominates one person to contact the advisory. They might be a principal, senior staff member, ICT technician or an e-learning leader. Your query will be allocated to an appropriate adviser, who will contact you as soon as possible.  

Nathaniel Louwrens is an Adviser with the Connected Learning Advisory. Contact the CLA on 0800 700 400 or via online forms at connectedlearning.org.nz and tearawhitiki.org.nz. It also has a presence in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), Pond and Twitter, through @enablelearning with the hashtag #cla_nz.

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