This morning I had the pleasure of sitting in on the Virtual Learning Network-Community‘s (VLN-C) annual general meeting. For those who don’t know, the VLN-C is a charitable trust that was created as an official mechanism to encourage collaboration and cooperation between the individual Virtual Learning Network e-learning clusters.
The annual general meeting went down like most annual general meetings would. It began with an acceptance of the meetings from the previous annual general meeting. This was followed by a report from the Chair and then the Treasurer, along with a report on the services that the VLN-C, the Ministry, and other digital learning programmes. There were some amendments to the constitution, along with a discussion of other constitution amendments that would need to be considered for the constitution to evolve as the trust evolves. The election also included the election of three new members of the council, who were added to the existing four council members (so the council has a total of 7 members).
The trust is actually composed of members from the individual e-learning clusters, or more specifically the schools that participate in each of the clusters. At present there are 124 schools that have a membership in the trust, mainly represented at the AGM by the leadership of the cluster.
Following the elections, there was a discussion of the business plan for the VLN-C. The trust commissioned Derek Wenmoth to create a business case for the VLN-C. While that document was submitted to the VLN-C, in some instances it threw the ball back into the court of the VLN-C to be able to refine some of their own activities and directions. This session was an overview of the first draft of the next step in that process. It was an interesting discussion, as the virtual learning system in New Zealand continues to mature and really to expand beyond its initial rural, secondary roots.
After lunch, the Minister of Education came for 30 minutes to speak to the group. After a quick overview presentation, a question and answer session began (with prepared questions that had been shared in advance – at least that was my understanding). It was interesting because in response to the first question she blamed unions as a barrier to change here in New Zealand (even though the PPTA has actually been quite supportive of e-learning in the country, I’d argue even moreso than the Government in many instances). In response to another question she focused on the generational differences of today’s students, and how this generation of students were digital natives and that we needed to reform the education system to cater to these new ways of learning (and longtime readers of this space will know the problems with the generational differences literature, and the total lack of research support for Prensky’s digital natives-digital immigrants). She did talk a lot about the problems of funding schools by student enrolments, and with the nature of tomorrow’s schools here in New Zealand underscores those challenges even more. She also talked a lot about student performance, and making decisions based on the ability to improve student performance (granted, the Government’s – and this Minister’s – support of charter schools indicates that, like many legislators in the United States, they are more interested in ideological change instead of research-based and data-driven decision making).
That was about it for her 30 minutes. Then it was my turn to present the work that I did last year with the Virtual Learning Network clusters, which included a brief discussion of the session and the day in general.