Virtual School Meanderings

October 11, 2015

Re-Post: The VLN Primary School – Who Are We And What Do We Do?

This item has been re-posted from:

As such, the comments are closed on this entry.  Please visit the original to leave your comments.

Here is an article i wrote for the NZ School Trustees Association about the VLN Primary School. It gives a pretty good snapshot on who we are and what we do (you can find out more on our group space):

“At a time when schools are increasingly stretched to find the resources to provide a broad and relevant curriculum for students, they are also being challenged to become more collaborative and future focused. We are on the cusp of major changes both politically driven through IES Communities of Schools and technologically driven through the N4L managed network for schools. There is a drive to harness the power of technology to change the way we learn, make learning more student centred and personalised and for collaboration across schools. How are schools meeting these challenges? With a deluge of ipads, the ‘appification’ of learning (there’s an app for that), should we have 1-1, BYOD, Chromebooks, Google, Microsoft, Wireless, have we been snupped, when do we get on to N4L?  We are getting close to the point where technology is ubiquitous, a utility like power or water. Schools need to look beyond the digital network and environment to the people network that connects and learns in that space.

The Virtual Learning Network (VLN) Primary School has as its’ tagline “Connecting Schools for Enhanced Learning Outcomes”. It is a people network collaborating online and dedicated to providing equity and access to learning opportunities for New Zealand students. It aims to connect schools through a collaborative online network (the virtual school) in order to open up access to specialist teachers, share the best of our teaching strengths, and to build professional capability that enables schools to become more flexible and open places of learning for our children. It began as a school cluster hosted within Matapu School, South Taranaki, and has evolved into a Charitable Trust led by school leaders and virtual learning advocates. It is partly funded in partnership with the MoE and contributions from participating schools.

The VLN Primary School builds on work that has been developed in the schooling sector, over the last nearly 20 years where programmes have been provided ‘virtually’ through online classes & projects taught by NZ based teachers. Approximately 80 primary schools and 1000 students have participated in the VLN Primary School to date since 2009. Learning opportunities are developed through the needs and strengths of the schools themselves and eteachers and tutors are provided by schools themselves or contracted into the network.There are regular weekly scheduled classes for extension maths, literacy, science, Astronomy and a wide range of languages – Te Reo Māori, Mandarin, Spanish, French, Cook Islands Māori, German, Japanese, Afrikaans, Korean, Bahasa Indonesian and Tagalog.

In addition to this the ‘Over the Back Fence’ run by Rosmini College, has regular connections with schools in NZ, Pacific, India & globally focussing on Health & Environmental topics. Our Rural & Remote Schools Project brings together schools from Stewart Island, Great Barrier, Eastern Taranaki & Wairarapa with the goal of reducing the social isolation of these distributed students, giving them opportunities to learn alongside peers their own age and preparing them for leaving their districts to go to High School. There is a great opportunity to build on this project to extend the benefits to many other small and isolated schools, but sustainability of resources has prevented us from scaling up this very successful project.

Participation in the VLN Primary School gives students a voice and choice in what they learn, how, when and where they learn, and who they learn with; regardless of their geographical location and economic means. It aims to provide teachers and school leaders across networked schools with professional learning and support to enable them to develop as future focused learning organisations. When you next think of your school network, think beyond the technology to the people network and how your school can become connected to an online community of learners.”

Please note that I am a member of the Governance Group for this e-learning cluster.

September 3, 2015

VLN Primary School – Term 3 Update

From the inbox earlier today…

VLN Primary School 
Term Three Update 2015
View this email in your browser
VLN Primary School

Kia ora koutou

Thanks for reading our VLN Primary School newsletters. Our goal is to:
 Connect Schools for Enhanced Learning Outcomes.
In this newsletter we update you on the activities of our connected learners and teachers, share some of their feedback, welcome our new schools and teachers, and keep you informed on whats coming up for the VLN Primary.

It would be great to see that Spring has Sprung! but unfortunately we are still not quite there yet. It has been an extremely busy winter term in schools around the country and also for the VLN Primary School. Although we have some interruptions with winter sports and illnesses, students are now well settled into their second semester classes and making the most of their learning opportunities.
Image attribution: 

How’s it Going?

Recently we asked our students for some feedback. The responses overall were very positive about the challenge of their new learning and the support of their eteachers. Some of the drawbacks mentioned involved timetabling, when classes cut across break times or sports times; and occasions when technology wasn’t running smoothly. Here are a few of their quotes:
Thumbs up Students

‘I love Maori because i am learning more of my culture that i didn’t know about.’

‘I think French is going quite well and I’m having a blast.’

‘In vln te reo Māori its really good for me to learn my culture and its also good to learn the basic’s. I think vln is good and its fun to skype people almost around the world,  i’ve learned  a few things that i did not know so yeah vln te reo Māori is my kind of thing.’

‘Very fun and challenging new experience because things in the classroom just come so easily to me and it’s nice to have a challenge.’

A big thank you to all our wonderful eTeachers who have stepped up to the challenge of learning to teach online to provide these classes for our students. Kino ke koutou!

Welcome to

New schools joining us this Semester are Wairaki Primary School, Maraetai Beach School, and East Tamaki School. Also great to have Te Miro School return with students participating in many different classes.

Welcome also to new eTeachers Shine Kelly and David Pirie.
Shine is an experienced classroom teacher living in sunny Nelson and is teaching Astronomy. She is passionate about the environment, loves hiking and geocaching; also playing Minecraft and Lego. Shine places a high value on equality in education, promotion of student directed learning and collaborative learning. Shine has been an environmental educator, with strengths in Science and eLearning.

David is based in Dunedin and is taking over from Rick in teaching one of our Extension Maths classes. David comes from a diverse and innovative background as a teacher, Principal, Educational Technology Consultant and Educational Tutor. He is interested in the application of technology in teaching and learning; particularly in Instructional Design – the leveraging of new technologies to enhance systems and learning, involving creating learning content that is effective, engaging and vibrant, and that promotes understanding. David is keen to develop his skills as an eteacher.

We are very excited to have both Shine and David join our eteaching team, we will have lots to learn from them.

Congratulations to

Stephanie Michel who not only attended her first German teachers conference in Wellington in the recent school holidays, but was also invited by GANZ (German in Aotearoa NZ) to present a workshop on her experience teaching German online. GANZ has offered free German posters and resources to schools learning German with the VLN Primary School.

Stephanie has been teaching with us since we first started up and is passionate about the German language and sharing her knowledge with students. She has maintained her commitment to teaching online even through the recent devastating floods which have caused chaos on her and husband Hans,Tarata farm. Stephanie & Hans recently featured on Country Calendar.

AFS Teacher Exchange

Over the month of August we hosted Yaju Cheng from China through the AFS teacher exchange. Yaju travelled the length of NZ to spend a week each with four of our schools who are participating in the Asian Languages Project – Moanataiari, Oakura, Apiti and Halfmoon Bay. Yaju and the hosting schools kept a blog of her visit at

Kath from Halfmoon Bay School writes ‘It was so interesting to live and work with someone from a completely different culture for a week…Yaju teaches in a school of over 3000 students in Beijing, China and her life is so completely different from mine that it was mind-blowing.’ Read more on Yaju’s visit to Stewart Island here.
It was a fantastic learning experience for our schools to host Yaju and we will definitely be partnering with AFS again next year.
Look out for the VLN Primary School at ULearn in October. We will be running workshops on our Asian Languages Project and our Rural & Remote Schools Project.
If you are coming to conference please make contact & introduce yourself to Rachel.

Coming Up

The VLN Primary Governance Group meets soon to develop our strategic thinking and plan the way forward in supporting schools to extend learning opportunities for our students. The Asian Languages Project team will also be meeting to plan out the details of how our project will operate over the next two years.
Keep an eye out for our next newsletter which will update you on these developments, and have information for schools preparing to participate in 2016. We will also follow the Rural & Remote Project students as they prepare for their camp to Wellington.

The VLN Primary School is available to all NZ primary schools providing:

  • support and leadership for virtual learning,
  • effective coordination of virtual learning programmes,
  • professional learning to enable quality online teaching and learning programmes,
  • personnel to advocate for virtual learning initiatives.

Please share this newsletter with your colleagues and school communities.

Ngā mihi nui

Thanks to our supporters:


Creative Commons License
2015 VLN Primary School.

You are receiving this email through your association with the VLN Primary School.

Our mailing address is:

VLN Primary School

10 Clem Elliott Drive
R D 4

Matata, Bay of Plenty 3194

New Zealand

Add us to your address book

Please note that I am a member of the Governance Group for this e-learning cluster.

August 24, 2015

Updating the Virtual Learning Network in New Zealand

I’ve had this in my inbox for a week or two now, but I haven’t gotten around to posting it yet.  Anyway, there have been a few updates to the Virtual Learning Network in New Zealand that I wanted to pass along.

New file: VLNCMap2015

The Map showing the relative location of the of 2015 Virtual Learning Network Community clusters

New file: VLNC Logo

The graphic created by Robin Ohia to encompass the community of schools within the VLNC

For folks that would like to know more about the VLN and the VLN-C, please visit:

August 17, 2015

Darren Sudlow Invited You To Career Pathways In The IT Industry: Presented by Datacom SI

An early in the day entry for my Kiwi reads…

Join us for a presentation and Q&A on Career Pathways in the IT industry. Hosted by Ian Harding, Software Development Manager at Datacom SI, this is a fantastic opportunity students or teachers who want to get an insight into what the industry offers.


Career Pathways in the IT Industry: Presented by Datacom SI

Mon, August 24, 9:00 PM

Hangouts On Air – Broadcast for free

Darren Sudlow is going to watch

August 13, 2015

Darren Sudlow Invited You To NetNZ Teacher Case Studies: Building Community

One for my Kiwi readers…

Join us for a first in a series of sessions with NetNZ eTeachers. Online learning enables significant opportunity to connect students no matter where they happen to be. The roll out of ultra fast internet is now providing us the opportunity to take the distance out of distance education. This session will focus on three teachers who have worked on developing interaction, connection and collaboration between their students. Each has done something slightly different to ensure students do not work in isolation and benefit from connecting with their peers.

Garry Brittenden will take us through how he has encouraged interaction through the use of provocative discussion.

Marina Krijgsman will demonstrate a knowledge building approach that encourages learning as collaborative, exploratory and relevant.

Darren Sudlow will share his project based Crafting History community that utilizes an online space as hub for a group of learners.


NetNZ Teacher Case Studies: Building Community

Wed, August 19, 11:30 PM

Hangouts On Air – Broadcast for free
Next Page »

The Rubric Theme. Blog at


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,940 other followers