Digital tech transforms learning and achievement at Bream Bay College

Issue: Volume 103, Number 1

Posted: 25 January 2024
Reference #: 1HAepA

Facing the issue of fluctuating attendance, Bream Bay College saw an opportunity to use digital technology to transform and progress teaching and learning, to inspire students, and keep them engaged at home.


He ira. He puawaitanga. He ponanatanga. He matauranga. He maramatanga.

A dot. A blossoming. Uncertainty. Knowledge. Enlightenment.

This is the whakataukī that inspired Bream Bay College head of art Tracey Scott, while developing a strategy to engage learners from home.

 Bream Bay college head of art Tracey Scott and ākonga.

Bream Bay college head of art Tracey Scott and ākonga.

Tracey has been an art teacher for more than 20 years and head of art for the past 15 years at the secondary school in Ruakākā, south of Whangārei. In 2022, the school had to confront issues of fluctuating student attendance.

“Over the course of 2022, we didn’t know when students were going to be away, how long they’d be away for, and what, if any, art supplies they had with them at home.

“The attendance rate this year [2023] has been better than expected at 60-70 percent but every day it is different.”

And so, Tracey jumped into action and began breaking down the cycle of learning, starting with that whakataukī.

“That got my brain in overdrive because of its clear connection to the process of creating artwork,” she says.

Breaking down the cycle of learning

Tracey says she started by linking each step of the whakataukī to specific learning tasks.

He ira (a dot) is linked to researching artist models for thematic ideas and composition.

He puawaitanga (a blossoming) is designing several compositions based on research.

He ponanatanga (uncertainty) is connected to researching artist models for technique and media ideas.

He matauranga (knowledge) is about exploring and experimenting with techniques.

He maramatanga (enlightenment) is linked to reflection and analysis.

“Using that concept as a base, I created a living document so that Year 12 students could continue learning and even if they weren’t creating art at home, there were still activities they could do that were part of the cycle of creating art,” she says.

Tracey says the students’ independent learning activities included researching artist models using Pinterest links, looking at what other students have done, sketching up rough thumbnails, and seeking feedback and annotating their work.

Tracey’s approach for Year 10 students was slightly different. She adapted a drawing and design unit which had a lot of activities involving research around kaitiakitanga, artist models, sketching with materials on-hand, and presenting their work on a Google Classroom slideshow.

“The first three learning activities involved using digital media, including Zoom and Google Classroom, proactively and regularly. For this to work, I had to routinely open Google Classroom every single lesson, becoming so commonplace that students would continue doing so at home.”

Tracey says students are also able to see how they’re tracking using a progress chart on their Google Classroom. This helps to make sure all aspects of the term-long assignment are completed.

Access to digital technology is enabling students to broaden their learnings.

Access to digital technology is enabling students to broaden their learnings.

Engaging whānau in hybrid learning

Tracey says the second and third activities of the strategy were to engage whānau and bring hybrid learning into the art room.

Tracey contacted students’ caregivers to make them part of the online learning process so they understand the importance of how their child can continue learning, even with unavoidable prolonged absences.

Meanwhile, bringing hybrid learning into the art room enabled Tracey to make all practical activity instructions available to students through a series of videos uploaded to Google Classroom.

“Students can work through at their own pace or replay if they encounter something particularly tricky. The technique videos were an absolute lifesaver,” she says.

Linking back to deep learning

The final part of Tracey’s plan was to make sure it tied into Bream Bay College’s deep learning focus which drives all teaching and learning at the school.

The focus brings together four learning quadrants (pedagogical practices, learning partnerships, leveraging digital, learning environments) and six competencies (creativity, communication, collaboration, critical thinking, citizenship, character).

Tracey has connected her plan to these by linking specific tasks to each quadrant.

For example, explicit teaching of the cycle of art and student agency relates to the pedagogical practice quadrant.

Students have been able to learn and follow techniques closely.

Students have been able to learn and follow techniques closely.

Students as experts videoing their art in a tuakana teina approach and connecting with whānau falls under the learning partnerships quadrant.

Using videos to “flip the classroom” and engage those working from home comes under the leveraging digital quadrant.

Hybrid environments relates to the learning environment quadrant.

“My focus area didn’t really require any new technology or apps but more of a change of pedagogical focus.”

Seeing success

Carefully designed digital and data tools can contribute to better educational outcomes. This is certainly the case for Bream Bay College.

Data shows that in term 1 and term 2, the student success percentage was 47.7 percent and 48.5 percent respectively. In term 3, that jumped to 73.3 percent.

Tracey found the how-to videos had the most buy in and would like to explore how to make them more accessible in the future, so other teachers can use them.

“My biggest takeaway from the whole process is a really timely reminder just how important ‘teaching 101s’ are.

“Building and maintaining connections with students and their parents, being open to finding new ways of doing things if your first 10, 50 or 100 ways didn’t work, teaching not just content but self-management skills, and even if a project isn’t a complete success, it’s also not a complete fail.”

  connected ako

Te Puna Kōrero

Nearly a year on from our first article in the Te Puna Kōrero: Celebrating stories of digital success series, this is our last addition to this kete of stories.

While we will continue to focus broadly on digital success in education, all these stories as well as more information about Connected Ako remains available on the Ministry website.

Digital strategy – Ministry of Education(external link)

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 10:18 am, 25 January 2024

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