Joining the dots – Innovative learning for a connected world

Issue: Volume 99, Number 4

Posted: 12 March 2020
Reference #: 1HA6Rb

As the Education Gazette releases the fourth part in its video series on Digital Technologies & Hangarau Matihiko, we look at a Canterbury secondary school that is building relationships to help learners develop innovative mindsets and find their places in a connected world.

A Canterbury secondary school that is building relationships to help learners develop innovative mindsets and find their places in a connected world

Rolleston College puts a high priority on reaching out to whānau, the local community and businesses to share learning and build relationships. 

“We want learning to be celebrated across the different year levels and for it to be a positive way for our community to come together to celebrate our young people,” says Bronwyn Hoy, lead social science, innovation and for implementing the new Digital Technologies curriculum content.

Last November, Rolleston College hosted a community event – Activate – which will be repeated in 2020. It was an opportunity for the area’s learners, from early learning to secondary school, to showcase their digital technologies and innovative learning. 

“The idea was for learners from our Kāhui Ako schools to be able to activate their innovative mindset and showcase their learning,” explains Bronwyn.

“We wanted to provide people from our community with a really positive digital technologies experience and help them to understand the computational thinking and design and development of digital outcomes [two new technological areas in the Technology Learning Area].” 

Bronwyn is a recipient of a Boma NZ Education Fellowship, a one-year programme using technology to improve the learning outcomes of secondary school students.

“My [Boma] project was around creating an ‘activation space’, which is a purposeful space in a school where learners can exhibit, have workshops; and explicit learning opportunities can take place to develop an innovative mindset. The Activate night is part of this in starting to bring people and ideas together.”

The Activate event was an opportunity for whānau and the community to learn more about digital technologies and innovative learning.

Exploring interests

In term 3, 2019, the school trialled a weekly Year 9 whole-cohort project around designing and developing a digital outcome. Students were able to use specialist areas and teachers to help them with their project, says Bronwyn. 

“The learners had to identify a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that was important to them, research it and create a digital outcome that could teach others about their goal. They all created artefacts and that was a student choice – it could be a video, a scratch game, an electronic poster – there were endless choices.

“To present their artefacts, they had a slide where there was a quick blurb about why they chose that goal and a QR code that linked to their final outcome. Other learners and members of the community were encouraged to come in and learn more about the projects.” 

Skills such as resilience and perseverance are also important, she says. 

“We want our learners to see failing as a positive experience that they can learn from and continue to iterate their outcomes, get feedback and testing until they work towards an outcome that is suitable for end users.” 

Connected learning

As Rolleston College helps students prepare for the future world of work, the school focuses on a series of critical skills such as literacy, numeracy, critical thinking, problem-solving, curiosity, imagination and collaboration across networks. The Connected part of the school’s curriculum explores a theme such as Identity across core subjects such as English, maths, science and social science. 

“Learning should be connected, and we want our learners to understand how the world is connected, not to think that the world consists of silos of subjects,” explains Bronwyn.

Support for teachers

The school used government-funded professional learning and development (PLD) hours to work with accredited PLD provider ImpactED to develop the SDGs project and provide specific teacher PLD. Gerard MacManus, Learning Design Leader at Hobsonville Point Secondary School partnered with Bronwyn and ImpactED in this project.

To ensure the digital technologies curriculum content is authentically placed in the school and that staff have the confidence and time to be able to lead the learning, one or two teachers in each whānau (house) have stepped forward to provide support for less confident staff. 

“We set up a range of stations for staff where they could learn about the types of activities they could include in their own lessons,” says Bronwyn.

“Part of that was focused on the digital outcomes and the types of outcomes learners could choose so that the teachers felt confident in being able to guide a learner in the right direction if they perhaps weren’t sure themselves.”

Rolleston activation space

The college, which opened in 2017, currently has a roll of 970. A planned stage 2 build will provide for another 700 learners. Rolleston, just south of Christchurch, has grown rapidly since the 2011 earthquake and Selwyn District Council has a 20-year plan to develop infrastructure for the town.

Bronwyn would love to see a purpose-built space in Rolleston where the community can celebrate learning across age groups. As well as community classes, a dedicated space would allow for workshops and exhibitions that are open to the public.

“Learning is a lifelong activity. The idea is around creating a multi-purposeful space to provide a range of learning opportunities and more importantly, a way that we could connect within our community. For example, we could run events that our Year 8 learners from contributing primary schools could come along to, or seniors might run an event for early childhood children.

“We could form partnerships with businesses and our local universities [Lincoln and Canterbury]. For example, some of their robotic equipment could be on loan and set up in the activation space and some of the tertiary learners could come and work with our students as part of their course. Having a dedicated space would allow more authentic opportunities to happen.”

Four prototypes and two years later, Levente Scott’s robotic arm was ready for display at Activate.

Real-world connections

Internship days are held for Year 10 and 11 students at Rolleston College. 

In term 2, there’s a ‘taster’ day where they can sign up to a theme such as technology, health or sport. They go to a workplace or tertiary provider such as Ara, followed by the Careers Expo in Christchurch.

In term 3 the students spend a day at their chosen workplace. 

“We want our learners to be able to go and experience a career path that’s of interest to them and so we always try to establish those connections and networks with industry in Rolleston and further afield into Christchurch as well,” says Bronwyn.

How it’s done

Education Gazette spoke to Deputy Principal Hayden Shaw, who is responsible for education outside the classroom (EOTC) at Rolleston College.

Q. How does Rolleston College help provide technology pathways into careers for students?

A: In Year 10 our students take part in Transform Futures, which, in the case of the tech industry, has seen students who have shown an interest in the industry going to see what it would be like to study mechatronics engineering at the University of Canterbury, then head to a technology company such as Trimble and then on to the Careers Expo in Christchurch.

This leads onto opportunities for Year 10s later in the year to participate in internship days, when students spend a day at a workplace of their choice. Many who have been keen on careers in the tech industry have been able to take advantage of this.

Q. What’s the value in this for a) students and b) businesses?

A: The value for students is massive as it reinforces why they are learning what they are at school. It shows the links between secondary and tertiary education, on to employment. It shows them what the workplace looks like along with many other benefits. 

The value in seeing what is happening in both tertiary education and business is massive because if students are not exposed to these situations, many may not end up heading in this direction.

The value for the businesses is that they are able to talk to the students and get a idea of the things they are doing at school so they are more aware of what students are learning at school. 

It has the potential to set up future internships for students that could benefit both the businesses and students over time.

Student kōrero

Education Gazette asked Year 12 student Jack Tocker about his internship experience 

Q: What did you do on the Taster Day and where did you go for your internship?

A: What I liked about the trip was getting to explore my career of interest, and being able to visit real workplaces that could potentially be our near future [Ara and CerebralFix and UC].

Q: What were the highlights of these events for you?

A: What interested me was the different possibilities in coding and digital technologies, and there are thousands of careers to explore in that area. What I also found interesting was learning about how CerebralFix created popular apps, and how Ara/UC was able to use software and hardware to create a robotic arm controller.

Q: What did you learn from your internship experience?

A: What I learned was how different software and hardware were able to control robots, and how coding and digital design was used in the creation of games, as well as a major thing for us secondary school learners about what course subjects we should be taking. 

Sign up now to receive the Education Gazette newsletter here(external link).

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 11:54 am, 12 March 2020

Get new listings like these in your email
Set up email alerts