Our school has gone from zero to hero regarding a digital transformation. We now have an extraordinary Wi-Fi network, significant student access to devices and over half the staff part of Digital Learning PLG. All students at Aorere College are expected to have their own device(s) for educational purposes, and from 2017 Chromebooks will be on all year level stationery lists. At of today, there has been over around 3,000 downloads of our Aorere College smartphone app.
Furthermore New Era notes "In the past 18 months, Aorere College has undergone a remarkable digital transformation. With an intelligent wireless network that provides internet access to every corner of their school grounds, a senior leadership group that places emphasis on student achievement and growth, and robust firewalling ensuring cyber safety is of paramount concern, the school is leading the way in providing a world-class platform for teaching and learning for its students, its staff and the community that it serves."
ERO have further commented on Aorere Digital noting "A well considered digital learning plan is guiding improvements in developing digital competencies for both staff and students. Its key focus on raising student achievement and enabling equitable access for students to learning is continually reviewed and refined."
But what on earth you may ask has anything of this got to do with "horizontal connections"? My answer- everything.
For secondary schools to better leverage learning opportunities that demonstrate horizontal connectedness for/with/between students, schools must ensure that the platform provided is an explicit and efficient enabler of this ambition over being a disabler. For our teachers and students to have both virtual & global connections, it is critical that the technology effectiveness does not come into question. Once the tech provision is no longer an issue, teachers and their teachers can take risks and grow both as learners, leaders and connectors.
An example of growing horizontal connections in my Year 11 English class is the fact with students being 1:1 Chromebook-enabled, I work with my students rather than to them. They can connect with students and content from anywhere in New Zealand, anywhere in the world and instantly. They can also increasingly work at their own pace and with strong freedom of choice and empowered agency. Within the class, the use of Google Classroom. Docs, Slides, etc. enable legitimate real-time collaboration that via digital means, can be safely and effectively accessed in the future. The horizontal connections in our GAFE-accredited school are further enhanced through students being able to work anywhere, anytime on their school work. With so many of our students having Android phones, they can access their schoolwork, even without a laptop or Chromebook.
A fundamental benefit of horizontal connections for me is the way digital technologies enable all student voices to be heard. Students on Padlet for example, are all in being heard equally and simultaneously while the vast array of devices available today enable absent students to still submit work or in many cases, NCEA assessments whether physically present or otherwise. Lastly, digital devices in my experience enable students to co-construct work, assessments and deadlines with their teacher and as a result, have not only greater ownership of their learning but also arguably of the outcomes.
For me, horizontal connections are about people over devices. Having said this, digital technology enables these connections to exist stronger, faster and more sustainable than what was possible in the past.
I look forward to connections pertaining to any of the above!
If you are a New Zealand teacher, please make comments here.