Written by Education Gazette editors
originally published in Education Gazette, 19 November 2020
A professional learning and development (PLD) programme delivered to five schools in the Cook Islands in response to Covid-19 has helped them make strides in their practice.
As school communities across New Zealand adapted to distance learning during Covid-19 Alert Levels 3 and 4, schools and teachers in the Pacific were preparing for how they would respond if they had to do the same in their countries.
The Ministry of Education invited Massey University’s PLD provider Tātai Angitu to support five schools in the Cook Islands – Araura College, Enuamanu School, Mangaia School, Tereora College and Titikaveka College – to help them prepare for learning from a distance.
Led by Dr Lesieli Tongati’o, Tātai Angitu facilitators Misha Shamdass and Jacky Yoshioka-Braid created a bespoke PLD programme that was able to be delivered entirely online through Google Classroom, where teachers could engage with the PLD in their own time at a pace that suited them. The modulised course on blended learning was supplemented with readings, videos and tasks as well as a weekly Zoom session.
Tim and Julianna Collier, New Zealand teachers from Gisborne who are teaching at Tereora College in Rarotonga, participated in the professional learning with teachers from other schools across the country.
Connecting with participants via Zoom, email and telephone, the Massey facilitators modelled the use of flexible digital technologies to teachers.
“The opportunities this offers are terrific – little things happened that were special: like seeing a colleague join a Zoom session for the very first time,” says Tim.
“Teachers are now starting to explore these ideas with their classes. The work with the PLD facilitators all took place online, using a range of different technology platforms and apps.”
A barrier to using technology in learning in the Cook Islands has been limited connectivity, but this is rapidly changing. Some of the islands, including Rarotonga and Aitutaki, have recently been connected to the world by an undersea internet cable, however, until visitors return to the islands, and commercial demand increases, there is not the speed needed to support the seamless use of IT in learning.
“The big thing about IT-infused learning is the readiness of the teachers. The PLD with Massey has helped contribute to this. Here we’ve been given the opportunity to get ahead,” explains Tim.
Tātai Angitu tailored its support to meet the specific needs articulated by the schools.
Schools wanted support in a variety of areas, including transitioning to distance learning, lesson planning for NCEA subjects and levels, physical and emotional wellbeing, and leadership support.
Pacific Realm countries offering the NCEA qualification were offered the same access to the PLD support that New Zealand schools received during the Covid-19 response, working with accredited New Zealand PLD facilitators who have expertise working with Pacific teachers and learners.
While Rarotonga has so far had no cases of Covid-19 and has not gone into lockdown, schools are better prepared now in case this does occur.
Copyright © New Zealand Ministry of Education. Republished with permission.