Robin Ohia is one of the energetic, creative educators with whom I have been working for the last eight months as part of the Virtual Professional Development (VPD) project.
To provide a little bit of background around the project he is leading**, in 2005 the Ministry of Education funded the launch of LAMS in Aotearoa New Zealand. Since 200, Robin has been working on the LAMS Bilingual Interface Trial / Te Reo Māori Project, which has a strong focus on the Learning Activities Management System (LAMS). The idea behind the project was, in part, to reduce isolation, and to help with this he has been working with five geographically distant Kura Kaupapa Māori from the Whanganui, Ruapehu, Taranaki and Wellington regions.
The stated aims of the project were to provide access to digital resources and learning activities for teachers and students within bilingual educational settings, while also evaluating the effective management of an online learning environment, the systems within the learning environment, and the effectiveness of such an environment to assist students with student learning outcomes and objectives within bilingual educational settings. I was hoped that through the use of integrated systems and rich mixed mode media learning content (available both online and offline), would help teachers construct new ideas leading that in turn led to improved student engagement and motivation.
An important part of the achievement of these aims was the establishment a vibrant community of learning, and online access was seen as way of connecting people. Robin, therefore established online collaborative areas in LAMS, Moodle and Adobe Connect. He mentions that it can be tough to help sustain the community, as teachers can be keen on the Professional Development (PD) aspect, but sometimes find it more tricky to be active members of the community while also grappling with identity shifts as teachers and as learners.
The Aotearoa New Zealand LAMS is aimed at students in years 1 to 8 and designed specifically for Māori-medium settings, whereby students are able to learn individually and collectively and teachers are able to create lessons and monitor students’ progress online. Robin also sees the project as a positive professional development experience for teachers who are starting to explore online learning environments within their kura, and says “The project enhances outcomes by teachers becoming more aware of how to construct learning for their students. This is particularly efficient when systems are incorporated into the students’ existing environments” (Annual Report on Māori Education, 2008/09). LAMS appears to be a good way of scaffolding teachers embarking on the design of learning experiences within online environments - a kind of stepping stone.
For the future, Robin is encouraging a more coordinated effort to help expand the existing digital resources that have already been developed as part of the project. One of the barriers to this is workload: “The scary part is whether those responsible for Māori education, with their heavy workloads, can sustain the momentum the project needs” (Annual Report on Māori Education, 2008/09). Robin hopes LAMS will extend to other kura in the near future.
To watch and hear Robin speaking about the LAMS Project click HERE , and to watch a slideshow to some of the underlying concepts of the project click HERE.
Successes to dateAs well as helping to develop the initial bilingual interface and facilitate the community and associated PD around the LAMS Project, Robin continues to teach and is rapt as his students have started to suggest topics they would like to see as LAMS sequences. Robin has also noted that the LAMS PD community has encouraged the integration of an online environment into students’ learning in a way that mirrors the kind of online experiences they have in their personal lives. One specific learner Robin speaks of is a student with attention problems, who went on to spend 35 to 40 minutes on a LAMS activity, as well as other students who voluntarily access LAMS from home. “The feedback from teachers pertaining to motivation can only be described, in their words, as ‘unbelievable’.” (Annual Report on Māori Education, 2008/09).
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On the PD front, Robin now has four teachers who are ready to start facilitating their own LAMS PD sessions with new teachers in the cluster. Robin is also working with a new PD group around LAMS and says they have a lot of energy and motivation to go full steam ahead, which he is finding exciting and inspirational. He has also noted that online PD is becoming more mainstream, and is consequently a focus of some of the groups he is working with. Some of the feedback Robin has received from participants includes:
"My first impressions were, oh my gosh, what is this all about? At that stage IT and I were not very good friends. HOW, was the biggest issue but looking ahead to the benefits for the tamariki [children] drove me to rethink my position with IT. Eventually seeing the activities hands-on, and the tamariki being involved helped me to understand the objectives and purpose."
Tira Woodley - Year 4-5 Teacher
"Impressed by how quick most of the tamariki grasped the concept of following through with the activities. As i have grown I have had time to absorb and understand the direction that LAMS has to offer and the benefits our tamariki will achieve in this modern eLearning programme. Its cool...all the tamariki love it and the enthusiasm has been shown by all tamariki, especially their learning behaviour."
On the assessment front, Robin in keenly exploring the potential of LAMS for diagnostic, formative and summative assessment, and accelerated achievement and outcomes. It all looks really positive.
Robin also takes an active part in the LAMS international community.
A bit more about LAMS
The Learning Activities Management System (LAMS) is a resource that enables teachers to create lessons and monitor students’ progress online. It also helps school leaders in general, and in Māori-medium settings in particular, to share knowledge, resources and teaching ideas on a daily basis. LAMS has been completely or partially translated to 27 languages by more than 55 volunteers (and you can volunteer to help out with this initiative). To find out more about LAMS you can visit:
- Sign up for a free account for LAMS
- Click here to access an example LAMS sequence about the capitals of the Americas and Europe,
- The LAMS Community forums where all things LAMS are discussed, and where you can access heaps of support, as well as a large repository of LAMS sequences
- The Minedu welcome page of their instance of LAMS, which has links to useful information such as some of the new tools in version 2.3 of LAMS, and a list of new features and improvements
- Click HERE to access a wide range of videos, case studies, papers, presentations, articles and reports
- The LAMS user documentation is available by clicking HERE
- Watch a brief animation about the LAMS Community by clicking HERE
- Visit this site to find out more and to collaborate in the LAMS 2.0 / Moodle integration project