HCC COWs – From School Planning to Planning School

moodlecowThere’s a slowly growing herd of COWs providing a range of products for schools and students in the Hunter Central Coast Region of NSW.

Click the COW to go there NOW.

A COW is simply an acronym for a Collaborative Online Workspace and was deliberately coined to focus on the intent of the space, rather than the software sitting behind it.  Hunter Central Coast Region provides COWs based on Microsoft Sharepoint, on Wordpress and, in rapidly growing numbers on MOOdle.

The Hunter Central Coast Connected Learning Plan highlights an approach to capacity building and organic growth of lateral support through the key actions of Connect, Collaborate and Create

The tools and processes available to learners as we near the end of the first decade of the 21st Century provide exciting opportunities and clear challenges for our schools.

Across NSW, Connected Learning has been identified as one of the key priorities within the Office of Schools plan which identifies 3 key outcomes

  • Enhanced state-wide access to digital educational resources for learning and teaching and for teacher professional learning
  • Innovation in the use of interactive technologies for learning, teaching and for teacher professional learning
  • Broader curriculum options for every student through information and communication technologies and communities of schools.

The NSW and Federal government commitments to massive spending in the provision of infrastructure and support through the Connected Classrooms Program and the Laptops for Learning program provide us with an unprecedented level of resource to transform learning environments.

The Hunter Central Coast Region is committed to supporting and facilitating the success of these programs within our schools.

Most importantly, we are committed to building a clear scheme of action which seeks to ensure that we have the infrastructure, access to knowledge and support available to enable the creation of learning environments in which the delivery of Quality Teaching is positively affected by not only the provision of infrastructure and ubiquitous tools, but a transformed view of pedagogy.

We have identified three key action areas within a regional strategic approach called ‘Putting the Cs in ICT’ where we explicitly aim to


COWs are an integral part of this.

The first COW was set up on a box under Roger Pryor’s desk in late 2006.  Roger is a School Education Director, with responsibility for 33 schools in the Newcastle area and also has regional responsibility for leading Connected Learning across the 300 schools in the Region.

The first COW used Sharepoint 2003 and provided a ‘proof of concept’ which led to the commissioning of a regional server running Sharepoint 2007.

To provide access to Moodle, a commercial host was used in late 2008 and a few projects took off which saw Roger, some schools, and members of the Regional consultancy team, staying about ten minutes ahead of students in terms of learning about Moodle.  A successful project, in early 2009, saw 2 primary schools collaborate to provide a great online experience for 2 classes of academically gifted students.

In August 2009, Roger embarked on a project to develop some standard themes for Moodle.  A primary theme was developed, and a secondary theme.  These can be seen at http://hccweb2.org.

To support the peer tutoring and individual learning of teachers engaging with Moodle, a Moodle Sandbox was created and visitors are now welcome to Login as Guest, and share in the available ideas and resources.

Along with Moodle and Sharepoint, the hccweb2 space also provides Wordpress blogs to anybody who wants to try out this form of COW. Teachers use Wordpress in a range of ways and visitors to http://hccweb2.org can easily see some examples by clicking the link to Wordpress COWs.

There are now at least 70 – 80 COWs of different breeds grazing in the HCC space, with more being added every week.


For the first year of its operation, all COWs were provided for a total cost of around $200.

At the start of 2010, the ‘buy in’ from schools and the amount of access being generated meant that we needed to migrate our herd to a new dedicated server.  In addition, some of our larger COWs are heading off for sustainable pastures on their own servers.  As this occurs, new users are requesting COWs and the process of ‘paying it forward’ continues: we provide the space and ideas, the new user then builds their own learning and shares this with others who are finding their way.  This ‘viral marketing’ approach seems to be paying real dividends and Roger hopes to share some of the outcomes of this at the ACEC2010 conference in Melbourne soon and at the CEGSA conference in Adelaide later this year.

For more information, please contact Roger by email or on Twitter as @pryorcommitment.

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