Our Virtual Learners

Participating in VLN has become a long-standing tradition at Wairakei Primary School - one of the many perks of being a Year 6. VLN stands for ‘Virtual Learning Network’. As students move into the senior school, they look forward to being able to choose a subject of interest to them, whether it is a…

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Participating in VLN (Virtual Learning Network) is a long-standing tradition at Wairakei Primary School. One of the many perks of being a Year 6.

Our VLN students have become proficient at using and connecting through Zoom software.

As students move into the senior school, they look forward to being able to choose a subject of interest to them, whether it is a language, astronomy, art, writing or biology.

Expert Teachers

Having access to expert teachers across New Zealand (and sometimes overseas) is a major drawcard of VLN and the programme is designed to benefit rural schools. Students take part in a 30-minute lesson each week with their expert teacher and other students across the country. They are then expected to spend around 30 minutes completing a follow-up task during the week, before their next lesson.

Specialist art teachers are at our fingertips in VLN.


I thought about doing visual art for VLN because I like drawing. First we drew our faces and what we like to do. We learned about drawing body parts and muscles. We showed the lines to make it easier and to show movement. My favourite is the colour neutralisation chart I made because it is about the harmony of colours and mixing them.

Layers of Learning

  • It happens in the form of subject knowledge, exploring planets of our solar system, expanding our te reo Māori, or painting the human form.
  • It occurs in the way students learn online etiquette, time management and the ins and outs of interactive video software.

For some, it is their first taste of student agency and being responsible for themselves in a collaborative learning environment. Key competencies are crucial as students manage themselves, participate, contribute and relate to others in a whole new way.

Scratch coding in action

Doing digital technology was a good learning experience. I learned how to use Scratch coding. There are lots of fun things about VLN. We got to make a game at the end. We tried other people’s games and the teacher always shared our games. It took a while to learn how to upload them to Google Classroom. One thing we did was inspecting websites to learn how websites are built. My advice: Give it your best. Give it a try. It’s a good way to learn what you want to learn.

Teaching in Alaska… or Hawaii?

Seesaw and Google Classroom are used to connect students and teachers asynchronously, meaning teaching points can be revised again after the lesson, at a time that suits the students. Students can then complete tasks set by the teacher and ‘hand in’ these tasks with a push of a computer key. Teaching and learning is no longer limited to the 9am-3pm window. If your VLN teacher is in Alaska or Hawaii, as has been the case in previous years, time differences are not so problematic.

Online POWER

VLN is not immediately suited to everyone. Some students find it challenging to remember their lesson and get into a routine. Others are shy around students from other schools. The content of the lessons can be very different to what students are used to and teaching styles online are limited to what can be achieved on Zoom. VLN allows students to use POWER and take on a new ‘Opportunity’. Some perseverance, support from their classroom teacher and gentle persuasion from whānau at home are often needed for learners to be successful. The home-school partnership is still very important to ensure students are resilient when trying something new like VLN.

Seesaw offers asynchronous teaching and learning

If your child is Year 6 next year, you may like to discuss what subjects they are passionate about and if VLN might be of interest. Subject choices will be announced in February and classes start in March. Pop in to school and see me if you would like more information.

We did a lot of tasks in biology on Seesaw. That’s how we shared our work with our teacher. First we focused on the human body and then on plants and trees. With my school work, sometimes it was hard to manage them both even though we have a homework time on Thursdays. My advice? Give yourself lots of time to do your VLN homework.

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