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Leading e-learning

“Schools should explore not only how ICT can supplement traditional ways of teaching but also how it can open up new and different ways of learning.”

The New Zealand Curriculum p. 36 

As principals lead their communities and schools in developing and reviewing their school curriculum, it is essential that there is a clear statement of intent regarding the use of digital technologies to support and transform learning.

Specific leadership strategies fall into the following broad approaches:

  • developing a school-wide understanding of the role and importance of digital technologies to enable successful learning for all students 
  • developing a school vision that prepares students for the future, which is supported by the use of digital technologies 
  • modelling technology use by senior leaders in the school and making sure teachers appreciate and experience new technologies as learners themselves before being expected to use them in classrooms
  • encouraging teachers to take risks and use technologies in innovative and meaningful ways to improve student learning 
  • making the most of available technology.

Extending innovative e-learning leadership

While digital technologies are a key element of future focused education and can be used to support pedagogical innovation, they frequently present complex problems for school leaders (Fullan 2011Fullan & Langworthy, 2014). 

Educational consultant, Julia Atkin discusses the process of leading e-learning in a school. She explains the importance of creating a shared vision, developing a vision that reflects the competencies students need to develop, and the importance of identifying the staff's educational needs to ensure the vision can be put into practice.


Fullan, M. (2011). Choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform. Centre for Strategic Education Seminar Series Paper No. 204.
Melbourne: Centre for Strategic Education.
Fullan, M. & Langworthy, M. (2014). A rich seam: How new pedagogies find deep learning, London: Pearson.

Key considerations

  • How do you ensure the learning needs of all your students are being met? 
  • How is e-learning reflected in your school vision?
  • How are you engaging with your school community?
  • What systems have you put in place for ongoing professional learning and development?

Discussion starters

Use these discussion starters in conjunction with the e-Learning Planning Framework to begin facilitating the development of "capacity" in your school to enhance learning with and through technologies.

Principals and school leaders

Students in the classroom
    • How active is the principal in fostering e-learning across the school?
    • How is e-learning leadership distributed throughout the school?
    • Who is involved in e-learning strategic planning for all students, for example, e-Learning leader, e-learning mentors, Special Education Needs Co-ordinator (SENCO)?
    • Have the e-learning skills, knowledge, understandings, roles, and responsibilities for staff been clearly identified?
    • How will individuals, teams, and the whole school be supported to build e-learning capability?
    • How you are engaging with your parent community about e-learning?


  • How are you leading e-learning in your classroom to ensure all students are included and their learning needs are being met?
  • How you are supporting, or leading, e-learning with your peers?
  • How are you using digital technologies to engage with parents, and the wider school community?

Enabling e-Learning: leadership community discussions

Join the discussions or create your own thread in the enabling e-learning: leadership community

Practical steps

Principals and school leaders

"Establish a clear structure for leading e-learning"

  • Establish a clear structure that shares responsibility for leading e-learning across the school, led by the Principal.
  • Select key personnel with clear roles and responsibilities for leading and supporting learning with digital technologies.
  • Support individuals, teams, and whole-school staff development through planned and targetted professional learning opportunities.
  • Make sure organisational systems (time, space, infrastructure) are in place for the sustainable leadership of e-learning across the school.
  • Align reflection and review cycles to teacher learning and appraisal to sustain successful e-learning across your school.
  • Implement a teacher appraisal system that aligns to your e-learning vision and specifically includes a focus of using digital technologies to support learners at risk of not achieving.

Jane Danielson, principal of Hingaia Peninsula School, describes the role of their e-learning leader as being, "a person who will facilitate learning for our whole community – students, teachers, and parents." She outlines the process for developing understanding of how to use technologies to enhance the learning process.

  • Model and share effective use of technologies
  • Promote the value of e-learning with students within and beyond your classroom/school.
  • Use e-learning tools to support collaborative partnerships with colleagues, parents and whānau, and the wider community, for example, RTLBs, RTLits, local iwi, the Pasifika community, outside experts.
  • Be actively involved in e-learning professional development across the school.
  • Inquire into your practice and identify how digital technologies can support inclusion, student engagement, learning, and collaboration
  • Explore and share current research, and effective e-learning pedagogy and practice.

Principal Melissa Bell and e-learning leaders at St Hilda's Collegiate describe the e-Learning PD they have in place to support teachers. It began with upskilling teachers on how to use their "system" and working digitally. Key features include short, weekly meetings and classroom support from the e-learning team.

Developing e-learning at Hillcrest High School 
e-Learning teacher Mervyn Cook, from Hillcrest High School, discusses the connect between teachers and students engaging with technology to support e-learning.

Implementing iPads in school – professional development
When implementing new technologies staff professional development is important. Principal Chris McKinlay describes how iPads were introduced first to staff then into the classroom. He talks of the importance of a whole school approach, and outlines plans for further PD.

EDtalks: Feel the fear – change and ICT leadership
In this EDtalks video Tony Gilbert, deputy principal Green Bay High School, discusses planning and leading change focused on developing ICT capability. He talks about the importance of having a plan that is developed and shared with staff so they understand the purpose for change.

Leading e-learning at St Margarets

Leading e-learning at St Margaret's College 
Brian Woods, digital learning facilitator at St Margaret's College, outlines their approach to integrating 1-1 laptops into the classrooms, and a learning management system in this clip from NZC Online. Brian describes their process for change  and the rationale for beginning with an opt in volunteer scheme. 

Te Apiti ICT Cluster – Strong leadership of e-learning
Strong leadership of e-learning focuses on developing e-learning leadership with school principals to drive change through planning, facilitation, and the inquiry cycle. The reflective summary describes how each school has written an e-learning action plan based on their goals. The summary includes video clips with principals describing their e-learning leadership.

Matata School, "First-time principal embraces Blended e-Learning"
Matata School principal Angelique Bidois says, "Being on the Blended e-Learning (BeL) contract has focused our thinking more intentionally on utilising e-learning tools and technologies, along with effective teaching strategies, to improve learning outcomes for our students,” in this Education Gazette article. Staff are using the e-Learning Planning Framework to identify where they are in terms of e-learning capability, and plan their next steps.

Mt Albert School
Unasa Enosa Auva’a, principal of Mount Albert School, articulates his role as leader of e-learning in this YouTube video clip Mt Albert school principal May 2011

Strategic planning for e-learning

Strategic planning for e-learning

Irene Cooper, principal of Hillcrest Normal School in Hamilton, talks about the opportunities provided through e-learning to engage differently with students. Using the e-Learning Planning Framework, the school has completed a review and used this as a basis for their strategic planning. One particular focus is on multicultural aspects of the school for learning.

Hereora leaders share cluster development

Hereora – Becoming a truly collaborative cluster

Hereora cluster leaders share how a collaborative and future-focused inquiry has supported new cluster goals and a shared vision.

Hereora: Discussing future-focused collaboration

Hereora – A future-focused collaboration

Hereora leaders share how their cluster wide future-focused inquiry is providing students with opportunities to have agency over decisions around learning.

Hereora leaders discuss shared plans and goals

Hereoa – Clarifying goals using spirals of inquiry

Hereora cluster leaders discuss how the spirals of inquiry has been a useful tool to develop focus and coherence across the cluster. 

Developing e-learning at Hillcrest

Developing e-learning at Hillcrest High School

e-Learning teacher Mervyn Cook, from Hillcrest High School, discusses the connect between teachers and students engaging with technology to support e-learning.

Implementing iPads in school - professional development

Implementing iPads in school – professional development

Grant's Braes School principal, Chris McKinlay describes how iPads were introduced first to staff then into the classroom.

Jane Danielson

Role of the e-learning leader

Jane Danielson, principal of Hingaia Peninsula School, explains the role of their e-learning leader.

Julia Atkin

Leading e-learning

Educational consultant, Julia Atkin, discusses the process of leading e-learning in a school. She explains the importance of creating a shared vision that reflects the competencies students need to develop, and identifying teacher needs to ensure the vision can be put into practice.

Planning the new build, a school and community partnership

Planning the new build, a school and community partnership

Halswell School principal, Bruce Topham explains key steps in planning and building an innovative learning environment that is part of the community.

Support for teachers

Support for teachers

Principal Melissa Bell and the e-learning leaders at St Hilda's Collegiate describe the professional development they have in place to support teachers with teaching and learning.

Orewa College - A vision for e-learning

Orewa College – A vision for e-learning

Mark Quigley, Deputy Principal, and Tony Zaloum, Director ICT Projects, explain their vision for e-learning as they embark on implementing BYOD for Year 9 students at Orewa College.

Technology supporting the school vision

Technology supporting the school vision

Principal Melissa Bell describes St Hilda's school vision and how it is supported and enabled by technology.

Supporting successful BYOD implementation

Supporting successful BYOD implementation

e-Learning co-ordinator, Allistair Williamson explains key steps for implementing BYOD at Pakuranga College. 

BYOD – Planning your digital strategy

BYOD – Planning your digital strategy

Michael Williams, principal Pakuranga College, discusses some of the key questions they worked through when developing their digital strategy.

new school plans

Planning for change

Woodend School principal, Graeme Barber explains key aspects of preparing and planning for the development of an innovative learning environment. Forming an e-leadership team to support and manage the change with a focus on learning and teaching.

Planning for change

Planning for change

Graeme Barber, Principal at Woodend School, discusses the importance of having a shared vision as your prepare for change. When planning their new build, the community was involved.

Planning for success for Māori across the Katote cluster

Planning for success for Māori across the Katote cluster

Supporting Māori learners success is one of Katote clusters goals. Woodend School principal, Graeme Barber discusses the process of inviting feedback from whānau. 

Pedagogy underpins practice in an innovative learning environment

Pedagogy underpins practice in an innovative learning environment

Gavin Burn and Cathie Zelas explain their process of moving from a traditional learning environment to an innovative learning environment at Halswell School.

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Kiwi leadership for principals (KLP) 
This document presents a model of leadership that reflects the qualities, knowledge, and skills required to lead New Zealand schools from the present to the future, and focuses particularly on the role of the principal as an educational leader. It can be viewed or downloaded from the Educational Leaders' website.

Self-review tool for in-school leaders
This self-review tool, from NZ Curriculum Online, supports in-school leaders as they work with their teachers and boards of trustees to use the National Standards.

Ruia – Teacher appraisal for Māori learners' success
A resource for principals and other school leaders who want appraisal to lead to deep learning for teachers and to educational success for Māori students. Find out more about this Ministry of Education resource and its development on the Educational Leaders website.

e-Learning Planning Framework
The framework provides school leaders with:

  • a self-review tool for schools to gather evidence about practice
  • a road map for building e-learning capability
  • a tool to evaluate the effectiveness of e-learning programmes
  • resources and services to support schools as they build capability.

This planning template is adapted from the review questions from Naace's (previously Becta) Self-review framework. It takes into consideration the NZ Curriculum and is designed to assist strategic planning for learning about, with, and through ICT.

Leading change
Resources, supporting materials, and digital stories focused on how to lead successful change in your school located on NZ Curriculum Online.

LoTi Framework
The LoTi Framework measures classroom teachers' implementation of e-learning. It focuses on the effective use of digital tools and resources to promote higher order thinking, engaged student learning, and authentic assessment practices in the classroom. This is an American website.

ICT PD strategic planning wiki
This wiki provides guidance and support on how to develop a long-term strategic plan that will enable your school's vision to be realised. Within the wiki are useful readings, templates, and examples of strategic plans.

Educational leaders
The future schools and innovation section provides current research and readings on leading and managing change.

eLearning ICT showcases l eLearning leadership
This link, from the Department of Education and Childhood Development, Victoria, Australia, provides some useful quotes, ideas, and resources to support e-learning leadership in your school.


Research and readings

Effective educational leadership (Measurable Gains Framework, 2.2)
This rubric helps school evaluate how well they are progressing in relation to effective educational leadership that develops culturally responsive learning contexts and systems.

Eight forces for leaders of change
This article from Educational Leaders by Michael Fullan, Claudia Cuttress, and Ann Kilcher, outlines eight forces for managing the change process, and contains suggested topics for discussion and evaluation. This information is useful for those beginning a phase of change. It provides a useful reading to share with staff so that they understand the various stages in the process of implementing change in a school.

Leading change
This New Zealand Education Gazette article, 9 March 2009, looks at how leadership was the key to fostering Māori education success in a small rural Northland school. It outlines examples of the clearly visible correlation between culture and learner achievement. 

School leadership and student outcomes - Identifying what works and why
This leadership synthesis has analysed national and international evidence on the impact of leadership on a wide range of student outcomes.

School leadership and student outcomes: Identifying what works and why - best evidence synthesis
The big finding of the BES is that when school leaders promote and/or participate in effective teacher professional learning, this has twice the impact on student outcomes across a school than any other leadership activity. New Zealand principals spend less time on those activities that make the most difference than many of their international peers.

Extending innovative e-learning leadership
In this project the researchers worked with experienced principals to identify and analyse effective e-learning leadership strategies, and make these visible and accessible for other school leaders.

More readings »