Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What is the biggest challenge currently facing education in New Zealand?

This post was originally written Education Review SeriesSector Voices: the biggest challenge facing education

There are a number of issues that come to mind when pondering this question; that society is changing so much faster than the schools who fail to keep up through a lack of infrastructure or lack of perceived need to transform or the the academic “tail” that so oft seems to serve as a political cat o' nine tails to flagellate New Zealand educators.

However the one issue I actually see as our biggest challenge is our national models of assessment at both primary and secondary level. I believe it is now time to begin a nationwide discourse about how we might re-design national assessment in order to drive change in curriculum design in all NZ schools in order to improve outcomes for all.

One of the biggest issues with national assessment is also one of the biggest bonuses - quite simply, national assessment is the ‘tail that wags the dog’ in education. What we measure (and publish) is what we get and maybe we measure what is easy to measure, but is what is easy to measure the right thing to measure? Why is this is a problem you say? I believe it is a huge problem because we aren’t actually measuring the right ‘things’ and if we aren’t measuring the right ‘things’, the chances are we are not teaching the right ‘things’. Of course Reading and Writing is important and the Learning Areas measured at secondary level (Arts, English, Languages, Health and P.E, Maths, Sciences, Social Sciences and Technology) are also fine subjects to explore. However I’m not sure they are still as relevant as they once were. Our current models of assessment are based around a long standing model of education that was born out of the Industrial Age and was based on meeting the needs of workers of that age - workers who were compliant, workers who needed to communicate efficiently and complete a range of manual tasks that were all part of the industrial landscape. Now, particularly in New Zealand, we are facing a very different workplace, a knowledge based landscape that requires some similar skills, but also many other skills not necessarily captured by the literacy and numeracy focus at primary and a set of siloed subjects at secondary either. So perhaps the biggest challenge that faces education in NZ is measuring the right things in order to value and promote the right things for our learners?

So what skills do students need now and how does assessment need to change to drive a re-focussing in our education system? Luckily for us we actually have the answer already. The answer lies in our much lauded document, the New Zealand Curriculum. However, the answer lies not in the Learning Areas which so tidily spell out the achievement objectives we tend to use as a skeleton on which we flesh out courses of study, but in the front end, or more precisely on page 12. The NZC identifies five key competencies: thinking, using language, symbols, and texts, managing self, relating to others and participating and contributing.

Many may argue that these skills are already implicit in the learning areas outlined earlier, indeed the learning areas are still a fine context for teaching these skills. What I believe we need to change is the focus, we need to make the explicit. Rather than Learning Areas being the dominant foreground image and the key competencies a blur in the background I believe we need to change the depth of field and bring the competencies into sharp focus and the “subject” softens to simply provide a context for learning and this will only occur, I believe, if we change what we assess. It is these skills or competencies that will prepare our young people for the current age and more importantly for an ever changing future. Subjects, learning areas and contexts will change at ever increasing rates, the skills required to navigate these contexts will not.

Accepting the assumption that assessment is the ‘tail that wags the dog’, it is these five competencies, particularly when viewed through a future-focused lens that need to be assessed. One off tests and examinations measure little more than the ability to memorise and recall information under stress. Assessment needs to make use of the tools that are now available. Digital technologies can be used to gather data over time, capturing and analysing learner skills in informal and regular low stress learning episodes. Digital technologies can also be used to evidence, collect and curate learner stories, to provide rich portfolios of learning that go beyond a single project or subject. What if we were to forgo examinations and instead poured our resources into an expansive national team of moderators and support people that could provide both professional learning around measuring progressions of competencies as well as checkmarking educator judgements of progress made? In a digital age the notion of national and local educators pair-marking and giving feedback synchronously on rich multi-media, multi-subject learning portfolios is completely viable. Imagine a national assessment framework that was not just same old subjects ‘anytime, anywhere’ but rather key competencies demonstrated ‘anytime, anywhere, anyhow’.

Okay, I admit it, this is just one idea, one iteration of my moonshot thinking, however it is this kind of re-imagined assessment system that might, just might, help us drive a change in curriculum design in all NZ schools in order to improve outcomes for all. Who knows, perhaps the assessment system, which is our greatest challenge in NZ education, can also be our greatest lever for positive change.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Thoughts on the future of EdTech

This post was originally written as part of a 'Thoughts on the future of EdTech' blog series on the Ed Personnel Blog.

“The only constant is change.”  
- Heraclitus

There are two things that strike me when thinking about the future of EdTech. Firstly it’s the fact that we are quite simply incapable of “knowing” what EdTech might look like in the future and even what we “imagine” seems to be limited by what we already do. For instance, when educators are asked to predict the future of EdTech it concerns me that they often appear to be simply predicting current best practice becoming more widespread. Not exactly aspirational. Secondly, there is the fact that the EdTech itself is actually nowhere as interesting as the potential transformation of the wider pedagogical landscape that EdTech will make possible.

“The future is unknowable but not unimaginable.”
- Ludwig Lachman

If I were to be safe in my thoughts on the future of EdTech I would focus on how EdTech will support the shift to more widespread student centred practice. Digitally rich pedagogy, critical thinking, and increasing levels of self direction will ensure we are developing learners who can “survive” in the knowledge age (the age we live in now). EdTech has the capacity (when readily available and used effectively) to move us from having 'caged' classrooms to increasingly 'free range learners'.

Free range learners who are:
  • Free to choose how they learn
  • Free to choose where they learn
  • Free to choose how they process their learning
  • Free to choose how they evidence their learning
  • Free to experience learning that is relevant and responsive to their needs not our limitations

“Unlocking the power of new technologies for self-guided education is one of the 21st century superhighways that need to be paved.” 
- Sugata Mitra

However if I were to be brave and be more brutally honest about what the future of EdTech might entail I would go further.

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near.”
- Jack Welch

I believe that the future of EdTech will actually facilitate something even more exciting - the partial dissolution of what we have come to know as “school”. I suspect that if schools continue to struggle to evolve and to leverage the power of EdTech effectively and cannot change at a rate that mirrors the rate of change in wider society we will begin to see a society that questions the relevance of such a formal and seemingly inflexible structure. In fact, it is possible that we could see the whole notion of school questioned and the relevance of formal education challenged as future generations refuse to accept the glacial pace of change and instead harness the powers of EdTech to form something akin to connected home-schooling community. You only need look at the global proliferation of democratic schools and rising profile of hackschooling to get a sense that this shift has already begun. And whilst democratic schools, for the most part, still base themselves in what we might recognise as a school, I do wonder if the ubiquity and autonomy that EdTech affords learners, we may see that change as well.

The future of EdTech is one of disruption, democratization and for some, complete dissonance.

Before you dismiss this as little more than a pedagogical fantasy, I would suggest that you at least stop to consider the future of EdTech as something more than the status quo on steroids and I implore you recognise that what is really exciting is not the EdTech at all, but rather how EdTech might help to redefine what “an education” might look like in the not distant future.

Monday, October 6, 2014

An Updated Beginner's Guide to Hobsonville Point Secondary School

Click here to view the clip about HPSS on Seven Sharp

This post is an update on the original A Beginner's Guide to Hobsonville Point Secondary School. The updated version includes some changes made to our time table as a result of a Term 3 curriculum review. It is our hope that this post will need to be updated regularly as we plan for the timetable to evolve regularly to ensure we are always responsive an meeting the needs of our current cohort.

So what is HPSS all about and how are we hoping to evolve existing models of secondary education?

HPSS is a co-educational state school located in Hobsonville Point, Auckland. We are a MLE (modern learning environment) which means we are a large open plan school, typified by open flexible learning spaces, break out rooms and specialised learning spaces. The furniture is varied, including high bar leaners, mid-level desks, tables, low tables and bean bags. The space and fittings designed to move from caves, campfires to watering holes. We are also a PPP school which simply means that we have another company managing our property (from maintenance to cleaning) - which means we can focus on teaching and learning!

(Credit where credit's due - the next part is mostly poached and remixed from a range of existing resources developed by the Senior Leadership Team and Leaders of Learning!)

The vision for our school is to create a stimulating, inclusive learning environment which empowers learners to contribute confidently and responsibly in our changing world.

The foundations of our curriculum decision-making are to:
  • Innovate through personalising learning
  • Engage through powerful partnerships
  • Inspire through deep challenge and inquiry to develop empowered learners
The curriculum and student week is made up of three key components - learning hubs, specialised learning and project learning.

Learning Hubs
Learning Hubs will:
  • be small groups where caring relationships are fostered
  • provide learners with one key person who will connect with family and ensure learners are engaged in a relevant and challenging programme
  • explore learner interests in order to pursue passions, which can be linked back to learning
  • track progress and provide structures so learners, with their coaches and families, can maintain a learning portfolio
  • build on learners' capacities to be Inquirers and Self Directed Learners

Specialised Learning Modules
Specialised Learning Modules:
  • will enable all students to gain coverage of curriculum areas and fluencies
  • will include a range of teaching & learning modes: co-constructed, seminar, workshop, flipped, online etc.
  • will encourage critical and creative thinking
  • will be framed by inquiry and involve independent learning activities
Learning Coaches will work with the students to create a LearnPath by selecting a range of modules that ensure curriculum and skills coverage. Beyond 2014 students will be able to be placed into modules based on curriculum levels suited to their readiness rather than based on their age.

Check out Specialised Learning Leader Steve Mouldey's post here for detail about Learning Modules

Project Learning
Students will be engaged in at least one project at any time.

This allows student choice through personal interest and develops lifelong skills of collaboration and complex problem-solving.

Big Projects: 
  • larger scale, links with internal or external expertise/mentors, business partnerships, community links, encourage social responsibility & citizenship
  • apply learning across curriculum areas with focus e.g. Wetlands
  • exposure to wide range of learning experiences, scope for student participation across range of roles
Passion Projects: 
  • individual/team initiated and negotiated interest based projects
  • encourage curiosity, grow passions and achieve excellence
You can check out Learning Partnership Leader Sarah Wakeford's blog here for more details.

Timetable Structure

Term 4 Timetable 2014
The above image shows the new timetable structure as Term 4 2014. All modules run for a term.

The timetable structure consists of:

Specialised Learning Modules:
  • the Small Learning Modules (SLM) is a two session module that is made up of two learning areas and two teachers working together to lead an integrated module 
  • the Special Interest (SPIN) is a single session module that has a singular curriculum focus and is led by one teacher. 
All modules are designed to relate a term long theme (Term Four is Systems and how things work). Students select modules with support of their Learning Coaches to ensure curriculum coverage is achieved.

Learning Hubs take place every day, with two longer slots to allow times for one-on-ones, e-portfolio development and 'learning to learn' type sessions to take place.

The Big Project takes places every Tuesday. Professional Learning takes priority every Friday morning (with activities being offered to students who need to arrive early).

MyTime is a flexible period that will be used to provide curriculum specific support as needed and time for student led and staff supported interest groups and self-directed time (under the watchful eye of MyTime facilitators). 

Professional Learning 

To support this curriculum structure there is of a course need for a robust professional learning programme that will support our educators to conduct continuous inquiry into the needs of their learners and the success (and areas for improvement) of systems and structures. The following provides an overview of how we hope to achieve this.
  • Teaching as Inquiry – This will underpin the professional learning that will take place throughout the school year. The staff will work in Professional Learning Groups (same as their Learning Community) on individual inquiries and will focus on future-focused strategies being used to improve student outcomes and ‘Powerful Partnerships’.
  • Critical Friendships – The team will be establishing a process for all teachers observing and being observed at least once, usually twice, a term. This will provide feedback and feed-forward for Teaching as Inquiry projects and e-portfolios. We will facilitate PD around being a good critical friend/coach. Senior Leaders will also be conducting fortnightly walk-though observations of all staff to ensure teaching and learning reflects the school vision.
  • Future-focused Leadership training – The team will also be developing a Future-focused Leadership programme for all staff to complete throughout the school year.   
Future-focused Pedagogy support
  • Digital Citizenship – The professional learning team will completed a Digital Citizenship Professional Development pilot project at the National Library last November. This will help the team to develop an ongoing Digital Citizenship professional learning programme for staff and students in 2014.
  • ICT PD – The professional learning team are developing online PD courses to support the teachers in their use of Moodle, Google and MyPortfolio.
  • Responsive Pedagogy - The professional learning team will be responsive to teacher and student needs and will also help with strategies to ensure pedagogy is responsive to the needs of students (including use of student voice, shadow coaching and sharing best practice). 
  • Teacher e-Portfolios – The professional learning team will be working with staff to establish e-portfolios for all teachers. This will provide them with the opportunity to develop an online portfolio for reflecting on sharing their professional learning as well as providing a process for gathering evidence and artefacts for Registered Teacher Criteria and attestation. Students will also be developing e-portfolios through MyPortfolio.
This of course is all a moveable feast, is all a work in progress and as we conduct a continuous cycle of leading and teaching as inquiry systems and structures will continue to involve. 

Basically, if we ain't adaptive experts already, we soon will be!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

#GTASyd14 - It's Google Teacher Academy, but NoTosh you know it

Google Teacher Academy, Sydney 2014

Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Google Teacher Academy in Sydney, completing two days of workshops run by the NoTosh team and a group of fabulous GTA mentors. It was a jammed packed two days where delegates were taken through the design thinking process so as to realise our 'Moonshot Thinking' and make a plan for changing up education and us all to take our aspirations for education and multiply them by 10.

My Moonshot

So what did we do?
The first day was mainly about taking us through the design thinking (see NoTosh explanation of design thinking here) phases of immersion and synthesis, so as to explore and define our 'Moonshot thinking' - this was basically an issue or opportunity we saw for implementing change in education. We used strategies such as hexagonal thinking to connect/arrange our thinking about our issues and ideas before we then tried to capture our moonshot plan within a writing frame. We then adjoined to lunch in one of the many Google staff lunchrooms - a spectacular canteen, located in the 'penthouse' location atop the habour side building. After lunch we got to hear from a range of GTA mentors about how they used a range of Google tools and apps in and beyond their classroom, loosely connecting these to the design thinking process by linking them to the concepts of creativity and curiosity. The day then was rounded out with an inspirational talk from muru-D co-founder Annie Parker who shared her insights into the awesomeness that is the world of start-up incubators and accelerators.

Hexagonal thinking

On the second day we continued to explore the design thinking process to develop our moonshot plan, moving through ideation, prototyping and feedback. To encourage ideation we partook in the 100 ideas challenge where we tried to come up 100 ideas to help realise our plan in 10 minutes. We then selected three ideas - one we considered a safe bet, one we considered our darling or favourite and one that epitomised moonshot thinking. This was followed by a silent gallery where we could survey and feedback on the others' thinking. Then it was time to hear from Google Educational Evangelist Suan Yeo and a Google Programmer whose name escapes me. This was followed by a decent chunk of time to work independently in hope of entering the implementation phase, where we could start putting our plan into action, with celebratory party poppers being let off to highlight any GTA peeps that reached the display phase and put their moonshoot thinking into some kind of action. We ended the two days with a mentor group award ceremony to celebrate our new Google Certified Teacher status.

Officially certified

So what were the highlights?
NoTosh taking over the reigns was definitely a highlight for me. Tom Barrett and Hamish Curry leading us through the design thinking process was fabulous, their tools and strategies supporting each phase, encouraging both depth and rigour. The location and 'being at Google' was awesome as well, and whilst there was no slide (disappointing), there was a spectacular jungle relaxation room and monorail carriage serving as an office within an office to be experienced. In terms of presentations Annie Parker was a stand out - I loved her passion and also love the whole incubator concept and culture (in fact it is something we need to do more of in senior secondary school - I would love to explore the idea of making the whole final year of formal schooling an incubator model for students). The main highlight as always was the people - it was awesome to meet Tom and Hamish in person and lovely to spend a little more time with Google's Suan Yeo and Adam Naor as well. Then of course there was also our team - Team < x >. This was the team I worked with in the lead up to GTA and will continue to work with over the coming months as we develop our moonshot plans. I loved the conversations we had and look forward to ongoing discussions with them - Chris Harte is proving a great mentor, getting the balance of warmth, humour and challenge just right.

Team < x >- photo by Tom Barrett

And what were the challenges?
This was the first outing of the NoTosh led Google Teacher Academy and whilst it was (based on what I have about past Google slam type GTAs) definitely a big step in the right pedagogical direction it was not without it's challenges. I felt like we could have had the whole vision for the new NoTosh GTA articulated a little more clearly up front - I got the sense that some delegates were disappointed at the lack of Googliness - maybe someone like Suan explaining the reframing up front might have helped?? Timing was also a challenge - attempting to immerse in short bursts was challenging at best and bloody frustrating at worst. Whilst we did have immersion activities provided in the weeks leading up to the GTA it was hard to engage when still immersed in other things like teaching. This did improve on the second day, which meant we did get a little more time to dive deep...ish. The mashing up of NoTosh and Google was a little like oil being blended with water at first, with the workshops going from design thinking to Google slam sessions and back to design thinking again. Whilst we did use google apps throughout I did wonder if the NoTosh resources could have highlighted how and which Google tools might best support each phase of the design thinking process? I also wished we could have tried on some Google glasses and heard from Adam Naor about chromebook developments - surely this is what 'being at Google' is all about? 

Still, when all is said and done it was an awesome experience. It was a treat to be immersed in the NoTosh Google Teacher Academy prototype and I have no doubt that with a little feedback, ideation and further prototyping the implementation of NoTosh Google Teacher Academy London and Amsterdam will be all kinds of awesome. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Google Teacher Academy, moonshot thinking...and assessment

Tuesday morning this week I am lucky enough to be flying away to Sydney to join 49 other educators at the Google Teacher Academy. Below is the video I submitted as part of my application to be considered as one of the GTA Ambassadors for Change.

So why did I apply for the academy?
Whilst I am actually an advocate for educators to be as device and brand agnostic as possible, I have to admit, I do really like Google Apps for Educators. The reason GAFE appeals is simple. GAFE is a suite of tools that supports the pedagogical approach I value - co-constructed, sharing, transparent and supports student agency.

The other reason I applied was the company who was taking over the GTA. This GTA is the first academy to be run by NoTosh an international education consultancy "which challenges the status quo in schools, public services and creative companies. We work together with clients to improve the way people learn, the results of the organisation and the spaces in which people work, learn and play. Everything we do has learning at its heart." The fact that they were taking the academy marked an important change (at least it did to me), signaling a shift of focus from 'tools in education' to 'change in education'. This very much aligns with my values. Over the last 5 years as I have built up my profile as an e-learning/ICT in ed type leader-y person in NZ I have actually become less interested in e-learning and ICT in and of itself. Instead I am finding myself increasingly interested in leading change in education, albeit change at least partly facilitated by technology.

This is where the concept of moonshot thinking comes in as well. As Astro Teller in the Wired article  Google X Head on Moonshots: 10X Is Easier Than 10 Percent states "...when you’re working to make things 10 percent better, you inevitably focus on the existing tools and assumptions, and on building on top of an existing solution that many people have already spent a lot of time thinking about. Such incremental progress is driven by extra effort, extra money, and extra resources. It’s tempting to feel improving things this way means we’re being good soldiers, with the grit and perseverance to continue where others may have failed — but most of the time we find ourselves stuck in the same old slog.

But when you aim for a 10x gain, you lean instead on bravery and creativity — the kind that, literally and metaphorically, can put a man on the moon."

Put this in to an educational context and you have an interesting concept. What if we thought less about how to improve education through small a series of small incremental changes and thought more about how we might re-vision education from the ground up. This is moonshot thinking - terrifying, liberating, paralysing and awesome all at the same time.

However, I am not just a dreamer or part-time visionary, I am a pragmatist. Whilst I believe we do need to re-vision and think big and blue-sky, we also need to consider how we might achieve change in the interim. This is where assessment comes in. Aside from being a foundation Deputy Principal at Hobsonville Point Secondary School, I am also involved in several national groups that are exploring how we might lead future-focused change across NZ. In the 21st Century Education Reference Group put together by Associate Education Minister Nikki Kaye we have made a number of recommendations in the Future-Focused Learning in Connected Communities report. I stand by each of the recommendations, all necessary and if we are honest, should have been implemented yesterday! Another group I work with is the NZQA Future State reference group put together by Steve Bargh. It is this group that is making me think more seriously about how national assessment change might actually be the way for leading pedagogical change - particularly as it is the mighty tail that wags the curriculum design dog...even if we don't like to admit it.

So I suspect my moonshot(ish) thinking may head in this direction - how would national assessment need to change, to change the way we think it needs to change?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Assessment and the future of education - lessons learned from ACACA

On Thursday I was lucky enough to be invited to give the opening address at the Australasian Curriculum, Assessment and Qualification Authorities (ACACA) Conference who as their website states is the national body for the chief executives of the statutory bodies in the Australian states and territories and in New Zealand, responsible for certificates of senior secondary education. ACACA provides a (Australasian) national means for monitoring and enhancing developments in senior secondary curriculum and certification. 

My message was a variation on what I often get invited to speak about - my journey from English teacher to e-learning learning and the lessons I have learned about leading change from my time at Epsom Girls Grammar School and the work I am involved in with the team at Hobsonville Point Secondary School rounded off with a few challenges and reminders as to why we all must be invested in changing education and ideas about how we might start making that change. It was yet again a humbling reminder of how lucky I am at this stage of my career, on one hand doing what I got in to this game for - teaching and helping to lead change at a classroom and school level, whilst also being in a position to work with a number of national agencies to explore how we might lead this change at a national level. Thank you again to Maurie Abraham (my visionary Principal) for letting me indulge in my edu-passions on so many levels.

I had gone to the conference not really knowing what to expect. To be honest I was actually momentarily daunted when I was saw the seriously besuited crowd for the first time. After a brief moment of "sh*t balls this event is SERIOUS" I got into my happy presenting zone and realised the audience was interested and incredibly open to the messages I was sharing. I had already made the decision to stick around for the day, even if I wasn't the intended audience for the conference I am big believer that I have a lot to learn and that any conference is an opportunity to soak up new ideas and perspectives. The session after mine was an opportunity for different Australian state agencies to share projects or recent initiatives they had been working on. It was interesting to see how different Australia is to NZ, particularly this notion of state led education systems rather than country wide - although all eight states are delivering the Australian Curriculum and NAPLAN which is similar to National Standards, senior qualifications are assessed and managed state by state in isolation of each other. 

There were two states and initiatives that I found really interesting, both of which I believe could be adapted for the NZ context to move us forward. The first was the NSW agency BOSTES (the board of studies, teaching and education standards) who have developed two online environments for their teachers. The first was Programme Builder which allows teachers to create programmes and units directly from the NSW syllabus. The fact that you could work beyond the templates and share your programmes looked rather useful. I could see a similar tool being developed around NZC learning area AOs that could be a great help in ensuring units were being build around our curriculum documents.

The other online platform they shared was Scootle, this looked like the next level tool that allowed you to create online learning pathways for students that integrated a wide range of digital tools. I did come away wondering if this is how Pond might work in the future?? The image below provides a nice overview of how educators could use Scootle to enhance teaching and learning.
The next thing I saw was very interesting, for me I liked the way that it answered to an extent that question as to how we might go about assessing and there by raising the status of some of our key competencies. SACE (South Australian Certificate of Education) offers cross-disciplinary qualifications, the crowning glory of which is the SACE Research Project. The Research Project is a semester long assessment in Year 12 that as the website states "students have the opportunity to study an area of interest in depth. They use their creativity and initiative, while developing the research and presentation skills they will need in further study or work." In many ways the SACE Research Project reminded me of the state wide version of the fabulous Albany Senior High School Impact Projects. What I loved about the SACE Research Project is that it took senior assessment out of the context of siloed subjects and focused on the assessing the students ability to actually 'learn to learn'. Considering how the NZC highlights the importance of schools developing 'life-long learners' surely a compulsory national qualification like this would be an excellent start to ensuring all schools were teaching these skills and giving dedicated time for these skills to be developed. Check out the Videos of Student Stories here. I loved the fact that they even hosted a state-wide exhibition of learning to celebrate what the students achieve each year. The sooner we refocus on these broader cross-curricular skills the better!

So all in all it was a great day, both as an opportunity to share and to learn. The week after next I head to Google Teacher Academy in Sydney where I hope to also catch up with ACARA and the NSW agency to learn more about their software developments. We are certainly living in exciting times, just wish we could make a few changes here and now.

Thank you to Sue Chalmers (and Steve Bargh) from NZQA who invited me to attend the event.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Come and join me for some slow/in-depth/ongoing discussions with #hackyrschool

Over the next wee while I am keen to explore a number "future-focused education" topics. The aim of #hackyrschool is to expand on some of the topics touched in #hackyrclass plus a whole lot more. Rather than follow a linear structure or feeling we need to rush breathlessly through a topic at a time, the idea is that we can discuss, dive deep, explore, challenge, pause and ponder a range of topics over time. This may involve a Twitter chat using the hash tags, a response via your blog, video or podcast or simply sharing resources and comments via a Google Community.

The discussion is aimed all educators and anyone else interested in the future of education in NZ and beyond. You might be thinking about how you could lead change in your classroom, or more strategically in your school, you may even someone who would simply like to see change in education for your children or your future employees and our future leaders.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Why I am standing for the NZTC and why you should vote in the upcoming election!

You can join my campaign page here to keep updated
First up, why am I standing for the New Zealand Teachers Council?

My reasons are two-fold. 

The first being that I believe I would be a great addition to the New Zealand Teachers Council. I am passionate and well informed about educational issues and am constantly seeking ways that I can both support and challenge NZ educators to be future-focused, sharing and reflective as well as being recognised by the wider community as the hardworking professionals that they are. I believe New Zealand educators desire to be both supported through ongoing professional learning and rigorous appraisal systems and challenged to be adaptive experts who are expected (and supported) to evolve their practice constantly to ensure they are meeting the needs of all of their learners. I believe that if I were to be elected to the NZTC I will be a positive and passionate voice for secondary educators.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

HPSS and Seven Sharp - The School Behind the Soundbite

Dealing with media is an interesting exercise, simply because you don't know how they are going to portray you. After four hours of filming in the school it was hard to grasp which direction they might take it - would it be blindly celebratory (unlikely) or would it be all about perpetuating the myth that 'we are going to hell in a handbasket' due to the use of technology in schools (more likely). Luckily it was neither, it was (I thought) a balanced piece that began as many of our colleagues and community do, questioning whether the direction we are going is a wise idea and ending with the conviction that it was indeed a necessary change for the better...even if that message was undone a little by Mike Hosking's final throw away lines. But lets be honest, that was to be expected.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Hacking their class - Integrating Maths and Physical Education

This term I have decided to set myself a new blogging project - highlighting the innovative, creative and best practice of others.

Today's post looks at two of our 'small modules' which are modules made up of two learning areas, taught by two teachers over two 90 minute blocks on one day. The teachers see the students once a week. In these modules the learning areas of Maths (specifically Statistics) and Physical Education are integrated.

Just Do It! Then Analyse with Jill and Sally

Monday, July 28, 2014

Hacking their class - Take Action with Steve, Martin and Bryce

This term I have decided to set myself a new blogging project - highlighting the innovative, creative and best practice of others. Luckily, in working at HPSS I don't have to look far to find teachers shaking up the secondary curriculum in all kinds of ways.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Game Over - Teaching on the edge of chaos

So this is my attempt to capture some of the chaotic magic that was my first foray into team teaching and integrated teaching with the fabulous Danielle Myburgh.

Game Over was what we refer to at HPSS as a small module. This is a module that runs for one term and integrates two learning areas under the umbrella of a term long concept. 

The concept of Space and Place had guided the planning of all modules in Term Two across the school. Danielle and I worked to together to develop a module built around our learning areas of specialisation - my area English and Danielle's area of Science with a little Maths thrown in for good measure. Our aim was to develop a module that we thought might capture the interest of our particular clientele - Year 9s with an approximate 60/40 ration of boys to girls. We knew we had a whole lot of keen gamers and we loved Sci-Fi and the novel 'Enders Game', after a bit of thrashing about - Game Over was born. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Hack Your Classroom: Week Nine - Making future-focused innovative teaching infectious!

Welcome to the last official post for Hack Your Classroom!

First up, a great big thank you to everyone who participated either by blogging and sharing or by simply joining the conversation via Twitter. It has been heartening to see so many teachers willing to reflect so openly and publicly whilst sharing and inspiring lots of folk along the way. It's impossible to say exactly how many people have participated, but the number of people I have encountered on and offline up and down the country (and across the world) suggests the reach may have been greater than one might suspect.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Hack your classroom: Week Eight - Going free-range and developing robust self-direction

I believe self-direction and developing student agency and efficacy is the fundamental shift all educators need to make to become more futur-focused in their practice. In a sense we want step away from our 'caged' classrooms to develop increasingly 'free range learners'.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hack Your Classroom - Week Seven: Handing the power over to the learners


Interestingly, when it comes to teachers not really adopting and embracing technology it often isn't technical skill or lack thereof that is the problem, it is the teachers need to maintain power and control in the classroom. You hear the panic, the running joke that BYOD stands for Bring Your Own Distraction. Well I hate to break it to you, but if the students are distracted by the technology (particularly after the novelty of access to the Internet has worn off) the problem ain't the technology - quite possibly your/their teaching and the students lack of ownership of their learning is. *lobs grenade and ducks for cover*

Monday, June 9, 2014

Hack Your Classroom: Week 6 - Meeting the Needs of Diverse Learners

This is a topic that has long been close to my heart. It really began with a two day conference with Carol Ann-Tomlinson, the woman I consider to be the guru of differentiation. It was her analogy of likening teaching through one mode or strategy as being akin to playing Ten Pin Bowling with just one ball - some days you were lucky a pulled off a strike, but more often you than not,  you only knocked down one or two or more likely achieved a gutter ball. It was this analogy that caused a light bulb moment where I realised by having a singular approach I was quite possibly robbing many of my students of the opportunity of being engaged and learning the best they could.

Tomlinson's approach to differentiation has three layers. She argues that we should be differentiating for student readiness (not the same as ability), student interest and/or student learning style. Learning can then be differentiated by Content (or context), process, product or learning environment.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

EduTECH - Ian Jukes on the Education in the Age of Disruptive Innovation

Change and what it means about you personally and professionally.

He wants to talk about change.

Disruptive innovation changes the we way see things and the way we do things.

Economy and our education - in Australia (and the West) there has been nearly a complete disappearance of the factory worker and the factory mindset. It is cheaper to make things elsewhere which has meant a vast loss of manufacturing jobs. This is a stealth trend. This is disruptive innovation. Blue collar jobs are location dependent. White collar jobs are not. They can be outsourced. Routine cognitive work can and will be outsourced to cheaper countries. ODesk coordinates these workers from around the world. ODesk takes screen shots every 5 minutes and keystrokes reporting on productivity from across the globe. This is the work market our young people are entering into. We are now seeing the company of one, the work goes to the worker. Part time and temporary work had become the new normal. Whether you are comfortable with it or not this is the new global workspace. Work can not only be outsourced it can be automated. Legal software, tax preparation is an example of automated software replacing a person and a job. If we look at current trends, people who need to be managed constantly will be unemployable. 

EduTECH - Ewan McIntosh: Agile Leadership of Learning



What is agile leadership?

Some people think agile means dancing all over place. 

For every 1000 ideas developed only one got investment.

Leadership takes all forms. Self nominated leaders are all around us. Ewan gave the example of TeachMeet. I would add to that #edchatnz, #hackyrclass and more. Personal insight - we live in a time where social media has changed the way we can mobilise people and lead. It reminds me of the student army in Christcurch. Leadership has never actually been easier to do.

Ewan then talked about the five year plan. He did highlight Stalin was all about five year plan. Students work to an annual plan, working towards an annual exam.when you are making a plan - what question are we answering? How many actions could you do or undertake after hearing someone or attending something like EduTECH. Ewan is right. It is actually overwhelming. So what do you do? What question are we attempting to answer in meeting meeting and attending these conferences? 

McDonalds is an example of universal design - terrifying thought. Standardisation means people will know what they will get. You do one thing well. What's the one thing we could standardise in education and do it well, what would it be? For the most part we don't know what we don't know. What's the algorithm of great learning? 

Contradictions, tensions, surprises - agile leadership is about taking these and using them. 

We have to work out we know and why we believe what we believe. I.e. How do you feel about homework? Good or bad? Why do you think that? How. Do you know you are right. For me personally this raises the need for us to challenge our assumptions. One of the things I enjoyed most about beginning my masters is having to challenge my assumptions on many levels. For example 20% time. 20% time is a myth - it isn't time to just do what you want, Google employees can't just swan about, they are working on projects in line with the company goals. 

Do students see their learning as we do? Do they see all of the elements and understand why they learning what they are doing. A tension is like when you are presented with an idea, but no strategies about how to achieve that idea. 

I like Ewan's idea that we actually need to help students less. We need to give them time and space to redraft and quite often get worse before we get better. I also like his point is that it not a question of teachers giving the feedback and teachers having to do the teaching of each student. Teachers simply need to facilitate students giving each other feedback and teaching. We provide the time, the strategies and the processes for students to help themselves and one another. 

Grading adds nothing to education. What happens if we take away grades all together. Without grades students can take risks. Good feedback is powerful and something that needs to be worked on. 

Take your vision of future learning and then think about your constituents. Then think not about your strategy but more your strategies. Ewan gives the example of actor mapping. Actory mapping - look every member of your community, what's the one thing we want achieve and what's their job in making this happen. Identify all of your 'who's' and the work out what their roles are in realising your vision. You need to understand who all the people you are going to have to engage.

If you understand the why, you can achieve and begin to develop the how. Does everyone understand the why??

Learn from your failures.

You are all leaders.

Ewan ended with the metaphor of the conductor as leader of the orchestra. Conductors believe that they are the leaders, Ewan is a percussionist, he knows they are the real leaders of the orchestra. Insert emoticon wink here. So what can conductors do to lead. Have a five year plan. Identify your soloists and give them opportunities, invite them to lead. He suggests it about having a light touch. Agile leadership is about having trust in your team to try things out. 

Look at the environment around you, use everything around you and make a plan. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

EduTECH - The Almighty Ken Robinson

If you have happened to live in a cave, and are unsure of Ken Robinson's achievements and work, you can check his website here: 

Not sure how much I'll get written during this keynote. Too busy listening adoringly. First impression is that he is very funny and definitely understands the power of winning over an audience. 

EduTECH - A compelling case for capacity building for 21st Century capabilities

A short but power packed session with Bruce Dixon from the Educating Modern Learners and Rowena Ulbrick from Expanding Learning Horizons. Great messages about the beef to develop 21C learning capabilities. I won't attempt to capture all of the learning from this session but keen to share the following websites! All worth an investigation if you are even vaguely interested in 21C learning.

Modern Learners Website

Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation

ITL Research

ITL 21C Learning Design Program

EduTECH - Brett Moller and the student panel.

Leio Ohshima McLaren and Faith Ty on the stage to share their perspectives. 

Faith talked about how she used Garage Band to produce a radio quality track without any of the musical instruments - this was followed by a cool live demo of how she created the song. Great to see it live. What I really liked about this presentation was not the app or software itself, but more the reminder about how technology enables students to develop an authentic audience and context for their learning.

Leio then spoke passionately about why all students should learn to code. I agree! Not only has this enabled him to evidence his learning in new ways, he has even developed his own business creations apps such as phonic buddies. Please take note HPSS Code Academy! 

I loved his message that students need to stop being passive consumers and should be producing and publishing their learning. I also liked his analogy of code as a 21st language that students need to learn. 

Again we heard the message that teachers need to become facilitators allowing learning like this to happen. I get the sense we need to simply get out of the way and actually give some time and space to let this learning happen.

Code today, learn tomorrow!

Nice comment from Leio at the end as well - there is just too much busy work in education. You nailed it Leio.

Check out his website here:

EduTECH - Sugata Mitra on The Future of Learning

Mitra began his session acknowledging that many will have seen his talks, but many have not. He went on the set the scene, looking back at the demands of the Industrial Age.

Schools with their military-industrial-religious origins are outdated and obsolete.

The pedagogy will need to change if we want different outcomes. Will the old model crate creative children? This of course leads into the re telling of 'The Hole In The Wall' experiment. If you aren't familiar with this story, you can watch the TED Talk here:

It was lovely to here this story in person, particularly with personal anecdotes woven in. Children left alone with the Internet for 9 months will reach the same level of computer literacy as the standard secretary in the West. Which of course raise questions about the need or the role of the teacher. The children had changed. Their English was perfect and their work across the board improved? It turns out they had stumbled across a search engine and were quoting the Harvard Business Review. But was this learning?

In my opinion it is what it is - an interesting and powerful educational experiment. His experiment getting Tamil speaking 12 year olds to learn the biotechnology of DNA replication from a street side computer was again an interesting experiment. I still have questions about levels of deep learning and synthesis or is it rote learning and recall at the extreme?? I am not sure. In the past I have queried Mitra's work in light of my increasing understanding of the 'Hawthorne Effect' and 'Novelty Effect', particularly in the context of learning with devices. Can some of the gains be simply a result of the approach being a novelty or the subjects being aware that they are being observed? You can read my post about that here:

Personally, I love the work Mitra has done. I am wary that some of the gains are a result of the novelty and Hawthorne effect and that is okay. Personally I would take his work, add to it the thinking behind Google 20% time and the stunning stuff happening at Canada's self directed schools. I do think this is the directin we need to head in, but think we need to do it carefully. We need to understand what our new roles are as educators. I like Hattie's idea of 'Learning Activator' and I would add 'Learning Curator' and 'Learning Coach'. 

Monday, June 2, 2014

Hack Your Classroom - Week Five: Embracing blended learning, even if you don't have many devices...


Well it's officially 'hump week' for the  Hack Your Classroom project. Well done to the educators who are still with us! You/we rule!! The sharing via twitter has been spectacular and the shared learning has been magic to watch.

In a sense this brings us to this weeks topic - looking at the power and potential of blended learning. If we as educators can recognise the breadth and depth of personal learning (and motivation) that has been achieved over the last four weeks thanks to online environments and communities such as Twitter and Google+, then why aren't we all using these platforms this way with our learners? Obviously if you are teaching students under 13 years old, this isn't really an option, but there is much that can be replicated in a closed, private environment that can provide similar opportunities for younger students as well. I know my daughters who are 8 and 10 love going on to their classroom blogs to both share their learning and to comment and reflect on the learning of others. 

In terms of why we should all be embracing blended learning, my thoughts are outlined in this earlier blog post

This week I am keen to hear from you all about how you and your colleagues are utilising blended learning to provide opportunities to learning that go beyond the four walls of your classroom and the hours in the school day. I am also keen to explore and hear about how teachers are managing this in classrooms where technology is limited and where students don't necessarily have Internet access at home. 

For me I believe a hug amount can be achieved with just one computer and Internet connection. Geoff Woods at Rosmini College is a great example, where is students have taken the 'Over the back fence' health programme to a global stage via Skype. What started as his students teaching the primary students (literally over that school's back fence) is now a global programme involving students and universities literally around the world. Who could you connect your students with via a Google hangout or Skype Chat.

Add to the mix one or two iPods and then you have the opportunity to explore different modes for learning and sharing learning. Are you making the most if this technology to video or capture podcasts of your or your students teaching skills or content? Are you giving students opportunity to share or evidence their learning through video, podcast as much as you are through writing? It still amazes me how many schools don't let students utilise the technology in their pocket. Do you encourage students to use their phones in class? If so, how? If not, why not? Considering many are carrying devices with more computing power that the Voyager it seems crazy that we aren't all making the most of it. 

Here is a link to an EdTalk I did some time ago about making the most of BYOD.

So how do you make the most of the little or loads technology available in your classroom?

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Hack Your Classroom - Week Four: Introduction to Makerspaces and the Maker culture

Awesome classroom makerspace from

What is a Makerspace?
Makerspace describe a makerspace as community centres with tools. Makerspaces combine manufacturing equipment, community, and education for the purposes of enabling community members to design, prototype and create manufactured works that wouldn’t be possible to create with the resources available to individuals working alone. These spaces can take the form of loosely-organized individuals sharing space and tools, for-profit companies, non-profit corporations, organizations affiliated with or hosted within schools, universities or libraries, and more. All are united in the purpose of providing access to equipment, community, and education, and all are unique in exactly how they are arranged to fit the purposes of the community they serve.

Makerspaces represent the democratization of design, engineering, fabrication and education. They are a fairly new phenomenon, but are beginning to produce projects with significant national impacts.

Whilst Edutopia provides this description which I really like for it's simplicity:
A makerspace is not solely a science lab, woodshop, computer lab or art room, but it may contain elements found in all of these familiar spaces. Therefore, it must be designed to accommodate a wide range of activities, tools and materials. Diversity and cross-pollination of activities are critical to the design, making and exploration process, and they are what set makerspaces and STEAM labs apart from single-use spaces. A possible range of activities might include:

Cardboard construction
Digital fabrication
Building bicycles and kinetic machines
Textiles and sewing


I think we can explore Makerspaces on a number of levels. We can think about how we can utilise better the various community makerspaces popping up all over New Zealand (see the list down the bottom for starters). We can consider how a makerspace can be developed within a school community - maybe by revisioning the technology department (and making it available for all students and teachers) or maybe this could be part of how we revision the school library - Auckland City Library run a why not your library?? We can also consider how we might create a makerspace in the corner of the classroom (see the great on in the picture above - that's the corner of a Life Science class in the US). If you have a makerspace in your community, school or classroom that you would like to share - please let me know!!!

Why Makerspaces?
So why do we need to thinking about makerspaces? Personally I think all teachers and all classes should be looking to develop one. The reason I think this is simply - they develop 21st Century Skills (particularly critical thinking, collaboration, creativity and problem solving) and provide students with opportunities to engage in constructivist/deep learning. Look at our New Zealand Curriculum and I also see many opportunities within a makerspace environment to engage in effective pedagogy and for students develop a wide range of competencies.


I also really like this explanation provided in the Edutopia post 'Creating makerspaces in Schools'. 
We are constantly bombarded with the idea that the U.S. is "behind" the rest of the world in STEM education, that our students need to be able to think critically, problem-solve and collaborate in order to succeed in the future they will inhabit. (Forget the fact that critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration are part of what schools should be designed to support in the first place.) Makerspaces provide creative time and, well, space for people of all ages to build prototypes, explore questions, fail and retry, bounce ideas off one another and build something together. These spaces don't always include technology, since some prototypes and designs can be built out of anything or may include various stages of design that move from analog to digital and back again, but many do include technology. In the 3D printing and design thinking session, I was lucky enough to see how students might create a 3D design using CAD software, only to discover that their scale was off or that their prototype just plain won't work

How can you set one up in your school (or even classroom)?
If you are thinking big and looking at developing a community or school makerspace, I suggest you check out these resources from Makerspace - they look like pretty bloody thorough start up guides for a uber makerspace! I will also be interviewing Richard Fortune from Makercrate and Makers Org NZ about how it can be achieved on a smaller scale (and budget) as well.

But if you are thinking of going #hackyrclass styles then check this blog out. I love the idea of a makerspace in the corner or maybe even a really big box. I know as an English teacher I would love access to a 3D printer, sewing machine, playdough, glue gun, wood, nail, hammer, robots to make thinking, debating, creating come to life. One of my best teaching experiences was getting my Year 13s to create wearable arts pieces to explore the themes and motifs in 'The Piano' - the products were stunning, the thinking and exploration the students engaged in was epic! 

Would love to hear your thoughts this week on how you think you could develop a makerspace in your class and how you see it as an opportunity to enhance teaching and learning in your own educational context. Remember to share on twitter with the #hackyrclass #makerspace hashtags.

Remember, even if you can create one on site, their are community makerspaces popping up all over the place.
Makerspaces around Auckland (let me know about ones around NZ and I will add them)

When: Wednesday and Friday 5pm - 8pm, and Saturday - Sunday 1pm - 4pm
Where: Central City Library Makerspace, Level 1 
Cost: Free 

A "makerspace" is a place where people can collaborate, innovate and create using information, resources and tools provided.
You can play, tinker, explore, and meet others with similar interests to share knowledge and make connections with.
Come and experiment with the help of library staff during our free-use hours. The space will be equipped with computers using free open-source software, a 3D printer and robotics kits are available to use.

The Mind Lab by Unitec is a collaboration between Unitec Institute of Technology and The Mind Lab. It draws on the education expertise of both organisations to provide teachers and their students with the opportunity to learn how to integrate technology, enhance digital capability and activate new teaching practices in the classroom.

Tangleball is an Auckland-based "Makerspace" or "Hackerspace". We provide a place for creative people to collaborate on building their ideas and aim to nurture both technical and artistic ideas. The best way to get in contact with us is by coming to the space on a Tuesday evening, from 8pm. 

I found lots of great reading around this topic. Make sure you check out some of the following: