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

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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 (a…

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 …

An Updated Beginner's Guide to Hobsonville Point Secondary School

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Click here to view the clip about HPSS on Seven Sharp
Click here to read HPSS and Seven Sharp - The School Behind the Soundbite

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…

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

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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.


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…

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, lea…

Assessment and the future of education - lessons learned from ACACA

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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 ag…

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.

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

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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.

HPSS and Seven Sharp - The School Behind the Soundbite

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Click here to view the clip
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.

Hacking their class - Integrating Maths and Physical Education

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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.


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

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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.

Game Over - Teaching on the edge of chaos

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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. 

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

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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.

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

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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'.

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

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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*

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

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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.

EduTECH Ignite - What we saw and what we took away!

Here is my attempt to encapsulate our key takeaways from EduTECH 2014. You can check out the slides below.

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

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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 comforta…

EduTECH - Ewan McIntosh: Agile Leadership of Learning

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First Attempt In 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 conf…

EduTECH - The Almighty Ken Robinson

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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:  http://sirkenrobinson.com/
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

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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 http://modernlearners.com/
Anytime, Anywhere Learning Foundation
http://aalf.org/
ITL Research http://www.itlresearch.com/
ITL 21C Learning Design Program http://www.itlresearch.com/itl-leap21


EduTECH - Brett Moller and the student panel.

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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…

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: http://www.ted.com/speakers/sugata_mitra
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 acro…

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

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Source: http://classroomaid.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/10-drivers-of-blended-learning.png
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 a…

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

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