Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lifelong learning

I am in the process of writing a literature review on "informal personal online learning networks". I decided that lifelong learning will be a central idea in this review and began reading 'The concepts and practices of lifelong learning'.

I realised that I had a very narrow view of the concept and there are elements that I have never entertained. Some ideas I am grappling with at the moment are:

  • Lifelong learning can be thought of as elitist. The concept is that the individual will drive their own education and access opportunities but not that the government will provide those opportunities (as opposed to the policy of lifelong education). If this is the case then only those people who can gain access through their economic or social position will have access to quality lifelong learning. This brings up the whole question of equality.
  • Lifelong learning can be linked with social control. If you accept the notion of lifelong learning then people accept they must adapt and change. This clouds out the other issue of questioning the direction of the change. Deleuze says that one of the features of societies of control is the idea of perpetual learning.
  • Lifelong learning is essential in the 21st century because of the changing learning society spurred on by changes in science and technology.
I still see the value in lifelong learning and think that greater emphasis needs to be placed on the equity issue. Maybe if we face this issue then the issue of power and control can be addressed also as people learn to evaluate and question change before adapting it.

This has really made me think about the fact that this concept 'lifelong learning' needs to be understood in detail before being claimed to be of benefit for our students or ourselves. I am a lifelong learner and I embrace the concept more now that I have begun to explore what it means, the inherent pitfalls and the opportunities for making the concept of value for all, not just the select few.

These are my initial musings. I am just starting to explore this issue, I am sure many more ideas will come to light so I reserve the right for this post to be seen as my grappling with ideas not making black and white statements. :)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Engagement of our students

Today I spent some time watching videos put together by Michael Wesch. Many will know his now famous video The Machine is Us/ing Us. He has made a series of other videos about students engagement in school and a fascinating lecture which expands on his simple videos. Below are some of the key messages I pulled out of these videos.

Michael Wesch from Kansas State University put together the video A vision of students today (4:44min) after observing a level of disengagement in tertiary students he wasn't happy with. This video inspired a similar video for junior students A vision of k12 students today (4:09min)

In a presentation at the University of Manitoba entitled A portal to media literacy (1hr) Michael Wesch expanded on the initial video explaining how it came about and discusses the use of digital literacy to enhance student learning.

He asked his students:
Who doesn't like school?
Over half put up their hands.

He asked his students:
Who doesn't like learning?
No one put up their hands.

Michael Wesch also talks about the common statement made by teachers that

Some children are not cut out for school

He then makes the point that School is Learning

Is it fair to say:

Some children are not cut out for learning?

The power of the learning environment is discussed, with the question "What do the walls say about learning?"

He says that the traditional classroom may say:

"To learn is to acquire information
Information is scarce and hard to find
Trust authority for good information
Authorised information is beyond discussion
Obey the authority
Follow along"

This just is not the case for 21st century learning.

What does your learning environment say about learning?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The power of sharing ideas

I had a good day yesterday. The best part of my job is listening to teachers share their successes and ideas. I spent yesterday at Outram School and every teacher I worked with walked in with something they were proud of to share with me. What a buzz!

I had one teacher who had been exploring the use of glogster to make posters explaining algebraic equations. Another teacher had made her first digital story with PowerPoint on a Mac and then using the easy 'make movie' function to turn it into a Quicktime to post on her blog. The next teacher was buzzing from a workshop she attended at ULearn facilitated by Amanda (heymilly) on 5 frame storytelling. She had started with two frame stories with her 6 year olds and was delighted with their achievements. We discussed the next steps and how digital storytelling can enhance and enable oral language in students and the resounding "That's so exciting" could be heard emanating from the room. Another teacher had made the most remarkable printed storybooks with her juniors where their original artwork had been scanned.

Wow! All this after just one year in the cluster! I remember my first visit to the school where I met with some very uncertain teachers. Uncertain about their ability, uncertain about how useful ICT is for learning, uncertain about the cluster. I am really looking forward to watching these teachers' journey continue over the next two years.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Now for a post about nothing...

I have been reading some photography blogs and one had some tips for photographing pets and I thought I would have a go with my lovely Jessica...

Monday, November 03, 2008

2009 e-Learning teacher fellowships

The 2009 e-Fellowships have been announced and I am very excited that a close friend and colleague, Esmay Sutherland, has been awarded an e-Fellowship for next year! Esmay will have an exciting year working alongside the talented people at CORE Education on a research project incorporating movie making and literacy. Who knows... I may even be able to get her blogging!

I have always said Pine Hill School Leads the Way! and this definitely is the case with effective teaching and learning with ICT. Pine Hill School is a small 3 classroom school and has had two teachers awarded e-Fellowships over the last three years. Not bad for a small school at the bottom of the South Island.

Update: Here is the official press release
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Over the last two days in Dunedin we have held our annual Kidz @ Conference. This is the third year this event has been running and we seem to have ironed out a lot of the kinks. One of the aims for this year was to make sure that the students' work made it online, the last two years this has been a bit of a mission but this year I think we cracked it!

The theme for this year was "I have a dream". Students attended four sessions through out the two day conference learning how to use various technologies: I Can Animate, Garage Band, Lego Robotics, Beebots, digital photography, movie making, green screen, Google Sketchup, Scratch and Wikispaces. And making new friends across the various schools attending. The key to the conference is collaboration, communication and technology.

The Kidz @ Conference is a remarkable two day event for those students lucky enough to attend. There are only places for 100 students (year 5 or 6) and teachers can attend with the students to sit in on the sessions as professional development. The buzz of excitement is contagious. On the first day the students arrive and are given their conference packs and a t-shirt. They then file into the lecture theatre at the University of Otago College of Education where the conference is held. One student was heard to exclaim:
Wow! Look at the seats!
Every part of the conference is an event for the students. After rifling through their packs they were entertained by some very cool dudes from the John McGlashan School band .

These young men from the band then spent the day at the conference running sessions called "Jam with the band". Students could learn how to play their instruments and have their jam session recorded. These sessions can be found on the wiki.

The theme of this year's conference was apt. The Kidz @ Conference has been a dream of the organisers for a very long time and was realised in spectacular fashion this year. A big thank you and well done goes to all the session facilitators and conference organisers who come from schools and education institutions around Dunedin and volunteer their time for free to put on this event. It is a privilege to be involved and I look forward to next year's event.

Friday, October 24, 2008

MPG video and sound problem in iMovie

Last night I hit a problem. A colleague is in the last stages of cancer and the staff at her school have made her a tribute in the form of video clips of children and colleagues saying goodbye. I was given all the footage to build into a movie. I was honoured to be asked to help.

I sat down with these clips and started building the movie, however when I imported the MPG clips into iMovie there was no sound. I hadn't come across this problem before so I thought I would post the solution I found for anyone else who comes across the same problem.

Apparently MPG intertwines the audio and video tracks so iMovie can't separate them (there will be a technical way of explaining this I'm sure). I consulted trusty Google and one solution I came across was to use some software to split the MPG into an audio and video track then resync them in iMovie. Oh no! this was going to take forever.

Luckily I came across another solution. I downloaded Mpeg streamclip and the problem was solved. I converted each clip using this software into quicktime movies and had the movie built and burnt to disk in no time at all!

This got me thinking (as it always does) about the joys of problem solving. I was on a high because I had solved this problem, it was a similar feeling to finishing a half marathon! It was made even more special because it was such an important problem to solve for the people involved. Do we rob our students of experiencing the joys of problem solving when we solve their problems for them? Our role as teachers is to guide them in their journey to finding the answers and let them enjoy the feeling of success. It takes a skillful teacher to help someone find their own answers.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Close up digital photography with kids

I had the privilege yesterday to work with a group of year 4/5/6 students at Ravensbourne School. We were looking at how to take close up photos. The photo above is one of the results of our session taken by Alisha, a year 4 student and I think it is amazing! We talked about how to take a close up using the macro function, we talked about angle and lighting.

I took a group of 10 students and taught them these elements of photography and they then went out and took some photos and shared back with each other. Five students then paired up with a new five students and taught them everything they knew. We did this until everyone in the class had learnt how to use the camera to take quality close up shots. I stood back in wonder as the students did such a good job at teaching each other and the excitement built over every creative shot taken. There was no silliness, no silly photos, just students whose world view had been narrowed! I say narrowed because they began peering around the school yard looking for small things of interest. A great cry went up when it was noted that small green clusters of leaves had small droplets of water inside which glistened in the sun!

It is a privilege to be a part of a child's learning. To share the excitement of new knowledge. To discover a world that went unseen before we, as teachers, opened the door to help students see.

I love my job.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Can kids teach themselves?

I have just watched a thought provoking TED talk, so thought provoking that I had to write this blog post as I sit on my plane flying from Wellington to Dunedin. Sugata Mitra asks the question “Can kids teach themselves?” and went about finding out with a very interesting research project. Concerned about the poor level of education for students in remote areas such as rural India Sugata decided to find out how technology could help. He built ‘hole in the wall’ computers connected to the Internet and placed them in remote, non English speaking areas and then videoed what happened. He found that children very quickly taught themselves how to use these machines to browse for information. Amazingly these children taught themselves how to speak English using the machines to enable them to actually use the machines!

He found that all children could teach themselves with the computer, and this is the vital bit – as long as they were in twos or more. Over 300 children would become computer literate in a 6 month time frame with only one computer. And this was because of the group nature of the learning.

There are many more profound instances in this talk, I urge you to watch and be challenged.

Now I am not seeing this talk as saying we don’t need to teach our kids. One of Sugata's premises was that technology is being rolled out for schools with good kids and good teachers and not making too much of a difference, where it should be rolled out in areas where students are not experiencing a good education, have a lack of teachers, lack of quality education and there the technology makes a marked difference.

However there are important elements in this talk for those of us lucky enough to be in well-developed education systems. There were two major things that stood out for me in my thinking from the results of this research project. The first one was that it affirmed my solid belief in the importance of using computers collaboratively. With all the push for 1 to 1 computing I think we are losing the great benefit of students talking to each other and problem solving together.

The second thought was to do with teachers who are afraid to introduce technology unless they are proficient in it themselves. I have always believed that teachers need to be confident with the technology and be able to know the possibilities but do not need to be the expert. This talk highlights that we can’t hold kids back because of our limitations. My favourite way of introducing new technology to my class is to grab a couple of kids, give them time to explore and play, have them report back to me on what the technology can do and then I introduce it to the rest of the class. I then have ready made experts who can support the students. My job as the expert in learning and teaching is to know how this technology can enhance and extend my students’ learning. If we hit a problem with the technology, then fantastic, problem solving time!

The quality of the sound is a bit low but stick it out, it is worth it.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Thursday, October 09, 2008

ULearn08 Keynote - Steven Carden

The second keynote was presented, ably, by Steven Carden. This was a highly entertaining talk with a profound message. I asked the twit network to reflect on the keynote as it was happening and you can see their comments in the image to the left (click to enlarge).

The take away message from this keynote:

We are facing or experiencing rapid, extreme change - discussions are needed about our future. What sort of society do we need to be to survive in a changing society?

Steven argued that we are not ready for this change. We forget how small we are (NZ) on the world's stage. We do not have any profound answers... yet. Dialogue is needed.

Societies who are moving in a forward direction have three things in common:
Ideas are needed to cope with a world that is changing

Small countries like NZ can't generate all the ideas we need. We need to absorb them from elsewhere.

Willing to change

Steven asks what does all this mean for NZ's education sector?
  1. The workforce needs highly adaptive people. The nature of jobs is changing dramatically
  2. We need radically new ways of educating young people
  3. It's all about YOU - the quality of the teachers in our schools is the key.

"The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn." (Alvin Toffler)

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

ULearn 08 Keynote - Sheryl Naussbaum-Beach and Will Richardson

Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach opened the ULearn conference with an inspirational presentation with examples of students using blogs to make a difference.

Laura is a young girl who lost her grandfather, she decided in his memory to make a difference to the world. She tells her story at her blog

At a conference Laura was asked a question.

"Laura can you tell us how do you come up with your ideas of who to help."
She replied "I ask my readers."

Laura has a voice. She knows her opinions are valued. She feels empowered to make a difference and contribute. Do we allow this in our classrooms? I use the word 'allow' pointedly. Do our students get to use their voices?

It makes me think of the joke of the young girl spending her first week at school:
"Dad, I don't think I'll go to school anymore there really isn't any point"
"Why is that?"
"Well I can't read and I can't write ... And they won't let me talk."

21st century technologies allow us to have voices, to voice our opinion, to make a difference. These technologies are available for our students, our children. We must let students have their voices and we must make sure they know how to use these voices in an ethical manner and in a safe way.

That is our job as educators.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Friday, September 26, 2008

A thought for the day

I found this quote buried in my blog and wanted to shout it from the roof tops.

"When we adults think of children there is a simple truth that we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life. A child isn't getting ready to live; a child is living. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation. How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognise children as partners with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing them as apprentices. How much we could teach each other; we have the experience and they have the freshness. How full both our lives could be." John A. Taylor, Notes on an unhurried Journey.

Childhood is not a preparation for life; childhood is life!!!

How's that for a thought to carry with you into the classroom each day.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

What are your hopes and dreams for the future

Million Futures is site I have just come across for which I can see many applications for use in the classroom. Million Futures is a UK based initiative which asks people to write their hopes and dreams for the future on a paper plane and launch it into the air to circulate with the collective hopes and dreams of others.

I can imagine using this site with your students to respond to their learning to give an authentic message. They could be looking at sustainability, participating and contributing to society, caring for each other, future focus, the list could go on. The students could launch their hopes and dreams on a paper plane to join the hopes and dreams of others.

What would your paper plane say?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Speed typing test

79 words

Speed test

I have been told I'm a freak. I have been typing since I was in primary school when my then step grandma bought me a typewriter and a typing book. It was something I enjoyed doing and I never realised it would come in so handy. When I was in primary school the only people who needed to know how to type were secretaries.

Well now, the best thing about typing at 79 words a minute is that when I ichat or skype chat, no one can get a word in! You've got to be quick to keep up with a conversation with me!

Now the reason I'm bringing all this up is I am fond of typing tests and I found this one that has a twist. The test uses the most common words in English. It's not a flashy learn how to type game but if you want a quick 60 second speed test and want to expose your students to the most commonly used words, this is a good site to try out. Can you beat me?

Update - I am rather stuck in the vortex... must stop typing test... must join the real world... must stop procrastinating...

83 words

Speed test

86 words


97 words

Speed test

Okay, I can stop now.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Inquiry is a habit of mind!

Last week we had Kath Murdoch present a two day seminar for schools in Dunedin on Inquiry Based Learning. Kath's presentations embody her inquiry theory. She leads you gently, building on prior knowledge, creating wonder and curiosity, allowing you to find out and ask questions before coming to new understandings.

I have always taught in an inquiry way. I didn't know there was a model, or even what inquiry was, but it was how I believed students learned best and how I enjoyed teaching. I was excited as I progressed as a teacher to be able to reflect on my practice and give my beliefs a name. For me Inquiry was a belief system and not a model.

Working in schools it is sometimes disheartening to see inquiry reduced to a 'model' in the barest sense, rather than embracing the pedagogical shift that it can be. Today I was given the okay to share a new resource provided by CORE Education called EDtalks. EDtalks are a series of interviews with leaders in fields of education. These brief talks are very powerful and one that resonated with me today is below. Here is Sharon Friesen talking about Inquiry as a disposition.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Life without Google

There was a story on the news about Google tonight. I was watching with my 11 year old daughter. This is what she said:
"Google is 10 years old! Really?
I was around before Google?
Wow, mum, what did you do before Google?"

This really got me thinking. What did I do before Google? It has become such a way of life for me. If I want to know something I expect to find out the answer. I suppose before the internet became a way of life for me I accepted ignorance. If I didn't know something then I had to commit a lot of time and effort into finding out the answer. So I suppose I would weigh up whether this was worth the effort. And many times, my questions would remain unanswered because they just weren't worth the effort.

Now when I have a question, there is no effort involved. I know I can type the query into Google and the answer will be revealed. Every question answered. Not much energy expended.

What does this mean? Is it all too easy? We demand answers and information and we get it? Really, in the wider scheme of things what does this mean for us? I have been reading a book to my daughter about an ethnic boy living somewhere in Europe in a war torn country looking after his grandmother. When we contrast his daily life with hers, the difference is outstanding. He has a sense of responsibility for looking after his grandmother and his village. My daughter can hardly be bothered tidying up her room.

We have a nation of instant gratification. And now it extends to information. Is this a good thing or may it be a bad thing? I don't want to be like those people who cried fowl when the printing press became available and books were in the reach of the average person. I need to think bigger than that. We are on the edge of something. What happens next?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The official ULearn08 blog is up and running. Contributions of participants is what makes this conference so successful and as the Ulearn blog states:
A key component of ULearn08 will be the contribution by participants to the understanding and knowledge being created during the conference through blogs, wikis, podcasts and online discussions. By subscribing to this blog you will receive regular updates about all of these, as well as some examples, and guidelines for getting involved yourself.
So add the Ulearn blog to your aggregator in preparation for the conference.

Monday, August 18, 2008

ULearn breakfast for NZ bloggers/twits

Simon, from Education the Dragon, is organising a breakfast get together for NZ bloggers / twits while we are together at Ulearn in Christchurch in October:

Head over to Simon's blog and leave him a comment if you are going to join us.

Look forward to seeing you there

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sharing the Blogger's Cafe

I have been talking with Adrian Bruce from Australia and Chrissy (NZChrissy) who is soon to be moving to Bangkok to start an exciting new phase of life, and they both mentioned wanting to be included in the Blogger's Cafe, and our uLearn experience, virtually.

So here is a challenge for those of you attending uLearn and joining in the fun at the Blogger's Cafe, how can we make this happen? What are the best online apps at our disposal for bringing in others from around the globe? What have you tried and what do you want to try?

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Embedding audio in blogger

Today I was working with a teacher who wanted to embed audio recordings into his blog. He runs a sports blog where students report on their sporting activities. He thought it would be a good idea for his younger sports people to record their sports reports and embed them on the blog as they had much more to say than they could write about. I thought this sounded like a fantastic idea and we started out on a problem solving trail.

Firstly we worked out that you could embed a player from Podomatic, but that embedded all of the episodes and we only wanted to embed one.

Next we tried to convert the mp3 to an .mov using (a free app for macs which converts files to different formats). Unfortunately this wouldn't upload in blogger.

So I put out a tweet to my twitter network for some advice. Miguel Guhlin came back with this solution. We uploaded our mp3 audio to, grabbed the embed code and pasted it into blogger. And voila...

Update: The audio from seems to play automatically when you load the page, would love to hear from anyone who knows how to change this.

Update 2: Thanks Miguel for this tip. When you have embedded the code from click on the 'edit html' button at the top of your posting page and then look at the code for the audio. You will see something that says "autostart=yes" change the "yes" to "no" and this turns the autostart function off. Thanks again Miguel.

We also received some advice from Lenva:
She suggested using the online site At this site you can record your audio online then grab the embed code and paste it into the post as well.

Lenva also shared this site where you can upload your audio and then grab the embed code.

Update: Here is a link to Lenva's new blog on tips and tricks with blogging that outlines how to embed in much more detail:

What would I do without my twitter network?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Getting back on the horse

I haven't been blogging as much as I used to. I seem to have hit a wall. The problem is I have changed focus. I have stepped out of the classroom and I am wondering what to focus on. I still work with teachers as an ICT Facilitator however, in this new cohort, I don't think any of them are blog readers (yet!). So they are not the focus for my writing (yet). In my other new job I spend most of my time in front of the computer being the online editor for the NZ Curriculum Online website. This means that I feel less like being on the computer during my down time.

But I miss blogging.

I still read all the feeds in my feedreader. I still listen to the podcasts in my itunes. But I seem to find it difficult to be a producer. As a classroom teacher I could eagerly write about the exciting things happening in my room. However as the editor of a website it seems like promotion to write about the cool things I have put up online. For example there are some fantastic arts resources developed around the curriculum which I was so excited about I sent them to my colleagues in an email but I didn't blog about them. I spent some time interviewing educators in Canterbury for an article I wrote which I was very pleased about and thought contained some inspirational content, but I didn't blog about that either.

I have now :)

I suppose I have to still see that this blog is about what I find interesting and hopefully will be useful to others. It is about my thoughts and opinions and not those of my employers. It is the virtual record of me.

So I suppose that means I'm back. I am going to continue writing in this new phase of my career and see where it takes me.

PS... check out these cool things I've been playing with:
Glogster - a 'sooooo' cool (according to my daughter) site to make posters with web interactivity
Miro - after playing with it, it seems to be an app that lets you store all your videos plus search and download from different places (including Youtube etc) to build up your own channels. One click and you are in good quality full screen.
Capzles - This excellent site lets you build a timeline and embed audio and video etc. Would be fantastic to build a timeline of a student's reading over a year with a picture of them holding the book and the audio of them reading. Imagine this going home as a Christmas present for mum after you have used it for assessment :)
Moourl - this site is a tiny url creator which can live on your browser toolbar. But it is cute :)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Iphone frenzy in Dunedin

Don't get me wrong... I love my Mac. I have been criticised for my preference for mac over PCs. But I had to weigh in on the hype over the iPhone.

Today, at 9am, the iPhone was released in Dunedin. I had read about the frenzy in Apple stores in the US. I had to take a look at what Dunedin had to offer in the way of Frenzy...

I apologise I took a photo but it was a bit blurry. So imagine this. A line of people outside Magnum Mac in Dunedin ... 10 people.

That's right 10 people. That's what constitutes a frenzy here in downtown Dunedin.

Either that or they are the only people who can afford the outrageous plans for the phone ! $80 per month for the cheap plan up to $250 per month for the expensive plan. Needless to say, I wasn't one of the 10 people lining up. :)

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Wordle and the New Zealand Curriculum

I am really enjoying playing with Wordle. It gives a different view on things, looking at a text as a word cloud. I thought I would put in the text from the New Zealand Curriculum document. So here goes...

Key CompetenciesI have even made a word cloud of the latest assignment I have written, which really highlighted what I was giving emphasis to in my writing.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Digital school stories (Playing with Google maps)

I have been playing with Google Maps to make a map pointing to all the digital story content we have on the New Zealand Curriculum Online website. I thought I would embed it here as I am playing with building the content.

View Larger Map

Friday, June 06, 2008

Ulearn 2008

Ulearn 2008 is fast approaching, this year it is being held in Christchurch from 8th to 10th October. This is a quality conference, I have attended ULearn for the last 4 years and have found it a dynamic experience each year. The Keynote speakers this year are Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach from the USA, Steve Carden and our very own Derek Wenmoth, Director of eLearning at CORE Education.

I am presenting three workshops so far :

The first presented with Jane Carroll, speech and language therapist:

How does "oral language" fit into the ICT world?
In this highly interactive workshop we will examine oral language development and how and where oral language fits in the New Zealand Curriculum and other new resources coming out of the Ministry of Education. We will demonstrate how ICT can develop oral language skills, critical thinking and reflection in your classroom.

The second and third presented with Christina Ward and Jenny Keeton, CORE Education:
We are suggesting a pedagogy where the participants in the learning interaction become involved in the process of collaboration, in the process of mutual storytelling and re-storying, so that a relationship can emerge in which both stories are heard, or indeed a process where a new story is created by all the participants. (Bishop and Glynn, 1999)
The New Zealand Curriculum Online is an environment designed for schools to share their developing knowledge, challenge thinking and effect change. In this hands-on session we will explore ways you can use the rich resources available on NZC Online to help you collaborate within your own school community, and to connect with the wider education community as you implement the NZC.
If you want to build a boat, do not instruct the people to saw wood, stitch sails, prepare tools, and organise the work... but rather, make them long for setting sail and traveling to distant lands. (Antoine De Saint-Exupery)
What's online that can help you with curriculum implementation? This lively, hands-on workshop is designed for those who haven't yet had time to explore the rich resources available and opportunities to share and discuss online.

There are also a selection of 13 pre-conference workshops offered on 7th October. I'll be supporting Mel Stopford of CORE Education in the workshop "You can lead a horse to water..."

As you can see there is plenty in this conference for everyone. You can find all the details on the website at

And of course... I look forward to seeing you all at the blogger's cafe... However, for this conference I'm proposing a "Twits" cafe, I have many more Twits I would like to meet face to face.

See you at ULearn.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm having a learning!

I am reading the best evidence synthesis on professional development:

Timperley, H., Wilson, A., Barrar, H., & Fung, I. (2007). Teacher professional learning and development: Best evidence synthesis iteration. Wellington: Ministry of Education

I absolutely love this illustration in the forward to the synthesis by Carolyn English. It sums it all up... I'm having a learning.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Making change happen

I have been running professional development for teachers for a while now and I was thinking about the four types of teachers I usually work with.
1. The excuse maker
2. The holiday maker
3. The dream maker
4. The change maker

The excuse maker is the teacher who cries, ‘this is the way we’ve always done it’! I have seen these innovations come and I have seen them go, they are just the same old thing with a different name. What I have been doing has worked well enough and I’m not about to change now.

The holiday maker is the teacher who grabs hold of any and every new idea and zealously implements it. Then after a while returns ‘home’ back to business as usual. These teachers do not embed the theory behind the practice and therefore the practice doesn’t stick.

The dream maker is the teacher who understands the theories behind new ideas but does not implement them, doesn't know how to make the dream a reality. This teacher may purport to believing in collaborative structures but this is not evident in their room. This teacher may not be aware that their actions do not back up their beliefs or they just might not know how to align the two.

The change maker is the teacher who successfully aligns their beliefs with their practice. They see the value in new ideas for the learning of their students and set about making changes to their practice based on reflection and research.

These are the teachers I come across in my travels and the ones that I try to help engage with ICT and see its value for their students’ learning. Since I have become aware of these traits within the teachers I can see how to work with teachers more effectively.

Can you see yourself in any of these categories? I know that I can see bits of each of them in myself throughout my time as a teacher. What I want to know now is how to help everyone become a change maker, to make thoughtful changes based on learning needs which embed both theory and practice.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

The Art of Facilitation

This past week I have been at the Art of Facilitation course run by Joan Dalton and David Anderson of PLOT PD.

This amazing course delivers exactly what the title suggests, a very good grounding in the elements of effective facilitation. It is intensive and I feel as though I have been through five days of therapy! I have had a major 'aha' moment during the course as I reflect on myself as a facilitator. This is the fact that there is often a long distance between perceptions and reality, or to put it another way, our actions may not reflect our learning theories.

I hold to a constructivist and co-construction theory of learning with connectivity theory thrown in for good measure. In other words, to put it simply, I think we construct our realities through our interaction with others and the world around us. With this as my perception you would think the reality would be that I facilitate learning with my adult learners by helping them construct their learning and engage in opportunities to learn with, thru and from others. I have found however that my perception and reality do not meet. To be honest I have considered myself as the expert giver of knowledge, fixer of problems, motivator of action and basically indispensable help on hand. My actions do not support my beliefs.

The best thing about this week with Joan and David, exploring the aspects of effective facilitation is that I have aligned my actions with my beliefs. I have put a plan in place to ensure I foster independence in my adult learners to encourage sustainability in their learning. My role is to help people find the treasure that exists deep within, to explore their own expertise and enhance that.

I'll let you know how I get on ...

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tag cloud meme

Clay Burell has started an informal meme which I thought looked like a lot of fun. I saw Cathy Nelson's tweet cloud on her blog and was intrigued to have a go at making one myself. (It is interesting as an aside that Cathy's personal interpretation and commentary on her tweet cloud seems to have stirred up a pot of bother over on David Jake's blog!)

So to the meme, Clay did some interesting interpretation of his tweet cloud to turn random strings of words into poetry (that Clay sure does have a way with words!) So I thought I would have a look at what my tweet cloud had to say.By far my favourite is:
Away bad bed, better blog!
Followed closely by:
Feeds feel finally finished!

It is interesting what your tweet cloud can reveal about your (could I call it obsession?) conversations -
Exciting facilitating
Kids know!
Thinking time today tomorrow
Virtual voice
World writing year

What I have found the most interesting is that of the tweet clouds I have seen so far, (Allanah, Clay, Cathy and mine) all have one prominent word in common "Thanks".

Join in the fun, what does your tweet cloud reveal?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Podcasting in plain English

Fantastic! I now no longer need to run workshops on the basics in podcasting. The Commoncraft people have gone and done it for me!

Here is Podcasting in plain English

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blooms taxonomy and digital developments

With all the current technology available for teachers, they often struggle as to where the taxonomy of Bloom fits with the various digital developments. recently summarized the work of fellow kiwi, Andrew Churches and his concept of ‘Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy’. Check it out at:

Friday, March 28, 2008

Where are these digital natives?

Yesterday I gave a presentation to 3rd year University Education students. I gave the same presentation last year. I was amazed last year how little these students knew of ICT in Education or even in life. But I was sure it would be different this year. This year I would finally find these 'Digital Natives' everyone has been talking about. Surely they have finally come up through the ranks and I will be singing to the choir as it were.

These students must be 19 or 20 years old. And they had not heard of RSS, did not know the merits of delicious, did not blog, hadn't listened to a podcast or created a wiki. Second Life was a foreign concept and really, what on earth is Twitter? A few of them had used Skype and one asked if Bebo counted as blogging. I launched into my presentation of the wonders of Web 2 for education and was met by a wasteland of blank stares. (Really without understanding the concept of RSS everything else falls over!)

Where are these "Digital Natives" we keep hearing about? Is my particular education system not producing them? Or is the concept of these hyper-connected students just a figment of our imagination, a reality we can see as being possible but is not actually real?

I finished dazzling them with my brilliance (unappreciated I must say, either that or I was speaking a foreign language) and launched into a safer topic they would understand - how to use PowerPoint in interesting and innovative ways for education.

I was relieved though, when I got home, to find my own tween daughter and teenage sons engaged in more "native" like pursuits. One was working on his music network within Last FM; the other was perfecting his musical talents creating original music through music notation on GarageBand, watching and contributing guitar tutorials to Youtube; and the third was investigating the new virtual world of Panwapa. Maybe I still have a few years to wait until I will be standing in front of a University class of "Natives" ... This (so-called) "Immigrant" is restless.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Read about Ralph

I received a lovely email today from a teacher who was in my ICTPD Cluster for the last three years. She has set up her own blog for the class mascot and is very proud of her creation.

So head along to Read about Ralph and find out all the crazy adventures this mischievous cat gets on with his class of 5 and 6 year old Kiwi kids, and don't forget to drop them a comment.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

People in order

I have just come across this endearing and life affirming video. People in order is a video of  people aged from one to one hundred banging a drum and saying their age. The smiles on their faces are contagious. Seeing the difference in personality through one beat of a drum is interesting as well. I could think of many ways to use this video in a classroom to help kids think outside of themselves.  Enjoy.

Embedded Video

Blogged with Flock

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Learning @ School day one

Well here I am again, my fourth Learning @ School. It is still just as exciting. Seeing over 1100 people in one place who all have a passion for leading learning and implementing ICT is great. I have heard two keynotes so far and it seems there is a focus on the new curriculum this year. Jeremy Kedian, during his keynote, made mention of the difference between managers and leaders which I liked. He said that managers know how to keep schools moving, leaders know how to keep schools moving somewhere.  Listening to his keynote made me think of a few things. Firstly he asked the question "what do you know about learning?" that is quite a difficult question to answer! I thought this would be a good question to use in a workshop and then have participants think about what type of learner they are in line with the new curriculum, key competencies, principals, values, vision and maybe with other thinking tools such as habits of mind. Jeremy Kedian asked "What makes a teacher?" and the answer was "They know about learning" (notice it's not teaching). 
Anyway that's the end of my notes for today. Will try to write some more. This is a very busy L@S for me as I'm attending in two different capacities and feeling rather split down the middle.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Split screen thinking

I read an excellent presentation written by Guy Claxton yesterday. He was talking about the importance of teaching students how to learn. He begins his presenation with these quotes:
‘The test of successful education is not the amount of knowledge that pupils take away
from school, but their appetite to know and their capacity to learn.’ Sir Richard
Livingstone, 1941

‘All skills will become obsolete except one, the skill of being able to make the right
response to situations that are outside the scope of what you were taught in school. We
need to produce people who know how to act when they are faced with situations for
which they were not specifically prepared.’ Seymour Papert, 1998

‘One of the core functions of twenty-first century education is learning to learn in
preparation for a lifetime of change.’ David Miliband, 2003

‘Pedagogy should at its best be about what teachers do that not only helps students to
learn but actively strengthens their capacity to learn.’ David Hargreaves, Learning for
Life, 2004

‘Effective teaching … should aim to help individuals and groups to develop the
intellectual, personal and social resources that will enable them to … flourish … in a
diverse and changing world.’ ESRC TLRP Evidence-informed principles for teaching
and learning: No 1, March 2006
This paper is well worth reading all the way through. There is a practical section where Claxton talks about split screen teaching and he had me so fired up I was ready to demand a class to teach to try out his ideas! I always think the best ideas are ones that when you read them you think, "why didn't I think of that?" Anyway, split screen thinking is when you keep two things in mind when teaching your lesson, both of equal importance. Firstly the content you are teaching, this is still important, but of the same importance is the learning to learn skill you are teaching at the same time. He tells the story of a teacher who was doing a lesson on electricity.Her learning to learn skills was questioning. She sent them off to explore the elements of electrical circuits as we usually do but set them the task to gather all their questions as they carried out their experiment. They then discussed the different questions a scientist might have about electricity than a mum, or a farmer, or an actor etc.

Another example he gave was when you are reading a novel to your class have them identify what kind of learner the main character is with examples. This idea led me think about something we were doing at Pine Hill. We had introduced the students to the Habits of Mind over the last few years. A way to revise these habits of mind would be to have the students identify what habits of mind famous characters use with examples. I have a set of cards with the habits of mind on them with explanations. I thought you could put students in groups with a set of cards for each group. Then give the group a well known character, say Harry Potter, the BFG or goldilocks. Give the group a few minutes to agree on a habit of mind they think that character uses with an example. Each group reports back and then you give them all a new character. This could be a quick 5 - 10 min activity to keep the kids thinking about thinking. If someone is lucky enough to give this a try please leave me a comment. I have been out of the classroom for one week and you can see the withdrawal symptoms are setting in. :)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Lester Flockton and the NZ Curriculum

A learning organization is an organization:
• where people continually experience their capacity to create the results they truly desire
• where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured
• where collective aspiration is set free
• where people are continually learning how to learn together
(Senge 1990, The Fifth Discipline)

Today I spent a couple of hours listening to Lester Flockton talk about the revised New Zealand Curriculum at the University of Otago. It was a jam packed two hours and I have included some of my notes below. These are mainly pointers for school leaders looking at where to start when thinking about implementing the curriculum.

Development of the new curriculum:
A curriculum stocktake was held which highlighted that the old curriculum was overcrowded, inflexible, difficult for parents to read, teachers weren’t involved in the curriculum; achievement objectives (AOs) were artificially structured; curriculum levels were arbitrary; teachers were less creative as they were dependent on the AOs; assessment practices undermined teaching and learning; ERO used AOs as audit tools where as teachers saw them as planning tools. This stocktake led to the revised curriculum document.

The previous curriculum was a model of accountability founded on the AOs. The new curriculum is a co-constructed curriculum, which is more professionally embracing and received overwhelming support during the draft consultation phase. Over 15,000 people took part during online and face to face consultation in the construction of this curriculum and over 10,000 responses were received during the draft consultation phase.

The goals of the curriculum project are:
1. Clarify and refine curriculum outcomes (AOs)
2. Focus on quality teaching
3. Strengthen school ownership of the curriculum
4. Support communication and strengthen partnership with parents and communities.

The new curriculum document must be in use by all schools by 2010. Lester cautions us to get our thinking right and not to rush into things. There are two years to implement the curriculum and schools that are doing good things may not have much to implement. The key is in making the principles, vision and values of the curriculum explicit.

Lester states schools could address the implementation in three stages. Firstly schools need Clarification – what does the curriculum mean for that school. Next Exploration – think the curriculum through, critically review it in your context. And then Decide – which direction will you take. The key to this process is to continually be reviewing.

The principles from the curriculum document should underpin all school decision making. ERO should look for these principles infused in the school curriculum and we need to become better at talking about them in our schools. We need to be able to provide evidence through practical demonstrations in our school community of the existence of the principles.

Lester was part of preparing a package for schools called From NZ Curriculum to School Curriculum. This is available for download from the Curriculum online site on TKI.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

New Zealand Curriculum online

Well, I have had two days in my new job. It is exciting to be doing something different and it is challenging to take a risk and step into the unknown. I am starting to get my head around what I'm supposed to be doing but I'm sure it will all become much more clearer as I get further into the year.

I have spent some time today working on the NZ Curriculum share and discuss site. On this site you can share stories of how your school has begun to implement the curriculum. You can also read about other school's experiences. Today I set up a page where you can find some strategies to use when talking about the curriculum with your staff in your school. These strategies will be added to in the near future and there is the option for you to post about successful strategies you have used and would like to share with others. The other section I set up today was a page for people to share what they are going to do on their 'curriculum day', the day the Ministry has funded for schools to work on the curriculum. It would be great for schools to share their plans for this day to spark ideas for other schools and to engage in discussions.

If you have a school story, are looking for an implementation strategy, or want to share what you will be doing on the curriculum day, then please follow the links and share your experiences and expertise with the rest of us. I look forward to reading your contributions.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Bloggers' Cafe at Learning @ School

Hey all you NZ edubloggers out there, want to put a face to the blog? The NZ Bloggers Cafe is happening this year at Learning @ School. Come along and engage with other bloggers in some lively debate about life, the universe and everything. This would also be a great place for 'budding bloggers' to come and learn some tips and tricks from 'blooming bloggers'. The cafe will be open during morning tea and lunch breaks so come along and join in the discussions. The venue will be advertised in the conference handbook.

We will need people to help man the cafe during these break times, the idea for the cafe is twofold. The first is so that we can all get together and meet in person the minds we have been reading. The second is to be of help to other bloggers just starting out and who would like some tips and tricks.

The bloggers' cafe was a big hit at ULearn with virtual friendships turning into face to face friendships, and new names added to our aggregators. A few visitors to the cafe have started their own blogs with a guaranteed readership and a lot of online collaboration has happened. So new bloggers and old, come along and join in the fun at the cafe.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

I have had a whirlwind last couple of weeks full of decisions and anxiety. I have been offered a wonderful opportunity to work for Core Education but to take up this offer, I had to leave the classroom. This made me think about my 'calling'. I love teaching, I love my little 'kingdom' and my adoring subjects, I love the creativity of crafting learning experiences that meet the needs of my students, I love the aha moments when the students finally get 'it'. I was literally born to teach. I relish the fact that I can make this world a better place for the 20 or 30 people in my classroom for 6 hours a day. That is what I was put on this earth to do.

So making the decision to leave all that felt very selfish. I am now embarking on an exciting opportunity to work with a great team of people looking at the implementation of the new curriculum in New Zealand. I get to see first had the difference this curriculum can make and the innovative way schools are adopting it. I get to contribute to this time in NZ education and maybe have a slightly wider impact than just my own classroom. I am excited about what this year will bring however moving on is a very difficult thing to do. I packed up all my stuff from my classroom and with a tear in my eye, wondered if I would ever teach in a classroom again.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Bloggers' Cafe at Learning @ School 2008

Attention all New Zealand Bloggers... The Bloggers' Cafe will be open at Learning @ School 2008. The Ministry of Education will be running this annual Information and Communication Technologies conference at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua from 19-22 February 2008.

If you are going to be attending Learning @ School this year and you are a blogger come and join us at the Cafe. Use this time to connect face to face with people you have been reading virtually. If you are not a blogger but would like to find out about blogging, come and join us at the cafe, there will be lots of people to answer your questions and point you in the right direction. The Bloggers' Cafe was a big hit at ULearn 07 and we look forward to adding new names to our aggregators at Learning @ School 08.
Technorati Tags:

Please spread the word, I look forward to meeting you all at Learning @ School 08.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Locating the field of educational research

Reflections on these readings:

Burton, D., & Bartlett, S. (2005). Defining educational research. In Practitioner research for teachers (pp. 13-33). London: Paul Chapman Publishing.

Cochran-Smith, M., & Lytle, S. L. (1998). Teacher research: The question that persists. International Journal of Leadership in Education, 1(1), 19-36.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2000). Introduction. The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. K Denzin, & Y. S Lincoln (Eds.). Handbook of Qualitative Research, (2nd Ed) (pp.1-28). New York: Sage.

Guba, E. C. (1990). The alternative paradigm dialog. In E. C. Guba (Ed.). The paradigm dialog, (pp. 17-27). New York: Sage.

Jungck, S. (1996). Teacher inquiry in the traditions of social science research: “is it real?” In G. Burnaford, J.Fischer & D. Hobson (Eds.), Teachers doing research (pp. 165-179).

Zeichner, K. M., & Noffke, S. E. (2001). Practitioner research. In V. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of research on teaching (4th ed., pp. 298-330). Washington D. C.: American Educational Research Association.

Is Teacher Research ‘real’ research? Jungck argues that teacher research “honors their keen observational skills, their inclination (indeed obligation) to influence their own environment with an aim toward improving it, and their skill at developing, modifying, and observing simultaneously, on-the-spot! The model [action research] systematizes what good teachers tend to do naturally.” (1996 p 176)

Anderson (1998:6) quoted in Burton and Bartlett (2005) states “Research in education is a disciplined attempt to address or solve problems through the collection and analysis of primary data for the purpose of description, explanation generalization and prediction.’  Burton and Bartlett describe research as planned, cautious, systematic, reliable and that rigor is paramount. Research is about finding out and understanding phenomena. It is used for different purposes: to persuade, to state a viewpoint and political purposes. Denzin and Lincoln (2000) add “qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world.” (p3)

The Burton and Bartlett (2005) article was a practical ‘how to’ guide for research and outlined what qualitative research is. The article by Denzin and Lincoln (2000), provided a look at qualitative research with a critical eye and presented this in an interesting narrative format. This article made me marvel at the richness, depth and breadth of qualitative research, the ‘why’ and not just the ‘what’. The discussion on qualitative research as being a montage or a bricolage was appealing. As was the quote in Jungck (1996 p 174) by Clandinin and Connelly (1994 p 417) that teachers tend to be “simultaneously focused in four directions: inward, outward, backward and forward” when doing research.

“Qualitative research is endlessly creative and interpretive…  Interpretations are constructed… as a working interpretive document that contains the writer’s initial attempts to make sense of what he or she has learned” (Denzin and Lincoln,2000 p23).

The thought of research as a creative montage and not just a logical, linear, scientific activity is engaging. The discussion on ‘triangulation’ was equally as enlightening. “Triangulation is not a tool or strategy of validation, but an alternative to validation” (Flick, 1998, p.230, in Denzin and Lincoln, p 5). For the first time I saw that gathering data using many different methods was a way to experience the breadth, width and richness of the phenomenon being studied. You cannot capture the reality of the phenomenon, only a representation of it.

These readings engage in discussion of paradigms, what Guba (1990 p 17) defines as “a basic set of beliefs that guides action”. Guba concurs with Denzin and Lincoln (2000) that the researcher cannot be objective, but is an integral part of the research, and therefore needs to state the paradigm of the researcher. Guba (1990) gives a succinct overview of the various types of paradigms. I am leaning towards a constructivist paradigm at this moment.

In the article by Cochran Smith and Lytle (1998) a list of questions are generated around teacher research.  Notable is the discussion that “the growth of the teacher research movement hinges on a paradox: as it is used in the service of more and more agendas and even institutionalized in certain contexts, it is in danger of becoming anything and everything” (p21). This is reflected in rigid performance management systems that do not take into account the needs of a teacher or their classroom.

In conclusion, my overall feelings when these articles fall into one tangled heap after reading them in a two week period, is that teacher research is an important part of being a classroom practitioner. It is a rich area of inquiry. Researchers cannot be situated outside the research object, they bring with them their bias, knowledge, beliefs and politics. There are many different paradigms of qualitative research, the researcher needs to state the paradigm they favour, and research always serves an interest. I personally feel that teacher research is important, needs to be valued by being allocated the necessary time, but that it also needs to be supported by established research.

(This highlights the importance of the Efellowship programme provided by the Ministry of Education in New Zealand!)

Image by froodmat (Creative Commons License: Attribution)

Blogged with Flock