Saturday, March 18, 2017

My Changing Practice!

Week 32
Titiro whakamuri, kokiri whakamua
Look back and reflect, so you can move forward
The lead statement on the NZ Education Council website declares that “Teachers play a critical role in enabling the educational achievement of all ākonga/learners.”  (NZ Education Council, n.d.)  This is one of four overarching criteria, which teachers need to meet to renew their registration.  The 12 criteria depict the fundamental knowledge, understanding and capabilities expected of all teachers in their professional practice.  The criteria are aspirational and meeting them will enable quality teaching within the New Zealand education system.

For the past three years, I have run a STEM class where I gathered together groups of mixed ability children for a term and we developed and completed individual projects based on science.  The learning was integrated and we used the mathematics and the literacy skills that were needed to help us complete our projects.  I loved working this way and for the most part, my students loved working this way.  I am the first to admit that it did not work for all students; some prefer the routine of a regular classroom but for many of our indigenous and Pasifika students. This type of learning fitted well.  Engagement increased and children became enthusiastic about their learning in a way that I had rarely seen in my ‘regular’ classroom.
This year, I have moved back into a year three and four class.  I have re-engaged with the more traditional ways of teaching numeracy and literacy but the lessons of the past three years have come with me.  Alongside this is my learning from the past thirty-two weeks at MindLab.
I have begun to appreciate more fully, the ideals of twenty first century learning and the tools with which to achieve these ideals.
The first criteria to focus on for making effective changes in my teaching is Criteria 4: demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of personal professional practice.
This is further broken down:
i.             identify professional learning goals in consultation with colleagues
ii.            participate responsively in professional learning opportunities within the learning community
iii.          initiate learning opportunities to advance personal professional knowledge and skills
I am learning to work in a modern learning environment, team teaching with another ‘Mindlabber.’  We challenge each other and reflect on our learning through this programme and how to best implement effective change for our students.  I will continue learning from my peers, my students and through exploring future professional development opportunities, which come my way.  Design thinking is now on my radar and I will be seeking opportunities to upskill in this area.
Working in a highly multicultural school the other criterion for me to focus is on criteria 9:  Respond effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.
Again, the criteria is further broken down:
i.             demonstrate knowledge and understanding of social and cultural influences on learning, by working effectively in the bicultural and multi-cultural contexts of learning in Aotearoa New Zealand
ii.             ii. select teaching approaches, resources, technologies and learning and assessment activities that are inclusive and effective for diverse ākonga
iii.           iii. modify teaching approaches to address the needs of individuals and groups of ākonga
I based my literature review on the question: How do traditional methods of ako position Māori as 21st Century learners.  I have a long way to go in my journey to speak Te reo fluently and to become competent in the use of appropriate tikanga in an educational setting.  I love the explanation of ako – a reciprocal learning and teaching process where the teacher is the kaiako, the learner is the ākonga and the roles are continuously exchanged.  The literature review has provided me with the reasons to change my practice and the research to support the changes.
So as I finish this 32 week roller coaster journey I leave you with a whakatauki.

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from

Image: Retrieved from

Friday, March 17, 2017

Impacts of my Interdisciplinary Connections

Week 31: 

 “As with any boundary crossing, expanding our ideas about ‘who belongs’ presents challenges to the existing culture.”  (Stoll et al 2007)

My interdisciplinary connections map looks like a map of the London Underground.  What I find most interesting is the relative sizes of the branches of this tree.  The ‘regular’ classroom learning branches of literacy, numeracy and science are relatively small but the social media branch is huge in comparison.  The Putaiao / science stem is also significantly enlarged representing my recent journey of teaching through a STEM based curriculum with a project based learning focus.   I think this gives a valid visual representation of the way in which my personal learning and interactions with others has grown over the past few years.
I have used my growing understanding of the benefits and challenges of interdisciplinary learning to change the way I teach in the classroom. 
I have moved to a more project based learning environment and I have tried to enable students to become empowered learners.  I have done this through basing my teaching on science, technology and enviroschools as thematic focii.
Jones (2009 p 76) states that “interdisciplinary techniques allow students to see different perspectives, work in groups and make the synthesizing of disciplines the ultimate goal.”
My experience has been that students do begin to see different perspectives and they do work in groups.  As a primary teacher, the synthesis of disciplines is not my ultimate goal for my students, my ultimate goal is to engage them fully in their learning using real world contexts that have meaning for them.  To this end, cultural perspectives need to be incorporated into the learning.  Magga (2004) describes quality education for indigenous people as being based on their own culture, knowledge, languages and learning and teaching traditions.  “From this platform we will be able to reach for the best in the global garden of knowledge.” (cited in King and Schielmann, 2004:10)  My learning from my MindLab studies has shown me that in Te Ao Māori, interdisciplinary studies were the norm.  Geographic and genealogical locations were taught, as were important social and cultural icons.  There was no separation between these areas as the more extensive a person’s knowledge and understanding of these things, the more mana they derived from this.
Teaching in a school with more than 50% Māori and Pasifika students, I need to move forward with this tradition making links with the NZ Curriculum. In this way, the voice of my community is heard while the learning experience of the students both links back to tradition and forward with 21st Century learning skills and habits. 
Our world is interdisciplinary in nature and becomes more so each day.  As education moves in this direction,   we need to ensure we have systems in place to support culturally democratic learning and to develop effective assessment strategies to record success and progress for students.

Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach - Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI, 7(26), 76-81. Retrieved from

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from 

Stoll, L &, Seashore Louis, K. (Eds.).(2007). Professional Learning Communities: Divergence, Depth And Dilemmas. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill 
Thaman, K. (2016, December 6th). Culture Matters in teaching and learning. (K. Thaman, Performer) Aronui Lecture Series, Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Using social online networks in teaching and professional development

Melhuish (2013) (Sharples, 2016) hypothesizes that educator engagement in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) provides a system of participation where educationalists are able to be informally involved in professional development.  Such involvement is immediate and contextual to the teaching and leadership of those individuals.  My belief is that this is true across many social media platforms.  I have found that many of the specific twitter chats (e.g. #scichatnz) are an excellent form of both informal professional development and building a personal learning network that is both national and international.  In my own teaching, this had led to my classes’ involvement in many collaborative initiatives.  Examples are ‘The Travelling Rhinos Project,’ both the NZ and Global Read Aloud projects and Maths Pirates. My understanding from reading research on this topic is that sharing of resources, development of both content knowledge and professional reflection are common outcomes of the professional use of social media. Other outcomes, which are unintentional, can include deeper pedagogical understanding, increasing competence with technology and the growth and development of professional leadership, identity and recognition

This diagram summarises my perception of benefits from participating in social media as an educator.

Through being a connected educator, we are modelling to our peers and our students that we are lifelong learners.  Kathy Cassidy (2013) believes classrooms need to reflect the connections happening out of school. Children of today have grown up with internet and are surrounded by devices. Students are often highly connected at home, playing games with multiplayer options and often using Facebook via a parental account.  This can lead to challenges involving the use of social media in the classroom.  Time and effort needs to be spent on teaching internet safety and etiquette. .  Frequently, young children do not think clearly about the information they give out online.  This is a definite teaching point addressing privacy issues and access.  How to be cyber safe, how to respond appropriately and what information is OK to give out needs to be taught and retaught.
In my current class, I use a variety of social media sites.  Most often, I am in control of these and use them to supplement lessons.  Facebook, Twitter, Class Dojo and Skype would fall into this category.  The reason for this is that my Year 3 / 4 students would be vulnerable on these sites combined with the fact that there are age guidelines set for these sites.
To enable collaboration with others, I have used Edmodo.  This platform is safe for children as it is set up to link only to other classrooms around the world.  It enables the students to collaborate with others and to learn the etiquette of interacting on a social networking site.
Within class we are currently learning to use Microsoft Classroom.  Students are able to collaborate with each other and with me.  Also a ‘safe’ environment, it facilitates collaboration and connection with this small group.  Class Dojo is similar but involves whanau and can be used to support positive behaviours. 
Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrived on 6/3/2017, from

Office of Ed Tech. (2013, Sep 18). Connected Educators. [video file]. Retrieved from

Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2013). Social media for teaching and learning. Retrieved from,0

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Use of Social Media in School

As a teacher it is imperative to make conscious moral decisions to ensure my practice meets the ethical standards of conduct and responsibility set by the New Zealand Teacher’s Council.  The use of social media is an area filled with pitfalls.  Finding the balance between professional life and personal life can be a very delicate balance.  “Today’s teachers are frequently confronted by ethical choices in situations that did not arise, or were relatively unproblematic for their counterparts 30 years ago.” (Hall, A. 2001 p 1)
There are four fundamental principles we are required to abide by:

“Application of the Code of  Ethics shall take account of the requirements of the law as well as the obligation of teachers to honour the Treaty of Waitangi by paying particular attention to the rights and aspirations of Māori as tangata whenua.”  (Education Council, n.d.)

These principles then should guide, influence and inspire educationalists throughout New Zealand.  “It should be recognized that high ethical standards are most fully achieved by practitioners when those standards are also observed by employers, parents, students and community”.(Education Council, n.d)
It can be hard to manage this on social media.
Issues that have arisen at various times within our school include:
·         Inappropriate personal postings by teachers.  The social network is wide and although a teacher may not be friends with a parent of the school, another contact may be.  In this way, posts which involve alcohol, personal beliefs or inappropriate behaviours can really be ticking time bombs. 
·         Inappropriate comments from within the wider community on school Facebook posts or classroom blogs.  These can often be personal and addressed at staff members or children.
·         Posting of photographs of children when they do not have permission for this from their family / whanau.
·         Community members venting on a public forum.
At present we have a closed community Facebook page for our school.  We have recently deleted all members who are not currently involved in the school.  This caused a firestorm within the local community webpage.  In deleting people we were following our school protocol and despite the rage, we have stuck to this protocol believing it to be appropriate.  It will however, be up for review by the current community members later this year.  The Facebook page is transitioning to be a repository for reminders about trips and sporting events, links to school newsletter and other day to day information only.  All members can post to this page.
We are also in the process of building our school webpage.  As a staff we have agreed that this is a better forum for photographs and descriptions of school activities and the appropriate place for friends and whanau to make links with student activities and achievements.  Only staff and through them, students can post to this site.  It includes class blogs to celebrate the work of our students.  Comments are allowed on this page but are vetted by staff before publication.

In summary then, to adhere to our professional and ethical responsibilities we need to be constantly aware that all actions on social media may be visible to students, parents, whanau and employers. Social networking can be an incredibly powerful tool for both classroom use and the development of professional learning networks but it is in our own best interests to use social media and privacy settings responsibly.

Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program. (2012). Ethical and Professional Dilemmas for Educators: Facilitator’s Guide. Retrieved from

Education Council. (n.d). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers. Retrieved from

Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from

Critique and evaluate how indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness inform practice

There are many tensions between the New Zealand Curriculum document and indigenous educational philosophies.  In culturally responsive teaching, three concepts of importance are:
·         Ako
·         Whanau
·         Māori succeeding as Māori (and Pasifika succeeding as Pasifika)
These three aspects link to the 21st C skills of:
·         Collaboration
·         Knowledge construction
·         Self-regulation
·         Real-world problem-solving and innovation
·         Skilled communication
There is overwhelming agreement that recognition and implementation of culturally-based methods of teaching and learning (Berryman 2014, Thaman 2003, Chu et al 2013) provide an effective learning context for all students.  Differentiating the learning to effectively include all cultures is an expectation within the New Zealand Curriculum and is expressed within the principles. “The curriculum reflects New Zealand’s cultural diversity and values the histories and traditions of all its people.” “…it ensures that students’ identities, languages, abilities, and talents are recognised and affirmed and that their learning needs are addressed.” (Ministry of Education 2007, p9) That this expectation is often not met, results in the ineffectual learning and high failure rates of Maori and Pasifika students. (Thaman 2016)
 ‘Ako’ is a formative concept in indigenous education (both Māori and Pasifika) and formal recognition of this concept within our school champions the following methods of teaching:
·         Reciprocal learning centred relationships between teacher and student linking to the 21st C learning skill of collaboration.  The project based learning and STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) focus in my class supports this aspect of ako in my current class.

·         Whakawhanaungatanga (building strong relationships) is a key factor supporting indigenous students. 

·         Whanau: learner and whanau cannot be separated.  This is an important aspect.  In my experience, it can be the most difficult barrier for a pakeha teacher to cross. (Macfarlane, 2009) proposes that to develop an effective partnership between educators and whanau, consideration must be given to both recognition of the balance of power and consideration of the effective empowerment of whanau in determining educational outcomes for their children.  When these outcomes differ from the outcomes prescribed by the Ministry of Education, there must be a compromise.  Russel Bishop in his discussion of educational disparities in NZ education suggests that agentic teachers who can weave together a context which allows indigenous students to bring themselves authentically to the learning conversation are the key to educational success. This  skill of self-regulation, initially as cultural self-regulation later as individual self-regulation is seen within a primary context when the language and culture of a race are loudly and proudly in evidence. 

At Koraunui we are fortunate to have a staff who journey together to develop positive outcomes for all students.  For many of us, this has meant significant hours of professional development, learning new languages, new tikanga and opening our eyes and ears to the history of our country that is not taught.  The history of oppression and colonisation and the lingering effects or debts that have been the result of this.
For Māori to succeed as Māori we need to address the concept of cultural deficit theory.  This is a model in which the failure of indigenous students to succeed within a westernised education system is attributed to social characteristics rooted in their cultures and communities.  Stewart (2016) suggests that under this model, teachers hold low expectations of success for their students and this results in poor student achievement.   He describes deficit theory as a “barrier to a culturally responsive pedagogy.”
Change is slow.  Small steps make a difference.  Using the home language of a student, pronouncing their name correctly, acknowledging and accepting their culture and celebrating their stories, songs and art are all ways to develop ourselves as agentic teachers.
Toi tu te kupu, toi tu te mana, toi tu te whenua

Works Cited

Berryman, M. S. ((2014, 4:2).). Culturally responsive methodologies at work in educatio settings. International Journal for Researcher Development,, 102-116.
Bishop, R. (2010). Changing power relations in education: Kaupapa Māori messages for 'mainstream' education in Aotearoa New Zealand. Comparitive Education 39: 2, 221-238.
Chu, C. S. (2013). Educational practices that benefit Pacific Learners in Tertiary Education. Wellington: National Centre for Tertiary Teaching Excellence.
Education, M. o. (2007). New Zealand Curriculum. Wellington: Learning Media.
Macfarlane, S. (2009). Te Pikinga ki runga: Raising Possibilities. Set (2), 42-45.
Stewart, G. (2016). Indigenous Knowledge and education policy for teachers of Maori Learners. Knowledge Cultures 4:3, 84- 92.
Thaman, K. (2003 15:1). Decolonising Pacific Studies: Indigenous Perspectives, knowledge and wisdom in higher education. The Contemporary Pacific, 1-5.
Thaman, K. (2016, December 6). Culture Matters in teaching and learning. . (K. Thaman, Performer) Aronui Lecture Theatre, Wellington, New Zealand.

Thaman, K. H. (2003). Culture, teaching and learning in Oceania. In K. Thaman, Educational ideas from Oceania (pp. 3-12). Suva: University of the South Pacific.