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