CORE Education’s Ten Trends for 2015

Staying ahead of digital technology trends that impact on all aspects of education

CORE's Ten Trends 2015

Each year our growing team of researchers, educators, and digital technology experts pool their expertise and combine their understanding and evidence of the ways that digital technologies are influencing all aspects of education. The result is CORE’s list of the Ten Trends that are expected to make a growing impact upon education in New Zealand in the coming year.

The purpose in presenting these trends is to provide a glimpse of the ‘big picture’ within which we operate in the education system. It is important to recognise that these are trends, not specific predictions, and they are presented to provoke further research, investigation, and discussion, in order to determine how they may affect the strategic planning within your educational institution.

This year we have again decided to focus our trends around five key areas of change, and for each we have chosen two trends. The five key areas of change provide a context for understanding how the trends may develop, and where we’re likely to see the impact on learning.

CORE's Ten Trends 2015

  1. Learner orientation
  2. Networked organisations
  3. Learning analytics
  4. Digital convergence
  5. Universal Design for Learning
  6. New forms of assessment
  7. Learner agency
  8. Maker culture
  9. Global connectedness
  10. Innovation and entrepreneurship

Each key area describes ways the adoption of new and emerging digital technologies can impact on learners of all ages. While the focus is on the influence of digital technologies on education the scope is broad as technologies become infused in all aspects of our lives.

The articles, links and videos are provided for schools, centres and educators to use in their professional learning and development programmes. An innovation for 2015 is the provision of spotlights on practitioners who are embracing some aspects of one of the trends in their schools and classrooms. The first spotlight is a video: Learner orientation, showing some of the schools designing learner-oriented systems built around the learner, rather than the learner being required to fit with the system. These spotlights will be released regularly throughout the year, and promoted here, in our newsletters and through social media: @edtalks.

Ten Trends 2015: Learner orientation from EDtalks.

Further information

CORE staff are available to speak to staff groups about any of these themes, or to present to cluster groups or at conferences, either in person or using an online synchronous communications system. Further inquires should be addressed to 10trends@core-ed.org.


Failing to learn

The analog mission

If I measure the success of the analog mission in terms of meeting my expectations, then it was a failure. A right-royal failure. But, this is the life of a games designer. You have to learn to live with your mistakes. You have to learn to dance in the rain. You need to harden up. I’m talking about being a games designer in the context of education. I’m not professing to be any kind of expert. I’m a newbie, but already I’m learning a few things, and that was the purpose of the analog mission.

So, what is an analog mission? I have stolen the term from NASA. Because you want to learn from your mistakes before you go into space, rather than while in space, NASA runs complex missions underwater and in the desert. These analog missions are designed to test people and equipment in harsh conditions akin to the extremes of heat, cold, and isolation that will be experienced on real missions in space.

My analog mission was a puzzle game that used digital technology for communications, but not to define or enhance the game. I chose Twitter as the communications channel, but the game itself was old school and real world. A wooden puzzle called the Locked Cross was disassembled, and each piece was packed into a luscious and mysterious blue purse with a gold cord for hanging it around a players neck. Then the purses were hidden around the venue which served as the game environment. A player who had followed the clues via a Twitter hashtag would know another player by their unusual and similar attire. The queen (the senior female present) held the key (a clue to be found in Robert Bly’s title Iron John mysteriously left lying around for players to find). This game was designed to test the concept for a fully blown augmented and alternate reality game called Fragmented, where the wooden puzzle pieces will be replaced with fragments of a narrative embedded (electronically) in a real-world learning environment. Up to now, everything was going to plan.

Then a bombshell dropped — no-one was tweeting.

Two years previously at this same event, everyone had a device in their hand. “Enjoying the in-team session Pasifika rools KO! #this #that", and so on. But this year … nothing. Well, almost nothing. The culture had changed. It isn’t just at events either. The culture has changed in our private lives too: people who text at dinner are roundly criticised by their family and friends. You see groups of young professionals pushing their phones into the middle of the table. They often mute them. They’ve learned to ignore incoming alerts. Suspending notifications is the new cool.

So, my analog mission was on the rocks. But that’s the idea. To learn now, while the stakes are low. My idea for a comms channel was fatally flawed. I generalised this specific learning into a Golden Rule: Do not make assumptions about anything.

Later, at a weekend house party, I hung the five puzzle pieces in their beautiful little bags on light fittings, on stag antlers, on the back of the bathroom door. Then, like a fisherman, my net set, I waited patiently for the action to start. This time I would use old-fashioned face-to-face communications to drive the game: Chinese whispers, nods and winks, meaningful glances. I was relying on the guests' sheer curiosity to look in the bags. Surely that couldn't fail?

Not one person looked in any of the bags.

Later, like Hercule Poirot, I had them all gather in one room. Why had they not looked in the bags? What bags? they asked. Oh, those bags. We didn’t think those applied to us. Were you not curious? No.

So, I had broken my own new Golden Rule already. I had assumed the houseguests would be curious, and they were not. On reflection, they were curious, but not about the bags. They were curious about their individual and personal lines of enquiry: the habits of the trout in the lake; the motivation of Captain Cook in the days before his death in Hawaii; on the antics of the young generation. Not the bags. Dancing Bear syndrome had struck: people tend to not even see what they are not looking for.

I am over the disappointment now; I am growing into my new skin as a games designer. I realise that my analogue mission was, in its final outcome, a success.

I think you can apply some of this thinking to teaching and learning generally. There is an article on the Google testing blog by Alberto Savoia (the man who introduced pretotyping) titled, Pretotyping: A Different Type of Testing. If this piece of mine has sparked your interest, then start reading some of Alberto’s stuff, he is the man. Traditionally, people have not applied design thinking to education, it’s not been thought of as a product. Whether you think of the graduate as the product or the processes and materials of education as the product, either way, it’s a modern way to think about teaching and learning. Game-based learning could be thought to be trivialising learning, but it’s quite the opposite: it takes you into some hidden depths.



Schools engaging with iwi, hapū and whānau

Engaging with iwi

How do schools engage with local iwi or hapū networks? Iwi can be complex organisations, whether you are in an urban kura in a large city or a rural kura out in the country. Iwi politics are to be avoided at all cost, so let’s look for an easy option, let’s talk to our Māori friends.

Iwi organisations around the country are dynamic in how they function. As we move into the post-settlement era, we have on the one hand iwi that are well organised (they are usually post-settlement) and may even have an education arm; on the other hand we have iwi that are thin on the ground in terms of personnel (they are usually pre-settlement). Settled iwi have mandated iwi bodies and resource; they have compensation money, usually for land confiscated in the 1800’s.

Bigger iwi usually have a large number of kura within their region, so there is difficulty for iwi in managing kura relationships. For example, Ngāi Tahu, a post-settled iwi, takes in a large geographical area. They have education arms across their 18 rūnaka (subtribes). Within some of those rūnaka they have recently been running professional learning and development hui on their local marae for kura, who come together as clusters to learn and hear about tribal histories and their iwi aspirations for the future.

The agenda in this situation is run by the iwi – rather than kura going through a process of inviting iwi into their school settings. While I am not suggesting that we disregard this arrangement for establishing a relationship with iwi, there are other options.

Iwi are putting their hands up in other tribal situations. In my tribal base ‘te reo o Taranaki’ is an organisation that has focused on revival of Taranaki language and dialect. Māori language courses have been run by te reo o Taranaki for 20 years and schools in Taranaki have been sending their teachers to these programmes. The courses are marae based and have had a positive impact in connecting teachers to the what is happening in the iwi space locally.

Here’s a simple but effective approach.

Start with the Māori whānau of your kura. They will have connections to the local iwi in some shape or form. Build some trust with those parents, and let them lead the connecting. Remind them that it is about Māori student achievement and what that looks like for tamariki within your kura from a tribal perspective. They will guide you through the iwi dynamics. This will be a long conversation and not a one-off hui.

Iwi, hapū, and whānau relationships are dynamic but exciting, and will add value to your kura community if they are acknowledged and valued. Like all relationships, they need to be nurtured and worked on so the iwi and the kura feel safe.


Story Hui — a design for social good

Good design

Image: Sebastian Holmbäck and Ulrik Nordentoft. From Normann Cpenhagen website

Good design needs to make life better for us in some way — and that is not just about appearance. Design also needs to perform, to change our experience and fulfil its purpose.

Does the beautiful chair with its natural pine legs and elegant shape feel comfortable to sit in? Does the fancy potato peeler you bought from the kitchen shop actually work? A well-designed chair — or even your new potato peeler— needs to do the job better — and in doing so — somehow improve our lives.

As we fully engage with the new learning world, taking with us our old mishmash of broken furniture and ideas, we can see that nowhere is there more need for good design than in the ways we collaborate and think together. Impressively rising from the industrial rubble we have architecturally designed learning spaces and compelling digitally inspired pedagogies. But our ability to humanly engage in powerful dialogue — to really think together, to truly share, and to pool our intelligence not just our knowledge — this needs smart social design. As we make our own personal shifts from ‘me’ to ‘we’, ideas around the principles of social enterprise, social design, and social entrepreneurship offer us some direction.

Story Hui — designed for our 21st Century world

Story Hui has been created around a theory of social design (see MOMA Director Antonelli – Design’s positive influence on the world), and is a hand-in-glove fit with our complex 21C world of capabilities and work. The Story Hui process itself manages to elicit many of these capabilities in participants as they work together. It involves group storytelling that:

  • opens the way to many of the finer points of facilitator practice (interpersonal skills)
  • reveals and clarifies the essence of a successful action (the shift from knowing to doing)
  • makes visible the actions we take to overcome barriers (‘being’ changed and transformation).

 To do this, Story Hui employs a simplified three-step interpretation of Joseph Campbell’s monomyth — or Hero’s Journey narrative, commonly found in movies, drama, storytelling, and myth:

  • the call to adventure
  • the journey
  • the successful return home.

How Story Hui works

In practice:

  • groups of participants are given a story brief that relates to their successful practice or action
  • each person takes a turn to share their story, which is visually ‘mapped’ by a group member with simple drawings on large poster paper or on a whiteboard.
  • at the same time another group member is making a digital text to record any finer detail of the storyteller’s action or language.
  • a fourth participant times the story for 4-5 minutes. (The limitation on time is the catalyst for clarity of event recall)
  • then, in a follow-up group process, the story is enhanced through the use of facilitative questioning.
  • new knowledge brought to light is immediately contributed to the mapped story, enhancing the visual transcript.

In this way, the design of the Story Hui becomes multi-channelled, rather like the creation of a movie track, layer upon layer to enrich the information available and to create an experience of group thinking.

Story Hui’s powerful applications

It is easy to see how the Story Hui process can be a powerful tool for inquiry or organisational learning and change. However, its ability to uncover meaning and value also makes it available as a monitoring and evaluation tool. An early model of this type of facilitated group storytelling was used very successfully in 1996 by Rick Davies who wrote about the power of story as a monitoring and evaluation tool for NGO microfinance schemes in Bangladesh. There have been many interpretations of his work since, including Australian Jess Dart who has worked with storytelling and Most Significant Change (MSC) in agricultural programmes.

Which brings us to thinking about the way that Story Hui can be used as an additional tool to evaluate student learning in schools. The Story Hui focus on personal experience aligns so well with the way we learn today — actively and flexibly, in partnerships and teams, in personalised, multidimensional ways. In this match we can see how storytelling and an inductive approach can begin to quietly wrap the evaluation process around the learner rather than the learner always having to adjust themselves to fit the evaluation system.

Story Hui’s versatility in assessing learner wellbeing and engagement

With our need to foster and recognise today’s 21C capabilities for learning, Story Hui is a well-matched tool of choice when we need to look closely at learner wellbeing and engagement. Rather than the process being a ‘break it all apart and count it up’, exercise, instead, it is a whole-person approach, revealing the places where learners are experiencing most development and personal success. The bonus to this is that we also get to view the signposts that suggest to us what is working well, what is not, and why.

A real strength of Story Hui as a tool for learner evaluation is found in the way it can provide recognition and support for areas not covered by formal testing. In providing rich, big picture data and making visible real understandings about learner wellbeing and engagement, it helps us to understand and then offer the important interpersonal scaffolds that learners need in order to discover eventual success in literacy, numeracy and more formal learning. Story Hui can be used by groups of teachers and leaders taking part in professional inquiry, by teachers alongside parents and their students or by groups of students themselves.

Story Hui is now available as a teacher resource

The process has been trialled during 2014 and 2015 initially by the Te Toi Tupu Māori Medium Learning with Digital Technologies (LwDT) team and later, the wider LwDT team. Story Hui is now an integral part of the evaluation plan for Learning with Digital Technologies in reporting to the Ministry of Education. Feedback from facilitators during the pilot phase has enabled the development of a teacher resource Story Hui available for download:

Story Hui ebook downloadDownload Story Hui ebook
(PDF, 10.9MB)
From the Story Hui website


The Te Toi Tupu Maori Medium team and the Te Toi Tupu Learning with Digital Technologies team share this resource as a koha for learners.


The Pasifika way of connecting and collaborating

So’o le fau i le fau – connecting the pieces together

Connecting -1In relation to my work as a Pasifika facilitator, the major support schools need and want is connecting with their Pasifika parents, families, and communities. In this post I will be drawing on my experiences around connecting and collaborating with the Pasifika communities. I have used a Samoan saying, ‘so’o le fau i le fau’, which refers to connecting the pieces together. You could visualise it as connecting jigsaw parts together, connecting tivaevae patterns together, connecting strands together when creating a flax basket or kete, in order to create a piece of beautiful art. I use this saying to help me connect with Pasifika parents, families, and communities.

Exploring the community

Whenever I am working with a regional school, I like to go for a drive through the streets of the township to see where everything is, and what sorts of places are there within a community. For me, this is important, as it connects me to the land, it gives me a sense of belonging, and it supports me in knowing where I stand in the community.

What is in the community?

connecting with Pasifika

When I am exploring a community I look for community centres, the different churches, cultural centres, and recreation centres. The purpose of doing this is so I can make connections with people. The churches around a community — what denomination they are, what Pasifika connection they have — are important to me, as church leaders are another way for how we as facilitators and school leaders connect with the Pasifika parents, families and communities.

When I work with school leaders I always ask them about their connections with the community, because, being leaders themselves, they are held with the utmost respect and Pasifika peoples look up to them. When leaders have still to make a start in connecting with their Pasifika community, I am able to further support them by working with Pasifika teachers or teacher aides as they make school – community connections.

Talking to community/church leaders

connecting through churchThe Pasifika community/church leaders are always willing to help in any way they can. An important area that our community/church leaders need is the ‘purpose’. How can we work together to make these connections and maintain these connections between schools and Pasifika communities? It may take a lot of work and time but it will benefit both parties in the long run. Once you make those connections with your local Pasifika communities and churches it’s for life.

The values stated  in the Pasifika Education plan 2013-2017 are the same values embedded in our Pasifika communities and churches.


  1. Respect
  2. Service
  3. Belonging
  4. Spirituality
  5. Leadership
  6. Love
  7. Family
  8. Reciprocity
  9. Inclusion
  10. Relationships

Knowing how these Pasifika values work and what it looks like is important when you start making those connections with your Pasifika parents, families, and communities.

See what you can do to connect with your Pasifika communities and connect the Pasifika values together to build or strengthen your relationships with our Pasifika peoples.

Faafetai lava


A guide to free photo resources on the Web for educators

Need that image that illustrates your point exactly for your slide presentation? Got to have the perfect photo that summarises your blog post? Is it essential to have the right kind of fern, or duck, or face, or tattoo, or map, or whatever it may be to go in that research or white paper? I reckon I would be correct that most people’s solution would be — just “Google it”. But that’s only the beginning of the process that so often leads to hours of sifting—and often frustration.

Unfortunately, (or maybe, fortunately) “Google it” isn’t the answer to everything. Google is certainly a powerful tool, and Google’s constant improvements are making it easier. Some time back, I wrote a post about how to become a Google Images as a power user, and that can be very handy as a first port of call. Sometimes, though, you need more, or, you want something that’s quite specialised.

And, of course, you do want the image to be copyright free!

And, that’s an issue, right? Of course it is. Actually, when looking for free images on the Web, you can’t help but notice the presence of Getty Images. They’re everywhere in one form or another! And there are a lot of horror stories about how they’re on the hunt for anyone that infringes the copyright of their artists; multitudes have received, not just intimidating letters demanding that images be removed, but they send exorbitant bills for the use of an image (some call this extortion)! Nevertheless, we do want to honour another’s artistic or intellectual property rights, just as we want others to respect our rights, I’m sure.

That said, we still want our image, and we want it preferably free. Well, we’re in luck, because there’s a lot of fabulous quality images offered free by various online services suitable for most needs of the poor educator.

There are basically three types of “free” images:

  1. Those in the Public domain
    These are generally images whose copyright has expired, forfeited, or inappropriate, which includes images provided by government organisations. Here’s how copyright terms and the public domain works in the USA.
  2. Those governed by the Creative commons license
    Creative commons is a non-profit organisation that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through legal tools. There are various types of Creative Commons licenses that range from allowing any type of use with no attribution to allowing only certain uses and no changes. They claim (at the time of writing) to have issued 882 million licenses.
  3. Those declared to be free for use by the author/creator
    Some creators of artwork simply declare an image or artwork as being free for use by others. They may add conditions.

Following is a list of 20 sites that provide quality,useful images under one or more of the categories listed above. Most sites have search facilities as well as category pages. Unfortunately, adverts on some sites are mixed in with the content, and appear to be free, but aren’t. But hey! You can work with that when you’re getting something for free!

Necessary warning and disclaimers

With any photo containing a person, and in some cases a property, it must be understood that you need to ensure there is clearance for use of that image for commercial use. Make sure you accredit when asked; make sure you check with the creator or owner of the image if you’re not sure. Make sure, too, that you keep records.

I strongly encourage you to check the terms on each site to ensure what the owners of that site consider free. Also, check the terms for each image you find on a site; they may differ from image to image. Terms also change: the images on the sites below were free at the time of writing.

So, here’s the list:


Public domain photos:


Government Watch Public Domain photosThis site searches all the U.S. government agency sites for public domain images. While specific to the USA, this is a great source of general photos over a wide range of subjects. It incorporates searches from:

  • HiveStock.com
  • Agricultural Research Service
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Department of Defense
  • Yellowstone National Park
  • Antarctic Photo Library
  • Public Health Image Library
  • FEMA
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • NASA Image Exchange
  • U.S. Geological Survey—National Parks
  • Amphibian Research and Monitoring Initiative
  • Florida Integrated Science Center
  • National Renewable Energy Laboratory

You get the idea. It’s actually quite a useful bank of sources for things a teacher or student may want — all from one place.

These are all photos taken by public service employees, and are in the public domain.


Public Domain PicturesThis site boasts of having over 96,000 photos and clip art that are in the public domain. They are free for commercial and personal use (each image page gives you the opportunity to buy the photographer a cup of coffee, which is fair enough). The category range is limited to 20, and some of those categories are rather limited. It has a good search function. The one thing I don’t like is how the Dreamstime and Shutterstock photos (you pay for these photos) are so in your face —but you get used to this. It even has free photography course videos available!

Wikimedia: public domain

Wikimedia Public Domain categoryWikimedia has a reasonable library of public domain images. This includes old maps and prints, as well as modern coloured photographs. The only problem I found with this valuable resources is access! I could not find an easily recognised link to this category within the Wikimedia site. It was only “Googling” Wikimedia, that the Public Domain option was apparent.

Open Clipart

Open ClipartThis site has a huge stock of mostly good quality and useful clipart on most subjects. You can download each image in either PDF, PNG, or SVG formats, and the PNG can be at small, medium, or large resolution.

Terms: all clipart on the site is put, by the individual artist, into the public domain.


Creative commons sites

The following sites provide images according to a creative commons copyright.

Wikimedia commons

Wikimedia CommonsWikimedia currently has a database of over 25 million media files including images, sounds, and videos. That's impressive! And the quality is quite reasonable.

Terms:  Users may download almost all content, which may be freely used (subject to case-by-case restrictions) without seeking written permission unless you wish to use the content for other uses than those specified.

Search Creative Commons

Search Creative CommonsThis search tool on the Creative Commons organisation's website allows you to search various other sites (such as Google Images, Open Clip Art Library, Photopedia, You Tube, Sound Cloud etc) for an item that comes under a Creative Commons license. You can filter your search to only search images that can be used commercially, and/or can be altered. At the time of writing the site has a notice that the tool is being replaced by a new one.


Flickr Creative Commons searchIs a great site for photos and while the quality may vary, generally, there’s usually something. It is best to use the advanced search feature, which allows you to search only for photos that come under the Creative Commons license. You can also limit the search to images you can modify or use commercially. Flickr has been working with various institutions to create a database of Creative Commons digital media. Be really careful, though: Getty images also licenses photos on Flickr.
There are a couple of really nice tool for searching Flickr:


CompflightThis very nice site offers a good search tool, and it accesses all the free images in Flickr using the Flickr api. It provides the actual license for each image, plus adds the accreditation html code to copy and paste with the image.

Terms: Each image has a link to the terms for that specific image. You do have to check these as they vary. They are the Flickr terms and conditions.


PhotoPinAnother nicely presented search tool that searches Flickr for their Creative Commons databases. You have to put up with a totally new window with Shutterstock opening up over the top of the main search window. Also, the first few lines of search results are from the same source, but marked “Sponsored”, so are easily identified.

Terms: The same as Flickr.


Free image sites and search tools

Image After

Image AfterHas at the time of writing, 28,262 free textures and images. The range is limited and the quality is generally average, but it does have some useful images. What’s more the site is easy to navigate and it’s fast, so you can very quickly see if there is that image you’re looking for. Its search function works well.

Terms: You are free to use the images on this site

Yale University Digital resources

Yale Digital ContentYale announced in 2011 that they were making their resources free (at the time over 260,000, and many more to come). This is a massive resource for art, photos, architecture, archeology, books, maps and so on. However, there is not a quick-and-ready option. You need to check the copyright status on each item.
Cross Collection Discovery is a general search function of all their online resources.

Terms: As their notice says: “Not all content available through Discover Yale Digital Content is unrestricted. Please refer to the individual repository website and to the rights information in the record for each item.”


RGB StockOne of the best I’ve found for quality and range. Over 100,000 images. Nice clean site and user interface.

Terms: Free for most uses, but not for reselling. No accreditation is required.

Free Digital Photos

Free Digital PhotosLarge range of images and illustrations. Nice clean user interface.

You are able to download a 400 x 400 image for free (attribution is required). Other sizes are available, but you have to pay for them (actually, they’re quite reasonably priced). You can either register or you must agree to their terms each download as well as supply an email address.

Terms: The free images and illustrations must have an accompanying acknowledgement of the Free Digital Images site and the image creator.

Freerange Stock

Free Range StockA reasonably large collection of images, of good quality. It has a search function, but when I tested it on the search term “school bell”, it produced pages of items, none of them resembling a school bell! The nearest was a bicycle bell. Registration (free) gives you access to a lightbox and other features. They also provide a free browser search plugin.

Terms: Images are free for use in almost any circumstance apart from resale of the image. Acknowledgement as a courtesy, but not obligatory.

Free Photos Bank

Free Photos BankThis site contains a great range of high-resolution photos. It has an easy to read category list on the homepage  (it comes in a dropdown at the top of the page, as well). You can also use the search facility. Quality of search results is okay, but a lot of extra unrelated stuff also appears in the results. It does have an Advanced search function, which is quite useful. You don’t need to register to download a photo.

Terms: The strapline that appears part of their logo says “Free stock photos”, but the terms are more ambiguous. You may download any photo where the author is “freephotobank” and use for any purpose apart from reselling the photo as is. You must accredit Free Photo Bank. On the other hand, they do not offer the same terms for any other contributing author. They provide you with a contact function so  you can seek individual permission. A bit clunky.


MorgueFileThis site is now owned by Getty Images. You must click on the “Free Photos” link, and there are over 34,000 free high quality high-resolution images. You don’t need to be registered to download images.
Terms: Images are free for any kind of use without attribution, but not for reselling as images.


Free ImagesOver 410,000 images.  High quality photos. You must register and log in to download an image. You can search either by category or a search field.

Terms: Generally free for all uses (with standard restrictions), but also, the image creator may apply their own restrictions.


VeezzleThis site provides a search function that trawls many of the free photo sites including Flikr, Wikimedia and others for you, saving you the time. Its downside is that because it trawls free sites, it can collect a bit of spam, but by and large, it’s an excellent tool. You still have to check and make sure of license restrictions.


New Zealand Digital tools

Finally, two wonderful and powerful New Zealand-specific tools.

Te Papa Museum: Collections

Te PapaWhat a great site! They state that over 30,000 images, with over 17,000 that are totally free for use. Over 14,000 images available via Creative Commons (you must attribute the image, and they assist you in this process as part of the download process). It has an excellent search function.

Terms: The images on the site vary in copyright with public domain equivalent, creative commons, and all rights reserved categories. You are provided a copyright notice for each image, and assistance in contacting the owner of the image should that be necessary.


DigitalNZHere’s a relatively new tool that boasts access to more than 28 million digital files. Led by the National Library of New Zealand, this search tool has access to Te Papa’s collection (above) as well as the Alexander Turnbull Library, Auckland Art Gallery, Te Ara, NZ On Screen and nearly 200 other partners — an impressive list of meaningful contributors!

Not only do they have an excellent search tool, but you are able to set up favourite collection sets, which you can then share with others, such as friends, family, classrooms etc. It also has a specific section for schools, making this a very powerful and useful tool for educators and students alike.

Terms: Owing to the fact that the site draws upon so many partner databases, users are directed to the copyright notice for a specific partner site for each image or digital content.

Further information on copyright matters in New Zealand:

What about you?

Feel free to add further sites to the above list in the comment section below. Please make sure you say what you like about the site or service. Or, you may like to comment on your experiences with some of the above sites. We’re here to help each other.


Device choice in schools driven by the ‘write’ things?

device for collaboration

Modern Learning (environments, practices and supporting technologies) is something that most schools I interact with have firmly on their radar. Some are just starting out, and others are well on the way. The conversations about Modern Learning Environments and Modern Learning Practices sometimes start slowly, but usually end up being vibrant, exciting discussions jam packed with possibilities, and leave me feeling thrilled to be part of the transformation of aspects of our education system.

Themes in discussions about Modern Learning

I find that discussions with school personnel about Modern Learning (ML) have many common threads. You can see a more formal definition on CORE’s website, but things that often get mentioned in conversation are:

  • flexible/fluid seating and furniture arrangements
  • pupils interacting with a greater variety of staff and other children
  • pupils interacting with others outside of their school and school day
  • mobile devices
  • personalised learning
  • being able to learn in a variety of mediums
  • pupils being able to demonstrate their learning in a variety of media
  • greater accessibility and the removal of barriers
  • flipped classrooms
  • a focus on process rather than outcomes
  • collaboration
  • online access to education resources.

But, what about supporting technologies in Modern Learning?

When discussions move to the supporting technology, however, it seems that ICT decisions often highlight a gap between what schools espouse and what schools do. For instance, one thing that I never hear mentioned in discussions about Modern Learning is essay writing, or in fact, any activity that binds students inextricably with a keyboard. Yet, that often becomes a must-have item for device specification.

Tablet or laptop? What are the pros and cons?

When I listen to schools talking about Modern Learning, the device I picture is often a tablet. Tablets are small, light, and have good battery life. But you could also argue that laptops have all those things as well. Indeed, if you simply compared features of tablets and laptops, you can make a long list of common features: things like SSD drives, bluetooth, wireless, touch screens, speakers, microphones, headphone jacks, video out, and so-on. In fact, in terms of features, there aren’t a lot of differences. The most notable are, perhaps, a physical keyboard on a laptop, and a rear-facing camera on a tablet.

But, I think the feature list is misleading, as it is the form of the device that really sets a tablet and a laptop apart. Some of those differences are fairly obvious, for instance, both have a camera, but it is pretty clumsy trying to take photos with a laptop. Others are subtler. For instance, it is easier to have a group of people working concurrently on a tablet, as there is no dominant position, and anyone can reach out and use the screen to add their contribution. But, a laptop’s design makes it easy for one person in a group to enter data on behalf of the group. The following table highlights what I think of as some strengths and weaknesses of both types of devices:

ML Attribute\Device Type Laptop Tablet
flexible/fluid seating arrangements great to use at a desk, usually needs to be supported on something great to use anywhere, but at times will also need to be supported
pupils interacting with a greater variety of staff and other children thirty laptop lids open in a class makes a lot of barriers to interacting easy for multiple people to look at or pass around or use. Discreet when not being used
pupils interacting with others outside of their school easy to do via any number of web based services easy to do via any number of web based services
mobile devices tend to be light and relatively easy to move around tend to be even lighter and there is not even a lid to open or close
personalised learning a great device for interacting with via keyboard or mouse/trackpad a great device for interacting with in a variety of ways
responsiveness can take some time to boot/switch on always immediately on
being able to learn in a variety of media a great device for interacting with via keyboard or mouse/trackpad  touch interface — intuitive
being able to demonstrate your learning in a variety of media a great device for interacting with via keyboard or mouse/trackpad
Many tasks such as video and image editing and sharing require a more complex workflow
Many tasks such as video and image editing are simple. Sharing the finished product is often a coherent part of the workflow.
greater accessibility and the removal of barriers Modern operating systems have accessibility features included Touch interface is simplified, powerful and intuitive. Accessibility features available on tablet operating systems
flipped classrooms provides access to almost all websites and resources provides access to most websites and resources, though some tablets will not display Flash content
collaboration online can easily collaborate via online spaces with people on other devices can easily collaborate via online spaces with people on other devices

As I said earlier, I often picture a tablet when I hear schools describe to me the environment that they envision their students working in. That is not to say that I see no place for laptops. I firmly believe that the end goal is for the students to choose the device that best suits them. It is important to remember that just as environment and practice will impact how learning happens, so student device choices will in part be guided by the learning and assessment tasks that they are confronted with in their schools.

Why does having a keyboard seem so important in modern education?

Is it because teachers are still elevating the written (typed) word, either consciously or subconsciously, above a staggering array of other ways to communicate thoughts, ideas, and creativity? Keyboard-centric thinkers often also believe that tablets are good for younger students, but that older (more serious) students need permanent access to a keyboard.
Maybe we still want to assess a class set of similar answers, created in as close to the same way as possible, and that is deemed easier on a laptop. But how personalised can we really claim the learning is when what we collect to mark is 30 books, or 30 paintings, or now 30 word-processed documents? So, is convenience of teaching and assessing and our innate desire to place students on frameworks more important than allowing them to explore a subject, and then express their knowledge in the way that best suits them as students?

Or, is it not the keyboard at all? Is it simply that managing school-owned laptops (the devices with keyboards) is simpler for technical staff than managing school owned tablets? If so, have we really decided that the management of devices trumps the ways they can be used? Or, did that just happen without us noticing or thinking too hard about what we were giving up in the interest of a more convenient technical solution?

Schools may wish to consider:

  • How often they check that their ICT infrastructure aligns with their vision?
  • If they fully consider that device choice impacts on what happens in classrooms and therefore learning outcomes?
  • If the way devices are chosen may serve as a proxy for where they would sit on something like the e-Learning Planning Framework?


Considering environment as the third teacher

 Children are consistently learning regardless of the involvement of an adult/teacher or their peers. Even when a child is alone they are learning. With this in mind, consideration of the environment becomes a critical undertaking within the planning of an early childhood programme.

Personal identity is co-constructed and reflected in the places we regularly participate in. In order to reflect the values and beliefs of a community within a space, an environment benefits from flexibility so as to create a responsive platform that supports children’s learning as they develop and grow. It is also important that teachers reflect on their own values, and how their values impact on the decisions they make about the arrangement of space, the equipment, and materials made available to children (Fraser & Gestwicki, 2002).

The effort and thought that goes into creating beautiful spaces for children reflects the belief that children deserve the very best, and that their aesthetic senses need to be nurtured in the early years. Children are active learners, which means play spaces need to be stimulating and offer children many opportunities. The environment needs to invite children to become involved and encourage them to explore a wide variety of materials (Fraser & Gestwicki, 2002). The physical setting in which children play and learn is crucial in facilitating their experiences. The environment communicates to children ‘what’s ok in this place’, ‘what’s valued here’, and ‘how the child may behave, interact, and be involved’. We know that children learn through active participation with people, places, and things. This can be facilitated through the physical layout of space, access to resources and equipment, and through direct and subtle messages from adults and peers in an early childhood setting.

“In order to act as an educator for the child, the environment has to be flexible: It must undergo frequent modification by the children and the teachers in order to remain up to date and responsive to their need to be protagonists in constructing their knowledge. All the things that surround people in the school and which they can use — the objects, the materials, and the structures — are not seen as passive elements, but on the contrary, are seen as elements that condition and are conditioned by the actions of the children and adults who are active in it.”
(Edwards, Gandini, and Foreman, 1998, p.177)

 “Collaboration is one of the strongest messages that the environment, in its role as the third teacher communicates. An environment that is planned to act as the third teacher is particularly effective in helping children learn skills for working with others in a group.” (Fraser & Gestwicki, 2002, p113). The ways in which we lay out and create spaces indicate ‘what’s ok here’ to the children. For example, using shelving units, couches, or partitions to delineate an area may tell children where to enter this space, and can indicate how many people are able to work in this area comfortably. Soft floor covering and cushions can demonstrate that working on the floor is okay in here. In the same way, a hard floor and a round table with no chairs can say, ‘stand at this table to work, it’s not a problem if something gets spilled, and talk/share with the person alongside you’. It is essential that in creating an environment that acts as a third teacher, children are given the opportunity to work with others in the co-construction of knowledge.

internal space
(Image courtesy of CPIT Early Learning Centre, 2014)

Diversity is a gift to us all, and valuing difference through our environment aids in the development of strong personal and national identity, and provides a platform for inclusive and accepting communities. Early learning services benefit from considering the cultural values made evident in their environments. The challenge for each early childhood centre is to understand firstly, their own philosophy, and secondly, the nature of the community they serve. Developing shared insight into what you, your families, and community value can provide teachers and management with the opportunity to align and reflect shared whānau and community aspirations in their centre, and in the programme for learning. When teachers review the philosophy of their service, and identify the values inherent in that philosophy, they can translate this into pedagogy of practice that includes and is reflected in environmental considerations.

external space
(Installation by John Allen, Image courtesy of Infantastic TRCC, 2007)

Undertaking deeper consideration of the environment can enable teachers to conceptualise their role less as a teacher controlling the group, and more as a partner with the children in the social construction of knowledge, and the exploration of working theories and areas of interest. Enhancing the physical environment and reflecting on the ways in which the core curriculum underpins learning can dramatically alter children’s learning experiences. Teachers can become better able to respect the children’s ideas, and trust in the children’s resourcefulness and competence (Fraser & Gestwicki, 2002). Rich, purposeful, and well-designed spaces support children’s cultural identity, concepts of the world, social success, and holistic learning.



Fraser, S., & Gestwicki, C. (2002). Authentic Childhood: Exploring Reggio Emilia in the Classroom. Albany, NY: Delmar – Thomson Learning.

Edwards, C., Gandini, L. and Foreman, (1998). The Hundred Languages of Children: The Reggio Emilia Approach- Advanced Reflections. Greenwich CT 06831, USA: Ablex Publishing Corporation

Earlychildhood News: An Environment that Positively Impacts Young Children

ECE Educate: Key aesthetic considerations for an early childhood environment

He Kepu: He Kepu: Reggio Emilia Pedagogy in Early Childhood Education: How can this approach enhance visual arts experiences in New Zealand? (PDF)


Give credits where credit is due

Polyfest dancers

The magic of the Regional Polyfest festivals

It's that time of the year where the buzz of excitement begins to kick in as the Secondary Schools cultural groups are currently preparing for Regional Polyfest festivals across Aotearoa. The ambience of nervousness, suspense, passion, and anxiety waits for our Pasifika students when they showcase locally who they are and where they come from. It’s such a magical event that embraces the true meaning of biculturalism and multiculturalism from different walks of life.

ASB Polyfest logo

There are many forms of primary and secondary school cultural festivals, but none bigger than Auckland Secondary Schools’ ASB Polyfest, who will be celebrating their 40th anniversary in a few weeks time. Congratulations on your success and longevity of service to the wider community! An amazing accomplishment thus far, and may you continue to drive the vision of scaffolding the future for our Pasifika learners, parents, families, and communities. In my opinion, this event stands alone for providing the best atmosphere for bringing a diverse group of communities together to celebrate culture, language, and identity as one neighbourhood.

It's surprising how many schools don't assess their students for Polyfest using NCEA credits

I was fortunate to attend the festival last year as part of the CORE Education Pasifika professional development fono, and I was stunned to hear from some Pasifika parents about the number of secondary schools that don’t assess their children for Polyfest using NCEA Dance credits. I felt for them because I know, as a parent, I have been advocating for Polyfest credits in the past 3 years for my daughter’s Pasifika group. Christchurch is no different.

For many Pasifika groups, the time and effort the students put into their preparation, is nothing short of aspirational. Some groups have started preparation since the beginning of the term, some groups have been preparing for months. We’re talking about rehearsals during lunchtimes, after school, weekends, and during the holidays. If you’re looking for what Pasifika collaboration, connectedness, and agency may look like, I encourage you to attend one of their performance practices. It defines the meaning of reciprocity of teaching and learning between the seniors and juniors — an ideal environment where our young upcoming Pasifika students understand that pathway to leadership is through service.

Christchurch Polyfest preparing for a first

Christchurch SpacPac Polyfest is gearing up for the first time as an outdoor event to be held on 21st March at Westminster Park. Christchurch SpacPac has been around for over 15 years. Participating secondary schools hail from the top of the South Island (such as Nelson Boys College), right to the bottom of the South Island (such as Southland Girls’ High School). They have participated in the festival over the years, and it’s overwhelming to see such a diverse group of learners across the South Island participate with enthusiasm, energy, and passion. As a proud Pacific Islander, it’s more powerful and inspiring to witness non-Pasifika students such as Palagi students dance and sing songs that are foreign to them. Check out this video clip where a Korean student leads the Epsom Girls Grammar in a performance and won the best Fuataimi (conductor) prize at the Samoan stage last year. She also gained Excellence credits for her performance.

Although Auckland has been setting the standards for high quality performances for 40 years, Christchurch should be proud of setting their own performance standards. Some secondary schools offer Polyfest credits, and I commend them for being responsive and proactive. Other schools don’t know what they don’t know and must look at ways of implementing these cultural credits as part of their school-wide assessments.

My plea for Polyfest credits

In reference to my advocacy for Polyfest credits for my daughter’s school, the Principal and the Music teacher are willing to offer singing credits for the Pasifika group. As a parent, it’s a small step in the right direction, but the girls and the parents are screaming for dance credits.

I believe some secondary schools need to rethink their wider-assessment criteria and take a serious look at how other schools reward Pasifika groups for the mammoth time and effort put in to represent their school with pride. The impact of offering NCEA Dance and Music credits for Polyfest can only enhance Pasifika student achievement. It can also have a positive impact on the Pasifika community. On a personal note, it’s the right thing to do. It’s 2015, never too late to encounter change.

Finally, I would like to share a video where Manu Faaea-Semeatu talks about NCEA Polyfest credits on Tagata Pasifika 2014. Best wishes to all participants of all the regional secondary schools Polyfests. Stand tall, brown, and proud!


Virtual field trips open the door for all learners

Virtual field trip

In this blog post I’d like to briefly explore how participation in a virtual field trip with the aid of technology such as web conferencing helps all students learn alongside their peers.

Dyslexia Advocacy Week and the Web

This week (16-22 March) is Dyslexia Advocacy Week in New Zealand. Curious, I did a web search and landed at Plus 20 in 2015 – Making Good in the Classroom, where I wondered if the content could be accessed other than by just reading text. I was pleasantly surprised as. Alongside the usual option of reading the text on the web page yourself was the option of having the text read to you in a fairly good automated rendition. The text highlighted in time with the narration, and it could be paused and restarted. I further noticed that the heading fonts on the page were big and wavy and colourful, and there is also an interesting big-scale, colourful graphic that summarised the content. I must admit, although I enjoy reading, I went straight to the interactive graphic to get the underlying message quickly! Anyway, I thought this was a good example of a website that was accessible to those with dyslexia, but was also interesting and accessible for everyone.

It got me wondering if everything on the Web improves learning for everyone, not just for students with dyslexia (reading), dyspraxia (fine motor skills), dysgraphia (writing) and dyscalculia (maths). It seems to me that the UDL (Universal Design for Learning) framework offers some hope — I wrote more about this in a previous blog called UDL and Teaching.

Our own experience in applying the principles of UDL

We have always taken this issue seriously. We are increasingly applying UDL principles to our e-learning programme called LEARNZ virtual field trips which has been operating on the Web for 20 years, reaching a wide diversity of New Zealand teachers and students. We are always looking at ways to make our field trips more engaging and more accessible and UDL is part of the “heavy lifting” we undertake so precious teacher time goes further in reaching all students in a class. For students with dyslexia, any learning experience that removes total reliance on printed text should be beneficial.

The benefits of web conferencing as a useful tool for all learners

To provide more immediacy and a more realistic experience for all learners, another addition to LEARNZ is Web Conferencing. It allows multiple interactions to take place in real time between people in different locations. Incidentally, we are also using the same platform to run regular free Teacher PLD about LEARNZ.

During field trips, web conferencing enables our guest experts in the field, such as scientists or conservationists, to discuss and answer students’ questions. LEARNZ teachers, working alongside the experts can also connect to the platform using their mobile phone over the cellular network. Enabling the webcam on their mobile phone means they can show who the experts are, where they are and what they are working on. Back in the LEARNZ office support staff preload or upload in real time related material like photos, diagrams, charts, raw data and web links or summarise spoken responses in the text area. Students, or teachers on their behalf, type questions live into a chat window and the expert’s support people or the LEARNZ support people answer them straight away or provide hints to guide their inquiry.

The multi-mode nature of web conferencing, its immediacy and flexibility allows all students to get a sense of what’s going on and to deepen their understanding. Dyslexic students benefit because web conferencing de-emphasises reading text. Although they may initially find the many nodes of a web conference busy and overwhelming, access via a mobile device shows just one node at a time and allows dyslexic students to focus their attention and spend more time on one activity; such as interpreting a photo.

Web conferencing also allows collaboration. Students, or teachers on their behalf, can upload items to share. It could be photo of a class on its own field trip. It could be a photo of a local action they have taken, like native planting along a waterway. It could be water quality data for discussion.


Combining a field trip experience with a web site and a web conferencing platform whilst applying UDL principles creates a powerful e-learning experience for everyone, dyslexic students included. 

What other sites have you found to be a good user experience for those with dyslexia as well as all users?

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