Reimagining Professional Learning 2016

professional learning 2016

The way educators are engaging in PLD is changing. As the school year begins teachers and leaders are crafting inquiry goals and considering their professional learning foci for 2016. For many teachers, particularly those in schools and kura clustering inCommunities of Learning (CoL), this may mean embarking oncollaborative inquiries as they ‘share goals based on information about their students’ educational needs and work together to achieve them’.

Current research highlights the importance for learning networks, or learning communities, to develop shared approaches, and a culture of learning and inquiry. In the NZCER paper, Supporting future-oriented learning and teaching – a New Zealand perspective it is noted that:

“Schools are being talked about as “learning organisations”, and educators are encouraged to become “professional learning communities” or even “networked learning communities” within and across schools. School leaders have responsibility for supporting and sustaining a continuous culture of learning amongst staff, in a dynamic environment.” (p 45).

The fundamental shift of communities of learning is to function more as anetworked organisation focused on raising achievement across the educational sector. As written in, Accelerating student achievement: a resource for schools (December 2015, p 1):

“Accelerated improvement requires a whole system to function as a collaborative learning community that is advancing progress on the four areas of leverage: pedagogy, educationally powerful connections, professional learning and leadership. (Adrienne Alton-Lee, cited in Mathematics in Years 4 to 8: Developing a Responsive Curriculum; ERO, 2013)

The PLD implications for schools practising as networked organisations and professional learning communities are varied. New ways of working as networked organisations may challenge and influence, “infrastructure, processes, people and culture” due to organisational and logistical factors as time, location, size, and distribution of those schools involved in the communities of learning.

The challenge for schools is to find responsive ways to create on-going, engaging professional learning opportunities that are inclusive of all staff across their CoL, able to address individual and collective strengths/needs to help achieve collaborative goals for teaching and learning, not constrained by time or location.

When reimagining PLD in 2016, key aspects worth considering include:


As more and more schools understand the potential of e-learning as a positive enabler for learning (in particularly mobile technologies and ubiquitous access to online resources via ultra-fast broadband), so too, do they recognise the power of social technologies and online networks as drivers for personalised professional learning.

Organised online professional learning networks such as Virtual Learning NetworkPondVirtual Professional Learning Development, and events like Connected Educator Month show a growing number of educators participating in online communities of practice in the pursuit of effecting positive change for students. Established communities are targeted and facilitated, based on experience and research around what constitutes effective professional learning. Live events and threaded conversations provide a multi-faceted, blended approach to learning targeted at local, national and international trends, policy, and school's needs. Teachers share and reflect on their practice through in-depth discussions online. Recorded events enable teachers to access these resources anytime, anyhow, anywhere.


While organised communities grow in numbers and activity, other user-generated, cloud-based networks (focused on student achievement) have also emerged – Facebook, Twitter, Ning. With access to social learning tools and networks, we can now blend (online and face-to-face) or ‘flip’ access to PLD whenever, wherever we want. Teachers are doing it for themselves – PLD that is! (Ethos consultancy NZ)


Anyone involved in designing learning opportunities for teachers (teachers themselves, school leadership teams, mentors etc), need to identify levels of support suitable for individuals. They need to take into account how we learn as adults (andragogy) while keeping the professional responsibility of a teacher to up-skill in mind. (Practising Teacher Criteria #4)

As an example, Ngatea Primary School is dedicated to finding flexible future-focused ways to address the individual needs of their adult learners. Their innovative change journey can be followed in a three-part blog series starting with, Leading learning and responsive PLD at Ngatea Primary School | A leadership inquiry PT 1

Networked organisations

Networked organisations are increasingly challenging traditional forms of hierarchies that are now “…evolving into adaptable heterarchies”. Distributed leadership models ensure that individuals throughout organisations have increased agency, but also shoulder more responsibility.” Factors influencing online, networked organisations include technology-driven networking and learner-driven networking. Trend 5: Networked organisations

Examples of how networked schools are raising student achievement through improved collaboration can be viewed in the following links:

As Derek Wenmoth writes in, Networked Leadership, networked organisations “will require considerably different mindset, based on deep collaboration at all levels, and the sense of being connected to something bigger than oneself and one's own (local) institution.” This will require a different kind of leadership.

Leaders in a networked culture of learning will require an understanding of how the collective organisations can collaboratively (rather than competitively) effect change in a less ‘power-centric’ approach to leadership. Schools will need to see themselves as ‘nodes in a much larger network’, rather than a localised, isolated learning institution, all working together to affect change across the educational sector. Networked Leadership (November 2015)

outside the box

The shifting role of ‘teacher as leader’ is important within a wider community of learning. Targeted coaching strategies can help to build reciprocal relationships while critically reflecting on teacher practice. Some examples of coaching models have emerged in conversations across the Virtual Learning Network, Part 2 — The Realities of Teacher Inquiry, and How do you choose the best digital resources in your school?

Designing effective PLD

Professional learning is a complex process. In, What makes for effective PLD, Derek Wenmoth notes some commonly shared issues teachers face in regards to effective PLD — time poor, overloaded with curriculum requirements, reluctant to change, or lack of expertise. Derek also shares insights from several research papers summarising effective PLD for teachers is primarily:

  • in-depth
  • provided over time
  • related to practice
  • contextually relevant
  • involves collaboration

Experience from the ICT PD cluster initiative (1999 – 2012) also found matters affecting success within and across schools included: organisation (including community size, collaborative culture); content design (how is it contextualised, multi-faceted, responsive, blended?); and human factors such as active leadership, needs of participants and professional partnerships, relationships, and reflective practice.

lots of lollies

Successful implementation and facilitation of effective PLD in Communities of Learning may need to address perceived or real barriers. For example, opting for too much PLD can often result in negative effects due to feelings of being overwhelmed with PLD requirements — more meetings, more tasks — which leads to frustration and anxiety.

“Schools do not improve by having more PLD. Schools improve when they are absolutely clear on the achievement problem they are trying to solve, and they focus on that with laser-like precision. The implication of that is that problem analysis and strength analysis should lead to a few (one or two) clear achievement focused goals that everyone in the school buys into, and then – and only then, the school plans its PLD to support its efforts towards those goals.” Improvement and How to get it

One example of how a school overcame the barriers to multiple forms of PLD can be viewed in, Collaborative PLD facilitation across Mathematics and LwDT.

In summary

Growing active leaders that understand and can help support the diverse needs of adult learners in a timely and relevant fashion within a collaborative learning community is going to be a challenge. For a start, what does collaboration look like? Reimagining PLD in 2016 might mean planning for face-to-face (Kanohi ki te kanohi) events while, at the same time, utilising online networks (formal and informal) and resources that focus on raising student achievement — all in order to help bypass constraints of time, accessibility, and budget. The challenge for future-focused leaders is to provide flexible, personalised, sustainable learning opportunities for all teachers — within and between schools. As Melhuish writes,

“Educators need to understand how to strategically integrate networks such as the VLN Groups into their professional inquiries, and schools need to explore more deeply what potential exists for teachers to be both strategic and self-driven”, ” (p 181, Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ p…)

Many schools are demonstrating new ways of engaging in professional learning. How might your community of learning reimagine PLD for 2016?

open door

Also see:

Leadership for Communities of Learning (Education Council Discussion paper 2015)

What Makes for Effective Teacher Professional Development in ICT? (Education counts 2002)


Images sourced and modified from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/, Pixabay and sweetshop.



Contributing to your community as a non-scientist using NatureWatch


Our modern world is incredibly busy and complex. There are so many new things coming our way that we can’t take them all in, let alone act on them. However, every now and then we are exposed to something new, which turns on a whole lot of light bulbs at once.

For me, it was being told about NatureWatch, part of an international initiative called iNaturalist. In this blog, the first of a series, I will tell you about NatureWatch and why it appeals to me as an educationalist, as a parent, and as someone simply interested in the Living World. I will also tell you about my journey so far with NatureWatch, and hopefully tempt you to start using it too. My next blogs will look at the rationale for using NatureWatch in formal education settings and delve deeper into NatureWatch as a tool for learner agency in a globally connected world.

What is NatureWatch?

Naturewatch is a tool for all citizens that makes it easy for us to contribute to a living record of life in New Zealand. From the crowd-sourced data we create, scientists and environmental managers can monitor changes in biodiversity. NatureWatch enables anyone with the iNaturalist smartphone app (Android or Apple) to record their observations of living things like plants, birds, and insects, and upload them to the Cloud so the NatureWatch community can identify them and analyse them. It’s like iTunes in that the mobile app is used when you are out-and-about, whereas logging into your account from a bigger device like a laptop allows you to manage and organise your observations, and communicate with the NatureWatch community.

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Supporting students who have dyslexia

With new technologies we can provide immediate and tangible support for students who have dyslexia. The support can be provided at the same time as we work with them to overcome their specific difficulties and build literacy skills. By providing options using standard technologies, students can learn and show what they know, rather than being continually defined by their specific difficulties.

“Dyslexia is not a disease to have and to be cured of, but a way of thinking and learning. Often it’s a gifted mind waiting to be found and taught.” –Girard Sagmiller, “Dyslexia My Life

Clarify your learning Intention

To provide options and support for any curriculum activity, teachers must first be clear to their students about the specific learning intention.

For example, if we ask a student to read material that is above their current reading ability, what do we discover? We may confuse the ability to learn with the ability to read.

For example, what do we find out if we ask a student with writing difficulties to show what they know by writing about it? We find out that the student is not very good at writing rather than discovering what they know or have learnt.

As students move up the school, more of the curriculum content and assessment material is in written format. This means that the impact of a reading or writing difficulty can limit access to content and the ability of a student to show what they know.

This is why it is important to identify the learning intention, and be sure that the MEANS of learning is not confused with the learning intention. Is reading and writing a critical part of the learning intention, or is it just a way of doing the task?

Example of a learning intention with reading and writing as part of the task:
Students will read a book and write about the key techniques used to communicate ideas to readers.

Alternative example of learning intention without reading and writing as part of the task:
The students will:

  • identify the key ideas in the story
  • identify the techniques used to communicate key ideas to readers
  • use one of these formats (e.g., written/image/poster/video …) to demonstrate what they have learned.

Once the learning intention is clear, both teachers and students can understand what options are appropriate for a particular lesson. If the intention is not about reading and writing, then support using technology or other options is usually appropriate.

Technology support

Some key technologies to support students with dyslexia are outlined below:

1. Digitise content

Handouts, workbooks, and writing on whiteboards are some of the least accessible options for students who find reading a challenge. In contrast, when content is digitised, students can use their personal preferences to access material:

  • using dyslexia fonts
  • changing colours, size, style and spacing
  • having text read by the computer (text-to-speech).

If you are using Google Apps for Education or Microsoft it is very easy to digitise content. Simply take a photo or scan of the page (or PDF document) and upload it into your Google Drive or OneNote. Then right click and open it with Google Docs or Word. You can then make the page accessible (see the Blind foundation’s page here) and modernise your content for today’s lessons.

2. Text-to-Speech

I dream of a time when every device used by a student has text-to-speech enabled. This software reads text aloud, so gives students access to text above their current reading age, and supports comprehension. It is also a great option for editing, multitasking, or for when you just feel like listening rather than reading.

For more information about the free options available on all the main operating systems, see my VLN text-to-speech blog.

3. Voice typing (speech recognition)

Voice typing (also called speech recognition) allows you to speak aloud to your device and have words typed as you speak. The software has improved so significantly in the last few years that it is now a real option for text entry. For more information about the free options see my VLN Voice typing blog.

Voice typing gives students the opportunity to show what they know rather than repeatedly being defining by their writing difficulties.

4. Word Prediction

Word prediction provides more in-depth support for spelling, reading, and editing. The software predicts a required word as a student writes, producing a list of words beginning with the letter sequence typed.

Predicted words, and all writing, can be read aloud, and each programme has additional supports — e.g., example sentences, definitions, and custom dictionaries.

There are no free products in this range that predict as well (or even nearly as well) as the commercial products that I have tested. See VLN posts for iPad, computer and Google.


Let us support students to be successful learners regardless of their specific profile of talents and challenges.

For more information about using technology to provide whole-school support for students with dyslexia, contact the Connected Learning Advisory.

For more information see:
Inclusive Education — dyslexia guide
Literacy Online dyslexia page (& Ministry of Education teacher resource)
Ministry website — how to support a child with dyslexia
Resource for teachers by the British Dyslexia Association
Movincog Report — Auckland University analysis of interventions for dyslexia



A safer internet: 5 ways to play your part

Safer Internet Day Poster

CORE Education is delighted to be recognising international Safer Internet Day 2016 #SID2016, in support with NetSafe.

Safer Internet Day (SID) is organised by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission. Each February – on the 2nd day of the 2nd week of the 2nd month – thousands of people join together in events and activities to raise awareness of online safety issues, right across the globe.

The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role we all play in helping to create a better and safer online community. It calls upon young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers, and others to join together in helping to create a better Internet. Ultimately, a better internet is up to all of us.

We offer the following advice as starting points for early childhood, schools and kura who are planning ways to keep learners safe online. Share what you do with us, tag #SID2016 @CoreEducation.

Download a poster from us for display.

Tip #1: Create a positive culture

Rather than restricting access to the web or using fear-based messages, the best way to manage challenges online is to work them out together.

Effective prevention strategies emphasise approaches that actively involve discussing with students how they use digital technology, and more specifically, the challenges they experience online and how they keep safe. Teachers, students, peers, parents, family and whānau – we all have a role in this process. There are no quick fixes.

  • Talk to learners, children and colleagues about online activity, cybersafety behaviours.
  • Lose the fear-based messages. Plan an approach that balances protective approaches, such as technical mediation of student online access, with strategies that promote safe, responsible and pro-social behaviours.
  • Provide support when learners meet challenges.

Tip #2: Design safety into learning

Design experiences and learning opportunities that invite learners to pick up new skills safely and in meaningful contexts. Weave safety messages into the learning process. Deliberately make it part of learning.

  • Look for meaningful opportunities to connect with other people across the world. Other young people, whānau and wider communities can all be guides.
  • Use social networks to foster conversations about issues that are relevant to students.
  • Weave web tools through local inquiry – take action in our community

Tip #3: Use the right tools

Use the tools that come with all devices and platforms to restrict, filter and monitor information and identity online as part of an overall strategy to manage safe use online.

  • Make sure we know how to manage our devices and the security systems that are in-built.
  • Set up secure passwords and consider using software like LastPass to manage them.
  • Explore the use of SafeSearch and student-friendly browsers.

Tip #4: Give respect, get respect

The internet can be a powerful tool for connecting and working with others, both locally and globally.

  • Find ways to collaborate and learn to work positively with others online.
  • Teach our learners to manage their online reputations.
  • Design learning that creates safe, meaningful opportunities to grow ideas responsibly with others online.

Tip #5: Walk the talk as a community

Safe and responsible use of the internet is normalised through the way we all behave together.

  • Model critical thinking when using the internet.
  • Find real-life, positive ways to model the use of the web as part of our own learning. Guide others.

If you liked this, you might also find these other cybersmart resources from CORE Education useful:

EDtalks on Cybersafety

Sticks and Stones video

  • Sticks and Stones: Fighting cyberbullying: The Sticks 'n Stones project aims to support students to be Positive Digital Citizens, to help those affected by Cyber Bullying and to encourage everyone not to be bystanders.
  • Te uru ipurangi:He kaupapa nui te uru ipurangi (digital citizenship) i roto i te ao hangarau e noho nei tātau. Ka kōreo mai a Wharehoka Wano mō te uru ipurangi i roto i te ao Māori nei. Hei tāna me whai wāhi ā tātou tikanga Māori i roto i ēnei mahi o te hangarau.
  • Cybercitizens – a range of EDtalks on learners’ use of online resources.
  • Ten Trends 2013: Digital citizenship: Dr John Fenaughty, University of Auckland, suggests a shift towards using inquiry-based learning to promote critical thinking and then applying that to understanding what digital citizenship would look like for students.
  • Why research NZC students' online practices?: In this talk from ULearn11, Craig McDonald-Brown outlines why more New Zealand specific research is required into students' online practices.

Image source: #Skype screenshot mockup of 3way video call by Phil Wolff (CC BY-SA 2.0)

From the CORE Education blog:

Key resources from CORE


Transforming learning

rocktoka kāhuarau: (noun) metamorphic rock.
Ko te toka kāhuarau: Ko te momo toka ka hua mai ina huri te hanga me te āhua o tētahi atu o ngā toka mā te pā mai o te wera me te pēhanga i roto i takanga o te wā roa (RP 2009:407); The type of rock that results when transformed into another type of rock through the application of heat and pressure over a long period of time (Source).

As we head back into a new school year, there is continued appetite to do things differently, reconfigure learning programmes and classrooms, systems and processes so that we are increasingly walking the talk on learner-centred education. At the risk of kicking off with a buzzword, we can describe what we are collectively trying to achieve here as transformation.

Transformation is one of those ‘weasel words’ that can bend to many purposes. In te reo Māori, it can be described as kāhuarau. Metaphors of the alternative of molten rock might come to mind, as do koru spirals and butterfly metamorphoses.

In CORE, we take a clear position on transformation, acknowledging that it looks different in different educational contexts. Our kaupapa here is that that we believe that all people are of value, that everyone is unique and deserves to belong because we know that our education system is not (yet) at the point where all our learners and their families see themselves as well served.

Why ‘transform’?

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He aha te mea nui o te ao

He aha te mea nui o te ao
What is the most important thing in the world?
He tangata, he tangata, he tangata
It is the people, it is the people, it is the people


Without people, even in an ever-increasing automated society, many practices and things we rely on daily just wouldn’t happen.

Therefore, establishing relationships at the beginning of the year is extremely important. This is nothing new, and most teachers will begin their new year developing and facilitating bonds with students. Many teachers explore the context of te tiriti o Waitangi as a springboard to establishing a class treaty of their own and allowing students to take ownership of their learning and environments.

As many teachers begin to plan their first term and organise their learning environments, I have begun to think about some key areas and elements that could be focused upon.

Relationships with students

It goes without saying that the most fundamentally important relationship for any teacher is that of the professional relationship with their students.

“Think about it for just a minute. Aren't you more apt to go out of your way to please a boss who you feel values you as an individual and treats you with dignity and respect, rather than a boss who communicates a lack of respect for you? When your boss asks about your family; gives you “slack” when there is a personal emergency; or praises you for work well done; don't you develop feelings of regard for this boss and want to do your best to please him or her? Students have the same feelings. So it makes sense that developing positive teacher-student relations is one of the most effective steps you can take to establish a positive discipline climate in the classroom.” (Boynton 2005)

Trust is at the very foundation of the relationship with students. For the student, the knowledge that their teacher trusts them as an individual can be both powerful and motivating. Furthermore, when they know they can trust their teacher to understand challenges and issues they are facing and support them, the student is less likely to give up. Trusting that collaboratively developed classroom boundaries will be enforced fairly, and with balance, promotes students taking responsibility for their actions and understanding consequences. Developing a climate of trust and respect establishes mutual appreciation and individualised relationships.

It is not, and never should it be, the responsibility of our learners to get into the head of the teacher. It is the responsibility of the teacher to supply a clear but adjustable road map for the students to follow. By this, I do not mean a dictatorial set of learning intentions that must be followed, more, a clear and established direction for students whereby they can choose their own path.

Relationships between students

I have intentionally separated this from ‘relationships with students’, as the two are often interdependent and combined, but need to be addressed independently. As part of the development of the teacher-student relationship, there is an opportunity to model effective relationships between students and establish clear parameters early. Much of The New Zealand Curriculum and, in particular, the key competencies, focuses on relationships with others and interdependent learning through collaborative practices. Surely, it stands to reason that we focus on facilitating the development of relationships between our students?

Some students will arrive at your door with excellent social skills and immediately develop positive peer relationships. However, many will not. It therefore falls to the teacher not only to develop social skills in the students they teach, but also to facilitate the opportunity to use them.

“For many students, school can be a lonely place, and low classroom acceptance by peers can be linked with subsequent disengagement and lowered achievement.” (Hattie 2012)

A teacher needs to identify those students with limited social skills, establish strategies to overcome any underlying challenges, and then develop key areas of focus to promote positive interactions. Without a strong student/teacher relationship, failure is inevitable. Once again, it boils down to the level of trust between the student and the teacher. They must believe that their teacher has their well being and achievement (both academic and social) at the forefront of their mind.

“When students have opportunities to talk and listen to each other, provide emotional support, share learning experiences, and develop respect, they are more likely to feel that they belong and are understood and cared for by their peers.” (Furrer et al 2014)

We are once again reminded to ‘facilitate, not dictate.’

Relationships with parents

Becoming involved in students’ lives remains a boundary that sits in different places for different teachers. However, one thing stays constant regardless of interpretation: we must never cross over the line into telling parents how to parent.

Parent-Child-Teacher relationship
Image source: parentsandteachersinsped.weebly.com

The role of parents in educating their children cannot be predetermined by just the teacher or parent. It is yet another facet that needs to be collaboratively constructed, taking into account a student’s background, beliefs, and parent understandings of current learning practice. Most parents will automatically use their own experiences in education to foster relationships and boundaries between themselves, their child, and the teacher. However, with a carefully chosen construct and early intervention, a good teacher is able to establish a clear and shared understanding of their ethos and practice. It is, perhaps, fair to assume that at the core of any home-school relationship sits strong communication.

“A good time to contact your child’s teacher is during the first week of school. This gives you an opportunity to meet one another when neither has any complaints. Otherwise, the first teacher contact can be unpleasant. The teacher is usually calling to describe some unacceptable behavior or report a child’s lack of progress and her concern that a learning problem may exist.” (Child Development Institute)

The ‘positive phone calls home’ movement has enabled many teachers to dispel the belief that they only ring home when there’s a problem. However, the quote above shows that it is still firmly held and believed by many parents. While teaching, I made it my mission to ring every parent at least once a term and share something positive about his or her child’s learning. It meant some calls lasted two minutes, and were simply an acknowledgement of student progress. Others could be 20-30 minutes, and gave parents a genuine opportunity to engage in a personal, unrestricted conversation about their child. It was often in these longer conversations that parents began to share on a much deeper level. I learned of bereavements, past experiences, and problems at home, establishing a connection to each parent, and deepening my understanding of the whole family.

Successful relationships depend on strong boundaries and the development of trust between parent and teacher. A parent needs to know that they are not being told how to raise their child; that when the phone rings it is not for a bad reason, and that the teacher is prepared to go that extra mile for their children.

Relationships with professional colleagues

I make no secret of the fact that I believe wholeheartedly in connected education. Finding opportunities to connect outside of my classroom and school underpinned much of my collaborative teaching practice. But none of my connected education practice came before the establishment of strong team relationships within my school. Whether as a leader or member of a team, teachers have the opportunity to model good practice and behaviour to both their colleagues and students.

Developing a culture of trust and risk taking can have huge rewards at all levels, but it is not without its challenge. The establishment of a supportive team based on a culture of respect, enjoyment, and support is something that can have a meaningful and lasting effect on a teacher’s practice. Something as simple as a MATEs (Mutually Agreed Team Expectation) agreement can develop a cohesive structure within which a team can flourish. But extending this into a bicultural and more diverse understanding of Manaakitanga, Aroha tetahi ke Tetahi, tautoko and Eke Panuku, eke tangaroa reinforces the concept of support across culture, creed, and diversity.

Effective communication strategies can help you build strong working relationships. Some tips for effective communication include:

  • Respond to requests by emphasising what you can do to help meet them.
  • Follow through and do what you say you’ll do.
  • Listen without passing judgment, and don’t rush in to give advice.
  • When you have concerns, work them out with the source, not with others.
  • Communicate with respect in every interaction regardless of whether you like the person.
  • When others give you assistance or support, express appreciation for it.
  • Focus on issues, not personalities, when you discuss work matters and problems.
  • When differences in views or ideas occur, work first to understand them from the other person’s perspective.
  • Be direct and sincere as normal practices.
  • Use humour in good taste.

Source: http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/how-to-build-strong-working-relationships-with-eff.html

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is time. Establishing trust and strong relationships is not something that happens quickly. It is a long process that needs to be worked at by all involved, sharing responsibility as well as successes and failures. I, like many teachers, focused my first two weeks of the term on creating a strong classroom culture. I also set aside time every week to continue to grow and explore it. There was no endpoint and no ‘goal’ to be reached. Relationships evolve and transform, so must our attitude and timetable.


Boynton, C. and Boynton, M. (2005) Educator’s Guide to Preventing and Solving Discipline Problems. ASCD, United States.

Furrer, C. Pitzer, J and Skinner, E (2014) The Influence of Teacher and Peer Relationships on Students’ Classroom Engagement and Everyday Motivational Resilience National Society for the Study of Education, Volume 113, Issue 1

Hattie, J. (2012) Visible learning for teachers: Maximising impact on learning. Routledge, England.

Web Sources

Establishing a Parent-Teacher Relationship: Retrieved from The child Development Institute http://childdevelopmentinfo.com/learning/parent_teacher/#ixzz3wtG9q3M7

Brounstein, M. How to Build Strong Working Relationships with Effective Communication


Further Reading

Edutopia: Fostering Relationships in the Classroom: http://www.edutopia.org/blog/fostering-classroom-relationships-larry-ferlazzo-katie-hull-sypnieski



Bringing imaginative stories to life in Northland schools

Animation is nothing new. Our screens have been filled with animated images for decades, often with the same awe and wonder reserved for new experiences. But how often have our learners taken the opportunity to really explore the how-to behind the scenes. Never before has there been such a wealth of tools available to learners today. Everyday objects take on a new purpose: the lego man that has sat on the window sill, the toys in the junior class’ wet break box, the containers of plastic animals and matchbox cars.  The conversations erupted as learners started thinking of toys from home that would be perfect to help bring the story, evolving in their mind, to life.

The journey taken by some students in Northland was simply ‘have a play’ with animation with the understanding that we couldn’t possibly expect our students to sit back and plan carefully when the shiny tool is at their fingertips? The instant ability to experiment and redo, re-record and edit in the digital domain has made learning instantly engaging. From a student perspective, learning has become doing, using technology and characters to tell simple stories. From a teaching perspective, it allowed the teacher to tackle substantive issues and challenges through an engaging and exciting vehicle. Simple things like building understanding of the importance of sharing sports equipment could be addressed on both a teaching and learning level. Students had to instantly think about their message alongside their authentic audience.

Once upon a time…

A storyboard was created. Three simple elements — a beginning, a middle and an end — differentiated within classrooms, with some teachers taking the opportunity to scaffold the learning around a literacy concept, whereas others saw it as an opportunity to foster independence and allow individualised creativity. Some students chose to use their digital device as their storyboarding platform, whereas others simply used pencil and paper.


Setting the scene…

Like any good movie, location remains important. The students were encouraged to collaboratively develop their backdrop, define their roles, and take ownership of the physical aspects of the task. Working in small groups meant the students had to have a shared understanding of each person’s role as well as a simple agreement for behaviour and process.

The process wasn’t seamless. It evolved. Students were encouraged to make improvements and unpack their work, often choosing to take their animation to their peers, using critical thinking skills and clear feedback and feedforward. Perfectionists emerged, and the room was filled with the sound of shutter clicks as the students completed take upon take to get the perfect shot. Students utilised the Chrome app, Stop Motion Animator, which automatically collates their shots and gives them the ability to either speed up or slow down how their shots play. The learning conversations continued as students discovered how many shots were needed to create just 1 second of animation, 10 seconds of animation, and then from there, how many shots would be needed to create 1 minute. These calculations gave our learners a true sense of what goes into the production of the animated films that they enjoyed watching. This naturally led to continued dialogue around the ‘jobs’ that were available in this industry, from the creative dreamer, to the cameraman, to the sound guy.

Setting the scene

Post Production and Editing…

Once students felt their ‘shooting’ was complete, the next steps were explored: how do we add sound effects, background music and/or our own voices? WeVideo remains the leading video editing tool for Chromebooks. From saving the finished animated clip to their Google Drive, students could seamlessly upload this into WeVideo and take advantage of the inbuilt sound effects, music, and text overlay features. Again, the ease of trialing different effects and sounds with the simplicity of clicking ‘undo’ meant the students could explore a range of concepts. Seemingly simple decisions around background music stretched the students’ collaborative skills as they began to understand the importance of using ambience to bring their images to life. The level of dedication meant that small choices around sound effects took longer than the creation of the scene!


The sequel…

The playtime was over. It was time to develop the concept further, and really embed the new skills into the ongoing learning. After some collaborative talk, the students took their initial concept and wrapped it around a literacy focus. Further storyboarding, discussion, and planning meant that what started as students exploring new technology led to newly developed skills being applied to learning, in a matter of days. Another class utilised their animation skills to put together ‘how to’ videos explaining math concepts.  It seemed the choices were endless, the opportunity to present their work and share their learning in a creative way was a real winner on the day. Imagine my excitement (as Facilitator) and that of the teachers when the students took this learning home and worked alongside their whanau to create animations, building a community of creative users of digital devices!".

The power of playdough… it cannot be left unsaid that good old-fashioned playdough was an integral ingredient in this process.  The ‘hands on’ experience of moulding and creating characters and props could definitely be described as therapeutic, and was enjoyed by all learners. The memories shared of early-childhood experiences with playdough and clay let us, as teachers, know that playdough has been seriously missed!

As we said at the beginning, animation is nothing new, however, the engagement and collaboration we saw between our learners proved to us that we needed to let our students continually learn in creative ways. Animation provides the perfect vehicle for practicing dispositions of being confident, connected, actively involved, lifelong learners.

Top Tips

  • Involve learners in the whole process from imagining and planning to exploring animation to making playdough.
  • Stand back and let it happen — let the mistakes happen (eg hands in the photos), see it all as a learning process.
  • Embrace the noise and messiness — creativity at it’s best!
  • Let the learning come from the creating — this whole experience has definitely opened our eyes to the power of creating to learn.
  • Listen to the learning conversations, and take time to observe as learners work.
  • Look for further opportunities to utilise the power of animation across the curriculum.



Chrome apps needed

(Anyone using chrome as a web browser can utilise these chrome apps, you do not need to use a chromebook):

iPad apps:

  • Stop Motion – creating animation tool
  • iMovie – post production and editing tool


  • Google Slides – An introduction to Animation — utilised by students
  • Google Doc – An example of students brainstorm
  • Google Docs – A ‘How to’ for the whole process of stop motion animation created by students @ Paihia School

Examples using chromebooks and iPads from various Northland Schools

Self directed learners — taking the learning home and creating with whanau


Emerging leadership — becoming a chief through service

Family group

In my last blog post I talked about the concept of tautua or service that focused on three spheres of service:
Sphere 1) Serve to Serve — understanding how to serve, knowing why we serve
Sphere 2) Serve to Lead — developing emergent leadership skills and
Sphere 3) Lead to Serve — enabling and leading the inter-generational process of leadership
I’ve just returned from visiting my ancestral homeland of Samoa and I wanted to talk about my own experience of being an emerging leader, as reflected in the second sphere in this model (see below) — as I received a high chief’s title as recognition of my emergent leadership status within my full extended family and as an obligation to position my family within the Samoan community in its entirety.

Sphere 2: Serve to lead — (25 years to 50 years)

This next level usually comes after children have learned the basic tenets of tautua and they begin to understand how to develop their emergent leadership skills once they enter their mid-twenties.

Where will we expect to see some of these skills from these emergent leaders?

  1. Immediate and extended family gatherings
  2. Academic endeavours
  3. Sporting, performing arts or visual arts pursuits
  4. High profile careers where Samoans are the ethnic minority

Why is it important to become a matai?

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Can e-learning be better learning?

Cave tour

Photo: John Scott under CC

Every now and again something comes along that really excites you. For me that’s usually the discovery of a new connection. It’s like life is a jigsaw puzzle, and you push the pieces around on the table, and then, suddenly, about seven pieces go together all at once. That’s what happened for me this week.

You know, e-learning has its own design protocols: keep it short and to the point; make it work well on mobile devices; hook it into social media; be sure to tell a story; and, always create links to further reading. There are more, depending who you talk to.

But there are higher-level questions I always ask up front:

  • Why are we doing this?
  • Is this about better access to learning?
  • Or, is this about better learning?
  • Or, are we going to attempt both?

Almost by default, e-learning creates better access to learning. Assuming the learner has a smartphone (by 2018, New Zealand will have 90% smartphone ownership, Frost & Sullivan) then you are putting the learning materials into the learner’s hand; whether they are sitting in the classroom, riding on the bus, or lying on their bed bored on a wet Sunday.

The added value comes when you can also make it better learning.

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Tips to start the new year

Back to school

Ngā mihi o te wā. Happy New Year.

The start of a new working year is the perfect opportunity to implement and try new things. For me this includes checking over my ways of doing things to make sure I am working efficiently and utilising the connections I have. I am grateful to be able to work alongside kura and schools and would like to share some tips based in common questions I get asked to help kick start your new year.

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