“He māori noa te kōrero Māori nē Māmā?”

“Isn’t speaking Māori the norm Mum?”

Ok, so I have this beautiful family that looks a bit like this…

Wawaro whanau

Well actually, that’s exactly what 4/6 of our whānau look like. My partner and I both brought two beautiful children each into our relationship, so, together, we have four children in what we call our ‘whānau kōpere’ or ‘rainbow family’ though most would refer to it as a ‘blended family’. We trick ourselves into thinking that a rainbow whānau will be more beautiful and colourful than any other and mostly it is.

There are times when it hard-out works, and there are times when it’s just hard work! Sometimes we go to bed at night thinking, ‘Our blended whānau will work tomorrow’. So, we get up in the morning ready to face the highs and lows of the day knowing that we will have our fair share of both, always hoping, however, that there will be more highs than lows. :-)

They are so completely different, which makes life colourful! I would say, the one thing that we all share is our passion and hunger for all facets of language — you know, the good, the bad, the ugly, and the incomprehensible also! From our children we learn that words like ‘anu’, a Māori term for ‘cold’, has been coined from the full word ‘anuanu’ to mean ‘ugly’. And, when we ask them to pick their bags up, or piles of clean clothes, and take them to their rooms, that ‘Mē?’ is, to them, an acceptable response. Forget that translated, it means,‘Must’, and they are missing the ‘I’ to form the complete defiance, ‘Must I?’ According to them, we should ‘get the gist’.

Arohatia te Reo: I love the language

Recently, Aotearoa celebrated ‘Te Wiki o te Reo Māori’, Māori Language Week, and I was quite encouraged and excited by the effort made in public sectors and media alike, along with personal efforts made by friends and whānau.

We are a Māori-speaking household; we have chosen to speak only Māori to our children, so when our second daughter was asked what she would be doing to celebrate Māori Language Week, I wasn’t surprised by her response, “He māori noa te kōrero Māori nē Māmā? Ka puta rānei ki tētahi wharekai whakanuia ai?” Meaning, “Isn’t speaking Māori the norm Mum? Should we go out and eat to celebrate?” Now there are two things that are very distinctly ‘our daughter’ about this. Number one is her belief that Māori is the norm, and English is her ‘other’ language, and number two, her love for food!

The kids view Māori Language Week as a time when there are lots of stickers sent to kura that are in Māori that they can stick anywhere, and when the supermarkets add Māori labels to their shelves. Simple, yet effective nonetheless, because they definitely notice the difference.

Countdown: te reo

I must acknowledge Radio New Zealand, who for years now has had their news presenters lead the news in te reo Māori all year round, and they are doing a sterling job keeping te reo Māori out there. Countdown supermarkets are on board, too, and it’s really awesome to hear our emergent reader children in these spaces having success when reading the labels.

So, while Aotearoa has done a beautiful job dedicating the past week to te reo Māori in many diverse ways, I’m always left a bit deflated when things go back to our ‘norm’. We, as second language learners know, that there are no more news reports in te reo, no more greetings and farewells by airline staff in te reo, no daring posts in social media circles challenging people to Give it a go! The hype dissipates, and it’s left to the steadfast few to maintain.

We are so proud of the efforts made by our children in keeping our language alive. And even more so because it’s not that they think that it’s disappearing, or that they feel obligated to do so — it’s because it’s their norm. We are even more impressed with their efforts in learning their second language, English, and the value that they give it. They are always experimenting and wanting to get it right without being instructed to.

I think this means that they have a high regard for the English language, and this shows in their need to get it right. I would love for this to be the way that we all think about te reo Māori. I would love to hear people making an effort until they get it right, and it becomes their norm. I’m not talking about making te reo Māori compulsory in schools or workplaces, I’m just talking about something as simple as a person seeing a Māori word, making an effort to learn how to say it and what it means, and making that your ‘normal practice’.

It’s simple in our children’s minds, He māori noa!


Twitter – it’s no big deal

Andrew Penny and Twitter for LEARNZ

When I was a kid, my opinion of computers was that they were for nerds only. And, according to me, I wasn’t a nerd (despite mum telling me it was nerds who succeeded in life)! Consequently, I fiercely resisted any new technology that came into vogue over the following few years. I even paid someone at university to type my hand-written assignments. In fact, I only began using a computer when I started teaching back around the turn of the century. It didn’t take me long, however, to get sold on the whole gig. Computers and the Internet: where had you been all my life?

Fast forward to 2014. Technology is everywhere. And, despite being at the cutting edge of using ICT in education as a LEARNZ virtual field trip teacher for CORE Education, I still find myself resisting its application in education. Weird huh! Actually, not really. I am, after all, a Digital Immigrant.

As Digital Immigrants learn … they always retain, to some degree, their "accent,"— that is, their foot in the past.… Today’s older folk were "socialised" differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And, a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain (Prenksy, 2001).

So, there are two things to take on board here:  First, that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself given my “accent”; second, that I am now actually part of the “older folk”! But seriously, I’m sure I am not alone in this experience, which, despite being somewhat comforting, is not exactly helpful to the so-called Digital Natives — “our students today (who) are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet” (Prenksy, 2001).
But, even though I have one foot in the past, I have the ability to seek new ways of teaching and learning by testing the waters with the toes I have free. That is after all, how I began using LEARNZ as a classroom teacher in the first place. And so, it also was that I began my venture into the Twittersphere.

Don’t get me wrong, using Twitter is not something that came easily or naturally. As a digital immigrant I had many questions about its usefulness, relevance, and, well, how to actually do it (they call it “tweeting” by the way)! Not to mention the fact that I had pooh poohed the whole Twitter thing right from the outset. Similar to the likes of Sam McNeil from St Andrew’s College (@samuelmcneil – this is his “twitter handle”) who said: “For so long I’ve rejected “social media” as a frivolous waste of time and something I was not going to engage with in any meaningful way, let alone for work related purposes.” Whatever its raison d'être, one cannot deny Twitter’s popularity. A quick search on the Internet will also quickly point out its usefulness as a tool for education engagement and learning.

Anyway, I discovered that Twitter is no big deal after all. What I mean by that is two things: First, that for today’s Digital Natives, using Twitter is quite normal. Second, it really wasn’t that hard to get started — once you get started, that is. And that’s the key really — just giving tools like Twitter a go and seeing what doors they might open, kind of like how we ask our students to take risks with their learning.

I am still only in the early stages of embracing this social media phenomenon. But, already I have realised its power to reach out and inspire. By tweeting from the field on LEARNZ virtual field trips I have created a sense of immediacy with those who dare to follow me. I am making connections with students who are also tweeting their thoughts and learning related to the field trip inquiry topic.

Don’t let your “accent” get in the way of giving IT tools like Twitter a go in the classroom. You might be surprised at just how easy and effective they are — though, I doubt your students will be.



Trend 6: Learner orientation

Trend 6: Learner orientation

CORE's Ten Trends for 2014 have been published. This post considers the sixth of these trends: Learner orientation. We shall be publishing posts on one of the trends approximately each month. You are encouraged to comment or provide supporting links.

What do we mean by learner orientation?

It’s helpful to think of learner orientation in two ways: firstly, how does the learner orient themselves toward learning? And secondly, how does the school and community orient themselves towards supporting that learner?

Let’s look at the first one. For a long time, learners oriented themselves toward the end point of learning – the outcome, the grade, the qualification. It was assumed that if the learner emerged from school with a credential or certificate, that would open doors for them as they made their way through the world. And for a long time that was true — if you got school certificate or a degree, you could use that to secure a job and then learn all of the other required skills while in that job.


But now there are so many people with qualifications that having a credential or qualification is no longer enough. The various New Zealand curriculum documents have anticipated this shift toward actionable knowledge: applying our knowledge to make a contribution to our schools, communities and the wider world. The spirit of the NZC is to think about teaching learners, not subjects, and many people are thinking about ways to honour that spirit.

Which brings us to the second way of thinking about learner orientation: the way that schools are orienting themselves to support learners. When many of our current teachers were in formal education themselves, schools operated like benevolent dictatorships: teachers chose the right material and level of difficulty for the majority of the class and planned accordingly. But the more we learn about the brain and effective pedagogy, the more we know we need to meet all learners where they are, not where we’d like them to be. Everybody brings with them different levels of experience and interest when they arrive at class, and while some things need to be coherent and consistent, many other things need to be personalised. Frameworks like Universal Design for Learning encourage us to think about how different learners need things represented to them in order for learning to stick: reading written material, listening to a story, looking at a picture.

Implications and challenges

Wisely, some schools are taking a systems thinking approach to this view of learner orientation, recognising that in order to make progress, they need to reconsider not an individual component, but all of the elements we put in place to cause learning to occur:

  • Pedagogy: how we teach. How we orient ourselves to meet learner preferences, and these preferences change through a sequence of learning.
  • Curriculum: what we teach. How much is determined by the school and the curriculum documents, and how much space is left open for the students?
  • Assessment: how can we give students more control and ownership over what counts as evidence of learning?
  • Community: How do we tap into the learning opportunities and resources that exist in our communities
  • Physical environment: If spaces are not designed to command and control, but to activate learning in all its many different forms, what physical environments are needed?
  • Technology: what role does technology play in personalising learning? How can it make teachers lives easier so they can focus on the most important thing?

It’s not any one of these that will make a difference, but the interplay and the relationships between them all, and more importantly how we can look at the physical environments as an activator for this interplay. We call these physical environments modern learning environments, or flexible, open, agile environments, but really they’re just environments that allow us to orient ourselves towards the needs of learners.

Examples and links:

For more about the Ten Trends:


HP Chromebook review

HP Chromebook

I'm an early adopter. I'm a dedicated follower of fashion. As a result, I have a number of netbooks and tablets serving as bookends; batteries flat, lock-screen password forgotten—should open a museum. So, having recently attended the GAFE Summit in Christchurch, I thought I should acquire a Chromebook. The GAFE team had hyped Chromebooks to the max, but actually trying to get hold of one was not easy. I signed up for a pre-loved one from Cyclone, who were exhibiting at the summit. My preference would have been for a Samsung; I am something of a Samsung fan. I have a Samsung TV, several models of Galaxy phone, and, if they made kitchen appliances, I'd buy those too. None of the many retailers I spoke to, however, could supply one. In fact, they couldn't supply any flavour of Chromebook, and several professed that they had never to have heard of them. Odd for a device that is (supposedly) taking the education scene by storm. Nevertheless, on June 2 Google Chrome blog announced that Chromebooks are coming to New Zealand soon.* I drove home via Cyclone, and collected my Peach coloured pre-loved HP Chromebook.

First impressions out of the box

Chromebook and Apple Air comparison

After tea I opened the box. If it was pre-loved, I would not have known, the packaging was all in tact and it looked and felt like new. I had paid an ex-demonstrator price, so I was well pleased. The first things I noticed were the colour and the texture, it was pink and rubbery like a hot water bottle; I warmed to it immediately. The next thing I noticed was the weight. I put it on the kitchen scales and the needle went around to a massive 1.9 kgs—compared with my Apple Air at 1.3 kgs. Back in the 1990s we tossed an HP optical drive into Loch Ness (to the dismay of the HP representative, who thought he had arrived to receive praise)—we were that annoyed by it. If later I want to send this Chromebook into Low Earth Orbit, it will cost me around US$5000. Battery life comes at a price. But what battery life! With default power saver settings HP Chromebook outruns Apple Air by 4 hours.


Pros and cons: pleasantly surprised

CORE's IT guru, Glen Davies, warned me I may feel claustrophobic in the Chromebook. With minimal on-board storage, with Chrome the only browser (because the browser is the operating system), and with all the activity channelled through Google, that was a possibility. But you know? I think I feel liberated. I feel less ownership of the device, in fact, I'd be happy to share it, because my stuff is not in the device, it's in my login. Once I re-train myself to think like this, I can go to any cybercafé login, and be at home.

To expand on this idea, and take it into the secondary or tertiary learning environment, it's a lot more robust. No longer is "a crash ate my homework" a valid excuse. A Chromebook that goes bouncing down two floors of concrete stairs can be replaced with a loan machine for the very next class.

And they're cheap. The original target of the One Laptop per Child project was US$100 per unit, but that was maybe never that realistic; better to say US$500, and get a few features that even the undeveloped world might expect … like good battery life, a robust keyboard, a smart lid, virus immunity, and hundreds of great apps.

Worth trying out

So, my suggestion is that if it's not too late, if the Powers That Be have not already decided otherwise, get hold of a Chromebook and pass it around your teachers, tutors, or trainers, and some of your user group, and solicit feedback. You'll be pleasantly surprised. I'd say the big advantage of a Chromebook over a tablet is the keyboard, and the big disadvantage is the weight. Try it for yourself!


Google Chromebooks

Google Chrome Blog 

Cyclone Computers

One Laptop per Child project timeline

Share your views:

Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts about the Chromebook so others may benefit.

* Looks like they’re on their way: Stuff news


Community of Learners:  The Pegasus Digital Devices project

Pegasus report

E-learning, community, and earthquakes might seem an unusual combination. However during 2013, this was the reality for eleven schools in the Eastern suburbs of Christchurch. Termed the Pegasus Cluster, these schools highlighted the importance of schools’ role in the wider community.

While the thought of 1:4 digital devices might send some of us salivating, the practicalities of device deployment, integration, professional learning and development (PLD), and e-learning was not always as exciting, and at times, it was tiring. Despite this, the commitment of each school to their learners and their willingness to work together saw the success of the wider community. Their story, along with recommendations for deployment, is reflected in the recently released Pegasus report. I have put together here a summary (assisted by my colleague Louise Taylor, who along with Merryn Dunmill prepared the report).

The Pegasus Digital Devices Project began at the end of 2012 when 11 schools in the Pegasus Bay region of Christchurch were gifted digital devices at a 1:4 ratio. This initiative was part of the earthquake recovery focus happening in the area, and was a yearlong collaborative venture between educators, the community, and PLD providers. Those involved were determined that students should not be disadvantaged because of the devastation they had experienced. Underlying the project was a kaupapa of transformation and equity, with teacher and student voice being prominent throughout. While this work is embedded in the context of a community recovering from crisis, the findings are relevant for all schools implementing digital devices into their environment. Here is an outline of the project, findings — and some recommendations.

The rollout

Deploying a large number of devices into any school requires careful thought and planning. Prior to the deployment of devices into the schools, a professional learning plan was designed to support teachers and students with the implementation and the Wi-Fi were upgraded. As part of the rollout, the project developed a mentor network designed to promote sustainability and support within the community of schools, which kept up momentum and was key to devices being integrated more quickly into learning.

Teacher learning and change

The introduction of the digital devices into the classroom challenged practices, not least because many teachers were learning alongside their students. Working with students as co-learners shifted the teacher-student role as teachers and students built their knowledge together. The establishment of teacher networks also supported ongoing learning around the use of the devices in class.

Student learning and change

The introduction of digital devices into the classroom provided multiple learning pathways for students. Students themselves noted how the devices supported them to learn in new ways. The element of provisionality, including the ease of correction, with devices, enabled students to take more risk and try things out because they could restore their work if it was not as they wanted. Self-assessment and peer review provided alternative ways for students to collaborate, to review, and to track their progress, particularly because of the immediacy of replay that the devices offered.

Connecting communities

At the heart of this project was the goal of supporting a community recovering from the devastation of the Canterbury earthquakes. The shared experiences of the community helped to build a number of connections between the schools, and families. In particular, the Digi-Awards ceremony brought together the community from the 11 schools to celebrate the success of students and to reconnect with each other. Along with digital entries from students, schools performed and presented during the evening with a large number of the community attending.

Recommendations from the project:

  1. A commitment by school leadership to the changes required will ensure a quicker and smoother integration into classrooms.
  2. Provide for ongoing IT support — preferably have this in-house and on hand.
  3. Engage in ongoing professional learning and critical dialogue.
  4. Share ideas at staff meetings.
  5. Visit other teachers in their classrooms to observe how they are using the devices.
  6. Encourage teachers to take their devices home so they can play and learn.
  7. Integrate devices as part of the everyday classroom and allow devices to be used inside, outside and across the curriculum.
  8. Allow time to play, especially in the beginning.
  9. Do not be afraid to learn with and alongside students.
  10. Be open and willing to change teaching pedagogy and practice.
  11. Find out what is important to students.
  12. Encourage students to work on issues that are important to them.
  13. Work with students on some community projects.
  14. Plan a community event – with the community.
  15. Share learning with the community (e.g. blogs, evenings).
  16. Invite the community to be part of the school.
  17. Keep transformational change as a goal.

“The Pegasus Digital devices project not only created new pathways for learning, but also new ways to demonstrate care and concern for others. The community came together for a common good, as they did, they helped to rebuild their lives” (Pegasus report, p. 2)

The full research on the project can be read or downloaded here and will be useful to all those considering e-learning. For those schools that are leading transformation through eLearning, we challenge you to think about how you will involve the wider community.


We would like to acknowledge the teachers, leaders, children and wider community at these schools, and the other schools in Christchurch who, despite their significant challenges, remain steadfast in their resilience, determination and desire for learning. Kia Kaha.

We also acknowledge the organisations that supported this project: Greater Christchurch Schools Network, Te Toi Tupu, Ministry of Education and CORE Education.



The following videos are found on the TKI's Enabling eLearning site:

Avondale 1 (Julia 1) — Renewed enthusiasm for reading:

Avondale 2 (Julia 2) — Learning with iPads in the classroom:

Avondale 3 (Julia ) — Don't be afraid:

Rae 1 (Avondale School) — Working together: writing with iPads:

Rae 2 (Avondale School) — Discover for yourself:

South New Brighton — John — Work as a team:

South New Brighton — Ryan 1 — iPad set-up and deployment:

South New Brighton — Ryan 2 — Introducing iPads into the classroom:


Pasifika’s position in honouring the bi-cultural Te Tiriti partnership

Whakatü Marae

In my very first blog post for the CORE Pasifika Blog, I talked about being “Pasifika in Parihaka” and how Parihaka was an awe-inspiring place to be in, considering Pasifika peoples were not in Aotearoa at the time of the great prophets Te Whiti and Tohu.

This feeling of “not being here” prompted my thinking around the place of Pasifika in Aotearoa, in specific reference to how Pasifika people can place themselves in the bi-cultural relationship, honouring their Te Tiriti o Waitangi obligations in Aotearoa.

Te Ara The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand defines the tiriti principles as follows:

  • The treaty set up a partnership, and the partners have a duty to act reasonably and in good faith.
  • The Crown has freedom to govern.
  • The Crown has a duty to actively protect Māori interests.
  • The Crown has a duty to remedy past breaches.
  • Māori retain rangatiratanga over their resources and taonga and have all the rights and privileges of citizenship.
  • The Crown has a duty to consult with Māori.
  • The needs of both Māori and the wider community must be met, which will require compromise.
  • The Crown cannot avoid its obligations under the treaty by conferring authority on some other body.
  • The treaty can be adapted to meet new circumstances.
  • Tino rangatiratanga includes management of resources and other taonga according to Māori culture.
  • Taonga include all valued resources and intangible cultural assets.

From a Pasifika perspective, I can say that it is extremely important and hugely critical for us to support and acknowledge the importance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a living and breathing document. The reason for this is because, for those of us who are born in Aotearoa, it ties us to the land of our birth alongside the lands of our heritages.

My personal definition of Pākeha in relation to Māori in this unique bi-cultural relationship has changed.  It is reflective of the third-to-last principle named above:

The treaty can be adapted to meet new circumstances.

I am not advocating changing the treaty — in fact I am advocating that people need to understand that the definition of Pākeha in our interpretation of the Treaty — should change.

The definition of Pākeha should include the notion that anybody who is non-Māori, who does not identify as Māori — but are migrants or descendants of migrants to Aotearoa — are collectively known as Pākeha.

We can’t celebrate the multi-cultural and diverse identities within Aotearoa if we are not able to honour our Tiriti o Waitangi obligations.

My question to you is: If you read the Tiriti principles above, which of these do you honour in your daily life?  In your work?  And, if you are a teacher, how do you model these principles to the young people in your classrooms?


Māori achieving success as Māori in English medium schools — what does it look like?

Using the eLPF to inform strategic planning at Waerenga o Kuri

Recently I had the privilege of visiting two schools, Motu and Waerenga o Kuri, to film their journey into understanding, responding to, and planning for Māori to achieve success as Māori in their schools.

Both schools have a high percentage of Māori students who are achieving at or above National Standards level. This led to the question — “If our Māori students are already succeeding what else do we need to do?” It is a question that is important. If most of your Māori students are succeeding, is that enough? Are they succeeding as Māori?

Professor Mason Durie (2003) explains, "As Māori [means] being able to have access to te ao Māori, the Māori world — access to language, culture, marae… tikanga… and resources… If after twelve or so years of formal education, a Māori youth were totally unprepared to interact within te ao Māori, then, no matter what else had been learned, education would have been incomplete."

The 2010 ERO report highlights that not all educators have yet recognised their professional responsibility to provide a learning environment that promotes success for Māori students.So what does Māori achieving success as Māori look like? How in English medium schools should we address this?

The Māori education strategy, Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013–2017, suggests making change to enable Māori to succeed as Māori involves:

  1. developing new, and expanding current teaching and learning approaches that are engaging, effective, and enjoyable for all Māori students.
  2. having high expectations for all Māori students
  3. growing knowledge and evidence of what works to support excellent educational and Māori language outcomes.
  4. developing productive partnerships with parents, families and whānau, iwi, and community that are responsive and reciprocal – leading to shared action, outcomes, and solutions.

The intent of The New Zealand Curriculum is that schools develop curricula for their own students that are challenging, engaging, and relevant. Building into the curriculum aspects that have particular significance for school communities ensures that learning has meaning for students, and is supported by their families and the wider community. Thus, each school’s curriculum is a bespoke piece of collective thinking about what matters to them at particular points in time. (ERO, 2012).

With the support of Learning with Digital Technologies facilitators, Kathe Tawhiwhirangi and Trevor Bond, the schools engaged with their BOT and local community to unpack the aims of Ka Hikitia.

For Motu and Waerenga o Kuri schools, the consultation process with the community, in particular Māori parents and whānau, led to an agreed understanding of what Māori achieving success as Māori looked like in their schools. They used Tātaiako: Cultural competencies for teachers of Māori learners to create their own self-review framework.

Following a self-review, each school created their own strategic plan and school curriculum for reaching their identified ideals – placing the student at the centre of learning, while valuing and including te reo Māori, tikanga, and local Māori culture across the school curriculum. A key for parents has been having a say in what their children are learning. The result has been the creation of deep community connections where whānau feel welcomed, valued and involved in their child’s learning.

Having focused discussions with their community that had student learning at the centre was a key in engaging parents and whānau.

“I felt valued and very welcome as part of the community. Some of the benefits for me have been being allowed to come to the school and help them … and see my daughter grow as a person … being able to have a say at what my kids are being taught at school.” Parent

“One of the things that this has taught me is that Māori students are different. They learn differently…” BOT member

“The simplest way to explain it is probably that it’s no longer a single lesson, it’s just intrinsic, it’s embedded in everything.” Teacher

Yvonne Nikora from Waerenga o Kuri explains the change it has made in her teaching approach.

What excites me in having visited these schools, spoken with students, teachers, parents, and BOT members is seeing real change occur. Change that is sustainable. Having a framework for Māori achieving success as Māori developed by the school in consultation with the community to self-review against has been key to this.

To see the full collection of videos from these schools go to Māori achieving success as Māori on the Enabling e-Learning website.


ERO, (2010). Promoting Success for Māori Students
ERO (2012). Evaluation at a Glance: Priority Learners in New Zealand Schools
Professor Mason Durie, (2003). Ngā Kahui Pou: Launching Māori Futures. Huia Publications.


QR codes for the VLN

QR codes for the VLN

Learning is a social phenomenon, and teacher professional development is gradually being re-shaped to reflect this (as suggested by, for example, Reinhardt, & Mletzko, 2011). In this post I describe an approach that would, I hope, support teachers in their professional development that recognises the potential of growing their own personal learning networks. At the same time they were encouraged to use a variety of BYOD devices and be introduced to QR codes.

I facilitate a cluster of schools on the West Coast of Te Waipounamu. One of the first things that we do is work together to complete the eLearning Planning Framework, and this helps the schools and the teachers set some professional learning and development (PLD) goals, develop plans and and encourages school self-review. One key benefit is that the process, which includes completion and analysis of the results, often leads the teachers to set goals that include the development of sustainable professional learning and the nurturing of a Personal Learning Network.

A vehicle for achieving this goal is encouraging teachers to join and participate in the Virtual Learning Network (VLN).

I thought I would try a new approach this year when introducing the VLN, that of modelling self directed learning, utilising mobile devices and using a new tool that some had not heard of before.

This is what I trialled….

The teachers in my cluster have teacher inquiries generally focused around raising achievement of targeted learners, typically around the reading, writing, and mathematics. So, firstly, I had a think about the kinds of teacher inquiries that teachers had already started. I then looked to the VLN for groups that best supported those inquiries, and made a list of a dozen or so groups that would best spark interest.

QR code to CORE website

I used QR Stuff to make colourful QR codes for each of the groups, just to look pretty. These were printed on bright sheets of paper so they would stand out and pinned to the staff room walls. QR Codes are Quick Response Codes that are read by a device similarly to a bar code but instead of basic information such as price they can lead to web pages. If you would like to know more about using QR codes there are a series of support articles on my Edublog.

In preparation for the session, teachers from the cluster of schools came to the workshop armed with a mobile device – Chromebook, iPad, Android phone, iPhone or one of the newly acquired Microsoft Surface Tablets. They also brought their laptop for later.

At the beginning of the session we discussed the ‘WHY’ of the activity. The participants scanned the numbered QR codes from around the walls, recorded which group the QR code pointed to, and noted on a piece of paper what they might learn from joining each of the groups.

Because the Surface Tablets were new to us all, I had pre-installed QR Scanner 8 QR code reader on them so there was a back up plan. I had trialled a couple of scanners for the Surface Tablet before finding one that was best able to read the codes. Three of the schools also had one-to-one Chromebook Classes, so we used the Google Web App Scan QR to read the codes from the Chromebooks.

It was interesting to watch as people worked it out for themselves how to get the job done with minimal support. Some chose to work together, some independently, and some in groups. There was movement, discussion, and conversation as they moved about scanning the codes.

QR Codes for the VLN

Once people had scanned all of the codes, people moved to their laptops to access the Google Presentation, looking to the number of the QR code they had scanned, and a link to the corresponding VLN group.

QR codes in the VLN

Participants then joined the VLN, updated their profiles, and joined the groups that would best support them with their professional learning and teacher inquiries. Some people joined quite a number of groups, and others, fewer — the choice was theirs. People used their laptops to join the VLN because it is simpler to join from a laptop where participants are more likely to have images to use as avatars, and also to record their passwords for the VLN if not signing in through their school Google account.

All the resources from the day were added into the new West Coast Cluster group on the VLN because one of the school leaders wanted to go back to her staff and replicate the session with her own school.

I thought the workshop worked well because it modelled some of practices that we promote with all learners in a modern learning environment. These include:

  • learning new things in new ways
  • collaborating
  • personalising learning
  • developing a personal learning network
  • using a variety of devices and tools to support learning
  • movement, discussion, and cross-school conversation and links
  • building capability and sustainability.

I now need to follow up with the teachers to encourage and ascertain how both the teacher inquiries and VLN professional learning is progressing.

We would love to hear back how you have tried to personalise learning for the PLD you have lead or how you might adapt an idea like this for your class.

Resources for you to use and adapt:



Reinhardt, W., & Mletzko, C. (2011). Awareness in Learning Networks. In W. Reinhardt, & T. D. Ullmann (Eds.), 1st Workshop on Awareness and Reflection in Personal Learning Environments (pp. 12-20) , PLE 2011 Conference, UK.


Collaboration matters


Collaboration: a key trend and also one of the latest buzzwords. This year I set myself the target of writing a book about collaboration to separate the rhetoric from the reality and to explore how we might use our collective talents to create something better.

I have been interviewing leaders from a range of different organisations and community groups that have been collaborating in new ways since the Christchurch earthquakes. Five things stand out for me so far:

  1. Relationships matter every step of the way. Time needs to be spent at the beginning to develop shared norms, values and vision.
  2. Technology enhances. Collaboration can exist without technology but the ripple it creates will be smaller.
  3. Conflict. If there is no conflict there is no deep collaboration. Expect conflict, allow for it and deal with it openly, and respectfully. When you have a diverse group working together the richness of different perspectives will naturally create tensions.
  4. Know when to collaborate. If there are few gains to be made, if there is a hostile environment, or if there are no relationships between parties then collaboration will simply waste time. Grow relationships first.
  5. Leadership. Collaboration still requires people to lead. This is often through influence rather than position, but both are appropriate. In an increasingly complex world leaders must be able to navigate complexity, explore multiple perspectives and feel comfortable in not having all the answers.

Don Tapscott describes the need for change as follows: “This is not the information age. It’s an age of communication, of collective intelligence, of major collaboration, of major participation…driving themes are collaboration, transparency and sharing of intellectual property.” Collaboration is human by design.

In an increasingly ubiquitous world, professionals are being replaced by technology in areas that are less ‘human by design’. When we look at the teaching profession we see that technology is increasingly supplementing the work of the teacher, including the use of telepresence robots. The Teacher (deliberately with a capital T) is increasingly a person who can navigate the complexities of learning and interact with others. In this emerging environment Teachers will need to be:

Deep thinking
Self aware



In his research on disciplined collaboration, management professor Morton Hansen explores the imperative to collaborate. He describes four types of workers:
Hansen four types of workers: lone stars, butterflies, laggards, T-shaped.
The Lone Star – the person who wants to do their own thing. Teachers who are lone stars are focused on their individual goals and focus on their students but do not collaborate or work well in a team.
The Butterfly – is willing to collaborate over everything without focusing on their own work. Teachers who are butterflies will volunteer for projects and committees and as a result their own work suffers.
The Laggard – wanting to maintain status quo and block change. Teachers who block change may not be interested in trying anything new but the reasons need to be explored carefully, in my view.
The T shaped worker – can work horizontally and vertically. Teachers who are T shaped workers perform well in their own practice and also collaborate in teams.

It is the T-shaped worker that we need to foster at all levels of the organisation. In education T-shaped workers are those teachers with what Michael Fullan describes as Professional Capital – teachers with a mix of human capital, social capital, and decisional capital. Teachers who are T-shaped have a deep knowledge of their craft, can collaborate with others, and make decisions that benefit learners. These Teachers won’t be replaced by technology any time soon because they have the ability to interact in uniquely human ways.

The trend is to build schools where learning spaces are more agile and adaptive. The Teachers in these spaces will need to collaborate but they will only do so effectively when there is:

Purpose – Trust – Clarity – Commitment

Collaboration is a trend that is here to stay. The people I have interviewed to date have shared their stories and I will be collating these so we can all learn from what worked, what didn’t, and lessons learnt. It is clear that collaboration isn’t always easy, even when it does produce better results. Collaboration requires an outwards mindset.

Over the next six months I will be sharing some examples of collaboration in action. I would value your examples and ideas.


Intensive Community Participation Project in Kaikohe

Whakawhanaungatanga – the key to the success of this early learning contract.

The Intensive Community Participation Project (ICCP) in Kaikohe applies Māori values and beliefs to support whānau and their tamariki transition into the education sector. Collaboration, connecting whānau and developing an early learning community have been vital to the success of this project.

Intensive Community Participation Project-engaging with child

Te Kohekohe Drop in Centre

The project began in November 2012 with the opening of a drop-in centre, intended to provide a safe space for whānau and their children to play, connect with other families and learn about the importance and value of early learning. It was important to get it right for every parent, aunty, uncle, grandparent and child that came through the door. Needless to say it was about establishing meaningful relationships. This has taken time but has been the most valuable part of the project.

Since opening, we have had 278 children less than five years old attend the drop in centre. These children had not previously participated in early childhood education (ECE) but this did not mean that whānau had not considered ECE options. There are seven licensed ECE services, two Kōhanga Reo, two Playgroups, one Puna Reo and four home-based childcare services operating in Kaikohe alone. What was interesting, but not surprising, was that many whānau with children under the age of three wanted to have their tamariki close to them.

It’s important for us at the drop in centre to respect the needs of families, and provide a space that truly responds to those needs. Early learning conversations start with whānau. At the drop in centre, tamariki and whānau can participate freely in early learning activities with other children and families without having to enroll on certain days or certain times. We are open Monday to Friday from 10am – 2 pm. Participation is initiated by parents and whānau, and even though there is no obligation to participate, we have children who attend regularly, and have new whānau coming in every week.

Street Play Days

Street Play days were probably the most exciting initiative in the project. Over the past 18 months we have held 14 Street Play Days. Once a month, we load the van with our water trough, painting easels, play dough, musical instruments, books, clay, gym equipment, and barbeque, and set everything up in a different part of town every month.

Intensive Community Participation Project-Street Day

Intensive Community Participation Project-Street Day-2

Intensive Community Participation Project-Street Day-4


We have had support from local ECE services, home-based services, Plunket, Parents As First Teachers (PAFT), iwi providers, health providers, and many other local services that support families. Collaboration is vital in a community like Kaikohe. This has built capability, capacity, and ultimately, community. Monthly Community Action Group meetings initially contributed to the development of the action plan of ICPP initiatives, which meant initiatives were meaningful and responsive to identified needs.

Intensive Community Participation Project-Collaboration

The aims of the Kaikohe ICPP were to raise awareness of the value of ECE and increase participation in ECE. Throughout the project we have collected data that has allowed us to measure our outcomes. Based on that data we can report that we have almost doubled our target expectation. While that alone is an impressive outcome, we are even more proud of the relationships we have developed with parents, families, whānau, and every child that we have come to love.

Intensive Community Participation Project-Collaboration-2

Te Ahukaramū Charles Royal (2007) explained that the purpose of education is to facilitate the flow and experience of mana in the individual and in his or her community. Our ICPP contract has engaged tamariki and their whānau in education by creating opportunities with whānau not for whānau.

'Ano me whare pungawerewere'

'It is like the house of the spider – linked by a web (of values)’


The ICPP team also keeps the community connected by a Facebook page Te Kohekohe Drop In. With 305 friends, this social media page informs about coming events and successes.

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