Strengthen your inclusive practice

Wondering how you are going to meet the variability of learning needs of the students in your classroom? Keen to plug into the experience of other teachers or hear first-hand recommendations from students? Come and explore Inclusive Education: Guides for schools.
Inclusive Education: Guides for schools” is the new Ministry of Education’s website. There you’ll find a range of guides which provide “New Zealand educators with practical strategies, suggestions and resources to support learners with diverse needs”.

To orientate yourself visit the Guide intro or About Inclusive Education pages. Alternatively just dive in and explore guides such as:

It’s worth noting that guides focused on an area such as ASD and learning have separate content dedicated to supporting teachers in primary contexts and intermediate/secondary contexts.

Valuing first-hand experiences and perspectives

On the website you’ll also find videos of NZ students talking about how teachers can create more effective learning environments. For example, here a high school student with dyslexia makes some useful recommendations that could be employed in every classroom and could benefit all students.

Having dyslexia – how teachers can help from Ministry of Education on Vimeo.

You can also view videos of NZ teachers talking about how they are adjusting their practice to develop more student-centred approaches in partnership with families and carers.

Involving families in transitions from Ministry of Education on Vimeo.

International content has also been curated for the website.You’ll find videos, articles and research papers from leading educational researchers and teachers from around the planet, plus there’s TED Talk videos and relevant case studies and stories. It’s great that we can now both access an international body of knowledge and tailor it for our own context. We can also make a considerable contribution.


The website includes a growing Resources and downloads archive where you can filter your search by both subject and format. We’re also keen to add to the archive, resources that you have found particularly useful, so do let us know about them using the email.

Bookmark the site — more content to come

It’s worth bookmarking the site as new content will be available early in term 2. Upcoming guides focus on leadership, governance, assessment, deterring bullying behaviour, supporting positive behaviour, approaches to support Māori and Pasifika students, IEPs, and developing the teacher's aide role.

Help us improve and refine the website

Lastly we would love to hear your feedback and recommendations of things we could refine and improve on the website. We want this site to be useful for NZ schools and their communities. The design and content development have been underpinned by many, many cycles of inquiry and cross-sector collaborations and we are keen for this to continue.

Email feedback, ideas and suggested resources to, add a comment below or just utilise the feedback link on the website.


Mentoring – The next big development?


Over the last two or three years I have noticed an increasing discussion in the early childhood education community regarding mentoring, and I believe this is a dialogue of growing importance.

Since the mid 1990s I have been interested in, influenced by, and an active participant in coming to grips with the characteristics of leadership in an early childhood arena. My experiences in professional learning and development and in teacher education have highlighted for me the significance of leadership and the ways in which the values, actions and behaviours of centre-based leaders influence and set the scene for the culture of an early childhood centre or organisation.

Over recent years, with the developments to expectations around appraisal, performance management, and the teacher registration process, the role of centre leaders has become more refined and clearly anticipates leaders taking an active role in mentoring their teaching teams and beginning teachers. I have, over the years, worked closely with many centre-based leaders (teachers, managers, and those in governance roles) and have regularly seen the complexity and isolation of the positions in which many of them work. I have been a long-time advocate of providing regular, formal supervision and/or mentoring for centre leaders, and formal mentorship is increasingly becoming part of teachers’ professional experience.

Those who work in early years education negotiate a physically, mentally, and often emotionally demanding context in their daily practice. Much of their professional learning takes place within the relationships they have with their teaching colleagues, professional leaders, families/whanau, and children. They are generally engaged in working in close collaboration with other teachers, and this can be complex and fraught with opportunities for miscommunication, differences in philosophy and pedagogy coupled with few opportunities to really discuss deeply what they are doing together.

The role of mentor provides a confidential and professional opportunity to discuss, reflect, and investigate the challenges of teaching and leadership within a community of practice. But I believe it is crucial to consider:

  • What is the purpose of a mentor?
  • What role does a mentor play?
  • What are the expectations and outcomes sought by working with a mentor?

My involvement, experience, and professional learning has led me to consider, refine, and develop an increasingly consolidated personal philosophy, or a set of views, which positions my approaches. Being clear about my own purpose, aspiration, and intention as a mentor allows me to align more clearly with the client/mentoree, and to develop a shared concept of the outcomes of the mentoring sessions together.
I believe a mentor’s aims are to:

  • prompt thinking rather than attempt to create a model of their own thinking
  • be a critical friend who encourages and respectfully questions or challenges the mentoree
  • help the mentee work their way through complexity.

Wherever the mentee is in their practice, career, or journey is perfect. There is no such thing as not ready, or too far down the track. Mentor meetings are a think tank of opportunities and possibilities, a safe haven to manage your own emotions and reactions, consider many paths and strategise to reach worthwhile outcomes.

Professional supervision and/or mentoring is a requirement within many early years comparable fields. Those working in the health sector, social services, and other family/whanau-focussed services are often required to ensure regular meetings with either peers or professional leaders to discuss and consult on their actions, practice, and performance. In my view this is a support mechanism that would be valuable and warranted for many in the early childhood education field.

In a modern learning context mentor relationships are becoming increasingly accessible, especially for those who, in the past, could have been viewed as isolated by distance (rural and semi-rural services). Advancing approaches in technology, enhanced broadband, and high speed internet becoming more reliably available, coupled with a simple ICT capability such as Skype means mentoring can be available directly, one-to-one, and in almost any context across Aotearoa.

CORE Education is constantly investigating and developing new ways to push the boundaries of education and connect more widely and in more accessible ways. CORE Early Years Team has two programmes currently available to support early years services to engage in professional learning, development, and mentoring. Check out the links below to learn more about our SELO 3 South Island online Leadership Programme, which includes one-to-one mentoring and/or the newly developed UChoose Programme aimed at supporting digital learning, leadership, and literacies, and much more, in contemporary education.


Anatomy of an ARG

Stephen at lighthouse

I haven't been to the lighthouse for years. There's no road to it; you have to walk. You drive the car to a spot the locals call Jack's Point. It's named after Bloody Jack, a hard man who, by his name, you might think was a fierce warlord. Turns out he got his nickname from his colourful language. His real name he gave to the headland half a mile to the south, Tuhawaiki Point. It's marked with a white octagonal light tower. On my right is a rolling paddock of wheat, on my left a sharp drop to the shingle beach fifty feet below. The dog is in a state of high excitement, new scents abound. I am having a ball, and I wouldn't be here if I wasn't playing Ingress.

So if your opinion is that computer games promote a disconnect from the planet, obesity, and a taste for violence, then you may have to rethink it; if only by acknowledging that there are games you can play on your feet, in the open air, in loosely knit teams of like-minded, peace-loving people your own age. These games go by many names: alternate reality game, augmented reality game, urban gaming, location-enabled game, pervasive game, street game, and probably more. I'll use just the one term in this article: alternate reality game (ARG). Imagine a world in which things are slightly different. Allow yourself to buy into that idea, and temporarily re-invent yourself. In your real life you'll be whoever you are, but in this other world you are effective, pro-active, insightful, and above all resilient. Put that other life on hold. See if this new effective self transforms your old self. Maybe even transcends your old self. That's why ARGs come under the broad mantle of reality hacks.

Typically these games are played on mobile devices, most likely your phone. They are "multi-player location-based games played out on city streets and built up urban environments" [Wikipedia], but I'd say that there is plenty of evidence and rationale for Ingress to push out into the wider landscape, and even to really remote locations. Ingress is a game from Niantic Labs, a startup within Google led by John Hanke, the man who, with others, invented Google Earth. You think it's a game, but it's not a game, the authors say. Every time you long tap an empty space on the Ingress map and choose New Portal, you are sending Google a little tiny piece of their stock in trade. That's not a bad thing, nor is it a conspiracy theory; it's just crowd-sourcing.

Exotic Matter (XM) is entering the world through portals. These portals are statues, monuments, porticos, churches, football stadiums, murals; any object of interest openly available to the public. The players are divided into factions: the Enlightened, and the Resistance. I chose to play on the side of the Resistance, because I don't want the world filled up with this Exotic Matter, whatever it is. I like the old world, the way it was before. You can defend a portal of your own, and you can attack a portal of the other faction and try to take it over. You must physically approach a portal to play it, you have to move in the real world to engage. The gameplay is deliciously complex, rich in rewards, inventory and powers. It's played out on Levels 1 to 8 and beyond. I heard of a Level 15 player the other day, a demi-god. There are frequent bulletins, videos posted on YouTube called the Ingress Report, and Ingress News. There are communities, both official and unofficial. There are around 7 million players worldwide.

So, why am I doing this? For the good of my health? At one level, yes. I need the exercise. But at another level, I am trying to understand the anatomy of an ARG. There's a whole new pedagogy here. It's constructionist, connectivist, and game-based. I have a strong feeling that students and their teachers should be doing this in some way. Designing, building and playing alternate reality games folded around curriculum. Just how I don't pretend to know yet. I'm looking for that now. That's why I'm at the lighthouse with my dog.

I’m keen to hear from any educator who is following a similar pathway, and may have experience of alternate reality or augmented reality games used in an educational context. I’d like to join any existing community, else I’ll start one and we can begin sharing!


Just as Niantic Labs is a start-up within Google, so is Stephen's project a start-up within CORE Education. Towards the end of last year CORE established their internal incubator. ARG-EF, The Alternate Reality Games in Education Framework, is one of the projects supported by the CORE Incubator, and is scheduled to deliver its first demonstration game in June of this year.



A glimpse of being young, gifted, and brown

Manu teaching Pasifika students

I have had a particular interest in gifted education for some time now, but I think it stems from personal experience as well. I thought I would take an autoethnographic approach to today’s blog post and show some highlights about how I have been raised, and how growing up in Aotearoa has contributed to being young, gifted, and brown. This, then, is my story…

Life as a gifted and talented Pasifika child at primary school

I vividly remember being in primary school and going through the SRA reading system—the colour coded reading comprehension programme that was widely recognised in schools in the mid 1980s. In my final year of primary school in West Auckland, we moved back to Central Auckland, but before that time I had already completed the final colour grade of the system, the coveted “Gold” grade.

My teacher placed me and other students who also completed this grade in what he termed the “Language” group — students who had high literacy levels. We were responsible for producing the school’s newspaper (the Glendene Gazette, if I remember correctly). We all had assigned roles and wrote poetry, short stories, drew animated cartoons, gave advice, and produced quizzes for students to complete. I hadn’t realised until later, that we were the same students that had been selected a few years before to be senior reading buddies for junior students who had just started to learn how to read.

It was within this group that I also experienced a few field trips that included visits to MoTAT (Museum of Transport and Technology), Microworld (a science and technology inspired museum), and even watching a high school debate at Auckland Girls’ Grammar School (which would later be my high school of choice based on this trip alone). In-school activities included exploring our interests and passions such as performing arts, visual arts, sports, and science. At this age I was an athlete — competing in the school triathlon as a runner. Track events became my forte: being in the first round of selection for the 4 x 100 relay, winning the 100m final for my age group, and competing with other schools was a common experience for me.

At intermediate school

I skipped my second year of intermediate school. My eldest brother advocated for me in a meeting with my principal to push for this. My parents had no real understanding about what was happening. I remember my brother arguing with my principal that I didn’t need to be in Form 2 as I was in the top three of the class and wasn’t learning anything. This was a lesson about advocacy and standing up for yourself. They were important lessons that I would carry with me well into adulthood.

Learning in the home

While this learning was happening at school, it complemented the learning that was happening at home. My parents impressed upon us at a very young age that we were not permitted to speak English in the home — that was the purpose of school — to speak all of the English that we wanted to our heart’s content — outside the home.

I didn’t fully appreciate their hard-line approach until adulthood. Being bilingual has opened many doors to opportunities that I would not have had without knowing how to speak my own language. Samoan language was the first language of the home. We were disciplined if we did not speak our mother tongue, and we attended a church every Sunday that reinforced our heritage language as the language of worship to our God. I think, because the mode of communication at church was Samoan, it in a way helped to elevate the status of my mother tongue into the stratosphere of the heavens where I could feel closer to God, because we worshipped him through song and Scripture in Samoan.

The focus of learning at home was about cultural protocols: the Samoan manners of how to walk, how to talk, how to sit, how to stand, how to respect your elders, how to listen, how to watch and learn. My brothers and I were very quick to be able to walk in both worlds — our home world and our school world. We became quite adept at it. In time, we became interpreters for our parents for more complex social situations. Such situations required us to not only translate English into Samoan, but to also think critically about the best pathways forward, particularly in matters that affected our family. Some have the idea that Pasifika peoples are not taught how to think critically in home contexts because we are taught to obey instruction from cultural standpoints. However, we develop our thinking in conjunction with our learning at school to be able to think critically from a different standpoint. We think critically and question critically to gain understanding and clarity — rather than to challenge the status quo for the sake of it.

At high school and tertiary education

In my first year of high school, I learned how to play the piano. By year 12 I was teaching piano to other young girls at my church. I attained a Grade 8 Trumpet practical certificate through the Trinity College London, and went on to complete a Bachelor of Music degree. Most recently, I completed a Master’s in Professional Studies in Education in 2013 about connecting gifted Pasifika students with their musical talent. This dissertation has been synthesised into an article that will be published in the forthcoming first edition of SET this year.

I am currently embarking on a PhD in Education in the School of Curriculum and Pedagogy, Faculty of Education, at the University of Auckland. The research focus is on Pasifika students’ perceptions of factors that contribute to success in NCEA.

Drivers in education for Pasifika children

It is fair to say that growing up in my household was like growing up in a boarding school, because learning was interweaved with the demands of daily living, with the demands of high expectations, and being the best reflection of the family. In Pasifika families, it matters where you come from. If something happens — good or bad — the first question that is asked is, “Whose child is that?” You would either incur the wrath of your parents or their absolute pride, based on your actions and deeds. This is still one of the great incentives for success: that Pasifika children engage in with their parents — we do what we do to make our parents proud.

I developed cultural identifiers for giftedness by canvassing Pasifika parents at the school I was teaching in, to ensure that notions of giftedness from Pasifika perspectives would be included in the school’s gifted and talented programme. As a result, there were some Pasifika learners who were identified as having both domains — being identified as gifted through cognitive models and the cultural identifiers for giftedness (Faaea-Semeatu, 2011).

Further reading:

For further reading and information about cultural identifiers for Pasifika giftedness you can read the following article that inspired my Master’s research. Coincidentally, this article has been adapted by the Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) PLD provision within the Te Toi Tupu Consortium, and is currently being used to identify gifted Pasifika students in Aotearoa:

Faaea-Semeatu, T. (2011). Celebrating Gifted Indigenous!Roots: Gifted and Talented Pacific Island (Pasifika) Students. Papers from the 11th Asia Pacific Conference on Giftedness, Sydney, 29 July–1 August 2010. Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented/Australian Government, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. Also available at AAEGT – Australian Association for the Education of the Gifted and Talented.

Podcasts about being young, gifted, and brown:


5 top tips for a safer internet

Safer Internet Day

CORE Education is delighted to be recognising international Safer Internet Day 2015 #SID2015, in support with NetSafe.

We present the following advice as starting points for early childhood, schools and kura who are planning ways to keep students safe online. Which of these is happening for your learners? Let us know on Twitter @coreeducation #SID2015.

Tip #1: 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 #2: Walk the talk

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.

Tip #3: Open the door on dialogue

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 our 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 they meet challenges.

Tip #4: Use the right tools

Use the tools that come with all devices and platforms to restrict or monitor our 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 to manage them.
  • Explore the use of Safe Search and student-friendly browsers.

Tip #5: Harness the power

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. Make it part of learning plans before you set out with your students.

  • 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

Download a poster of these tips (PDF, 1.2MB). See a copy of the poster at the end of this post.

Other resources

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

EdTalks on Cybersafety


  • 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.
  • 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.

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

Cybersafety on the CORE Education blog:


Keys to transformation

Keys to transformation

The beginning of the school year provides us with plenty of opportunity to consider bringing new ideas and fresh ways of doing things into our schools and classroom programmes. Such thinking is a sign of a healthy system, with change coming as a result of the desire to continuously improve what we are doing, and to ensure we are providing the very best we can for our students.

The need to keep to core values

Any change we consider making should start with considering how such changes might align with our core beliefs, the fundamental ideas we have about what is important for our school and our learners. This is particularly the case where the change being considered is going to have significant impact on staff, students, and the community – e.g. rebuilding all or part of the school, changing the configuration of classes, or introducing new forms of assessment for instance.

As our school system seeks to adapt to the rapidly changing social, economic, and political pressures, the changes being considered can often conflict with the core beliefs, values, and principles we have established, resulting in tensions at all levels and a lack of any real vision for what we are doing or why we are doing it.

Transformation is the new buzzword

In New Zealand, as in many parts of the world, there are calls for a transformation in our school system. A simple search for “NZ Education” and “Transformation” on the Web will reveal just how pervasively this term is now being used across a range of policy and programmes. Yet, do we really understand what transformation means in practice, and is that practice built upon our own set of beliefs about transformation, or are we simply adopting the practices suggested by others?

The argument for and justification of a transformation of our education system is certainly gaining momentum, but a clear articulation of what this will look like is still to emerge, leaving many of the initiatives appearing to be nothing more than simply “different” to what they were.

What transformation really means

At the heart of this transformation is the shift from the school as the focus of education policy, to making the learner the focus of all educational decision-making, with a concerted effort to personalize the learning experience for each learner. Where previously many of our practices reflected an assumption that students start school as a ‘blank slate’ with an innate and fixed capacity to learn, a transformed system develops practices that build on prior learning and reflect a belief in the potential for all students to learn and achieve high standards, given high expectations, motivation and sufficient time and support. Placing the learner at the centre not only makes them the focus of attention in terms of policy and planning, but also involves them in the decisions made about these things. These thoughts are expanded on in CORE’s Ten Trends on Learner Orientation.

The three keys to unlocking transformation potential in our schools

Having established the fundamental premise of placing the learner at the centre of our thinking, there are three keys to unlocking the transformation potential in our schools. These three things define what is fundamentally different about teaching and learning in the 21st century, and help us understand the areas we need to focus on changing in our practice.

First, we must empower our learners by providing them with choices and the ability to act on those choices. This is the key of agency where learners have the ‘power to act’. Agency isn’t about abandoning our role as teachers and leaving everything to the learner, but recognises the learner as an empowered and active participant at all levels of the educational process. It requires us to re-think how we engage with learners and the role we take as teachers, and it requires an emphasis on a different set of competencies that will ensure our learners are able to make good and appropriate choices and act on them in their learning.

Second, we must acknowledge that learning is not confined to the four walls of a classroom, nor finishes at the school gate, but can and does occur anywhere, at any time and at any pace. This is the key of ubiquity, challenging us to find ways of embracing the wide range of contexts in which learning occurs, and to see our schools as ‘nodes’ on the network of learning provision. The increasing availability and use of digital technologies is enabling this to occur more easily, for example, learners are able to access what they are learning and doing at school from home or elsewhere, and they are able to access programmes of learning from other places, not depending purely on what is provided in their local school context.

Thirdly, we must embrace the idea that learning involves the process of knowledge building, and that this is no longer regarded as an individual endeavor, but occurs as individuals interact with each other, contributing, shaping and refining ideas so that the new knowledge is created ‘in the network’ of connections made. This is the key of connectedness, recognizing that ‘no learner is an island’, and that the connections between and among human beings is fundamental to learning in the 21st century. Again, the increased availability and use of digital technologies means that there is now no limit to how and where these connections are made. This is particularly significant in an increasingly globalised world.

Ready to make this the year of transformation?

Applied properly, these keys will require some fundamental shifts in our thinking as educators. They cannot be used in an ‘additive’ way, simply creating another layer to what we already do. Beginning by placing the learner at the centre of what we do, we have the opportunity to truly transform our education system, starting with what happens in our schools and classrooms. What better time to capture this sort of thinking and let it guide our actions than the beginning of a new school year? Let’s make 2015 the year of transformation!


Holiday reading and viewing

Well, what a year!  Teaching, while enormously rewarding, is an exacting profession!

You’ll be looking forward to a break. Turn the computer off, lock away the phone, take some deep breaths, and relax. It’s time to allow the mind and body to be refreshed.

You know when you’re refreshed: you start thinking about the things that excite you again; you feel energised; you want to get cracking! You want to grasp the bigger picture, to get the creative juices flowing, to be inspired, to plan. Well, here’s a few ideas from CORE staff that just may provide some of that stimulus. There’s both fiction and non-fiction, heavier as well as light. We have placed them under the main categories for our blog, and provided, and a variety of mediums: books, websites, videos, podcasts. There’s something for everyone.

The list



How to come up with good ideas— Ewan McIntosh

This book will help you achieve ambitious visions for learning through swift innovation.

Ewan is well known to many as an educational leader, ULearn keynoter and thought leader. His company Notosh recently hosted the Google Certified Teacher Academy in Sydney. This book outlines his philosophy behind design thinking.

Get it from the Notosh website
Get it from iTunes store

Reviewer: Allanah King

And another review:

How can students, teachers and school leaders in the education world innovate, share and build on new ideas, taking them out of individual classrooms to have a wider impact?

Connected Educator Month review:

Reviewer: Karen Melhuish Spencer

Get it from the Notosh website
Get it from iTunes store


House Rules — Jodi Picoult

Nineteen Minutes — Jodi Picoult

Two oldies but goodies that take you into the world and heads of the the student who doesn’t  fit into the social infrastructure of school or society.

A combo of delightful switch off reading-for-pleasure holiday reads  with a  central protagonist in each that really got me thinking about the backstory of students who just don’t fit in.

Reviewer: Paula Eskett


Key Competencies for the Future – Hipkins et al (2014), NZCER

A timely focus on how the NZ Curriculum — and the Key Competencies in particular — offer a vehicle to design learning around “wicked problems” and real world learning. CORE featured this book, with NZCER, as part of Connected Educator Month. The discussions are still open for you to join.

This book offers a starting point for any school looking for a pragmatic way forward in the rethinking of student-centred, relevant learning programmes.

Reviewer: Karen Melhuish Spencer


Becoming a High Expectation Teacher. Raising the Bar — Christine Rubie-Davies (2014)

This book offers practical advice on how teachers can have high expectations for their students. It explores three key areas that high expectation teachers enact differently: the way they group students for learning, the way they create a caring classroom community, and the way they use goal setting to motivate students.

This book is inspirational and has the potential to transform teaching and learning — it is an easy read, and provides examples and practical guidelines to help lift teachers’ expectations — love the New Zealand context … every  teacher, and everyone who works with teachers, should put it on their reading list!

Reviewer: Adele O’Leary


Program or be programmed —Douglas Rushkoff

The debate over whether the Net is good or bad for us fills the airwaves and the blogosphere. But for all the heat of claim and counter-claim, the argument is essentially beside the point: it’s here; it’s everywhere. The real question is, do we direct technology, or do we let ourselves be directed by it and those who have mastered it? “Choose the former,” writes Rushkoff, “and you gain access to the control panel of civilization. Choose the latter, and it could be the last real choice you get to make.” In ten chapters, composed of ten “commands” accompanied by original illustrations from comic artist Leland Purvis, Rushkoff provides cyberenthusiasts and technophobes alike with the guidelines to navigate this new universe.

Rushkoff investigates why programming is the new literacy of the digital age. An interesting read highlighting the importance of understanding programming.

Get it from Rushkoff's website.

Reviewer: Tara Fagan



Preparing for a Renaissance in Assesssment — Peter Hill and Michael Barber

“We are about to see big changes in the possibilities of assessment as a result of technology” writes Barber. “Current assessment systems around the world are deeply wedded to traditional testing and exams and, some might argue, are holding us back from potential reforms” This highly readable, though meaty article, argues that current assessment methods are no longer working, so that even the top performing education systems in the world have hit a performance ceiling. The authors set out a ‘Framework for Action’ for school leaders to prepare for the “assessment renaissance”

Available as free pdf online from Pearson

Reviewer: Liz Stevenson



Hour of Code

Spend an hour of the holidays learning some basic coding. This website will show you how as well as why coding is so important.

Reviewer: Tara Fagan



How to escape Education’s Death Valley — Ken Robinson

You can access the Interactive Transcript.

This video features Ken Robinson, who outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish — and how current education culture tends to work against them.

The description on the site reads: "Sir Ken Robinson outlines 3 principles crucial for the human mind to flourish — and how current education culture works against them. In a funny, stirring talk he tells us how to get out of the educational "death valley" we now face, and how to nurture our youngest generations with a climate of possibility."

Ken Robinson, as well as being an entertaining speaker, has some leading ideas that feed into approaches such as Modern Learning Environments and Practices, and Universal Design for Learning.

Reviewer: Hazel Owen


Vital to education: Non-cognitive skills

Awareness of the importance of affective factors on cognitive abilities has been long-known, but this podcast focuses on "studies that show how poverty-related stress can affect brain development, and inhibit the development of non-cognitive skills".

The implications for curriculum design, facilitation and support of students of all ages, as well as assessment practices are huge.

Reviewer: Hazel Owen


The Moth

Since its launch in 1997, The Moth has presented thousands of true stories, told live and without notes, to standing-room-only crowds worldwide.

True stories told live — what’s not to love? I like to think of them as ‘camp fire stories’.

An electic mix but 9/10 stories I love. This was one of the podcasts recommended to me by many people.

Reviewer: Rochelle Savage


This American Life

This American Life is a weekly public radio show broadcast on more than 500 stations to about 2.2 million listeners. It is also often the most popular podcast in the country, with around one million people downloading each week.

This was probably the most recomended podcast by friends — apologies if you’re familiar but I think it’s a great start to listening to podcasts for pleasure.

Reviewer: Rochelle Savage


Early Years


Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years:  Tools for Teaching and Learning — Chip Donohue

Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years is a thought-provoking guide to effective, appropriate, and intentional use of technology with young children. This book provides strategies, theoretical frameworks, links to research evidence, descriptions of best practice, and resources to develop essential digital literacy knowledge, skills and experiences for early childhood educators in the digital age.’

Provides current thinking around using digital technologies to support young children’s learning. A good read that prompts reflection on how we use digital tools.

Amazon Link

Reviewer:Tara Fagan



Yay to play

A video featuring Nathan Mikaere-Wallis and Miriam McCaleb who are child educators, presenters and Brainwave Trust educators talk of the joy and importance of play — for children and for adults.

Engaging presenters who have the pedagogical backing but also have hands on experience with their own children and others.

Reviewer: Rochelle Savage



Leadership in ECE: Q1 and the proverb explained

Ruta and Lima, experienced Early Learning Facilitators, explain the proverb — “Ia su’i tonu le mata o le niu” which means to pierce the right eye of the coconut. The proverb describes the notion of leadership — to go about an undertaking in the proper way — leading the right way. Q1 of this series.

Due to the vast growth of Pasifika families and children attending ece services in both mainstream and Pasifika services the Ministry is interested in developing Pasifika leadership pedagogies to ensure that teachers and leaders who are working with Pasifika families/fanau and communities are demonstrating an understanding of  Pasifika theories and practice in their services. The Pasifika Education Plan puts Pasifika learners, families and communities at the centre, so that all activities are responding to the identities, languages and cultures of each Pasifika group.

Reviewer: Rochelle Savage


Emerging Technologies


It’s Complicated: The social lives of networked teens – by danah boyd

This book explores issues related to identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying, as faced byyoung people online.

This is a timely reminder that, contrary to popular media, networked spaces function at the heart of many young people’s identities and sense of connectedness to those around them. boyd presents a person-centred view of society and offers an informed take on how we might alter our view and support them to become confident and independent in a networked world.

Reviewer: Karen Melhuish Spencer



CORE colleagues John Fenaughty and Chrissie Butler discuss changes in understandings of bullying and cyberbullying and explore how schools can take a more inclusive approach to supporting the wellbeing of all students.

To quote John and Chrissie: As 1:1 technologies and BYOD become more prevalent in schools, evaluating school-wide approaches to support students’ wellbeing becomes imperative and a wonderful opportunity to enhance inclusive practice.

This podcast also features other resources on the page.

Reviewer: Karen Melhuish Spencer



This will revolutionise education

Many technologies have promised to revolutionize education, but so far none has. With that in mind, this video asks: what could revolutionize education?

An engaging, lighthearted and informed overview of the ‘big picture’ around the evolution of technologies and the hype that can surround their use. This would be a good ‘spark’ to prompt staff discussion.

Reviewer: Karen Melhuish Spencer


Kaupapa Māori


Tiketike Ngahuru, Hakahaka Raumati — Teanau Tuiono

A Māori medium resource on traditional seasonal calendars and how they are used to plan planting and harvesting

If you are interested in how some communities continue to use the environment to plan and organise their lives. It is written in Māori.

Reviewer: Teanau Tuiono



100 % success in language learning/embrace your dickness — Nichole Gully, Tahu Paki

Nichole Gully and Tahu Paki discuss their top tips for second language success? The most important? Embrace your dickness.

As someone who normally loves to give things a go but struggles with languages, I think of Nichole’s advice when I feel nervous about giving it a go. This podcast is entertaining — Nichole and Tahu are excellent — but filled with practical examples from real life.Very relatable.

Reviewer: Rochelle Savage



Māori History

Introducing Te Takanga o te Wā — Teaching Māori History Guidelins for Teachers Years 1-4. Reo Māori and English langugae versions

Teaching of Māori history is a new learning focus closely related to tikanga ā-iwi and social studies. The website is bilingual and caters for the needs of all kura and schools with students at this level.

Reviewer: Deanne Thomas


Pasifika Education


Raising Aotearoa: The Emerging Realities Of Multiple Diversities – Shannon – Part 1

Providing a parent’s perspective on the identities, languages, cultures of their children who are of Māori and Pasifika descent. Highlighting the challenges of navigating Māori and Pasifika learners on their educational journeys by focusing on who they are and how they articulate their values.

An excellent insight from a parent:
'Teachers of kids like mine need to learn to  understand their worlds, talk to their parents and whānau and think about how their cultures, languages and identities shape the individuals they are — every child comes from a different background and this can inform their learning in the classroom.' Shannon — parent of two Pasifika children.

Reviewer: Rochelle Savage


Ten Trends


What’s next in 3D printing?  [TED]

Just like his beloved grandfather, Avi Reichental is a maker of things. The difference is, now he can use 3D printers to make almost anything, out of almost any material. Reichental tours us through the possibilities of 3D printing, for everything from printed candy to highly custom sneakers.

For anyone interested in makerspaces and hands-on innovation, this video will be an engaging exploration into how 3D printing will become an integral part of design processes. Reichental argues that it will connect us with our heritage and our culture around us.

Reviewer: Karen Melhuish Spencer



#EdBookNZ — Various

Produced as a collaborative effort during Connected Educator Month, this e-book, in English and te reo Māori, explores how digital views in education are changing.

Dip in and out of short chapters on digital communities, connected learning, iPads and digital citizenship, to name a few. With an impressive team of educators — and a front cover and forward from Pam Hook — this is also a model of what can be achieved through collaborative action online. A trend in action.

Reviewer: Karen Melhuish Spencer


Reality is Broken: Why games make us better and how they can change the world — Jane McGonigal
Kindle version

Written for gamers and non-gamers alike, Reality is Broken sends a clear and provocative message: the future will belong to those who can understand, design and play games.

The two main take-aways from this book have changed the way I do my work: many small and meaningful challenges and real time feedback is the key; by turning your world into a game you can hack life itself. Don’t read this book unless you’re prepared to buy into its premise.

Reviewer: Stephen Lowe



Jane McGonigal on alternate-reality gaming

In this 20-minute video presentation explains how alternate reality games can alter an individual’s reality for the better in a technique dubbed reality-hacking.

Jane McGonigal is extraordinary in her vision and in her accomplishments. Her work heralds a brave new world in which we are truly masters of our own destiny; in educational terms both empowering and agentic, she gives us tools for life.

Reviewer: Stephen Lowe



Six to Start

Six to Start create award-winning games that combine the digital and physical world. Zombies, Run! and The Walk use smartphone sensors to create immersive and motivating gaming experiences in the real world.

Don’t just transform your classroom, totally transcend it! Make your immediate locality your classroom. Walk, run, play and learn. The future of personal computing is unarguably both personal and mobile. Six to Start are leaders.

Reviewer: Stephen Lowe


Universal Design for Learning


Universal Design for Learning: theory and practice — Anne Meyer, David H Rose, David Gordon

This book is the print version of the CAST website, and the two complement each other. Sometimes it’s easier to sit with a book than stare at a screen.

It’s my opinion that there’s a lot wrong in this book. But they say you have to learn the rules before you can start breaking them. It is good to read the standard text, before your move on (through conversation with Chrissie Butler, for example) towards deeper understandings.

Reviewer: Stephen Lowe



UDL – Universal Design for Learning — 101; the 3 principles explained, part 1 of 4 — Chrissie Butler, Stephen Lowe

Using analogies of food and sport, Chrissie Butler — CORE Education's UDL [Universal Design for Learning] specialist — talks to Learning Designer Stephen Lowe about the three principles of UDL: 'Working out what people need (to learn) and the smartest way to make it'

An excellent place to start for those who wish to learn more about Universal Design for Learning. An engaging conversation between CORE’s UDL expert Chrissie Butler and Instructional Designer Stephen Lowe.

The podcast page also has links to other options of finding out more about UDL.

Reviewer: Rochelle Savage


Modern learning


The Mary Idema Pew Library

“What works to prepare a student to be successful in their classes, with the kind of skills they have to use is not that different from the skills they’re going to need when the leave school & go into the workplace”.
In just over 4 mins see what the combo of great service & space design in a MLLE (Modern Library Learning Environment) can do.
How would this library environment support MLP?

An excellent clip to challenge the perception of traditional library design and shift the expectation of service and space from transactional to transformational.

Reviewer: Paula Eskett



How approaches to managing change in schools are evolving — Karen Melhuish Spencer, Mark Osborne

A discussion exploring how modern trends in learning design and technology, combined with understandings about adult learning, are driving the development of new models for leading change in schools

An engaging and practical discussion between Karen Melhuish Spencer and Mark Obsborne on the only contant: change and how to manage it.

Reviewer: Rochelle Savage


My reflection on the Light the Fire meetings

Light my Fire event

The end of the year — as well as throughout — is a time for contemplative reflection on the impact of our choices and deliberate actions. We do this to see whether we have made a difference or not in the work that we do, either in the classroom, as leaders of others, as a parent or as a member of a community. Years can and do roll by, but experience doesn’t necessarily correlate to improved effectiveness if we do not stop and critically reflect on where we have put our time and energy.

For me, this year was about trialling something different — that didn’t require me ‘to wait for someone to ask me’. It was not about the impact that I can make, but about the impact we can make. It all came about from a cup of coffee (not tea) with a friend who just happens to be a revolutionist (Michelle Johansson). The concept ignited the passion of our lovely Fuatino Leaupepe-Taula, who joined us, and thus formed the committee!

Without a doubt there are pockets of excellence within every school and community, and there are people putting endless amounts of energy into supporting groups of students for whom our system does not adequately provide. For us, that group is our Pasifika students and community. They are our aunties, uncles, cousins, grandparents, our children, our āiga. However, it is not about exclusion but about inclusion. A community that values diversity is one that thrives.

Light the Fire is about people meeting to CELEBRATE successes of our Pasifika people. It is about rejecting deficit theorising — failure is not an option, and valuing Pacific values of service, humility, alofa, humour, respect, academic excellence, and leadership.

This inaugural year of Light the Fire has been highly successful with schools opening their doors to host.*

To give an idea of what we have don, we had four guest speakers this year:
Term 1- Emilie Sila’ila’i, DP at Konini school, inspired us to set not challenging goals but outrageous goals; linked to research from Eric Jensen (Teaching with Poverty in Mind) and John Hattie. A blog of Emilie’s work is on the University of Auckland’s website: Carlos and his outrageous goals.
Term 2 – I provided the five key findings from ERO’S 2013 report: Making Connections for Pasifika success, to align with a case study that I was involved with.
Term 3 – Alfriston College’s new Fijian principal, Robert Solomone introduced his students; from different Pacific nations reflecting on their successes, barriers and aspirations. The values that were epitomised with each story were also complemented by each individual’s culture and identity. A real tear jerker!
Term 4 – The Principal of Rowandale school, Karl Vasau shared his leadership journey with humility and humour.

Each meeting started at 4pm: 30 minutes guest speaker, 30 minutes networking.

Pacific people don’t want to be a problem to be solved, we want to share with you our values and build a collective agency around valuing an individual’s culture, language, and identity. We want this reflected in your curriculum and your pedagogy because what works for Pasifika will work for all, but what works for all doesn’t necessarily work for Pasifika.

So Community, let us hear from you! If you came to a Light the Fire meeting, can you share with us your reflections? Did it ignite a passion for something different in your school? I know another Light the Fire meeting is starting down in Wellington — anywhere else? It would be really great if you could spare a minute and reflect with our community — it might just be the bit of inspiration someone else needs today.


* We would like to thank De La Salle College for Boys, Manurewa High School, Alfriston College and Rowandale Primary School for providing food and a venue, and hosting us with such grace and generosity.


Guest blogger:


Walking in others’ shoes – Now I understand

Pasifika cultural journey

My recent facilitation experiences with the early years team has involved supporting teachers in exploring, understanding, and become confident in using the Pasifika Education Plan, 2013 – 2017 (PEP). Their aim is, of course, to increase successful learning, and strengthen participation in ECE of Pasifika families within their communities.

Real-life professional learning in Pasifika culture: PEP in practice

In August, my husband I had the privilege of travelling with my CORE colleagues, Ruta McKenzie, Justine Mason and her husband to Samoa. This experience was intended as a holiday, yet it served as the most meaningful professional learning opportunity I have ever engaged in. For two weeks we lived with Ruta’s family in their homes within their villages.
Ruta has described in a previous blog post how her experience of moving from Samoa to a different — Palangi — world impacted on her deeply. I, too, felt the impact of the differences in moving into her world and her ways of knowing, being, and doing. From the moment we stepped off the plane I saw signs and notices that I couldn’t read, smells I couldn’t recognise, processes through customs where I wasn’t sure how to respond, and so on. I was extremely thankful that Ruta was there to help clarify many of these uncertainties. I decided to use this experience to discover for myself what the Pasifika cultural values, identified in the PEP, look like in practice.

Interaction with strangers; treated like honoured guests

I watched Ruta as we walked around the markets in Apia, and saw how she moved to sit amongst the people waiting for the buses and converse with them in her own language. She purchased food, which I didn’t recognise, from the young person selling it on the street, giving some to a woman beside her, whom she didn’t know. I reflected on this action and realised that I would not have even considered doing that, as in my culture, I am unlikely to talk to a stranger at the bus stop let alone buy food to give it to her. I pondered over this as Ruta was obviously feeling that true sense of belonging as she re-engaged in her familiar language and community life.

When we arrived at Ruta’s family home, we immediately felt the high value placed on family togetherness and love. We were welcomed as guests: we were served our food first as part of the respectful practices within the culture. The family ate after us. The children and younger adults showed profound respect for their elders, and undertook household tasks so unquestionably. They supported each other in ‘dance-like’ fashion, where everyone knew their role and worked alongside each other for this to be a smooth loving, giving, and caring process, where there seemed to be no particular leader.

Special occasions reveal respectful leadership practices and traditions

During our time in Samoa, Ruta’s family were involved in a family funeral. We had the opportunity to experience the deep respectful and spiritual practices around giving and receiving of food, fine mats and money from extended Aiga in the villages. The decision-making and respectful leadership practices demonstrated throughout the three-day funeral ceremony were clearly extremely important, and needed to be performed in the correct way. The place of commitment to family and their spiritual beliefs in this process was very evident.

We felt and observed an enormous sense of respect, spirituality, inclusion, and service when our husbands were involved in the Father’s Day celebration in the Church. Our involvement in preparing for this special occasion was indeed a privilege as we created the 20 or so ula, made from sweets, for presenting to the fathers at the service the following day. Daily Lotu times and caregiving routines with each other were served in a loving, caring, responsive, and respectful manner.

How can these things benefit us here in New Zealand?

Throughout these experiences I considered how early childhood services in New Zealand can recognise and implement these values through their every-day curriculum practices, policies, and procedures.

It helped me to identify areas such as the enrollment, welcoming, and participation procedures, sleeping practices, preparation and provision of recognisable kai, use of familiar languages, identifiable features within the learning environments, and the availability of cultural artifacts, stories, and songs for children to engage with during their daily play experiences, are key factors that can impact on successful learning for Pasifika children and their families.
Ruta was our guide in exploring what was an unknown world to us. It is clear to me that our teachers are the guides for Pasifika students in New Zealand to assist them in navigating what is essentially an unknown world to them. When teachers understand the significance of the Pasifika cultural values, and how these are embedded in children’s daily experiences and family aspirations, they can better support the Pasifika families to connect with, become engaged, and participate in ECE.

Pasifika Culture – Glenda Albon from CORE Education on Vimeo.


How important is pronunciation anyway? How hard is it really?

Ask most Māori and they will have their own personal story to follow the answer to the question, ‘how important is pronunciation anyway’? The ones with a lingering sting often relate to names of people and places precious to them. They can tell you who, where, and what happened blow by blow with the lasting, albeit unintended impact, when a name or word is repeatedly mispronounced.

Speech bubbles-blue

Pronunciation is a hard one to talk about. Focus on it too much and people can feel offended, affronted, and be put off even trying. Don’t focus on it and the status quo reigns. Watching my son live with a Māori name on a daily basis leads me to spend a little time shining some light on the topic, to share a story or two, and some tips for the kete.

My Story

My story starts with me, Nichole Catherine Gully, a good Pākehā name given to me by my plump Pākehā mum, from Porirua. Although renowned in many an East Coast wharekai for her perfect pavs, my mama bear was not one for reo, never learned it, and she had many a reason to avoid learning to pronounce things in Māori. My sisters and I would constantly cringe and correct to no avail.

speech bubbles pink

….and then DUN DUN!!!… her mokopuna were born.

Manukorihi Mia Arita Wilson, John Kanuta Rewiri, Wiremu Michael Rewiri, and my boy, Tanirau Tahurākau Inia… and she HAD to learn to say their names. Boy did things change like the Pantene advert promised. On their arrival, she finally got why it was important and went about working out how she was going to make it work for her. Choosing avoidance and reasons was no longer an option. Some of these strategies are shared below.

Māori words

How hard is it?

So let’s unpack some of Mama Thelma’s reasons, because she does make some valid points. Learning a language is hard work; getting your ear tuned in and tongue twisted around new words is not easy. The research argues that there is a critical period in language learning, and although a second language can successfully be learned as an adult (not just as a kid), developing a native-like accent is often NOT achievable. However, improving accent is VERY possible. This is especially true in Māori, as most of the sounds are also present in English; it’s all about cracking the code and matching up the puzzle pieces like the following examples:

Today is Tūrei, the number two day is Tūrei
Dead eel mouldy

Kōrero Māori

Many errors in pronunciation are made because people read Māori words with their English reading glasses (coding). The first example, Tūrei, sounds similar to the English ‘Two day’, and ‘te reo Māori’ to, ‘Dead eel mouldy’. The same letters, but the codes are quite different. Some letters make different sounds, like wh, r, t, ng, as do the vowels and vowel blends. And if that wasn’t enough, how we break up syllable sounds in a word is also not the same.  So much to remember!!!  It’s all about tips, tricks, time you commit, but most of all knowing for yourself why giving it a good crack is important.

Some tips and tricks.

There are loads of websites, apps, and books that have pronunciation guides and tips like Kōrero Māori.  Below are some of the tried and true top tips I have used and shared.

speech bubbles

I don’t make mistakes. My hypotheses merely require reformulation.

The inter-language continuum (my favourite second-language acquisition theory) taught me as a language learner and a self-professed perfectionist, that I NEVER make language mistakes. What a weight that lifted! Instead, on the language-learning journey we make and test language hypotheses. Some are spot on, others need reviewing and resetting so we right-shift along the continuum from newbie to being in closer proximity to a native-like speaker.

Inter-language continuum

inter-language keys

There are two groups who live on the continuum. The right-shift travellers are the Wants to, Tries to, who just do it, then there are the Can’ts, Won’ts who don’t. They have set up camp and aren’t ready to shift yet, and may not. The continuum gave me the power and permission to give everything a crack without all the pressure of getting it WRONG. When I owned that, right-shifting was smoother. I now gift this to you, if you don’t already own one — and here is a spare one to share with a friend. Choose to do with it, what you will.

Moral of the story is Mama Thelma found bigger reasons WHY, to over shadow the WHY NOTS, and sniffed out strategies that worked for her. She’s nudging right on the continuum, and in our whānau Manukorihi Mia Arita Wilson, John Kanuta Rewiri, Wiremu Michael Rewiri and Tanirau Tahurākau Inia know their plump, Pākehā nan from Porirua wants to, tries to, and does say their names with all the love and respect they deserve.

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