The art of switching off: Surviving in a digitally demanding world

The art of switching off: Surviving in a digitally demanding world

Switch it off!

I have realised I am spending too much time DOING and too little time REFLECTING; not enough sitting still and looking back on what has happened, and using this to look forward to where I am going and the possibilities ahead.


I love the challenges of my job, the opportunities for learning and working collaboratively, and appreciate the flexibility of working online. Much of my online work is done from home, and the days when it is wet and cold and miserable and I can curl up on the couch and work from there are precious. BUT, working online and from home has its own challenges.

The ability to work from anywhere, anytime brings with it the temptation to work everywhere, all the time.

I have been reflecting on my own professional journey as well as on the bigger picture of my life.

I had the opportunity to listen to Brendan Spillane keynote at the NZLA conference in Tauranga.

His keynote was on The school as CAMPFIRE
Teaching social literacy in an 'Ice Age of the human heart'

Brendan questioned, "What does it still mean to be 'social'? Will schools continue to be places where the people come together face to face? And, if they do, what will be the social literacy necessary for this negotiated shared space? Who will teach it?" “How do we teach our young people to regulate the demands of a digital lifestyle, carving out lives of meaning and authentic connectedness from the white knuckle ride that is our contemporary experience.”

I took a really hard look at myself as a result of this keynote, thinking about me and my colleagues, and how we regulate the demands of a digital lifestyle, making sure we are living lives of meaning with authentic connections, and how can we avoid burning ourselves out.

“The way we’re working isn’t working. In a fast-paced world, increasing numbers of people are feeling exhausted, overwhelmed, and disengaged.”  

- Mindful Leadership Global Forum

The temptation to be "connected educators" online 24/7 makes for an awfully long work-week and little time for reflection, let alone family and friends.

Brendan talked about, "the quaint notion of leaving work and going home", and how this is no longer relevant in a world where so many of us carry our work around with us on laptops and mobile devices. To be life literate, says Brendan, we need to have sources of calm. Respites from the busy-ness of life, time to rest, recharge, and relax.

So how do we go about obtaining sources of calm in our busy lives?

We need to find the things that bring us JOY, and make time for more of these in our lives.
Real JOY — that deep sense of calm and satisfaction we get, that feeling that all is right in the world. We should look for opportunities to do more of what makes us happy – make possible the still time in our work and in our play.

Joy can come in all sizes and shapes, and is highly individual. What is joyful for me may well not be joyful for you. What brings YOU joy?

It's important to know that taking time to have JOY in our lives is not selfish. We do this for others too, it helps us to be life literate, to have the energy to be supportive parents, partners, and colleagues, and we need to make time to do this now.

Giving joy is just as important as receiving it, and we are lucky in our teaching and facilitation roles that there are many opportunities to give joy as we share in the learning journeys, celebrate successes, and interact with other passionate educators.

What is your purpose in your work, in the rest of your life?
Are you prioritising your day to ensure the majority of your activity is directly related to your goals? Or are you getting caught up in email shuffling or flitting from task to task. It is important to have a clear purpose in order to achieve high performance in all aspects of life.

If we take the time to streamline our working day to ensure our workflow matches our purpose then we are more likely to be high performing.
The same goes for our personal time; it’s important we allocate time to pursuing our personal goals.

purpose and priorities = performance

If you care about something – never do it with other things – Jim Loehr

To be everywhere is to be nowhere – Seneca

If something or someone is important, then rest your full attention on it, don't do it with other things, don't try to do two (or six) things at once.

So if, as Brendan says,
"The school is as campfire, a place to come and learn to be successfully socially literate,
then surely it is our job as educators to work on our own social literacy in order that we model this for our students, our colleagues and our communities.

SO, what am I proposing?

Just because I can work 24/7, doesn't mean I should.

Taking more time out for the JOYFUL things in my life — be that a glossy magazine, watching my kids play sport, spending time with friends, crocheting curled up on the couch and not being tempted to stop mid-article, mid-game, mid-stitch to check on emails or twitter streams.

Not working less, rather, making sure there is a clear space between my work and the rest of my life, and ensuring that when I am working, I am focused solely on the work in order to be more productive, more effective, more attentive to those I am working with. When I close my laptop I will “leave work”, and not be tempted to check emails while stirring dinner, ring someone while picking my kids up from school or sports practice, or sneak in a few hours work while pretending to enjoy family movie time.

Will this make me a better employee, colleague, mother, wife, friend? I sure hope so.

Food for thought for others, too, perhaps.

What are your own thoughts and experiences?


He ako ā-nuku, he ako ā-rangi, he hua ki te tangata e! (October, November!  Teachings of the earth and sky, beneficial to mankind!)

He ako ā-nuku, he ako ā-rangi, he hua ki te tangata e!

nā Hohepa Isaac-Sharland

English version

Tihei Mauri Ora!

Ka rere ake rā ngā kupu tangi ki a koutou e ngā mate tuatini kua whetūrangihia, tiaho mai rā i te poho o Ranginui hei kanohi arataki, hei mata tauira i te ara takahi mā te hunga e mahue mai nei ki muri. Koutou rā ki a koutou, kāti, e tātou mā, e ngā kaipupuri i te mauri o te ora, tēnā tātou katoa!

Hei kupu tuatahi māku, ehara ahau i te tohunga ki te reo, ki ngā kōrero o rātou mā, nā reira he wānanga ēnei kōrero āku e takahuri haere nei i te hinengaro, ka whakatakoto ki te pepa.  Ka rua, ko tōku reo Māori hei reo tuarua mōku.  Kāore ahau i tipu i tētahi kāinga kōrero Māori, nā reira, kei a koutou te tikanga he aha rā hei kapo atu māu, hei porowhiu rānei, ko te tumanako ia, he hua kei roto.

Whiringa-ā-nuku, Whiringa-ā-rangi e!
He ako ā-nuku, he ako ā-rangi, he hua ki te tangata e!
ngahere - forest
He aha ētahi o āna kōrero, he aha ētahi o ōna tohu hei arahi i te ako?

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Ten Trends 2014: Gamification

Trend 9: Gamification

CORE's Ten Trends for 2014 have been published. This post considers the ninth of these trends: Gamification. We publish posts on one of the trends approximately each month. You are encouraged to comment or provide supporting links.


Gamification is the name given to the process of developing motivation and engagement by rewarding people with things that they want, and it often takes the form of points, acknowledgement of achievement, badges, prizes, and so on. You complete certain milestones and you are rewarded with something you want, something that is meaningful and engaging to you. The rise of computer gaming culture has meant that more and more research has gone into finding out what features make games so addictive for some people. The trend of gamification is really about how to reward, motivate, and engage people in learning.

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Modern Learning Pedagogy + Modern Pasifika Learners = 21st Century Pasifika learners raising a village

fale society values

An old Samoan proverb still relates to current education changes from the past to the modern and the future of our Pasifika learners:

“ E tumau le fa’avae, ae fesuia’i le faiga”
(the foundations remain the same, but the ways of doing it change).

A Samoan fale is a home, a community, church, and a safe environment that provides a sense of belonging, leadership, and spirituality. From this structure, then, the Samoan fale serves, for example, respect, reciprocity, and inclusive values. Without a strong foundation, the community will not function morally and inclusively.

If a modern learning environment/modern learning pedagogy  (MLE/MLP) acknowledges some of these values as part of the school culture and pedagogy, then the foundation for engagement and learning for our Pasifika learners, parents, families, and community will lead to a successful environment.

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11 ways to grow great readers: a parent’s perspective

How do we get our children reading?

Why 11 you may ask? A nod to a favourite movie — Spinal Tap — if 10 is good, then 11 is even better; that’s the theory. I think the easiest way for a child to enjoy education and develop a thirst for learning is creating a love of reading. Children who read a lot, expand their vocabulary, pick up a range of knowledge, and generally do better at school. But best of all, it’s fun — the thrill of having a good book to escape into is magical. But how do you encourage a love of reading? Like most things to do with children — sleeping, eating etc., — there is no magic one-size-fits-all solution to encourage reading. This is my perspective as a parent with what has worked for our family — I have two sons aged 7 and 9 — and I would love to hear ideas of what has worked for your family or students.

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Modern Learning Environments: Flexible or Purposeful?

Purposeful Learning Settings

Purposeful Learning Settings

In the modern learning environment world, sometimes we use the f-word: flexible.
There is quite a bit of debate over whether an environment should be flexible (and able to be re-purposed into any configuration when needed) or purposeful (with clearly defined ‘learning settings’ that support particular activities). Both have their merits, but what’s the difference, and which is right for us?

As always with modern learning environments (or practice) a great place to start is with your values and beliefs about learning.

“It's not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are”
– Roy Disney

When planning changes to your physical environment (or even buying new furniture), it’s important, as a community, to talk about what good learning looks like. A great way to do this is to have people talk about their theories of learning and what sits behind those theories: “I believe powerful learning happens when learners are active rather than passive”, or, “Student ownership of the learning process leads to powerful learning.” The unpacking of these theories to explore whether they are based on research, hunches, student voice, or personal experience is a powerful way for staff to begin to make decisions about physical learning environments.

Once these conversations have taken place (and are set up to continue to take place), a school or centre can best determine whether flexible (the f-word) or purposeful learning settings are best. Here are some case studies for each:

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Making connections with ICT

Making connections with ICT

I was thinking the other day about a discussion I had with my lecturer at teachers’ college about aspects of culture. I can’t remember exactly what context it was in, but I recall at the time saying that I felt I had no real culture. This is now in contrast to today, where I feel a great sense of connection to my culture, or at least a connection to what it means for me to be a “Kiwi”, raising a family in this wonderful country, and making positive contributions to the community in which I live.

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Tātaiako-E: Cultural competency must-haves

I recently had the privilege of sharing some insights into what culturally responsive practice looks like in Aotearoa from a Māori-educator perspective with the Howick Pakuranga Principals' Association eLearning Network in Auckland. The majority of participants were familiar with the Ministry of Education’s starter kete of Māori education strategies such as, Ka Hikitia — Accelerating Success 2013-2017, and curriculum resources like, He Reo Tupu, He Reo Ora. I chose to flesh out the cultural competencies discussed in Tātaiako using anecdotal evidence as examples.

Source: Tātaiko: Cultural Competencies for Teachers of Māori Learners

I chose not to take the normal approach of using guest speaker stories, PowerPoints, handouts, and two-minute discuss-amongst-yourselves-and-report-back-to-the-group style, as these are only surface-scratching stuff. As the educator of this present moment, I’m totally about being a better person than yesterday and fulfilling one’s personal legend (perhaps even helping you discover your own?). I like to make these cultural competencies more tangible, mash it up a bit with some online resources and practical ways to help integrate the principles in your classroom and kura.

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The #edchatnz conference — connecting with connectors

#edchatnz was born from a dream…. Danielle Myburgh’s dream… #edchatnz — the little hashtag that could. She believed in her passion for education…. She knew that her family and friends didn't want to talk about education 24/7….

So, her dream became a reality two years ago with the inception of #edchatnz.

#edchatNZ is a community for New Zealand educators across all sectors to discuss all things education. Please feel free to use this hashtag to share anything relevant about New Zealand education. #edchatNZ conference Friday, 8 August 2014 at 9:00 AM– Saturday, 9 August 2014 at 3:00 PM (NZST) Auckland, New Zealand

In April this year Danielle's dream reshaped to allow for the MAGIC of #edchatnz online to become a face to face reality. The edchtnz blog said it all: "The steering committee has pulled together the#edchatnz conference in 18 weeks. Yes, you read correctly: 18 weeks. Our first official minutes were dated 3/04/2014."

#edchatnz conference

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Riding the eFellow wave

I've always been keen to try out new things, things that will improve my thinking and approach to my teaching. I don't mind being pushed outside my comfort zone, but when I became an eFellow I was tossed into a tumultuous wave that first struck me with fear, but then excited me. It was a voyage of discovery like no other. Now that I'm near the end of this fantastic journey (which is really like a beginning), I thought I'd share some of these things with others. I'd love others to reap the benefits I have gained through the eFellow experience.

Riding the eFellow wave  (Photo credit: Derek Fryer)

Catching the wave

A 2011 eFellow and digital mentor, Sonya van Schaijik, encouraged me to apply to be a CORE Education eFellow, and I am very grateful for that spark which lit a fire in my professional development and practice. From the moment I received the Inspector Gadget style self destructing top secret email, “I need to speak to you urgently, don’t tell anyone…”, from John Fenaughty on the drive back from a fishing trip to the Ruakituri, I was in disbelief (mainly because I had been off the grid for a few  days, and was a bit confused about the reality of the situation). There have been 80 eFellows to date, and I feel extremely privileged to be part of an alumni that includes many influential and prolific members of New Zealand education.

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