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.


Creating the ‘talanoa’ conversation is all it takes…

We all like to talk, discuss, and laugh, and we feel relaxed when we have things to share — or even better: having something in common — because we all have something to talk about. However, it is easier said than done with the majority of our Pasifika parents, families, and communities who may still need that support when sharing their thoughts around their child’s or children's education in Aotearoa.


Pasifika cultures involve story telling when establishing connections

In many of our Pasifika cultures, it is all about story telling, or telling our story to make the connections. When I am in a Pasifika gathering and I meet other Samoan delegates, they will always ask me for my name and surname, and then will they start making the connections. They will then move onto my father’s name and slowly you see them thinking and coming up with the question, “Is he from Vailele?” Or, if they ask for my mother’s name, they would say, “Does she come from the village of Afega?”. This is how we connect, and this is when relationships are built, and how the story goes on.

How do we best connect with parents of our Pasifika children?

We, as educators in Aotearoa, find this quite difficult. How can we create this kind of connection with our Pasifika parents, families, and communities? As a Pasifika educator we love to talk, and share our stories, and make things easy for ourselves — it’s the environment that we are in — that plays a big part.  It’s a safe environment where the space or ‘va’ is respected. The ‘va’ is a space between you and another person — creating a connection with your Pasifika parents, families, and communities is about taking the ‘time’ to understand where they come from, and let the Pasifika learners give you a head start with telling their story of who they are and where they come from. When you know your Pasifika learners’ backgrounds, and you know how they learn, you will have a better understanding of their parents and where they come from. This sort of information should give you a greater indication, or insight, into how to approach or start a conversation with your Pasifika parents.

The Talanoa model

I want to share with you the ‘Talanoa’ model that I have found helpful when working with school leaders and teachers.

Talanoa model

I have interpreted the above Talanoa model in a way that schools can use within their contexts, that can be used in many settings. I need to acknowledge the Pasifika academics who have developed this model (Manuatu, Vaioleti, Mahina, Seve-Williams).

Below I unpack this Talanoa model in relation to my work in schools.

The word ‘talanoa’ is a term meaning to talk or speak. The four elements around the word ‘talanoa’ are attributes that make the ‘talanoa’ more meaningful and rich. They are Tongan words with similar meanings used in other Pasifika languages.

Ofa/Love — When we talanoa with our Pasifika parents, families, and communities, whether we are in parent interviews or Pasifika parents fono/meeting/hui, we start with questions about ourselves. O ai a’u?  Ko ai au?  Who am I?. This sets the scene of your talanoa and shows that you are sharing your love with everyone by acknowledging who is in the meeting. This ‘ofa’ can mean different things, but in this case it’s about who you are. This becomes a time when barriers come down and you start building a relationship or connection with one another through knowing who you are.

Mafana/Warmth — Throughout the ‘talanoa’ the conversation is warm and not threatening to both parties.  At times, teachers just want to get to the point and then move on. Having this warmth in a conversation builds rapport, developing a connection to bring in the trust of the parents. The talanoa becomes more of a heart-to-heart, and a supporting of one another rather than picking up the bad points of the learner.

Malie/Humour — We love humour in our ‘talanoa’. The talanoa needs to have a bit of humour in order for the conversation to be real. Pasifika parents will often use an example that the teacher has given them and they will turn it into something hilarious. This indicates that both parties are starting to trust one another, and the relationship building is becoming stronger. You can often find something funny in a situation by over-exaggerating something to the point of being ridiculous. This is a great way of building that mafana as well.

Faka’apa’apa/Respect — The respect is the final element, but it is also woven  throughout the four elements, and this is where the ‘talanoa’ comes to fruition. Both teachers and parents start building the ‘where-to-next’ stage because of the mutual respect from both sides. This helps to build a shared understanding between the teachers and Pasifika parents, families, and communities.

I have used the Talanoa model with the schools that I have worked in, and I have seen the changes that it has made with building relationships and connecting better with Pasifika parents, families, and communities. I am looking to reinforce the Talanoa model by embedding it as part of CORE’s facilitation practice in schools.

Faafetai lava


Connecting schools with scientists

Most primary school students are full of wonder and curiosity about the world around them. Our job as educators is to embrace this and encourage further purposeful enquiry. Sometimes, however, we can be ill prepared for the complexity of the questions that are thrown our way, particularly when it comes to science. Just imagine if you had a scientist that you could call upon to answer some of these curly questions, and just how much would students gain from asking this expert?

Speaking the same language

I used to think that, as a teacher of science, part of my job was simply to connect my students with scientists. But this is oversimplifying what is actually a complex interrelationship. Educators and scientists often do not speak the same language. If you were to invite a scientist into your classroom to answer your students’ questions would the responses they give be useful?  Probably not, unless you had spent time preparing both the scientist and your class to ensure you could converse in a common language.

There is an increased drive for schools to connect with their science community. This requires active partnerships where both scientists and educators contribute and recognise each other’s expertise. Even with the ability to connect online it can be difficult to establish connections with the science community, especially if you are trying to contact individuals who are already busy with their normal workload.

An easier way to create these connections in a meaningful way is to use an ‘interpreter’ — a person whose job it is to broker a relationship between experts and schools. I became a virtual field trip teacher with LEARNZ back in 2009, and since then I have facilitated many connections between teachers, their students, and experts out in the field. Much time is spent talking with experts both before and during the field trip to gain an understanding of their work. I can then explain the intricacies of the New Zealand curriculum, the prior learning of students, and how they as scientists can best share their knowledge to engage these students. In this way LEARNZ can take the hassle and hard work out of connecting your class with scientists within the meaningful and relevant context of a virtual field trip.

snowmobiles trekking in Antarctica

Students can see what life is like in places like Antarctica during LEARNZ virtual field trips and talk with scientists working in the field.

Developing these connections between schools and scientists is also of benefit to scientists who want to foster an interest in science, encourage the next generation of scientists, and share their research. Increasingly, this partnership is also required to meet the obligations from those who allocate research grants.

Sparking interest

I used to be a little sceptical of the ‘virtual world’ that the Internet can offer. But, after delivering numerous virtual field trips and participating in webinars and the likes for professional development, I can see that rather than trying to replace reality, virtual applications offer something that would otherwise be inaccessible. Virtual field trips, for example, are not designed to replace actual class field trips, but to engage your students in a novel, yet relevant learning experience.

Recently, I was lucky enough to travel to Antarctica to deliver one such field trip. I have always dreamed of going to Antarctica, and even though this was my second visit to this white wilderness, I was still really excited, as I knew I would be able to share my journey with thousands of students from around New Zealand. Although Antarctica is a remote and inhospitable place, it still captures the imaginations of many people, and as we all contemplate a future affected by climate change, Antarctica remains highly relevant to us all.

A curious penguin visits the LEARNZ team on location

During the LEARNZ Antarctica field trip students met a few local residents as well as scientists.

Antarctica is the perfect place for scientists, as it is largely unmodified by people and, therefore, offers scientists the ideal place to investigate natural processes. Throughout the two weeks that I spent in Antarctica I was able to follow the work of a group of scientists from the University of Otago and the American SCRIPPS institute working on Antarctic marine food webs. I facilitated conversations between the scientists and students back in New Zealand. Students took part in audio conferences and a chat room using Adobe Connect. The daily action was shared through videos, photos, and diaries. Background pages and activities on the LEARNZ website allowed enough domain knowledge to be gained prior to the field trip to allow students to ask meaningful questions yet also spark further inquiry. Two hundred and thirty five classes were enrolled in the trip, and from the evaluations that we have received it seems that students not only learnt a lot, they also really enjoyed the field trip. Students appreciated being able to talk with scientists who understood how to best answer their often challenging questions and were totally engaged by the authentic context of Antarctica.

You can watch a video about why the scientists chose to work out at Cape Bird in Antarctica:

Why Cape Bird from LEARNZ on Vimeo.

Future Focused Science

The Chief Science Advisor’s 2011 report on Science Education for the twenty-first century raised questions about how to ‘engage and enthuse’ more young New Zealanders in science, and whether the science we teach is addressing the ‘serious questions we will face in the future’. If we are able to connect schools and scientists we can ensure that up-to-date scientific knowledge is provided, students’ horizons are expanded, and students can be inspired by role models within the science community. Real-life authentic science can be shared, which allows students to apply their scientific knowledge and knowledge from other domains to address real-world challenges. LEARNZ and other initiatives can help create these connections and ultimately help foster and focus the intrinsic curiosity and capabilities of our students.



To Sir with love or ‘How to support your child’s teacher’ — a parent’s perspective

Help your teacher out

I need a disclaimer at the start of this blog post — no, unfortunately I did not receive a fancy holiday that might influence my opinion — my disclaimer is that I am the daughter of a teacher.
So I am biased. I saw my mother leave for work at 7.30am, come home at 4.30pm and then work again after dinner. If I called up at lunchtime I was lucky to find her in the staff room some of the time, most likely she would be on duty or tuning 75 guitars (true story), or having a meeting about class camp.

School holidays would have two parts — week one: ‘recovery week’, and week two: ‘preparation week’ where I would follow my mother to the classroom to put up new images, posters, and ideas for the term ahead, and we stop and chat to the other teachers doing the same.

I always remember complaining about a — paid for — Christmas lunch when my mother reminded me that she had always paid for her Christmas lunch herself, and I am also reminded of her giving up her Saturdays for fundraisers for the school; or, as she put it, “What other job would you have to work in the weekends, for free, to raise money for the basics of your job?” But she did it for ‘her kids’. My brother and I worked out that when she was talking about ‘her kids’ she was meaning the eleven and twelve-year-olds she would have in her class each year.

So I am biased. I also am in awe of the extra work that most teachers do on top of the classroom work. They often coach sports teams, jump jam teams, chess and debating teams, athletics, organise and direct the school production, and are expected to turn up or help with fundraisers, and be away from their family for sports, cultural and school camp trips.

I am a fan of the ‘stool’ approach to a child’s education — that the child, the parent/s and the teacher all contribute and feed into the child’s education. Here is my perspective on how we, as parents, can work with our child’s teacher and with our child to support our child’s learning.

1. Say thank you
It’s kind of obvious, but we sometimes forget to express our appreciation verbally to our children’s teacher; and yet if there’s an issue we are quick to address it. If there is an activity your child is enjoying at school, let the teacher know; or, if the teacher is taking them swimming or on a class trip — thank them. It might be their job, but boy, what a job! We always give an end of year gift (I have made fudge before or bought a box of chocolates) both when I was a child and now to our children’s teacher. If a gift is not financially feasible, perhaps a card or just ‘thank you’.

2. Turn up – meet the teacher
You might think: why should I go to meet the teacher? My child is doing well; I don’t need to. I think it’s important to take every opportunity to meet with your child’s teacher when it’s offered. At parent-teacher interviews I always find new ways to support my child, and it also means that I am strengthening the relationship with their teacher, so that if any issue occurs, it’s easier to discuss. We were offered the opportunity to bring our children with us to the recent meetings. This worked really well, as it felt like we were all a team working together; it was wonderful to see the pride when my son’s teacher praised him (and I wouldn’t have remembered the specifics of it to tell my son as accurately). It was also helpful to work together to discuss areas my son needed to work on, and a plan that involved him as a contributor.

3. Decent night’s sleep on Sunday
My mother could always tell the children who had had late nights on a Sunday — or a big weekend without an early bed time on Sunday to help get back on track; she said they would spend Monday unfocused, being a distraction to others, and then only ready to engage on Tuesday.

4. Prepare your child
A teacher often has over 25+ children to look after, so they don’t have time to tie 25 shoe laces, or put on 25 jerseys, or help 25 children get dressed after swimming. Make sure your child has the skills to help himself or herself. When my oldest son started school we went to the swimming pool three times, and I got him to practice getting dry and dressed by himself so we both knew he could do it when swimming started a couple of weeks after that.


I would love to hear from teachers with any further suggestions of how parents can support them to support their child at school.


Time to Talk with the Bears — A solution for reluctant writers and readers

Ollie with bears

Ollie with bear

I was visiting with my son and daughter-in-law recently, and our youngest grandson was getting to the grizzly stage, where bed was what he needed but staying up to play was in his focus.  His mum came in and scooped him up and said, “Is it time to go and talk with your bears now?”, and away they went.  A clean nappy, a kiss and a cuddle, zipped into his sleeping bag and then sat in his cot with his bears, the baby monitor was switched on, the light turned off and the door closed.

The baby monitor, which I’m quite glad we never had in our day, then gave us an insight into Ollie’s talk time with his bears. This was his chance to play with his language learning from the day in very conversational style, that only he and his bears could understand.  The happy chatter went on for about half an hour then gradually subsided as he lay down and drifted off to sleep.

It made me think that perhaps we could learn from talking with bears to help our reluctant writers and readers.

Today we have so many opportunities to take some of the student focus away from the need to learn to write or read, and onto other aspects of the curriculum and digital tools that could be the bear alternatives. I’m currently preparing for my final literacy webinar before retirement, and was reading through what people wanted out of the session. The overwhelming need expressed, was for ways to engage reluctant writers (and thereby be able to raise their level of achievement). The talking with bears for these students could be the use of digital tools that require thinking, reading, talking and writing about something that interests them.  As I found with my own son nearly thirty years ago, having to write was the barrier, but one that could be overcome if disguised in a science or technology investigation and with digital tools replacing the pencil.

While working with a junior class syndicate recently, we discussed this same barrier, and the solution decided upon was to try using storytelling tools that enable you to record voice.  The Book Creator iPad app and Write About This (NZ) app were two that we explored that day, but instead of starting with the writing, we started with a visual (photo or drawing) and then recording the audio – tell the story first and then replay and write.  The writing could be a shortened version for those who need bears to talk to. It could then be exported as a movie and emailed to your class blog.  Here’s one I made earlier as an example.

Marshall-Write-About from CORE Education on Vimeo.

There are many apps, Web 2.0 tools, and software already on your computers that could be used for disguising the writing or reading activity to make it more palatable for those who need to talk to bears. Once you have them engaged you can then start to work on the quality of the writing or the fluency and expression with the reading.  Here are a few ideas to get you started: and links to help notes in the VLN BeL Literacy Group.

Making pick-a-path stories using PowerPoint, Keynote or Google Slides.

Additionally you can make other curriculum areas the focus with action buttons to take you to the written information as in the Penguins example on this linked page.

Pick a path story: PowerPoint

Creating your own eBooks with recorded stories in Book Creator.

In this example my just 4 year old grandson had recorded his story, then typed his own inventive spelling version and I provided the correct model beneath his efforts.  He did not need help with working out how to use the app or writing his own unreadable version.


Write About (NZ) recorded stories with a typed version that can then be exported as a  movie to the class blog.  In the absence of grandchildren on hand I had to make this version myself.

Write About NZ

Read then make your own versions of Collins Big Cat Books

Students can be supported in their initial reading of the story until they can read it by themselves.  They can then use the pictures and story structure to write their own adaptation.  Instead of the farmer losing his lunch, he lost his tractor in the adapted version.  Older kids could enjoy making these for younger kids in the school.

Collins's Big Cat books

Speeding up slow typing – here are some printed keyboard based language games to print, laminate and keep in your language corner.  Once students are familiar with the keyboard layout typing speeds up.  Encourage two hands at the keyboard but don’t worry about which fingers they use.

Typing skills keyboard

Have a go with some of your students who need to talk to bears, and then come back and share their efforts here by using the comment tab. Let us know if it breaks down the barriers in your classroom. Removing the barrier, providing a scaffold and getting students writing, is the first step in increasing quality and raising achievement.


Mind over matter

Pasifika class

In my last blog post, I shared a multiple world view of what Modern Learning Environments (MLE) and Modern Learning Practice (MLP) may look like through a Pasifika lens using a Samoan fale as an analogy. In this post, I would like to unpack it further by sharing my thoughts of The Foundation Phase. For background reading, here is the link to my last post: “A Modern Pedagogy + Modern Pasifika Learners = 21st Century Pasifika learners raising a village”.

The foundation phase:

The culture of a child cannot enter the classroom until it has first entered the consciousness of the teacher. Earlier researchers such as Podmore, Sauvao, and Mapas (2003), and also Ruta McKenzie and Helen Singleton (2009), found that students of Pasifika cultures, languages, and identities enter the school gates with these values, and, "key factors were the teachers knowing the children, knowing their culture and providing opportunities for the children’s Samoan language to be used at school" (Literature Review – Education Counts Publications).

The child’s lens quickly adapts to fit in with a different setting, such a classroom—a skill Pasifika children have assimilated naturally throughout their lives. Schools that have inclusive values such as respect, belonging, and service, to name a few, connect immediately with their Pasifika learners and communities, On the other hand, some Pasifika learners will disengage because their cultural values haven’t been recognised or respected appropriately by teachers. For example, pronouncing names incorrectly; understanding why they wait to be asked to share their thoughts; more willing to take risks in small groups rather than whole class discussions.

 Alton-Lee (2003) stated “that effective teaching requires teachers to take responsibility for every student’s achievement, to value diversity, have high expectations, and build on students’ experiences. For Pasifika students this requires teachers to understand their day-to-day experiences, their cultural background and the dimensions that make this up including language and cultural values”. ( Education Counts: Quality teaching for diverse students in schooling).

While most schools acknowledge cultural responsiveness in their school charters and strategic plans, this doesn’t always translate well into practice. We need to be better at this. We need to take a closer look at how we are meeting our learners’ needs by developing further inquires into best cultural, inclusive practice. Here’s a few starters:

  1. What could we do better as a school or community to make our Pasifika students feel more valued in a safe environment?
  2. How can I use Pasifika students' past experiences, knowledge, and culture to enhance their achievement and learning?

One amazing resource by Michelle Johansson, University of Auckland, I use with teachers is, ‘The Level of Pasifika Capability’ (originally had no title, something I added). It challenges teachers to think about their practice in a cultural sense. Teachers are asked to post their answers to each level in regards to their current practice. By levels four and five, teachers struggle to share any real evidence of best practice because they don’t know what they don’t know. It read for some boring and typical answers you would expect from teachers. For example, one teacher wrote, cultural group for level four. To be fair ,this resource is like a deliberate act of reverse learning by tapping into teachers prior knowledge. It led to great in-depth discussions that allowed them to cast much deeper and wider into their inquiry of understanding Pasifika learners and Pasifika cultures, why we learn the way we learn, why we act the way we act. The more questions are asked, the more they genuinely start to look past the surface level and suddenly a light bulb moment.

Level of Pasifika capability

One way of meeting levels four and five is using a thematic and cross-curricular approach that will enable Pasifika learners to engage more by drawing on their prior knowledge. A hard one to grapple for many teachers, but some embrace it by changing their lens to tailor make the curriculum and key competencies to meet the students' cultural values. Here’s a great example of Student advice for Teachers video to illustrate a collaborative effort between two teachers to meet their students needs using a thematic approach.

As a bicultural and multicultural nation, we have come a long way to being culturally responsive since the 1960s. However, we still have a long way to go to understand the concept of how culture must enter the consciousness of a teacher to really make a significant shift from accepting culture to being culturally responsive. It should start with the most influential key players in schools to model these changes. Ask the difficult questions such as:

  1. Are all Pasifika learners at your school achieving educational success while maintaining and enhancing their language, culture and identity as Pasifika?
  2. How do you know they’re achieving this?


Cyberbullying and student diversity: An inclusive lens for schools

As 1:1 technologies and BYOD become more prevalent in schools, evaluating school-wide approaches to supporting students’ well being becomes imperative and a wonderful opportunity to enhance inclusive practice.

In this podcast, my CORE colleague Chrissie Butler and I discuss changes in understandings of bullying and cyberbullying, and explore how schools can take a more inclusive approach to support the wellbeing of all students.

Discussion areas include:

  • student identity and the internet
  • cyberbullying is bullying – there’s no distinction
  • student diversity, unfamiliar perspectives and bullying
  • resources and approaches to support all students to develop their digital citizenship skills

John Fenaughty and Chrissie Butler podcastHear on Sound Education page

Useful resources:

Here are the resources mentioned in the podcast. Consider adding them to your school’s digital citizenship kete or use them as a springboard for conversations with your students and the wider community.

Competition: Book prizes for your school

The Impossible Quest Book

We have 5 copies of The Impossible Quest — Escape from Wolfhaven Castle by Kate Forsyth (Published and supplied by Scholastic) to give away to 5 schools.
To enter, just make a comment below on this blog post, and let us know the school you would like the book sent to.

What we want to know is:

What further resources and support would be valuable to you and your school?

Older posts «