Friday, March 27, 2020


Online Learning Communities

I have to say the online learning community of teachers is amazing. One of these groups is #edchatNZ on twitter. In the past,  at the beginning, sometimes I tuned in but didn't comment and at other times I did. Yesterday, I was so excited to see, in light of current events the hashtag was reactivated and I was excited. I had forgotten or maybe I am just older the pace of discussion and the need for tweetdeck was crucial. If you are a Kiwi teacher here or abroad or just a teacher in need of some awesome conversation tune in and share your thoughts.

Photo of the day goes to my daughter. I organised a family 5pm virtual catch up with all the family. It was awesome, so get the whānau together, or the dept or even a team of mates - connect, it is the most important thing we can do.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

March 26th - Binge-ing

As someone who struggles to see in New Years Eve, I had no problem seeing the clock strike 12 last night as NZ enters the lockdown! Possibly Auld Lan Syne would have been an appropriate song to sing as we farewelled one way of living.

I've titled this post 'binge-ing', mostly because I feel like I have been binge-ing the news and Miss 12 has been binge-ing her learning. And like a good binge it can leave you feeling a little full and in need of a rest. As a result, I have stepped away from the media and took myself for a walk. It was interesting to see families out walking together keeping a safe distance with a nod or quiet hello from across the street as we passed. I didn't see anyone on their phones!  I guess we are on a go slow at the moment.

I have been really impressed with our wider educator community. Having been on Twitter for a number of years and using this as a source of support I find myself there again. I am really happy to see the restart of the #edchatNZ and really recommend joining this hashtag at 8:30pm tonight. It is especially a great place to start if you are new to Twitter.
Here is a great article I saw someone share Twitter:  Eight Steps to Smoother Transition to Online Learning

Something else I am finding interesting at the moment is all the discussion on the 'how' to deliver the learning remotely. Whether it is checking in with students or running shortened lessons for those who can.  This morning one of our Social Studies teacher's ran a current event quiz through Microsoft Teams and about 10 students tuned in but what was pretty cool were the parents joining in. Whilst these are challenging times it will be interesting to see how this affects teaching and learning in the future.
If you you use Microsoft (like the school I'm with), there are all sorts of support coming through like videos on how to use tools such as Microsoft Stream. It is a video storage/library for your organization that you can upload videos too for your students, and where meetings are recorded to if using the the Meeting function in Teams. I am just learning about Microsoft Stream but what I really like it is a secure place for only those in  your organization.

How is Miss 12 going?
This is where the binge-ing comes in. Having got the work from her teacher she has decided to do as much of it as possible as quickly as possible so as to have time for "other stuff". The learning set by her teacher is something she sees as a 'must do' and she wants to get to the 'can do'.  Miss 12 also has homework from the Civil Defence Cadets that she is part of. This is quite challenging as we find ourselves using Google for the stuff we are unsure of. Whilst I write this blog she is preparing tonights dessert: apple and rhubarb crumble. However, I've just popped into the kitchen and the pie is in the oven and she is cleaning out the baking cupboard!
A quote from Miss 12 on learning from home "It sucks!" - Translation is that Miss 12 prefers to be at school with her friends and her teachers. 

My photo learning challenge 
Today I deleted some wrong photo files, normally careful to check I delete the raw orf file and save the jpeg, in my haste I deleted the jpegs from the camera. This mistake created today's learning. With Google's help I learnt that I could download a raw image extension from the Microsoft store and then go to a Convertio and convert the raw orf file to jpeg. 
It is just a picture of the kitchen table with my work and Miss 12s  work. The nerf guns are for some fun later in the week, the sports gear is Miss 18's as she's a PT and completing a Science degree in sports and nutrition. The recipe book is a platform for Surface/laptop during video meetings. In hindsight I should have collected the docking station and monitors from university. I'm lucky as I have a uni laptop for study and school laptop which means Miss 12 can use my personal Surface as she doesn't have a device.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

An Idea and a Plan

I have two daughters at home: Miss 12 who is in Year 8 and Miss 18 who is at Uni. Miss 20 is in Wellington and currently is in the hospitality industry. Each child has been disappointed by the changes in the last few weeks, Miss 20 had her Uni graduation cancelled and work, Miss 18 cant do BJJ  and has had her learning go online, and Miss 12 has had all her sport cancelled. But due to their experience with Christchurch earthquakes a while ago now, they are disappointed but understand. The older two are also glad that we have power and most importantly working toilets! 

Miss 12 is annoyed that I am a teacher and she said she is going to enforce  the new school holidays dates!  Which made me think that it is important that over the next few weeks she doesn't see me as a teacher but as a mother who is helping her. In my opinion, while teachers are providing learning opportunities to the students at no point do we want the parent/s/caregivers to feel that they have to be 'teachers'. 

For our mental well-being when in isolation  I know that routine is important and social contact via online tools is also important. I've asked Miss 12 to think of at least 1 fun thing she wants to do each day, something to look forward to. With social interaction I was thinking of having a virtual pancake dinner with my family for my birthday that's coming up. I also thought I would create a virtual quiz for the nieces/nephews and my children to join in on. 

Yesterday, I realised it had been a few months since my last post. This could be a good time to get more into a routine with my blog! I thought I would try to blog most days with the following content whilst at Level 4 Covid19 shutdown:

  • Some things that may be useful related to learning, 
  • Something of interest to me in education
  • How Miss 12 is doing with her learning, some thoughts from her 
  • I have been slowly learning photography and thought the next four weeks could be helpful in this. To hold me to account I will post 1 photo (but not today as I'm currently in my pjs having morning coffee whilst I write this blog!)
 Here are some useful online resources

Nano Girl : Has an amazing website with all sorts of Science stuff for students, parents and teachers. Nano Girl has a podcast and after each episode there is a video. She also has some great resources for explaining Covid19 and some experiments with soap

I saw this on the History NZ teachers FB page: We are currently living through a historical moment and someone has created a good task for teenagers around primary/secondary sources and keeping a diary of the current pandemic: Eye Witness to History

The Body Coach is creating Youtube Videos P.E with Joe and these I think are coming out each day. A way for students to keep active and burn some energy.

Monday, March 23, 2020

My thoughts: Post earthquake (2011) reflection and our situation today

Some thoughts:

Over the past week or so, as the world changes, I have been part of conversations on Twitter and F2F about the changing landscape of teaching and lessons learned from the Christchurch earthquake in 2011 and what is happening due to Covid 19. These are just my thoughts:

So, what did I learn from the Christchurch earthquake 2011: 

  • During the EQ students suddenly had a new/increased responsibilities such as looking after younger children, helping the adults, working more in their part-time jobs due to parent/s losing jobs, or just the stress of being home which meant that learning was not a priority. Other students were able to keep learning and looked for those opportunities
  • Learning was for those who could, and when things settled back to normal, pathways were put in place for those who didn't have access, or couldn't learn online.  We needed to trust, our Senior Leadership Team, NZQA, MoE  and other experts (including our unions and teaching council) with regard to NCEA and student learning. (Communication is a part of the 'trust' I mention.  It  includes communication that results in informed decisions. That all key stakeholders are represented in discussion in some form or other.)
  • Educators were amazing at coming together, sharing and helping each other. Teachers set up blogs and sites to provide learning to students not just on their school roll or class list. During 2011 I can't imagine what our Senior Leadership Teams had to do and decisions they had to make. Our Teachers (regardless of position) are not invincible and had their own challenges plus trying to keep things 'normal' for the students or staff. 

My thoughts about the situation today:
  • E-learning (in the event of school closure) is for those who can, and educators are trying their best to get the schools, teachers etc into a place to facilitate this as best they can. 
  • There are amazing educators in NZ and beyond and you kind find them on Twitter and Facebook, as well as in your own school. Teachers are already sharing ideas, resources and positive attitude to learning in challenging circumstances.
  • Like back in 2011 with the earthquakes, I believe we need to trust, our Senior Leadership Team, NZQA, MoE,  and other experts (including unions and teaching council) with regard to NCEA and student learning.  
  • Microsoft and Google both provide a wealth of resources and information, if you are a Microsoft School I recommend joining the Microsoft Educator Community as a teacher at a high school which uses Microsoft I find this an incredibly useful site.  Google also have a community for educators 

Just a few thoughts.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Liberatory Design with Year 9 and Sustainable Cities

Liberatory Design Thinking

As part of my Boma Fellowship  I attended a 2 day intensive workshop at the Stanford d School at Stanford University, let by David H Clifford. This introduction to Liberatory Design  (LD) has had an impact on my own thinking. It has led me to create a series of micro-credentials as well create a unit of learning, where students went through the process of LD to design sustainable buildings as part of a sustainable city project.

What is Liberatory Design?

Liberatory Design was co-created by David Clifford and the National Equity Project . It is about bringing equity into the design process:

The image above shows the LD process and it has several components that encourage the designer to examine equity in their design through: Notice, Reflect and Empathize. To me this way of thinking allows the 'human' to remain at the centre of the design rather than the 'product'.

Sustainable Cities, LD and Year 9

Students in our integrated curriculum class (Science, English and Social Studies) have had their learning structured around the SDG's and Global Citizenship. Students have undertaken a series of student led inquiries and project based learning. In Term 3 we used the Liberatory Design process to structure the student learning program.

Students were in groups and each had an aspect of city. The premise was a new island was going to built off the coast of Christchurch and it must be a sustainable city. Each group was assigned a different aspect of the city e.g. industrial, residential, business... 

We first took them through the 'Notice' phase where we discussed things such as bias and assumptions. This was more challenging than I had anticipated with some students declaring they had no bias. I sort some advice from the Boma Ed Fellows and David and based on their advice designed some games. This helped to create some light-bulb moments for students where they realised they did have bias. One student reflected that her role was to create a sports centre and she had focused on netball which was her favourite sport and passion. She then examined her own assumptions and redesigned her sports centre. Other students noted how they had male/female toilets and this may not be the most equitable design in catering for everyone (these are only two examples) - this was directly related to addressing their own assumptions.

Prototype in Minecraft Edu

Part of our challenge was getting students to think beyond the easy solutions. A way we did this was work in 'Chance' over the course of the term. For example, after students had decided on their power sources, we took away the lithium mines - it had been in the news and we worked it into the lesson. This meant that students had to go back from ideate/prototype back to the 'define' section after re-examing the 'notice' and 'reflect'. Some students were frustrated at starting again. However, when we spoke to them about how this related to building their capabilities in relation to perseverance, problem solving and overcoming challenges as well as working through the design process, the students got it.

As far as the prototype stage, we had students do at least three and this was related to 'Chance' challenges. Students for the most part opted to prototype in Minecraft EDU. What was interesting were the students commenting that it was easier to do it in Minecraft than with the card. That it was hard to visualise with just card and then how to actually create the building. We required their final prototype to be done with card, cello-tape and glue. Students created QR codes to display their Sway's, or Power-point or video on the what the sustainable features were and other aspects of their design.
Students had to have at least 3 sustainable features and at least 1 additional sustainable feature focused on well-being.

Sports stadium:the QR code will work if you have a QR reader on your phone

Recreation Area (QR code has been black-out)

Rather than the 'Test' phase we did have students reflect on their learning and the process. We also invited teachers to a presentation where students shared their learning.

There was a lot more to this than the summary above but I hope to highlight some key moments. A key learning for me was the the 'Notice', 'Empathize', 'Reflect' aspects of Liberatory Design which needs to be worked into the curriculum through-out the year. By working on this through-out the year students would be able to go deeper when looking at equity and challenging their own bias/assumptions and that of others/systems/issues.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Palo Alto and Esther Wojcicki post 3

The last school we visited on our Boma Ed Fellowship to California was Palo Alto High School to see their Media Studies department and meet with Esther Wojcicki (It was a highlight for me, to meet Esther). 

I had watched a few of Esther Wojcicki online talks through Singularity U and have the 'TRICK' acronym up on my whiteboard. The word I really love is the acronym   'Kindness' and is something I am wanting to focus on with the students.

I think what struck me the most about visiting this school was here was a teacher who had believed in her students and program. She made it work inside prefab buildings until the number of students overwhelmed the space, and a purpose built building was built. That Esther had the drive and passion to deliver a curriculum that was truly engaging and authentic.

We walked into a classroom where students were just announcing who the new editors were.
Students where running this learning with teacher off to side observing. Students clapped and cheered as the new editors went up. The chatter among the students was positive. The air was filled with anticipation and celebration. It really was exciting to watch. From here they split into their own groups and down to the business of putting together a publication. 
There are a number of publications students put out and each one is responsible for gathering the advertisements to fund the print run. Each publication is of an exceptional high standard whether it be a newspaper such as The Campanile or a magazine like Agora:
Besides the print publications there are also involved with visual media such as tv where student produce a variety of tv shows.

Infocus is a daily tv show where students share announcements and information for the school community - it is the schools daily update system. 
There is is so much to this Media department (including radio) and students have the responsibility of not only producing articles of an exceptional high standard but for distribution.
Esther is an inspiring educator and woman who not only has seen this vision realized at Palo Alto but also has raised two incredible daughters. One is a co-founder  of 23andMe and the other the CEO of Youtube.
I recommend watching Esther Wojcicki presentations there are a number of videos and she has also released a new book 'How to raise successful people'. You can follow her on Twitter @EstherWojcicki

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

June Jordan School of Equity - Boma Ed Fellowship post 2

 The June Jordan School of Equity, San Francisco was the second school we visited as part of the Boma Ed Fellowship program. I have never been to a school like this and found it absolutely amazing.

This is a school that was was created when the community demanded a new school and was named by the students after it was established. June Jordan was a West Indian-American poet, teacher and activist who discussed issues of race, gender, immigration and representation. It is fitting that students chose this name -especially when you read about their 'pedagogy project' (end of this post)

The focus of the school is youth participatory action research - fighting against institutional repression. Their mission not only prepare students for college but to be agents of change.

The June Jordan School for Equity describe themselves as:

  • We are a college prep school, but we believe what kind of person you are comes before academics.
  • We are an innovative public school, but not a charter school.
  • 100% of our graduates have a strong post-secondary plan.
  • We believe working-class families and students of color deserve a private-school-quality education, in a free public school.
  • We believe that true excellence cannot be achieved without equity, or fairness to all.
It was interesting talking with students about their senior projects. Students had chosen project that were important issues to them. One student spoke about gentrification and the impact of this on his community. Another student was looking at immigration. Click here to read about the interesting students at the school, their experiences and how they are trying to make change.

The school has a beautiful community garden with kitchen on site. There was a community group working in it when we were touring the school. The aim is to provide programs on nutrition and farm to table food. They also have chickens and fruit trees.

Walking around the school the walls are covered in quotes and images that affirm their goal of social justice

This is an incredibly school that works at empowering the students to not only believe in themselves but to be the change they want to see.  They have a pedagogy project which they explain as:  "pedagogy (a fancy way of saying “the way we teach”) is expressly designed to help our students understand the forces of marginalization they have experienced growing up, and thus to begin the process of freeing themselves from oppression, including especially the internalized oppression (or self-imposed limits) which we see preventing so many students from meeting their potential."

It was an inspiring visit.

Further Information:
Student Life Video:
Youth Summit Video: