How Might We make the 100th Anniversary of World War 1 more relevant for students?

Monday August 4th 2014 is just a couple of days away. It’s also an incredibly significant day as the 100th anniversary of Great Britain declaring war on Germany so marks the beginning of World War 1.

Much of the plans around remembering this event in New Zealand are centred on the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli Landings on April 25th 1914. There are however some major events to think of before then.

Aug 29th 1914 forces capture German Samoa – the start of a long and storied relationship between New Zealand and Samoa.

Feb 3rd 1915 first time NZ troops engage in combat during WWI at Suez Canal against Ottoman troops.

The important part in bringing these (and other events) into the classroom is making them relevant for students. Rather than just lets have a minutes silence, draw a picture, write a diary entry – think about how you can get students thinking critically about events from the past and how they relate to today and in the future.

I have been lucky enough to be invited to join a group writing education guides/resources to prompt inquiry learning about the 100th anniversary of WWI. I am looking forward to getting the resources ready and accessible for teachers to be able to adapt for their classrooms.

In the meantime, check out the great NZ’s First World War Centenary website at and start thinking about what prompts you could give students.

Is it a celebration?

Is it a commemoration?

Would you sign up to fight in Syria today? How is that the same or different to signing up for WW1?


This post is my catch up post for Day 29 of my Questioning Quest.


Why are more teachers not sharing their practice?

I am a nerd. I can admit that quite happily. I am a nerd that loves reading about education but particularly about learning. The learning that is happening right now in classrooms/learning spaces/field trips around the world.

I enjoy reading teacher blogs about all kinds of educational ponderings etc but particularly enjoy the blogs where teachers share their current practice. Whether it’s saying here’s a cool activity I tried, sharing some student progress or project outcomes or even reflecting on things that happened within their class recently.

Which leads me to the question, why are there not more teachers sharing? Every now and then I go through another push of trying to find more blogs to subscribe to but struggle to find many (particularly amongst Secondary teachers).

I agree wholeheartedly with Karen Melhuish-Spencer who at ICOT last year said “as educators we are morally obliged to share our practice for the benefit of our students.”

Why do teachers ignore this obligation? Is it fear of ridicule, attack, loss of power? Is it time?

I often get asked how I find the time to blog. It’s simple: I make the time because this is how I process my thoughts, reflect, make next step plans. By blogging it out, I am thinking about it and hopefully making a connection with a reader who might be able to suggest something else to try.

Hope you are also finding ways to share your practice.


This post is Day 30 of my Questioning Quest.

What if Moonshot Thinking became common for our students?

This video is made by Google and is being used for one of the questions in the application for Google Teachers Academy Sydney. I love the message that this video brings of aiming for the tenfold improvements.

By aiming for such massive improvements, you have to start again and completely rethink how it could happen. It takes away the ability to just tinker around the edges as this will only bring minor improvements.

Imagine if this was a regular mode of thinking for our students. It tends to come natural to kids – how often do we dismiss their ideas as nonsensical, impossible to pull off?

What If Qs from Room 13 at Willow Park School

What If Qs from Room 13 at Willow Park School

What if we actually encouraged this type of thinking? I have written before about developing students natural curiosity. If this was nurtured, what could they achieve? If this ability actually grew throughout school, what impact could they eventually have on society? What if all that curiosity, creativity, innovation, moonshot thinking was unleashed on the issues facing the world today?

Perhaps those impossible, wicked problems would not be so wicked after all.


This post is Day 28 of My Questioning Quest.

How Might We purposefully develop students’ learning dispositions?

At Hobsonville Point Secondary School we focus on developing both academic and personal excellence. This mirrors recent changes globally in education where learning dispositions are becoming a more important focus for many schools.

So far we have been focusing on doing this in our Learning Hubs (our version of an advisory system). But there are also moves amongst some staff to have these being developed within the learning modules as well. This makes sense. I can think of last term where I focused on developing students curiosity as well as increasing their skill level within my robotics class.

We have 10 learning dispositions we focus on called the Hobsonville Habits:

Hobsonville Habits courtesy of Sally Hart

Hobsonville Habits courtesy of Sally Hart

This term we are focusing on making the learning more explicit for students. They have eportfolios set up to track their own progress and need teachers to help advise them to tag their progress accordingly – learning areas, Habits, phase of our Learning Design Model etc.

As an attempt to make the Habits explicit, our Learning Community (Taheretikitiki with the other coaches being Megan, Lea, Bryce and Danielle) are taking on a Hobsonville Habit Challenge. Each week this term we are challenging each other to share how they are using 1 of the Habits.

  • Week 1: Purposeful
  • Week 2: Refective
  • Week 3: Curious
  • Week 4: Resourceful
  • Week 5: Contributive
  • Week 6: Adventurous
  • Week 7: Creative
  • Week 8: Resilient
  • Week 9: Compassionate
  • Week 10: Responsive

Students and teachers are going to share on a wall in our area plus on social media using #hobbyhabitschallenge how they (or someone else they notice) are using that habit.

My modules really kick into gear this week so I have been purposeful in planning to develop dispositions amongst the lesson plans (helped in massive amounts by the Key Competencies for the Future book I finished reading last week!). Will let you know how this develops over the term to see if I get better at doing this (already seems better in my head at least than just doing a tick box “of course I taught that Key Competency” type approach I have done in the past!). For a great example of how this can work see the section in Sally’s post on how her and Lisa purposefully focused on 4 habits for their Thought in Sport module.

How do you develop learning dispositions with your students?


This post is Day 27 of My Questioning Quest

Why do we find it so hard to switch off?

I have noticed recently (in myself and in many others) that we as teachers seem to find it extremely difficult to switch off from our jobs.

It’s the weekend at the end of our first week back and many of my PLN are currently at Edu Camp Auckland. Others who aren’t there are sending tweets that pretty much apologise for not being there but promising to check in on the hashtag throughout the day. The recent holidays saw lots of conferences occurring where similar situations happened each time.

Twitter chats bring on the same type of comments. Those heavily involved sharing their ideas throughout the hour, supplemented by those apologising for not being able to make it or for only being able to pop into the chat briefly.


Other teachers in the last break were going on overseas holidays excited at the chance to catch up on educational readings – those books that look like they will help us improve but there was just no time during term. Do other professions take their professional development reading with them on break???

I know my connections online are all extremely committed professionals who not only want to improve their practice but want to help others do the same. I’m also certain that there are thousands of other educators around New Zealand (and possibly millions around the world) who are doing the same things we are.

I am currently looking at taking up some more opportunities to get involved further in the education system and talked last night with my partner about the implications of this for our family. Her response: “it’s what you do.”

Why is it that as educators we find it so hard to switch off from learning, discussing, reflecting etc.?


This post is Day 26 of My Questioning Quest. It was prompted by observations of myself and my PLN plus this awesome post by Brie Jessen-Vaughan on switching off from twitter for 6 weeks and is feeling so refreshed because of it.

What If you had $200,000 to spend on research in your school?

What would you focus the research on?
Who would you get involved as the researchers?
How long would you run the research for?
What would you hope to gain out of it?
How would you share these findings?
What would the funding be spent on that you couldn’t do as a school already?
How important is it for your school and your learners to find this information out?
Is it possible to do these things without the funding?
How will you try to get funding?
How might you make the research happen without the funding?

This post is Day 25 of My Question Quest

What if we all saw ourselves as transitional educators?

What if we all took on the challenge to see ourselves as “transitional educators” (or, the term we’ve used in this chapter, “future-building educators”)? What if we all saw our professional responsibility as being not only about supporting young people to plan for and create their futures, but supporting the whole system to move towards a new configuration that is more likely to build a better future for our selves and our environment? What might we do differently in our day-to-day work, or over the scale of a week, year, or a phase of our lives or careers?

(pp 132-133 Key Competencies for the Future by Hipkins, Bolstad, Boyd and McDowall)

An inspiring call to arms towards the end of this great book (full review coming soon). I feel this is what we are trying to become at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. What if we really all took on this challenge? What if this was nation-wide? Global even?

This post is Day 24 of My Question Quest.

How Might We encourage young people to stay hopeful, without sweeping hard questions under the carpet?


I am currently reading Key Competencies for the Future by Rosemary Hipkins, Rachel Bolstad, Sally Boyd and Sue McDowall and have found it incredibly inspiring. At the end of a chapter about making meaning across the different disciplines, they pose 6 questions for educators to discuss. One of these questions is the (very slightly reworded) question for today:

How Might We encourage young people to stay hopeful, without sweeping hard questions under the carpet?

To me, this is a key challenge as we strive to make learning more authentic. So many of the issues facing the world at the moment and into the future can be such powerful learning prompts but so overwhelming.

As a social scientist I completely believe we have to embrace controversy and complexity in the classroom and have always striven to do so. This term I am co-teaching a module with Danielle Myburgh called Apocalypse Now which is Continue reading

Kei te pehea koe?

This week is Te Wiki o Te Reo Maori (Maori Language Week) so my question today is honour of that.

Kei te pehea koe? means How are you?

Hopefully answered with Kei te pai (good) or even ka rawe ahau – I’m awesome!

To sign up for a Maori word of the day (or of the week) emailed to you see They are also running free online sessions over skype teaching you how to speak te reo this week. See the session times (including time converter for those of overseas) here.


This post is Day rua tekau ma rua (22) of My Questioning Quest.

See you apopo (tomorrow)!

What If you reframed your school speech competition as a TEDx event?

We started Term 3 today with a Teacher Only Day, focusing on developing SOLO rubrics for our courses this term. Initially in Learning Area groups unpacking success criteria and writing rubrics so we have a common grounding across all courses and then in our cross-curricular teaching teams.

At one stage I found myself sitting listening in on the English teachers conversation about their rubric for Speaking which is a focus this term. The only previous time (not an English teacher so not part of my day to day focus!) I have heard teachers discussing this was to do with school speech competitions.

Then today’s question hit me: What If a school speech competition was reframed as a TEDx event?

Would it mean more entries? Does it change the criteria that teachers would use? Would students be more excited about it? Would they be more willing to share their passions and interests? Does it mean that you would invite more audience in? How does this change things? Would other students be more or less interested in watching the speeches?

No answers today, but lots of questions bounding around in my head!


This post is part of my Questioning Quest.