Sir Gateway?

Many people may get annoyed with this post, in fact it may even be considered sacrilegious by some. Sir Ken Robinson is extremely well known, liked by many and revered by some. His TED talk from 2006 has been watched almost 35 million times. Yet on finishing his most recent book I was left with an overwhelming sense of “meh.”


Continue reading

Developing Student Questioning

I have a strong belief that developing student’s questioning abilities empowers them to take ownership of their learning. Strong questioning can open up learning paths and is also an important skill for being an active citizen.

Last week, our SLL team offered 3 different workshops for the Friday Staff PD session. This post is sharing the Questioning strategies I covered in my session.


QuestionStorming is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of a brainstorm where people put down as many ideas as they can, questionstorming is writing down as many questions as you can. It is a great strategy for developing students abilities to generate questions. Continue reading

Provoking Thoughts Every Week

My role at Hobsonville Point Secondary School is called Specialised Learning Leader. Acknowledging that to most others outside our school, this title means nothing: the crux of the role is around curriculum and learning design. One of the tasks I have had in this role this year is to provoke staff thoughts around learning design each week. I have done this through sharing a weekly provocation: a reading, article, video that could prompt thoughts around designing better learning experiences for our students at HPSS.

Image courtesy of Brian Talbot

Image courtesy of Brian Talbot

Any of you that regularly read this blog or follow me on twitter will know that I read voraciously. This is a big part of my growth as an educator and this weekly provocation is aimed at encouraging all staff to grow by regularly reading and considering the implications on our practices.

The readings are shared via email each week and paper copies are placed on tables in the staff room. This means that we are providing for those happy to read on their laptops and for those who prefer hard copy to read or who may pick it up to read while having lunch or a coffee.

Initially starting with any article that linked towards our school’s vision for teaching and learning, we soon adjusted it to fit with our current SLL team focus: Continue reading

NZ Education’s Biggest PD Need

MLE, 1:1 BYOD programmes, Dispositional Curriculums, new Timetables, new SMS & LMS, GAFE or Office365. All ‘new’ ideas coming into schools across New Zealand and all ideas being slammed by people because of the poor implementation.

Speak to teachers at conferences or scroll through any social media and read teachers comments. You will find teachers questioning or slamming ideas because of how they have been implemented at their school or a friend’s/local school. Teachers absolutely have the right to challenge the ideas being implemented but so many of these challenges are not of the ideas themselves, it is actually about the way they are being implemented.

Not enough PD or time spent helping staff upskill and see how they can best use *insert new idea here* is not a fault of the idea, it is a fault of the change management. Continue reading

Is Teacher Training Broken?

If the evaluative lecturer that came into our school today is a sign of teacher training at the moment, then Teacher Training is broken in our country.

Old School Teacher inked for me by Tom Morgan-Jones

Old School Teacher inked for me by Tom Morgan-Jones


Clearly confused by Google Docs he was asking questions like:

How will you know what they have completed? Who prepares the software resources and saves them to Google Docs? How can they refer to previous work? Are all the devices relying on batteries?

Good to know that he liked the carpeted floors and nice open/light teaching space though… Continue reading

#nextpractice Webinar

Last night I was part of a Google for Education webinar on the use of technology to aid learning. The aim was:

How do we identify #nextpractice in the use of technology in learning? Can we take the SAMR model to look at both best practice and #nextpractice using Google Apps for Education? Well, we think so! This webinar will provide some wonderful examples of educators who are working on a daily basis in best practice and innovating next practice. By the end of the webinar you will have seen numerous examples of using GAFE to augment, modify and redefine learning in schools.

Facilitated by the amazing Chris Harte, there were short presentations by Chris Mann (John Monash Science School), Kimberley Hall (EdTech Team) and myself. Chris spoke on how they use Google Docs, Slides etc. to augment learning in class, Kimberley shared some great add-ons that modify the learning occurring and I spoke on how technology underpins our attempt to redefine secondary schooling at HPSS. We then answered questions from those who were watching live. There is a follow up webinar to this on the 17th of June and in the next week a form will be available for people to vote on what they want to hear more about.


And the slides are here.

The Inaugural #edchatNZ Conference

On Friday and Saturday last week I attended the first #edchatnz conference. It was an awesome 2 days of connecting, sharing and engaging in educational discussions. A few things have really stuck with me over the past couple of days:

  1. Our students at HPSS are awesome. here they were having a normal Friday of Extended Hub and then 3 hours in a Small Module whilst over 300 educators visited our school. A group of students had arrived early to help check delegates in and almost all students ended up in situations like this:
    Apocalypse Now students undergo the #edchatnz grilling and discuss their learning

    Apocalypse Now students undergo the #edchatnz grilling and discuss their learning

    I was so proud of how well they handled answering questions about their learning, next steps and how the school structures impact on that by so many interested teachers whilst also getting on with the learning for their module. If you were on of the teachers who visited my module with Danielle, we would love to hear your feedback on what you saw (especially any critique for us to work on).

  2. I loved the comment from Mark Osborne about the conference allowing us to engage in far deeper discussions than the 140 character limit on twitter allows us to do. I was mulling on how we can continue that when Reid started up the Blog Meme which is now doing the rounds. I am looking to extend this connection further so have been working with Danielle on an #edchatnz Blogging Challenge which will be released in the next couple of days.
  3. It was awesome meeting so many people face to face when you have been engaging in discussions with them through twitter and blogs. This will make it far easier for us to use those connections in more depth now that we have a live person behind the handle. Perhaps this is the spark to allow us to challenge each others practices as well as praise them? So many people also makes it frustrating when you realise how many people you didn’t catch up with! A challenge for me at ULearn to meet up with some of those missed this time.
  4. I absolutely loved the discussions that were occurring. So many people with a passion for pushing the boundaries and improving our collective practices. I also loved how many Pre Service Teachers were part of the 2 days. Really look forward to seeing them engage in our teaching community over the next couple of years!
  5. My workshop on Creativity across the curriculum was really well attended. So much so, the late arrivals had to drag chairs from elsewhere to be able to sit down! It was a bit scary at first – A few interactive activities thrown out and a bit more of a Steve rant from the front but absolutely incredible to see so many wanting to increase the development of creativity in their students. Even more awesome to receive tweets over the past couple of days from people showing how they have already used some of the ideas 🙂 Snip20140813_17 I am running a similar workshop at ULearn and have ideas after this one of how I can improve it to help teachers further. Have also had a couple of other possibilities arise to share this workshop elsewhere – crazy and exciting!
  6. EduBookChatNZ is going to be great. If you read this blog regularly you will know that I enjoy reading and sharing edunerdery. Now I get to share those with a group reading the same book at a relatively similar time. Get a copy of Key Competencies for the Future and join us on #edubookchatnz.
  7. A surreal moment as Karen Melhuish-Spencer quoted Hattie whilst using examples from my blog in her final keynote. Snip20140813_18 It showed to me that sure there are big researcher types in this world but lets look to what we are doing in our schools as there is plenty of great practice happening around us if we share it.
  8. Linked to this was some thoughts about what impact my blogging and sharing online seems to have had on others. There were people really keen to meet me and some with a sense of looking up to what I was doing and sharing online. This was quite strange for me to deal with. What it shows to me is the power of sharing your learning online for others to see. I blog to help myself sort through my thoughts but also because I realise there might be someone else out there who those thoughts it might help as well. Your new idea gleaned from a conversation or reading you have been doing; that activity you tried out; that thing you have been struggling with if shared online could be just the thing to inspire others to take a risk or try something new. I look forward to being inspired by all these new bloggers in the wake of #edchatnz.

EdChatNZ Blogging Meme

If you get included in the blogging meme: copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on twitter tagging 5 friends. Make sure you send your answers back to whoever tagged you too.

1. How did you attend the #Edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn’t)

I was there for both days of the conference. On Friday I was teaching through most of the day so my involvement was mainly through inviting people in to be part of my Hub and my Apocalypse Now module. Saturday was far more of the conference experience for me.
2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?
 As we were hosting, our entire school was involved on the Friday – staff and students. On the Saturday there was still over half of our staff and a smattering of students attending (yes, students voluntarily at a conference on a Saturday!).
3. How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?
 After setting the challenges for everyone I embarrassingly did not complete them all! I think it was 12 that I did complete. I missed the food sculpture, highest point, new technology (although did get to see the Ultimaker 2 3D printer in action that we have on order) and the dancing challenges. Am most disappointed about the dancing challenges as I often dance randomly throughout the day.
4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?
So many awesome face to face catch ups with incredible twitter colleagues that made the weekend feel a bit like Edu-Nerd party of the year! I especially enjoyed catching up with 2 ex student teachers Emma (@emmaotearoa) and Jess (@ikanarat). But have to give special mention here to 3 connections that reminded me of important things:
Reid (@ReidHns1) is brilliant. He laughs often and loudly and as someone with the nickname of Excited Puppy I love to find other teachers who are genuinely stoked in what they do.
Jonathan Finnerty (@FtFinnerty) was a student of mine in my first few years teaching and it is really cool to see him as a confident Geo teacher soaking up the inspiration. It was cool seeing him make his first tweet after the conference (that first risky step done) and I hope we see him connecting regularly online (no pressure now…)
Aaron Huggard (@MrHuggard) spent 3 hours of Friday sitting in my module with students. In speaking with him on Saturday he felt it was time spent well extremely well – if you want to experience a school, do so from a students perspective.
5. What session are you gutted that you missed?
 Hard one, lots of awesome workshops I missed while teaching and presenting myself, didn’t get to see Pam Hook talk on SOLO but I would have loved to have been in Heather Eccles (@heccles01) session in support as she helped preservice teachers find the ways to connect with the awesome NZ education communities.
6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned? 
Would have loved to have taken Michael Harcourt (@harcoumich). He is an incredible teacher who has inspired me over the past 7 years. We used to work across a desk from each other and bounce ideas back and forth, he always had an article or book to suggest for me to read. When I moved back up to Auckland I turned to Twitter for that regular bouncing of ideas (we still skype but once or twice a term isn’t enough!) and so it would have been full circle to bring him to #edchatnz.
7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why
 Would loved to have chatted with Mark Buckland (@mjbuckland) face to face. Looking back through the tweets he was in a session I ran and in a couple of others I attended but somehow didn’t manage to connect. Will make sure this happens at ULearn!
8. What is the next book you are going to read and why? 
 Just started reading Creativity Inc today which I have been looking forward to for a while. If the new Ewan McIntosh book arrives it will be that next as I continue on my journey with Design Thinking. Otherwise Tait Coles’ Punk Learning that I got in the book swap at EdchatNZ conference, have read his blog for a while so interested to see what the book adds.
9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #Edchatnz?
 I want to help encourage more people to connect not only on twitter but by sharing their learning through blogs. Mark Osborne’s keynote pointing out the depth of discussion available when we meet face to face can also happen through blogging and commenting. Would love to see more people start with this – this blogging meme will help!
10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
Have become reasonably well known now for some of the risks that occur in my classes…A blank canvas is all good but I would also add a couple of constraints to the activity – this is what causes the creativity to occur.
Who do will I tag with this meme:
All people I’m not sure are blogging yet, hopefully this meme will extend their connection with #edchatnz:
@MrHuggard (ok one that already blogs but I’m still keen to see more of his ideas online!)

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.

How Might We create the learning experience of a conference more regularly?

Since my post on overcoming the conference to classroom chasm I have been wondering about maintaining the intense learning atmosphere of a conference when we are no longer all together.

Now, twitter is great for continually accessing information, ideas and resources but there is something all together different about the learning and networking that occurs at a conference. The Network for Learning Pond may be aiming to provide this for New Zealand teachers but at the moment is just a search engine, I look forward to seeing what the Communities function looks like when it is released.

Last year as we designed how Hobsonville Point Secondary School would operate we often talked about how it was exhausting even though we had no students. We realised it was because we were effectively living in a conference 24/7. We were given time to rethink education and were encouraged to read as much as possible (see here for readings that influenced us in our first term).

I still am privileged to work at HPSS and get access to amazing PD and rich learning conversations daily. We have, however, stopped sharing our reading as much as we used to and I miss those amazing conversations that developed as we shared and critiqued things we had read.

Then today, a great conversation erupted on twitter with @AKeenReader @chasingalyx @beechEdesignz @mattynicoll @shiftingthinkng @MissDtheTeacher and @mrs_hyde about sharing some of our edu-nerd reading we are doing. End outcome is that we are meeting/holding a workshop at the #EdChatNZ conference to organise a book chat to happen once a term where we read the same Edu book then meet up online (twitter or GHO) to discuss how we found it.

So now, I have my daily conversations, regular school PD, twitter chats, the odd Google Hangout (with long term critical friend Michael Harcourt or with new US critical friends Grant Lichtman, Bo Adams and Thomas Steele-Maley)  a new Edu-Nerd book club plus 2 conferences in this next term. Think I’m good for maintaining that conference feel, how are you going to keep the learning going?


This post is Day 19 of My Questioning Quest.