Starting Collaborative Inquiries

When I arrived at Lynfield College last year I found a school with a very strong Teaching as Inquiry culture. All teachers across the school were inquiring into the impact that their teaching was having on their students. This was enabled by some great scaffolded templates to help teachers who were newer to the process and time was built into the meeting schedule to help these inquiries progress.

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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.

Warm and Demanding

Last year we started using the phrase “warm and demanding” to describe our approach (Maurie and Lea to blame for bringing this phrase into common usage). I remembered this from Restorative Practice workshops and quickly saw how it could apply across much of what we were planning. Initially I viewed this as being a phrase for our students, now I realise it describes how things are for staff at Hobsonville Point as well.

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