Posted in Criterion 1, Criterion 4, Criterion 5

Transformers! Teachers in disguise!

This year, my friend and colleague, Christine Emery, and I presented at uLearn 2016. Our presentation was about how we have helped to begin the transformation of our department’s use of technology.

Christine and I began teaching at Whangaparaoa College this year and had both come from schools that have been BYOD for the past 4-5 years. We have both completed the Mindlab Postgrad certificate in Applied Technology and are fluent in using technology to enable our pedagogy. While completing Mindlab, we discovered the Transformational Leadership style as explained by Bass and Avolio (1990). We were keen to share our knowledge and skills with our department.

Our department is made up of teachers who are at different places with the use of technology. Some have been using it confidently for years and some are not confident at all. Our mission was to transform our department with our 12 Step Programme.

During the year in department meetings we have discussed the SAMR model and how it can be incorporated into teaching practice. We have shared apps and websites and also PBL. Every member of the department has tried something new. I was super surprised when, after sharing this blog, everyone said that they were keen to try blogging themselves. I explained that I used blogging to record reflections and evidence of the PTC for registration purposes and they could see the value in this. During the year we planned what we would do as our department TAI and some reflections have been posted on people’s blogs also.

The transformational leadership style has been useful in promoting change in a non-threatening and encouraging manner. The department have seen 4 different Heads of Learning in the last 4 years so did not need change thrust upon them in an aggressive manner.

Christine and I have made ourselves available to help when needed and have consciously been supportive. Our plan was to meet people where they were at and see what they needed help with. At a staff meeting Carol Dweck‘s growth mindset was discussed and this has been something that the school has been learning about over the past year or two. Knowing that we could refer to this and everyone would know what we meant has been helpful in encouraging persistence.

We have also shared our stories of success with apps/websites such as Classcraft, Class Dojo, Kahoot, Google Classroom, Google sites and WordPress. As a PBL fan girl, I shared resources with people and a few have adopted this learning style also. Other members of the department have had turns at sharing apps and websites that they have discovered also. It has been valuable to learn how these technologies are being used to transform learning.

Many of our department now regularly use Kahoot and Google Classroom and the more adventurous have tried Classcraft and Google Sites with their learners. These have been used by learners also as ways of showcasing their learning.

Christine and I are conscious of our roles as leaders in this area and our responsibility to be positive role models. Our goal is to motivate and inspire while being encouraging coaches and mentors. Our department is a work in progress and so are we! We are well on the way to realising our department vision.

Posted in Criterion 1, Criterion 2, Criterion 4, Criterion 5, Mindlab reflections, Teacher Registration

Interdisciplinary Connections

The interdisciplinary approach is a team-taught enhancement of student performance, an integration of methodology and pedagogy, and a much needed lifelong learning skill. Interdisciplinary approach (2009).


At Whangaparaoa College each curriculum area has had its own paragraph structure acronym, these have included PEEL, SEXY, and TIE, to name a few. It was decided that we needed a common structure. Heads of learning from 6 curriculum areas met over the course of a term to decide which structure would work best overall. We settled on SEEL: Statement, Explanation, Example, Link. To achieve this goal we shared examples of what it would look like for each of us and then spent time creating resources. We have now introduced the chosen structure to our departments and have also begun using it. Posters are being printed so that the SEEL structure will be displayed around the school. It is hoped that by the end of the year all teachers and learners will have adopted it.

TALL (Teaching and Learning Leaders) is a group representing all curriculum areas that meet twice a term to brainstorm ideas, conduct research, and eat lollies!  A goal of the group is to create short lesson plans and accompanying resources for the staff to easily pick up and use. These lessons can be used in more than one curriculum area. We want staff to be comfortable trying new ideas without having to spend a lot of time planning. These lesson plans consider the SAMR model and aim to encourage more engagement and motivation. Currently I am working with a social science teacher to create a paragraph writing unit which includes a ‘how to’ video resource and a Kahoot to quiz the learners.


Although the paragraph group have only focussed on one skill in an interdisciplinary manner we found that the paragraph structure needed to be general and not specific or it would not fit all curriculum areas. In English, the SEEL structure will be fine for our junior classes but we will need to add to it for our seniors so that learners record all the information needed. Other curriculum areas will do the same.


The benefit of the interdisciplinary approach is huge for learners. They are able to apply principles across curriculum areas which makes them easier to remember and understand. This also cuts down on the time spent in teaching these principles so more time is available to help wih understanding specific content.

“Their cognitive development allows them to see relationships among content areas and understand principles that cross curricular lines. Interdisciplinary approach (2009).

According to Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997), there are many other benefits including increased engagement and motivation, more ability in critical thinking, synthesis and making decisions, and also in the promotion of collaborative learning. Basing learning on a theme across curriculum areas and incorporating project based learning could make school a very cool place to come to. For teachers, it would promote “…better collegiality and support between teachers and wider comprehension of the connections between disciplines.” (Mathison and Freeman, 1997).

Our paragraph structure group and the TALL group are only small steps in the journey of interdisciplinary learning. I would love to take larger, bolder steps in this area and truly become interdisciplinary in our school. I found the video below very inspiring.


1. Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI, 7(26), 76-81. Retrieved from

2. Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from

3. Lacoe Edu (2014, Oct 24) Interdisciplinary Learning . Retrieved from




Posted in Criterion 1, Criterion 2, Criterion 5, Criterion 7, Mindlab reflections

Current Issues in my Professional Context

Organisational Culture

Whangaparaoa College caters for years 7-13 and has been in operation for 10 years. As part of their job application, our principals completed a Myers-Briggs personality test to ensure there was a balance of personality styles and skills. Recommendations from the Curriculum Stocktake (2002) were also considered, in particular, the review and refining of outcomes in essential learning areas. The principal at the time told everyone planning the curriculum to ‘chuck everything in the bin,’ metaphorically, and then plan based around themes. Once all the curriculum skills were chosen, they then asked what was crucial that was missing, added it in and ditched the rest.

Hattie’s research was influential in the planning of the school. His identification of the teacher as one of the most important factors in successful learning guided the teacher selection. However, many did not want to teach junior classes only so it was a challenge to find the right staff.

Academic Counselling is a key value. Learners spend one hour on a Wednesday with their Academic Counsellor. The focus for Term 1 was goal setting and in Term 2 the focus has been planning for the Learner Led Conferences happening in Week 10. Learners are asked to reflect on each subject with the guidance of the AC. They are then coached on how they will present this information to their family.

The school motto Together, Believe, Achieve reflects the importance of relationships and learner achievement. Our principal, James Thomas, believes in encouraging an Atmosphere of expectation. Boundaries are important: the teacher/coach sets firm boundaries but is not an authoritarian, or a teacher with a laissez-faire style. Communication is valued in the sense that a message is not truly communicated until it has been received. Hattie (2003) found that principals “…who create a climate of psychological safety to learn, who create a focus of discussion on student learning have the influence.”


My goal is to foster a positive, professional environment by role modelling the ABC and encouraging others to do the same. As I am a new HOL and new to the school, my priority is to build positive relationships with my department members. I have a vision for my department to be the leaders of the school in technology-enabled pedagogy but I am mindful of earning trust before mandating too much change.

Changes in the Profession

In the last few years Whangaparaoa College has been introducing BYOD to successive year levels. This has encouraged many teachers to reflect on their pedagogy and think about how they might incorporate the use of technology. The Teaching And Lead Learning group has been formed to address this challenge. I joined the TALL group this year and we have interviewed learners to find out what teachers are doing well and what could be improved. The results were then shared with staff by the learners. We are currently working collaboratively to create resources that will help teachers incorporate technology into their teaching practice.

In the English department and we are addressing these changes by sharing ideas. Each meeting, someone will share an app or website and show how they have been using it. We have learnt about School A to Z, Zaption, Google Sites, LitCharts, WordPress and MindMups. My department members seem to be enjoying this and we have all tried something new this year.


1. Hattie, J., 2003. Teachers Make a Difference: What is the research evidence? Retrieved from

2. Recommendations from the curriculum stocktake. Retrieved from

3. What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership? Retrieved from

4. Thanks to James Thomas, Lisa White and Jason Pocock for answering my questions and providing useful information for this post.

Posted in Criterion 1, Criterion 2, Criterion 5, Criterion 7, Mindlab reflections, Professional Development

My Community of Practice

“Communities of practice,” a term coined by Etienne Wenger, is explained as: “groups of people who share a concern or a passion or about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.4).

Communities of practice interact and learn together.

My COP is the English department at Whangaparaoa College. The purpose of my practice is to assist our learners to achieve. As a department, we regularly meet and discuss how we can help our learners by using E-Asttle and Kamar data to inform our discussion. We are also learning how to use technology effectively to enable our pedagogy. I contribute to my COP by facilitating workshops and discussions and encouraging others to share their ideas and experiences.

The core values of Whangaparaoa College are:

  1. The high importance of learning
  2. Valuing the individual
  3. Challenging ourselves
  4. Giving of our best
  5. Respecting oneself, others, and the environment
  6. Being a safe and well managed school
  7.  The importance of strong and appropriate relationships
  8. The vital partnership of home and school

Our learners are encouraged to value their learning by reflecting on each curriculum area regularly with their Academic Counsellor. Goals are set and plans are made and the AC encourages, guides and gives feedback. Each individual is valued and helped to achieve. Learners and staff are challenged to consider whether they are showing grit and working towards having a growth mindset. These ideas are discussed in Teacher Meetings and we discuss them with our learners.

Being the best you can be and living your best life are ideas that I believe contribute to a successful life and I try to be a positive role model for my learners and my department. Respecting yourself by completing the tasks expected of you and encouraging others to do the same, is part of respecting others and the environment you are a part of. When learners and staff do this, the school is well on the way to becoming a safe and well managed environment and community.

Positive relationships between staff and with learners is a key to success in learning.  As a new Head of Learning I am enjoying building these relationships. The relationships that I build with my learners is important as it helps to motivate reluctant learners. Relationships are integral for a partnership between home and school. Contact is made with home when a learner needs encouragement to complete their learning. Parents and caregivers are encouraged to attend the Learner Led Conferences.

My specialist area of practice is as the HOL in the English department. The broader professional context is to facilitate the learning of our akonga. My role is to help the members of my team to do this to the best of their ability. One of the key theories that underpins this is being a reflective practitioner. One of the reflection tools that our principal encourages us to use is Rolfe’s iterative reflection: What? So what? Now what? This is a simple way of looking at a situation and deciding what needs to be done about it.

Another reflection tool is the RISE model which asks a practitioner to Reflect, Inquire, Suggest and Evaluate. These models are both valuable in evaluating how we are meeting the Practising Teacher Criteria and also everyday situations. I am a regular reflective practitioner and I aim to encourage the members of my department to regularly reflect.


1. Wenger, E. Introduction to communities of practise. Retrieved from


3. Dawson, P. Reflective Practice. Retrieved from

4. Wray, E. The RISE model for self evaluation. Retrieved from

Posted in Criterion 1, Criterion 2, Criterion 4, Mindlab reflections

20th vs 21st Century Skills

How do 20th century and 21st century skills differ? 

As a student in the 20th century I recall that my education was largely about learning facts and content that would be regurgitated at a later stage to prove that I had learnt something. I vividly remember sitting in many classes simply copying notes from a blackboard. The only way that I could make it interesting was to add colour to my boring exercise book by bullet pointing, underlining and drawing little pictures with my felt tip pens. In English, watching a film of people perform Shakespeare on a dark stage with one stagelight was a huge highlight of my 6th form English class. It was little wonder that I felt I had to provide some sort of entertainment to the class by yelling out ‘Earthquake! Everyone under your desk!’ in the middle of one class.

Screen Shot 2015-11-17 at 1.07.28 PM.png

Most of my classes, apart from the specialist classes such as music, home economics, and PE, involved a teacher standing at the front transmitting information. I was not a well behaved student in the 3rd and 4th form and I think I am only partly to blame.

As I matured I learned to self manage and respect my fellow students’ learning opportunities. I also learnt that to get the best education possible I would need to respect myself and participate in the lessons I was taught. These are skills that are still relevant today.

Today, as a teacher, my goal is to incorporate the 21st Century skills of collaboration, knowledge construction, problem solving and innovation, digital literacy, self regulation, and communication in my students’ learning experience.

I have done this by utilising Project Based Learning and using a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix, flipping the classroom and co-constructing units of work with my students. As a BYOD school, this has worked mostly well as students are able to construct knowledge easily with on tap internet and presentation tools. My focus has been on being a guide and mentor.

kids working.jpg

Being a BYOD school, self regulation and digital literacy has been hugely important to teach and there have been plenty of opportunities to do this. Students do get off task at times doing the wrong thing such as playing games or being on Facebook. Instead of blocking social media our approach has been to use it as a teachable moment and discuss when and where it is appropriate to being playing games and using social media. This is an ongoing thing and we do have consequences for persistent offenders.

Do we need both?

I think that the skills of managing self, relating to others and participating and contributing are skills that are relevant to both centuries. These are skills that are needed to be successful in any part of life so we still need to have them as part of our curriculum.

However, knowledge transmission via the ‘sage on the stage’ is no longer relevant. Students are now able to find most information on the internet and our role as teachers is to guide them in the skills of assessing, synthesising and utilising information.

Unfortunately, our exam system still expects students to regurgitate facts and content –  hopefully we don’t have to wait until the 22nd century for this to change.




Posted in Criterion 1, Criterion 4, Professional Development

Happy Highlights of the ADE Institute, Singapore, 2015

How did we get there?

My colleague and friend, Linda Rubens, and I both applied to become Apple Distinguished Educators this year and we were both fortunate enough to be successful. We were required to make a 2 minute video and answer a series of questions in which we told the story of how we used Apple technologies to enhance teaching and learning. 


New ADEs
We attended the Asia Pacific Apple Institute in Singapore in early August with 400 other ADEs who included newbies and Alumni from Australia, New Zealand, Greater China, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Phillipines . The theme of the Institute was Telling your Story.

Highlights of the Institute


The Institute started each morning at 8am with an auditorium full of excited delegates and loud, pumping, pop music. After the plan for the day was introduced we heard from many of the Alumni who each told their story in a 3 minute presentation. It was inspiring to hear what  people were doing and how Apple technologies were helping them: from schools deploying a 1:1 iPad program to a whole school Minecraft construction, a 66 year old dentist who had written an iTunesU course for her students to a cross-curricular film project.


The Alumni presenters

No Pressure!

The product developers for Garageband and iMovie gave an engaging presentation in which they wrote a soundtrack to a short film and then edited it and added a 3D title in front of us in one hour. No pressure! While doing this they gave us extra tips on how to use each app more effectively. The result was pretty impressive.

Creativity is Magic

On the programme we saw that we had a special guest presentation but did not know who it was. It turned out to be Chinese popstars, The Yao Band. This is the band who featured in the advert for the iPad Air. They performed a song for us, to the great excitement of the Chinese and Korean delegates, and then demonstrated how they put a song together using a Macbook and iPad. They got several people up on stage and sampled them clapping and saying funny things which were then included in their song. After they had added a bassline they then sang and performed the song. As one of them said, “Creativity is magic.”

CARP to avoid CRAP

One of the Alumni, Kerri-Lee Beasley, presented her work on design in a morning session. She has created a multi-touch book titled Design Secrets Revealed. Her ideas were expanded on in an afternoon session. We were shown how to format a page or slide effectively by using the design principles of CARP – Contrast, Alignment, Repetition and Proximity. I feel inspired to use these principles in any resources I create from now on. These ideas will also be great for teaching static image.

Bill Frakes

Each delegate got their photo taken by photographer, Bill Frakes, and we will be able to use this professional shot for our profiles. Bill Frakes presented his body of work in a session and told us some of the stories behind each photo or film that he had made. One shot was of President Obama playing basketball and another a close up of the Pope. We found out that the unassuming guy who had taken our photos was in fact a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer. Very humbling. The clip below is a film that he has made.

Me, Bill Frakes and Linda

Speaking the same language

It was great meeting new people from lots of different cultural backgrounds who were like-minded in their passion for engaging their students and getting better results through the use of technology. Even though we were from a diverse range of countries, we all had similar stories to tell of our classroom experiences. On the final night we all went out for dinner together and, by the end of the night, were all on the dance floor getting down. It was a lot of fun!

Out for dinner on the final night

One Best Thing 
So I now have a project to complete titled One Best Thing. I could choose between creating a multi-touch book to document a cool lesson or unit of work; creating an iTunesU course for a lesson or unit; or committing to a community project. I chose the multi-touch book and I will document my Movies under the Microscope unit which I did last term and was pleased with the outcome of.

Recommended experience?

I would totally recommend this experience! It was a lot of fun and we were well catered for with amazing accommodation and great food. I will remember this trip fondly for many years to come, even if I get Alzheimers.

The Foyer of the Pan Pacific Hotel where we stayed

Here is a video that Linda created on her iPhone:

Posted in Criterion 1

Managing your classroom effectively

It takes some time to learn to manage your students well and some develop a great set of skills sooner than others. It took me a while and I know that I was not very strict or confident in my early years of teaching. I used to focus more on building relationships with my students than anything else. I still believe that building relationships is integral to good classroom management but not the only tool in my toolbox.
I came across this image on Twitter which sums things up nicely.


Thanks to @WeAreTeachers for this image.

Posted in Criterion 1

5 Inspirational Educators

I am constantly amazed and inspired by educators that I know or meet who are passionate about teaching and learning. These teachers are keen to learn and adapt their pedagogy to enhance their students learning:

1. Linda Rubens @lindarubens
Linda is a passionate advocate of using 1:1 devices to enable inquiry based learning. She understands the importance of the learning environment and it’s impact on her students. Linda has recently been on an edutour to San Francisco and has returned with heaps of inspiring ideas. Check out her blog post to find out more!

2. Althea White @althea_white
Althea is an experienced educator who has been teaching for over 30 years but has found her passion for teaching and learning reignited through the use of social media. She has inspired her students to blog and tweet and has also successfully incorporated the flipped classroom into her teaching. Althea writes about the experiences in her blog.

3. Lewis Bostock @LewisBostock
Although Lewis is still training to be a teacher, he has had plenty of teaching experience with adults through the opportunities he has taken advantage of over the last couple of years. Lewis is a social media expert and has an inspiring wealth of knowledge. Lewis records his thoughts and experiences on his own website.

4. Gavin Fitzhenry @GavinFitzhenry
Gavin inspires me because he really cares about his students and their learning. He goes the extra mile to make sure that they fully understand the topic. Gavin recently taught a video conferencing class and most of them gained scholarships in English. He has a class blog to keep his students informed.

5. Tony Zaloum @Sc00tr
Tony is always positive and encouraging with anyone he comes into contact with. He has been using social media in his teaching for years and has inspired many of his colleagues to do the same. Tony has an interactive blog for his physic’s students which provides resources and discussion questions. He has also created a blog for colleagues to discuss the merits of blogging.


Posted in Criterion 1

Social Media, Education and Worried Parents

Why social media?
This year we have chosen to use blogging and Twitter more with our classes as a way of publishing written responses and tweeting links to blogs. Our reasons for this are to raise the standard of writing by publishing it to a possible global audience and to engage our learners by using social media.

Yesterday I had my year 10 class sign up for twitter and a WordPress blog. We spent time adding photos to Twitter and playing with the appearance of their WordPress blogs. Everyone was fully engaged and enjoying the experience. Then one of my students asked if she could text her mum to see if it was ok to sign up for Twitter, I said yes and she got parental approval. I thought this would be a one off thing and liked the idea that the learner respected her mum enough to ask.

An unexpected reaction
The next day I got an email from another parent asking why we were using Twitter for educational purposes when there was so much bullying that went on. When I mentioned this to my colleagues, 2 of them said they had experienced the same concerns from parents also. This was something we did not even consider would happen. Maybe we were naive, and maybe parents are now more aware of the potential problems that come with the use of social media.

Our response
As a result of this we have decided to develop a stock letter to respond to concerned parents with which will explain our reasons for using Twitter and WordPress. The letter will explain that we understand their concerns around using social media, and that we are fully aware of the issues surrounding it’s use. However, we would prefer to see it’s use as an opportunity to teach our students digital citizenship and how to use it wisely and well. Social media is fast becoming a core part of life, not only socially but also in tertiary education and business so this is a good time for us to teach the responsible use of it. We will also say that it is not compulsory.

Digital citizenship
We have also decided to create a presentation for our learners about responsible use of social media. We can show this to them before we start signing up for Twitter and WordPress.
This has been a surprising issue to arise but it’s good that it has come up so that we can prepare our learners more effectively instead just feeling our way through the situation. It’s also great to see that parents are becoming more aware and informed and that they have boundaries in place for their kids.