Posted in Criterion 11, Criterion 4, Professional Development, Standard 2, Teacher Registration, Teaching Standards

Using asTTle in the English Classroom

The Call to Action

Today I attended Tania Linley-Richardson’s comprehensive and useful workshop: “Using asTTle in the English Classroom’. For a while now I have needed professional development on using asTTle but the opportunity has never arisen. As a Head of Learning, I have felt behind the 8 ball and a bit out of my depth when it comes to asTTle so when I received an email about this workshop earlier this year, I knew that it was time to take action!

CALL to action

Reading and Interpreting Data

What I liked about this course was that we started with the basics such as what the sub-levels of each level are; what curriculum levels you would expect learners to be at each year; and the skills that asTTle tests. Tania also advised us on the best skills that we should test based on her experience. She also shared ideas of how other schools were using data such as the Core Group model where core subject teachers meet and strategise how to use data for a year group.

Our first focus was the reading test and we looked at the different types of report that could be generated and how to read each one. This was explained to us and then we practised identifying key trends and discussing reasons for each.

We were given resources to use with our learners to unpack the next steps for them. This could be done with either the Academic Counsellor or English teacher. I think it would be a great reflection tool for our learners to look at after their 2nd asTTle test to see if they have progressed or not. Tania recommended that we test mid-year as well as at the beginning and end. I know that Tim Rea is keen to do this which would be helpful for our department so that we can share the workload. However, the lady I was sitting next to said they she had done this and the learners got ‘test fatigue’ and didn’t take it seriously. Something to consider…

After this we looked at and discussed the reports generated from the writing test. I’m not sure about doing the writing test, I worry about the marking load that doing this test would create. However, I did get the contact details of a retired teacher who is looking for work and is happy to mark the writing. Having one person mark would help maintain consistency and I would need support from the SLT in doing this as payment would have to be budgeted for.

data knowledge action

Creating an Adaptive Reading Test and Target Setting

Adaptive tests are on-screen only and adjust to each learner after they have answered a set of questions. According to Tania, this is the most accurate test and it can even work out when kids are guessing and make adjustments! The other bonuses include instantly generated reports and no marking. I had a go at creating one of these and it took less than 5 minutes – I was sold!

We were then shown how to set targets for our learners which was also easy. This would need to be discussed with each learner so that they are aware of the target and how to hit it. Another useful Academic Counselling discussion, perhaps after discussion with an English teacher to work out specifically what to do.

We were shown the Starpath Toolkit which has heaps of free resources to support the use of asTTle and also support Academic Counselling. One of these resources was a spreadsheet to enter data into which then produced charts of varying types to show different types of data.

Target setting

Strategies for Developing Reading Processes

“When students have difficulty reading and understanding subject area texts, they hit a “literacy ceiling” that limits what they can achieve both in the classroom and in their lives outside of school.”

Reading for Understanding p.5

After very nice lunch we spent the last 90 minutes on literacy activities that could be used to help develop reading and writing skills. These included identifying roadblocks to reading and strategies to overcome these; the 3 level reading guide; and creating vocab toolboxes.

I enjoyed learning about these ideas and will create some posters of reading and writing strategies for us to put in our classrooms. I also plan to create a resource that can be used with all the ideas I have heard today. Our year 9 and 10 classes are split so these activities could be used by the teacher who sees the class once a week.

Concluding Thoughts

The day was well worth it and has resulted in feeling confident and up to speed with using asTTle. I now know how to create a test, interpret data and have strategies for adding value to our learners.

I'm happy now

Posted in Criterion 4, Professional Development, Teacher Registration

The uLearn 2016 Experience


After checking into our Rotorua motel, Lisa, Christine and I attended a powhiri at a local marae. It was a special way to begin our uLearn experience and lovely to be welcomed in a meaningful manner.


Larry Rosenstock

Rosenstock set up High Tech High in 2000 with the common principles of personalisation, real-world connection, and common intellectual mission. His background is in law and carpentry and he told of how local kids would come to him after school to learn how to make stuff. He explained how the enjoyment of this inspired him to set up a school where learning was all about doing and having a real world purpose.  Forbes magazine profiled Rosenstock in 2004, check it out for more info. 

John Couch
John Couch is the Apple Education executive who began by discussing the difference between education and learning. He explained the vision that Apple has for education. Apple believe that every learner is unique and deserves to be educated with this in mind. This article pretty much sums up his story. As educators we were encouraged to “unleash creativity!” Apple have developed CBL, or challenge based learning, which is something that I came across at the ADE conference last year. 

Michael Fullan

Michael Fullan explained that we are all wired to connect and that relationships are super important. Helping humanity is important to Millennials so we should tap into this value and use it to motivate and engage our learners. Fullan’s version of inquiry based learning is New Pedagogies for Deep Learning  and he has utilised the “C”skills to frame deep learning.  

Karen Spencer
This was by far the most engaging keynote although we were reminded that it was only 72 hours until Term 4 began! Karen encouraged us to ‘see the story behind the data’ and to ’embrace discomfort’. She discussed encouraging diverse thinking and views in our learners and ourselves. A very worthwhile keynote.


Preparing for the future: Graeme Muller

Graeme discussed all the amazing new develoments in technology that we would have dreamed of as kids. He then got us to discuss what our world may look like in 2028. We discussed different changes that may occur in the home and in teaching. We also talked about what skills we would need to teach to prepare our learners for a future where many jobs will be automated. I really enjoyed these discussions and the conclusions that we drew. We realised that ethics and morality would be important to discuss and teach with our learners. I got a revelation that I would need to start this now! It was a very thought provoking workshop.

Creative Commons: Paula Eskett

Paula discussed the different types of creative commons that could be applied to created content. We thought about whether a school policy should be made available for schools as a few people had created content but could not sell it as their school owned the IP. I found this interesting as I had experienced this issue myself with creating an iBook to sell to our learners as a textbook but then being told that I could not sell it as there was no school creative commons policy. 

Someone also asked if there was a video that explained plagiarism and its consequences that we could show our learners. Paula thought that this was a cool idea and said she would look into it. Christine and I were very interested in this as a resource as we have had a few incidents of plagiarism this year. I can’t help thinking that maybe we should create this resource ourselves.

It does make you think about the content we use that is not attributed. I feel challenged to create more of my own images and also to acknowledge more of the images that I steal!

Transforming Middle Leaders: Jo Robson and Martin Bassett

This workshop was about using a UDL approach to create a flexible and collaborative online course for middle leaders: “Leaders building leaders.”

This workshop took us on a whirlwind tour of a new course that is being developed for middle leaders by Jo and Martin. As a new HOL I found this very interesting and enjoyed thinking about and discussing my personal stengths, the culture and vision of my department and planning where to next. It is a course that I would really love to do.

Some of the things that I would like to do next as a result of this workshop are to read more leadership articles and books, and work with my department to create a vision for next year.

New School or Old School: Marcus Freke, Tony Grey, Richard Jenkins
This workshop was about starting up a new school and some of the ideas behind it which included:

  • Build a culture and be clear about the vision and values.
  • Rituals – how do they effect whats really important?
  • What is powerful learning?
  • What is powerful to learn?
  • “The quo has lost its status”
  • Knowing your learner is super important in helping learners do well. Having year groups is an anachronism.
  • Leadership styles – be there to help teachers make the changes.
  • Building the team: be explicit about how teaching and learning will happen.
  • Consider EQ over IQ
  • Shared understanding over vision, signature practices and culture.
  • Remember that new teachers bring knowledge and valuable experience.

GAFE apps: Lynne Silcock

Lynne shared apps and examples of how they could be used to support literacy. This was really interesting as I immediately thought of a few learners who would benefit from these apps. Many learners do not realise that their writing doesn’t make sense so having an app read their writing aloud to them would really help.

The Gala Dinner

The dinner had a Kiwiana theme and many people had dressed up and looked amazing. There was a prize for the best costume which went to a dude who looked like a sheep but who was supposed to be Aotearoa (Land of the long white cloud)! He kept getting mistaken for a sheep because he was hanging out with a chick dressed as a farmer!

The meal was quite acceptable and the band were awesome! As soon as they started playing people got on the dance floor for a boogie. It was a great atmosphere with everyone in a celebratory mood.

Overall, it was a fantastic few days of learning and inspiration that I would fully recommend to anyone thinking of attending in the future.



Posted in Demonstrate commitment to promote the well-being of all ākonga, Mindlab reflections, Professional Development, Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning., Teacher Registration

Blogging for Professional Development

The social media platform that best supports my engagement with professional development is WordPress. Blogging is beneficial to me as it allows regular reflection on teaching and learning. Many posts discuss challenges and solutions based upon discussion with colleagues. This is a great way of being a reflective practitioner and processing information and thoughts.

The act of regularly expressing your thoughts in written form can help sharpen your intellect, organize your ideas and prep you to lead lessons in the classroom more effectively. (, 2015)

The Reader on WordPress is a stream of bloggers that I follow and is an interesting way of staying up to date other educators with similar interests.

Putting your ideas into the world is a great way to attract like-minded people to argue with, network with, or get advice from. As we’ve learned from other discussions on personal learning networks (PLN), talking with other educators is a wonderful way to learn and grow as a teacher. (, 2015)

I like WordPress because I can include photos, video, slideshows, and hyperlinks. It is a visually interesting digital portfolio that can be commented on and modified when needed. Many posts create a discussion which gives me other things to think about.

Positive or negative, getting reactions from other people in your community is a great way to test out your ideas. It can also be a great motivational tool. (, 2015)

I use WordPress to enhance my professional development to record reflections and evidence linked to the Practising Teacher Criteria. Categories for each criterion can be created and each post linked to the relevant criteria. Before my last re-registration interview with my principal, I emailed her my blog address. At the interview we discussed a selection of blog posts. As I had been writing posts for the 3 years leading up to re-registration I did not need to write a lot to make sure that I had provided evidence for all of the criteria.

Many employers these days will check out a prospective employer’s online prescence to find out about who they are as a person and how they represent themselves. A blog will help an employer to understand the values and attitudes of a teacher. It will also give insight into how they teach and reflect on their pedagogy.

A media-rich teaching portfolio will give employers a deeper insight into your teaching practices while signaling that you’re a 21st century teacher. Having a teaching portfolio can be a decisive element at the interview stage of the hiring process (Mosely, 2005).

At my new school we are beginning to investigate blogging for the same purpose and many teachers have already begun to set up their blogs. It is preferable to filling in lots of paperwork. I have also been involved in facillitating professional development in both schools to help people set up their blogs. Blogging to reflect on teaching and learning naturally links to many of the PTC so one blog post can cover many areas.

I have enjoyed blogging about my experiences and journey of teaching and learning over the last few years. It is interesting to look at older posts to see how I have grown and developed as an educator. Sharing this journey with other educators from around the world has given me new perspectives on issues and I have learnt a great deal. Blogging is a great social media tool that is also valuable for our learners to use, but that’s a story for another post.

1. 10 Reasons to Blog as Professional Development (2015). Retrieved from

2. Do I need a digital teaching portfolio?(2014).  Retrieved from

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 10, Criterion 11, Criterion 12, Criterion 2, Criterion 3, Criterion 4, Criterion 6, Criterion 7, Criterion 8, Professional Development, Teaching As Inquiry

Gamification and Assessment


The research topic area that will be addressed is the impact of gamification on assessment results. In the reading that I have completed there is much evidence of improved engagement and motivation when game based learning and gamification are utilised in the classroom. “On the one side, experiment qualitative analysis suggests that gamification can have a great emotional and social impact on students, as reward systems and competitive social mechanisms seem to be motivating for them…” (Dominguez et al., 2013, p. 391). However, there is not much evidence to prove that these strategies improve higher order thinking. “…On the other hand, researchers have indicated that merely accessing learning content via playing games might not be sufficient to engage students in higher order thinking, such as analysis, evaluation, organization and creation.” (Hwang, G. J., Hung, C. M., & Chen, N. S., 2014, p. 130).

I have a very weak year 9 English class who have written essays that have not gained many marks higher than Not Achieved or Achieved. Higher order thinking is necessary for higher grades. I am hoping that the use of the game, Classcraft, will help provide motivation to improve engagement and the effort required to improve essay results. Classcraft is a gamification website in which learners complete their learning in groups that are set up by the teacher. Each learner can set up their own profile and choose to be a Mage, a Healer or a Warrior.

Points are rewarded based on the behaviours that the teacher wants to encourage. I have created a list based on the Key Competences and 21st Century skills.  In a study of the use of 1:1 devices to improve maths achievement it was found that, “…the use of 1:1 mobile devices showed promise to assist students in 21st-century learning skills…“ (Carr, 2011, p. 278).  One way of encouraging these skills is through gamification and rewarding their use with points. Points can be deducted for being late to class, not handing in an assignment and disrupting the class. Essentially Classcraft is a behaviour modification tool which extrinsically motivates learners to engage, work collaboratively and be motivated to learn. If getting a better result is about engagement, motivation and more effort then the use of Classcraft will be worthwhile. However, I have read that gamification is not successful for all learners, so it will be interesting to see whether it does lead to consistent engagement for all. “These good results don’t happen for everyone though… In some cases the system was even discouraging, as some students don’t find it fun to compete with their classmates for a rank in the leaderboard.” (Dominguez et al., 2013, p. 391).

21st century skills graphic


  • How might the use of Classcraft increase engagement, motivation and lead to improved essay writing results?
  • How might extrinsic motivation lead to consistent engagement and improve the results of less motivated learners?


  • Tino Rangatiratanga: The Principle of Self Determination

The skills rewarded in Classcraft that relate to this principle are persistence, managing self, and participating and contributing. These are the skills that are needed for self-determination and independence. Points will be rewarded for using initiative and learning independently.

  • Whanau: The Principle of Extended Family Structure

Classcraft encourages family involvement by providing a parent code for each learner so that the whanau can see how well their young person is doing. The data and evidence will also be shared with the whanau and they will be invited to respond and share any feedback they may have.

  • Ata: The Principle of Growing Respectful Relationships

Learners will play Classcraft in teams which will require respect, effort and energy, and discipline. Points will be rewarded for interacting positively with others and collaborating effectively.

  • Mahi Kotahitanga: Co-operation

Learners will co-operate and consider each other as they learn and play. Points will be rewarded for participating and contributing, interacting positively with others and collaborating effectively.

  • Ngakau Mahaki: Respect

This is a core value of Whangaparaoa College where learners are expected to respect themselves, each other and the environment. Points will be rewarded for respecting and understanding cultural diversity.


The communities that I will be engaging with in this project are my Year 9 learners, the staff in my department, and the whanau.   It is hoped that my Year 9 learners will see this as fun and therefore want to put in more effort to gain points and level up. They are mostly quite weak learners whom I have had difficulty engaging and motivating, especially with using their devices. They have mostly preferred to use pen and paper and a few learners did not bring their devices to school until they could see that many of their classmates were enjoying making websites to showcase their learning. From previous experience at Orewa College, I know that using devices is a key to better quality writing, especially among less able learners as they do not see it as such a chore and happily write 500 words in an essay where previously they struggled to write 200 words on pen and paper.  It is hoped that by teaching these learners to become more confident in using their devices effectively by participating in Classcraft,  that this will lead to better quality writing.

Secondly, I will also keep the staff in my department informed about what we are doing in the hope that if this is successful they may adopt Classcraft as a strategy to help their learners.  Many of my department have had limited experience with using technology to enable their pedagogy but they are mostly interested in how to do this. Showing improved results and the results of a Learner Attitude survey at a Curriculum meeting will help to prove the validity of gamification to those members of the department that are sceptical. I will invite those that are interested to come and watch how I use Classcraft with my learners.

Thirdly, Classcraft has a parent code for each participant so those parents who are interested will be able to see the progress of their son/daughter and encourage them in the game. This will enable parents to see firsthand what we are doing in class so that they don’t think we are playing games that don’t add value to learning.


I have data from the essays that were written in Term 1 which I will compare with the results from the essays written in Term 2. This data will show whether there has been improvement or not. I will observe my class and their interactions with the each other to see if they are talking about their learning, gaining points and taking steps to gain those points. During the term I will ask my class to complete a Google Form which surveys their attitudes to Classcraft and their learning in this manner.


I discussed this project with Lisa White, one of our Deputy Principals, and explained it to her and then asked for her opinion. Check out the video of her response:

One of the things Lisa suggested was to have points rewarded for progress along the way and the final product at the end so I have added in 3 new categories for receiving points. I think this is a good idea and I have made the point value quite high so that my less motivated learners will think that the task is worthwhile.

Lisa also suggested asking a group of learners their opinion on my plan. I haven’t done this as I had already started the game before our discussion but this is something that I will do in the future. However, I will ask them about the kinds of rewards and prizes they would like though as I do value their voice and would like them to take ownership with me.

I asked Lisa whether she thought other teachers might be interested in implementing Classcraft and she offered some useful ideas on how to share what I will do. Sharing what I am doing and the results from it will be the best strategy as having some examples and proof of effectiveness would be more convincing than just saying that learners are engaged.

The issue of learners doing the bare minimum to get points and not necessarily doing the required learning was something that I had not thought about so having this feedback from Lisa helped me think about ways to prevent this. Her idea of rewarding milestones along the way is one that I will implement.


The potential impact of the inclusion of Classcraft with my Year 9 class is that their essay writing results will improve through the extrinsic motivation of gamification because they will be rewarded for skills such as TRUMP, collaboration, problem solving, innovation, adaptability and other 21st Century skills. This will hopefully ingrain these skills into their mode of operating and will be carried over into all aspects of their learning in other curriculum areas. I believe that TRUMP and 21st Skills are essential skills for a successful career and life.

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 1.38.16 PM

I am excited about this because I have been looking for a away to reward these skills for some time now and Classcraft seems to be a great vehicle for this. If the use of Classcraft is successful with my Year 9 learners then I will consider using it in my other classes. I’m not sure whether it will be as effective with senior classes as it seems to be aimed at younger learners but I could try it and see.

If this inquiry is successful it could be used by many other teachers to encourage and reward TRUMP and 21st century skills which are important for our learners’ futures as many report that the jobs our learners will do haven’t been created yet. Therefore, having these skills and being able to adapt to future environments is of utmost importance.


  • Assessing the relevance of my project

To assess the relevance of my project I will discuss it with Lisa White, one of our Deputy Principals, to gain feedback on what she thinks will benefit our learners and what other aspects I need to consider. I will also discuss it with members of my department to explain what I am doing and to get their feedback on how they think it will work.

  • Gathering the data/evidence

I will record the results from 2 essays that will be written in Term 2. These results will be compared with the Term 1 results to see whether improvement has been made. A survey of learner attitudes to using Classcraft will be completed using a Google Form and I will used the chart making part of this app to collate the data. I want to find out whether my learners found Classcraft enjoyable, helpful and motivating. This should show me whether there were any learners who did not find it engaging and motivating and the reasons why.

  • Sharing the data/evidence with relevant parties

Once my Year 9’s have completed 2 essays I will compare the results to the Term 1 essay results and then share this data with my class. The purpose of this will be to show them their improved results and explain how Classcraft was instrumental in helping them to gain these improved results. I will explain that TRUMP and 21st century skills are essential for success and tell them that these are the skills they were rewarded for. Because they demonstrated these skills, their results were improved.

The results and the data from the learner survey will also be shared with my department and Lisa White so that they are able to see the success of Classcraft in improving learner engagement, motivation and essay writing results. This may inspire them to try Classcraft with their own learners. Results and data could also be shared with parents in an email which would explain the whole inquiry. I would invite their feedback to reflect upon and consider for future use of Classcraft.


  1. Smith, G.H. (1990) Principles of Kaupapa Maori. Retrieved from
  2. Te Noho Kotahitanga (n.d.) Retreived from
  3. Carr, J. M. (2011). Does Math Achievement. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 11, 269–286. Retrieved from
  4. Dominguez, A., Saenz-De-Navarrete, J., De-Marcos, L., Fernandez-Sanz, L., Pages, C., & Martinez-Herraiz, J. J. (2013). Gamifying learning experiences: Practical implications and outcomes. Computers and Education, 63, 380–392.
  5. Hwang, G. J., Hung, C. M., & Chen, N. S. (2014). Improving learning achievements, motivations and problem-solving skills through a peer assessment-based game development approach. Educational Technology Research and Development, 62(2), 129–145.
  6. VG Business (2010) Amazing Statistics. Retrieved from:
Posted in Criterion 2, Criterion 4, Criterion 7, Personal TAI, Professional Development

Fun with Furnware

2 years ago I was fortunate enough to be able to choose some Furnware for my classroom. I chose green and orange tables, a white board table, a ‘hairdresser’ chair and 6 red, yellow and green splats. I arranged the furniture to reflect Thornburg’s theory of watering holes, caves and campfires to investigate how this theory would work in my class.
The first time that I let a class into the room I was nervous that they would fight over the splats or the whiteboard table and considered implementing a seating plan. After discussion with colleagues I decided to just see what would happen and was pleasantly surprised. My students walked in and after a few “Wows!” and “This is cool”‘s, they found their preferred seating and sat.



I found that my year 10 classes couldn’t wait for the watering hole part of the lesson to finish so that they could work in groups or by themselves. I had a couple of students who regularly used the cave area to work quietly by themselves. Most of the class loved working in campfire groups and enjoyed all of the different types of furniture. Quite a few also lay on the carpeted floor and worked. The relaxed environment did not adversely affect their engagement but enhanced it.

The result of having new furniture has been happier students who sometimes rush into the class so that can get the seat that they want. The colours and styles of furniture have created a positive atmosphere which is a great platform for any lesson. I have found that colour and variety play a big part in encouraging motivation and creativity. 



For students using pen and paper the splats, beanbags and couches were not so helpful.  My year 13 class, who were not expected to have a device, chose to sit at the tables instead of on the couches and splats. I asked them why they did this and one student summed up most of their responses by saying that it was easier to use pen and paper, if they had devices they would probably sit in the more relaxed seating. With a smaller class this is not a problem as there is enough table space.

I also found that it was difficult to check the work of students in the cave area as they backed themselves into the corner of the room which made it a challenge to sit with them or behind them and comment on their work.



When I first got the furniture I had several incidents where students who were walking past my class poked their heads in and commented on how cool the furniture was and asked why other classes weren’t the same. It is clear to me that students love the colours and the variety of furniture. One student said that the colours made her feel happy!  I found a great article about how colours can affect learning; orange helps stimulate critical thinking and memory, green is relaxing, yellow in small amounts can make us feel happy and red can improve performance and focus. Furnware have also conducted their own research which is well worth a read.



Having a class of Furnware means that the class can no longer be used for examinations or formal tests as the environment is too informal and cannot be arranged into exam formation. So if the whole school were to get Furnware there would be a few logistical problems but maybe exams will look different by that stage.


Posted in Criterion 4, Criterion 8, Mindlab reflections, Professional Development

An engaging, collaborative, creative and challenging education.

On Saturday I went to my first Mindlab session which I really enjoyed. It was great to meet like-minded people and also to think about and discuss what knowledge is. I love that our first reflection is about our own experiences. The topic is to reflect on how your understanding of the purpose of education is visible in your classroom. To fully discuss this topic I have broken it down into 2 areas:

  1. What is my understanding of the purpose of education?

The purpose of education is to help learners discover knowledge and meaning, to not just know something but to actually understand it and be able to apply it in other areas of their lives. There are 3 ways that I believe are important in enabling this lofty goal to happen.

  • Education must be fun and engaging.
  • It should be collaborative, creative, challenging, involve critical thinking and problem solving,
  • Positive and respectful relationships with, and between, learners is essential.

2. How is this understanding visible in my classroom?

  • One way education can be fun and engaging is to play Kahoots with my classes at the end of a lesson. I am yet to meet a class that does not enjoy this. For year 10 revision this term, students worked in pairs to create their own Kahoots which the class then played.


  • Group work or social learning is a staple in my classes. I often ask the class to work in groups to complete a project based learning inquiry or a Solo/Gardner’s learning matrix. Each student is assigned a task so that no-one can freeload. PBL encourages collaboration, critical thinking and creativity in the way that the project is presented. Sometimes I ban the use of staples like Keynote and Pages to encourage more creativity.
  • I often put learners in charge of their learning by flipping the classroom. This does not always mean them watching a video before coming to class but instead is more about all the tasks being available on our LMS and students working through at their own pace with me as the ‘guide on the side’. This has helped me to develop good relationships with my students because I am talking to them, not at them. I keep the ‘chalk and talk’ to a minimum unless really necessary which it sometimes is.
  • My learning space is a colourful and welcoming environment. I am fortunate enough to have a whiteboard table, colourful tables and splats. I also have couches and beanbags and colourful posters. My students love this and often comment about how nice the class is to come to. I also play music while they are working which creates a relaxed environment. I have Spotify so that I can create playlists or students can choose songs that they like –  within reason! Consequently my class is not often silent but filled with chatter and laughter. I used to think that they were off task but when I checked, they weren’t! Well, some were but not many!



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 4, Criterion 5, Professional Development

Good Blog!

This year it has become a requirement for all teaching staff at Orewa College to maintain a blog dedicated to reflecting on their teaching and learning. Each post needs to be linked to at least one of the Teacher Registration Criteria and we are all involved in a department TAI (Teaching as Inquiry). Many also reflect on their own individual TAI.

To assist our staff we have offered PD on how to set up WordPress blogs with categories, I created the following presentation as a guide:

However, this was a bit confusing for some so Richard Wells kindly created a template which could be imported into an existing blog. He’s a clever man! Before long everyone had their blog set up and were ready to go.

Because of this requirement we have offered plenty of PD specifically targeted to help with blogging. What I have noticed is that our staff are all blogging but some have trouble with what to blog about and how to go about it. I have seen photos uploaded to blogs with minimal description about what happened, and then some are asking us what they should write about. To help overcome this problem I’ve developed a few questions and suggestions.


This is the format that I aim to follow in my reflections but I’m not religious about it. Hopefully this will help our staff to write meaningful reflections that will result in even better teaching and learning.


Posted in Criterion 4, Criterion 5, Professional Development

Learning Together

Yesterday I facillitated a workshop on blogging for 8 of our staff and a student teacher. The goal of the workshop was to discover how to make a blog post scannable, embed YouTube clips and slideshows and insert hyperlinks.

Here’s the plan here, embedded using Kyle Bluck’s awesome tutorial on embedding Google stuff. 

I introduced the plan for the day and then directed everyone to our LMS where I had made a folder of ‘How To‘ resources. See my Advanced Blogging post for the resources. I flipped the learning by allowing people to select what they wanted to work on and, using the ‘How To‘ resources, learn at their own pace and choose what they wanted to do and when they wanted to do it. My role was to be the guide on the side and help when needed.


After morning tea we had a sharing session about how blogging could be used with our students. Just before we did this I had a little epiphany about the way we could do this, I could create a Padlet. As staff were returning from morning tea I set this up and emailed them the link to the page. We all shared ideas on the page which could then be reflected on or revisited later.


Everyone then continued pimping out their blogs until 2:45pm when we had a ‘Show and Tell‘ session to see what  people had been doing. I really enjoyed this part of the day as people shared what they had done by projecting their blog on screen so that we could all see. They also shared new things that they had discovered, things that I had not known myself such as:

  • how to create a gallery of photos, 
  • how to change the font style and colour (I mostly blog on an iPad and this option is not available so that’s why I didn’t know!), 
  • and the ability to embed a Google Slide straight from Google Slides instead of having to upload to Slideshare first. 

I also learnt that WordPress has had a recent update which means that you can upload video directly from your camera roll now instead of having to publish to YouTube first! Lifechanging for us! 

It was such a great way to spend a Friday and I learnt just as much as the awesome people in my workshop. Mel Brown reflects on her impressions of the day here: Mel’s blog.

I’m looking forward to our next session in a fortnight, better put my thinking cap on…