Parents, children, footprints and tattoos…

Do you know what I like about Facebook? Seeing family and friends sharing what they’ve been up to and the special moments in their lives. While I use Twitter predominantly for professional learning, I use Facebook for keeping up with friends and family. I love seeing photos of families, especially children having a good time. I share them too so that grandparents and aunts and uncles who live in other cities and countries can join in and enjoy with us these special moments.

It’s great that we can do this! Barriers such as distance have been broken down.

But what are we setting up for our children? No longer do we have albums on bookshelves at home which we share with family and friends when visiting, but now we have albums stored online. They might be secure (although I’m not convinced anything on Facebook is really secure especially when they regularly change their privacy/security rules and settings), but as a colleague of mine pointed out one day, by sharing pictures of our children we are creating not only our digital footprint but theirs too. We’re starting something that they have no control over. Is it a privacy issue?

We could be developing the digital footprint/tattoo for our children before they’re even born. What opportunities does it give them to control what, how and with whom they share things with?

Just something to think about…

Teaching, philosophy and pedagogy

A Thinking Man

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about e-learning and pedagogy. I blogged about this earlier this month when I questioned whether there really is e-learning pedagogy or whether what most people are talking about is best practice. I’m really starting to believe that pedagogy is not really what most people are concerned with.

As a teacher, I have a philosophy of teaching. It is on by CV for when I apply for teaching jobs. It has changed – perhaps evolved is a better term – since I started teaching about 8 years ago. My philosophy of teaching has changed during this time as I have developed as a person, as a teacher, as a reflective practitioner and also as a learner.

Underlying the pedagogy that I exhibit in my teaching, is my philosophy of learning. It shapes how I teach and how I believe is best for the learners in my class to learn. My philosophy drives who I am and how I teach.

But it’s not just my philosophy that drives this. I’ve been thinking about our national curriculum and how there is an underlying philosophy from which this has also been written. Consider the key competencies, for example. Relating to others in my view is not going to fit very well into a behaviourist perspective, philosophy or related pedagogy (didactic learning). It well however be promoted more through a social constructivist viewpoint or through the more modern idea of connectivism. Inquiry teaching and inquiry learning is the same, The philosophy underlying the New Zealand Curriculum leans more towards certain pedagogical theories and practices.

It is difficult to think how some teachers can continue to teach in the same ways that they always have and at the same time meet the needs of the curriculum. Steve Wheeler recently blogged about the possibility of us need to progress with modern pedagogies in his post, Shifting Sands. He states that technology is a driver in this as it has affected the way people interact, learn and of course teach.

I wonder whether if teachers don’t move on or our practices evolve, what will we see in the future?

Image: – wesleynitsckie / CC-BY-SA

Should the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few?

TNG combadge
In education, especially when you’re involved with technologies and e-learning there seems to be a constant barrier in place trying to hold things back. I often hear about the lack of connectivity of many of our students or their families. Or I hear about the issue of money or affordability. These are all valid concerns, but for how long should we hold back before we decide to do something that would benefit a great number of students.

So often in education we look at the few that can’t do something and that holds us back. Yes, I understand we want equity across all, but surely we also want to offer a better quality education. How long should we stay where we are just so we’re not leaving anyone behind? What about looking for ways to help those who cannot access or cannot afford the technology?

To quote Star Trek… Should “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few”?

Personally, I think they should.

At some point, we need to say, we’re going to move forward because we don’t want to leave everyone behind. The world is changing at a very rapid pace. If we don’t jump on-board, what we offer is going to become meaningless or perhaps obsolete.

We live in a world where people are collaborating, creating, sharing, presenting, innovating, interacting and socialising more than ever. These skills were already necessary, but are seemingly even more necessary. These skills need to be taught, not just in face-to-face situations but also virtually. The skills are at least a little different in both situations but our students need to be able to manage in both situations.

At my workplace, I meet with staff in meeting rooms face-to-face, and at the same time I might be meeting with staff in several other offices either through Video Conferencing, Adobe Connect or similar. I imagine this is going to get more and more common as time goes on.

I’m not saying we leave those who can’t access or afford things behind, but let’s also not disadvantage the future lives of those who can. Let’s educate our students to be successful citizens of the time they live in and try to prepare them to be successful citizens in their future.

Monday Mentions–19 November 2012

It’s been a while, but I thought I’d try out getting some Monday Mentions going again. These are my favourite blog posts and articles from the past week in no particular order. Enjoy.

Skills for Learning 2.0 – by Steve Wheeler (@timbuckteeth) from Learning with e’s.
In this post Steve discusses the shift from the 3 R’s, to the 4 C’s – Connection, Context, Complexity and Connotation.

8 Tips to remember what you read  by Ross Crockett from the committed sardine blog.
As the title suggests, this post gives 8 tips to remember what you read. It starts off stating that many people don’t read particularly well, possibly due to all the screen time and then continues into 8 tips.

Great Teaching in Preschool – by Josh Stumpenhorst from Stump the teacher.

Josh outlines some great lessons all teachers can learn from the early childhood sector. Early childhood educators are fantastic!

Principles of the tweeting Principals – by Ainslie MacGibbon from The Sydney Morning Herald.
This is an article about how Australian Principals are using Twitter to continue learning and to collaborate.

Are you really engaging your students? –  by Cherra-Lynne Olthof from Teaching on Purpose.
In this post Cherra-Lynne explains what engagement is. This is a topic I’m quite passionate about as I don’t believe student engagement is well understood by educators. Many people have different views as to what student engagement is. It’s more complex than you might think!

“Label the parts of a microscope…” – by Doyle from Science teacher.
This is a very good blog post that makes you question why we’ve always done certain things. Why do we get students to label the parts of a microscope
Is it time to drop the Digital? – by Chris Betcher from Betchablog.
Chris suggests we can drop the word ‘digital’ from a number of terms in our vocabulary. What do you think?

Has twitter killed the art of blog commenting? – by Stephanie (@traintheteacher) from Teaching the teacher.
Stephanie discusses how commenting on blog posts seems to be changing.

Tinkering School

This TED talk by Gever Tulley entitled, “Life lessons through tinkering” really is a breath of fresh air. It’s exciting to see the amazing creations and problem-solving going on by these children. Watch through to the end to see the roller coaster made by 7 year olds!

Should we be doing more of this real-life learning? Can we take our children out of the constraints of the 4-walled classroom and into the world of creativity, innovation and experimentation? Should we? – I certainly think we can and we should!

What are your thoughts on this? Are you already doing something like this or a bit different? Please share your ideas and experiences by leaving a comment below.

Assistive technology

In yesterday’s blog post I talked a bit about the assistive technology that my son has received to help with his learning due to him having low vision. I had shared the link to the article in which my son stars using the CCTV on Twitter a few days ago and I got this response:

I loved this idea of making assistive technology normal! Why should only those with specific needs have access to these tools? Why should it not be normal for all?

Ocular albinism & BLENNZ

Me and Miss2On Wednesday my wife and I found out that our youngest child (girl – nearly 3) has ocular albinism – a genetic eye condition where there is a reduced amount of pigment in the retina. Apparently my wife is a carrier of the condition, but she has no issues with her sight. It’s not new for our family however, as our eldest son (7) also has it and we have known he had vision difficulties since he was only a few weeks old.

So what does it mean for them? Well, for our son (who vision is worse than our daughter) it means that he has difficulty focusing on things. It takes quite a lot of effort for him to focus. Glasses help, but do not fully overcome the problem. At school he gets tired relatively quickly as a lot of his energy is going in to focusing on what he needs to see. He has no depth perception. A good indication of his vision is when his Mum was standing on one side of the road with someone else and he was on the photo (3)other side, he knew there were two people there but could not make out who was who.

Right from the time our son was 9 months old however, we have had the support of BLENNZ and their RTVs. BLENNZ is the Blind and Low Vision Education Network New Zealand – they are a school in their own right, but they have RTVs (Resource Teacher of Vision) who go and work with and support children with vision difficulties (not just ocular albinism) from before school age and right through school. They work with and support their teachers and help in getting any assistive technology that will support the children in their learning.

BLENNZ learning libraryOur son since being at school has had the use of a few different pieces of technology. Firstly he has a dome magnifier that he can move over a page that he’s reading and it will magnify the text for him. Yes – it’s a magnifying glass, but in the shape of a dome. One advantage of this is that he doesn’t have to get right above it to see. Secondly he had the use of a CCTV. You can read more about that in this article from the BLENNZ Learning Library in which he stars! The CCTV, I think, made a big impact on his learning. It certainly made it easier to keep up with others in his class. He is quite bright, but his vision slows him down. When he has the technology to assist him, he is able to keep up.

(Here is a video about the BLENNZ Learning Library if you are interested – well worth a watch)

This year his awesome RTV helped get him an iPad, along with a Bluetooth keyboard and a airprint enabled printer/scanner. Now he can have class reading books made available to him as ebooks in which he can enlarge the print as much as he needs to. He can have any worksheets scanned and emailed to his iPad. He can take photos of work on the board and enlarge it (he struggles to see the board). He can do his written work on the iPad without having to try to see the faint lines in an exercise book.

Not only do BLENNZ work in the classrooms, but they organise curriculum days where they can get together with other students of low vision and learn with them. Earlier this year my son and I went up to Auckland for a zoo trip with several other children – it was fantastic! BLENNZ support the parents also with tips and guidance on what will help the children. Yesterday his new RTV took him (and me) fishing to teach him some new skills! He caught 7 fish!

My wife and I are really grateful for the excellent work that BLENNZ do. They are making such a difference for our son, and we look forward to the awesome work continuing with our daughter.

WHAT?! Don’t worry about unqualified teachers??

There is something about 2012, education and the National Party that has had me thinking a lot more about politics this year. Right now I think that the National Party should be quite concerned about the apparent double standards of Prime Minister John Key.

On the one hand, the PM has stated that those people who want to become teachers will need to have a degree already and then go on to complete postgraduate study in education. However, on the other hand, he has said today that unqualified, unregistered teachers will be able to teach in charter schools. So he’s made it more difficult to get teachers qualified, but made it easier for anyone to teach if they choose to teach in a charter school.

Link to news article

I notice also that the PM has stated that they will close down charter schools that are not successful as quickly as they’re setting them up. Surely this statement alone means that we should focus on what we’re currently doing instead of trying something new – essentially having our children as guinea pigs in something that the government itself is unsure whether it will work.

I still wonder why the Prime Minister is not the Minister for Education, as he seems to be the main spokesperson for anything to do with it at the moment and was during the first year of National Standards also!

NZ Mission to Mars – KiwiMars

Today’s blog post is a guest post from my good friend and colleague, Bruce Ngataierua (@bruceyn). It outlines his recent ‘mission to Mars’.

IHi my name is Bruce Ngataierua and I was involved in a analogue simulation mission called KiwiMars 2012. The mission was to send 6 people to live in a simulated environment that would be analogous to living on the surface of Mars.

We travelled to the USA and stayed in a place called the Mars Desert Research Station (M.D.R.S) in the middle of the Utah desert. We undertook many activities that simulated what it would be like to actually live on Mars like eating dried packaged food like astronauts eat, walking around in simulated space suits and conserving our resources like water.


The landscape was an awesome sight and it was like nothing I had experienced before. It was a strange “alien” world of hills and rocks and walking around in a space suit was a bit strange as it made you aware of all your senses. You could hear your breath and you could only communicate to others effectively through your radio link.



The mission went from 23 April to 5 May 2012 and the main objective was an education and outreach programme where students from New Zealand would interact with the crew on how they found their experiences during the mission

The other objective was to produce resources in the Planet Earth and Beyond (PEB) strand of the Science curriculum to help teachers and students in the teaching, learning and engagement of space sciences in New Zealand E

Lesson Plans were planned under a range of topics including:

We communicated with mission control in NZ at Carter Observatory everyday during the mission dates and I spoke with over 500 students either at mission control or online inquiring about the how the mission was going.

Common questions asked included…

  • The environment and living conditions
  • Food
  • What we saw and did

Resources are still being developed post mission and the possibility of being involved with another project called “Spaceward Bound”. This is a possible “Space Camp” idea here in NZ with the help of NASA personnel to train our students.




Overall the mission was a great success and we had an awesome time. It was certainly a unique experience that could have “far reaching” possibilities for the future of space exploration in our future.

KiwiMars website

Bruce let me know that if you want to ask any questions about his time away, please feel free to contact him through twitter or leave a comment below. Also if you want Bruce (or another crew member) to visit your school then please get in touch with him.