uLearn15 #EdBlogNZ selfies

Finally posting my uLearn15 selfies with other #EdBlogNZers. I’m hoping I’m remembering everyone correctly!

Firstly… with Mike Buckham. It was great to meet Mike and hear how much he has enjoyed taking part in the EdBlogNZ challenge.

It was great also to meet Steph and reconnect with Annemarie Hyde.

The next two, I didn’t actually take the pics but it was great to connect with them also:

Marnel van der Spuy…

And… both the other #EdBlogNZ founders/organisers – Sonya van Schaijik and Alex Le Long.

Professional blogging for beginners

As part of the #EdBlogNZ week 2 challenges, Alex Le Long and Nathaniel Louwrens have paired up to collaborate on this blog post.

The challenge is to collaborate with another blogger to discuss an important issue in education. Post must be shared on both blogs, tagged with #edblognz on Twitter and include at least one media tool in the post (video, photo, embed something else).

So our important issue focuses on something that we have been pushing and driving for the past few months – Professional blogging. Well, blogging may not necessarily be the issue, perhaps more so, it is reflecting on our practice. Of course, we like to encourage teachers to do this through blogs. And since we co-presented during this week at #ulearn15 on Professional Blogging for Beginners, we thought we’d continue this theme.

Why should we reflect on our practice through blogs? As Steve Wheeler puts it in his post, 3 things you should know about blogging, blogging is public. Yes, you can make them private, but then you don’t have the opportunity for others to think about and consider what’s going on for you and add their point of view. You also don’t give them the opportunity to question their own practice. Remember… it’s for our students!


This statement above, attributed to Karen Melhuish-Spencer, appeared on Steve Mouldey’s blog, is challenging. We are doing it for our students. We want our students to succeed. If we don’t share what’s going on we can’t learn from each other.

If you’re looking for other reasons to blog, other than to reflect, then check out this Padlet that #edblognz people contributed to recently: Why do you blog?

Blogging gives us an opportunity also to gather evidence for the Practising Teacher Criteria (what was the Registered Teacher Criteria). You can use your blog to write posts relevant to your learning, practise, questions etc and tag/label them with the PTC number. They then become easy to find, use, and share as necessary.

As we progress on our learning and teaching journey, no matter how long or how little we have been teaching, our practice continually evolves to best suit the students we have in front of us. By sharing our learning and developing understanding of this evolution in our practice, we’re then able to portray a sense of thoughtful reflection.

By using our blogs as a way to show this development we can quickly identify the different aspects of our practice by using tags or labels.

Building on our collaborative and sharing natures as teachers, we can learn more about the changes in education and the need to keep reflecting to enhance our own practices for our students.

Ulearn14: Learning & connections

Last week I had the privilege of attending NZ’s most awesome education conference – Ulearn. This conference always has great speakers from around New Zealand and the world, and attracts a large number of teachers—this year was no exception.


This was the third Ulearn conference I had attended, but the second time that I’ve really made the most of being there by connecting with other teachers and educators, most of whom I’ve “met” virtually through Twitter. This for me is a big deal because, as I’ve said in previous posts, I’m not great face-to-face. I’m quite happy to talk online but sometimes find it hard in person. However, I think because I’ve already connected with many of these people through Twitter, I felt like I already knew them and could already relate!

I was also able to attend my second Twitter Dinner. This is an evening where fellow tweeters get together to share a meal and meet face-to-face. It’s great to hear all the, “Oh, you’re <insert twitter handle here>!” Thanks Annemarie for organising this great event!

Capturing learning

I started the conference strong, taking notes, tweeting, capturing my learning. It was long before my notes got shorter and shorter and then eventually non-existent as I headed back to 140 character note-taking and continued connection with others through Twitter. I’ve never been a big note taker so this is where I love twitter as I can benefit from the collective note taking/key points of other conference attendees through the back-channel. It’s also an opportunity to be able to grab any key links or other resources that might get shared by the attendees so you’re not limited to what the presenter can share themselves.


While I could probably write a lot about all of the keynotes and breakouts I went to, I’m only going to briefly mention two of them. These are the two that really stood out for me.

Katie Novak

The first is the keynote by Katie Novak. Katie shared about UDL—Universal Design for Learning. [You can find her presentation and other links on her website]

UDL is [from Wikipedia]:

Recognizing that the way individuals learn can be unique, the UDL framework, first defined by the Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST) in the 1990s, calls for creating curriculum from the outset that provides:

  • Multiple means of representation to give learners various ways of acquiring information and knowledge,
  • Multiple means of expression to provide learners alternatives for demonstrating what they know, and
  • Multiple means of engagement to tap into learners’ interests, challenge them appropriately, and motivate them to learn.

Probably the biggest questions that was coming up on Twitter around UDL is, “How is this different from differentiation?” and “Aren’t we already doing this?”. I quickly found an answer to the first question in this blog post. In regards to the second question, I imagine that some might be doing it, but I would argue that many aren’t, even if they know about it. What i think often happens at conferences like Ulearn is that we get the people that do know or want to know more and are willing to put the effort into their teaching practice etc, but those that aren’t already doing it and need to know about it are the ones that don’t come. But of course that’s another issue!

While I really like UDL and plan to find out a lot more about it, and she shared a lot of excellent stuff to get people thinking, what stood out for me from this presentation was actually her style of presentation. Yes, she was keynoting so there was a bit of talking from the front of the room. She did have over 1700 people she was talking to! But… she also got people talking amongst themselves. She engaged them! Katie also answer questions from the twitter feed. But probably the biggest thing for me was that she got down off the stage and talked to people during the discussion times. That’s what really stood out for me. It wasn’t simply a lecture but an opportunity to engage and engage with the people in the room.

Michaela Pinkerton

The second stand-out presentation for me was a breakout by Michaela Pinkerton called “Kai for kaiako”.

Michaela really focused on teachers and in particular their professional learning. She shared some excellent thoughts. Instead of me summarising what she talked about I’m going to embed a few of the key tweets.

Nearly at the end…

So all-in-all Ulearn was once again fantastic! There were a lot of takeaway messages from great presenters. Connections were made and networks have grown. AND friendships were also developed!

The best part in my mind is that the learning hasn’t stopped. We’re 4 days since the end of the conference and the #ulearn14 hashtag is still going on twitter as teachers are reflecting on their learning through blogging, sharing with their colleagues, asking further questions and continuing to build connections.

And since Ulearn fell into Connected Educator Month, we’ve still got 17 more days of #cenz14 goodness to go! Keep connecting, learning and growing!

Finally… I just have to share this last tweet. Annemarie took a few of us on a little bit of a tiki tour on Saturday morning. I arrived back at the airport with about 1 minute to go until I was supposed to board my flight! Luckily I had already checked in!


I’ve been lucky enough to attend the Virtual Professional Learning and Development/Future Focused Inquiry two-day hui in Auckland over the last couple of days as an observer (I say observer but as much as was possible I was an active “observer”. It was a privileged to be able to attend and meet a lot of awesome people, grow my network and learn heaps of what VPLD and FFI is! To be able to finish the second week of my new job at a hui such as this was awesome!

Anyway… there were a lot of great presentations and many amazing stories shared throughout the two days. I’m just going to pick the 5 things that really stood out to me.

  1. Probably the biggest thing that stood out to me was Suzi Gould summing up the somewhat complicated teaching as inquiry model into three words that somehow ended up with becoming four: ask — seek — change — reimagine. Ask and keep asking. Inquiry starts from questioning. Seek information from students, whanau, colleagues etc. Change, and to change you must take action. And as part of this, reimagine. It’s important to imagine and be creative and to continue to do so.
  2. Heather Eccles talked about needing to go outside of our comfort zone and our perspectives to get answers/solve problems we may have. As educators, this means we sometimes might need to not only talk with other educators/teachers to find solutions but talk to those outside of education. Outsiders can often have a very different perspective and bring new ideas to a situation.
  3. Catriona Pene shared about digital mihi. She talked about why you would share your mini, and that is in order to make connections with those you are with or presenting to, give a sense of identity and also credibility. She stated that sharing a digital mihi allows a bit more information to be shared in the form of pictures, videos or animations. Creating a digital mini is something that I have planned to do this year, but have not quite gotten myself organised with. We were given the opportunity to work on these during the session, so I’ve made a little progress and aim to be finished early next week. Watch this space!!!
  4. We heard about the 3 brains of leadership from Margaret Lamont who reminded us that following our heart and having those gut feelings/hunches can be just as valid as well thought through ideas.
  5. The final thing that really stuck with me was from Afoa? (please if I have this incorrect, tell me!) who talked about the idea of it ‘taking a village to raise a child’. He described how the Samoan chiefs in the Matai system when meeting each sit at a pillar. This is representative of the chiefs all being required to support, hold up and lead the village. What this means though is that the historically the chiefs are required to think and the others to do what is required. We need to encourage Pasifika students and families that it is okay to think for themselves. Afoa left us with learning the word, lotogatasi and broke it down into it’s parts to define it: loto=heart; lalaga=weave; tasi=together.

lotogatasi = hearts woven into one

Finally, I must share this video reminding us all to BE MORE DOG. Sounds a bit odd, but have a watch and think about the meaning behind it.


Education keynote addresses… Is there anything new going on?

I’ve been to a few education conferences/mini-conferences in the last year. I enjoy them. I enjoy hearing the exciting things teachers are doing with their classes, even if it’s similar to what someone else has done. Excitement can be contagious, which is great.

What I have noticed though is that most of the keynote talks that I have heard have rehashed the same stuff over the past 4-5 years. Is there no new, useful research/practices going on? I’m sure there are. I’ve read some of the articles that have been written.

While many of the speakers are excellent speakers/presenters and are great at inspiring, I’m ready for something new. I need real-life examples of innovation/creativity and it really needs to be original. We’ve all heard (yes I know it’s a generalisation…) about moving from the industrial age into the knowledge age and beyond. We know about the way the internet is changing.

I do realise that some people don’t know and haven’t heard or still need to catch up, but what about those who do already know and are doing? I also don’t mind being reminded of some things but the reminders now should be short and few.

I find teacher/educator (and keynote speaker) blogs are great to find out what’s going on in real-life learning situations (ie. classrooms/schools) and love to learn this way. But I also like to be able to go and hear a speaker who is pushing the boundaries of what we currently know and be challenged/inspired to do more ourselves.

I know great things are happening in education around the world. I just want to hear about them and not the same stuff I heard 2, 3 or 4 years ago.

Ulearn 2013

It’s been 3 years since I was last at Ulearn so I was really looking forward to it this year. It didn’t disappoint! In my view, Ulearn is THE education conference to attend in New Zealand. So if you can get to one, make sure it’s ulearn!


Ulearn kicked off for me at the Showcase on Tuesday night. 10 presenters for 10 minutes each, giving a look into what they would be talking about during the conference.

They were all very good, however the one that stood out for me was Megan Iemma (@megsamanda) who talked about her experiences around the Tasmanian bush fires and how social media helped to stay connected to what was going on and help those in need.



I only got to hear two of the three keynotes as I had to head to the airport early on the Friday. Ken Shelton (@k_shelton) was the first keynote and he shared about the importance of publishing. From the twitter backchannel stream and conversations later it was clear that not everyone agreed with him. Some were wondering about creating and others said that what he was suggesting was several years old. I think though that publishing is the next step from creating. You need to have created something before you are able to publish it. It also aligns with what the second keynote speaker, Mark Pesce (@mpesce), was saying. He talked about the importance of sharing. In many ways sharing is just a part of publishing. Perhaps it comes after publishing. Create-Publish-Share. It gets you the audience. In my mind, they all go together. Mark Pesce also suggested that we are past the ‘digital natives’ time, and now have sharing natives. It’s an interesting thought, and while I agree that our teenagers in particular are big sharers, I’m not convinced myself that it is a native thing for them.


Although I disagree with the digital natives/digital immigrants idea, I have seen my children, at very young ages (under 1 year old) pick up a device and stay using it adequately. I don’t see the same sorts of things happening in terms of sharing. I think the act of sharing is great, but to be effective it needs to be taught. It is also important that sharing is done responsibly and therefore discussion around digital citizenship is important. I’m not denying that as children/teens get their hands on devices they will begin to share as they see what their peers are doing but I’m not yet convinced that it is intrinsic to them.

One other thing that Mark Pesce said was,

assessment is intrinsic to the act of sharing

This was the message he wanted us all to take from the session. It was interesting because I for one did not understand exactly what he meant by this, and still don’t really understand. So why am I sharing it here? Simply because I’m hoping someone else out there might be able to explain it to me!

I wondered a little whether he was suggesting that if you share something it is going to be assessed/judged by others. Certainly if others want to use what you share they are going to need to assess it in terms of validity and reliability. So what we share will be assessed in some way by others, but it might not necessarily be assessed in the educational sense of the word which generally links to grading/feedback/learning.


Without going into detail of all the breakouts, I’m just going to list some of the things that stood out to me in no apparent order. Some of the key messages are listed as tweets:

    • Mark Osborne asked the question, “Why should students come to school?” It’s an interesting question as there is so much informal learning that can be done. Derek Wenmoth in one of his sessions also highlighted that we all (including out students) do a lot of informal learning. This learning should not be discounted by schools/teachers.



  • Derek Wenmoth made the comparison between hospitals being patient-centric and schools being learner-centric. Hospitals/doctors do not put everything back on to the patient to make decisions etc, but often in schools, teachers tend to do this by giving students the choice or promoting ‘personalised learning’. Derek suggested that schools need to ensure they are learnING centered. The teacher is still the professional and knows what is best, just like the doctor knows what is best for the patient.

  • David Kinane (@dakinane) and Megan Iemma (@megsamanda) presented a workshop together even though David was not there in person (he Skyped in). It was a great, fast-paced workshop sharing a range of fantastic tools for teaching and learning. Check out the the tweets from the session here on storify.
  • Another breakout with Derek Wenmoth looked at schools as networked learning places. It was great to see the power of making connections and bringing different networks together through a simple exercise with a roll of string.

    See more about this on Derek’s blog.


I know there is so much more that I could share and I could go into more detail, but I’ve got other things I need to do (finishing a thesis!). The last highlight I want to share though is meeting so many fellow tweeters. It was really great to put faces to names at last. Some of you I have been talking with for three or more years. It was great to meet you all and I look forward to further conversations and connections being made!

Continuing to learn…

As a teacher, it is so important that we continue to learn and be willing to learn! Along with this is that we have to do what Ardis Cochrane suggested at the International Conference on eLearning Futures 2011 a couple of weeks ago. She suggested that:

teachers need to be respected as learners

This is so important for those who are involved in eLearning in some way – particularly promoting it with teachers in your school or organisation. Some teachers are nervous when it comes to using ICT and they need to be given time, space and support to learn how and when to use it appropriately.

Of course the experts also need to be continually learning, so I thought I would share a couple of the ways I try to continually learn.

  • As you can see, I go to conferences. To be honest I’ve only been to one this year. It was good, but conferences can be quite expensive so might not always be possible to attend. Conferences of course are great for networking.
  • Blogs – I read blogs, and quite a few of them. I follow blogs of academics, teachers and educational technologists. Using the RSS feeds and an RSS reader such as Google Reader it’s not too difficult to keep up with blogs. I also use an iPad app called Flipboard where I can read the blogs a bit like a magazine. It’s a good, enjoyable way to find out what’s going on in the educational world.
  • Twitter – this is probably the key way I find out things that are going on. I don’t follow just anybody. Again, I pick teachers, principals, academics and so on that relate to the topics I am interested in (education, eLearning etc). Twitter, like conferences is great for networking. I’ve ‘met’ quite a few people on Twitter that I chat to and they give me advice/suggestions etc that are very valuable. (I wrote a blog about Twitter some time ago…)

I hope this is useful to someone. I’ve also been doing some extra-mural study and just completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Education. Next year I am hoping to complete my Master of Education (eLearning). The learning continues!

As much as possible don’t keep your learning to yourself! It needs to be shared with others!

As Steve Wheeler said at the conference:

Knowledge is like love. You can give it away and still get to keep it.

Relevant, just-in-time learning

The key theme for me, that came through the ulearn conference was about relevance. We need to ensure that what we are teaching has meaning; has a point for our students.

For many years (many) educators have taught things ‘just-in-case’ it is in a test or examination. However these things that are taught often have little meaning on their own.

Lane Clark, in her keynote, said two very important things:

Are we teaching for their future, or our past?

Teachers often bring in relevance at the end of a topic, when it’s finished.

We need to make the learning relevant from the start!

Lane pointed out that as adults we go into a project/research knowing the relevance – why we want to research it; what is the point. But for some reason, teachers often hold off with the relevance of a topic to the very end.

Why do we do this? Is it for control? I don’t know the answer, but I know that I’ve been guilty of doing it!

Relevant learning could include real-life or authentic learning. Immersing students in a real-life situation where questions can be generated and problems solved. This is not simply placing learning within a context, but actually placing the students in real-life learning situations.

I’ll leave you with this:
Is the teaching and learning that occurs in your class relevant to your students? Is the teaching and learning relevant to today and the future?

Ulearn 2010 – Day 3

Well after a spectacular conference dinner at the end of Thursday, things seemed a bit quieter on Friday with many people tired and recovering. Here are a few notes from the breakout sessions I attended and the final keynote. I was one of the tired ones so my notes ended up being a bit shorter and my tweets were also fewer! But here goes…

Breakout 5: Leigh Duncan & Waveney Bryant – Environmental education and ICT – an unlikely combination
  1. Garden to table programme:
  2. Teach students to grow, harvest and prepare food
    Positive influence of food choices

  3. Don’t hold back – teach from early on to use knives (chef knives etc) in the kitchen. (so that students are ready to go for it at year 3)
  4. Authentic, relevant learning occurring where kids grow food, cook food – then put into place at home as well!
  5. Kids go home buzzing after ‘garden-to-table’ programme – it shows that is effective and engaging!
  6. http://ee-ict-meadowbank.wikispaces.com/ – Meadowbank school wiki for environmental education.
Breakout 6: Derek Wenmoth – Future focused schools

I wish that this breakout had been earlier in the conference. Derek had so many good things to say but I didn’t manage to record them all.


  1. On the site of a future school. Some things to think about:
    1. · What would kids learn

      · How would they learn?

      · When would they learn?

      · Who would they learn with?

      · What would they learn on or with?

      · Where would they learn?

      · How will they/we know when they have learnt?

  2. We need to be thinking about educating for the future rather than educating in the future.
  3. “Organisations that are built to change have a clear sense of who they are and what they stand for.” – Lawler and Worley (2009)
  4. Learning should be part of the DNA of an organization/school. Not just students learning, but all learning!
  5. Educators need to speak to each other, bounce off ideas and draw from best practice. Share what we’ve got with each other!
Keynote 4: Professor Stephen Heppell

I’m not sure if there was a title to this keynote address. I certainly didn’t get one. Professor Heppell was humourus, relaxed and inspiring. In an unusual style he seemed to be chatting about education through retelling personal stories. It was a very effective presentation style. www.heppell.net

  1. Experience vs expertise – experience is so important. More than just writing/talking about it – it’s actually practised!
  2. Stop talking about 21st Century learning. (We’re 10% into the century!). It’s difficult to talk about what schools could be like in the 21st century when we’re already well into it!
  3. Every turned off device is a turned off child”.
  4. Let the children go for it! Don’t limit them with our limitations.
  5. UK Minister of Education says that teachers need to be given professional freedom – ministry needs to ‘let go’. (a bit different to ours in New Zealand!)

That’s 5 key points for this keynote, however I want to add a couple of quotes from Heppell himself:

“When people come to their senses and stop talking about standardized tests…”

PDF = pretty dull format


So that’s the end of ULearn 2010. It was a fantastic conference and I really hope to attend next year! Over the next few days I hope to reflect a bit more about the conference and get down some general thoughts or key ideas that seemed to be coming through from the keynote speakers (and also through some of the breakout sessions.