A delightful way to teach kids about computers

I really enjoyed this TEDx talk by Linda Liukas. In it she shares her passion for coding, including how she realised she has been coding her whole life through, for example, learning the patterns of a language or learning to knit.

She says that we need…

to not see computers as mechanical and lonely and boring and magic, to see them as things that they can tinker and turn around and twist, and so forth.

 [ted id=2417 lang=en]

The kids of today, they tap, swipe and pinch their way through the world. But unless we give them tools to build with computers, we are raising only consumers instead of creators.

We often hear in education that we need to be creators and not consumers of technology. That means that we need to give our students opportunities to be creative and not just do the same kind of stuff all the time. Our students need the chance to think. They need to be questioned to help stretch their thinking. They need to be given the tools and support to make some of their dreams and ideas become a reality.

Programming gives me this amazing power to build my whole little universe with its own rules and paradigms and practices. Create something out of nothing with the pure power of logic.

Can you read deeply on screen?

How do you read on screen? Do you skim more than you would on paper?

The article, Your paper brain and your Kindle brain aren’t the same thing, suggests that we read more deeply if reading from paper than we do on a device.

I’m more likely to read a novel on my iPad than in hardcopy, and do most of my reading on screen. However, I found when I was having to do a large amount of reading for my research that I went through stages of reading printed articles and other stages of reading on screen. I’m not sure whether one was particularly better than the other. I also know that I’m not very good at skimming anything—so this might be a factor also.

I would be interested to know whether they’ve researched this in children. Perhaps there would be a different result if children are taught to read on screen?

Monday Mentions: 18 August 2014

Check out my favourite blog posts from the past week.

  1. On the Importance of Commenting on Blog Posts… by Alex Le Long from Evolution and Imagination. Alex gives us a good reminder that we need to be commenting on other blogs. I know for me that I love comments and sometimes get them on Twitter instead of the blog post. It’s nice, but feels more permanent if attached to the post.
  2. Let’s Booktrack by Allanah King from Life is not a race to be first finished. Allanah blogs about the Booktrack app. I had a look at this at the Education Festival earlier in the year and could see some really good benefits in this. Worth a read.
  3. UDL at the dentist by Chrissie Butler from The CORE Education Blog. This is a great blog post about Universal Design for Learning from an unexpected experience at the dentist. If you want to see a practical example of UDL check it out.

Monday Mentions: 11 August 2014

BlogCheck out my favourite blog posts from the past week.

  1. Managing change in your school – What is missing? by Leigh Hynes from the blog Hynessight. This post highlights some of the challenges that come about due to change in a school (or anywhere). If you haven’t considered each of the five parts of change management then stress can easily build amongst staff.
  2. Pond and Copyright: negotiating the waters by Chris South from the N4L Blog. I’m sharing this post for a couple of reasons. Firstly, as Pond continues to develop, it’s useful to know how N4L/Pond is dealing with copyright infringements and what our responsibility as educators is. Secondly, the N4L blog is a useful one to follow to keep up-to-date with what is going on with N4L, the Managed Network and of course Pond.
  3. Five Good Resources for Teaching Digital Safety and Citizenship to Elementary School Students by Richard Byrne from the blog Free Technology for Teachers. Richard shares a range of useful digital citizenship resources for you to use with your students.

Monday Mentions: 4 August 2014

BlogCheck out my favourite blog posts from the past week.

  1. Schools that work for kids by Eric Sheninger from the blog A Principal’s Reflections. In this post Eric reflects on his son and his technology use at home and relates that back to a school situation, stating that the structure of many schools is at odds to the world our children are growing up in.
  2. Why are more teachers not sharing their practice? by Steve Mouldey from the blog Steve Mouldey: Emergent Reflections of a Secondary Teacher. I know I shared a post from Steve last week but this, to me, is such an important question to consider.
  3. HPSS and Seven Sharp – The School Behind the Soundbite by Claire Amos from Teaching and E-learning. TV current affairs show did a segment on Hobsonville Point Secondary School (HPSS) looking at the modern learning environment and practices that the students learn in. Overall it was very good. Claire takes this and expands on what a school week is like at HPSS to show that the normal stuff people expect from school is still covered within the project work they are doing. This is a great post for anyone interested in seeing how a brand new school operates within and MLE, using modern practices.

Smarter Everyday

I’ve recently come across this YouTube channel: Smarter Every Day.

I’m not going to write much about it because I think the videos speak for themselves, however in a nutshell, the host has a question to answer and heads out to answer it through videos (including high-speed), interviews etc.

These are the two videos that first grabbed my attention.

How Fish Eat (Parts 1 & 2)

And just to whet your appetite a bit more, a cat video (that’s why we use the internet isn’t it?)—yeah, I know some won’t like that he’s experimenting on animals, but we know they land on their feet. The question is… Why? Lots of physics learning in this video!

There are a huge number of videos on his channel and he has over 1.7 million subscribers! The videos can be used in a wide range of educational contexts or even just to inspire kids to question and investigate more!


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.


Rethinking teaching practice

We’re in the process of curriculum redesign for our Year 9 and 10 programme. In some ways it’s quite exciting and in other ways it’s frightening. We’re moving from a correspondence, booklet-based mode of delivery and teaching to being fully online. There seem to be challenges and barriers around every corner.

One of the challenges I have been seeing is the understandable but limiting desire to continually think about how we currently do things or how we’ve always done it. We need to instead be dreaming about how we want teaching and learning to look like in the future of our school and plan to make it happen. It’s exciting to be able to do the big dreaming and to reshape the curriculum and practices of the school, but it can also be very scary.

In redesigning curriculum, we are having to consider current teaching practices, both those that take place within our school, as well as those that are happening in face-to-face schools. We are considering, amongst other things, how blended learning is occurring in schools and how new schools with Modern Learning Environments (MLEs) are using their spaces and team teaching etc.

The use of MLEs is of particular interest to me, especially how schools are managing large numbers of students in one learning space as well as combining curriculum areas within contexts. We’ve had discussion around having online learning hubs/spaces where the student could go to the virtual Garden, for example, and learn about horticulture and food and technology and then link that food preparation. Then that could head to the virtual Gym and consider the impact of that food on their body, their health and a link could be created to the Lab where the student could investigate how the food they are eating is affecting their life.

The idea behind the learning hubs/spaces was not so much to have them specifically separate spaces online, but as a model as to how the students could navigate or create connections between one “subject” and other, or one context and another. Connections are critical for us. We need to create resources that will be able to be combined into a standard course in Science or English or Maths etc, and we also need to be able to use those resources in a cross-curricular or contextual manner. They therefore need to be generic enough to stand alone or be used in a way that perhaps hasn’t been dreamed of yet. It’s about resources that are not limited to how they can be used.

Although these discussions have been going on for some time, our thinking probably still has a long way to go. We’ve now got to begin creating these resources as well as continuing to shape the way teaching and learning will occur once these resources are produced. It will require a shift in thinking and practice for a number of our staff as well as a lot of PD to help manage the shift.

Change is messy!

E-learning pedagogy–fact or fiction?

Homework on the beach

I’ve been thinking a bit recently about pedagogy, and in particular the idea of an online or e-learning pedagogy. Teachers I work with all want PD in e-learning pedagogy.

Sounds reasonable, doesn’t it?

Of course. But what is it? What does everyone mean by e-learning pedagogy or online pedagogy?

Back in 2011 I wrote this post about what pedagogy is, because I don’t think a lot of people really understand it. Actually, at the time, I’m not sure I really understood it. It is often bandied around as the thing we have to do and consider, but sometimes I wonder if it’s an excuse – particularly when it comes to e-learning and giving it a go. Although in that post I mentioned that pedagogy is about teaching children, I don’t think it necessarily matters now that we use this term often in talking about teaching adults.

Pedagogy is the art and science of teaching.

So what is e-learning or online pedagogy then? Is it simply the art and science of teaching online or the art and science of teaching with technology?

Do we need to consider Pedagogy 2.0 which focuses on the 3 Ps – personalisation, productivity and participation?

Or maybe the newer idea of Peeragogy is what we should be looking at. The video below is about peeragogy.


The issue I have is that I don’t think this is what any of the teachers are looking for when they ask for PD in e-learning pedagogy. I think what they’re really asking for is guidance in instructional design and also best practice for teaching and learning online. Yes, pedagogy is a part of best practice, for sure, but I feel that it’s not all of it.

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt since going through teacher training, is that pedagogy is not something that is taught. You cannot run a PD session on pedagogy. You learn it on the job. You experience it. It’s an art and science that in some ones is particular to individuals. Yes there is some theory surrounding it (the science), but then there is no one way to teach correctly (the art). I have learnt so much about teaching and learning through experience. Through trial and error. Through failure and success – sometimes more failure than success!

The other thing I’ve learnt about teaching online is that apart from the platform/medium being used, what we do is similar to face-to-face. No, I’m not saying we can sit there and lecture our students, but is this best practice face-to-face? We want to see interaction amongst students and with their teacher and the content. We want to see group work – collaboration. Innovation. Student-centered learning.

A lot of the best practice in online teaching is the same best practice in face-to-face, classroom teaching. The difference is in how it is delivered, and much of that comes down to instructional design.

What do you think? Is there really an online or e-learning pedagogy? Do we need to totally change the way we teach? I’m sure some do, but perhaps some need to anyway.

Is the request for e-learning pedagogy an excuse to not give e-learning/blended learning a go? It shouldn’t be. Most, if not all of us, would have developed our art of teaching by jumping in, trying it out, learning from our mistakes and adapting what we do accordingly.


Image: Flickr- Ingo Bernhardt CC-BY-2.0

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.