Looking back ~ Looking forward

I didn’t want to write one of those cliche reflect on last year, set goals for this year blog posts but I think that’s what I’m doing. I wanted my focus to be on looking at what might be ahead this year. Reflecting on last year is an important part of that.

Looking back – 2014

Looking backPersonal highlights

2014 was an eventful year for me both personally and professionally. Some of the highlights include:

  1. Celebrating my 10th wedding anniversary.
  2. Completing and submitting my Master’s thesis. This was the end of two years work and boy was I glad to get this done!
  3. Accepting a new job with CORE Education. An exciting and challenging career move for me which also includes now working alongside some of the people I have looked up to in regards to e-learning and education.
  4. Getting a passing grade on my thesis. I found this out in the same week as being offered and accepting my new position. It was a good week!
  5. Having the opportunity to be involved with some great PLD through Virtual Professional Learning and Development, Ulearn, Connected Educator Month, and Twitter (including #edchatNZ).
  6. Graduating with Master of Education in E-Learning with Merit.

    A pic of my capping photo. #graduation #Massey
    Graduation at Massey University – 28 November 2014.
  7. Getting the #edblogNZ hashtag up and running. It’s not hugely used yet, but it’s growing. The main reason I tried to get this going is that many blog posts were being shared on Twitter and disappearing quickly due to the busy-ness of the Twitter feed or #edchatNZ stream.
  8. Being voted onto the BLENNZ school Board of Trustees. This was unexpected, but as I have two children who are supported through BLENNZ I thought it would be a good opportunity to give back to this fantastic school!
  9. It was also exciting to celebrate my Dad’s 70th birthday, my sister-in-law’s wedding and my youngests 5th birthday (no more pre-schoolers for us!).

Okay, so numbers 2, 4 and 6 are really all part of the same thing, but they were all separated by time and each one was a separate highlight for me.

NZ education

There have been three stand-out happenings in NZ education in 2014 from my perspective. None of them are necessarily new, but have been areas of growth.

  1. The first one is the increase in teacher-led/teacher-driven PD. This has come through a couple of avenues. Connected Educator Month certainly had an impact on this as we saw a huge amount of PD available for free during a single month. There appeared to be a huge growth in the number of teachers trying out twitter, webinars, online discussions, blogging, and more! The other BIG part of this was the continuation of the #edchatNZ Twitter chats as well as the #edcchatNZ conference that was fully run by teachers. I was disappointed not to be able to attend.
  2. The second thing I’ve noticed is the shift from looking at/implementing Modern Learning Environments to using Modern Learning Practices. This has come about a lot through many schools simply being unable to create large open plan spaces as they are limited to single-celled classrooms and/or prefabs. It also takes the emphasis off the space and the furniture and puts it back on the teacher and their practice.
  3. The final area of growth that I’ve seen is around Universal Design for Learning (UDL). Interest for this, I believe, grew through Katie Novak’s keynote at Ulearn. While it’s far from embedded, having such a well presented/facilitated keynote that demonstrated some of the principles of UDL has certainly raised awareness of it.

Looking forward – 2015

Blogging goals

Claire Amos in her recent post Reflections and Resolutions has decided to write a weekly Ed blog and has asked who wants to join her so I’ve decided to join in on this and write a #weeklyedpost.

Along with this I’ve decided to set another blogging related goal. That is to comment on at least one blog post every week. The comment must also go on the blog and not on Twitter or elsewhere.
So this is my first #weeklyedpost.


Question Everything / Nullius in verba / Take nobody's word for itI’ve noticed too that many people have decided not to have goals/resolutions for the New Year. Instead they’ve chosen one word that they will focus on/live/do for the year. So my #oneword2015 is QUESTION. I want to question more. This might be questioning people, ideas, concepts, theories etc. It might be physically questioning someone, or it might be questioning in my head. I already do this to some extent but I want to do it more, take it further, and seek out more information on certain things that I’m just not sure about or not happy with.

I also want to grow my questioning skills with people, particularly with the adults I’m working with. I want to learn to ask questions that help others to think and, wonder, ponder and perhaps question themselves and their own thoughts and beliefs.

NZ Education

In regards to NZ education in 2015, I think we’re going to continue to see growth particularly in modern learning practices and UDL. I think these two things go together so well, as MLP allows for much great student-centered, personalised learning and UDL give opportunity for students to learn in ways that are most appropriate for them at the time.

Introverts and Social Media

Over the past year or so I’ve also developed quite an interest in understand introverts more. I am one. Since I first read an interview of Susan Cain on the TED blog I’ve started to understand myself better and why I do what I do. I’ve also realised that we need to consider introverts in education much more than we do. Both students and teachers. Throughout the last few years there has definitely been an emphasis on collaboration and group work. While I think this is valuable it doesn’t suit all students all of the time (actually in my Masters research, most of the students I interviewed who liked to do group work also really liked to work on their own). I believe UDL could help with supporting the introverted student and I hope that we see more of an emphasis put on introverts throughout 2015. E-learning can help some introverts, even in group situations. I’m interested in exploring this much more and how introverted teachers like myself can manage in situations like open plan, team teaching, modern learning environments.


So that’s it! I’m really looking forward to see what comes through this year!
Have a great 2015 and keep sharing, reflecting and learning!

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!

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!

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.

ULearn 2010 – Day 2

Well it’s been another great day at ULearn! Lane Clark started the day with a very good keynote and the day will finish later tonight with the conference Gala Dinner. I’ll stick with no more than 5 points per speaker.

In breakout 4 I presented with Sandy Dougherty. You can see our presentation in my previous blog post.

Keynote 3: Lane Clark – Learning to learn: it’s bigger than inquiry

Lane Clark is a good speaker. She has some very good ideas however I was a little distracted by her very busy (some impossible to read) slides. Here are a few points from her keynote.

  1. “Are we preparing learners for their future or our past?” – This was an interesting way to start. Some teachers do teach in the way that it’s always been done, and it may not be relevant to our students now or in the future.
  2. The best learning takes place when it is RELEVANT. “You don’t figure out why you did the learning at the end of the journey. You know it at the start.”  -  I know I’m guilty of teaching students lots of information and then trying to make it relevant. We need to make it relevant from the start!
  3. Our job is to help students pick the right tools to use in order to learn.
  4. Our job is to keep the brain engaged!
  5. Teach our kids how to learn.
    Teach them how to think.
    Teach them how to think in order to learn.
Breakout 3: Craig Cummings & Kirsty Forsyth – An Inquiry Approach for 21st-Century Learning

This breakout session was very similar to the keynote, as both focused on inquiry learning. Craig and Kirsty are involved in inquiry learning and have used/adapted some of Lane Clarks tools.

http://stixy.com/guest/83314 – handouts and more available

  1. Make learning authentic and real!
  2. Immersing students in a topic is a great way to get them involved and interested.
  3. Learning should be engaging and stimulating!
  4. If students aren’t engaged then will they be learning? Will they be learning well?

The key theme for both the keynote and breakout 3 for me was… Make learning relevant to students!

Ulearn presentation: Effective online teaching and learning

Sandy Dougherty and I presented at breakout 4 at ulearn on effective online teaching and learning. It was the first time I had presented outside of my school. I think it went well and have had some positive feedback. We looked at some online tools that we had used in online teaching. I’ve embedded the presentation below (done on Prezi), but as it was an interactive session, I’m not sure how useful they will be.

[vodpod id=Video.4611203&w=425&h=350&fv=prezi_id%3Dxkgwtusffcmt%26amp%3Block_to_path%3D0%26amp%3Bcolor%3Dffffff%26amp%3Bautoplay%3Dno%26amp%3Bautohide_ctrls%3D0]


ULearn 2010 – Day 1

Wow! What a great start to a great conference! I’m going to try to highlight the key points of the day. Basically my aim is to pick out no more than 5 points for each session. So here goes…

Keynote 1: Lee Crockett – Understanding the Digital Generation

Lee Crockett was a very good speaker. One of the things that I got from this keynote session was not so much what Lee was talking about but the style of his presentation slides. Very few slides had any writing on them. Most were just an image that supported what he was talking about (not diagrams, just pictures). A good thing to remember for presentations I have to do. http://fluency21.com/

  1. Children are maturing very fast. This is due to digital bombardment and is happening outside of school. Their brains are developing very fast.
  2. The brains of our students are ‘hyperlinked’. They have developed in a very different way to us. We have developed linear connections. Students’ brains connect in all directions and continuing to change all the time physically and chemically.
  3. F-pattern of reading. Our students will not read the bottom part of a page unless it is really engaging.
  4. Digital learners prefer to process images, video and sound BEFORE text.
  5. Digital learners prefer to learn ‘just-in-time’. Teachers often teach ‘just-in-case’. Digital learners prefer learning that is relevant, active, fun.

One key to this keynote is for us as teachers to be fully aware that our students are different to us. They learn in different ways. This isn’t to say that they should learn in ONLY the way that seems suits them best. They need to learn in a variety of ways, but we as teachers must also not get stuck in teaching the old traditional ways.

Breakout 1: Mark Treadwell – Whatever were we thinking? – How the brain works

Well, my laptop had a very flat battery for this breakout, so I only got a few notes down.

The main part to this breakout was that most peoples understanding of how the brain works is quite an old understanding. Many have not moved on from believing that neurons are the brains pathways (or only pathway). The human brain also creates learned pathways with astrocytes. These are the pathways that form so that you don’t have to think about repeated actions (eg. sitting down or driving to work at 8am every morning). The astrocytes map the repeated patterns.

Breakout 2: Trevor Bond – Learner Questioning: Making a difference

I was really keen to hear what was to be said at this breakout session. I’m really keen to not only develop good questioning myself, but also for my students to learn to question effectively. This was a big help towards this.

Trevor’s wiki http://ictnz.com/

  1. Neil Postman – “Questioning is the most important intellectual tool”.
  2. Kids when they’re at home ask over 50% questions.
    Kids at preschool ask about 5% questions.
    At high school 99.8% of the questions are asked by teachers – 0.02% by students.
  3. We, as teachers need to encourage questioning (students are actually scared of asking questions during to negative, “angry” response from teachers. – We must change this attitude!
  4. Core skills for effective questioning:
  5. · Identify the need/problem
    · Identify relevant contextual vocab
    · Ask a range of relevant questions
    · Take them to a variety of appropriate sources
    · Persist, editing questions as necessary until you get the information you need.

  6. We must also make sure we (teachers) are asking good questions! Modelling is so important!
Keynote 2: Steve Wheeler – Transformation and inspiration through social media: meeting the needs of the 21st Century learners

I was really keen to hear Steve Wheeler speak today. I’ve started following his blog recently and he has a lot of good things to say. Here’s just a little bit of what he had to say today…

  1. Every new technology has people against it. It’s important that teachers take the technology and use it effectively.
  2. Get a vision! – Helen Keller – “… it must be tragic when you can see but have no vision.”
  3. Teachers should be LEADING the change not REACTING to it!
  4. Schools are like airlines: sit in rows; put your trust in someone you’ve never met; turn off all electronic devices. – – Let’s use these devices!
  5. What do this generation of learners need?
  6. · Digital literacies – are websites accurate? Trustworthy?
    · Engaging and fun – eg. Games; interactive narratives; role play simulations
    · Personalized learning – go back to ‘just for me’ environment.

And one more thing…
· Arthur C Clarke – “Any teacher who can be replaced by a computer… should be”.

Here’s Steve’s blog.


All-in-all this was a great opening day! I can’t wait for tomorrow!

ULearn 2010: What I hope to gain from it

On Tuesday afternoon I’m getting on a plane to fly to Christchurch for ULearn 10.

ULearn is an annual education conference held in New Zealand. It is organised by Core-Ed. ULearn has a strong emphasis on using ICT tools in enhancing education. The tagline is “collaborate | innovate | educate”.

This is the first time I will be attending ULearn, so I’m quite excited to go along as I’ve heard there are always fantastic keynote speakers and many people to network with or share ideas with. It’s exciting that here in New Zealand we can get around 2000 educators together to share what they are doing to enhance teaching and learning in their classrooms or environments.

It’s also the first time that I will be presenting at a conference like this. I’m presenting with a colleague on Effective online teaching and learning.

So heading in to ULearn next week… What do I hope to gain from the conference?

  1. I really want to hear from national and world leaders in education. I want to know what they are doing, why they are doing it, and why this (hopefully) new way of educating is working so well.
  2. I want to learn about the innovative way different ICT and Web 2.0 tools are being used to teach.
  3. I want to come away feeling inspired and equipped to improve my teaching, in order to equip my students to learn in the best ways possible.

So those are my aims. I will also aim to get some blog posts up during ULearn. This did not work so well for me at Learning@School at the beginning of the year, so we’ll see what happens this time! Hopefully I’ll have more luck!