Monday, March 24, 2014

Reflections from the Festival of Education

The Festival of Education was held in three locations across New Zealand this week and I had the opportunity to present and attend most of the Auckland event held at the Viaduct Events Centre. Here are some reflections of my experience:

I had previously been part of the inaugural session of TeachMeetNZ in 2013 and enjoyed this exciting new platform for sharing professional learning, so I jumped at the opportunity of being part of the virtual presentation organised by Sonya van Schijik.  A TeachMeet is a professional learning opportunity where up to 10 presenters join a Google Hangout and share a nano presentation (approximately 3 minutes) of a strategy that is working well in their professional practice.  The Hangout is streamed live via the internet and recorded so that viewers can rewind the learning and unpack the presentations at a time that suits them.

Sonya was coordinating the session in front of a live audience at the Viaduct Events Centre and co-presenting from their homes across New Zealand in the Hangout were: Juliet Revell, Myles Webb, Monika Kern, Diana Wilkes, Emma Alaalatoa-Dale, Manu Faaea-Semeatu and myself.  The Hangout was supported by Kathy Scott as master time-keeper with her rattlesnake (aka jingle bells) and Marnel van der Spuy as chat-wing moderator and tweeter for the event.

Getting organised I joined the Hangout ten minutes prior to "going live" only to find that my computer at home wanted to allow an update for Google voice and video to optimise my Hangout experience, I allowed this and joined the Hangout - only to find I could see my fellow presenters but not hear them.  I was to present third in the line-up for the day, so was anxious as to whether I would miss my cue to start, or whether my presentation would be seen or heard.  My colleagues were great in the chat bar trying to help me out with all sorts of problem solving, and then it happened ... my computer FROZE! I was nervous already about presenting live, and the thought that I could be connected to the Hangout and not hear was already raising the nerve factor and then this! I calmly tried to shut down my computer which then had the whirring cog of death displayed - I had to resort to physically pulling the power plug out of the wall and rebooting the computer.  Now as we all know, clock watching doesn't help in these circumstances, and what seemed forever to boot back up, I finally rejoined the Hangout for TeachMeetNZ with sound and video! Hurrah! I caught my breathe, wiped off my sweaty palms and shared my presentation last.  

So what did I learn in all of this?  I truly believe that this platform for presenting and sharing ideas is valuable because it is recorded permanently and viewers can go back at anytime and rewatch the ideas being presented.  There is a supporting wikispace that clearly profiles each of the TeachMeetNZ sessions and presenters.  Each presenter has a page with links to their presentation and online digital footprint. I also learnt that many of our staff often look to contributors of events like these or facilitators as 'experts' and that things 'don't go wrong technically ever for us' however I think with my technical issues on the day, it shows that you need persistence and tenacity to keep calm and keep on trying with digital technologies.  I also have a closer connection with the presenters (albeit virtually) 
Here's my contribution to our full Google Hangout below:

Here's our Google Hangout Presentation (my segment is at 33.30):

Christian Long 
Christian spoke about the influence of The Third Teacher . In essence in every student’s life there are 3 teachers:

  1. The parents/adults/teachers
  2. Their peers
  3. The environment - everything around us affects us (similar to the Reggio Emilia philosophy that there is an influence in the relationship between community and learning).
Christian works with a group of designers who create learning environments that are seen to have a positive influence on student learning. He has been involved in projects to repurpose old building and land, as well as designing new structures like this one below form the KOC Foundation inTurkey.

Christian spoke of the need to have more creative problem solving in the curriculum in order to equip students for the future and promoted the notion of getting into a "moonshot mindset" and getting students to "prototype" by embracing the now and launching ideas in a prototype style, rather than waiting until you are sure you have completely worked out all the kinks. I loved this video he showed that embraced this thinking - particularly the quote "have the courage to try, that's how great things happen."
John Hattie

I missed John Hattie's keynote address, however had the opportunity to join his chatroom session that continued the discussion from the keynote of "High impact, passionate teachers".  Hattie discussed the difference between expert and experienced teachers isn't the from the years of service one might have but of those teachers that work with their students at a deeper level to increase and accelerate student outcomes. The image below I snapped quickly on what expert teachers do:
Michael Fullan
I was lucky enough to attend both the keynote and chatroom session from Michael Fullan.  This felt like a real treat to be in the presence of such a respected educator.  I loved everything that he had to say, and would refer people to his website to find a wealth of shared articles on his work.  I particularly agree with the notion of Principal as lead learner, modelling and participating in the learning and professional development that staff are undertaking. He talked about effective change occurring through the strength and sustainability of a school with the quality of the lateral relationships - "if you want to change the group, use the group to change the group" this can be achieved through leveraging the quality of knowledge and collectivity of ideas. He states that in the unplanned revolution pedagogy is the driver, technology is the accelerator -He looks to Hattie’s work which stated no correlation between technology and student outcomes, however this is possibly because the technology has been acquired without the pedagogy in mind - now there is a flip towards the pedagogy first. He also promoted the use of Hattie's discovery that Teacher as Facilitator (.17) was too passive and Teacher as Activator (.60) was the desired state for working in the deep with students as this wasn't a passive state.

Deep learning (21st Century learning skills) - Of the six characteristics 3-6 have previously been included in 21st Century learning skills however 1-2 have been added in recent times...Character - persistence, resilience etc…, Citizenship is based more on the empathetic side, global thinking.

Fullan also discussed that Principal's do not get trained in developing the group - coaching models are particularly useful to help build the capacity of the organisation. I'd refer you to the book that Fullan has written along with Hargreaves "Professional Capital" which outlines the formula
PC=f(HC, SC, DC). Professional Capital - decisional capital (quality of knowledge for decisions), social (quality of the group and purposeful relationships, collaboration) and human (quality of individual). Social capital needs to be the driver - you can have quality individuals, however if they aren’t in a culture of growth then they will be rejected - collaboration is key - to what extend do you and other teachers work in a coordinated and effective way to improve outcomes for the students. I look forward to investigating more of his work on his site and in his book Stratosphere too.

Other reflections
I loved the showcase of student work using digital technologies from schools in the Manaiakalani Trust. A delightful boy named Robin from Glen Innes School politely came up to me and asked whether I'd like to look at some of his learning on his netbook. He shared with me his learning on his blog (link to come) and we discussed the features of a quality comment which he had been learning about too.

I also got interviewed for a quick segment for the Inspired by You channel. Where I said that when I was at school Mr VK of Manurewa High (now at Botany Secondary) was inspiring because of the relationships he had with his classes to make learning fun and engaging. I thanked Kim Benjamin as a leader who was always so positive in her dialogue with others and then stated the Festival was a great opportunity to showcase the excellence and variety across the sector.
Finally, it was great to make face to face connections with many educators that I am usually online with. The Festival of Education was held over a weekend, therefore it has meant that many of us have not stopped working. The difference I think for those that contributed and attend, is our deep commitment and passion towards our own learning and contributing to the sector for better outcomes for everyone. It was disappointing then not to see it showcased in any national news broadcasts.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Rewindable Learning via TeachMeetNZ

Earlier this year I was fortunate to take part in the very first TeachMeetNZ session. An online event, a meeting of minds for educators to share a nano presentation on something that is topical to the presenter. These sessions in New Zealand are coordinated by Sonya van Schaijik (@vanschaijik) that sprouted from her investigations into the Hyper-connectivity of educators with digital technologies and are part of a wider global movement of connected educators.

The presentations take place live via a Google Hangout and therefore are recorded, so if like me you miss the actual event you can watch the presentations again and again to grasp concepts or follow up on points of interest. Prior to the event Sonya has several practise sessions to make sure you feel comfortable with knowing how to join the hangout, share your screen, turn your camera and microphones on and off - plus she has a template that can be utilised to help frame your presentation. Once you've been a presenter you also get the priviledge of sharing the TeachMeetNZ badge on your blog.

I was keen to participate in the very first TeachMeetNZ because it was a new platform that we were all trying and experimenting with.  Sonya wasn't sure how it would go and I'm so pleased that it has now had it's forth session - with a breakout session being hosted by PE New Zealand teachers too using the TeachMeetNZ online space also.  This proves the power of hyper-connectivity that Sonya planned to achieve.  Personally I was pleased to synthesise my understandings from my 2011 study leave with my thesis research on teaching as inquiry.  It was a great opportunity to put my ideas together concisely in only three minutes to introduce the concept and explain my research findings with my summary diagram.  Further information on the concept of teaching as inquiry can be found on my wikispace (  Please feel free to contact me if you'd like to discuss my ideas further.

TeachMeetNZ has now had it's fourth event and all events can be viewed at - Each presenter has a page with links to their nano presentations (9 slides @ 15 seconds/slide for a total of 3 minutes). I enjoy being able to watch the presentations when I'm available (timing wise for example today's event was mid afternoon and I was out with my family). So what better way to spend a Saturday night now that it's very late with the family all tucked in their bed but to continue to learn! There are currently 20 interesting presentations on this site, so go on... discover the learning possibilities of a TeachMeet by either watching an event or volunteering for a future event!

 My TeachMeetNZ page and presentation:

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Team Collaboration for Teaching as Inquiry

I often get asked what does "teaching as inquiry" actually look like since this was the focus of my thesis work in 2011. While at my school we have adopted a teaching as inquiry approach since the launch of the revised NZC my current work has lead our staff to review the way that we work together in order to really focus on teacher practices that will have a positive impact to raise student outcomes. This year we changed the way that individual teachers evaluated their termly reading, writing and mathematics. I had a concern that teachers found the evaluation process a waste of time when I would hear comments like "no one reads them" so why do we do them? Some teachers did them for the sake of doing them but not viewed the process as one to reflect and transform their practice. I called a meeting of the team leaders and facilitated a conversation about what they thought of our evaluations, what they liked about them (or not) and if they were effective in actually having an impact on teacher practice to reflect on their actions that would change the way they viewed their professional activity. After the team leaders all had a turn sharing their ideas I could summarise that the system wasn't working and proposed a new way of working. Together we decided that a team approach would be the best option and came up with a possible template together that was agreed upon. 

We decided to use a Google Doc that staff members could collaborate on and analyse together as a team. After the first round of evaluations at the end of term 1, early in term 2 the team leaders reviewed the new system. All team leaders agreed that there were merits, better ownership of the team data and targets, putting the % of students to reach the target into actual numbers to get students "across the line" to meet the target was real, and that teachers didn't feel that they were alone in their endeavours to raise outcomes, the collegial approach seemed to be working Team leaders discussed that rather than doing evaluations at the end of terms they would do them as assessments were done and being updated (in reality it still ends up being at the end of a term). At the beginning of term 3 we reviewed the template again based on the ERO report on Accelerating the Progress of Priority Learners in School's report was published. As a team we identified that the evaluations in the current form were effective and to make the practice highly effective we would add in the changes since the last round of evaluations. We identified that staff were easily able to identify the gaps that students had, but weren't adding the specific strategies that they would try to see if it had an impact of student outcomes, what were the teachers going to try that was different? Here is a current example (with the names modified to reduce identification)
 In section A teachers choose a colour and record the students names and add the totals at the bottom of each well below, below, at and above section for their class. Students on the special needs register and receiving support are also identified by highlighting or * so that at a glance the curriculum leaders, team leaders and SENCO can see if support is required (if none already allocated). As a team they then add the totals and write a statement of how many students are achieving in relation to the National Standard targets and the shifts that need to occur. In section B (added after the ERO reading at the beginning of term 3) staff now have to describe the progress that has been made since the last round of evaluations and try to pinpoint what deliberate acts have caused this shift - what did they do differently. There is still a little bit of work across most teams to complete this new section, however we have made a great start. In section C the team work together to identify gaps in student knowledge and the strategies that staff will employ to accelerate progress - not just for the well below and below students but for the at and above students also. 

The team leaders ensure that the evaluations are completed before the school holidays so that the curriculum leaders for reading, writing and mathematics can review the data and see what professional learning they can provide for the team or individual teachers to improve outcomes. As DP for curriculum and assessment I then work with aggregating the shifts over each point the data has been collected and tally the information (example) I give print out a copy of all the evaluations for the curriculum leaders and also display the information in our staff professional learning room. The intention with the printed out tables being in a public space is so that staff may browse the data of other year levels to check how students that they have previous had, have progressed over time. If a teacher has identified a child they have had previously they might share some insights with the current teacher of strategies that they found had worked for the particular child. In this way the data and progress of all students is monitored and staff work collegially to take ownership of improving outcomes for all students.

Next steps: moving forward in 2014 we are going to continue this practice, however we are deciding on how this will look for us with the implementation of anniversary reporting.  At present we report in year group cohorts, so the move to After 1/2 &3 year at school anniversaries is leading us to think creatively how this might look next year.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Inspiring future leaders: a reflection on NAPP

Last year I was part of the National Aspiring Principals' Programme or NAPP.  This programme is for senior leaders who aspire to become principals in the near future. 

The focus of the NAPP is on developing adaptive, culturally responsive, digitally literate leaders through inquiry learning, and building their understanding of the research base around leadership. The delivery of the programme ranges from a variety of face to face small group work where akonga (learners) share their developing leadership inquiry over the year, a regional day, a national hui and  four online modules focus on school operating systems in the New Zealand context and show how to link those systems effectively to student achievement.  Using a mix of shared online interaction and individualised self-managed learning, the modules explore: school contexts, resourcing, personnel and employment, and strategies and planning.  I found the delivery of the programme to be very useful and complimented my daily work as a deputy principal.  I particularly enjoyed the face to face time in our smaller professional learning groups where each akonga shared their leadership inquiry and how this progressed over the year.  The opportunity to connect with akonga at the regional and national days meant that you could put a face to the online connections that you made through the Virtual Learning Network (VLN) and meet many inspiring facilitators.

This year I was priviledged to be asked to represent the 2012 akonga and return to address the 2013 NAPPsters at the National Hui, held in Auckland. I was asked to present a five minute talk to the close to 200 participants with a critical reflection on my experiences.  Leading with moral purpose and reflecting on ones practice is at the forefront of any leader if there is to be personal and organisational growth.  I discussed how being involved with NAPP led me to be more culturally responsive as a leader and reignite the need to be a digital resident and connected leader.

I was also asked to present two smaller round table events on my passion for implementing Teaching as Inquiry as a model of self and school improvement when staff view inquiry as a professional way of being.  Both these sessions were well attended and the link to this work can be found on my wikispace.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

A Punch of Professional Development

Personalising professional learning to a whole staff is always tricky as 'one size never fits all' yet over the last year I've participated in several forms of professional learning that has catered to a wide group (all at once!). This has taken the form of "smackdowns" and unconference-style learning experiences. Smackdowns are small punches of information where tips, trick, ideas and wonderings are shared. In many cases a Google Presentation is set up and people are invited to create a slide prior to the event, when the event occurs participants must be prepared to get up in front of the audience and share their slide/knowledge. We have used the concept of a smackdown to continue weekly professional learning for our school wide blogging strategy. Each Monday at our morning briefing staff are encouraged to share 2-3 ideas about what they have found out about blogging. This way the learning is coming from the 'just in time' needs of the staff and staff see others taking a lead. The person with the designation of eLeader doesn't always have to be the source of new inspiration, staff can go to others who have shared or tried ideas. Using a smackdown has been a successful option for us - here is our weekly smackdown of growing ideas around blogging: An unconference format has also proven to be effective. This year I have attended the Emerging Leaders unconference called Ignition in the April school holidays, and at the beginning of this term Educamp Auckland using this format too. Usually when you attend a conference you are aware of who is presenting and what workshops are on offer for you to attend, with an unconference attendees turn up to the event and "post-up" workshops they are prepared to share. This way attendees create the professional learning that is to happen based on the needs, wants and ideas of the group of attendees that are in the room. It sources the collective knowledge and wisdom of the many to tailor learning. Lastly, I have found a hybrid approach to the smackdown/unconference and termed the phrase "sparkshop". I recently had the opportunity to organise a professional learning afternoon for our local eLearning network where we had 120 attendees. We started the session with a smackdown and then broke into sparkshops - 20 minutes of inspiration to spark ideas in attendees to go and try in their classrooms before the end of the term. Unlike an unconference where we would have been unsure who would be prepared to share, we approached 8 keen eLearners across the 15 network schools to present. These attendees made their contribution slide to a Google Presentation and then link their sparkshop so that everyone can view the presentations - attendees got to attend 2 sparkshops in our afternoon session. Here is our eLearning network sparkshop presentation: Finally, it's no point attending professional learning without a bias for action. Attendees were asked to fill in a pledge postcard and to record one thing that they will try between attending the eLearning network professional learning smackdown and sparkshops before the end of the term. These were collected and then school leaders will give back out in a few weeks time to see whether attendees have followed through on their pledge. Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini - success is not the work of one, but the work of many.