Saturday, 21 November 2015

Activity 10 - Reflective Practice - Putting it all together

Way back in March of this year I was really excited to be embarking on this postgraduate course in Applied Learning.  It is now coming to an end.  There have been lots of ups and some downs over the 32 weeks.  I have met lots of interesting people, learnt and played with lots of awesome new gadgets and apps, been challenged in my thinking and ideas, struggled through some assignments, shared lots with my students and colleagues but most of all I have gained so much to inform my teaching practice and reflected critically on where I am at in my teaching path.  Doing this course has been hard work but all worth it.
Criteria 3/9/10
  • Demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa / New Zealand.
  • Respond effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.
  • Work effectively within the bicultural context of Aotearoa NZ.
As the Cultural Co-ordinator at my school, these criteria are very important to me and I feel I definitely met this criteria over the course of this programme.  Embarking on this course has further opened my eyes to other teaching styles and approaches that could be used to respond more effectively to the diverse needs and interests of my students.  Undertaking the research in the Research and Community paper on how mindsets relate to the learning and achievement of Māori and Pasifika students enabled me to delve further into an area that interests me and enables me to better address the learning needs of these students.

Criteria 4/5
  • Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice.
  • Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.
Over the last few years in my teaching career I have taken on more and more leadership roles.  The Leadership in Digital and Collaborative Learning (LDC) paper was particularly interesting to me as I learn and grow as a leader in the education arena.  LDC2 made me reflect on myself as a leader and analyse my leadership style.  It was also great to get some constructive feedback on myself as a leader to help me become a more effective leader and teacher.

Criteria 6/7
  • Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme.
  • Promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment.
This course has shown me new ideas and approaches to implementing successful learning programmes in today’s educational environment, for example blended learning, flipped classroom, self-directed learning etc.  I have used some of the approaches in my own classroom and found them very successful.

Criteria 12
  • Use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice.
During this programme we have been exposed to a lot of professional literature, which we have had to analyse, discuss and reflect on.  These opportunities have enabled me to reflect more deeply on the effectiveness of my own practice and how it affects my students learning and wellbeing.

Two goals I have for my future development are:

  • Get more involved with my PLN on Twitter.  
I have been on Twitter for over 4 years now and have a good amount of followers, however I have found that I am more of a consumer on Twitter than a contributor.  My goal is to start interacting more regularly with my PLN and contribute my reflections and ideas.
  • Be a leader for change in my school
The last few years have seen me try many new things in my classroom.  I am already a leader for in school in a few areas but with the implementation by a colleague and myself of an MLE, I am looking forward to sharing my learning journey with my colleagues.  Our school is looking to implement this pedagogy and mindset school wide, encouraging more learner agency in our school and I am looking forward to help lead this change.  

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this learning journey and I wish all NZ teachers would embark on it.  Our students need teachers who are future focused, want to do the best for their students, take risks and step out of their comfort zones.  If this is you and you want to be the best teacher you can this course!

Ministry of Education (nd).Practising Teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from

Activity 9 - Evaluations of the cultural responsiveness in practice

One of my passions and areas of interest is Te Aō Māori, so being culturally responsive in my practice is extremely important to me.   I have been the Cultural Co-ordinator at my school for the last 2 years and part of the Cultural Committee for the last 5 years.  To me it is crucial that all New Zealand students are exposed to have and have explicit teaching and learning in Te Aō Māori and Te Reo Māori no matter what their background.    

At Elm park School (EPS) approximately 15% of the students are Māori and 20% are Pasifika and there are clear expectations on implementing Te Reo Māori and Tikanga Māori in our school and classroom programmes.  We have a document called the Elm Park School Te Aō Māori Overview which outlines the aims and expectations in Te Aō Māori by the end of 2016 based on the curriculum document.  To enable teachers to meet these expectations, teachers have been supported with various professional development opportunities over the years including Te Reo Māori sessions held in staff meetings, a number of teachers attended Wānanga ō Aotearoa courses, and support from staff in the school who are proficient in Te Reo Māori.  I also established a site called Te Aō Māori ( to help support teachers in teaching and incorporating Te Reo Māori in their classrooms.   This site included numerous resources, lesson plans, ideas and information for teachers and students to refer to and use.  I have also shared this site with other schools and teachers in our area as many schools don’t have a clear Te Aō Māori policy or expectations in their schools.   

At EPS the use of Te Reo Māori and tikanga is fast becoming the norm and continues to strengthen as teachers become more confident in using Te Reo.  Many classes now start and end their day with a karakia (we have 2 versions - non-denominational and Christian based - taking into consideration that our students come from many different religions and backgrounds).  We always perform a Powhiri for visitors and new staff to our school, including Beginning Teachers.  We celebrate Matariki, Te Wiki ō Te Reo Māori, the Treaty of Waitangi with school wide activities and events including our whanau and community.  

Establishing these expectations at EPS has seen Te Reo Māori strengthen over the years and it is becoming embedded in our everyday teaching and learning.  It has moved from being tokenistic to becoming meaningful and relevant for all our students.  As I get new classes each year it is exciting to see how much the students know and be able to build on that rather than starting from the beginning.


Activity 8 - Legal Contexts and Digital Identities

My school, Elm Park School (EPS) has been an online school for a number of years.  We began eportfolios approximately 8 years through the KnowledgeNet platform, and after we rolled out Google Apps for Education 3 years ago in the school, we changed to online blogs as a platform for our eportfolios.  We have also trialled BYOD in our school for the first time this year and have decided to roll this out to all Y4-6 students next year.  All these initiatives have implications in terms of ethics and accountability of all the parties involved ie. school staff, students and whanau etc.

Every students in our school from Year 0 has their own blog which they use to show their learning and reflections.  The blogs are open to the world, unless otherwise requested by a parent or guardian that a student’s blog be made private.  This is in line with the requirements under the Education Council Code of Ethics which states that teachers must “respect their privacy.”  Also in line with the requirement under the Code of Ethics that teachers “protect the confidentiality of information about learners obtained in the course of professional service, consistent with legal requirements”, only first names are used in the blogs and all assessment information and reporting, which is also done online, is kept on a separate site which only the teacher, student and parent/caregiver has access to.  The Education Council states that we must keep “parents/guardians updated and involved in what’s being shared on blogs and on-line spaces created for teaching and learning” and we encourage our parents to check their child’s blog regularly and make comments on their learning.

All our students have their own Google accounts which includes their own email and youtube accounts.  Being such a connected school has many advantages and is fantastic but has also meant that we have had to be very careful in terms of ensuring that our staff, teachers, students and parents understand how to be cybersafe and responsible users of the internet.  As such we have established a very clear set of guidelines around cybersafety and cybersafety forms that all parents/caregivers sign when their child enrols in our school.        

An ethical dilemma that I, and other teachers everywhere, have is the interactions with students and parents on email and social media, especially Facebook.  I have had many friend requests from parents and current and ex-students on Facebook.  As the Code of Ethics on Social Media states, it is important to “consider ethical risks” when engaging with students and/or parents on social media.  I have ignored friend request from current students and students’ parents, however some of my students’ parents were personal friends of mine before their children became my students.  In this instance I have remained friends with them on Facebook but I am very aware of the content I upload and discuss.  I have discussed this dilemma with other colleagues, especially about friending ex-students on Facebook.  Some are of the opinion that is is OK after they have left school, although personally I still don’t feel very comfortable doing this.  Some students follow me on Twitter and this is not something I can really control, other than blocking them and because I predominantly use Twitter as a PLN, I am not uncomfortable about students or parents following me in this forum.     


Education Council (nd). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certficated Teachers. Retrieved from

New Zealand Teachers Council. (2015). Teachers & Social Media . Retrieved from

Activity 7 - Professional Online Social Networks

"Social network sites afford members freedom and autonomy to construct and develop their own understanding in collaboration with others"  (Melhuish, p.40).
  • How do/would you use social media to enhance your professional development?
I have used social media to enhance my professional development for a number of years, in particular Twitter, the Virtual Learning Network (VLN), and Facebook.  I discovered the benefits of using Twitter as an educator about 4 years ago when I first attended ULearn and since then I have been an avid user.   It is a fantastic platform to build a Personal Learning Network (PLN) and connect with other educators across the world.  It has enabled me to find some great resources, have interesting conversations with other educators around the world, share ideas and constantly inspires me in my teaching.   

  • What are some key features of social media that you have identified as beneficial for teaching and learning?

“The ‘connected educator’ is not just a reader or viewer, but an active participant in ongoing discussions and planning efforts” (Saxena, 2013).

  1. Collaboration
The ability to collaborate with other educators from all around the world, rather than just within your own local school community.  Students are able to connect with other students around the world and learn and share ideas.
  1. Sharing resources/Ideas
The amount of resources and ideas that are being shared on social networking sites is phenomenal.  Gone are the days of creating everything from scratch.  Educators are extremely generous, sharing people who are happy to share with other educators and we all benefit from that.  
  1. Building a supportive network
Teaching can be a really lonely profession.  Using social media sites and having a PLN can be a great way to connect with other educators, find out what they are doing, ask questions, get advise etc.  
  1. Keeping up to date
Keeping in touch on social media enables educators to keep up to date with new technologies, apps, on-line resources etc which is essential in today’s fast paced and ever changing environment.  

  • What are potential challenges that teachers need to be aware of when integrating social networking platforms into teaching activities?
  1. Can be distracting
Using social networking platforms can be distracting for students and the purpose for using them needs to be very clear and relevant to the learning.  If students aren’t clear on why the social media is being used then it can be seen as just a novel way of doing a lesson and not for a specific, genuine purpose.
  1. Cyberbullying
There is the risk of cyberbullying happening on social networking platforms.  Students need to be explicitly taught how to use social media appropriately and how to react if they come across cyberbullying.  

  1. Technical issues
There is always to risk of technical issues interrupting these sessions eg. internet outages, equipment failure or malfunction, lack of devices etc.

  • What social media platform do you feel best supports engagement with your professional development? Why?
The social media platform that best supports me in my professional development is Twitter.  There are many educators on Twitter and it is an easy way to connect with them.   I find it helpful that I can quickly glance through and find conversations, ideas, comments that interest me and engage with those educators.  Also because you have a limit of 140 characters your tweets need to be to the point and less waffle than a blog or Facebook post.  The ability to get quick feedback to questions etc is also advantageous.  

Melhuish, K.(2013) Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrived on 05 May, 2015 from
Saxena, S. (2013) Benefits of Being a Connected Educator.  
Retrieved on 15 November 2015 from

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Activity 6 - Contemporary issues or trends in New Zealand or internationally

Core Education identifies ten trends for 2015 and I have chosen two issues that I find most relevant to my practice.  

Screen Shot 2015-11-22 at 5.02.41 pm.png
(Image from Core Education Website, 2015)

The first issue is Learner Agency and the second issue is Maker Culture.  Both these issues are particularly relevant to my practice as I have changed my pedagogy and classroom programme substantially this year to a more student directed learning environment where my students have increasingly taken control of their own learning.  

Learner Agency
Core Education (2015) identifies Learner Agency as a shift away from teachers owning the learning process to students having more ownership.  “When learners have ‘the power to act’ in their learning, they have what is known as ‘agency’” (Core Education, 2015).  

A colleague and I made the conscious decision to establish a Modern Learning Environment at our school two years ago.  We changed our traditional classrooms, which were adjoined, into our own MLE with the blessing of our Principal.  Last year was the experimentation year where we tried various things but never really got to where we wanted to be; which was allowing our students to become self-directed learners.   As this year has progressed my colleague and I have made a concerted effort to establish a self-directed learning environment and mindshift in our students.  This is working very successfully now and we have had teachers from many schools visit our classroom with a view to doing similar things in their school.  Indeed this is in line with one of the three issues identified in an ERO report in 2012, “Issue One: The need to shift the focus to student-centred learning.”   Many schools, including EPS are now working towards providing Professional Development for teachers with a view to enable students to have more Learner Agency.

Maker Culture
“The Maker movement has grown out of a desire to use technology for active creation rather than passive consumption” (Core Education, 2015).  This is a huge issue in New Zealand education as technology becomes more available and advanced.  As an ICT Lead Teacher at my school, one of the concerns I have is the danger of only using technology to consume rather than create.  As I have grown in experience and confidence in ICT over the years I have made a conscious effort to use technology in my classroom for genuine purposes that enhance learning rather than just using it for the sake of it.  Many teachers are still learning how to use technology effectively in their classrooms. To prepare our students for the future in this 21st Century, we need to ensure they have the skills and knowledge to be able to use technology to create and help solve problems rather than just consume information etc.  


CORE Education. (2015). CORE's 10 trends 2015. Retrieved 26 October 2015.
Retrieved 26 October 2015 from CORE Education:

Education Review Office (2012).The three most pressing issues for New Zealand’s education system, revealed in latest ERO report - Education Review Office. Retrieved 26 October 2015, from

Friday, 9 October 2015

Activity 5 - Professional Connection Map

Map of my Professional Connections for Elm Park School

This map shows my connections within my professional community at Elm Park School.  The many professional and personal connections I have made over the years through my teaching journey (and am still making) have shaped, and continue to shape, the teacher I have become.  By collaborating, sharing, discussing, observing and reflecting with these connections, I have learnt, developed and grown as a teacher and leader, however there is always more to learn and strive towards.

The notion of interdisciplinarity as outlined by Mathison and Freeman (1997) is that by bringing two or more disciplines consciously together, we can enhance "critical thinking skills and in-depth content"(p.12) in student learning.  However the professional connections and experiences I have had over my teaching career have led me further that this, towards an intergative approach where, as Mathison and Freeman (1997) state, the "students' and teachers' concerns and ideas, transcends the disciplines in a search for coherence and meaning, and is built through daily negotiations and interactions" (p.12).  More on this follows...

In my Professonal Connections Map I have identified 5 main groups of connections:

1. Students in R28/29

A colleague and I started a lone MLE in our otherwise predominantly traditional pedagogy based school.  We have incorporated a Student Directed Learning (SDL) programme in our classroom this year moving towards what Mathison and Freeman (1997) refer to as an "integrative curriculum"(p.20), going beyond the interdisciplinary model.  This has been a challenging process that only came about after being inspired by, learning from and watching other teachers and education professionals embark on this learning path.  The students in our class, and my colleague, have been inspiring for me and taught me as much as I have taught them.  

There have been many benefits and challenges working in this integrated way.

The Benefits

  • The students in our class have become more empowered and independent in their learning.  They are learning how to manage themselves and their learning.  They are motivated and eager to engage in learning.
  • Collaboration amongst teachers and students has led to deeper thinking and engagement in the learning.  Students are getting better at problem solving and taking risks.
  • Students are making more connections with each other and the wider community, be it on-line (other schools, blogs etc) or within our local community.
  • Students are able to learn at their own pace and at their own level.  They support and scaffold each other in their learning.
  • Learning is relevant to the students' worlds, thier problems and needs and what is important to them, therefore they are more engaged and it makes the learning more meaningful to them.
The Challenges
  • This approach has been a huge shift for both teachers and students in terms of mindsets towards teaching and learning.  As a teacher it was a challenging for me to let go of the locus of control to a large extent and give it over to the students.  In turn they found it difficult to adjust from being largely dependent on being told what to do and when, to being independent, having to think laterally and being responsible for their own learning.  They have been so used to being "spoon-fed" to a certain extent, many felt very challenged taking control of their own learning.
  • Being the only class in the school doing this type of teaching and learning has led to some misunderstanding from colleagues.  
  • Some students with learning and behaviour issues have struggled in this enviroment and this has led to an adjustment in the programme for these students and teacher-directed support.  

2. Staff at EPS

The staff at EPS have a huge range of personal and professional experiences to learn from, and share, with each other.  These connections and wealth of experience are invaluable in terms of learning from each other, sharing resources, ideas, information, approaches and strengths.  We all have our strengths and by combining these strengths and collaborating, we are able to provide students with a greater range of views and information to enable a broader understanding for our students (Mathison and Freeman, p.19).

3. Local Community

We are very connected to our local community through a number of different programmes and initiatives, including free school programmes at our local art gallery, Te Tuhi, the Koanga Festival (an annual Kapa Haka event in the East Auckland area), Walking School Bus and YouthTown Sports programme to name a few.  By taking advantage of these programmes and initiatives we are able to enrich the learning for our students and provide experiences they may otherwise not have access to.     

4. Curriculum

At EPS we have used the strengths and experiences of teachers in our school to produce reading and writing progressions for both teachers and students to use to guide their learning.  These are working documents that are currently under review as we strive to ensure that they are relevant and applicable in accordamce with the current NZ Curriculum and National Standards. 

Assessment for Learning (AFoL) is also an expectation in our school and we have had much PD on this with experienced teachers modelling and scaffolding less experiences teachers in the practice.  

5. On-line Communities

I have found on-line communities to be a major source of inspiration and motivation that have hugely shaped who I am as a teacher.  It is from these connections, and those of fellow teachers from other schools, locally and internationally, who have provided me with a pathway towards the SDL learning programmes that my colleague and I have incorporated in our classroom.  There is a massivie wealth of information in the on-line world for educators.  By establishing a Professional Learning Network (PLN) on Twitter, Facebook, VLN, Google Hangouts etc, I have gained invaluable information and advice to inform me of current pedagogy and educational themes.      

In conclusion, being connected, and having a Professional Learning Network, whether it is on-line, within your school, community etc is an essential part of being an effective teacher.  By connecting and collaborating with colleagues and educational professionals, we are ensuring we maintain our status as a teaching "profession".  It is our responsibility as teachers to ensure we keep up to date with current pegagogies, and practices to enable our students become life-long learners and responsible citizens in the 21st century.  


Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Activity 4 - Your Professional Community

According to Wenger (2012) communities of practice are "groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly" (p.12).  

My professional community is Elm Park School.

Elm Park School Community

About EPS (EPS website) 
  • Decile 5 school (changed in 2015 from Decile 6)
  • Contributing - Years 1-6
  • A culturally, socially and economically diverse community 
  • Nearly 30 different ethnicities
            * 30% NZ European
            * 20% Pasifika
            * 15% NZ Māori
            * 13% Chinese
            * 10% Indian
            * 5% Other European
            * 7% Other   

Elm Park School Stakeholders

There are two groups of key stakeholders in our Elm Park School Community are:
  • Approx. 570 students
  • Principal, 3 Deputy Principals, 27 teachers, 14 support staff
In what ways do they influence your practice?

The cultural and social backgrounds of the students in my school community is a huge influence on my practice.  Because we have such a diverse range of cultures and social groups, it is important that I get to know my students, how they learn best, what they are interested in and any barriers to their learning.  This helps me ensure that I plan learning experiences and activities that will be relevant and of interest to them.

As Wenger (2012) points out, within a community of practice members develop though a "shared repotoire of resources" (p.2).  The experience and wealth of knowledge of the teaching staff at my school has enabled me to grow as a teacher through sharing knowledge, resources, skills and interests etc.  I enjoy stepping outside my comfort zone and trying new things as I know I have the support of my colleagues and students.       

What are the current issues in your community? How would you or your community address them?

One of the main issues in our community has been the lack of home/school partnership in working together to help our students become the best they can be. As stated previously, we are a Decile 5 school in a very diverse cultural and economic are.  Many of our parents and caregivers are both working to support their families and whanau.  Unfortunately this means that they often don't have the time to interact with school as much as we would like and parent/caregiver support at assemblies, fundraisers, school events can be quite low.  On the positive side however, Student Led Conferences (SLC's) which are held twice a year and often well attended.  Despite providing many opportunities such as information evenings, family evenings, PTA events, surveys etc, to engage our wider community/families/whanau attendance/responses have generally been poor.  

To address this issue, we have become involved in Mutukoroa (2015) which is "a home-school learning partnership that seeks to accelerate learning progress and achievement for students in years 1, 2 and 3" (p.1).  This initiative is aimed at engaging our wider community in the school community and their child's learning. We also have a Facebook page, phone app and electronic newsletter to provide alternative options to keep the wider community informed and up to date with what is happening in our school.    

Another current issue in our school is the never ending shift towards changing our practices towards 21st Century learning pedagogies and environments.  My colleague and I were the first teachers at school to make this shift into an Innovative Learning Environment (ILO) and now others are looking to follow this move.  Being in an old, traditional school means we have to develop these learning environment in the current prefab, traditional type classrooms but whilst the physical environment is one aspect of ILE's, probably the most important shift is in the pedagogy and mindsets of the community as a whole, students included.

What are the challenges that you face in your practice?

The challenges I face are:

  • I am the type of person who loves to take up challenges and am constantly looking to innovate and improve my teaching practice.  It seems that at times some of my colleagues can feel a bit threatened by this and it becomes a type of competition.  For me it is about the students and becoming a better teacher to help them become the best they can be! 
  • Time is always a challenge in the teaching profession.  There never seems to be enough time to get everything done.  Having a community of practice helps to keep things in perspective and enables the sharing of ideas and resources which is essential in supporting each other and getting some sort of work/life balance.
  • Addressing the needs of low achieving students and students with behavioural issues is another issue.  Finding ways to motivate them to engage in their learning can be a challenge.  
There are always, and will be challenges in teaching and learning.  The important thing at the end of the day is encouraging our students to be curious, engage in learning, use the elarning productively and become life-long learners.


Elm Park School. (2015). Retrieved October 2, 2015, from Elm Park School:

Mutukaroa. (2015). Retrieved October 2, 2015, from

Wenger, E. (2012, January 6). Communities of practice: A brief introduction. Retrieved June 16, 2015, from