5 of the best – Feburary

Another busy month. These posts represent the ones that I think show my best thinking of the month in chronological order.

What stops us from leaving our ‘bubble?’
Why are there so few women in ed tech? #28daysofwriting
A death in the family – hard classroom conversations
From Mosgiel to Mumbai – Twitter tours make connectivism MAGIC
The bothersome business of the boys education debate #28daysofwriting

A great way to spend a month – #28daysofwriting

This is the end of my second month of daily publishing.

I’ve now published more posts this year than I did in the entire of 2014 and have almost as many comments.

The highlight of this month has been seeing a whole bunch of bloggers come out of hibernation for Tom Barrett’s #28daysofwriting challenge.

  • Seeing other people’s ideas has been a catalyst for my own writing.
  • I have been inspired to write my own posts
  • @hunch_box had me going to the movies
  • I felt less like the crazy dancing guy out there publishing day after day.

As I head into March, I’m going to try and comment more on other people’s writing. Or at least use it more explicitly in my own blogging.

Here’s to another month of daily publishing!

Read aloud favourite – The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

Edward on a shelf

There is always a risk during an incredible class read aloud like Wonder that the follow up book will not nearly be as good. That the children won’t bond with the characters and will not be as excited to hear about the story.

Last year I read Out of my Mind by Sharon Draper with the class only to have them spend a lot of time rejecting the One and Only Ivan as they had become so attached to Melody.

So it was with a bit of nervousness that I introduced Edward Tulane into the classroom read aloud.

After growing to love Auggie Pullman and the love that surrounded him, Edward was a haughty rabbit made of China proved to be a tough character for the children to initially bond with.

Fortunately this story quickly got going and there were major character transformations quickly.

The ups and downs of the story had the children enthralled and always that next chapter.

The themes of Love and Loss were poignant in particular for one of the children in my class. My Year 4s loved this story and I would recommend up to Year 5/6.

Although there wasn’t much action that resulted from the book there was plenty

Cross Post: Sharing to learn, learning to share – Why the path to teacher registration needs to be networked @coetail #coetail


Image by author.

Induction into the teaching profession in New Zealand is serious.

Beginning Teachers are granted provisional registration when they start their teaching career and spend at least two years being supervised by an assigned mentor before they can apply for full registration.

In order to gain full registration, Beginning Teachers are required to gather evidence of their professional development to demonstrate how they meet each of the New Zealand Teacher Council’s Registered Teacher Criteria a set of quality teaching descriptors.

For most Beginning Teachers the evidence of how they made the journey from those first terrifying hours in charge of their first class to competent teacher are stored in folder (either paper or online) that one or two people possibly read.

Instead of languishing away in the depths of cyberspace or even worse a cupboard my registration portfolio is out in public for all to see. As another school year starts up downunder, I’ve seen Beginning Teachers on the Facebook group asking about how to gather evidence for registration.

I’m going to make the case for using a public blog to document that journey.

Tagging for learning = easy organisation and self management

I updated my blog once a week used the tagging feature to label each posts which I thought were evidence of the different standards of the Registered Teacher Criteria I met. Often I would find that posts met several of the standards. Tagging turned out to be brilliant way to be able to document non-linear learning. I might spend a few weeks thinking about the learning environment and not touch that part of the criteria for a few months. If I was documenting this through a site or google docs, it would be hard to make links. However through tagging I can quickly draw up all the posts on different parts of the criteria to demonstrate shifts in thinking.

Over time I was able to build up a tag cloud of posts gave a visual representation of my reflections. Through the tag cloud I was quickly able to self-identify areas of the Registered Teacher Criteria I wasn’t giving much thought to and start thinking about how to improve my practice. Tagging each post with different aspects of the Registered Teacher Criteria gave my reflections a conceptual framework on which I could hang my ideas on teaching and learning. It made my blogging purposeful and relevant.

Being public = More reflective practice

I still get a lot of surprise from teachers that my portfolio is online and public for all to see. I’m often asked if I’m worried about breaching privacy of my students and colleagues through choosing a public platform to hold my registration evidence. If by keeping 99 percent of what I do at school off limits in terms of what I write online, then yes, I am totally invading other people’s privacy.

Learning how, what and who to share with are important skills not just for our students but for teachers as well. As the awesome Dorothy Burt @dorothyjburt one of my ‘virtual mentors’ points out the pedagogy we implement in the classroom needs to start with us:

“kids are wee children, teens or almost adults, they can’t (and shouldn’t) replace the friendship, collegiality, professional energising and empathy our fellow teachers provide.”

WordPress has a feature where you can limit the audience of certain posts to a few readers or make a post completely private.  Yes there are risks to being public in your practice. Steve Mouldey @geomoudley another one of my ‘virtual mentors’ often points out, schools frequently do risk assessments without stopping to weight up the benefits.

I found the process of turing a ‘ZOMG this kid is driving me crazy, my classroom sucks I’m the worst teacher ever’ rant into something I’d be happy for my principal, the child or a parent to read was a healthy part of the reflective process. The public nature of my medium forced me to take a step back and think about situations from different perspectives. Moreover I needed demonstrate how I had taken action to improve the situation.

Some posts were immediate, others took many months of thinking to formulate.

Learn from others

The two real-life mentor teachers I was assigned in my school during my provisional period of registration were awesome. But they were just two teachers. Blogging opened up a world of mentor teachers to help and support me during registration. Through reading other people’s blogs I gained ideas, got support during tough times and always had a fresh perspective on a problem of practice. Over the course of my provisional registration period I had interactions with hundreds of ‘virtual mentors’ to help guide me on the way. My school mentors were important, but they were just one piece of the learning puzzle.

Informing others

Perhaps this is a tad arrogant, but I suspect that my reflections had school leaders and other teachers wondering about their beginning teachers and the systems in their schools to support their own beginning teachers. When I look back on the raw desperation in some of my posts from my first term from the perspective of an experienced teacher, I am highly concerned about first year me.

In fact there was a post or two that prompted visits from my school leadership checking in that I was ok and lending a friendly ear to problems of practice. Beginning teachers often want to ‘prove their competence’ which can make having in-person conversations hard especially during a busy school day. Blogging gave those conversations an outlet.

Measure progress

Effectively demonstrating small shifts in learning is a bit like nailing jelly to the wall. Blogging was a way to document those shifts. When I look at earlier posts I often cringe at what I’ve written, which is a good thing. It shows I’ve grown as a teacher which is what the purpose of professional induction.

Beginning teachers have something to offer the community

New teachers have enthusiasm and are willing to try new things simply because everything is new. The problem is that many think that what they are doing doesn’t offer value to the profession because they lack experience and gravitas. Beginning teachers don’t often get the chance to speak at conferences and few get published in established publications.

Yet I’ve been stealing classroom ideas from Matt Ives @hunch_box, who graduated at the same time as me, since we started teaching. I first met Matt at a group interview for an awesomesauce school. He got the job and I accepted my first teaching position at another great school a few kilometers away. The beauty of the internet is that we kept in touch. As a first year teacher Matt influenced my learning just as much as the highly experienced edurockstars simply by putting his ideas out there.

He still shares his ideas online and I’m still shamelessly stealing them to use in my class.

So go ahead Beginning Teachers put your ideas out there, you never know where that journey might take you.

from Teaching the Teacher http://ift.tt/1zhRKtn

If you really want kids to understand copyright, get them to create

The children in my class are putting together an iBook using their photos from the trip from a few weeks ago.  As the children are choosing images to go with their writing several realise they haven’t taken images to help them tell their story.

But their friends do.

“Can I use your photo?”

In that minute, copyright comes alive. The creator is in the room, not some abstract person in a far away land. They will be angry if their images are used without permission.

By placing images of Flickr  the children are able to create, share and remix their learning easily.

If you want to get them to understand copyright, help the kids to become creators.

Consistency – I don’t think that word means what you think it means

Consistency – Does it mean what you think it means?

Language is a powerful tool in education.

It can be used to open new ideas and concepts but it can also be used to shut people out of conversations.

One of the words that I often find myself hearing in conversation is consistency.

We want the children in our schools to exercise consistent behaviour and receive consistent standard of education.

“Students need to have the same experience otherwise parents will compare.”

I often have trouble reconciling the frequent usage of this term in schools while at the same time striving to ensure all the children have powerful and meaningful learning experiences in class.

From my perspective consistency means a lack of change and of deviation. Creating a personalised learning environment for my students requires a great deal of responsiveness and flexibility.

After setting the last Unit of Inquiry’s central idea ‘Cultures express themselves through the arts’ and key concepts, my team went off in entirely different directions using different disciplines to explore the same concept. Instead of each class doing the same thing, each teacher played to their strength.

We will finish up our unit with a festival arts where the children have an opportunity to learn how different classes have approached the same idea.

It’s an inconsistent approach yet one full of powerful and meaningful learning for the children in my year group.


Perhaps that word does not mean what you think it means.


The bothersome business of the boys education debate #28daysofwriting

Every few weeks an article like this appears in my twitter feed about the state of boys education. These often-well intentioned often have an undertone that the female-dominated teaching workforce clearly know nothing about how boys learn.

The problem with these articles is that they often rely on sexist stereotyping rather than sound pedagogy.

Boys like to run around and be loud.

What about the quiet boys who enjoy reading?

Boys can’t sit still and concentrate for long periods of time.

Yet video games require hours of doing just that.

Because biology.

Well science changes.

It wasn’t too long ago that scientists  thought girls wouldn’t be able to cope with being educated as it might melt their feminine brains. Our society expects our educators not to rely on stereotypes when it comes educating our girls or students from different cultures yet when it comes to boys too many educators are quick to swallow cliches without stopping to think about the wider context.

Boys are different you will tell me.

My question is from whom?

Each other?



Boys aren’t girls.

And there in lies the problem.

Too often discourse of boys education is centred around a very narrow stereotype of the loud, sporty alpha boy. One that loves rugby and hates reading or anything ‘girly.’ While that stereotype might fit some boys in a class what does our construction of masculinity say to the boy who enjoys painting or baking?

That you aren’t a real boy.

This attitude limits learning.

A couple of years ago I introduced my class to the blokey hobby of cake decorating. To a 12 year old cake decorating = art you get to eat. As far as the kids were concerned this was the best thing ever. Yet at some point the boys are going to get a message that cake decorating is for girls. They’ll forget how much they enjoyed making and eating their cupcakes. They’ll scoff it at as a ‘girly activity’  in a desire to fit in.

Do I shy away from an activity for fear it might be seen as being ‘girly?’

Not read a book because it features a girl in the main character?

Or do I make sure the classrooms draws in a wide range of perspectives, learning engagements and fostering a culture of mistake making to help kids find their true passions?

Perhaps it this narrow construction of boys’ identity which is viewed in opposition to femininity that makes boys feel like they don’t fit at school.

We’ve created an environment that makes boys go out and prove they aren’t girls as a way to gain social acceptance and we do so with one damaging phrase.

“Boys will be boys”

This phrase assumes:

1. all boys are the same.

2. boys have no control over their actions because they are boys.

If we look around at the toys we give to our children and the play with and the gendered qualities adults notice in name in our children before they are even born, I think boys are socialised to be less compliant of bad pedagogy (sit down and listen while the teacher explains boring stuff). That’s a good thing. Having active classrooms where children’s interests are respected and nurtured isn’t something we should demand for our boys but our girls too.

Do I think there needs to be more male educators in schools?


But not for the narrow purpose of ‘manning up’ education but rather because teaching kids is an awesome and worthwhile job.

As a child my father was a stay at home dad which in the 1980s wasn’t all too common.

I remember how often the teachers would comment about how nice it was for the boys to have a male role model to run around with on the school trips. 30 something years later what I wished they had said was how nice it was that my Dad was taking an interest in his daughter’s which was the real reason he was there.

In my opinion showing up was what made my Dad a powerful role model.  He was bucking the narrow definitions of gender roles by showing that childcare can, and should be, the responsibility of both genders.

Conforming to stereotypes is easy, finding your true passion in life is hard. We owe to our boys and girls to ensure their education draws out the best them they can be.

The most important lesson the boys in my class could leave with?

That you can love rugby, reading as well as my little pony and you are still a boy.

10 tips Apple Distinguished Educator application #adeclassof2015


ADE institute Bali 2013. Image by Daniel Woo

There’s still another week to go until application period closes on the Apple Distinguished Educator programme for 2015.

I’ve written extensively about this programme in the past (and there’s a great video about the programme here).

You can find the application for the programme here. Go have a read, I’ll still be ranting when you get back.

I’ve had a couple of people ask me for tips in the process. Being a thoughtful blogger, I’ll share with whoever is interested.

Disclaimer: I don’t work for Apple and have no special insight into who gets selected. These tips are based purely on my interactions ADEs I’ve met and marking applications for other programmes.

Tip 1: Read the application carefully

Before you you even start writing and filming, make sure you are aware of what’s required. This is important both in terms of the materials you need to create but also if you are able to participate in the institute. Make sure you talk with your professional leader before you actually start your application as they’ll need to sign off on your application at some point.

Tip 2: Answer the questions

This may sound obvious but there is a temptation to write what you think the markers want to read and avoid answering the questions in the application.

Tip 3: Avoid jargon

21st century skills, creative, innovative, amazing, transformational. Avoid cluttering your application with jargon. Take time to choose your words carefully.

Tip 4: Focus on learning 

You know what your marker hasn’t read about? What awesome things your kids are doing in the classroom. Treat your  application as an opportunity to showcase what makes your classroom awesome.

Tip 5: Draw on the wisdom of others

Watch other people’s application videos. Get someone, ideally a current ADE, to watch your video. You should also get someone to proofread your written answers.

Tip 6: Be the purple cow

Take time to reflect on what makes you unique as an educator and roll with that. If you’ve got any special interests or talents, put that in the application. Let your personality shine through.

Tip 7: You don’t need to be in a 1:1 Apple environment

When I was selected, my class had an iPad and 3 iPod touches. We didn’t have a lot of devices but we made waves with what we had.

Tip 8: The Video

2 minutes. It doesn’t seem like that much until you have to condense everything you do down into a 2 minute story. Rather than focus on everything maybe focus on one cool thing you’ve done in class and show it off. There are some amazingly talented teachers in terms of video production but content still matters.

Tip 9: Product Placement

A touchy subject but Apple doesn’t run the ADE programme out of the goodness of their heart. At some point you are going to have to give the company some snaps. I’d also strongly advise you to use Apple products to edit your video.

Tip 10: Demonstrate how you can add to the programme 

Getting admitted into the programme isn’t an award.  It is an opportunity to participate in a community and advocate for change within education.

Good luck! Applications close off March 1.

A fleeting visit to India

Rather than sit on a beach somewhere this Chinese New Year cheap flights had me winging my way to Mumbai.

I had always been interested in visiting India but also knew it would challenge me. Sure enough there were challenges. Flight delays, getting lost, grinding poverty and a few rip offs along the way. But there was also beauty, kindness and afternoon tea.

Sometimes it is best to view the chocolate pot as half full…


Cross Post: Losing connection through Twitter #coetail


Hello my name is Stephanie and I’m a Twitter addict.

Actually addict is an understatement I believe the term is Twitterpated.

At the risk of sounding pathetic checking my Twitter feed is the first thing I do every morning and the last thing I do at night.

Over the years I followed people I knew in real life. I followed who commented on my blog. I followed people who my friends followed. I followed people who mentioned me. I followed people who interested me in Twitter chats I followed people I met at conferences. I followed general interest accounts and brands.

Somewhere along the way I was following over 2,000 accounts.

And then Twitter got completely overwhelming.

I was missing updates from people I felt were worth following.

The never ending cascade of links were still interesting but so many of them were being shared by people I had no idea why I was following.

To add to the noise some of the people I enjoyed following were tweeting out links to the same content several times a day.

So I stopped following them.

A few weeks ago I went through and unfollowed a bunch of people.

My following list plummeted to a 1,000 and, dare I say it, I created a private ‘one list to rule them all’ of my ‘Best of Twitter.’

The change was immediate.

I felt more connected even though my network was a lot smaller.

So an important lesson, a Twitter PLN is a lot like a garden you’ve got to tend to tend to it.

Unfollowing people is a bit of a touchy subject as there is a risk of hurt feelings. I remember a few years ago one of my real-life acquaintances sheepishly admitted she had unfollowed me as I tweeted so much about education.

The confession didn’t worry me in the slightest. I’m a teacher so I’m going to be tweeting about education.

Twitter isn’t a contest.

It shouldn’t be a place where you worry about who follows you but more about who you want follow to make the experience worthwhile for you.

And if you find the right combination of people to follow, then that’s just awesome.

from Teaching the Teacher http://ift.tt/1zSNUXC


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