Posted in Professional learning

Reflections from the #E2 Global educator exchange

I was fortunate enough to attend the Microsoft E2 global educator exchange held in Toronto, Canada last week (March 21-13). It was a truly global event with over 250 educators from over 80 countries in attendance, as well as product developers, Microsoft partners, school leaders and some representative students!!! E2 had so many highlights and I am still processing the 3 days. But here is a brief (actually long.. but skimming the surface of lots of deep ideas) summary

Day 1 – Tuesday.

The keynote included welcomes from lots of important people and some areas/ways that Canada is trying to boost its eduction system. Then John Myers talked about Edsby – a cloud based learning management system, which looks pretty cool but I am not sure how it would fit with Kamar in NZ. Then Lisa Floyd spoke about computational speaking and the importance of problem solving in classrooms. I loved her presentation and the idea that computational thinking doesn’t need to be based around computers – she didn’t use it but the analogy of knitting patterns to coding definitely came to mind.

Then I meet my ‘educator’ team who I was mentoring for their challenge (design a hack for a classroom problem) and had some training on how we would be judging the challenge entries.

After lunch it was presentation time!! I as so glad to be on the first day. I was a little bit nervous, but enjoyed Velichka’s presentation on the importance of diversity in computer Science.  Then it was me (which I will write about in another post), and then Marisol shared about bridging the gap between neuroscience and technology. My take home from her talk was around providing adequate choices for learning as every brain is different. Amanda‘s presentation on Active learning was crammed full of useful tidbits geared toward making a student centred learning environment.

Then it was hanging with my team and basically watching them do their thing – right from the get go they worked together really well. I almost felt I was in the way of them working on their challenge!! It was fun to talk to them and learn about education in their countries. I also had a great chat with the Microsoft classroom team about how we are using this is my school. It was a great opportunity to talk to the developers and how we are using it, how we could use it better and how they could tweak it to make it easier to use. There are also some really exciting developments coming.

On Tuesday from 5pm I had some STEM training. This was TOTALLY AMAZEBALLS and so much fun. Other people at my table were not as confident as me with both the language and just ripping in and giving things a go, so I found myself to be the expert of the table. Which was cool to be helping people get the same buzz I got, when things started to click the excitement in the room was massive

Building this was SOOOOO MUCH FUN!!!!!

Tweemeet – the Tuesday night was the #MSFTEDUCHAT tweetmeet. So there was a party with wines and beers while we tweeted. This was sooooo different to my normal experience talking to the crew from the other side of the world. So there was real chat, and virtual chat, and it was rad.

Then it was dinner time. Sadly I missed the APAC dinner because I did the tweetmeet, but I went out with Steffie and Mike and caught up with the Europe crew afterwards – there was much merriment 🙂

Big smiles 🙂


Luckily the keynotes on Wednesday Morning were AMAZING as I was a tad jetlagged (and hung over…. blaming the Irish….).

If you are interested, you can sign in and watch the recorded session HERE. Essentially, the whole keynote was a plethora of new ideas and challenging thoughts.There was a showcase of around how you can become involved with this program, students from the Queen of Heaven school spoke about their experiences helping others gain an education. The awesome Meenoo Rami spoke about Minecraft in the classroom and Mike Tholfsen talked about his 10 favourite ways with OneNote in Education.

The presentation that really struck me was Daniel McDuff and emotion sensing machines. Essentially, the technology is there to track emotions of participants completing tasks. This could be used to track student engagement or learning, or even alter the task in real time to meet the students needs. I am still not sure how I feel about this – is it too ‘big brother’? Could it be useful for students to learn about how they learn? Would it help break down barriers of students not feeling confident to ask for help? What are the ethics around measuring this data as students complete set tasks? It was a really though provoking presentation that challenged my assumptions around education and big data.

Then it was off to learn about microbit – these little beasties are super fun. Drag and drop code, cute interface and very user friendly. I had a great time pretending to know how to use Java script – I am getting better but still a way to go.

I then went to listen to fellow Kiwi Steve. This session had 4 speakers. Lieu talked about building communities. Steve talked about using Onenote to personalise learning using student accessible language and the importance of involving students in choosing the level they learn at. James Gill gave a great overview of how he personalises learning in a multi aged, diverse learning needs classroom that really resonated strongly with me – learning is not always perfect and we need to find ways to engage all students and their families in learning. And then there was a great example of Minecraft in the classroom from Miroslav – I was VERY jealous he had been able to commit 3 months to this amazing project of building his school in Minecraft.

I then sat my Microsoft Office Specialist exam (word) and passed – although I didn’t get 100% so room for improvement there. I then went and check on my team, but they were well on track and Koen had arrived by then so they had been well supported. They got their pitch in on time and I hope they enjoyed the experience of working together and learning about each other.

Then there was the technology showcase, which I saw very little of as I was busy helping people with the Hacking Stem project. Looking back, I think this was some of my favourite E2 moments – the joy on peoples faces as they got their sensor to work was awesome. For some, this was a completely new experience and it was an amazing privilege to be part of it.

And I was so tired that I can’t even remember if I got dinner or not. I must have, but I have no recollection of where or what it was 🙂


Keynotes – The keynotes kick started with Actiontec talking about screen beams. I LOVE my screenbeam and how this tech allows me to be be able to move about my classroom. It is especially great for putting Science demos or examples on the big screen. There was also a session on accessibility tools – Microsoft has really put a huge focus on this area and the array of tools is growing all the time. Then Lakesha Kirkland talked about how her students had gained certification with the Microsoft imagine academy – which is definitely worth our school exploring further.

I then went to listen to fellow Kiwi Arnika talk about her experiences ‘letting go’ and how her students participated in the design process for the Margaret Mahy playground in Christchurch. Then I popped into to visit the Pearsons group to talk about the Microsoft Certified Educator exam and give some feedback on the updates the are making.

Then it was time to judge the group challenges. This was a very tough job – it was amazing what 5 random strangers could put together in 2 days when they worked together. I think everyone should have got prizes…. sigh

After Judging I popped into the learning market place – which was an overwhelming mix of amazing education ideas. All the Kiwi crew did a great job of presenting their ideas, and I saw some pretty cool other ideas too.

I then went and got a coffee with Steve, and we were joined by Koen Timmers. This hour of quiet ‘chat’ (punctuated by terrible puns and bad jokes) is definitely my best memory of the conference – while there were amazing presentations and lots of learning, in the end this always comes back to people and the connections and relationships you build.

Thursday night was the awards dinner and party – and party we did. There was spirits on the bar and great company and music. It was an awesome celebration to finish off a great week.

Koen, Steve and Me at the awards dinner – it was a great night 🙂 there were loads more photos, but they got a bit blurry as the night progressed

So a MASSIVE thank you to everyone that contributed to my having an amazing week. The people I meet and reconnected with really made it an exceptional week. Massive shout outs to James, Amanda and Koen (and Steve….) for giving me my key takeaways and friendships, as well as the whole kiwi (and ANZAC) crew for being so inclusive and fun. Massive respect for Sonja, Becky and the team for putting it all together and the STEM microsoft team for an amazing experience (and cheesy T shirt). And too everyone I meet, thanks for being awesome and being you – keep rocking it 🙂 Ka Kite An0 – till next time….



Posted in random ramblings

When do we start?

I found this post in my drafts….. thought I had hit published, but the thoughts are still relevant I think.

There has been a lot of discussion in New Zealand recently around the age our children start school. As a parent of a nearly 4 year old, I have been following with interest and anxiety. I really enjoyed THIS POST from Melanie D, which (I thought) gave a balance of arguments. I support a cohort entry – I think my son would find it easier to be with a group of other new students, but also appreciate that a larger group of excited or unsetttled littlies might be hard going for a teacher. I have enormous respect for primary educators – a room full of 6 years old is much more daunting than a room for of 14 year olds in my opinion.

I ‘made a choice’ to send Ollie to daycare at 12 weeks old. I was not happy as a stay at home Mum. Ollie would not have been as happy with me as a stay at home Mum. Let’s not start on what may have happened to the hubby – who also did not want to stay at home. As such, Ollie has been in early childhood education since he was 12 weeks old. I have even more respect for early childhood teachers than almost anyone on the planet.

Which leads me to the argument of when do we send Ollie off to school? His birthday is October 30th – does he start school at the start of term 4, on his birthday, or at the start of the next year? When would he be ready? In some ways, he is ready for school now. He is a super little dude who loves story books (he can recite about 20 back to us…), can recognise his name written down and can write it messily, has a good vocab, can work scissors. But on the other hand, he still resorts to hitting when he is frustrated, doesn’t yet hold a pen the right way, is learning to tie his shoes and sometimes still needs a nap after lunch. He is also not overly confident in new situations – he can become very clingy – and yet in others he will run off all on his own.

On top of this is the logistics of school. Which school does he go to? Which school has the best after school care? Can my husband and I manage before school, or do I need to find some-one to look after him before school to? Do I sign up for a program, or find a friendly neighbour person who has school aged kids who would benefit from some extra cash each week? How do I stop envying all of my friends who have more grandparent support than we have, or support a couple of my friends who are doing the single parent thing damn well (holy smokes and hats off people)

And then there is a cost factor. Even though I am a teacher and I KNOW SCHOOL ISN’T BABYSITTING but oh my goodness it is going to be awesome to not have to pay for (as much) childcare.

And then I saw this article on stuff

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Which is a sensationalist headline if ever I saw one…. especially when I wonder if the ‘courses’ are really teaching the same things as Ollie is learning (except the competitiveness……) although the cost is crazy (with the daycare subsidy, we currently pay around $7500-8000 a year for Ollie’s daycare).

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So if I really think about it, Ollie has been in school for nearly 4 years already. He is learning all of those skills already – sadly even some competitiveness over fighting with toys etc. As he is an only child, those social skills are really important for him to learn from other children his own age.

In New Zealand, we place a huge importance, and rightly so, on our key competencies. While the article above was overly dramatic, I think in New Zealand we are already doing this for our todlers via early education programs – maybe not as explicitly as the articles implies for the examples from China – but participation, conflict resolution, resilience, determination and learning how to be a friend have all been conversations I have had with Ollie’s daycare teachers. But then, ECE is not free for children under 3, and only available for 20 hours a week for 3-5. Surely when this is such an important age, there should be more access available to all children and then, just like school, parents can choose the best option for them.

And perhaps it doesn’t matter so much about when Ollie ‘starts school’. The more important thing for him and all children in New Zealand (and the world) is to LOVE learning.

How can we ensure that learning environments promote that????




Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Why share?

Life is just a bit hectic right now. Mostly by choice – I have kicked started organising a #teachmeetNZ in term 2 which takes a bit of planning, I has a Microsoft catch up session, and I applied and got selected to present at a conference in Toronto (squueeeeeee!!!!!!!) in a couple of weeks time. Add that to Energise in Queenstown in April (you should come!!!!), general life events and crazy, it makes for a busy time.

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Love #teachmeets 🙂

So I am currently thinking about some different presentations I need to do. Which is challenging for lots of good reasons – mostly because sharing makes me THINK about what I am doing and why.

It forces me to reflect on my practice. It makes me clarify my own points within my head. Sometimes it makes me double back and check something I started and left by the wayside, other times it makes me realise things aren’t quite working they way I would like and how can I change that. I am a bit obsessive about presentations like these – while the slide deck might be a bit thrown together, I always agonise over the message and ‘theme’ I guess.

It also makes me think – am I putting the same level of thought into ALL of my lessons? obviously it needs to be sustainable re workload, but am I really doing it a good job, or just rolling out stuff cause I can (or I am too busy doing other things… like presentations for conferences….)

I often wonder why some people are so reluctant to share. I know some people have ideas around inadequacy – maybe I am falsely confident, but I feel ok presenting. Maybe growth mindset helps – I am really interested in the questions people might have, or ideas they might have. Maybe it can be a thankless task – I have been in the situation where I worked really hard on a presentation and had 3 people show up, and 2 seemed more intent on checking facebook…. I’ve also been the one checking facebook…. and sometimes I guess you can get fatigued from always presenting or sharing – it is some-one elses turn I hear myself saying….

But I am at a loss to know how to change this mindset with NZ educators…. surely we can’t all be that bad as to not think we have ideas worth sharing. Surely we can’t all be that bitter and twisted about wasted time, nor we have not all presented everything we know….

I guess it is the same with blogging. I like blogging because it helps me organise my thoughts. Sometimes I blog for me, other times I do blog more specifically to share…. but it always helps me reflect on what I am doing and why.

I am also wondering how I can shape these next few presentations to be less me standing telling and more collaborative. How can I walk that walk?

Lots of wonderings…… why do I do this to myself again 🙂

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Getting Schooled

This year, I have a student who made the Olympiad training group. He sat the next round of selection exams last week. I have to say I am really proud of him, he has worked hard and independently, and has enjoyed the challenge.

But it has reminded my just how much I have forgotten. The Chemistry is essentially first year, and I just have had no idea. My Maths was as rusty as anything…. ratios and percentages should have been easy but I really struggled. I have tried to catch up, but time, time, TIME. Essentially, I thrust old text books at him, frantically googled tutorials when he wasn’t sure, sat and puzzled over problems through lunch times, and then admitted I needed more help and reached out to the amazing Dave Warren at Otago Uni. So this student now heads into the uni once a week to get the help and extension I couldn’t give him (I have to say, this is an AMAZING arrangement for him, and the uni seems really happy as well, so win win. And I got away with a minimum amount of paper work too…. Extra win).

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I used to be able to show mechanisms……. not any more

This experience has made me think on a few things.

  1. If you don’t need the learning then, it so easily forgotten. I used to be able to do that Chem with ease – but my chem papers where the best part of 15 years ago (sob). And it doesn’t necessarily make it easier to learn the second time round – perhaps I really did leave it too long. So I really need to make sure I make more of a point when I am trying to get students to commit details for NCEA exams to memory that I bring them up again and again through out the year – not just finish a topic and move on.
  2. Learning stuff in isolation is hard. Often sitting with this student, we will talk through and stumble onto the correct strategy or answer, when we have both failed to do so. So having a partner is crime is so valuable.
  3. Even for a moderately driven teacher like me, it is easy to get lazy. I did a 100 calculus paper 6 years ago to strengthen up my maths as part of PD from my last school. But then at my new school I haven’t taught maths, and all that knowledge is gone. Maybe not completely gone, but very deeply buried. So I need to get out of my comfort zone somehow to keep that skill set going.
  4. The content from the Olympiad is presented is a very old school dry way. I know it must be difficult to cater to such a diverse group, and cost is probably a factor too, but a thick printed off black and white ‘text’ is pretty hard going.

So how can I keep that knowledge I worked so hard to get? The old saying is ‘you use it or you lose it’ so do I really need that knowledge? In my ‘day to day’ teaching, obviously I hadn’t, but this is enormously frustrating when I find myself unable to push a student on to what they are capable of. Has my inadvertent ‘laziness’ limited my students and what they can achieve.

From these internal musings, I have come to the conclusion (with the help of the fabulous Paula) that more needs to be done to help isolated students and teachers who might not always have access to that next level of learning. The sole ‘nerdy’ kid in a school where the teacher is struggling to get the other 28 kids in the class to their A, M and E’s, and so just quietly ignores the one who is getting it without causing trouble, or maybe suggesting they do Hands on at Otago, or the Rotary Science camp in Auckland, or a competition or Science fair. And I am exploring some ways to do this….. Time or no time, there is a definite need.

And I am (again) re-evaluating what I need to do to make sure I can be the best teacher I can be. In this case, I need to brush up on my chemistry, to make sure the information I have forgotten is not negatively impacting my students. That my knowledge isn’t limiting theirs.

So I have been schooled by this experience. I need to make sure I am not just doing what I ‘need to’ and I keep pushing along above what I need to know.

Bring it

Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Saving time with collaborative planning on Sharepoint and Onenote

(I need to acknowledge the significant amounts of work done by the Science department of my school in getting this set up, especially Kevin for his work on Sharepoint and Ryan for his work with OneNote and the unit plans, and EVERYONE for being willing to go along with this and make it AWESOME)

At the end of last year, our department made a considerable push to update our unit plans and rejig our junior science programs. A big part of this was planning for the use of Microsoft Classroom in our school, and taking advantage of all of the features of the classbook that came automatically with each classroom. To this end, we have a staff portal on sharepoint with a ‘master’ Onenote that staff can take content from and easily add to their individual class note books, while still having access to shared resources to personalise as required for students particular levels or interests. It also allows for new or different resources and ideas to be added. It has saved an AMAZING amount of time having this back of resources all set up before we even started for the year.

The Teacher ‘Hub’

We have a pretty amazing Science set up on Sharepoint – we can book equipment, find our SMUS (safe method of use sheets), find curriculum reports etc… as well as a bank of resources for our classes.

The Coffee cup takes you to the booking site for our amazing tech 🙂
Our junior sci home page – almost everything you need for any of these classes

We updated our unit plans to include live links to any documents, videos or animations you might use with your classes.


And have set up a conbines OneNote stored on the site that has a bank of resources also – which means you can copy the page into your classbook content library, and then students will have their own copy almost instantly after you have clicked the button.


Need the admin stuff – it is all right there….



Want the kids to do an interactive – a few clicks and they can have their own copy!!


So it doesn’t matter if it is an admin page (Like a year plan…) or sharing an interactive activity, it is all there and with maybe 4 mouse clicks, your students all have their own copies.

This has made the start of the year so easy. These digital portfolios were made in minutes for whole classes of students. Because the students had been entered into Microsoft classroom, teachers didn’t even have to manually enter students into the class notebooks. For the staff new to our department there was a ready made first few lessons for them while they came to grips with everything else. For our non-specialist science teachers, there was a range of resources they could just grab, whih gives them more time to explore any more indepth questions the class has.

For me, it has meant I already have a baseline. So I was able to spend more time getting to know my students, establish those relationship and find resources or learning activites specific to them. I am hoping that by the end of the first term, I won’t need to be finding the resources at all, the students will be able to find them or make their own. Which can then be shared in the collaboration space as meaningful activities to them.

Bring it!!






Posted in Minecraft, Professional learning

Week one of a Minecraft MOOC (& getting to experience Microsoft Classroom as a student)

I have been playing around with Minecraft in my classroom for over a year now without ever really getting fully into it myself. I have mostly allowed students to use it as a tool for their learning if they chose, and some students did amazing things like build a chem lab or a heart, or some electrical circuits using redstone, or spawn a million chickens (currently a pair of yr 8 students are using minecraft to make a model water cycle…..). To keep up with what the students were doing I joined in occasionally, learned more than I care to admit about setting upservers while still having no idea how to set up servers, did a course at pycon on coding in Minecraft and generally had some fun without ever getting a full grasp of what was available. When MinecraftEDU was available with a microsoft Office 365 login, I wondered some more about how this would work in class. So when a MOOC course popped up for MinecraftEdu I thought ‘Ha, I should get me on to that’.

And as always, the very best learning has not been exactly what I expected. The very best thing about this course is that it is being run through microsoft classroom so I get to experience classroom as a student – which is super helpful as we are currently rolling out classroom for our whole school (I am running some whole school PD on it tomorrow!!).

To start with, the MOOC runs for 3 weeks, and involves 3 webinars. The first was a little laggy (A consequence of living on the other side of the world….) but still packed with some useful tips and tricks, and it is always nice to connect with other educators. There was some admin like getting logins sorted, a preach to the converted about why minecraft is pretty cool, some basics around moving about (it is funny how quickly the wasd key muscle memory comes back when playing minecraft), a walk through of the tutorial world and then we were off. We had an assignment and a due date and the time of our next call.

So my first error came through the assignment, I heard midnight Sunday as the due date and went sweet, that means Monday for me. Which is did, just not Monday Midnight. Hopefully they don’t mind it was late…. but he first assignment was one of three options based around putting yourself in the place of a beginner and trying a world through their eyes.

So I did the tutorial world, as part of the reason I am doing the MOOC is I don’t know what I don’t know. It was actually really good to walk my way through it, and I did make some mistakes…inlcuding breaking the lever that opens the door – luckily I could just smash through the door 🙂


But there were lots of other fun things to do, and I do think that if you have never played Minecraft before, the tutorial world via the Minecraft EDU site is a great place to start to see what it can do…..


So once I had (a bit of a rushed due to my assignment being late….) look around the world I completed my assignment (again, once I had learned how yo export the screenshots I took…. mild panic there) and uploaded them into the assignment section of microsoft classroom

my assignment.png

We also had to share our assignment on to the collaboration space of a shared notebook and comment on each others experience. This was really cool, reading about what other people had done and seeing some more experienced users than me and what they could do – definitely super awesome stuff right there….

So already it has been a really worth while course, and I am looking forward to webinar 2 this week. And I will definitely not be leaving the assignment so late this time 🙂

Posted in random ramblings

Hands on at Hands on at Otago

My favourite (professional) week of the year is Hands on at Otago. This camp used to be Hands on Science, and 19 years ago I went along as a nerdy nearly 6th former. Fast forward a few years and I was running the project in my department. A few more years and I am the camp ‘manager’ which is really the camp Mum for the 300 odd students and 30 odd post and undergrad student helpers. It is an amazing week, full of stress, chaos, ridiculous laughter and late nights, and has given me some of the best experiences of collaborative, genuine team work and problem solving.

I get to spend a week with this crazy crew… and it is AWESOME. Photo Credit – Gravity events

For some back ground, Hands on this year was about 420 kids from all over New Zealand and a couple from Aussie and the Pacific coming to Otago University for a ‘week of serious fun’. I was living in at Arana College with 299 of the students (Blueshirts) and 26 redshirt student helpers (a couple had to pull out, so we were a bit light on red shirts this year)(The other 120 were over the road at Studholme College). Myself and the redshirts pretty much go all out all week to provide pastoral care and a super awesome time for these kids, while they also go to projects for 1/2 the week (eg comp sci solve a cyber crime, geology take and analyse soil samples from around Dunedin – this is actually going to get written up into a paper, music made a music video..), and a couple of 2 hour ‘snacks’ (eg, the English snack got students to make their own quills and learn cursive, or students attended the anatomy museum, or went of the polaris research vessel or went to the Maori Center to learn about the support offered there).

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Photo Credit

So the red shirt team has nothing to do with projects and snacks (other than getting student there and back safely) but they do organise orientation, an amazing race to get the students to learn their way round the uni, north ground games to get them moving, a quiz night, and an AMAZING DANCE (we had gravity events again this year – totally recommend them, the owner did Hands on Science while at school so he totally gets what we are about). And then we listen to what the students did for the week, and we get them home again.

It is really hard to describe the week to people that haven’t done it. This year we had several people pop by to see what we do and how we do it. One of the hardest questions I got asked was how do we pick the team of redshirt to help out. Essentially, we have a spectrum of people, people who are outgoing/quiet, people who are from NZ/overseas, people with different cultural backgrounds and capital. We try for a mix of subjects, sexualities, ethnicities and experiences. And on top of that, will that person be able to a) connect with a blue shirt in same way (even if it is a that person is kind of like me, so maybe I can do this to type connection) and b) work with everyone else to get all the jobs done that we need to.

And boy do we need to problem solve. People are messy. And when you get that many people living together, things happen. Some are major (like a family member passing away and needing to get home, or dealing with being told to stay and not let it ruin the week), NCEA results coming out (oh my goodness…..), crashing cars (I once seriously dented the proctors car hitting a bollard… I have NEVER had an accident like that before or since) illness and injury (trips to A&E are always fun) and staff issues.Some are purely logistical – how can I get group A, B and C to locations D, E and F at x, y and z times, or which packed lunches do I need to order. Some are minor – forgotten keys to a van, miscommunications, scraps, bumps and bruises, lost property. Some are kind of funny (seeing a blue shirt teaching a group of other blueshirts how to use a washing machine) and some are heartbreaking…..

And all of these things and more happen throughout the week, often all at once and all together. There are periods of calm, periods of painting decoration for the dance, and periods of intense scrambling.

Photo credit – red shirt Andrew 🙂

Leading this organised chaos has done so much for me. It has taught me about compassion, about boundaries, about sharing your faults so others are comfortable to admit theirs. I have learned how to find the information I am looking for at jobs interviews (although this is still a work in progress…) which has in turn made me feel more confident in my own interviews. It has taught me how privileged I am to have led the life I have, while also being in awe of some of the amazing kids who are more privileged than me. It has taught me you can’t fix some problems in a week, but the importance of being a positive influence.  I have learned (again) that when you deliver the impossible, it becomes expected and you can some-how find more to give. It has taught me to lead people, not manage them as things. I have had to find strategies to role with the punches, let upset tired people be heard while secretly wanting to either slap them or agree with them, or stop myself problem solving when all they need to do is vent. To manage difficult professional discussions and stick to my guidelines. To let people find their feet and their own systems and strategies, or to try to guide them through failures. It has taught me how to squeeze something out of people they didn’t know they had – and how to try to pick up the pieces when things get to much. I experience pride, heartbreak, exhaustion, elation, pure joy and belly laughs.

I love working with the red shirts. I try hard to lead by example, join in the ‘little jobs’ when I can, and REALLY enjoy learning about what they are studying and working at. I’m not sure if they all realise it, but talking to them keeps me honest and keeps me fresh. I hear the ‘latest’ science and research, about changes to student loans, the pitfalls of flats and colleges, all sorts of things. And because they are such a varied bunch, I learn such a variety of things.

I am so privileged to be involved in this week. Even though I give it heaps, I always get more back.

So, when is the next one…. 🙂

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

‘Bugger the boxing….’ (a presentation from Ian Taylor from Animation Research)

One of the ‘perks’ (and there are many) of being Camp Manager (Camp Mum) for Hands on at Otago is I get to go to an amazing public lecture. This years speaker was Ian Taylor, whose company Animation research LTD does a whole lot of really cool graphics for sports events amongst other things. His talk was AWESOME, and for me the idea of never stop dreaming really hit home.

Ian started by talking about his ‘literal’ light bulb moment – the moment when he was 7 years old and his house was connected to electricity for the first time. (We also got a pretyt cool animated journey to see his old house….) He said when he saw the light bulb go on he knew that anything was possible. He went on to say that we need to use our experiences to inform our paths going forward. I am sure the way he talked through this would mean something different for everybody – for me it was learning from your mistakes, never forget where you come from, and don’t be afraid to add a new footprint to your journey.

He also talked about how all through his adult life, he had to think around issues, or almost just ignore them, and find a way around it to get what he wanted. He dreamed of being in a band, so he leapt at the chance when it came up (and the band was called Kal-q-lated risk, which pretty much sums up his whole story). He had just finished a law degree, but got offered a position in TV, so went for it. While reading the news (the video of him doing so was an absolute crack up) he introduced a segment on digital technology and thought I need to get into that. And so he did. By dreaming big and not being afraid he has had an amazing array of experiences through his life – his stepping stones are varied and full of detours.


Ian also talked about the importance of paying it forward. How kind deeds or freebies are often the best way to get future business, or just build up a reputation. He talked over his lack of a business poker face when talking over money, which meant he was respected and people trusted him when he talked about costs. And he was big on the impact of technology on health, and how technology is not all just whizz bang, we should not forget that without the human spirit, technology is nothing.


An example he gave of the can do attitude of his team – they built a cricket pitch out of cardboard and used JAFA’s as cricket balls in the early R&D for ball tracking.

The part of his talk that stood out for me the most was a quote that is their ‘business philosophy’

‘Bugger the boxing, pout the concrete anyway’

I was so intent on what he was saying I didn’t even take a photo!! but it was an amazing idea of if you plan too closely, you can lose the ability and opportunity to do other amazing things. That he who hesitates is lost. And sometimes sidetracks, diversions and failures can lead to amazing things.

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Image source – this is an example of boxing to hold concrete until it sets…

For my experiences, this really resonates. I have been frustrated over plans, documentations, forms and expectations. Really, bugger the boxes. Learning will lead where it will, as will life, if we let it. If we follow dreams and ideas, they can lead to beautiful creations.

So this idea is going to be somewhat of a mantra for me this year. I know schools are very different to private companies…. and that I do have a ‘duty of care’ to lots of different sources, and that some jobs do require more structure than others. But when it comes to those jobs where I could ignore the boxes, I am going to make more of a concerted effort to do so. Ian said he worked with an incredibly team who’s standard reply to any request, no matter how out there was ‘I don’t see why not’. So why can’t I do them same.

So thanks Ian Taylor for sharing all your ideas and your enthusiasm for technology. It reignited a spark…. and I can not thank you enough. I will keep dreaming and learn how to pour some concrete

Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

On St John’s people and the ‘power of one’

Over the holidays I have taken great pleasure in 1) having a holiday and 2) reading lots of books as I unpacked the last few boxes from our shift last October. One of these books was the Power of One by Bryce Courtney – an old favourite. But (as with all good books I guess) this time I picked something else out of it, which was about ‘St John’s’ people at Peekay’s school.

This is the only real mention of the role of St John’s People in the book, other than Peekay and Hymie making money of the ‘scam’ for the betting on places.

It got me thinking about my ‘crew’ of kids. Maybe we all have them, or maybe I am alone in having a few kids that I seem to be able to do more for. I don’t like to use the word favourite, but I guess in that traditional sense they could be. The ones that pop in during a break to ask a question, make a point of trying something different or being brave,  or email me links to coding tutorials during their holidays (thanks Ben), or makes silver nitrate (amongst other things) in their own ‘lab’ at home. A couple of them probably don’t even realise I go out of my way to catch up with them, or check in on them (these tend to be the ones not doing so well…….)

Because these are the kids I am especially excited to teach. In fact, some of them aren’t even in my classes, but I will see them round school and have some sort of conversation. I might have them in previous years, or just bumped into them some-how. Some of them are the kids that ‘are fine in my class’ but not in others that drive so many teachers bonkers.

So, I started to wonder if I was to like Singe ‘n Burn, and neglecting the many for the few. Not deliberately, or as focussed as Singe ‘n Burn perhaps (there is certainly no interview process) but subtly am I putting more effort into these few students at the cost of others.

Or is it simply that these kids are demanding more effort because I can support them in ways that other teachers can’t? I am sure that there are other students interested in other things who connect with other teachers out there – perhaps not even at school but a sports coach etc.

And then the question rattling around in my brain is does it matter? Does it matter if I put a little more time and effort into 5-15 kids out of my ‘140’ odd in my classes. If I am making sure I am still doing the best job possible for all my students, then I suppose it doesn’t matter if I make more of an impact on some than others. There are always going to be students who prefer another teaching style, or just another teacher. Beating myself up over this is pointless and unhelpful – I just need to do my best for each student as I find them. With this in mind, I guess it is perfectly fine to do more for some than others, so long as I keep in mind to not let the many suffer for the few.

So I will keep thinking about my crew – how can I extend them and nurture them, while not making a big deal of it or being exclusive of others, or at the expense of others, or at the expense of myself. But I am certainly looking forward to seeing them in Term 1 and putting some ideas into shape for what 2017 can bring for them.

That is not to lessen the all important challenge of how can I impact those students ‘who come with minds already narrowed’, who I am ‘forced to fatten with sufficient information to pass the matriculation exams’ to quote Peekay’s reflections on education in the 1940’s. Doesn’t sound all that different to now does it………