Reflections from #BettAsia

I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend BettAsia this year as a MIEE fellow but also as a panel speaker on the roll of social media in teacher professional learning. It was a full on trip, but I had an amazing time, learned some new things, made some new connections and strengthened some old ones, and also had a bit of fun exploring Kuala Lumpur. There was a group of 10 from NZ + the amazing Anne Taylor from Microsoft, and it was awesome to get to know this group of people better.

The conference welcome session were held on Monday evening, and I was invited to two. An ‘it never rains but it pours’ moment. The first was at a super fancy bar where I caught up with some of the microsoft crew, including properly meeting Kalpana Kishorekumar (a fellow MIEE) who was going to be on stage with me the next day with Anthony.

Hanging with some ‘Microsofties’ Photo – Kalpana

I then jumped into a cab (driving in the ‘jam’ in KL is an experience in itself) and was fashionably late to a reception at the British High Commission. At first I felt way out of my depth as most people where from tech companies (if I attend a meeting like this again I will definitely get some business cards made) and was getting stuck into rather too much of the NZ wine on offer, but eventually meet some really cool people and even found another couple of teachers who had found there way there to talk shop with.

Then it was back to the hotel for a quick touch base wine with the NZ peeps before bed time.

Tuesday was the first day proper of the conference. Originally I had intended to go to the educational leadership sessions, but I was put forward to do a live daily adventures interview with Anthony Salcito on stage. What an awesome opportunity!! So I went along to the opening session – getting mic’d up was a new experience – and was challenged by what I heard. I think it is an interesting thing that politics and business mix in with education – and a lot of what was said was about being able to export a marketable product to countries wanting to improve their outcomes. I am still trying to decide how I feel about this…but I guess there is a cost to making resources to some-one has to pay…. but it was really interesting to here the High Commisioner and different ministers speak.

Then Pasi Sahlberg came on to talk about the Finnish Education system and PISA results. Now as I have been working through NAPP this year I have definitely learned more about these tests and why they are ‘so important’ when really they shouldn’t be that important. So this talk was especially refreshing when he mentioned the idea of educational heaven – where you have high equity of access to education and high achievement and outcomes from your systems. He actually got the room (at least 1/2 participated I think) to sing along to ‘knock knock knocing on heavens door…) He was very clear on factors he thought contributed to Finlands excellent results – including allowing children time to play and limited homework – freedom to explore other interests and pursuits was important. Maintaining and increasing the professionalism of the teaching profession was also stressed – as well as reducing competition between schools. It was an excellent and thought provoking presentation, a real highlight of the conference.

Looking at this slide, I couldn’t help but think that NZ is taking a dangerous road with the de-professionalisation of teachers and teaching, the increase in test based accountability and standardisation. And despite efforts to form more collaborative communities, there is still an awful lot of competition between schools for funding. And as for Charter schools…
Sadly NZ is a wee way off being in ‘Educational Heaven’ where we are both High Achieving and High Equity. We are well behind the Australians on the equity scale

Then Anthony was on stage, and I was a bit nervous by this stage so even though I tried really hard to listen, I am sure I missed some important points as he talked about the need to bridge the digital divide. And then I was up

Sadly time was short, so I only got the briefest comments in about the amazing work my students have done with minecraft and how we started with hour of code – which is coming up again this year – amazing to think who much I have learned about this in a year – and how much more I have to learn next year.


I then took a little time to chill out and regroup my brain, before heading into a teacher ambassador session on using 365. Which got completely railroaded by an excellent conversation with a teacher from France about flipped classroom resources and the what and how – we agreed on the why but had fun talking over the merits of different systems and exactly what consistutes flipped etc. It was really cool. I then popped into the leaders academy to and do a problem solving activity – the session was good but as I have read their book I kind of new what the process was. It was still really valuable to use the knowledge in the room to think about some problems facing education – and get a reminder that NZ really is incredibly lucky with our curriculum and resources compared to some other countries.

That night I was really really rooly tired, so bailed a bit early on dinner with the NZ crew and went to bed early. Thankfully I managed to get more than 3 hours in a row, and felt much better for Wednesday

Wednesday morning I went and hung out in the tech expo. There were some demonstrations in model class room that had been set up, as well as presentations and pitches. I enjoyed playing with some robots and checking out some 3D printing. The best take away from this session was blippar. And then I had my first go on google glasses – wowsers. I was in a WWII trench in the Soome designed by Computeam – I am going to show my history teacher this – I was so into it I walked into the booth. It was really really cool.

I then went up to meet Archit and Craig who were doing the panel on social media with me. It fascinates me in terms of my own pathway that here I was holding my own on an (somewhat small to be fair) international stage with 2 presenters who ‘meet’ 30 minutes before the presentation. We had collaborated before via email but we just came together and I think had a really good discussion. We all had slightly different view points, challenges and perceptions, and I really enjoyed the experience.


Then I sat and had a 30 minute conversation with Craig. We just chatted, about school, curriculum, managing work life balance, living as an expat, just talked a bit of shop and a bit of life, and it was awesome. It was an absolute pleasure to strengthen this connection with Craig – I hope he got something out of it too.

I popped back down to talk coding with some tech guys, and have pretty much decided I need to get serious and do a paper or two next year – sadly not having deadlines and goals means I just kept putting it into the background this year. But it is an area I want to upskill myself in, and I am going to look into papers.

One thing I haven’t really mentioned is the conversations I had. Sadly my commitments to other sessions meant I didn’t quite see as much of the kiwi crew as I would like, but the conversations over breakfast or a beer in the evenings were awesome. It is a tad strange that we had to travel such a distance to get ‘hot housed’ as such, but when else do we make the time? So I got to meet some NZ MIEE’s face to face for the first time, learn more about some cool things NZ schools are doing, brainstorm (or just listen) to some of the frustrations we are experiencing, and just learn from some really cool people. I caught up with the super awesome Tamara from Australia, meet some other NZ principals and teachers, some more Aussies, educators and techies from the Netherlands, Britain, Maldives, Singapore, Malaysia, India (One of them new Veranda Sewag which was very exciting….) it was a diverse smogasboard of ideas, cultures, curriculums and conversation. Many conversations reminded me how lucky we are to be well resourced in New Zealand, but highlighted that despite this level of resourcing, we still have room to improve.

I also got to spend some time with my fellow ‘Fellow’s Steve and Nikkie. It was amazing. These people are my tribe, and I miss them already. We had some really cool conversations about what our next steps are, both personally in the class room and in our schools, with the MIEE program we are establishing in NZ, and just life. Much Arohanui for these 2 super super peeps. And of course talking with Anne Taylor who makes this all possible and manages to look super calm and collected while doing it, as well as others from the Microsoft Education team.


And then it was Thursday, and there was time for a quick trip up the sky tower (I don’t do lifts/planes/enclosed spaces well and nearly lost it…. Sigh) and a trip to the mall, and then it was time to start the journey home. An amazing trip, great connections and lots of learning. As well as loads of fun.

And when I think back to a little 2 years ago and my first post as an MIEE, it is ridiculous. So much has happened in that time, so much has changed, and still so much hasn’t. I have learned and achieved so much in that time, and yet there is still much work to do. And I can’t wait.

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