Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Reflections from the #NZMIEEHui18 Part 2

So, aside from just catching up with some of my favouritists teachery people, and meeting some new ones, I actually did learn a few new things to take forward. This is a summary of those I guess, for me to come back to and check in to see where to next

  1. Zoom in powerpoint.

You know how sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. This was a definite case when I was chatting to Steve and he was showing me some of the online resources he and his colleagues have set up for their biology students. Steve is ‘big’ on visible learning and we were talking around how to make this possible I guess. I saw a ppt and was like, hang on, how did you do that, I want that. And so I learned about zoom. It is a feature in powerpoint where you can have a summary page, or a ‘list’ of pages and/or sections of ideas from a ppt presentation. I could instantly see this would work really well for our upcoming Chemical reactivity topic, so I have been having a play


Step 1 is to go to insert and then hit zoom


then select the sections (or slides) you want

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Which then gives you a summary slide, which you can then click on to go into more depth into that section

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I’m still putting this together, but I really like the visual ‘these are the things you need to know’ and then click into them to get more detail. So this resource will just be online for the kids to use – kind of a flipped learning resource I guess – rather than for me to use in class. So it was a really good little techie tip when I was talking to Steve about making learning more visible.

2. 3D paint and mixed reality

Sometimes there are things you know you don’t know, but don’t have time to go and learn more about them. I’d seen little demos of Paint 3D and mixed reality, and gone, I must look into that, but never made the time. Then at the hui, I didn’t get the time, but thankfully there were some shared slides and I got onto having a go once I was back home. Why, oh why, have I not had a go with this sooner.

Paint 3D is a windows 10 app, and it is really rather grunty so a non art specialist. It lets you mock up little pictures, and with the digital inking of a surface if was super easy to sketch up a little kiwi

But then you can sketch in 3d, and get a 3D kiwi using shapes and sketching, and with a slick of a button, your sketch is quietly standing on your trousers as you are sitting on the couch having a play.

There is also a pretty cool library of shapes and other animals via the mixed reality viewer…. Mr 5 Loved the shark swimming through his book

And I quite liked the solar system just sitting there

So my immediate goal is to get some of my chemistry students to use this to make shapes for revision for 2.4 and 3.4…. as well as to share the solar system with the yr 9 teachers at my school who are doing space this year. I’m glad I took the time to check this out properly, there is a wealth of resources and ideas just sitting there, and I think it could really help to visualise some of the more abstract ideas around chemistry. If nothing else, it will make reading the shark book for the millionth time much more enjoyable.

3. Putting some more puzzle pieces together re the digital technologies curriculum and classroom integration.

I’ve been pondering for a while about how I can both best integrate the DTC into my own teaching and learning programs, AND help other teachers, both in my school and everywhere, do the same. There is still a real ‘unknown’ quantity out there, were teachers either don’t know about the new curriculum, or are afraid of it, or simply think – oh, someone else will do that. It wasn’t till earlier this year that I had a wee ‘light bulb’ moment that you don’t need to do everything at once, and different areas of computational thinking and designing digital outcomes can be slotted into lots of different places in out fabulous New Zealand Curriculum – and in actual fact many people already are without realising it.

So by half listening in to the keynote sessions (not because I was slack, but I was busy doing loads of other things) from the fabulous Becky Keene on computational thinking, and then the equally awesome Iain Cook-Bonney and Chris Dillion on the digital curriculum, by popping in and out of sessions in the afternoon and then the keynote on global thinking and the UN sustainability Goals in education from the inspiring Koen Timmers, a few more little pieces started to fall into place for me. They are nicely summed up in some of the tweets from the hui


























And there were many more fabulous little ideas and snippets floating around the conversations, tweets and presentations. They are weaving themselves into a stronger sense of possibility for the new curriculum and how we can better support our young people to be the very best they can be. What models and exemplars could be made to support staff as learners of these new ideas? How can we insure we are meeting the needs of all our learners, and embrace the rich cultural aspect that the NZC supports?

So I had a fabulous weekend. Some specific learnings, and some big picture where to next learnings, ponderings and dreams.

Bring it


Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from the #NZMIEEhui18 part 1

It was very hard to know where to start writing this post, as it has been an amazing journey, filled with successes, failures, excitement and despair, collaboration and lack there of, to get to the point where the NZMIEEhui18 has been and gone. It was an amazing weekend, filled with learning, laughter, ideas, diversity and fun. I would like to thank everyone who came along and made it what it was.

So how to did come to be?

The New Zealand ‘chapter’ of the MIEE group (Microsoft innovative educator expert) had never had a face to face meeting before. Small groups had meet at the global educator exchanges, most of the ‘initial’ group meet in Sydney back in 2014, and there have been local events held in Auckland, Christchurch, Nelson etc. Occasionally we would bump into each other at other conferences (there was an excellent crew at energise!!). We do meet once a month on a Wednesday evening to have a webinar, with usually 40 or so people there, to share, chat and have occasional guest speakers. These calls have really grown, and focus on a mixture of pedagogy, curriculum, tech tools/demos and conference feedback depending on the month. But we had never had an NZ wide meeting, and there are people I work so closely with that I had never meet, or I could count the number of times I have meet them using one finger.

But then Nikkie gave me a buzz and said, hey, should we apply for this funding (the networks of expertise funding). I was a bit skeptical at first, we were already so busy, but also really thought it sounded good, so I said yip, but I’m not spending hours on it. But of course we did spend hours on it and sent away an application for funding for a face to face meet up and some money for release time and for the monthly calls. After what felt like AGES we heard back, could we meeting to discuss. Sure we said, not quite sure what was going on. And then we found out we had got the funding for 2 years, not one, and we were good to go.

Which then lead to an interesting conference prep time, where we both had to learn about different things, like accessing money from the ministry!! writing invoices, getting things paid, navigating other commitments. We had one planning day during the holidays when I flew up to Auckland and then loads of late night skypes. Nikkie’s school was amazingly helpful. We organised speakers, had to build a webpage (which was a real rush job at the initial time, as in when do we need it?? Oh tomorrow, sure we can do that tonight…..), we sorted flights and accom (with the help of the fabulous Janine) and then we sorted the last minute changes and challenges.

And then it was the weekend.

I flew up on Thursday so I could have some time to get my head right (I don’t like flying) and so I could meet up with the fabulous Becky Keene that night, as she also arrived that day. Friday was busy with last minute jobs, as well as a lunch trip to Waiheke island (we had to show Becky around after all). Friday night I barely slept despite having had a couple of ciders… and it was Saturday.

And while there were specific pieces of new learning, and some deep, challenging learning conversations that I will post about separately, my lasting and overall impression was of how fabulous ALL the educators who came are. Old and young (my goodness 24 is young, I’m getting soooo old), primary and secondary, senior leaders and classroom teachers, facilitators, everyone was amazing. Everyone had something to offer in a rich tapestry of being the best they could be. I had some challenging chat with Pip around the differences between the NZ and Australian school curriculums, talked through some minecraft tips with Noellene, talked literacy with struggling learners with Lynette, talked about heroic models and filling holes, about how to grow the community, connected with Koen again via skype, about building PLD that works for you. I meet people I have worked with for 3 years and saw their energy and passion with no filters. I reconnected with people I have only ever meet overseas. I filled my kete, and I know I contributed to filling the kete of others. It is true that people are the most important thing in all the world, and I am so proud of the work that was done to bring everyone together.

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Fellows – pretty much sums us up I think


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4 amazing woman in this picture – and we also had a fabulous time
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I got to meet Bridget Crooks – human sunshine 


Time to just chat and catch up

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The NZ MIEE crew that went to Toronto – minus the boys who had already left.
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Doers – just happy to help in any way 🙂
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Even found these guys at the airport on their way home from the Chemistry camp in Taiwan with the Otago University Chemistry outreach. 
Posted in Digital Technologies, Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Re thinking Chemistry (identifying ions) with Computational Thinking

When I first ‘meet’ computational thinking about 18 months ago at a presentation by Lisa Anne Floyd, I was hooked!! I wanted to dive straight in, and as such my first few attempts at using computational thinking frameworks kind of fizzled with my classes. (you can see my earlier post on computational thinking HERE) It has taken a while for my understanding to percolate and over the course of the last 18 months I’ve done some reading, some talking (thanks Nikkie and Kevin mostly) and some teaching and come to realise that you don’t need to do all the parts of computational thinking at once. For example, as part of the yr 7 digital technologies course I am teaching, we focus on algorithms and data representation (so a little pattern recognition, we might need to make this more explicit) with very little on decomposition and abstraction. As the new digital technology curriculum in New Zealand has a focus on computational thinking, I’ve been wondering how I could incorporate this more into my science classes. I was original thinking solely of juniors, at mostly around some add in activities such as hacking STEM lessons, or some maker space activities, or using MinecraftEDU. But have decided to be brave and have a go with my Level 2 NCEA Chemistry class with the AS 91162 identifying ions in solution standard.

I’ve decided this after learning a little bit more about computational thinking. some of this comes from being in digital technology class with Kevin teaching the yr 7’s. In my own learning, some of the resources I used included this great wee course aimed at kids via the bbc bite size site. Then there is the Computational Thinking course on the microsoft educator community, which had a link to this blog piece written by Janette Wing (and a link to the original viewpoint article, which is 10 year old)

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An excerpt from Jeanette’s Article

Google also has a good computational thinking resource…. Which has some specific Science examples around Genomics for algorithms, bouncing balls for algorithms, and classifying for finding patterns which also goes into decompositions. Funnily enough, I had never really thought about 20 questions being decomposition, but in this example it works well, and made me more tolerant of my L3 chem students playing it when they should be doing other things!

This article from American Scientist (it is jargon rich, but well worth the read) talks about experimenters and theoreticians and how computers now mean they work more closely together than ever before – with scientists often designing new software and algorithms for make new models and predictions. This article from EDUtopia is much more user friendly.  HERE is another jargon filled example leaning towards STEM.

There were also some videos I watched, while a little ‘cheesey’ this was a favourite… the idea of sorting puzzle pieces appealed to me, I always sort the edges first, then colours or a pattern.

But what it took for me to finally get my head to get to this point was a conversation with Nikkie about teaching kids to read, and using pattern recognition to identify words. The next night, I was with my Mr 5 as he read his story book and he read in his book look, looked and looking (On a seperate topic, my goodness kids books are insanely dull at times…).

I had an mini epiphany. It was simply that simple, and I had been making it too hard in my head. Not everything needed to be done at once.

So, what might this mean for my Level 2 Chem class and identifying ions.

Usually, I teach this by starting out with the solubility rules which make up a flow chart the students can follow during the internal to identify the ions. Depending on time, we might have a play with the solutions and see what patterns we can find, and what ions form precipitates with others. Generally though, I rush this step, so I can spend more time on balancing ionic equations and the justifications around the steps which students require for excellence.

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Students get a flow chart like this one in the assessment to help them identify the ions in different solutions – this is for cations, and there is another for anions.

Because I had finally gotten my head around (decomposed perhaps) the idea that I didn’t need to do ALL of computational thinking to teach computational thinking, what could I include?

The obvious one is algorithms – as there is already a flow chart in place.

But I wondered why I couldn’t let the students design there own flowchart…. maybe not to use in the assessment because I’m not sure it would pass moderation…. as a way of learning how to use a pattern to make an algorithm. And exploring the patterns of solubility (for time I might get a group to do everything with Cl-, and another group to do everything with I-, and then compare notes) we can do a fairly good job of pattern recognition. This group activity might also fit nicely into knowledge building and collaboration, and hits all the nature of Science stuff.

I was talking this through with Kevin and of course he said – well, you could make some sort of scratch program based on the flowchart – a series of yes/no questions to find the ion. So I will put the option to the students – there are a couple who are also in Kevin’s Robotics class – that if they want to make a program, they can. Again, I’m not sure they would be able to use this in the assessment, but if it works, I might find out more about this for next year…..

So I am starting smaller this time, and aiming for pattern recognition and algorithmic thinking. Students will work in groups over a lesson or two to identify which of the required ions for their assessment react with what. We will compare data and look for trends (and then compare to the solubility rules). Then design a flow chart to determine for an unknown – which might need some iteration along the way. And of course, as they are working on this, I’ll throw in that they have to write the correct balanced ionic equations for precipitates and for the complex ions formed. I’m really hoping that by asking the students to write their own flowcharts, they will ace the part of the assessment where they need to justify their ‘choice’ of ion, as they should develop a thorough understanding of the idea behind it.

I’ll also give the option of the scratch program. And if time allows (it probably won’t…. sigh) I would like to go more into the pattern recognition of why some salts are more soluble than others, linking back to atomic and ionic structures and energy….. oh the places we could go

Wish me luck


Posted in Minecraft, Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Lighting fires with the Chemistry Add in for MinecraftEDU

As part of the inquiry section of my yr 8 Home Chemistry unit, some of my students explored the Chemistry add in for MinecraftEDU. (You can find out more about the Chemistry Add in HERE at the MinecraftEDU site.) We have a subscription for MinecraftEDU at my school to use with the year 7 digital technology unit and I have been looking for different ways to integrate MinecraftEDU into more learning areas in Science. The Chemistry Add in is pretty kick arse, with lots of possibilities for different learning. Some of my students were super keen to have a look around as they already love playing Minecraft at home, so I essentially gave them free reign in the prebuilt world and then got them to teach me how to use it 🙂

The upshot was the students LOVED it. They had a great 3-4 lessons just poking around and seeing what they could do. It lead to some great discussions, and some great practicals too 🙂 They showed me what they were doing, so I learned the ins and outs super quick 🙂 If there was the opportunity I jumped into the worlds they were playing in and had a look around with them. It was a great way for me to learn about it.

So, starting at the beginning – the game leads you into a set path , where you can make element and compounds

With no real prior knowledge, the students were able to make up a variety of different elements, and got a basic idea of atomic structure. In the New Zealand Curriculum, we used this model for the atom right up until NCEA level 3 chemistry where we introduce spd notation, so it works pretty well. In future, I would love the ability to make ions, I can see this would be a super useful tool to show students the impact of changing the number of electrons…. but as an element constructor it was still pretty amazing.

You could then go and make compounds, the tutorial takes you through making sodium acetate, which you then combine to make an ice bomb – which the students loved using to freeze the pond outside.


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I tried to freeze the water fall, but the water just flowed over it….


This lead to a discussion if this would work in real life, which it kind of does and kind of doesn’t, put I have promised we will have a go at making some sodium acetate towers at the end of the topic

By the time the kids got to this stage, they had ditched the tutorials in favour of just having a look. They quickly discovered a spot where you could  make Helium filled balloons that you could attach to animals and make them rise up into the air. There was a convenient ‘cage’ of animals, and a crafting table to make the balloons nearby.


The real highlight though was when one of the students found the lab book, and saw all the amazing recipes on there. They were super keen to make the torches…

lab book

So away they went, first of all we had to make the elements. Which meant looking up a periodic table and found out how many protons, neutrons and electrons each element has.

And then we made the compounds – the students struggled a little with getting the correct number of chlorides to each metal. It was great teachable moment around chemical compounds – a bit hard for yr8, but because there was a context the students ate it up

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We then took the chloride salts and crafted the lamps…. and it was awesome

The coloured lamps rocked

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So, of course we had to make some coloured flaming torches for real….


So the Chemistry add in for MinecraftEDU is pretty freaking sweet. I’ve only scratched the surface so far, and it is awesomesauce, especially for the juniors. I loved that we could remake the torches in real life, and can make links between what the students saw in the game world and the lab. I’m looking forward to exploring a bit deeper into what it can do.

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from #ENERGISENZ2018

I attended EnergiseNZ2018 at the end of the April school holidays, and it was exactly what I needed to kick start my interest and passion for learning back into gear. Talking to loads of teachers there, many were tired, a bit burnt out, frustrated and not sure of where they were headed. Which is where I had felt coming into the holidays – not helped by the MOUNTAIN of work I felt I had to get through (some marking is still sitting in a pile on the bookshelf looking at me). So it was really good to set aside some time to think about what I am doing, force myself to learning something new, talk about some things that interest me, catch up with some old friends and meet some new ones. I don’t think I got as many ‘new ideas’ from this time round compared to last year, but I did feel like my conversations were deeper and more ‘grunty’.

An added ‘bonus’ / stress (Mostly ’cause I can’t have Arnika thinking it was too much fun) was I was asked at the relatively last minute to fill in for the fabulous Pip Cleaves to present, as she was unable to come. But being able to immerse myself in what she did and think about how I could use it, and then have to sure those ideas up in my head enough to be able to ‘present’ them, and then get the discussion and feedback, was a really good learning experience.

Anyways, the day started with a mihi whakatau to welcome us to Rolleston West school. It was a lovely new school, with an epic playground, and big open spaces. We then had a welcome from a ministry person whose name I didn’t catch (my bad) before we kicked of with

Ali Carr-Chellman –  engaging the disengaged learner

Truth be told, Ali floored me a bit with her presentation. I knew she was big on games, and I have read a little bit of her stuff. About half way through I was filled with terror for my Mr 5, as well as being enormously thankful we live in New Zealand. I am almost certain that if we lived in the states, he would probably be medicated for ADHD…. But it that simply because we value quiet rather than engaged, and because we make assumptions about how boys and girls will act.

So, in the states (in particular) there is a clear issue with student behaviour. Kids using their fingers to represent a gun have been sent home. Ali gave an example of (young – I think Kindergarten) boys talking about killing horses – the girls didn’t like it, so a vote was held, there were more girls than boys, so the class was no longer allowed to talk about killing horses. Topics like death are often censored. And the boys struggled to talk about anything else for a while. Violent video games got a bad rep for being linked to violent behaviour, but now more research is suggesting this link is non existent, and gaming may actually provide an outlet than reduces aggression in ‘real life’. Games are a way of engaging the disengaged.

What games you offer was a more provoking point of Ali’s…. even my beloved minecraftEDU got a rap over the knuckles for being sanitised and not having the zombie pigs. (Even then, kids still do like it, especially younger ones). She suggested not filtering any of the games, and laid down a challenge to find the learning in call of duty or world of war craft.

I came away with 2 main points for me to consider

  1. It is an interesting conundrum – I am not happy with the idea of we need to let boys be boys.

But, my own Mr 5 is currently full of how to kill ‘things’ in games. Whether it be roblox or minecraft, he is all about it. Yet, I have never seen anything about gentleness from him for all living things (except a spider or two, and occasionally the rough and tumble between him and Dad gets a tad rough…). He does still throw spectacular tantrums, but they are getting fewer. There are times when he got really obsessed with death, and I remember his (fabulous) day care teacher telling me that most ‘little’ kids do get really hung up on the idea somewhere between 3.5-4.5 years.

Part of Ali’s argument, as I understood it, was that many of todays teacher were quiet ‘girls’ in school. (lets face it, most teachers are woman, but they didn’t used to be). So they value quiet behaviour, and quiet girls. Boys are not always quiet play house types (neither are girls….) so they get singled out.

So, where is the middle ground. I don’t know. I don’t want there to be less expectations for my Mr 5, but I also want him to be able to be himself.

So I guess it comes down to meeting your learners needs. And making them meet you at least somewhere on that journey

2. There are games, and then there are games

I LOVE gaming, ever since I was 11 years old and my primary school got it first computer for students to use (It was a big deal, we got 4 computers for the whole school). I was a bus kid, so after school while we waiting for the bus we were allowed to play Rockfall. If you died, it was the next persons go. I was hooked – and didn’t realised I was planning ahead, learning from mistakes, working with others….

Later on I developed almost an addiction for heroes of might and magic III. There was a fabulous ‘greek’ map where you could be a ‘greek’ God (I was often Zeus) and cruise round Greece. Every few turns you got an update about what Zeus or his sons had done (Mostly annoying Hera) and as you moved round the map, little information bites popped up (eg the lake Narcissus looked into, or you meet Oedipus, or you paid a dollar to Charon to talk you in a boat to the underword). I am convinced that it was playing this game that lead me to take Classics 101 (greek and roman literature) at uni, and still more, pass that paper (quite well too) without reading all of the books.

I just can’t see how I could let my class play first person shooters…. maybe I need to broaden my mind…. Is blowing each other up in Minecraft really that different????

So yeah, what games are ok? And what games are not? And is it my place to say, or my kids, or my schools community???



I then presented Pip Cleaves work on Action learning projects over two seperate sessions – I think it went pretty well. I really enjoyed learning about Action learning projects and how Pip linked this idea to design thinking. My big take home/s from reading through her work was and presenting it were 1) you have to practice what you preach and 2) it is up to you to make your inquiry/learning meaningful. And a really effective way to do this was to apply design thinking to your own learning goals and to make a ‘product’ based on your outcome. So I am going to re think my inquiry for this year (how to incorporate digitech into my everyday teaching) and put it through a design thinking process, and then make a how to for other science teachers based on my prototypes and trials. And now that I have said I will, hold me to it!!

Another idea was around holding ideas loosely. Part of Pips work explained how the staff had been surveyed for what they wanted PLD on. This was then grouped into 10 focus areas, or PLG groups that worked on projects throughout the year (with some excellent scaffolding). For this to work though, the school leaders needed to be comfortable with the ideas that the staff came up with – if they were looking into (for example) how to use Edmodo in the classroom and what worked best, then that was what worked best. And if you were in the group, the same went, you have to hold those ideas loosely and watch them grow beyond you sometimes.

This is something I personally struggle with, so it was a good reminder to myself about thinking of the whole, rather than just me. It was a challenge, but a good one, and I learned loads and was hopefully able to share that learning with others 🙂


After being called into do Pip’s presentations, I will admit this one got a bit neglected, as I know this stuff and felt I could kind of pull it out on the spot. But I also learned some things from Jill, who talked about integrating STEM/STEAM into the early yrs in primary schools. And that is not something you need to ‘buy’ a kit for!!

We really needed more time, as the session was a little to much us talking and not enough people doing things, but I did dig up a fan activity from T col, and got people to make some leaf rubbings.

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Which of course is a very simple activity, with some nice ‘busy’ work to cut out the templates and pin them together. I asked the group how they might use this, and showed a video about ‘fighting fans’, to try and express the idea that you shouldn’t let your knowledge limit where your students can take these ideas. But also, fans do naturally lend themselves to angles, which then leads into a frozen hour of code tutorial….

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I think one of the most important things when thinking about implementing ‘STEM’, especially for less confident teachers, is to start with something they already know, and are comfortable with. So once you get angles in one way, try another. Once people see how the ideas can slot together, they can start to make it happen for them and their students, rather than happen ‘to’ them.

Other sessions

Well being

I full on bunked wellbeing sessions (which included hula hooping, walking, running, yoga and just time to sit) and went for a mini tour of the Rolleston College. I was especially interested in their new lab spaces – they were so small. But as Matt pointed out, they are only for lab work, not class work, so the didn’t need the class space like other labs do. The other thing was the lack of usable ‘lab’ storage space, which Matt agreed was a problem. Health and Safety around storage of particular chemicals does not seem to go hand in hand with open planned learning environments. But it was a lovely space, and I am enjoying seeing how the groups of teachers are using them. Sue from Haeta came along, and there was a colourful comparison of the two spaces.


From 3:30-5 was a designated hang out, have a beer and chat. So I sat with Matt and talked somethings over, and we saw a guy standing by himself, and invited him to join us. Turns out he was Rob Smith from the literacy shed so it was awesome to have a chat to him about the differences between NZ and the UK in education, and just life in general. I then meet up with Ryan Higgins and things took an interesting turn of too many ciders, a trip in a fabulous old mini to my parents house (sorry Mum and Dad) and then out for dinner courtesy of Arnika and Cyclone…..

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Rob, Gerard, Ryan and me. The mini did not have seat belts in the back…. I have not laughed so hard in AGES


I was a tensy tiny bit hung over on friday, and very thankful for a hot chocolate and some sphero olympics to get us energised for the day. My group didn’t win, but we had fun and learned a wee bit about how sphero’s can be used in classrooms. I did not know that Sphero’s could ‘swim’ (we had to make some togs as well), that they could paint or that they could be attached to chariots and raced. It was a lot of fun first thing.

I then had my last presentation, and then I went to…

Paul Donnelly – Culturally responsive pedagogy.

Paul is a follow microsofty and I have been amazed with the way the team at St Thomas’s have worked to re-allign their curric and values. Paul had been ‘roped’ into do the presentation after the original presenters became unavailable, and he did a great job. His aim was to affirm good things we are doing, and he freely shared some resources (I poached an extra set) to take back to schools. The big take away from me was to take the time and make the effort to get to know your students, build those relationships and show them that you care. This works for ALL students. Paul also talked about pacifika students, and shared some resources on this, which was super helpful for me as I have mostly focussed on Maori thus far.

Tech tips with Jo Nicol

This was a lovely relaxed presentation which I went to just to see if there were any little tips or tricks I could pick up – you don’t know what you don’t know right!! And I was glad I went, because there was some good discussion around how people are ‘managing’ data storage in their schools, things like calendars and booking systems and EOTC. All quite mundane, but really important to have right. I picked up a couple of gems, one being an introduction to TRELLO, which I really quite like and have starting using – It is especially good as it can integrate with Office 365 teams!! I am also going to explore pocket…. I often struggling to fund things I have seen and want to follow up on and this does it seemlessly according to Jo and the webpage 🙂 there was also a link to keyboard short cuts and a suggestion about sharing one a week with a class, which I am DEFINITELY going to do with my Yr 10 form class and the Yr 7 digitech class to try and increase there typing and general computer use/literacy skills

And last but not least, was Sylvia Duckworth

I meet Slyvia the night before (I was a bit mortified to be meeting such an educational awesome person in my tipsy state) and she was just awesome. Willing to chat, wowed by NZ, open to questions, and just a relatable person who was easy to talk to. So it was no surprise when her presentation was a little bit the same, she introduced herself by way of a pepeha, she showed pictures of her travel, and some phrases she had learned…

And then talked through the benefits of creativity, from cognitive benefits, test scores, wellness indicators (including some research from Otago University). She got us throwing planes….

and dancing….

and Drawing (I had used up all my paper throwing planes….) based on @graemeshawdraw

The big take home message was if there is something you love doing, share it with your students. They will be inspired by your genuine interest and passion.

So, it was an amazing two days, full of learning, grunty conversation, meeting new people, catching up with people, being reaffirmed for what I do while still learning some tricks and tweaks and challenges to keep refining what I do, as well as so much fun and so much laughter. A MASSIVE thanks to Arnika and her team for all the work they did to put this together.

And Energise will be in Dunedin next year. Party at my house!!!!!!!!!

Posted in coding, Digital Technologies, Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Finishing off digital technologies… till we start again next week :)

It is almost a month (where does time go) since I posted about the start of our digital technologies module, and as it finished tomorrow I thought I should remind myself and share how it has gone. It certainly has been a bit of a wobbly path the last couple of weeks, not helped by us being newbies to modules and getting the finishing dates wrong! But we were gained a week, rather than losing a week, so this meant we got to give Minecraft Education Edition a go, as well as doing some hour of code and doing some super cool projects on the microbits. All and all, I think the students have enjoyed it, I certainly have, and I have learned loads :). We have already started making plans for a digital technologies module for yr 8, and how it might look through into yr 9 and 10…. very exciting. Hopefully we can find a way to carry it on right up through the school, and to integrate the ideas more into all subjects rather than being stand alone. But that is a discussion for another post!!

Hour of Code

So, we had just finished up with some basic commands on the microbits, covering ACSII codes and binary when I last blogged. Due to some technical issues getting minecraft to work, we segwayed into using the Hour of Code minecraft tutorials. I was not quite prepared for how much the students would enjoy this. But they really did, and it was a great follow on from the simple coding we had done of the microbits.

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Feedback from students indicated that hour of code was a real winner 🙂

In 3-4 lessons, most students finished all of the minecraft tutorials, which reinforced programming tools such as loops, and introduced more complex ideas like functions. Once students had completed each tutorial, they could insert their certificate into their onenote pages to let us know what they had gotten up to.

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I got to learn about functions too 🙂

A really important part of these three lessons was students using trial and error to build their code. Because there is the visual representation right there on screen, it is easy to see where the code went wrong. It is not always easy to fix it!! But Kevin and I tried really hard to make sure we encouraged kids to try things, and then fix them – could they work out where they had gone wrong? What else could they try? What had someone else done that worked?

Then the class had an hour to do an hour of code of their choice, most choosing the starwars option, but some chose frozen (which has come lovely maths/numeracy links) and other made an angry birds game.

Back to microbits.

We then went back to the microbits and set a couple of challenges (Kevin set the challenges, and I struggled to do some of them too…..) The first was could the students make their microbit keep score in a rugby game? This involved using the buttons on the microbit so explored in more depth the idea of inputs.

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.38.05 PM
A screen shot of Issac’s code to use the microbit to score a ruby game

The next challenge was could we make the microbit do a times table. I REALLY struggled with this one, and was ‘accused’ of writing ‘ugly code’ by Kevin (in a tongue and cheek kind of way) But this was because I ‘forced’ the microbit to show all the 2 times tables one after the other, instead of using a button press. Some students used functions, but then I also learned that making the code too complicated in this way creates problems too. So it was a great lesson for me about keeping things simple without writing things down over and over and over.

Some different examples of students code from their onenote portfolios – some are ‘prettier’ than others. It was a challenging task, but it allowed for a lot of extension for those that wanted to:) 

We then had a play with some speakers on the microbits. I think this my favourite, although some of the tunes got old pretty quick. But the students LOVED the sounds, the more annoying the better. Thankfully the speakers were very quiet.

Kevin ordered some ‘cheap’ speakers and some crocodile clips – the speakers were surprisingly robust, but sadly 2 crocodile clips were harmed in the making of music 🙂
The interface allowed students to create their own tunes… which could be amazing for music classes looking to integrate technology into their lessons.

We then set the students some challenges for (what we thought was) the last week


The snow globe was a great idea, students loved making these and making their own patterns, and then adding tunes to go with them. Which was a nice ‘friendly’ extension for less confident students.

Some of the more able kids completed the ‘hard’ challenge on the first day, and then went further….

and then still further. Which then also dragged other students along as they wanted to replicate what they were seeing.


We then figured out that we had a bonus week, so we put in a BIG effort on the night of parent teacher interviews to update all the laptops in between interviews. It meant that there was finally a class set of laptops that had minecraft EDU on them, and the students were delighted.


It also meant that I got to properly try the code builder, and the pre built world is PERFECT for what we need to do, especially for the first time. As I get more confident I might tweak it or build our own challenges (or get kids to build it with me, or to show me how really…) that maybe replicate more closely something from their lives. For example, rather than getting an agent through a maze, can you get a yr 7 student to the canteen for a juicie!!

So for our first crack, I think it went pretty well. Student feedback indicated they had enjoyed the course, learned some things and they gave us some ideas for what we can do next time.

A few asked for easier instructions, and so I’m working on putting together some screen shots and instructions to go into the onenote so if students are lost they can refer back to it. And most didn’t enjoy learning about binary/bits, even though I thought we aced this part of the course. I guess we could have worded the question differently…. but we will still have a think for the next module.

We also asked the students about generic computer/office 365 skills they picked up

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 11.10.01 PM.png

Remembering back to my surprise at the lack of typing skills the students had, I think it is important to integrate the skills we want students to have into the programs. So hopefully this module has set the students up to be able to email, insert pictures etc, and therefore help them be more confident using technology in other subject areas, and help other students to so to.

So overall, I think for a first go, Kevin and I did a pretty good job of our first digital technology module and our first crack at co-teaching. We did put a lot of effort in, but the next modules will be easier as we tweak and refine and work out exactly how it works for us. I am looking forward to making my code prettier, and getting more stuck into the code connection for minecraft education in the next module. Bring it

Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff

Powerpoint recording – the little tab that can

When I first heard that one of my most favouritist tools Office Mix (an add in for Microsoft Powerpoint) was not going to be available from mid 2018, I had a proper tanty. I LOVE mix, use it all the time, for handy little feedback videos, for relief lessons when I am away, for exam walk throughs, for all sorts of things. It made powerpoint, a fabulous tool which gets so much stick, a really flexible, powerful and essential tool for me, and it made learning rewindable and accessible from everywhere. Flipped learning was a breeze.  So, with some trepidation, I made myself check out the new powerpoint recording feature today as I wanted to give some kids some feedback on their practice tasks for an assessment, and I can say it was perfect. Just as easy, with a nice interface, easy options for saving videos once you have made them, the same ability to do screen recordings, the inking worked superbly,  it is awesome. You can find out how to access the recording tab in powerpoint 2016 via this link.  You do need to have Microsoft Office 2016 installed, and if you are already logged into powerpoint, it automatically finds your stream account to upload the videos too. Given that you can add Stream tabs into teams, it is an easy way to share the flipped learning videos with students. Almost seems too easy.

So, what does it look like?


The recording tab has all my favourites from office Mix. I mostly used record slide show, usually with images of student work or a past exam question. Sometimes for a particular concept or idea….

The recording space is straightforward, and there is a nice range of colours for inking. You can choose a camera (or none in this case)


I liked that any notes added in came across from the powerpoint slides, and that you could change the font size 🙂 But you couldn’t add notes from the recording end…

blog3Considering it is early on in the recording tabs days, there are sufficient add ins just sitting there, and I will have an explore of other options available in the store. But being able to add a PhET simulation is awesome, especially for relief, as you know it will work from within the powerpoint/stream format, where as sometimes the animations can be a bit browser specific which can cause a relief teacher some confusion and concern. It is also really awesome to be able to embed the web viewer into the presentation too – again it saves having to send the students too many places. And given that this whole thing can be accessed via teams, it will save a lot of clicks (and hopefully confusion and/or side tracking other browser windows open) for those students 🙂


You can also still make a screen shot or a screen recording (handy for tech tips for teachers!! or students – I can see me making a few for minecraft and microbit coding tutorials), or put in a video, and then there are the export/save options. It did take a few minutes for each video to upload (maybe 10 minutes for a 5 minute video) but then I did have about 10 different browser windows open and was trying to do about 50 things at once, so maybe it is faster if it can just do its job.


So I am really happy with the recording tab in powerpoint (even if it is somewhat begrudgingly). It has almost all of the features of Office Mix that I loved, and it worked seamlessly first try with Stream, which allowed me to email students their feedback straight from the stream interface. Given it slots into teams so well, I think I will end up using this an awful lot this year.

Posted in Professional learning, Teaching and Learning

Making holograms – Molecular shapes

Watching Hack the Classroom on Sunday, I saw ‘a hack’ on how to make hologram videos. The hack was by Tomas Milicka, and he used a combination of office paint and powerpoint to make his own (or to get his students to make their own) hologram videos. I didn’t quite see the potential at first, but then I remembered some GIFs of 3D shapes I made using ChemSketch at a Peter Hollamby workshop in my first year of teaching (8 years ago) and I wonder if they could be used to make some holograms of 3D chemistry shapes that are required as part of the L2 and L3 NCEA Chemistry curriculum. Visually molecule shapes in 3D from a 2D drawing if often a challenge for students, so any hook or tool to help them is AWESOME.

So I had a play, and success. I inserted the gifs and aligned them changed the background to black, and then made a slide recording with no sound. Then exported the slide recording as an mp4, loaded on to youtube and away we went.

Screenshots of the powerpoint slides in production

I am STOKED with how they have turned out, and how easy they were to make. So now I have another tool when trying to demonstrate the 3D nature of molecules, which some students do struggle with.

And I’m stoked I found a fun wee idea I could run with, it will really only be a ‘hook’ for my classes, but it was a really nice motviational boost for me at the time of year when I feel like all I am doing is EXAMS EXAMS EXAMS. So a massive thanks to Tomas for sharing this idea, it gave me the wee boost I needed to do something fun and learn something new.

Feel free to use this videos in your class, there are loads of websites that show you how to build the ‘viewer’ including this one. I will keep adding more shapes as I make them.

I’ve made them into a playlist on youtube, so you can find them all HERE

Have fun





Posted in Professional learning

Hack the classroom (October 2017) – making connections

This morning (at an unpleasant hour of 4:00am NZ time) I tuned in for Microsoft’s Hack the classroom – a live broadcast from Washington State in the USA. While it was super early, it was worth being up to connect with all the other educators from around the world. If you like, you can watch a reply of the hack the classroom HERE. I had an extra incentive for being up to watch the broadcast live rather than by replay, as Nikkie and I had submitted our ‘hack’ around making connections within the NZ Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert community with our monthly Professional Learning Community calls. Getting in touch with these amazing educators once a month is genuine highlight for both my professional learning and for soothing my soul when I get frustrated, or stuck. We are all ‘hacking’ our curriculums and tech and are open about sharing and helping each other, either on the calls or on yammer. The banter is not bad either.

Highlights from the hack the class session.

Alan November

Alan November was the first ‘keynote’ speaker (live from Boston) – and in his very first sentence he talked about how we can’t get enough of teachers teaching teachers. So I was pretty sold already.

He then talked about some research about the ‘curse of knowledge‘ – and how some-one who already knows something might not connect with a ‘new’ learner’ as effectively as some-one who has just learned about it. This idea struck me quite strongly, mostly because I had not considered it before. Doing a simple search determined it is not a new idea, and yet I hadn’t heard it before. So, as always, learning new things and new ways of looking at things to help me be the best I can at helping learning happen.

He then also talked about the importance of students taking ownership of their learning. His suggestion was swapping the word ‘solve’ for ‘involve’ eg instead of solving a chemistry problem, design a problem involving alkenes and alcohols. Just a different way of flipping the thinking around – and given how hard I find it to write practice questions, I think this would be an awesome way to get my kids thinking more about what they are working on. He said he had ‘a somewhat cynical view of spoon feeding’ and this was a strategy to try and prevent this. As well as teachers letting go of their classrooms and not being in control. Teachers ‘knowledge’ is going to go down in value as more learning is on line, but teachers ability to support those students in their learning and creating content will need to drastically increase.

Another awesome point I reflected on from his presentation was when he was asked about engaging reluctant learners. He said

All kids love to learn, but not all love school

which I think nails it. So many kids will learn what they are interested about, but schools don’t ‘have room’ for what they are interested in.

So this presentation made me think some hard thunks, and I’m going to look into the idea of curse of knowledge a little bit more.

Tammy Dunbar 

Tammy Dunbar is AMAZING. I meet her at the Microsoft Education exchange in Seattle in 2015. She just radiates energy and passion for her job. My favourite message from her presentation was

‘life is bumpy, I want them to look at those challenges and be able to say, no, I can work through this, I can do this.’ 

She uses a whole range of tools in her class room, but it was the way she uses powerpoint that really stood out for me. Powerpoint often gets a bad rap, and we have all been in a powerpointless session, but it is a really powerful tool and to see it being used well was awesome. She is also using Minecraft really well, and as I’m looking into this for digital tech next year it was really cool to get some little ideas around that.

And of course, Tammy works closely with Koen Timmers to bring global education projects like Human Differences and Climate action. I have LOVED being involved in these projects and am proud to say I can contribute to them (when really it is my amazing kids doing all the work)

Making holograms – Tomas Milicka

My last highlight was another ‘hack’ submitted by another educator about Holograms. I love getting kids to make holograms, and usually do it as part of a light topic, or occasionally just for a fun filler. But I had never considered making my own videos. At first, I did kind of discount it (I will use it being 5:40am as a part of an excuse). But then I thought about the videos I could make. Before now,  it just hadn’t popped into my head I could make my own and I had always used some videos from youtube. So this 2 minute ‘hack’ about how to make your own hologram video was pretty cool, and I am going to have play with some chemistry shapes to see if I can make them into holograms somehow to students can see them in 3D in 3D in a hologram…..


So those were my big three takeaways. The other speakers and hacks were awesome, but those ones really stood out for me.

And then, last but least, it was time for Nikkie and me to grace the screen. Hearing Anthony talk about the work we do was such a great acknowledgement.

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It isn’t why I (or we) do it, it is still nice to get the odd little pat on the back. So a massive thank you to all the NZ MIEE’s out there that rock my world, that sent in pictures (or a video Ryan, massive brownie points for you) and make my education life a better place. And also to all the non MIEE teachers in NZ, and worldwide, who help me keep keeping on. You rock!!

Kia Kaha



Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from the PPTA ICT meeting and the TELA laptop scheme

On Friday, I was in Wellington for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. As usual, it was a full on day, leaving home to be at the airport by 5:50am is always fabulous, and then I got home a little after 9pm. As usual, these are my interpretations of what was said, and I am happy to be corrected if I got something wrong.

This time was a little different, and I am celebrating a beginning. A small beginning, but a beginning and a success of sorts. After all, there are so many non events, that even the smallest glimmer of hope needs to be celebrated 🙂

The TELA laptop scheme and centralised purchasing.

For some context, for a while I had been concerned about the lack of access some teachers have to good PD, and fit for purpose devices. As I blogged about recently, the digital divide is not just effecting students. I pondered on how best to make a change to this – realistically, what was the best way to make an impact I could think of. So in late 2015 I approached my local PPTA branch with concerns I had around the access to ‘fit for purpose’ devices for teachers. I felt that the TELA laptop scheme was not meeting the changing need of educators and learners. I made it an equity issue so that it could be realistically within the unions range of activities. They listened sympathetically, and suggested two options 1) propose a conference paper and 2) write a letter to the ICT committee. So I wrote my letter in early 2016 (March), and wrote a ‘blog’ for the PPTA magazine and this BLOG, and hoped some-one was listening.

I was invited to attend the ICT meeting where TELA was coming to talk about the scheme in June 2016, and it was a massively eye opening experience. (You can read about my impressions HERE) The way the different departments manage/run different facets of education is quite astounding, and it is a very complicated web of trying to figure out who is responsible for what, on top of what can be mandated, central purchased, or what is considered impinging on a schools right to be self governing. I then applied and became the ICT rep for Otago Southland, and have been to 2 meetings so far this year (reflections from the first are HERE) and on friday.

Amongst a whole lot of other things that were talked about, the representatives from TELA said they were looking at updating/changing the scheme, and thanked us for our input, asked for more, and said they were asking for other interested parties input too.

Which is massive. MASSIVE. I felt like a landslide…. there is still so much to do, but the first stones might just have started tumbling. Even if it would have happened anyway, even if there are others (and I’m sure their must be) pushing it along, I might have got somewhere.

So of course I will keep kicking up a stink 🙂

My notes for the rest of the meeting where not anywhere good enough as I floated in some sort of ‘did that really just happen’ cloud.

Other items on the agenda for TELA were central purchasing of software – specifically plagarism software for schools. With the increase in digital assessment submission, just blindly copying and pasting is easier (to quote someone from round the table – at least you used to have to take the time to copy it out by hand….). It is a really delicate balance – if the ministry purchases software central, it can be seen as a) endorsing the software and b) telling schools what to do. As much as I hate being told what to do myself, if there was a central purchase of software it could save schools MASSIVE amounts. So it is still being thought about, the but the ever increasing squeeze for funding, and the rapid change in pace of technology, and that for a lot of software (eg photoshop) you no longer buy the software, but a LICENCE it is a growing concern.


SLANZA is the group for school librarians in NZ, and it is fair to say many of them are having a pretty tough time. Yes, the role of libraries is changing, but it is still a really important part of any community, including schools. Bought up during the discussion was the reminder that often libraries are not just for learning, they are safe spaces for cohorts of kids. And librarians are pretty kick arse people, who are deeply passionate and skilled. I also had no idea it was not compulsory for a school to have a library, it is up to individual boards. So it a really sad thing to hear that so many schools are closing their libraries to try and squeeze budgets and find spaces.


COOLS seem to have been less in the news of late, but they are still simmering away in the background. ‘New’ cools will not be operational until at least 2020 as they need to be regulated (I asked why…. because students need to be enrolled in a school till they are 16 there needs to be processes in place to track this). There are still loads of questions around costs, platforms, quality and pastoral care, but despite these questions things are continuing to roll along.


There was some interesting, and at times quite technical, discussion around the digital technology curriculum changes, and I think there are a few people working REALLY REALLY hard in the background on this. I’m a little bit gutted (as I have mentioned before) that the assessment was the starting point, and that the Level one Achievement standards are going to be rolled out next year while there is still no curriculum goals (or learning progressions as they are going to be called) for the junior school. I did go full ‘out there’ at this point and question why so much time and energy was being invested in these ‘qualifications’ when 1) digi tech moves incredibly fast, would they be defunct in 2-3 years anyways and 2) when the head of NZQA goes on record saying the future of education is not assessments, why are we still doing them?????? Which I off course believe, but it did divert from the discussion somewhat.

There are also going to be issues around training for staff, what will happen to the ‘unit standards’ and is there still a need for word processing type courses….. as well as cost. The comment was made their had been a massive effort to ensure $500 robot kits were NOT a requirement – but then if you are using a $15 arduino you do need a bit more skill level.

So the jury is still out in my head about this – HUGE potential but also lots of unanswered questions.

Other stuff

There was some general discussion around the cost of professional learning and how some staff are feeling pressure (real or imagined) to gain a master qualification. This is NOT a requirement, yet some schools/areas represented did comment that it was an important consideration for them when employing new staff. The issue of PLD funding is (again) a complex one, and just where the responsibility sits is confusing.

There was also discussion linked to many things around support in schools for teachers. Schools can be very heirachy based, and often those doing the grunt work do not get the best devices/classrooms/timetables. Linked to this, in some subjects, access to PD and/or money hungry resources is impacting students ability to achieve – an example was sound quality in media studies impacting the overall production.

So yeah, another really informative and busy day. Lots of ideas, lots of productive discussion, and a nice reminder that there is hope.


And I do need to thank some people, who advised, supported, critique and listened as I started out on this ‘vendetta’ to get better access for teachers to fit for purpose devices and PLD. MY PPTA rep Alister MacDonald, the local Otago branch, Tom Haig (who helped me understand how processed work and to be patient), Lynette O’Brien who is a real workhorse and also incredibly patient, and the whole ICT committee for being so passionate and interested (and for tolerating my ‘out there’ comments). And also my family for listening to me rant and storm, and supporting my with the hours I’ve poured in, and to me critical friends, especially Nikkie, for helping me find the language I don’t always have access to which helps explain to other why this is so important for our teachers and learners. And thanks too to those who have followed along reading my blogs, got in touch when they have seen the articles in the magazine etc. Hopefully it makes a positive impact for the teachers out there – I’ll keep fighting for it. Kia Kaha teachie friends.