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Reflections from PPTA ICT committee meeting May 1

The PPTA ICT committee had an extra meeting in May, to review how online learning is working for different regions, and to offer some opinions and ideas to exec who are continuing to meet with various official parties such as NZQA and the ministry. As usual, these are my thoughts and interpretations, I’m happy to be corrected.

We started with a bit of a whip around people present, to see what was happening and if there were any concerns from regions. All had been REALLY busy, and most had noticed a drop off in engagement in week 3. (On reflection, I wonder if this was a symptom of the shorter week with Anzac day on the Monday, and the ‘teachers only’ day on the tuesday…. especially as even Te Kura had notioced a drop in engagment and really they were almost business as usual). There had been issues with some online learning platforms (MSFT and GOOGLE) that were in various levels of being resolved. Many schools had been working hard to get devices out to students, some students had received hard packs from the ministry, but there were still some students who had limited contact. Lots of members talked about the positive shifts that were happening, and the open, willing attitudes of staff and students to make the most of the situation, while a few were really using it as a push to a strategic shift in teaching and learning approaches.

There were of course some concerns, especially around teacher work loads. some teachers are more confident working in the online environment, where as it is a source of stress for others. Managing workloads with other commitments, such as looking after children, or vulnerable people in a household are of concern. The distinction between online learning and ’emergency learning’ was discussed, and this interesting article was shared. Clarification was sought around ‘bubbles’ in schools, are teachers allowed to be rotated in bubbles, or should it be the same teacher with the same group of students? (it appears there is conflicting advise on this, and different schools had different approaches, as well as different numbers of students attending).

There were also questions about NCEA and NZQA. NZQAS has released some information to help with online learning, but the general feeling was the resources were underwhelming (The Chem matrix is HERE). (I got a little but ‘pippy’ with these, it is all very well to say you could assess redox remotely for example, but the authenticity of the task will be significantly different without the practical to support learning. And while some students might have access to some household equipment they could make do with, other will not, making the situation even more inequitable. Needs must I suppose, and if we got to the end of the year, I would do this online so students had the ‘credits’ to pass. Sigh. Credits for credits sake…. )

Other subject teachers brought this up, how can soldering, hard material tech, foods…. assess. Not all subjects are equal in this regard. A Languages teacher shared it was also difficult for her, as speaking and responding is a key part of language learning, which is more difficult to replicate online, especially with mixed access to technology. There was also discussion around the ‘Assessment evidence gathering templates…(chem one HERE) and how they were not perhaps as helpful as they might have been (some subjects made a comparison of a unit standards ticksheet, whereas I said I didn’t think these would help with the lottery of moderation as they were quite broad and moderators feedback was often quite specific) Questions where asked about UE requirements and endorsement. If standards are dropped, this might limit options for students seeking endorsement, as you need a mixture of internal and external standards for this. So while NCEA if ‘flexible’, it was a challenge to flex specific requirements of different subjects and standards. There was mention of a group started by Claire Amos to try and ‘hack’ NCEA to make this more workable (HERE) which could help some schools and students.

A couple of other little things came up before I get to the last big thing

Accord days – will these be happening as given how disrupted everything was, would these teacher only days actually be useful. Was the NCEA review still going ahead? Short answer re accord days was we are not sure. The review is still going ahead, but the timeline has been extended. Exec were going to look into it.

Subject associations and Networks of Expertise(NeX). The PPTA had talked to several subject associations and NeX, and were thrilled with the work these subject assocs were doing to support teachers at this time, from webinars on online teaching, sharing resources etc. If you are looking for some support, do check them out. There was no word on whether the NeX funding would continue, but that the work they were doing was awesome.

Lastly, there was a specific question about intellectual property of resources being made by teachers, which lead into an interesting discussion around the future of schooling. The take home message if despite the fact you are working from home, you are being paid by your school, and your content ‘belongs to them’. The ministry ‘encourages’ creative commons, but it is up to individual school board to decide on their policies, and some board are more sharingly minded than others. I still don’t get why the ministry just doesn’t make this a whole thing for any state school in NZ, but who am I to make that call 🙂  (An interesting aside was if you read the google and zoom terms of service, if a document is stored on their servers, it belongs to them, which might be worth checking into depending on your personal or schools arrangements.)

The conversation on sharing resources took an interesting turn, as a point had been raised (by a member out of the committee) that they felt they were making resources that would see them out of a job and make them redundant. While I don’t feel this is the case, there were several points raised about the future of education, and centralisation of resources. There are still issues with teacher recruitment (although a global recession might ease that as others are forces into career changes) and education is expensive. There had been previous pushes for online learning communities, and there are, of course, some really positive education stories coming out of the current challenges. But there is also a stark reality that online learning pushes the cost onto families, and the inequalities for families are definitely more obvious. There are also some students who need the routine, the face to face contact, more than others, and how could those two be blended? If we move into lower levels of lockdown in NZ, what creative ways can we manage timetabling to allow for greater social distancing in our schools. I think of our corridors, and our crowded teacher work spaces, and wonder how these will be managed. Much less our class rooms with 30+ students crammed in. I also ponder how (in Dunedin at least) there are lots of schools who might have 2 or 3 students wanting to do a subject, but can’t because of lack of resourcing, where as if we were centralised there could be so many more options.

But the discussion kept coming back to people. The people, the people, the people. Those teachable moments because students spark of each other, the small smiles that indicate progress, the relationships and ‘soft skills’ students learn from each other. Even if education does move into a more long term distance learning model, students and teachers will still need to find ways to build relationships to move forward with learning. How hard people are working at this time, from the ministry, unions, boards, SLT teams, teachers, parents, teacher aides and cleaners and maintaince crew, all of these people are working to do the best we can by the kids.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to sing out, and if I have got something wrong, please let me know. As always, I’m happy to be corrected, and these are my opinions and ramblings only.

Take care.


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Reflection from PPTA ICT meeting April 2

We are sure living through interesting time. I hope everyone is as safe and as happy as they can be in their various bubbles around the place. And you are enjoying school holidays – what ever that looks like for you.

This morning I attended via zoom the PPTA ICT committee meeting. These are more thoughts, recollections and interpretations of what was said. As always, I’m more than happy to be corrected or directed on what I say below. Or if you want more info, please sing out and I’ll do my best to point you in the right direction.

The meeting was not quite as structured as usual, with lots of points being revisited in different contexts, so my notes were not as complete as usual. This is more of a stream of consciousness around some key topics

  1. Expectations of schools

The PPTA exec asked the teachers/reps present about the expectations from their schools in regards to online teaching. The people present were remarkably varied in the expectations from their school

  • some had gone straight into online teaching last week, with an expectation of maintaining a full timetable
  • Others had a more flexible present for 10-20 minutes to introduce an idea, then be available for the hour while students worked on it.
  • Others had a try your best but if you schedule online time please make it during normal class time to avoid clashes
  • Others were avoiding meeting online altogether and setting work that could be completed – aiming for the normal timetabled hours worth of activity with the work set.
  • Another example was the teachers were expected to email home each day (so five!! emails) with the work set for the day
  • Another was work was being set by class teachers, but the pastoral care team (whanua or form teachers I guess…..) were doing the face to face checking in a couple of times a week and collating any questions or concerns.

So it was a really big mixture. There was also a wide range of learning management systems (google, Microsoft, Schoology etc) with some schools asking to stick within a particular platform, and others with a much broader option.

All the teachers present were on holiday now, but we were all working and prepping in some degree. I talked about how I didn’t want to put any pressure on my students, but I was also aware some would be coping by smashing out some school work as that was something they could control. I suspect there will be teachers doing this too – where as I have been spending time with Mr 7, trimming the overgrown holly hedge fence around my home and drinking copious amounts of tea. So we need to find a way to make sure teachers stay supported too, while remembering this will look different for everyone

2) NCEA/NZQA/Courses and content

This was a really messy inter-threaded conversation, but from my understanding the main points were

  • How do we support more practical subjects like dance or hard material tech with online learning?
  • How do we manage changes to NCEA/courses. Eg As a chemistry teacher, I can’t complete the practical internals that we had scheduled. So do we just change direction? (FYI, you can change the standards offered, but you need to touch base with your principals nominee to do so! Check in with them before offering any standard that is not your normal standard)
  • This lead to a really cool conversation about what was important. I’m firmly in team NCEA doesn’t really matter right now!! But of more interest was how could NCEA change?How many credits do we really need? How could we gain evidence from different tasks? How could this be more equitable and accessible for all students?
  • How do we find a balance for students who will be finding themselves working more, either in essential jobs like the supermarket, or is equally essential but perhaps less recognised like looking after younger family members (or perhaps older). If students have picked up more hours (potential also supporting family who might have lost jobs) is it realistic to expect them to complete assessments?
  • What expectations will universities and polytechs be having around entrance requirements?
  • How can subject associations be utilised. I know that some have been active hosting webinars and such to support specific subject areas – how could this be supported?

The PPTA exec had also meet with NZQA and the ministry, and assured us that while they could not share specifics, these questions were all being talked through by those parties, who were working very hard to find some solutions. It was then asked that the PPTA keep pestering both the ministry and NZQA for update to limit the spread of misinformation (I’ll just add here if I have something wrong, please let me know and I will fix it ASAP. Always my interpretations!!)

3. Supporting teachers and students.

This was a big one. Round and round we went, thinking of all the diversity and richness that our education system has, but because of this there is no one stop solution. Some key ideas were

  • tens of thousands of students will not have access to online learning – either through lack of device, lack of infrastructure (rural properties or areas like northland with poor connectivity) or poverty. Some students biggest concern should not be learning, but finding a safe place to live during the lockdown! How do we support that. Again, I had a comment about schools giving devices, and then the ministry organising this too – how could we streamline this process. I also had an after thought concern about the MASSIVE amount of data being collected on families ability to connect – who has access and what will be done with it? It was also a pretty big ask for schools to collate that info on short notice – well done schools!
  • PLD – how much is too much? How much is too little? Where will people be overwhelmed? The PLD alloted for the DT/HM integration can be reallocated to providing online support for schools and kura (I am 99% sure this is the case) and there are some additional resources coming out. Is there double dipping occurring – not so much as people getting too much support, but too many people trying to do the same job, which creates inefficiency?
  • On this, what do teachers need? I’m sure lots of you have seen the fail work meeting were the person takes their laptop into the loo with the video on – how do we keep ourselves and our students safe? Not everyone has a seperate room in their house to work from. and some do not have good access to wifi either. Some homes the teachers TELA device might be the only device in the house that is needed to teaching and their students learning….
  • And more on the health and wellbeing, some will be balancing their own needs as well as child care or looking after other family members. Some will have essential workers in their homes and be anxious about them. What are realistic expectations here?
  • And looking forward, realistically we will not be coming out of level 4 into level zero. There will be (possibly, it really is unknown) level 3, or 2, where some teachers will not be able to come into classrooms, either due to their own vunerability or the vunerablity of those they care for. How will this look moving forward. Some schools were already looking to roster home age groups the week lock down was announced…. how can we balance the health and safety of all our teachers (and learner – some students won’t be able to come back either!!) with the work loads and well being of the teachers who can attend school. How will relievers who often move between schools, or itertinarent music teachers be supported?

Lastly linked to this, there was a suggestion that the PPTA produce some ‘documentation’ around some keeping yourself safe and some ‘how to’s’ for teachers. We had robust discussion about how this might look, given the wide range of devices, LMS, expectations and digital fluency levels of teachers in NZ – it was decided it would be useful rather than overwhelming but pitch and timing would be important. If you are a PPTA member, and on the facebook group, you can head over there, find the post from Matt and type in any suggestions.


So lots of questions, and not many answers! We do live in uncertain times. I do know however that there are teachers working super hard the country over to keep themselves well, and that we will find a way through. AND while it is sometimes hard to remember, there are groups of people working hard to help too.


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How do I care but not care…. and trying to find a way through.

For the past two year, I have co-taught a yr 7 digitech module. The first year we (wrongly) based it around the progress outcomes for the new New Zealand digitech curriculum. Last we  were ‘encouraged’ to teach the technology standards (posts HERE and HERE) during the module. When it came time for the 2020 timetabling, I found I was timetabled into the yr 7 module, which meant I couldn’t teach junior (yr 9 or 10) science. Which I was gutted about. So I set off to talk to both my HoD and the Tech HoD, and said very politely I did NOT want to be teaching technology please, I struggled to get my head around the technology standards, and I really LOVE teaching science.

So then it was a real downer when I found myself in the yr 9 digitech module instead. With a second year teacher who has also not taught digitech (or any technology for that matter) teaching the other module. So not only was I not trained, had said I didn’t want to, I had received no PLD funded by my school for teaching technology and my self funded PLD around incorporating digitech into the science curric was not designed nor meant to have me teaching a technology course, I found myself in charge of a course, and supposedly supporting a beginning teacher to also teach it. With an expectation that I would rejig the course to be more inline with the new standards.

Which is really where my post about aiming for not bad comes from. Because even with this mindset, I have already sacrificed MANY more hours than this course than I ought to have, which is 15% of my working week when you break it down. I feel my other course, which not only should take more of my time, but I am infinitely more passionate about, have suffered because I simply have not had the time to put in to them. I had to throw my toys to get meetings I needed. I have had to use the systems in place with the specialist classroom teacher and the SLT. I have not had another meeting scheduled by the people that get paid more than me to check in. I am not able to attend meetings because I am mostly based in the Science curric area and need to be at those meetings. I got sent screen shots rather than documents from people unwilling to share. Because I was placed in this course, others were moved out, and there did not seem to be any process around this. Which was hard and created conflict. Which was not of my making and I was stuck in the middle. And now, I have essentially handed another teacher an entire course built from scratch by me despite the unwillingness of others to do the same to help me.

Which makes me cross, because it is not my course. It should be collaborative, and equitable. But this whole process has been the exact opposite. And I feel like it has really impacted my levels of happiness in a profession and how I am choosing to work. Past Rachel NEVER would have said I handed some-one a course of mine.

So how do I fix this?

Because in this job, it seems that you give and you give and you give, and it is never enough. There is always something more that could be done, something more to tweak, another student who needs help.

I am watching people, and not just in my school, crack and sometimes break under pressure. I have watched so many teachers fly away from the job over a number of years. I am seriously pondering a move myself, a friend is a teacher in Melbourne were she is paid more and the houses are cheaper (in the burbs to be fair).

I’m trying desperately to remember I need to work to my own standards, not that of those around me. I need to remember that money and units is not always an indication of peoples worth. That I work for me, not what others opinions of me is.

I am trying desperately to remember that I do enjoy my job. I enjoy young people, their energy, enthusiasm, their courage, and their sometimes blatant daft behaviour as they grow into interesting and diverse people.

I am trying desperately to enjoy teaching kids about the world around them, to be curious and critical, to challenge and to understand the building blocks of the world around us.

I am trying desperately hard to remember I like setting things on fire! And seeing students faces when they make a connection, or are in awe of a practical.

I am saying practical things like it will be better next term once I’ve done the module through once. It will keep getting better. I can critique and improve. The kids don’t know any better.

I am trying desperately to avoid going in all guns blazing, because I want to do this well. I am trying to remember the cost to other things I value more. Trying to avoid the well bugger them, I’ll just smash it attitude. Because, in the end, the only person that smashes is me.

Teach me to care and not to care

Teach me to be still







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Finding the ‘bright spots’

I found this post in my drafts – And I think it is worth sharing, even if it is unfinished. Hope you are all finding some bright spots.

For a multitude of reasons, the last couple of months have been a bit tough in my teachy life. Work stresses including two teachers resigning in the space of two weeks, the upcoming teacher strikes, multiple interruptions making it hard to get into a routine and get through work required, report deadlines looming, knowing that some teachy friends are going through some really tough times…. well it has all contributed to a big pile of unhappiness. And those creeping thoughts of  why don’t we look after the people who are still turning up and working hard as well as the people where the wheels have fallen off. The kind of time where it is easy to forget to find the ‘bright spots’ and things I LOVE about working with young people. And ‘old people’ too.

So I thought I’d take some time on a friday night (with a gin in hand after take aways for tea) to write some of these down.

I guess this was mostly highlighted for me this week on Wednesday, when I had 4 out of 24 students arrive for Level 3 Chemistry. The rest where out on a Biology field trip. Bugger this, I decreed – let’s go get a coffee. And so off we went (after leaving a note on the board so if anyone came looking for us they could call my mobile) to a cafe 5 minutes walk from school and they were all ridiculously polite and ordered small drinks and I topped it up with some cakes. And we just talked about future plans, uni or polytech? Gap year? Work? Our international student talked about plans for when she returns to Germany. We talked about travelling, and then about formal dresses and suits (the formal is in 3 or 4 weeks). And it was really lovely to just sit with some exceptional young people and talk, to be able to listen to them.

Another moment was today, P5 on a friday, where my yr 10 Science class are finally starting to see some results from their independent learning around windmills and/or renewable energy generation. Having worked on a high trust model, and given them some space, it did take 3-4 hours for them to settle into the task, but now some of their projects are really taking shape, and they worked pretty solidly with very little input from me for the whole hour today.

Different ‘windmills’ taking shape

I also attended a girls coding event for tech week (which I will cover in another post), watched the girls football team play superbly well for a 4-3 loss, took pleasure in being able to help some people because their need was greater than mine, and also made some progress on the rather long list of things to do.

And this is where I got to…. I can’t remember what I was going to add…. but the windmills were definitely very cool and I was proud of what the students acheived. 


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Reflections from the PPTA ICT committee June 2019

Once again this post has taken some time to get to sorry – Life is just a bit busy at the moment. But Friday a week ago I went up to Wellington for the day for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. As usual, this post comes with a disclaimer that these points are my interpretation and I am happy to be corrected, and/or provide any additional info. An additional disclaimer that I was pretty sick with the lurg doing the rounds, and dragged myself onto the plane at 6:25 am that morning on some pretty good cold meds to boot!! But, as usual, it was a very worthwhile day with lots of interesting discussion and some projects moving forward.

Stuart Wakefield – Chief digital officer, MoE

Stuart was on the agenda to talk around anti plagiarism software (a common discussion point at OCT meetings) but he actually offered a much more broad overview of some of the ministry projects going on, and ‘what could the ministry listen too’ to make sure they were meeting the needs of as many as possible.

There were 3 key ‘rolls’ for the office/team Stuart leads

  1. digital support internally –
  2. Digital support for so different education type agencies eg, NZQA, ERO, Library, MSD (study link) people
  3. Direct support of schools

The support of schools includes all sorts of things, from software licensing (hence the plagiarism software), digital equity for students (how is this managed, supporting pilot programs, internet access etc), digital wellness – screen time, cyber safety (netsafe, N4L, and government level cert stuff)  mental health, and physical features such as furniture .

Several points of interest for me, the first being equity. Massive discussions around the table about what that looks like and what that means, both with Stuart and then later in the day talking about technical support in schools. It is one thing to give a student a device, but if there is no internet at home, or the infrastructure of the school can’t support it, or if teachers are not confident in changing their pedagogy, then the device can’t function fully. John C talked about virtual desktops for devices in his school – they are looking at this route so that less powerful devices can be virtually upcycled with software that might not run on a less powerful machine – trouble is it comes at a cost for a very grunty server. Discussion around how to get wifi into all homes without undercutting the market (I hadn’t considered this) but the ministry is looking into some creative ways to manage this (linked to maintaining a free view TV network – as it seems TV is going to be universally through the internet sooner that we might think).

The next was why do we need anti plagiarism software. I get a bit titchy about this – if you assign a ‘project’ and get 30 identical reports back, then it was a recipe, not a project. How can we move to more authentic learning experiences for students so they are not just copying. But also, in Science, there are only so many ways you can say something like ‘more successful collisions per second means the rate of reaction is faster’ so everyone would be ‘plagiarising’ Those with experience using turn it in or other softwares commented on the PLD required to use it well, and some said using the software had provided students with the opportunity to learn more about plagiarism, which provided great opportunities for critical thinking. I think the take home message is the ministry is open to funding something like this, but it might be at the expensive of something else – so teachers/schools would need to think careful about what their digital priorities would be. BUT also, with the new NCEA review, will this still be an issue?? Watch this space I guess.

Mixed in with the discussions around PLD, I leaped in with my usual comments on the TELA scheme and that PLD for teachers receiving ‘new’ laptops is still lacking….. and what information has been gathered to determine satisfaction around the scheme? So TELA is still simmering in my background, but was not one of the main points in this meeting.

Another idea was around a machine readable curriculum – how can we get ‘resources’ so they can be read by any device/browser (at least, I think this is what it meant) so that is doesn’t matter what devices students have, they can all access the materials. This would mean students don’t need ‘grunty’ devices if all the tools they needed could be web based……

So a really interesting, forward thinking discussion was had.

Round Robin

Due to weather delaying flights and people not being able to arrive, I ended up dominating this a little…… but points of discussion were

  • Tech support – still not enough movement on getting a more uniform technical as well as e-learning/changing pedagogy in schools. Tied into teachers not always being tech savvy using new devices, much less new software. Discussion around how schools are at liberty to spend their money as they choose – do not need to fund a tech if they don’t want to. But round the table there was a massive discrepancy of support in schools – one school with around 1300 students had a 1.5 teachs (one full time, one part time), another slightly smaller had 0.5 of a tech who often worked longer, and another of similar size had no on site tech. Some schools had teachers with time allowances to support staff using technology in their classes, so had teachers with time and units, and some had nothing. So it really is an area of concern as more resourcing goes into digital technologies and learning, especially with the increasing use of online and digital assessment. If teachers are not comfortable using IT in their teaching and learning programs, how can students be expected to be successful in online assessment? And if the infrastructure is not in place so technology is reliably usable, how can teachers be expected to use it?

Outcome was the committee is going to write to the ministry and the PPTA exec to look for ways forward to get a more uniform support for schools – at the moment there is no ‘legal’ route as schools do have autonomy over how they spend there operations grants. There was a comment made that as the NCEA fees have been scrapped, there is going to be even less money (or less chance of money) available to schools to get ready for digital assessments.

  • As already mentioned, John talked about virtualisation of desktop computers for students, so the students could use cheaper computers and still use grunty software. Asked for opinions and ideas around this – the ministry is pushing for schools to shift to the cloud, but this means you no longer control availability or cost of access – to quote John. So if you have any thoughts or experience on this, please reach out and let me know and I’ll take it back to the group
  • I raised an issue around VC courses for language learners, especially Te Reo Maori. I have spoken to a few teachers and schools about this, and VC is not really meeting the needs of these students as well as it might. There was some discussion around how this might work better, but no concrete ideas, so again if you have any please get in touch.
  • DTTA update. Chris Dillion gave a big update from the Digital technology teachers Aotearoa group. Ket points of interest were

– the teacher shortages for DT teachers is going to hit HARD. Many schools were unable to offer DT due to not having a suitable teacher – what impact would these have? And what would ERO think

– New curriculum content – difficulties around working out what was teachable and workable at yr 9 and 10. Varying levels of competence coming from primary schools, some have made massive strides while others not doing much. (I quietly thought this was a bit like Science – some primary do loads while others do not much). Makes it difficult for teachers who are still coming to grips with the new expectations. It is the old chestnut I guess, do we box students in to a year level of ‘skills’ or try and find ways to let them work at their level? But when a kid comes in and says, oh, I’ve already ‘done’ ‘scratch’ it does make it difficult, especially because you can do loads of things with various programs or softwares, but some students won’t see past the tool.

– Assessments are now available – schools will need to ‘book’ a time and a set.

– Support for the Hangarau Matihiko curric and assessment seems to have stalled – difficulties with translation and information from different sources. Watch this space

– Check you the webinar from Kate Curtis and Nathan Owen on the NCEA review changes.

– The date for DT.HM embedding is still 2020 – below is a copy and pasted exert

The following has been passed on from MoE via email, and will be communicated to all schools soon. I have highlighted the relevant parts.

What will ERO be looking for in 2020 in terms of implementation of the new curriculum content?

The purpose of internal and external evaluation is to improve education outcomes and to ensure that schools are accountable for their stewardship. Under the Education Act 1989 all schools are expected to be involved in an ongoing, cyclical process of evaluation and inquiry for improvement. Through the annual reporting process, they are required to report on the achievement of their students, their priorities for improvement, and the actions they plan to take.

ERO supports this review to ensure schools are providing their learners with the rich and engaging curriculum they are entitled to.

It is expected that by 2020 students will be meeting the progress outcomes for digital technologies to match the curriculum level expected for their year level at school?

Over time students should be supported to progress in their learning in technology. In 2020, the Ministry of Education expects that schools will be using the revised learning area to provide students with even broader opportunities to learn in and about technology, informed by the new content around computational thinking and designing and developing digital outcomes.

As for all parts of the curriculum, teachers will design learning programmes with rich and authentic local contexts that provide quality learning experiences for students.

So lots of info from the DTTA – and I again want to acknowledge how hard various members of that group have been working in the back group to support the new curriculum.

Andrea Grey – NZQA

After the last PPTA ICT meeting, I had a comment on my blog from NZQA asking to respond, so I was a teeny bit nervous about them coming to talk to us. Turns out I had not much to worry about, and Andrea was very pleased to come and talk to us to try and build on the/the NZQA’s understanding of where things are at, and what steps might be taken moving forward.

Here are the key points as I remember them – it is also worth having a looksy at the NZQA/NCEA website for more info

  • exams will be online ‘where appropriate’ from 2020 (but paper copies will still be available).
  • Exams have gone online in response to more and more learning experiencing being online. In my opinion, this links into the growing disparity between schools in NZ, some students are using computers very often, and so doing an exam and typing etc are much more ‘natural’ to them than using a pen and paper, while for other students and/or schools, they are still doing most of their learning from work books or paper, so online exams are exceptional and strange. So school who have the infrastructure are finding this all ok.
  • NZQA are working with N4L and school providers – ‘on the journey together’ to understand the main issues/problems and attempt to find solutions. There is no one size fits all….

There was a side discussion around exam centers – some smaller schools and Kura are not exam centers, and sometimes needing to travel is a barrier to learners – so how can those barriers be overcome? Would online assessment mean more students can access assessment from their own school/Kura/Marae? And do students need to be in a big vast hall? Or could they be in a more familiar environment that they feel more comfortable in and so do better…. And even with paper exams, I think it is a shame we shove kids into a hall because it is ‘easier to manage’ either with staffing or timetable changes, rather than give them the best chances of success in environments they fell comfortable with. Personally, when I’m ‘thinking’, I like to sit on the floor and spread out with my laptops and papers all over the show….. I HATED sitting in a desk for 3 hours.

  • about 200 schools have tried one or more online exams to date – some big cohorts and some smaller.
  • Feedback from students has been positive (around 90% strongly agree or agree) – even in instances where technical issues occurred (perhaps because students are more resilient to tech fails than teachers….) although it was acknowledged only about 25% of students who sat the exams completed the feedback forms (which I don’t think it too bad for teenagers!!)
  • Special assessment conditions are a work in progress – text to speech from next year and aiming for speech to text for 2021
  • Any time assessment is still on the radar, but not the immediate future. Will be assessed with the NCEA changes

This also lead to a fun side discussion around some research needing to be done around the timing of assessments…. Is there a magic number for time after learning to have an assessment? How to we promote long term retention? How do we promote skills rather than content ‘regurgitation’? I know from my own teaching that I get frustrated with students who learn something for one assessment, and seemingly can’t remember the skill two months later for another topic (eg writing balanced equations in chemistry…. but there are others). So is assessing straight after the learning always the best option? What are we trying to assess when we assess? How might this look with the changes to assessment with the NCEA review. How might classrooms and learning programs need to change to accomodate varying ‘assessment’ timetables?? I hadn’t really considered the timing of assessments as much as I might have before this meeting and have had several interesting discussions online and in person about what this might mean for different learners, subjects and skills.

  • next target for online exams is languages – there has been some complications with browsers auto-translating!! (I thought this was awesome…..) and then into maths and Science – but how do we move passed substitution
  • for 2019 there are 35 exams online – manly text based as there is confidence that these work as the exams are mostly just substituted for the written exams

Which lead into a really cool (and hopeful) discussion about how online assessment might move on from straight substitution of paper exams into other different ways we could assess students. How could these exams meet the needs of all learners. How could the ‘language’ base of maths problems be removed so it is easier for students to interpret what the questions are actually asking? How could ‘2D’ pictures students are asked to draw or label be redone as animations or VR immersive sessions where students can display their knowledge in different ways? Good an exam have an element of game based design – a pick a path story of sorts? It was a really cool discussion around what assessment could look like, and how might we like to look?


So all in all a slightly different meeting with a few more ‘big picture’ ideas than there have been previously. I left with some ideas to ponder and research to do, and some hope around what learning might look like in future

As always, I’m happy to be corrected, and pass anything on to the committee if you have any questions or concerns 🙂 some things don’t fall under the umbrella of the committee, but I’m happy to try and find where issues should go as well.

Have fun



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On burnout, moral injury, tiredness and I’m not sure……

Today is the middle Tuesday of the 2 weeks easter break. Today was a fabulous autumnal day filled with holidays chores like getting a hair cut, chimney sweeps, gardening etc. And marking. And then some-one popped round which was a very welcome distraction from marking. I was talking to them about how I had felt burn out after the last term, which isn’t like me because I usually have pretty good coping strategies etc, and how frustrated I was with teaching and education in general and she introduced me to to idea of moral injury (see the youtube clip below). Moral injury has been mostly explored (from what a quick google search could tell me) from a military perspective, where those who had gone into a war zone (or other traumatic place/experience) but is increasingly being used in health and in education. 


For what ever reason, it has really hit home. I am not burned out, and I do not need a well being program in my school to make me feel better – I need education to be better. And society too!

Easier said that done right 🙂 Sigh

From what I could find (in a brief search where I can’t access a whole of of journals due to pay walls etc), the idea of moral injury is a real thing. For example, this paper gives an example of whether to exclude a student or not – something I know that I have grappled with as an educator when I am struggling to understand the steps my school has taken (or not taken)

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Source –

It is the very classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t scenario…. for schools, for school leaders, for teachers and for communities……

Another example is HERE, where a teacher just didn’t want to come to school after a decision was made that they didn’t agree with. The post goes on to talk about how to find ways to still enjoy your job.

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Source –


And the hopelessness is real. Knowing that change could be made, but constantly feeling hamstrung by the very system you are battling against. Knowing that there must be good reasons for decisions being made, but not being privy to them, or not agreeing with them.

So I’m going to have to re think how I look at systems, and system change, and if nothing else from today, I have found a way to be kinder to myself and to my colleagues. Because there is shame attached to burnout is a thing. And I have often wondered why some people blow out and others don’t. As the video said, when we think of burnout, we wonder what strategy or resilience did they lack? Or was it simply the case of the straw that broke the camels back? We teeter around on tiptoes not trying to upset some-one to try and avoid things getting rough again, or shift classes, or re-arrange time-tables without ever addressing the underlying reasons why people are struggling.

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Source . –
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Source –


And then sometimes the world just does get too much. Illness, moving house, relationship issues, there are rafts and rafts of reasons why people sometimes struggle at work. And they perhaps need to be made more seperate from when the reason some-one is struggling at work is because of the work, rather than another life event.

Another friend said to me last week in when I was catching up in chch when I said I wasn’t sure I still enjoyed teaching ‘well, there is a reason people get paid to go there, not many people would if there was no money’. So where is that line between being ‘precious’ and actually being fulfilled enough to be content. When do I need to remember I am paid to do a job, and I should (sometimes) shut up and do it……..

And I guess I still don’t have an answer, and I’m still not sure where this thinking might take me. It is another reminder I need to do better by my family and myself. Make that time. Just make it. But if you are out there, feeling ‘burnt out’, you are not alone, and maybe, just maybe, you are not as burned out as you think.

Keep swimming


And I really wanted to read this article, but it was locked behind a paywall – 





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On international and/or exchange students

I’m a little bit sad today. Partly because it is the last day of term, and my goodness the tired is, well, tiring. But mostly because a fabulous German exchange student who has been in my L2 chem class is heading back to Germany next week. We had a party to wish her well and most (some of the boys didn’t listen) bought some food to share. We talked about what people were doing in the holidays, about time differences so we could skype Clara during a class time, how jealous we were of Clara going back to summer. I helped a kid who is also leaving with an extra internal they are doing over the holidays (to get L2 NCEA before they also leave for the UK next term) and it was just an awesome chilled hour with cool kids.

This hour quietly reminded me of the importance of recognising and celebrating diversity, as well as maintaining our own unique ‘kiwiness’ (or Germanness). Of how modelling inclusive behaviour in schools can help create tolerance and understanding, and an interest is places away from our immediate home. The football world cup has also been a talking point, our softly spoken Japanese teaching assistance flooded with tears when I talked to her about how well Japan has done in the game against Belgium, and she should be proud. She replied they are not the All Blacks, but I am very proud of them.

So it was a good reminder of the small things that make relationships work, make connections form and make learning happen. From finding a hour of code activity in Arabic for our new Syrian student, learning Te Reo, ‘gentle banter’ of sport events, taking time to uses translator tools to talk to new international students….. all of these actions benefit not just the international student/ESOL student, but also other students learning how to be kind, patient, and to learn about other cultures in their turn

I will miss ‘The German’ and I wish her well – and I am very thankful for this reminder today


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Google, ISTE, and the Death of EdTech

An excellent post – why are we celebrating making technology more efficient for ‘assessments’ when we are desperately trying to open up the world for our students…


ISTE ‘18 was all abuzz with imminent news of a major announcement from Google. This, the Google foot soldiers proclaimed, was going to be the most transformative thing to happen Google Classroom since its launch. Word over at the Blogger’s Cafe – where automated tracking was in full flow – was that this was going to be huge. And why not, when one considers that this was the annual showcase of EdTech and the lofty goals of the host organization: “ISTE sets a bold vision for education transformation … to accelerate the use of technology to solve tough problems and inspire innovation. Our worldwide network believes in the potential technology holds to transform teaching and learning.”

When the launch was announced, I was aghast. The big news was “locked mode” in Google Forms and, bizarrely, this news created quite an excited stir. The locked function permits teachers to eliminate…

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So another end of year has rolled around, and I have this song on repeat in my head.

But I also got a very traumatic reminder of just how precious life is, and how we do need to try and find a way to treasure every moment.

So, to myself and all my colleagues in the teachverse out there thinking of how the year has gone, and what they could have done differently, I hope you all have spend more time with friends and family at the top of the list.

For next year, I am going to take a step back, and try to remember my job is just a job, even though I LOVE it and HATE it (hate the frustrations is more accurate I guess) and try to leave it at school. I am passionate, and I do care, but this shouldn’t impact my life as much as does. I need to spend more time with Mr 5 and the hubby, and my friends, and more time on me too.

I’m looking forward to a break, to going to my parents for Christmas, ripping down some walls in my house and sorting out my garden, and then of course Hands on, which is always such a pleasure to spend a week with amazing young people from all over the country. I have weddings, friends babies due so blankets and hats to crochet and my first school holiday with me wee man.

Enjoy your break teachie friends, you have earned it. I hope that the break puts all those frustrations into perspective and you come back refreshed – it is my wish for me too. I hope you can save every day like a treasure, and you find what you want to do while there is still time left.



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Clawing at mud….

I have had to make an effort to dig myself out of a hole recently. I am still clawing at the mud and sliding back in really. My motivation has been low, I’ve found myself doing that thing I hate where I start talking up stuff I’m doing or have done to make myself feel better, I’ve felt under appreciated and under valued, and worst of all, I have felt like I am not hitting my potential. I do set my standards pretty high, but I have definitely not been even half reaching them of late. I have also been pretty sick with a nasty bug going round that just keeps on giving. #scichatNZ has become more managable, but I worry it is not growing. I ‘should’ get round to organising an educamp for Dunedin. I am making the effort to head up to educamp selwyn, but even that feels like a massive effort (Sorry Matt, I’m sure it will be awesome….). I am helping some cool kids around the country with scholarship chem, which is a fair way out of my depth, but I had intended to take it to more kids…. there is just this massive list of I have not dones….

And the weird thing is that when I sit and list what I have done or am currently involved with, there is still quite a lot. I simply don’t have time to fit many other things in, and I had to be rational (not always my strong point) and cut some things out. But I still feel burnt out. And like I am not doing enough. ALL at ONCE. And that I need a special certificate or something for doing what I am doing, when really, come on, I’m a grown up. It is just part of my job. A job I do LOVE and am passionate about.

I also had to make a really tough decision to say no to something. Saying no was HARD. In no way wanting to ‘bag’ the course, I had to say no to the mindlab course. I just could not find away to make it work for my family, as it was on a wednesday night, my hubby has cricket, and it would have cost a fortune in childcare. Not to mention I already feel like I don’t see enough of my small person. But on top of that, I looked at the course and wondered how much I would get out of it? That was an egocentric moment if ever I have had one. I was initially jealous as all hell of my colleagues doing it, but now they are balls deep in assignments and extensions, I’m not feeling quite they same level of FOMO. I still can’t quite feel relief though, nor contentment with my ‘choice’

And so now I am questioning what is important. What is it that I value. How can I feel I am filling my kete, rather than being stuck in an endless loop of filling others and never feeling like I am doing a good enough job. I blogged about teacher heriocs 6 weeks ago, and I still have not found an answer.

I also wonder about sharing failures. There are some things I have tried that haven’t worked, but that also feels braggy – hey, look at me, I’m trying cool shit over here. Is this tall poppy? Is this fear of not being perfect? I can quite happily say in the first 3 weeks of term my classes consisted of chalk and talk and lessons online as I lurched from lesson to lesson battling the cold I had. And no-body died. I think even some kids might have learned some things despite it being as boring as hell. Thankfully the relationship I have with my classes did give me that leeway, and by the end of last week I was feeling well enough to run some pracs…..

I wondered about depression/anxiety. Depression is not usually my sidekick (I’m more of an anxiety girl and have been down that road before and it doesn’t feel like now). I did go and talk to a professional (I highly recommend this – many schools will offer a free service if you need it, but I have some-one I see despite the cost). Which was useful and put some perspective on it – my family is important to me, and I need to place more importance on my own health. Find some boundaries and remember to take pleasure in things.  Work is also important to me but I do need to remember it is just work.

Because that is true of teaching right?? Sigh 🙂

Another thing worrying me is I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this right now. Maybe because I am there I am reading to much into little comments (or lack of comments) from others, but there seems to be an overwhelming current of tired, burnt out, just not quite there from a few people.

Or maybe, just maybe, I need to let go. Realise that I have grown and moved on from those things that gave me so much, but are no longer a source of inspiration like they once were. They are no longer fulfilling. Accept that others do not value them as I do and so they might not get carried on. Which is a shame, but if they are not longer filling a need they are not needed. Maybe my next challenge is just round the corner and it will spark up that learning again. Teaching is faddish after all.

After all, change is something I am trying to learn about, manage and support others to accept. Change is not new. Maybe I need to keep getting better at it myself.

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I LOVE this cartoon – you can find it at