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The price of eggs…. the digital divide is not just the kids

I had an epiphany of sorts this morning doing the grocery shopping as I was considering eggs. I always go free range (but since I started working really….. in fact eggs are still something of a luxury to me), and as I was comparing prices this morning I realised how lucky I am to able to do to so. Living in Dunedin on a ‘just’ a teacher wage and a partner working in a similarly paid job to me, I have it a lot better than a lot of my colleagues who get the same wage for the same work and pay a LOT more to live. However, my school does not have this luxury. I had been wallowing in self pity after having a proposal for some funding to attend a conference segwayed into probably not being able to go. I was really disappointed, frustrated, a bit down and plotting how I could scrimp and save to get myself there (I had already offered to pay the flights anyway) and looking at the eggs this morning it really hit me that not all schools, and therefore not all kids, can afford ‘free range’.

To resolve my school of blame, they did suggest a really thoughtful alternative. (After a wine, I was even more ‘pissy’ about this, as it meant I couldn’t even be cross with them, they really are trying to support what I wanted to learn about. Which I am very thankful for. But the reality is, we are on a budget and the money just isn’t there.) And sadly, I can’t get to the alternative as it clashes with another trip.

And really, I got to go the E2 exchange in Toronto (thanks Microsoft for paying for me!!) and I did go to Energise in Queenstown (thank Cyclone for paying my conference fee and accomodation – I picked up the gas tab) so I have had some AMAZING PLD this year already. I am doing some EdEX courses, and of course chipping away on the Microsoft Educator Community, and I have put my name down for the Mindlab course running. I also hosted the scichatNZ teachmeet session, and got loads out of that. So I am doing some learning. And perhaps I just shouldn’t be so entitled!!!!!

I then wondered why the conference cost so much ($499+GST) for 2 days. The alternative offered was $150+GST for one day. I know you need to pay for speakers to attend, venue hire, possibly a meal, food for participants etc. But on top of this cost for schools is transport and relief, and the time for the people sorting everything.

It sums up why I LOVE twitter, #edchatNZ, why I started #scichatNZ with Matty and co, why I make an effort for #teachmeetNZ and why I do as many free courses online as I can. I know that there are loads of teacher like me, who’s schools can’t afford it, or won’t make that ‘out there’ conference a priority, and there are definitely teachers who don’t even know that there are free PLD options out there. I wish wish wish I could have gotten time to go to the EdchatNZ conference…. but at the time I couldn’t stretch for flights myself. But I love the unconference idea, and making PD more accessible to EVERYONE.

But as I sit now, closing the door on what could have been some pretty cool learning, some awesome Korero with some amazing educator peeps and also a nice trip, I am frustrated that the doors to learning are still being closed. And not just on our kids. I am confident that there are loads of teachers out there who have been turned down for funding for PLD this year…. and maybe some like me who sat down and worked out that if I put this money here, and that money there, maybe I can fund myself. I seem to remember some-one started a go fund me type thing to get to a conference once. It is also what drove me to the PPTA ICT committee, trying to find away to ensure teachers get access to devices fit for purpose for their teaching, and the support to use them. To many schools and teachers are held to ransom over device choice by cost, and teacher just get handed a new device with no help in how to use it.

And then you go to the supermarket and find yourself thinking if I don’t buy free range eggs, I could put that extra $3 towards my flights. And you have to do what the school does, and prioritise what is important to you.

Just like if the school doesn’t pay my $500 conf fee, the could put it towards something else. Like breakfasts for our kids that don’t have them. Or the power bill. Or Or Or Or Or. And it is tax payers money after all.

But will this keep us in a ‘battery’ style teaching philosphy, while other schools are allowing their kids to be free range. No-one think battery eggs are better, but they sure are cheaper. So what other costs are our underfunded school schools having…..? It isn’t just the students wings we are clipping…..

And how can we break free if we can’t even sit at the table where the discussions are taking place?


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Out and about in Kuala Lumpar

I was fortunate enough to be asked to attend BettAsia this year as a MIEE fellow but also as a panel speaker on the roll of social media in teacher professional learning. It was a full on trip, but I had an amazing time, learned some new things, made some new connection and strengthened some old ones, and also had a bit of fun exploring Kuala Lumpur… which is what this blog post is about. There is another one on my experiences from the conference.

I arrived late on Sunday night, and after waking up at 3am with my brain telling me it was 8 am and breakfast time, I got some more sleep in and then went on a ‘Country’ tour.. KL and NZ have quite different perceptions of Country it would seem 🙂 The tour included the pewter factory, the batik factory and the Batu Caves, and then on Thursday I went to the patronus towers. While none of the excursions was billed as especially Sciencey, there was lots of Science on display

Pewter Factory

WAS AWESOME. A weird type of chemistry heaven combined with a history lesson of the factory and settlement of the family to Malaysia, and an interesting display of different health and safety standards. The tour started with a walk through of the museum. To be honest, I was not that interested until I saw some old school Bunsen torches and burners and other Scientific equipment – To think what they made and had done!! There were some posters on the composition of pewter and how it was made.


Then I nearly lost my mind where there was a demonstration of the molten pewter being poured into a mould and being made into handles. The poor tour guide nearly lost her mind when I reached out to touch the freshly made handles – just like in where the wild things are, they were still warm 🙂 I still can’t get over the fact that there was just this cauldron of molten metal and the skill of the lady working on the counter. She had no barriers between her and the molten metal – and neither did the tourists. I could have watched it for hours. Sadly I got hustled along the tour (they really were very nice, and just trying to stick to the schedule, but I seriously could have stayed for hours – there was an option to do a class to make your own tankard, which I so wish I had had time to do) to see other amazingly skilled workers hammers, ingraving and doing all sorts of cool things to make the figurines, cup and trinkets that the factory produces.

As such tours tend to do, the tour finished at the gift shop. I was quite taken with an amazing silver sawn but at $100K NZ it was a bit much. There were also AMAZING chess sets, star wars figurines and all sorts of cools things.

BATIK Factory

Batik is a method of putting patterns onto cloth by blocking with wax and then painting over them. This stop was a little short on the Science than I would have liked (it wasn’t a Science tour, but there was plenty of Science there… I am totally thinking of stealing this idea for solubility next year) but it was still really cool to watch the workers painting the cloth and seeing the patterns come to life. There were also amazing scarves, which were duly purchased.



Batu Caves

The caves were such a juxtaposition. Sadly, there were repairs going on when we were there, so scaffolding meant we could not enjoy the Gold statue to the full extent – but we could watch the monkeys scramble all over it. The caves were reached by a concrete stair way – and the geology of them was amazing. I couldn’t not get my head around it, there was no water source, no stream or beach. All the caves I have been to in NZ have had water in them, but not this one. Maybe it used to be there and has been diverted somehow…. Also, all the caves I have been to in NZ have been left to nature (with the exception of a few parties in the caves in long beach) and so the natural beauty is clear to see.

We were lucky that when we went the caves were not too busy. They were absolutely beautiful naturally, but also had shrines installed. Some shrines were beautiful and intricate, others seemed a bit tacky, and the temple with flashing lights inside the caves just seemed out of place to my NZ sensibilities. Also, the monkeys (I hope it was the monkeys) like to thrown things so there was litter down the sides of some cliffs, which also took away a little of the majesty of the experience. But it was still really awesome.

The Petronas Towers

Where ridiculously high!!!! Scarily so. I wasn’t so keen on going up them, but subtle peer pressure and a want to hang out for as long as possible with some awesome peeps, meant I went up. After nearly loosing it in the lift, the view was worth the trip!! It was fascinating for me to be up so high – it really was a feat of engineering. So with this trip in mind, my next technology challenge might be to build two towers with a bridge and see if the position of the bridge alters the strength of the towers.


Posted in random ramblings, Uncategorized

Ask not what education can do for you…

Ask what you can do for education…

I have recently had doubts over my self worth. I believe that (almost) all teachers are genuinely interested in helping others and wanting the best for the young people in there care. It might not always be the same ‘best’ that I have, but you know, people give a damn. The job is just to hard otherwise. And some days, my best is pretty average too – we all have those days. But it makes my life so much happier knowing that most teachers are giving it their genuine best shot.

The other thing I know is that I love love love LOVE my job. I really do. I fight for it as much as I can, even when I know it is a loosing battle. I rant and storm and plot and think and tear my hair about what can I actually do to make education better.

Because I love my job, I really don’t get why other people don’t. I also don’t get why these articles keep appearing; Shortage of Teaching staff Looms; Schools nearing crisis due to Auckland teacher crisis; Aucklands teacher shortage spreading nation wide. Although I can kind of get why people don’t want to live in Auckland – I seriously considered applying for a couple of jobs there, but then the cost of living seriously put me off. That and my Mr nearly 4 would have to spend 2 hours a day either in traffic or in extra daycare hours. No thanks.

But at this point, there are over 1300 vacancies on the ed gazette web page.

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458 of those are in secondary schools, and of those, 102 have since in the job description (remembering that some might be social science.)


and 106 are for middle management.


So then my self doubt swings to inflated self worth perhaps. Science teachers, and in fact all teachers in general, are in demand. I have been very flattered by lovely emails asking me to consider apply for jobs. There is significant demand, and school ‘leaders’ are crying out for good candidates for jobs. Frantic facebook and twitters post saying anyone interested in this job. As a Chemistry teacher who is not completely rubbish at her job for a significant portion of it I am an in demand commodity.

Except I am not.

I am still just a teacher.

I have a time release for elearning stuff, but no MU and no official job description. I am one of probably thousands of teachers in NZ and round the world who does more than they need to because they give a damn.

I have actively decided against a middle management roll for the time being as it seems to simply incompatible with having a young family. Which definitely needs to change, right now I feel a lot of talent and skill is being wasted or under utilised due to the additional demands placed on families. I really value my time with Mr nearly 4. Even without a middle management job, I still find myself away from home for camps, sports trips, conferences, PT interviews, prizegivings, meetings etc. After school today he came with me to the girls cricket match (bribed with Lolly pops) instead of coming home and hanging out after daycare. I posted earlier in the year around my despair of so many awesome teachers leaving for ‘sunnier’ shores. Of my Tcol cohort, I reckon maybe a third are still teaching 7 years in.

Today I had to remind myself of why I got into this job. Why I left a Science research lab to go teaching. It is because I LOVE teaching. I am passionate about everyone having the opportunity to learn. I really value promoting strong woman in the work place and showing girls they can have a family and work too (even if my life is a train wreck of domestic disaster stories…..). While I support breaking down subject silos, I value having subject specialists with their enthusiasm, passion and knowledge.

And so today when I got heart breakingly cross again and through that schools really are nothing more than machines to churn out the most possible with the least possible resourcing and they don’t actually give a damn about who works in them and why was I remaining part of this horrid machine, I needed to remember.

I LOVE this job. I have so much fun, I learn so much, I am never bored, I get paid to watch cricket and set stuff on fire (don’t get me started on our new lab protocols and safety managements stuff – sigh) and work with amazing people and talk shop at parties and love it.

So I still ask what can I do for my school, and for my learners?

But I am increasingly worried that there are less and less people asking this. How will those gaps be filled, and who will help support those young people so that everyone has an equal opportunity to learn? Where are these teachers going to come from? And once they get there, how do we stop them leaving?



Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Uncategorized

Taking a deep breath…

On Friday I went to a TENZ mini conference hosted at Tahuna intermediate. I had meet Bill at the 21 st century learning design session in the last holidays, and was honoured (and flattered) to be asked to open the conference by talking about strategies for implementing change in Education. And while I could only stay for a while as I had to get to the uni to sort stuff for Hands on at Otago (I can not recommend this for your Yr 11 & 12 students enough) and then back to work,  I got to hear some super cool stuff that these Tech teachers were doing and the how they were working around challenges.

I thought a LOT about the presentation I was to give. Once I had decided what to talk about and what angle to take, it didn’t actually take too long to prepare. And, as always, forcing myself to take stock and arrange my thoughts was far more beneficial to me than I had imagined, and I hope my audience got something useful. I chose the Koru based on a presentation from the awesome Nikkie talking about unfurling ideas. And I chose some Kea’s for my ‘pack’ as a reminder not to be too destructive

Because when I thought about it, there are an amazing array of resources out there to help teachers upskill themselves. I have used some, and (as always) mean to use more. When I thought about it, things are changing. Maybe not with the urgency or pace I would like, but I also need to remember to change what I can and try to not let the rest bother me so much. And to not let frustration cloud better judgement and inhibit what I am trying to achieve.

And talking to this amazing group of tech teachers and how they are looking to move their courses and learning forward was super inspiring. Often, the tech teachers in intermediate schools are isolated from the rest of the staff. While they see a lot of students, they only see them for a short time and relationships are hard to build. They are specialists in their particular fields, be it art, hard materials, music, textiles, food, and they were all amazingly passionate about their areas. Job security, funding issues, communication with the main part of schools, or secondary schools they were trying to prepare their students for, where all talked over as challenges with possible solutions.

I was super impressed with how some of the school were doing their reporting. It was live, real, all online and collaborative. If internet access was an issue for the family, printed versions could be made. I am so jealous – especially as I am coming up to report writing time in a couple of weeks.

Also present was Otto, who is Auckland based in industry and is reaching out to schools who are wanting to build there own 3d printers rather than just buy one and run with it. Really really cool stuff.

So while I could only go for a couple of hours, it was very well worth it. It made me remember I am not alone. That there are passionate, awesome, fiery educators the country over who are working hard for change. And while it is frustrating that there isn’t more support for all of these amazing educators, it was inspiring to see them still working towards their vision for better experiences for their students.

Posted in Teaching and Learning, Techie stuff, Uncategorized

Office 365 as a learning management system update

Late last year I wrote a blog about how we were planning to use SharePoint and the office 365 environment as an LMS and as a ‘T drive replacement’. After 2 terms, I have been thinking about what different teachers are doing with their classes or with their departments and how things are fitting together. It is still very messy, with some teachers using OneDrive, others using groups, some exclusively using OneNote Class notebooks and some using nothing. We still have some classes using the ultranet (which is being phased out) and others are not in any online space as yet. We are also investigating Microsoft Classroom and whether this would be an effective solution for some of our staff.

So it is a good time to pause and reflect on the relative successes with the technolgoies we are currently using.


SharePoint is definitely the most flexible option for staff and students, but it does come at a cost of being technically demanding. So far, only Chemistry, Physics and Technology are using SharePoint to share work with students. This is working very well and it is easy to provide a wide range of resources, as well as options for students feedback/contribution.


My Colleague Kevin has done an awesome job of organising his physics students site


A view of one of the chem pages is not so exciting….. Although a really big advantage of having a site is that it is easier for multiple contributors. So my fellow chem teachers can easily edit and add documents in. We have also (as a comparison mostly) not put the shared documents in a library but just put the files on the site. This means students only have the option of downloading the files rather than viewing them online. We did this due to some queries around permissions and editing rights – it has worked well for this cohort.

Where SharePoint is really making a positive difference is in organising staff documents and bookings.

More of Kevin’s handy work – he has overlaid calendars to provide a colour coded chart of where members of the PE department are at a given time. This is awesome and I need to learn how to do it.

Pe cal
More of Kevin’s handiwork – colour coded calendar for room bookings.



The science dept is also utilising the shared calender function to organise booking our practical gear – it seems to be working really well, helped by our awesome tech Aimee. It is also really nice to have single copies of assessment docs, marking schedules and feedback that we can all contribute to. Our ‘poor’ HoD does get a little exasperated with some of the comments we leave on department meeting agendas – but it also gets some of the discussion out of the way before the meetings which frees up more time for shared work.

The Arts department has recently come on board and made some excellent progress getting their documents shared. It is a wide spread and diverse department so it has taken a big effort for the Curriculum heads to get this started.



Several teachers are using groups to share files and discussion with their students. This is working well for these students and staff, it is easy to email the whole group with updates. The file share is an overlay for SharePoint libraries that seems to take some of the technical issues away for less confident staff. (when I tried to tell them they were using SharePoint a couple were a little overwhelmed…) You can share all sorts of files and links very easily with a target group of people.

One downside of groups is they are able to be seen by others, even if they are private groups. An example was a couple of staff set up pastoral care groups which we discoverable by students. Students couldn’t access the information but were able to email all the teachers involved…. so for use in schools it would be really nice if groups could be made undiscoverable to others in the network. The other thing missing from groups is the ability to format files shared – it has a very definite ‘folder look’. But it is working really well for staff and students using it.


Staff in several departments are using OneDrive to share student notes, assessment material etc. this can be a slightly time consuming set up, but once each student has a shared file with the teacher, it is up and running and easy to use. I am really hoping the soon to be released Microsoft Classroom automates some of this process. Staff have chosen this option over a classnote book as we are not a one to one school – so accessing a classnote book to access a word file was proving a bit much for the streams the students have access to. For NCEA assessments it provides a secure document storage solution that can easily be downloaded or printed of for marking/moderation.

A bonus in this method is despite the time consuming set up, it is simple to use. Because OneDrive was the first Office 365 app people used, it does have an element of comfort to it!! But students can easily access it, it works on any device reliably and work on students devices (with windows 10) can automatically sync to the cloud.

Shared docs via OneDrive are also slowly shifting our appraisal documentation into being a living document. By having a shared document it also a more fluid process for completing these documents.

OneNote Class note books

Some staff are purely using class note books to share learning activities with their students – especially in our yr 7 and 8 classes. The sci dept has also used this for the junior school (who are not yet on sharepoint) to scaffold and track progress of students science fair projects. OneNote Class books are really good – especially with the recent update where pages can be easily pushed out to all students in a class. We have had a few issues of where the OneNotes are stored – it had lead to syncing problems with some classes. The single biggest issue for us with the class notebooks is students don’t have their own devices, so it can be a bit slow if every student is trying to access or modify the pages at once. More recently, we have wondered if groups can be set up within a class note book for group assessments or tasks…..

What’s next?

We have made some really big steps in getting depertments and classes using the 365 environment. The next big step is to get the staff handbook online. This is such a big job it kind of makes me want to curl up in a ball and hide under a rock for a while. But I did get a kick in the pants when I helped host a workshop at Taieri in the holidays and people couldn’t believe we still had one of these…

Yes, it is 2016 and we still have a paper copy of staff briefing notes



So while we have made some great progress, we still have a way to go. Getting the staff meeting minutes online is easy, but getting all staff to accept that shift might be slightly more difficult. We have a shared calendar which still causes issues, but by gradually shifting important docs online we should hopefully see more shift. So my aim for this term is to start the process of getting more of the staff documentation into the 365 cloud

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Time to get the Emperor some Clothes

LOVE this post – and it matches some of my thoughts exactly. Teachers need equitable access to devices AND professional learning if we are going to get change in our education system 🙂

Exploring C21 Literacy

Like many schools, mine is heading down the path of offering our students more opportunities to use digital technology. I trained relatively recently and, in what now seems ironically like a blessing, spent the first four years of my teaching career in four different schools. This meant I’ve had to spend  lots of time teaching myself how to use a range of platforms, systems and programmes. From wiki first then to moodle followed by ultranet and now Microsoft 365. And those are just the LMSs I’ve encountered. I also spent a year teaching and learning with an iPad class. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention although it’s not a path I’d recommend.

Secondary teachers are often accused of lagging behind their primary teaching colleagues when it comes to adapting 21st century learning tools. But what I’ve observed over the past six years is that many are often totally overwhelmed by…

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Posted in Minecraft, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning, Uncategorized

Playing along with gamification

Gamification is a word I don’t like very much. It has been used a lot in an educational context (simply searching gamification in education gave over 1 million hits) around making learning more: fun; engaging; relevant; real life contexts etc. I have yet to decide whether for me it means actually building games, or just utilising games in a teaching and learning setting.  As I explore my ideas around teaching and learning to do with creativity, innovation and play, games seems to be a big part of this. The popularity of games in my classrooms confirms that students value them and often they learn without ‘realising’ it. Which is where I think my current mind block is occurring….

if one of my main focuses for the year is to get my students thinking more about their learning than their test scores, why am I taking steps to make the learning less explicit by including games?

So I have been thinking a lot about the games I use or have used (this post has been written, off and on, over about 3 weeks) and what I see the students having gained from them.


2016-04-13 09.43.36

I learned about swots at T col. In fact, I was chosen to demonstrate it… standing up the front with a fly swot in my hand, I couldn’t help but whack my lecturer with the fly swot while she explained the rules. So I also learned more about ‘death’ stares that day (FYI – there were no hard feelings and I still work with this particular awesome lady often). Essentially, you draw some ‘answers’ on the board, line students up in teams and call out the questions (students get really excited about calling out questions!!) For a quick fire way to set up some competition in a class, it works really well. Downside is there is often a group of students who don’t participate as fully and kind of stand around when waiting for their turn or who don’t take it seriously. That said, for circuit components, functional groups, formulas to use… pretty much anything you need to need to just learn off by heart, swots is a good way to do some formative assessment and get the kids up out of their seats for a bit. Students also get creative with their questions to try and trick the other students. So while I definitely play swots more for some topics than others, I do like it because students are moving, practicing recall, having the opportunity to take a lead with asking questions and they definitely get enthused about it. If students are shaky on their knowledge, it can help to sure it up if they pay attention to the answers others are giving, but ONLY if they are paying attention the whole time.


My students LOVE kahoot and would play it every lesson if they could. Again, it is a really nice way to test recall or for simple problems (I am setting up some mechanics Kahoots for example). Looking online, it seems lots of other people love Kahoot as well, there are multiple public quizzes on all sorts of things. Being able to search NCEA Level 1 Acids and Bases and get multiple hits is a nice last minute filler (yes, I am guilty of needing the occasional filler….) The nice thing for me about Kahoot is the graph to see what percentage of the class got the answer right after each question. If more than 25% get it wrong, I (usually) make a note to go over this in the next lesson. But again, this game is more about formative assessment than learning – although I do feel that with the feedback I am able to learn a little more about where my students needs are. Students might pick up on where they went wrong as well, but I think most of mine are just pushing on to the next question rather than reflecting on how to get it right next time.


This is getting a special mention because my students loved it sooooo much last year. A hammer, a crunchie bar, some-one asking questions, get it right, no smashy, get it wrong, smash the crunchie. So everyone gets a crunchie bar, it just depends how smashed up it is. Fun for revision, but again not really deepening understanding other than being able to clarify answers as we went… although if students are asking the questions it is also a good indicator of their knowledge and understanding.


I’m adding this in here because the idea of a quest or task kind of fits into my idea of gaming and games in the class room. There are multiple apps and sites (because I’ve been doing electricity with yr 10 all those type spring to mind) that you can use. However, I feel again that lots of these apps are again just testing recall rather than deepening understanding. PhET animations are an exception to this I suppose… although I had an animated conversation with a colleague who now barely uses lamps and power packs in teaching this unit in favour of using digital models. For me there is still real value in building a circuit by plugging in wires and seeing the brightness of bulbs change in series and parallel. Or making esters and getting to smell them (and understand why you add in a carbonate to neutralise the remaining acid BEFORE you smell them) rather than just watching a video of it.

By putting animations in an office mix and then having a quiz after it I can see that students do gain some understanding from them as indicated by their results. But I am fairly certain I could have got that understanding in other ways.


Having used the three different softwares above, I can definitely say it is a horse for courses situation. Some students love them, others are ambivalent, while others just straight out don’t do them. The are really useful for revision and do allow students to work through at their own pace. Yet the best success I have had with education perfect (which I do like, although it is not perfect despite what the name suggests) is setting up class competitions. Students really do like that competitive element, and will work hard to get more points than others. Which is great, but again goes against the ‘students should value learning and be intrinsically motivated’ thoughts running through my head.


I blogged on this last year with hour of code. When the students made their own games using the code they had learned it was really interesting watching them design their game, then play it and not like it so go back and change it. They got very competitive amongst themselves about whose game was the most popular. Games that were overly complicated fell out of favour for simpler games. We had some excellent conversations about the games that were too easy or too hard – and how to be satisfying the games had to be ‘just right’. So in this exercise the students learned some coding, and thought about the psychology behind building games. And I had a good opportunity to introduce them to iteration and talk about being persistant

With my more recent forays into using minecraft in my lessons, this iteration idea has really stepped up. The ability to be creative and make new things is a big positive. It is also impressive to watch a group of students working really well together on a group task – because the scope and scale of the task provides plenty of independent tasks to do to contribute towards the whole project. When students designed the heart and lungs, it also contributed to their knowledge of which chambers are which, which arteries go where etc. But (and I hate this but) I’m not super sure it helped students increase their understanding of how the heart and lungs work together to supply the body with oxygen for respiration.


I am sure there are others games I play or use in my class room that just aren’t popping into my head right now, or things I do that others might consider a game that I don’t. But so far I feel like I am using them in a shallow way to really promote the deeper learning I am trying to acheive. Yes they are engaging students, yes I need students to have the ability to do basic recall, yes skills being learned/displayed (collaboration, iteration, problem solving, leadership, empathy) are more important than some of the things I am supposed to assess but they are hard to measure other than my gut feeling about it. (My gut feeling about it is good by the way). I lurked on #edchatNZ last night (way to many things to do for today…. ) and really liked this tweet from Matt Nicoll

So how can we find a way to value the ‘other skills’ that games in the classroom promote? I really hope we don’t fall into linking value to assessing them 🙂 And also, how can I ensure my students are getting a deeper understanding rather than just spouting back what is required for an assessment?

Am I sure I am playing the right games?






Posted in Uncategorized

A run through of my experience at the Microsoft Global Educator exchange

So, it is going to take more than one post to work my way through all my thoughts from this amazing experience, so I thought I would do a basic walk through of what we did each day to try and get my thoughts in order

Getting there

It was agonizing to watch everyone leaving for Seattle while we were still in NZ. Right from the get go, #msfteduE2 was buzzing with pics of people starting there adventures. It was a really nice touch at the opening of the meeting that they showed a collage of lots of different tweets and facebook posts of the various countries making there was there, and the tweet I posted of the NZ crew made it up onto the board

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The NZ crew of me, Steve Martin, Anne Taylor, Nikkie Laing and Ben Hilliam. Shane Mann left earlier and meet us there.


On the Tuesday I left the hotel at 8:00am for the Microsoft recording studios, which were at the Redmond Town Center. I was filming a video on how to embed PHeT animations into Office Mix presentations.

2015-04-29 03.51.06 FullSizeRender


At the studio

The strangest thing about the filming was I was under very bright lights, while the others where in darkness. So it was weird to be following instructions from people I couldn’t see. I was also following a script that wasn’t quite as natural as if I was just talking about how I’d do it. But it was still pretty cool

Then in the afternoon I sat my Microsoft Certified Educator exam. It was fairly straight forward but with some tricksy questions around the wording. Then it was back to the hotel for a quick trip to shops and then the welcome reception – where it was great to meet some people face to face that I had already connected with online.

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LEGO anyone!! Pick ‘n’ mix lego is rad

2015-04-29 08.31.10 Free hot chocolates whenever you like – why hello!! Compostable cups too


Wednesday morning was something else. We all got on the bus from the hotel, had some breakfast and then got a marching band to take us to our first session. I have never been in anything like it.

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We then had an unreal first session – we were all given a drum and there was a drumming team on stage. The jetlag was telling me it was 3:00am, so it was uplifting but hard to concentrate. The noise was amazing, 250 odd people drumming in unison. I did feel it was a little over the top – but it was high energy way to kick things off.

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We then heard from Anthony Salcito, who is the VP of Microsoft education, before heading off to set up our teachmeet presentations. This was an amazing array of educators and learning ideas. It was awesome to talk to people about what they were doing, and in turn get some ideas about how to improve what I am doing.

We then had a session about building learning capacities for success. This was an fabulous session and will get a blog post on its own. Then it was off to meet our groups for the educator challenge.

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Gp 35 = from France, NZ, Hong Kong, Greece, Gautemala and Saudi Arabia.

We were given our task and got started.

Then we had regional dinners, and it was good to have some time to talk to the other NZers about there day, and meet some other APAC educators.


Thursday morning was the session I had really been looking forward to. Zaiuddin Yousafazi was the speaker, and he was AMAZING. So much forgiveness from a man who had been through so much. Again, he will get a blog post on his own.

We then had some specific sessions, I went to Office Mix, OneNote and Office 365. Some good tips and tricks, especially in the Office Mix session. After that it was back to work on our group project – then a look at some of the technology on show.

We then went to the Kent Tech Expo. This was amazing – a whole range of students, teachers and schools were at the Seattle Thunder stadium to share how they are using technology in their classrooms. I talked to heaps of students about what they are using and how it is helping them learn – my lasting impression was the confidence of the students explaining how the technology was helping them.

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Friday was a bit of a slog – I was up pretty late after returning from the expo trying to finish off our group project.

Thankfully the key note was Angela Maiers, who was passionate and energetic, so easy to get engaged with. She founded genius hour – a concept I really like and it is on the list to follow up with and spoke about her work with choose 2 matter.

It was then back to frantically finish off the last of the presentation – which was a LOT stressful, then our presentation, and then the pressure was off. I was able to enjoy the last session, which was an amazing ‘fireside chat’ with Toni and Satya – who are some pretty heavy duty big wigs at Microsoft. Again, probably a blog post in itself, but I was over awed by their presence – they just had an Aura about them, they spoke so well and were so knowledgable. Satya answered questions thoroughly and carefully – I was stoked when fellow kiwi Ben asked him about ‘what should I tell my students from NZ when they think they are far away from the action? (or something similar) and Satya knew that Microsoft had just purchased a company from NZ!! And talked about how technology had made the world a much more connected place and time/distance is not such a barrier as it once was.

Then we went back to the hotel, and I just peaced out and pack a bit. After such a frantic week, I needed the time. Then the buses arrived and it was off to the spectacular EMP museum in the center city for the awards dinner and gala. Part of the Museum was open for us to enjoy, the food was great, and it was awesome to be able to chat with all the other educators I had gotten to know over the week – as well as still meeting some new ones.

 2015-05-02 14.54.50 2015-05-02 15.00.312015-05-02 14.51.50There was a star wars costume exhibition – the nerd is strong 🙂 As well as Nirvana and Hendrix – was rad.

The event was topped off by getting an award in the Office Mix challenge – it really was something else to get to stand up on the stage with some other fabulous educators, and to see my name on the HUGE screen

mix award

Saturday – was a free day – I went into the town center, went to Pike Place markets, checked out the Pacific Science Museum (it was awesome) and rode on the monorail. And then it was off on the journey home.

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This T towel was $20 – was a near miss.

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At the Science Museum – was awesome

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Journey home – some tired faces in Auckland Airport at 5:30am

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Back home and a walk on the beach to get some sunlight to try and beat the jetlag

So overall – it was a simply amazing trip. Lots of ideas, lots of connections and an amazing experience.