Posted in Teaching and Learning, random ramblings, Digital Technologies

Putting some technology into our digital technologies module

Last year, Kevin and I taught a yr 7 digital technology module based around the digital technology curriculum. (If you like, you can read about our efforts here and here). Part way through last year we got a new Technology HoD, who has ‘encouraged’ us to include more from the technology curriculum, and we are reporting based on the technology curriculum rather than the progress outcomes like we did last year. This was a real challenge for me and took me a bit to get my head around – being a science teacher I knew the sci curriculum pretty well, and I have spent a lot of time working on being more familiar with the digit tech curriculum. But the technology curriculum was a whole new experience and initially I really struggled to get my head around it, especially ‘planning for practice’.

So, I went and tried to learn up. And slowly but surely I think I’m finding my way – a work in progress shall we say.

Planning for Practice

The CD for Tech (who is awesome, fyi, it has been good to be challenged and have crunchy conversations and to try new things) asked if we could ‘assess’ on planning for practice so across all the yr 7 and 8 modules they have a range (our modules are 6-7 weeks with 4 periods a week).

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And with a bit more detail, thanks to TKI

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I also used this resource from TKI which explains planning for practice in a bit more detail, and got some exemplars from TKI and from the other technology teachers in the school

Essentially, I figured out that Kevin and I already did some of this without making the learning explicit. To try and make it more explicit, I modified a TKI resource and asked the students to do a little more planning around the minecraft design than last year.

We got some nice examples of planning and work ๐Ÿ™‚


But (there is always a but!!) there were a couple of things that hindered us this time. One was the students got SO excited building in Minecraft that they often forgot to record changes they had made, or progress they have made into their Onenote. We have a policy of if it isn’t in the Onenote it doesn’t exist, but in this case there has been some fabulous learning that didn’t get recording. So I am having a wee think over the next 2-3 weeks (before we get to this in the next module which starts on Thursday) of how else I could record this? There were such rich discussions occurring with the groups building collaboratively that I just didn’t capture…..

AND I needย  to modify our template a little more. I hadn’t used one like this before for this purpose, and see now it doesn’t quite fit….And we also ended up running out of time to do this properly, we thought we had 6 full lessons and ended up with 4 (because schools have things come up!) so we will try to get a full 8 lessons for the next module

Fortunately, we also did some planning with algorithms and coding with the microbits so we can make a holistic judgement around students abilities to reach an outcome from their evidence portfolios. And we will tweak it for next time ๐Ÿ˜‰

Technological systems

So, again to ensure that across all the junior modules, we adapted the module to cover inputs, transformations and outputs.

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And again some more details from TKI

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This was way easier to incorporate, given we had already been doing a lot of it without realising.

Through out the module we spent a little more time on inputs and outputs around the microbit, and when introduced the topic. We also included some questions in the ‘form’ we used for an assessment


Progress outcomes for digitech

We still also incorporated progress outcomes from the digitech curriculum around computational thinking. We covered data representation with binary and ASCII code. We walked through algorithms (love making toast) and did some coding. with hour of code and with the microbits. Kevin put some of this into the assessment as well so we had a bit more ‘hard data’ around whether the students understood the aspects of code in addition to their evidence portfolios. It wasn’t a memory test, students were encouraged to copy the code and test it to see what it did.

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What the students thought

We gave an end of module survey, and generally got positive feedback. Minecraft was a clear favourite with the students

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And it was really heartening to see that some students picked up on prototyping and multiple ways, although most felt they gained skills in simple coding and using office 365 (which is awesome, as these students are new to TC this year and getting them upskilled with office 365 is really awesome as an ‘offshoot’ of the module.)

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So overall I think it was a good first go. We do need to tweak the planning template, and I’d like to find a way to get students to design a success rubric (we ran out of time this time round). And I’ll keep working on building my own confidence and understanding of the technology curric.

Would love any ideas/feedback as we work through, or happy to talk it through if you are doing something different

Have fun







Posted in Teaching and Learning, random ramblings

Having a go with flipgrid to explain graphs

I have been a little bit slow to jump on the flipgrid wagon – I have used it a few times when I have been part of a project to give my response, and have had a look at other peoples flipgrid ‘grids’ when they have gathered responses. You can learn about flipgrid from the website When I used it, I made a tab in my classes ‘team’, as the flipgrid app is one of the apps supported by Microsoft Teams. This meant students could use the app within the teams app on their phones, or some of them used the flipgrid app on their phones too. Both apps were quick to download, and while some had a few issues with the different between a microsoft account and an office 365 account, most were quickly logged in and found the app easy to use.

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There are loads of apps available to use within the teams environment, this is the apps I use most often

The tasks I asked my students to complete was around graphing. I have a competent class, and drawing lots of practice graphs was getting pretty dry pretty quickly. So I asked my students to make some videos explaining what a ‘good’ graph should have.

And they (mostly) did really well. Some students took some chalk outside and drew some graphs on the concrete to demonstrate the important points. Some just used some example graphs in their books they had previously drawn. Some drew new graphs, and one group drew a ‘bad’ graph on the white board to demonstrate what you should not do.

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It was a really nice way to check for any misconceptions, and while most students enjoyed the task (and some REALLY Loved it), all of them feedback that the talked about and thought about what they needed to do for graphing more than if I had just given them another practice graph. It also made for a really nice piece of work to share at our recent parent teacher evenings, just a 30-90 second snapshot of some of the work we have been doing.

So my class agreed that this was a ‘sometimes’ activity for everyone, and a few of the students asked if they could use it more often, as they found it really useful going back and looking at other peoples videos and seeing how they explain it. My next step will be to try it with my yr 8s, giving each group a different type of ‘cloud’ to explain, and hopefully we can get some cool cloud videos for the group to share.

Have fun



Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Boiling water

Today I got a gentle reminder to look through my students eyes a little more often that I do. It was timely as all those classroom routines and tasks start to bog down all that beginning of the year energy.

On Tuesdays I have my delicious yr 13 Chemistry class, followed by my energetic yr 8 Science class. Yr 8 start the year looking at weather, and today I had planned to boil some water so they could learn, be reminded, or I could check that they could read a thermometer. It also gives a chance to practice drawing a graph. But really, in my eyes, boiling water is as dull as a dull thing, and I remarked to my yr 13 Chem class about how I wasn’t especially looking forward to yr 8’s and boiling water, pondering how else I could practice using thermometers. And one chap piped up with

‘I loved doing that in year 8’

I looked at him to see if he was being sarcastic, and he wasn’t. In response to my raised eyebrows he reminded me that back then Bunsen burners were super exciting, and it was new to him and he did really enjoy it. Lighting a match was fun, and they all used to fight over who got to.

I suppose it was also a timely reminder that just because you have done something before, it doesn’t mean you can’t do it again. Obviously there might be tweaks or changes you make, but making sure I make those changes for the correct reasons.

So, when the year 8’s filled the room as my yr 13’s left it, I had an increased spring in my step. We set up gear, lit matches and measured, and compared tap water with water with ice cubes. The students did love it, as they do every time. And I enjoyed it more than I might have, because I remembered to look through the eyes of a year 8 learning new skills rather than a 36 year old teacher who has done it before.



Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Reflections from the #NZMIEEHui18 Part 2

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

  1. Zoom in powerpoint.

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


Step 1 is to go to insert and then hit zoom


then select the sections (or slides) you want

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

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

2. 3D paint and mixed reality

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

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

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

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

And I quite liked the solar system just sitting there

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

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

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

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


























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

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

Bring it


Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from the #NZMIEEhui18 part 1

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

So how to did come to be?

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

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

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

And then it was the weekend.

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

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

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Fellows – pretty much sums us up I think


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


Time to just chat and catch up

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The NZ MIEE crew that went to Toronto – minus the boys who had already left.
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Doers – just happy to help in any way ๐Ÿ™‚
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Even found these guys at the airport on their way home from the Chemistry camp in Taiwan with the Otago University Chemistry outreach.ย 
Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Myth busting Napoleon’s buttons

I am sometimes reminded of how small things can be so important. Making connections, learning new things and questioning things said can make such a difference to learning, engagement and interest, including mine. So this a wee story about some buttons, some exploring, some learning and some fun.

Recently the Science Learning hub posted a tweet about Napolean’s armies and how their coat buttons succumbed to ‘tin pest’.

I didn’t know that Tin did this, and was immediately intrigued – as were a couple of my L3 chem students I talked to about it.

So I tweeted back, and we put some tin in the freezer

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But nothing happened….

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and got this reply

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So…. we left it for a bit longer…..

But after a weekend at -19 C, it was still just tinScreen Shot 2018-06-15 at 12.01.32 PM

So then we melted some tin ๐Ÿ™‚

But it still wasn’t enough….

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In the middle of this discussion, the plot thickened with some more information about tin pest and solder…..

So of course melted some solder to make another ‘button’

And some discussions around purity of tin

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Then Science learning hub popped in again with some more ideas and some more people to contribute

And the best upshot from my kids point of view was when my students went into the university as part of 3.1, they got to play with some dry ice….

The current update is the tin is in a -80 C freezer somewhere – or maybe still on Dave’s desk.

So in a very busy couple of weeks, with internal assessments, report and all sorts of chaos and disappointments, this was just awesome. My students and I were ‘chatting’ with world class chemists, doing some experiments, having an explore, in no way related to credits. It was awesome – we skimmed over history, weather, complex chemical structures, alloys and physical properties related to structures, more history learning about expeditions across Antartica, pipe organs and archeological digs. My students loved it, and so did I.

And we will let you know what happens with the tin ๐Ÿ™‚


Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from #ENERGISENZ2018

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

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

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

Ali Carr-Chellman –ย ย engaging the disengaged learner

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

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

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

I came away with 2 main points for me to consider

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

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

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

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

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

2. There are games, and then there are games

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

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

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

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



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

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

This is something I personally struggle with, so it was a good reminder to myself about thinking of the whole, rather than just me. It was a challenge, but a good one, and I learned loads and was hopefully able to share that learning with others ๐Ÿ™‚


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

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

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

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

Other sessions

Well being

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


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

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


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

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

Paul Donnelly – Culturally responsive pedagogy.

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

Tech tips with Jo Nicol

This was a lovely relaxed presentation which I went to just to see if there were any little tips or tricks I could pick up – you don’t know what you don’t know right!! And I was glad I went, because there was some good discussion around how people are ‘managing’ data storage in their schools, things like calendars and booking systems and EOTC. All quite mundane, but really important to have right. I picked up a couple of gems, one being an introduction to TRELLO, which I really quite like and have starting using – It is especially good as it can integrate with Office 365 teams!! I am also going to explore pocket…. I often struggling to fund things I have seen and want to follow up on and this does it seemlessly according to Jo and the webpage ๐Ÿ™‚ there was also a link to keyboard short cuts and a suggestion about sharing one a week with a class, which I am DEFINITELY going to do with my Yr 10 form class and the Yr 7 digitech class to try and increase there typing and general computer use/literacy skills

And last but not least, was Sylvia Duckworth

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

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

and dancing….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hour of Code

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

Screen Shot 2018-03-15 at 10.27.06 PM
Feedback from students indicated that hour of code was a real winner ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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I got to learn about functions too ๐Ÿ™‚

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

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

Back to microbits.

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

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A screen shot of Issac’s code to use the microbit to score a ruby game

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

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

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

Kevin ordered some ‘cheap’ speakers and some crocodile clips – the speakers were surprisingly robust, but sadly 2 crocodile clips were harmed in the making of music ๐Ÿ™‚
The interface allowed students to create their own tunes… which could be amazing for music classes looking to integrate technology into their lessons.

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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Powerpoint recording – the little tab that can

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

So, what does it look like?


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

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


I liked that any notes added in came across from the powerpoint slides, and that you could change the font size ๐Ÿ™‚ But you couldn’t add notes from the recording end…

blog3Considering it is early on in the recording tabs days, there are sufficient add ins just sitting there, and I will have an explore of other options available in the store. But being able to add a PhET simulation is awesome, especially for relief, as you know it will work from within the powerpoint/stream format, where as sometimes the animations can be a bit browser specific which can cause a relief teacher some confusion and concern. It is also really awesome to be able to embed the web viewer into the presentation too – again it saves having to send the students too many places. And given that this whole thing can be accessed via teams, it will save a lot of clicks (and hopefully confusion and/or side tracking other browser windows open) for those students ๐Ÿ™‚


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


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

Posted in Digital Technologies, Minecraft, Teaching and Learning

Getting started with Digital Technologies

Partly in response to the new New Zealand Digital Technologies curriculum, my school is offering a Year 7 module for Digital Technologies for the first time this year. It almost didn’t run as it fell prey to the beast that is secondary school timetabling, but I am super glad it did. We (Kevin and I) did a little bit of planning last year, but of course things change (we got yr 7 instead of yr 8, and about 20 lessons rather than 30). It has been a really good learning experience for me, trying to keep abreast of the changes in the New Zealand Digital Technologies curriculum, watching with interest the changes happening at NCEA level one so that we can try and tailor our program so that students can have a pathway to those qualifications, and we want to do a good job so we can get a yr 8 digit tech course into the timetable, and then on up through the senior school. I have an interest in coding and Computer Science, where as Kevin teaches L2 Robotics and has much more experience than me with coding etc, although I’m pretty sure I could kick his butt in Minecraft. We are both fairly good at driving the microbits, although Kevin has an advantage as he is better at coding in general. We are also using Microsoft Teams, which is new to the school this year. It is also my first go at co-teaching a class, which has (so far) been fabulous…. because we both have different skills sets, terrible senses of humour, and have helped each other out.

So, before I go too much further, I do need to acknowledge Kevin Knowles. He and I are co teaching this module and (between you and me) I think we have been ROCKING it. Being our first go, there are off course some things we will change next time, and I have learned loads (Kevin was kind enough to say he had learned one or two things).

Getting started

Our first lesson had a very simple objective – get everyone logged into Office 365. Because it was the first lesson, we had less time than usual as it took a we while to get all the kids where they needed to be. And we learned for next time we need to print off a sheet with all of the log ins and passwords ๐Ÿ™‚ Going through Kamar for pretty much every new student took a wee while…. but also hopefully by module two this won’t be such an issue as the students will have had 5 weeks to get used to logging in. Once logged in, students sent us an email, so that they knew our email address and so the very few who didn’t know how to do this could learn how.

Next we focussed on algorithms – how do you make toast (an idea poached from the fabulous Cathy). We did this as a class, then the students had to do an algorithm to get dressed in the morning – which lead to an introduction of if this, then what type questions (eg, if Monday-Friday – wear school uniform, if Saturday go back to sleep). The students where surprisingly passionate about little details – what order to put on socks and shoes, or top half then bottom half first – which gave Kevin the opportunity to talk about (and me to learn about) the fact that sometimes order in programs is important (eg socks then shoes) and other times it doesn’t matter (sweater or pants)

Getting started with Microbits

We then hit a bit of disruption with some students going to camp – so we had 1/3 of the class absent over the next 5 lessons. But by the end of it, everyone could (and almost everyone DID)

  • Do some coding with the makecode microbit site
  • Download the code and get it onto their microbit
  • code a microbit to say spell out the letters of their name
  • Take a screen shot of their code and put it into their onenote
  • Get the microbit to do something else (some did AMAZING things with no input from us)


Screen Shot 2018-02-18 at 3.17.37 PM.png
Kevin 3d printed all the cases last year – colour coded for 1) easy grouping of students and 2) easy to check we get them all back

Then when we had everyone back together again, we covered loops/repeats – trying to get Santa to say ‘Ho, Ho, Ho’

Thinking about Data representations

Once everyone was back, we doubled back a little I guess to go over data representation. I have to say it, Kevin NAILED this. The kids did maths without knowing they did maths!! And it got kids thinking about what number and letters are actually representing….

Kev started with counting in base 10, with a ‘ones’ column, a ‘tens’ column and so on, which got the students thinking about what the number represent. Then he moved onto binary using the same table…. and away we went. Kids just picked it up.

Kev did share some tricks, eg 15 is 1111…. you don’t need to count it up, because it is just one less than 16, which would be 10000. and so on. And if the last number is a 1, you know the number must be uneven. Some of the kids who have brains that like patterns picked up a few more, and I spend some time helping less confident kids go through adding up the different numbers.



Kevin had found a scratch game for the students to do for the remainder of the lesson, and they were SO keen on it we started the next lesson with it too.

Which then lead into ASCII coding…. a brief demo on the board and then we gave the students a code to solve and then asked them to write them names in ASCII in their section of the onenote


Where to next?

We have about 2 more weeks to go… and are still tossing up about giving the code builder in Minecraft education edition ago using some of the ideas from the introduction to comp sci course. Because of timetabling issues, we haven’t been in a fixed room yet, and on different laptops each time, so it is only now that I can get minecraft up and running on them all. So tomorrow I am going to try and install everything to get it going, and then off course I’m out on tuesday for a cricket tournament…..

Alternatively, we will carry on with the microbits, we have some speakers we can attach so we can explore the concept of inputs and outputs. And there are LOADS of cool projects we can do with the microbits. (You can see some HERE). So Kev and I are sitting down on Monday to talk it through.


We do need to report on progress made…. which is one reason we have encouraged students to put their work into the OneNote we can gather a portfolio of evidence of the code they have built and the tasks they have completed. We are also going to make a couple of Microsoft forms to check students can 1) read an ASCII code and 2) interpret simple program commands such as loops. So we will have evidence on understanding of data representation, algorithms and programming to report to parents about. Which only covers 3 of the 6 ‘themes’ I guess, but is not too bad for a 5-6 weeks module we hope.

For next time

Next time we will make some subtle changes. Hopefully students will be already confident at logging into office 365 and using teams and/or classonenote, which will save us some time at the start. We are also going to rejig the onenote slightly, we started with sections for each of Minecraft, microbit, ASCII etc… which lead to extra clicks for the students. So we will just have one section, with pages for each, which the students can then add to (also means less clicks for marking). We will also make the front page the place were we put the links for students… we started having them in the conversation but they got lost in the chatter, and then having them as a tab in the team means they open in the team, which is rather a small window/space.

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The teams interface works well to keep the students in the one browser window, but it does reduce the size of the usable space for coding… The expand tab does give you some more space, but still not a full window (and Yr 7’s struggled to find the 2 little arrows on the top right….)

We will also survey the students (using forms) at the end of the module and use their feedback to tweak the second module through. At which point I think we would make any bigger changes if they were needed.

Successes and challenges

I think every teacher in New Zealand right now is probably desperately wishing for a ‘normal’ week. It will be week 7 before I have a full week at school with no disruptions… and then I am away on camp in week 8, and then hit the 2 short weeks around easter. So juggling the disruptions when we are trying to introduce a new course has been a bit of a challenge, but also a relief because it has given us a bit of breathing space to think about what the best next step is.

Something I didn’t expect was the typing skills (or lack there of) that the students have. A number of students were turning the caps lock button on and off to capitalise one letter, and didn’t know to hold down the shift button. While I’m not a ‘touch typer’ (and I have terrible spelling both in my handwriting and typing) I can use more than 2 fingers. So we might need to include some sort of upskilling process so the students are not slowed down by their typing speed.

A real success (I think, Kev can speak for himself) has been how Kevin and I have worked together. As we move throughout the year, we will definitely be more confident and so maybe need to communicate less, but we really have worked together quite well. We have taken turns at being ‘good and bad cop’, and we are both able to reach different students at different times. We have pretty much both been in the room for the whole time, but it hasn’t felt crowded. Kev has definitely got more expertise, but I now feel confident that I could tackle all of the concepts myself next module. As we move through the year, we will probably be in the room together less, but it has worked really well for starting out, especially as I grasped some of those programming concepts.

And another success was the absolute buzz in the room after Kev introduced binary numbers. It was maths, it was abstract, I was worried it would be ‘hard’ but the kids nailed it. And seemingly LOVED it. The cheers around the room as the worked their way through the levels of the binary game where awesome, I kind of just stood and stared as the kids just nailed it. You don’t always get those moments as a teacher, so it was worth savouring, even though Kev had done all the work for that lesson.

The biggest challenge I think for us will be getting this option carried forward into yr 8, 9 etc. Or finding some room for it among another curriculum area… so we will press on and try to get it fitted in to the timetable one way or another.

Reach out

If you are teaching a digit tech course, or using the code builder in minecraft, I’d LOVE to hear from you. Either on twitter or flick a comment on the blog and I will be in touch (probably late). If I have made a mistake you have spotted, please let me know so I can fix it and learning from it. Or if you are wanting any more info, please don’t hesitate to get in touch, I’m definitely learning as I go, and am happy to help out as much as I can.