Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Feedback is like echolocation, and I’m a little bit lost without it

My ‘inquiry’ focus for this year ‘is’ around making sure I’m giving the best feedback to students I can. I had made a start in this post  around how I could use the data collected from Microsoft forms better, and make sure it was usable to the students. I have some draft posts about insights in teams (It is awesome!!) and the feedback features in Education perfect (which is pretty good) and how I have used these during lock down and will hopefully push through into more of my ‘day to day’ teaching routine.

Yesterday I had an online class, and a few kids where there. They all dutifully muted their microphones when I was presenting. They asked a few questions, and there was some chit chat, but I really missed that classroom ‘vibe’. It made me think about the feedback I get from my classes everyday that I often don’t quantify or think about, but is so vital to what I do.


I think we all do this in various ways, and why a face to face conversation is so much more powerful than a phone call. I am missing that feel you get when you are explaining something, and something snaps or some-one sighs, and you know you need to find another way to explain it. Or the little gasp of recognition that shows it is clicking for some-one – usually followed by a stare of disbelief from some-one not there yet. Or the kid interupting with a slight side track question that strengthens understanding. The moving around a room, making yourself available to check in, look over shoulders, watch facial expressions and body language. Watching students doing practicals ‘spark’ off each other. Or just watching kids being kids….

So it a good reminder that I don’t only have to think about the feedback I am giving the students, but how can I use the feedback the students give me. And not just the asked for feedback, but those subtle (or not so subtle) actions that I have been really missing.

Take care out there


Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

I can’t find it…… how can we support students AND teachers to navigate online environments??

Like many, I’ve been thrown in the deep end of distance learning as NZ has been in various stages of lockdown. Because of interest, and a good skill set, and a bank of digital resources, I was ok about the shift. (Really missing practicals though). Most of my classes have used the platform (we are using office 365 Teams, which has been pretty awesome) before, and know their way around. Even despite this, I’ve had a few questions asking where stuff is, or we have had a few syncing issues where stuff hasn’t got where it should so students lose confidence about where things are.

And I have seen plenty of memes on the interwebs about students struggling to navigate online planning platforms

It has made me think back to what feels like ancient times when I was starting out as a teacher, and we were learning some literacy strategies. Who ever was running the session was going through parts of a text book – the content page etc, and then on the page – what did the pictures show? The captions? Were there summaries in boxes….?? And then, how did we know to check this? Who had taught us?

I think it is easy to forget that students don’t always know how to navigate online environments. Just like the text book example, unless someone has shown them how to use it, they don’t know. Or, the might have been shown it, but didn’t need it so forgot. (I am often like this with KAMAR….) Often times, ‘we’ ‘assume’ that someone else will teach them, and they should just know! Like teaching some-one to use a text book – surely they learned in primary school? Or isn’t that the English teachers job? If it is online learning, it must be the digitech teachers job, not mine.

The other thing to consider is that students can navigate some environments, and many of the memes say why can you manage tiktok or games, but not school. I think this is simply a cost benefit – students want the outcomes of the game, or the social connection. The motivation is different…. so how do we motivate students to check?? Or how can we gamify the experience, so students WANT to get to the next steps, but also learn from experience. Almost all games come with a tutorial level and then get harder.

I also wonder the same question for teachers – how to do grow confidence and skill sets within our profession. I am AMAZED at the uptake I have had with some PLD sessions I helped organise, and the incredible things teachers have done. But I worry about the teachers I have not heard from – how are they doing? Are they stuck and struggling silently? Are the racing along just fine? Are they doing their best, but don’t know what they don’t know, and so are working harder than they need too….. And I still get the odd question, that I have answered multiple times before, that gets emailed, messaged, text (or called on my cell phone while I was out and about) from teachers who need help JUST THEN.

And I constantly come back to how do I build capacity for people to have a go, and try and figure it out. No matter how many times I demo that really, I spend a lot of my time playing round with stuff till I figure it out, people just don’t believe me. Staff still ask for a frame by frame pdf print out of what to do (the videos go too fast…). I also keep coming back to a point about TELA devices, there is no point giving someone a shiny new devices if you don’t talk them through it, and so often this doesn’t happen.

I don’t have any answers here, I wish I did. Perhaps if I did, I’d be out of a job.

Perhaps we all need to take a breath and think how we can all navigate the online spaces for teaching and learning better – for both staff and students. Because there will only be more of it to come, and while the challenges with the Corona virus are significant, the opportunities to reimage what education could be are endless

Posted in random ramblings, Uncategorized

Reflections from PPTA ICT committee meeting May 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take care.


Posted in random ramblings, Uncategorized

Reflection from PPTA ICT meeting April 2

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

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

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

  1. Expectations of schools

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

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

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

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

2) NCEA/NZQA/Courses and content

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

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

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

3. Supporting teachers and students.

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

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

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


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


Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Giving feedback/feedforward: Upping my game with Microsoft forms

A focus for me this year (and really every year!!) is around getting useful information on where my students are at, and making sure the feedback is useable, useful AND not lost. I have tried various methods for this in the past, and one of the best methods I have found is taking an image of a hand written exam question, popping it in to powerpoint and recording myself marking it. This works well in terms of right then, and for students as individuals, but is a little difficult to track a class as a whole. So this term I am trying to use Microsoft forms and quizes for checkpoints, and then using the feedback feature. Students can see this at the time. I can see if a whole class has missed a key idea, or just a few individuals and so plan revision accordingly. If students pick the wrong answer, they get instant feedback as to why. But then I can download the student responses from the microsoft form into an excel spreadsheet, and mail merge them so each student can also get an individual sheet of their results and the feedback they were given. I can then pop these docs into their class notebook sections (still love me some onenote!!) via teams (I’m still working on a faster way to do this! any ideas welcomed)

So far it has worked well

I can still see how the class as a whole has answered certain questions


Students who got an answer wrong can get (hopefully helpful) feedback on why that answer wasn’t the best choice

instant feedback

I can click on review responses to give individual feedback to students, which they can access by re clicking on the form. I can grade (I usually don’t bother, but the option is there) and comment on individual answers.


And then I can take the data from the excel spreadsheet and using mail merge make a page with the students answers and my feedback (I’ve generally just picked the longer answers for this – the short answer questions get the instant feedback). It did take a couple of goes to get my ‘template’ working, as the questions from the quiz did not show up in the merge, only the answers.

Once you have the documents, you can either email them to the students (their emails are saved with their responses in the form) or print the pages to onenote (I’m still looking for a faster way to do this than one by one)

I have done this a couple of times now, and have been getting faster each time. I’m certainly appreciating that I have access to feedback given to students, and being able to track progressions more closely. There is also a slight element of accountability, I can show that students have or haven’t completed set tasks, and I have (or haven’t) given them feedback on next steps.

Students have found the system easy enough to use, and have been reasonably receptive to the idea. So, so far, it has been a success. Fingers crossed it stays that way

Have fun


Posted in Digital Technologies, random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Giving Yr 9 digitech a go

This year I have been tasked with teaching Yr 9 digitech. Which has been a real challenge, but hopefully I’ve now got a handle on what we are doing. I have leaned really heavily on the AMAZING Gamefroot resource at that Dan Milward and Gerard Macmanus put together, it was a real life saver for me as a non-specialist.

The course itself is a compulsory module that runs for 3 hours a week for 10 weeks. But, as with any school, by the time you factor in the odd public holiday, athletics day or camp, we have budgeted on about 26 hours of class time. A open book of do what you like was given. So after having a think, both about what I am comfortable with, and managing the work load, game design as a context was picked, and we are focusing on outcome design and evaluation, as well as Technological modelling.

tech curric 1


We (a colleague is teaching the other class running in parallel) started with a fairly simple lets learn some things about games, about formatting, and about algorithms. We snuck in some hour of code in week 2 as it was a useful activity as we had different groups of students out for various camps and orientation events which then didn’t end up happening because if the weather!

tech curric 2

My colleague was very proud of the horrendously awful doc he made for the students to reformat!! And the students generally did a very good job of spotting most of the errors. We gave them the doc via an assignment in teams.

tech 3

And now we are in to the task. I really like the idea in the Gamefroot game design about incorporating a New Zealand myth or legend, but wondered how I could make it more local. So we have set the students the challenge of making a game to teach myself and Mr G the local place names around the Taieri Plains.

tech 4

We decided to include the history as well as place names in English and Te Reo, because there are several mountains named for Cheifs, as well as street names and park names that are linked to early settlers to the area.

And what they need to do.

tech 5

We decided that the games could be physical board or card type games because while their might not be a direct ‘coding’ aspect, students still need to look for patterns, write algorithms or instructions and extend ideas, as well as use a mixture of inputs. And there is the block coding component, which could be a dice on a microbit. Or perhaps the coding used to build a world in minecraft.

The students have been set this as an assignment in teams, and the whole doc is formatted so the title page is interactive so they can click to where they need to be

tech 6

Students can work individual or in twos/threes (a 4 was split into 2 pairs!) Each group has been assigned a private channel in teams, so that they can work together but I can keep an eye of them.


The elevator pitches will be completed using flip grid, so that students who are uncomfortable sharing up front don’t need to, but also it means that feedback can be placed by multiple people which will assist meeting the responding to feedback requirements.

The check points will hopefully help students scaffold their project, and give me evidence of planning

tech 8

If you are interested, here is a link to the whole doc (let me know if it doesn’t work for you)

We are also super lucky that our amazing Librarian Lauryn came to my rescue when I was panicky about how to support the students with their research of place names. She deflt provided me with two books on the history of the Taieri Plains, one including some excellent maps. So this has made life so much easier. The fabulous Lauryn also suggested having a show case of the games in the library at the end of the module, perhaps with some other games in her collection, so we will be working through this to make it happen.

So, students were given the task last week. Already they have started exploring and planning what they can do. Some are wanting to use Minecraft, others are using scratch, a pair is planning to make a Taieri Monopoly, while another group of girls who are into Saloon car racing are thinking of a racing game. Some were just spending some time thinking about what games they had played before that had maps so they could explore them. After being so nervous, it was a positive start. Hopefully the students have some fun, learn some things, and we make it to the end of the module in one piece.

Have fun and wish me luck.


Posted in Professional learning, random ramblings

Reflections from ICT PPTA meeting November 2019.

Last week I was up in Wellington for the PPTA ICT committee meeting. It was quite a busy meeting, with a LOT of discussion around equity, in terms of access to devices, access to support, some issue with PLD, and digital assessment. There was then a run down of the progress being made by the Te Rito project, which I first blogged about after the meeting this time last year which was a good insight into progress made, and the impact for the Learning Support roles which are starting in January 2020.

As usual, this is my interpretation and memory from what was said, and I am happy to be corrected or put you in touch with the right people for more information. 🙂

I’m putting the Te Rito at the top, as I’m guessing most people will be most interested in that, even though the reps came at the end of the day 🙂

Te Rito

Rachel and Donna came from the ministry Te Rito project to update us on who things are going. They started with this video as an overview of the aims and scope of the project

If you click above, it will take you to the vimeo site (I hope…..)

In my words (and happy to be corrected) the premise and drive is to protect and uphold the mana of the child – which links to the name as Te Rito is the inner of the Harakeke/flax plant, with the surrounding leaves offering protection. Along with this as the idea of ensuring ‘the right’ stories of the children are being told, and the ‘taxonomy’ for different situations is similar enough to be useful.


The aims of the project are

  • reduce admin burden
  • make sure those who need to know KNOW

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Which has involved a LOT of background work to make the systems ‘interoperable’ – that is, the Te Rito system will work with multiple SMS (Kamar, Edge etc), as well as browsers, health care software, NZQA, google and office 365, lots of things 🙂 There is a lot of work, but Rachel was (quite rightly) quick to stress these are desired outcomes, but getting everything to talk to everything was a VERY big job.

The ‘system’ will be sector owned, but the budget will ultimately be meet by the ministry. They were clear that they do not own the data (the child owns the data – but then could a child really understand what that means?), and there are some very clear guidelines around who can access the data and for what purpose. Which also requires a lot of different law (for example, health and safety trumps privacy, and there is interesting case law in Australia for this were a teacher aide was severely injured by a student).

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There was also a lot of talk about how the system has been modified for the new Learning support roles. (ESR = Early Stage Roll out)

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And some info on the governance and privacy

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There was also discussion around what training would be needed for BoTs, Principals, learning support co-ordinators and teachers. Chatting to a friend going into a LSC role next year, some of the PLD has already begun, as the team are hard at work trying to get the LSC interface ready for Feb 2020. So if you are in one of these rolls, it might pay to check out the information out there and have a think about how the implementation of this might look in your school/Kura.

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So there was a lot of information on offer. There are some really awesome aspects, and then some that concern me a little. Mostly around making sure the right information is sorted, and that students are not given a label they don’t deserve. Kids deserve a fresh start I guess, but also, sometimes the information would be useful. It might stop some students ‘falling through cracks’. Or get more continuity with their learning and support.  Many around the table who were in more ‘senior’ positions than me in a school were really excited by the prospect. And I guess if it helps students, it is worth it.

There was also a request for a PPTA rep for a the Data for Wellbeing sector advisory group – so there is a PPTA representation in the development team.

And if you are still reading, prior to this presentation and questions, we discussed.

Round Robin

The meeting started (after the perfunctory accepting last meeting minutes etc) with a quick whip around the regions/representatives to see if they were any concerns. Main points of interest were

  • multifaceted log ins and cell phones – how are people dealing with two part log ins. One school had seen 1500 attacks over the period of 90 minutes, and it is a growing issue. Office 365 two stage log in requires a cell phone… what if kids don’t have on? Many schools round the table had a ‘phone’ box – a clear plastic click clack for phones to go into, either at the start of the lesson, or if they were used innappropraitely. I was firmly on the side of educate, not punish, but also, if I’m not insured if the phone gets broken, I’m not touching it. There was discussions around search and seizure guidelines – can schools legally hold a phone??? So the conversation went slightly sideways, but cyber security is still a big issue, as is the misuse of devices by students.
  • School donations/Government fees scheme and BYOD. Very mixed spread across the group of schools who had or had not opted in to the fees scheme. Some felt ‘pressured into it’ by communities struggling. Others realised they would have less money, but hoped communities would be better for having the extra money available. Others had chosen not too – did not feel they could offer adequate curric with those costs. When you look at the details, if a students needs a calculator to complete a Chemistry pH calculation, or a maths problem, the school SHOULD provide one if they have opted into the fees scheme. Same with BYOD. Some grey areas around should and MUST. Quality of devices is an ongoing concern, as is access in the community (for homework etc, but also social inclusion). Great discussion around the richness of extra curricular activities – I am not a camp person (I hate not having a nice bed with clean sheets and a good shower) but I make an effort to go on school camps because of the relationships you form, and how refreshing it can be to see a frustrating or shy or outgoing student in a different light on camp. Students remember these trips…. and they do build richness into a curriculum, but how can they be done on such a shoe string budget?
  • DDTA had some specific info – the next version of the curric is out, and the wording has had a subtle but significant shift. The curric no longer says ALL students. Screen Shot 2019-11-27 at 10.03.38 PM There are still LOTS of places to look for support. The regional digital champions are an admin based role but they will help you find the help you need, or you can look at, or, or Exemplars for digitech standards are still coming (two years after the standards were started)….. There are also some changes coming in with the tomorrow schools. The next meeting is December 2nd, so I’m guessing we will here more early next year.

Then there was some more specific discussion around

  • Online exams – seems to be working well – a few seemingly isolated issues – in schools using it. Questions linked to equity of access were asked (discussed more below) and members asked for some specific info relating to decile of schools and access to online assessment (ie is it mostly higher decile completing them) as well as any information around comparative pass rates (eg high school decile online compared to paper – do schools in decile one have comparable results etc). There was also a request for ‘best practice’ for running online exams – there are lots of info sheets from NZQA on this, but perhaps that information is not finding the right people – often the network manager  or perhaps the Principals nominee are not always getting the message…. and which information needs to go where???
  • EQUITY. Of seemingly everything!! Access to devices, tech support in schools, infrastructure in schools, access to PLD – both for digital fluency for staff, as well specific support for elearning pedagogy. (The upcoming PPTA PLD grants might help with this – there are LOTS of $700 grants, but no news (that I have heard) of how to access them yet.) Mixed in with the general ‘wait and see’ with the new NCEA changes. A comment was made that ‘BYOD is just a policy’ and so should not get the noise it does! Schools who have thought about their policy and procedures are often more successful – so how do you support more schools to have better policies????? What do schools do when students don’t have devices? Loaner devices (but again equity issues, they are often slow, and by the time students go and get them, then take them back, they have missed significant learning time. Questions around is there any BES work that could be shared on this – it seems a little adhoc, and many boards may or may not have the skills to implement this in schools well. There was a similar discussion around BES for digitech integration – I’m guessing it is still too new so the data hasn’t been gathered yet?
  • Is the committee still relevant?? And WHY? This was an interesting question, and generated good discussion – I feel I get well informed, but often that we lack the ‘clout’ to make real change. Getting information out to time poor members and leads was discussed – how can we improve the information reach. (I bought up my stats from my blog reflections – I generally get between 70-100 people reading these posts….). There was also value in meeting with government departments, partly to share back to the community, and partly to give feedback to them from a wide base of people (ICT has reps from schools, low decile, Te Kura, PPTA itself). So it looks like we will be going for a while yet, and it was a good motivation to push on and get the conference paper on equitable access to ‘ICT support’ in schools for conference for next year.

Topics up for discussion for next year will be checking in on the online NCEA assessment, as well as the changes with tomorrows schools, and of course keeping advocating for more equitable access to device, PLD and learning opportunities

Feel free to flick any questions my way, and I’ll do my best to answer them or put you in touch with some-one who can. If you would like anything raised with the committee sing out. And as always, if I have made an error, please let me know.

Take care



Posted in coding, Digital Technologies, Teaching and Learning

Microbit ‘Monsters’

This is the second year that Kevin and I have co-taught a yr 7 digital technology course, which runs for about 24 lessons on a rotation. (You can find previous reflections on this course (the first one is from this year when we introduced a greater focus on the technology curriculum here, here and here). We have used the BBC Micro:bit from the start. Micro:bits are reasonably cheap, there are LOADS of resources and ideas available, and the microbits offer lots of different ways to adapt coding for students with different ability and confidence levels. We generally work through some data representation and algorithms before introducing the microbits and coding – sometimes (depending on time) we also include some of the hour of code tutorial activities for a more self directed introduction.

About half way through this year, we introduced a ‘micro:bit monster’ after Kevin saw the idea from a school in Queenstown – he is currently on camp so I apoligise I can’t acknowledge this as much as I’d like. We liked the idea and saw it as a way to get a more authentic brief design and planning for practice task into the course. And so Kevin wrote up a brief design plan for the onenote, and away we went


The currently module group is our third iteration of the project, and I think we have got it ‘right’. Judging by the hour I just spent with 28 yr 7’s who were all working with an engaged hum, they think so too…..

To start, we have a onenote template that scaffolds the expectations for the students – essentially what evidence they need to show to meet the planning for practice learning outcomes.

We then ‘let the students loose’ for want of a better phrase as they complete their own designs in their own sections

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This student had some awesome ‘paint’ skills
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This student opted for some different inputs using the tilt/shake functions

Then the students get to be creative and build their micro:bit costumes 🙂 It is a bit messy, but super fun, and gives some little iteration ideas – like making holes for the buttons, or for the leads to attach speakers too. And create the code for the micro:bits

Some cool costumes made for the micro:bit pets and/or monsters – the blue and red one with the leads coming out of it had to be modified so the speakers could be attached, so it got ‘spiky’ teeth

And then using the makecode site for the code

We then ask the student to make little video clips of their microbit monsters and pets to show us what they could do, which the upload into their onenotes.

These little monsters have been a really fun way for the students to incorporate some code while fitting the technology curriculum goals. We have found students really engaged in this project, and they all push themselves along – one group decides their monsters would use the radio functions and get their monsters to play paper scissors rock with each other!

So this cool little idea that Kevin found has worked really well for us 🙂 There are some much more developed ‘pets’ than ours at if you wanted to have a look, and some really great examples on youtube

Have fun


Posted in random ramblings, Teaching and Learning

Recording learning – how do I get this right?

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about how I/we/the system records learning. My thinking on this has been challenged a few times, and was kicked into gear way back in 2015 when I saw an amazing learning conversation around a thermos flask take place, that these students couldn’t write down but could explain very clearly, and link other ideas they had learned. (a reflection from the time is here )More recently, this has been playing on my mind as my yr 10’s have been completing a Science capability task.

Now Science capabilities can be a tricky thing when you get to the nitty gritty of them, but are also amazing simple too. I don’t feel our school has really got to grips with them yet (although we are certainly improving all the time), and we are certainly too focussed on the ‘paper trail’ evidence for assessing them. Which has got me back to thinking more explicitly about how I gather evidence for learning.

With this Science Capabilities task, the context was ocean acidification and how increasing the CO2 in the atmosphere increases the dissolved CO2 in the water, which decreases the pH/increases the acidity of the ocean. This then has an impact on creatures in the ocean with carbonate shells or exoskeletons. We investigated the impact of concentration on acids on the reaction rate for carbonates. Reaction rates really sits at NCEA Level one rather than yr 10, so we have tried to scaffold the prior learning and expectations around reaction rates for students final answers.

As part of the task, students where asked to design an experiment that gave them ‘quality data’ (reproducable, no overlaps etc). Students were given a range of material to try and design their method, as we had previously used gas displacement, a lime water test, amount of bubble produced by adding dish washing liquid etc. There was much fun as the bubbles produced from the highest concentration of acid shot out of the test tubes and all over the bench tops and floors. But this is where the really rich conversations started happening, as students realised that this method was the ‘most fun’, it did not produce the more reliable results. Then others discovered that if they used small volumes of acid, the lower concentrations stopped reacting before the amount of gas produced was detectable. Others found it difficult to distinguish between the two most concentrated acids because the times were very similar.

The learning conversation between the students and the students and myself over these 2-3 hours were amazing. It felt really good, I was excited to be in class, the students seemed to be enjoying it, and the frustrations and successes were palpable. Students were really gaining knowledge from the various practical tasks as they were trying to ascertain the best method for them to use. Students saw that they got ‘the same’ end result while using a different method to another group, and had conversation around which way might be better or worse. The conversations around the ‘why’ the reactions where proceeding that way were amazing.

And yet, while it was a valuable learning experience for me and the students, I feel a lot of that valuable learning was lost. How do I record those conversations that were had? How do I translate that into the students written work, or scaffold the questions better so they are encouraged to incorporate more of that learning into their answers?

Or, do I need to? Is it enough that those conversations took place, and they do not need to be included in the gathered data for reports and feedback?

And, how to I replicate those conversation in other settings?? How do I get students to see more explicitly that there is often more than one way to come to a similar answer, and that discovering the path is often much more exciting than getting to the end of it. How to I make sure more of the learning experiences I offer are open ended??

And how do I ensure I capture the ideas that students don’t write down??




Posted in random ramblings

On poems

It is poetry week at my school this week, linked to New Zealand’s (I’m assuming it is New Zealand’s, it might be all over…) poetry day this friday (23rd August). I am currently avoiding others tasks, but have been spotting all sorts of beautiful poems on twitter, and it has made me think of some of my favourite poems, what they mean to me, and where I remember learning about them. While I often get frustrated with my own stuttering prose and find expressing myself clearly a challenge (not to mention sending my grandmother round the bend with my appalling spelling) I love reading, and greatly admire those who can work their words with such magic.

And after writing the above, I realised I have already written about two of the poems on my mind, all the way back in 2014. It is funny how the past comes back….. and how despite meeting these poems in high school some 20 years ago, they are still with me.

‘So, it is day 2 of Ulearn, and we have been given some time. Time is so precious, and I always struggle to use it wisely. Or I get so caught up in tomorrow I forget about today, or last year, or even before that.

One of my favourite poems is about time

Time out – Hone Tuwhare

I pursue

but I

Can not catch up with you, Time.

You precede me

like the echo of sad footfalls in my heart,

fading away.

Tears pool

my eyes

as I turn back

to find the solace

in a resolute search

for my space

my beginnings

my Self.

It is resonating with my right now, as I think about the English teacher who first introduced me to it, Ms Fowler. Fowler was hard arse – she reminded me off the teacher Katie Novak talked about in the keynote. Fowler made me work harder than I ever had, and unlocked some potential. I argued with her, got cross, got disheartened and then picked myself up and tried again. I learned to love poetry as a means of expression rather than to loathe it as yucky english – even if I still can’t spell to save my life. I learned resilience, perseverance, and the importance of sticking to you guns despite what others say or think. To go with your gut feeling. That can again be described by a poem (this one I found specifically for a ‘read allowed’ assessment we had to do, I didn’t fully understand it at the time) – she taught it to her classes after which I found amazingly flattering. We ‘bumped’ into each other online recently, and she is still doing amazing things.

The Riders in the Stand

There’s some that ride the Robbo style, and bump at every stride;
While others sit a long way back, to get a longer ride.
There’s some that ride like sailors do, with legs and arms, and teeth;
And some ride on the horse’s neck, and some ride underneath.

But all the finest horsemen out — the men to Beat the Band —
You’ll find amongst the crowd that ride their races in the Stand.
They’ll say “He had the race in hand, and lost it in the straight.”
They’ll show how Godby came too soon, and Barden came too late.

They’ll say Chevalley lost his nerve, and Regan lost his head;
They’ll tell how one was “livened up” and something else was “dead” —
In fact, the race was never run on sea, or sky, or land,
But what you’d get it better done by riders in the Stand.

The rule holds good in everything in life’s uncertain fight;
You’ll find the winner can’t go wrong, the loser can’t go right.
You ride a slashing race, and lose — by one and all you’re banned!
Ride like a bag of flour, and win — they’ll cheer you in the Stand.

Banjo Paterson’

Even 5 year on, and maybe always, I often think of these poems. I am thinking specifically of the riders in the stand – I need to work to my standards, not the standards of others. It is so easy to look at others and think, they aren’t doing this or that, so I won’t. Rather than thinking this is where I want to be, now get there.

Another poem on my mind right now is Epiphany by Ted Hughes

From the collection Birthday Letters, which won the Forward prize in 1998

London. The grimy lilac softness
Of an April evening. Me
Walking over Chalk Farm Bridge
On my way to the tube station.
A new father – slightly light-headed
With the lack of sleep and the novelty.
Next, this young fellow coming towards me.

I glanced at him for the first time as I passed him
Because I noticed (I couldn’t believe it)
What I’d been ignoring.

Not the bulge of a small animal
Buttoned into the top of his jacket
The way colliers used to wear their whippets –
But its actual face. Eyes reaching out
Trying to catch my eyes – so familiar!
The huge ears, the pinched, urchin expression –
The wild confronting stare, pushed through fear,

Between the jacket lapels.
    ’It’s a fox-cub!’
I heard my own surprise as I stopped.
He stopped. ‘Where did you get it? What
Are you going to do with it?’
    A fox-cub
On the hump of Chalk Farm Bridge!

‘You can have him for a pound.’ ‘But
Where did you find it? What will you do with it?’
‘Oh, somebody’ll buy him. Cheap enough
At a pound.’ And a grin.
    What I was thinking
Was – what would you think? How would we fit it
Into our crate of space? With the baby?
What would you make of its old smell
And its mannerless energy?
And as it grew up and began to enjoy itself
What would we do with an unpredictable, 
Powerful, bounding fox?
The long-mouthed, flashing temperament?
That necessary nightly twenty miles
And that vast hunger for everything beyond us?
How would we cope with its cosmic derangements
Whenever we moved?

The little fox peered past me at other folks,
At this one and at that one, then at me.
Good luck was all it needed.
Already past the kittenish
But the eyes still small,
Round, orphaned-looking, woebegone
As if with weeping. Bereft
Of the blue milk, the toys of feather and fur,
The den life’s happy dark. And the huge whisper
Of the constellations
Out of which Mother had always returned.
My thoughts felt like big, ignorant hounds
Circling and sniffing around him.
   Then I walked on
As if out of my own life.
I let that fox-cub go. I tossed it back
Into the future
Of a fox-cub in London and I hurried
Straight on and dived as if escaping
Into the Underground. If I had paid,
If I had paid that pound and turned back
To you, with that armful of fox –

If I had grasped that whatever comes with a fox
Is what tests a marriage and proves it a marriage –
I would not have failed the test. Would you have failed it?
But I failed. Our marriage had failed.

I was sitting in the staff work room listening to a spirited discussion between two English teachers – they both taught yr 13 classes, one was doing Ted Hughes, and the other Sylvia Plath. I was listening purely from enjoyment as they argued their points about the intricasies and styles of the writers, the different possible interpretations, and how had we really changed in our expectations and realities of relationships since the 1950s and 60s. As an avid fan of Slyvia Plath, I had avoided Ted Hughes, but as there two English teachers teased out ideas I began to become more familiar and would occasionally skim read a poem or two. The ‘team Ted’ English teacher read this to me, and as two people with our own young families discussed how life had changed so much, that risk was now so much harder to take… that consequences were suddenly so much more real. And that epiphanies often strike when you least expect them. (I feel I need to add we are both still with our significant others, and seem to be weathering the occasional twists and turns of life reasonably well)

I also wonder if I’m thinking about this poem because I feel like I am running from a few ideas at the moment. I had a good conversation with a teacher friend yesterday about how I still can’t find a way to pull myself out of assessment driven teaching. How I am uncertain about how to build learning for L2 chemistry next year as the standards are changing. Have I, too, left the fox cub on the bridge and taken the ‘easier’ path that is safe and known??

And last, but not least, Dunedin poem, but Janet Frame. My favourite work of Janet Frame is excellently terrifying ‘The Bath’, but many of her poems pop into my head sometimes.

I thought of this poem yesterday, as I too went to the beach, and stared at the waves, and stood in the sun.

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