Posted in Teaching and Learning

#teachmeetNZ – International year of Light

So, readers of this blog will now I am a massive fan of #teachmeet, especially #teachmeetNZ. The recent International year of light session was no exception – quality presentations from passionate, energetic educators who are willing to try, play, fail and share.

The big take home messages for me from this session was to have fun and to trust in your self and your students.

The session started with Andrea Sloane from the Science learning hub talking about some resources on the hub and some changes coming as the biotech learning hub is integrated with the science learning hub.

I talked about fun with fireworks – how you can use them to teach all sorts of different content, from history (I do love that you can almost plot the travel of fireworks through Europe by following the music composed at those times) and how you can use them to teach very young students right through to L3 Chem electron orbitals.

The amazingly passionate and inspiring Tony Cairns also talked about the importance of fun in the class room, and how to make your lessons engaging and exciting. I just love Tony’s vibrancy, and I am jealous of his vocab too 🙂

Matt Nicoll and Paula Hey both talked about designing courses that allowed for greater student voice. I am starting to explore this more for my course and students, and the combines knowledge and sharing of these two educators really does amaze me. Too often educators get caught in the ‘it is too hard’ ‘there are too many barriers’ ‘ I can’t possibly have students in my classes learning different things, how will they/I cope’ traps. When actually, if we relax, release the ‘front of the room’ thinking and have high expectations, the students will get into it and fly.

Emma McFayden linked in all the way from China to talk about how she is working to change perceptions of Scientists in her students. A point that really struck home for me was that students do need to be exposed to a wide variety of ‘scientists’ and mentors so that they recognise that everyone, including themselves, is a Scientist to some degree.

Then there was an AMAZING talk from Micheal Harvey about the possibilities of time travel. It was really cool, it stretched me and made me go away and look stuff up and ask the physcis teaher at school. I also have a student who is really interested in this, so I shared this talk with him too. The coolest thing was that this was inspired from a conversation with a yr 7 student, so it was a great remindere to not place ‘ceilings’ on students (or teachers) learning

Then Dave Warren spoke about how the Chem department is using its outreach program to meet the ‘graduate profiles’ outlined by the university. I can speak from experience that these programs are amazing, and Dave is super passionate about helping school students and teachers. Also, check out the videos they have been making, the are super awesome.

Posted in Professional learning

TeachmeetNZ CENZ15

I LOVE teachmeets. They are FREE, have real teachers sharing real stories, are short, they share resources and they are recorded so even if you can’t make it,  you can watch and learn later. So teachmeets, along with educamps and twitter chats rate super highly amongst my professional learning favourites.

Which is why when Sonya asked if anyone was willing to help out, I jumped in.

This teachmeet involved 5 speakers – you can find more information – including links to the presentations and resources HERE.

The presentation most relevant to me was from Ros MacEachen. the idea of critical friendships for developing better practice was super – and facilitating relationship between staff members and departments is super important. With some of the chatter around echo chambers online, I also find that staff rooms and even department meetings can be echo chambers also. I also think by talking more to colleagues outside of department about ‘education stuff’ rather than ‘shame about that local sports team and/or weather’ we can all broaden out horizons and improve our practice. It was also a timely reminder for me about how I accept feedback, and how I seek it.

That certainly doesn’t diminish the quality of the other presentations. I am in awe of the all the work the educators who shared are doing, and picked up some thoughts and ideas for my own teaching and learning. By being involved as the twitter broadcaster, I was connecting with other participants online, which again widens my learning network and the ideas that filter through my newsfeed.

So while none of the presentations were specific to me teaching Science, they all contribute to me growing as an educator. It took an hour (+ practices if you are involved, but they are super fun too), was free and involved super, enthusiastic educators. What is not to LOVE about teachmeets

So you should all join in the next #teachmeetNZ on November 10th at 4pm – More info is HERE. See you then 🙂

Posted in Professional learning

Presenting to #teachmeetNZ – Being Brave

A big part of my focus after attending the E2 educator exchange was being courageous and brave. I blogged about this in an earlier post that you can read here. So when I spotted an opening to present at #teachmeetNZ I jumped in. I was going to talk about building collaboration when the ever amazing Sonya suggested I talk about my award. So I did, and it was a really nice reminder about what I learned, and what I promised myself I would try to do when I got back.

I had some idea of what to expect from my involvement in the science teachmeetNZ earlier in the year when I was the twitter broadcaster. Sonya does an amazing job in her roll, and makes sure you have practiced, received feedback and practiced some more. We also uploaded our presentations to the wiki page (I learned how to embed a powerpoint via 365 – it was easy peasy)

As I was a bit late into it, I got to meet everyone online the Wednesday before and, as I always am, was taken aback by the generousity, innovation and bravery displayed by educators in NZ. Then it was Saturday, and we were all set to go (with instructions to comb our hair and check our lippy – I wore lippy once when I got married…. but did wear my #scichatNZ hoody for the occasion)

I will also thank everyone involved, especially Sonya. All of these people gave up there time to help other teachers, and are there totally KICK ARSE awesome.

The presentations were outstanding, but some real key points stood out for me from each of the talks

1) Stuart Kelly talked about digitising his L3 english class. My favourite line was don’t wait, fail now. This echoes what I have heard Matty Nicoll say, if you wait for it to be perfect, you won’t start. Stuart was honest in his reflection and results, and I loved the teaching and learning was foremost in his thinking, and devices were last.

2) Natasha Waldon talked about her experiences with gaming. As a reformed game player (starcraft anyone…..) I loved Natasha’s honesty around being up till 2am raiding not being good for working the next day.Students will connect and collaborate in a game environment. But the links with others in the game virtual world can be continued outside that environment, and if gamification engages students and enhances learning then lets get the game on. Natasha also talked about the need for digital, real time reporting. As an outspoken ‘intense disliker’ of the current reporting model on offer by my school it was music to my ears to hear of alternative approaches.

3) Steven de Bruin’s talk was fascinating for me. He is teaching Yr 1 students how to set goals and self manage. This is AMAZING to me, but reminds me that students will reach to the expectation set. But I have, at times, such difficultly getting my students to bring a pen to class let alone set there own goals and learning pathways. Do I need to get rid of my spare pen jar perhaps? So his challenge was to break the students mindset of the teachers roll. I love this idea and I am keen to strengthen student agency in my classroom, so it was super inspiring for me. I am going to think about how I can try to scaffold this into my lessons, and I am once again envious of how primary colleagues for their work.

4) Terry Beech was up next, with a strong focus on collaboration and relationships. I think relationships are so important to teaching, but they are hard to quantify, and everyone will have a different relationship with each student, because we are all so different.

5) Adam Baker talked about how he is using comic life with his students to promote reading and literacy by designing their own comics. By using a material the student were interested in, he increased engagement and enjoyment. Anything with star wars has to rock.

6) Kerri Thompson talked about #NZreadaloud. While this doesn’t really apply to me now, I so wish this had been around when I was at nipper, I would have loved it.

7) Shona Poppe talked about being inclusive in the classroom. My favourite quote was ‘their should be no passengers in your class room’. This, along with authentic learning experiences and structured groups to ensure all learners are catered for. It was a good reminder that the quiet, diligent kids might not always be the most comfortable.

8) Then it was my turn. I was so glad the tech work, and you can see my presentation below

It was an amazing opportunity to share. I got some lovely feedback from some tweets

tweetand from people listening in.

But my talk was as much for me as anything. I talked with a friend about it after – it is really hard to be brave. Twitter has the lone wolf idea, but even beyond that, I think many teachers genuinely want to be the best they can be, but are just like the students who are afraid to write an answer down before they know it is correct. Breaking the culture of teaching in isolation and in its place building collaboration, openness and sharing shouldn’t be as hard as it is. But sadly the culture around competing schools, and even competing departments over student numbers and resourcing can lead to closed doors.

It is also hard not to come across as intimidating when you are considering change, and I guess if people were trying to change me by telling me I am doing it wrong I’d get pretty ticked off too. So I really hope I can continue to be brave with my teaching and by modelling risk taking (within reason, and not with acid) and collaboration with my teaching and learning, my students and colleagues will benefit.

There will always be those underlying fears of ‘is this good enough’, ‘so and so is way more awesome’ ‘is this really the best way to approach problems X, Y and Z’ ‘what happens if it doesn’t work’. And I am beginning to realise it is important those doubts are there, so I can have a point of reference and make sure I am doing what I do with the best intentions. And if it fails, it fails and I can try again 🙂

So my favourite tweet of all was this one


you can watch the full teachmeet presentation HERE, and see the storify Monika put together HERE. The #teachmeetNZ wiki also has all the presentation and info on the presenters HERE – you need to scroll down a bit to get to the individual links

Be brave peeps.

Posted in Professional learning

#TeachmeetNZ meets Science – Awesome happened

A couple of weeks ago I get an e-mail from Cath at the Science learning hub asking me if I wanted to be involved in a Science #teachmeetNZ. I hadn’t participated in an online teachmeet before, but was keen to help out in anyway I could, and I love working with Cath, so of course said yes and was given the roll of twitter broadcaster. It also meant I got to worth Sonya van Schaijik again after she did an amazing job moderating a #scichatNZ chat on sharing best practice.

teachmeet me

wearing my #scichatNZ hoody for the occasion.

Like all things, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, and there were practice sessions, checking timings, review slides, making revisions etc. Then there were the last minute kinks and practices, and then we were live. I really have to acknowledge the hard work and amazing support the Sonya put in – nothing seemed to bother her and she always had an answer. She was also incredibly understanding of my occasional dropping in and out due to my todler being a spoon about going to bed.

It was a little bit weird being the broadcaster on the day- because I wasn’t involved in the actually GHO I couldn’t talk directly to the presenters. I did flick a few messages via twitter or e-mail, and it worked really well.

The quality of the presenters was exceptional. I am constantly amazed at both the quality of educators in NZ and how generous they are with their time.


the highlights for me were

@MissDtheTeacher talking about removing the ceiling from students learners. I only wish I had the freedom of timetable and content that she has. But there were still things for me to think about – especially in my approach to teaching my juniors. Why do I have to stop at the ‘prescribed level’? How can I differentiate my lessons so I can meet all of my learners needs? And most importantly, how can I model life long learning and learn along side my classes rather than being the sole bearer of knowledge.

@MattyNicoll is always awesome sauce. His advice – Don’t wait for it to be perfect to get started: Just get started – is something I need to remember. So often it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the quality of resources and educators out there and fall into the same trap my students do – not wanting to start in case it is not good enough. So I need to keep making the effort, finding the time and working on making my lessons more accessible at all times.

There was also an interesting discussion around the ‘stats’ of when the youtube clips where being watched – 2am in the morning before internals was a common time. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, yip students should be asleep, but also at least they are accessing the info at some point. I used to pull all nighters before big uni exams….. horses for courses perhaps

@TheMrsRogers did a fabulous presentation on the importance of being a connected educator. Her advice was heartfelt and summed up my thoughts exactly.

@2footgiraffe talking about making 6secondvideos was something new for me, and I am definitely going to look into using this with my classes. Short, sharp awesomeness sounds perfect for my Yr 10 class.

@Doctor_Harves talking about Kahoot – I have seen this before (at U-learn I think) and had forgotten about it, but will also explore using this with my classes.

I also really enjoyed learning more about the Royal Society Science leadership scholarship from Jennie Lyall, and was super impressed with the work Dianne Christenson – some of the bubble experiments her students had done were awesome. And while coding isn’t a strength of mine, is was interesting to learn about how Belinda is using it in her classroom – coding is on my list to get to.

You can watch the teachmeetNZ session recording via the link below

There will be another #teachmeetNZ happening on April 11, and then another science focus on november and I will be queueing up to help out again. It was a really rewarding way to spend an hour (and a bit) on a saturday afternoon. I also learned alot about running digital meetings and some tricks for presenting in this format. I had some interesting conversations with fellow educators, and got another teacher from my school signed up for #scichatNZ. So by accepting a ‘job’ I learned a whole lot and had a good time doing it.

Thanks everyone, and see you at the next one