Reflective Practice and Changes in my Teaching Practice as a Result of the Mindlab Post-Graduate Diploma

In New Zealand education context, Ministry of Education (nd.) has set criteria for Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC) in e-learning:

Two areas where I have noticeably changed my practise in the last 8 months are

  • Criterion 2: Demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of akonga (professional relationships and professional values)

The project-based learning inherent in my subject (digital technologies – secondary) has always enabled me to create learning around students choice of ‘context’ (in other words, students can choose what the project can be about; for example, websites about informational motorcycles or rugby is popular for boys). The difference now (as a result of having done the ‘Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice’ (Digital and Collaborative Learning) with Mindlab Christchurch ( is that I have added a whole range of digital tools to my subject toolbox as a result especially those that are used widely in the primary area. This in turn has increased the range of outcomes that I can offer my students, notably those with very low literacy.

To step back a little, NCEA (the secondary qualification offered here in New Zealand) is broadly divided into two parts: skills-based Unit Standards and project-based Achievement Standards (which, of necessity, involve a great deal of report writing (conclusions, summaries of testing of websites or mini-robots etc…). It is really Achievement Standards that are more important for tertiary study (although the skills taught in higher level Unit Standards are certainly useful). It is the only way to get subject “endorsements” at years 11, 12 and 13 at a NZ high school, achievements that are often highly sought after by higher learning tertiary institutions like engineering and architecture (in my subject area which is becoming more ‘STEM’-like with each passing year).

The best example of e above in terms of my recent practise is where reporting can now be done by screen-recorded video (by a senior student using a headset) instead of by hand/keyboard as in the past (in fact, a significant number of students seem to have now lost the preference to write by hand which is leading to a whole range of new challenges in the classroom. Do students not know that handwriting will be required to short notes to friends/colleagues/flatmates in the future? And that these notes are more efficiently handwritten than by any other means? Texting can’t substitute for everything too – bereavement messages for example. I wonder what sort of brave new world we have stumbled into when we lose even more basic social niceties).

Admittedly, screen-recoded reports work best for students with already high literacy but it does represent a major change (and I believe softening) of standards NZQA expects. Even so, I am getting senior students to do both these days (that is, both written and screen-recorded reports) s that I am not caught out by NZQA check-marking (called ‘moderation’). I simply don’t have the confidence in the (screen-recorded) system at the moment and am traditional enough (in an educational sense) to insist students must still know how to write an essay (which is essential for subject endorsements and higher learning anyway). These are complicated times and NCEA teachers really do need to know their boundaries of their own teaching more than any other time I have been involved in secondary teaching (almost 25 years).

  • Criterion 6: Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme (professional knowledge in practice).

There are six stages in the adoption of digital technologies (as identified by Knezek and Christensen (#1)).


Students are aware of digital technologies but have not used them – perhaps they’re even avoiding them

Learning the Process

Students are currently trying to learn the basics. They are often frustrated using computers and the internet. They lack confidence when using digital technologies

Understanding and Application of the Process

Students are beginning to understand the process of using digital technologies and can think of specific tasks in which they might be useful

Familiarity and Confidence

Students are gaining a sense of confidence in using digital technologies for specific tasks. They are starting to feel comfortable using digital technologies

Adaptation to other Contexts

Students think about digital technologies as tools to help them and are no longer concerned about it as technology. They can use digital technologies in many applications and as instructional aids

Creative Application to New Contexts

Students can apply what they know about digital technologies in the classroom. They can use them as an instructional tool and integrate them into the curriculum


With this in mind I completed a literature review (as a part of my Mindlab digital learning diploma) into the following pedagogical question: “Is ‘SOLO’ or ‘Bloom’s’ Taxonomy the best learning framework for delivery of computational-thinking/computer-science in primary and secondary (high-school) classrooms around the world?”

Based on this investigation I have decided to pursue add an ‘action research’ component to this enquiry based around my evolving classroom practices incorporating SOLO (only). It seemed to be a better fit for the NCEA system here in NZ (compared to BLOOM’s Taxonomy) as levels of this NZQA qualification framework can be approximately equated into levels of SOLO Taxonomy as follows:

Level of NCEA Level of SOLO
Not Achieved Pre-structural/


Achieved Multi Structural
Merit Relational
Excellence Extended Abstract

The end result was that I significantly modified my pedagogical approach to the day-to-day teaching in my classroom. This is best shown by the new layout of student outcomes on the walls and on my whiteboard which highlight the links between levels of SOLO and the grade boundaries of NCEA. In short, I now include references to almost all of my teaching using the website I can generate learning intentions based around SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy(’s) here but I can also generate desired outlines as backbones for lesson outcomes in the form of professionally presented lesson plans in the generated word document (this can all be done quickly but of course detail can be added later on). This is something completely new in my career as I actively try to integrate this learning approach into my classroom (rather than passively).

As a consequence, all my classroom walls have been redecorated exemplars of different levels of NCEA/SOLO with the intent of further highlighting the verifiable link between the two learning systems (NCEA and SOLO). Now I need only refer to the walls whenever I want to further illustrate the relationship between SOLO and NCEA (particularly in the area of Excellence/extended abstract/rich thinking which is where subject endorsement lies – essay/report writing).

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This is but one example of how my post-graduate studies with Mindlab have changed my teaching. I have certainly moved my professional tendencies more towards collaborative and consultative particularly in regards to the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) spectrum in my subject (digital technologies). This week we are trialling Virtual Reality headsets in the primary classrooms of my school of 300 (roughly 200 are in this group). Videoing each of their individual responses to such technology is reminding the seniors who are involved of the power of the technology to change how the world is experienced. It is getting to the point now where students may be able to choose a completely digital teacher in the future rather than a real one. Or friends. Or parents (?!) A brave new world indeed.


(#1) Knezek and Christensen, Computers in New Zealand Schools, Nov 1999;


Crossing Boundaries and Creating Connections – Interdisciplinary Collaboration

What does interdisciplinary collaboration mean?

Andrews (1990) defines interdisciplinary collaboration as occurring “when different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organizational perspectives, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose” (#1)

“While multidisciplinary collaboration involves paralleled work of several disciplines, interdisciplinary practice may include inter-professional interactions in which two or more disciplines collaborate in the process of “joint planning, decision-making, and goal-setting” (#2)

Mindmap showing my current primary ‘Interdisciplinary’ connections

Coggle Mindmap

While secondary teachers work within their subjects, my collaborations commonly involve working with teachers (interdisciplinary) from other departments to create better (i.e. richer) learning experience for our students. The 5-minute video below explains the benefits of providing interdisciplinary learning experience for students and how it can best be done:

Why Adopt an Interdisciplinary Approach to Classroom Teaching?

I find it personally helpful to look on all subjects as being inter-connected and part of an organic whole. The idea behind STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) is just that, only it focuses on the physical or tactile sciences. The explosion of STEM based teaching and learning has seen my needing to connect with the hard materials teacher at our school in order to upskill myself on 3-D printing/programming. Spatial intelligence is not a skill that I have had to work with before in any capacity but I have noticed that my students are more adept at picking it up than I am so perhaps it is not crucial that I am (due, I suspect, to being immersed in screens that involve 3D objects from a young age). The reality is that in a growing number of areas I am having to open myself up to various degrees of ‘flipped’ learning where students effectively become the expert teachers for a topic. That is as t should be to be honest; I would not be able to keep up with all the skills that I need to deliver my job to an expert level; so getting students to present their own expert learning certainly aids my situation and would represent a victory of common sense. Similarly, teachers sharing their approaches collaboratively across specialist areas is equally helpful and indeed often illuminating.

Truth be told, I do tend to see my own class teaching as being just as much a symbiotic process (both inside and outside the school gates) than collaborative as teachers and parents have always assisted each other across subject, vocational and professional responsibilities for the greater good of the learners (e.g. fundraising campaigns for sports trips). Researcher Gene Campanale of St Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana also though as much as well (#3)

“Broadening perceptions of professional learning communities means rethinking notions of specific ‘location’…Professional learning communities can cross boundaries, both the fuzzy social differentiations that develop between groups within the school, and the clearer borders that separate the school’s members from those in the community and in other schools. As with any boundary crossing, expanding our ideas about ‘who belongs’ presents challenges to the existing culture.” (#4)

Who will I want to have an interdisciplinary connection with in the future? 

Practitioners of STEM will be my primary target for professional connections in the future as it seems that this cross-disciplinary approach is the one that will yield the best results for the learners in my subject (digital technologies). The emphasis will almost certainly be on 3D-printing and design. Hopefully, the improvements in dexterity that are required in the spatial intelligence of both genders in this discipline may go some way towards replacing the tactile skills that have been lost through the reduction of hand-writing as an essential skill in our primary schools (which is also reflected in classrooms around the world. At what point in the last 10 years did holding a pen hold such limited importance? At about the same time we stopped teaching touch-typing in schools I would wager).

How might this joint planning, decision-making, and goal-setting take place? 

Venn Diagram - Crossong Boundaries and Creating Connections

Above: A conceptual model for successful interdisciplinary collaboration (#5)

Pre-Conditions Required for a Conceptual Model for Successful Collaboration

Workplace Conditions Qualities/Attitudes Common Goals
§  Regular communication

§  Standing meetings

§  Physical space

§  Administrative support

§  Cooperative—able to compromise

§  Equitable—respect for roles

§  Trust—perceived competence

§  Shared vulnerability—safe setting to explore, inquire & critique

§  Enthusiasm—desire to continue collaboration

§  Identify individual strengths

§  Select conference & publication venues that “count” for both, or alternate

§  Establish research “pipeline” & philosophy

§  Articulate/update timelines

Benefits and Challenges of Interdisciplinary Practice in Relation to 3D Printing.

The benefits for the learners is that they can be exposed to the learning required to integrate software with real-life (STEM) problems that they can identify with. Note that it would certainly be advantageous for the educator(s) concerned to teach the students involved a little about group dynamics and team work to avoid unnecessary conflict and time-wasting about roles.

Conversely, teachers will certainly be needed to upskill in a number of areas, namely, that of using 3D software and becoming adept at the printing of student outcomes. When it is done well, the results can be startling as will be seen from the example below:

Interdisciplinary Collaboration Case Study:

Location: Radford University, Virginia, USA.


  • LJ Clellan, UG Student Team Instructor & Coordinator
  • Julia Castleberry, Doctoral Student Instructor & Coordinator
  • Ty Esham, Hardware kit supplier and Robohand design consultant

These three expert practitioners “took advantage of three convergent trends:

(a) the emergence of low-cost 3D design software and fabrication

(b) the increasing adoption of the “lean startup” approach in modeling new ventures and

(c) the economic cost of healthcare in the U.S. is development of alternative, affordable services and products to provide access for both served and un-served patient populations” (#6).

The Nature of their Collaboration

First, they developed bridging between disciplines on campus and with communities of practice in the regional economy. Delivery of health care devices and services in affordable, innovative ways requires cross-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder participation and coordination. Enhancing students’ awareness and engagement in such complex problem-solving is excellent preparation for the school-to-work transition. Secondly, this project advanced peer-to-peer education in preparation for problem-centered, applied learning in a time constrained, professional environment. This project promoted “learning-by-making” through the application of new 3D design and fabrication technology fostering creative and innovative thinking about patient needs. Sometimes referred to as “blended reality,” this approach mixes digital and physical technology. Lastly, a complementary high-impact practice to this problem-centered approach was the “gamification” of outcome rewards for students during a simulated “Shark Tank” investor pitch contest.


Design, prototyping, 3D printing, manufacturing, patient care, customer research, business model development.

Software and Hardware Tools Used:

CAD design software, 3D printers, assembly and finishing hand tools.”



(#1) cited in Berg-Weger &. Schneider, 1998.

(#2) American Association of Colleges of Nursing, 2016, p.1

(#3) ‘Schools and Community – A symbiotic relationship”; Gene Campanale, St Mary’s College, Notre Dame, Indiana.

(#4) Stoll, L &, Seashore Louis, K. (Eds.).(2007). Professional Learning Communities: Divergence, Depth And Dilemmas. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill


(#6) An Interdisciplinary Collaboration to Evaluate the Implementation of 3D Design and Printing Technology on Prosthetic Availability, User Value, and Commercial Viability

(#7) Collaborative research leads to 3D prosthetics prototypes

Using Social Online Networks in Teaching and Professional Development


I was (relatively) stunned when a colleague of mine showed me a photo-sharing app on their phone called ‘seesaw’ where her primary aged children’s teachers could post photos and videos of activities that they did in class, sometimes daily. Despite being immersed in digital technologies teaching at secondary level (and doing the Mindlab course), I had not actually heard of that app before. (As an aside, isn’t it interesting how the best apps seem to meet an (almost) obvious social need? I know that I would have coveted such an app when my two sons were in primary school). I can see some similar applications in both secondary classrooms (and parents) and between teachers of different schools too.

Social Networking in my Professional Practice

The main social network that I belong to and make regular contributions to is the NZ Association for Computing, Digital and Information Technology teachers.  This is a virtual necessity for keeping up with all the changes in all aspects of the job that I do particularly given the pace of change happening within schools (will the teacher-parent photo-sharing app ‘see-saw’ become mandatory in all primary and secondary school classrooms in the near future?).

I am also a member of a NZ-wide computer science Facebook group for teachers and a frequent follower of ‘Ted Talks’ on Twitter too, some of which I share in the classroom. It is hard keeping up with all of this professional dialogue though (am I making it sound too easy here?) but occasionally a nugget gets through to me that I use immediately in the classroom (as I see an immediate application).

I have not used social media in my classroom at this stage of my secondary career other than to analyse some of the statistical trends of any new app (Facebook versus Snapchat uptake for example). Keeping up with all the new apps is dizzying and I wonder how anyone makes money from so many from all the free ones available. Unsurprisingly Snapchat is beginning to be used more and more in a variety of different classrooms around the world (#1):

Since last fall, Britt has built Snapchat videos into his introductory psychology class. He takes “snaps” of real-life examples of what he’s teaching in class, and posts it to the app. He does this right before exams, so his students will look at them when they’re studying.

“The best way to learn new material is to try to personalize it to your life,” Britt says. “You know, come up with an example or attach it to some prior knowledge.”

Plus, Britt has guaranteed an audience for his effort: About 90 percent of his students look at and use his Snapchats to study, he estimates. So, it makes it easy for Britt to push a little knowledge his students’ way when they’re not in class.” (#2)

Running this BLOG is actually another way that I use a form of social media to interact with all other stakeholders beyond the students and the parents that I interact with. It’s also one that I intend to maintain as I like the fact that I can keep an online photo-orientated journal of my time in the classroom so that I can look back at any time when I (or others) want to review my body of work. In this sense I am almost using this online diary like the photo-sharing app ‘snap-chat’ used in the examples above (but with less pictures). Our lives have changed and along with that our understanding of what currently constitutes as a community:

“COMMUNITY. Social media like Facebook, Twitter, SecondLife, Webkinz,, and other Web-enabled social media forms serve to make the world a smaller place. Groups of people, large and small, are better able to interact more regularly, stay in touch, and accomplish various goals, because of these technologies. Social media technologies fostering community are democratic and inclusive. Today’s technology may be the great equalizer, producing a levelling of the playing field (Johnson 2007). Many of the web technologies we may not previously have associated with social media now have a social networking component, for example eBay, YouTube, and HowStuffWorks. In addition, these technologies may be used as a platform for creating a learning organization (Andrus 2005).”                                                                                         (#3)

Challenges of Social Media

Social media has invaded our classrooms in one form or another since its inception (sometimes surreptitiously under student desks!). The difference now is that some educators are driving this process rather than following it. The challenges of utilising social media in the classroom are many and what is needed now is the pedagogy to be able to utilise it effectively for the next generation of learners and inventors but also our future fathers, mothers, caregivers and grandparents. It’s been often said that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, the difference now being that the community of stakeholders involved is not just outside the school gates but increasingly in another locality or city. Let the final word on social media use in the classroom belongs to an academic researcher, that of Americam Jennifer Shewmaker:

“The strength of all of these (pedagogical) strategies is the convergence of highly engaged students communicating and collaborating with one another in order to produce significant learning. The encouragement of communication and collaboration through activities that meet Park’s (2011) fourth level of mobile learning not only build foundational knowledge, but also promote the self-direction needed for students to learn how to learn in the Fink model (2003).

Taken together, the use of social media as one aspect of mobile learning has increased the ability of faculty members at ACU to teach their students effectively. But in order to fully realize the benefits of social media in education, faculty members must become comfortable with the use of such technologies and be provided with a consistent level of support. The use of the inspirational, educational and just in time online faculty development activities provide faculty members with the ability to grow in their understanding of social media technologies, become confident in putting those technologies into place, and access to ongoing support as needed in order to best serve their students.” (#4)




(#3) Using Social Media Technologies to Enhance Online Learning, Friedman, Linda Weiser; Friedman, Hershey H., Journal of Educators Online, v10 n1 Jan 2013 (full text: )



Legal and Ethical Contexts in my Digital Practice

Within my professional context, my particular area of teaching is both constrained and supported  by a NZ-wide ethical code of practice which reflects standards, attitudes and obligations in my current organisation particularly with regard to:

  • Relationships with people and students
  • Relationships with the built environment
  • Relationships with the natural environment

This week, I will look at ethics and some important tools to assist ethical decision-making for teachers like me.

Ethical decision-making is challenging because teachers are often required to resolve tensions when their professional Code of Ethics is applied. The ethical principles underlying the Education Council Code of Ethics do not stand in isolation. The four principles exist in a continuing relationship of tension as illustrated in the diagram opposite:

Resolving the competing claims of different ethical principles and different interest groups is usually best achieved through reflective professional discussion where the interests of learners are regarded as being of prime concern. The process of making ethical decisions requires practice and is worthy of inclusion in both the pre-service education of teachers and their continuing professional development.” (#1)

 “Teachers hold a position of trust – teaching and nurturing young New Zealanders.  We want the Code of Professional Responsibility to honour the privilege of being a teacher and reflect the high expectations the public rightly has of us when we are entrusted with the education and care of  their children and young people. This is an opportunity to lift the status of our profession and build on its reputation as one which values the highest standards of behaviour and professionalism. Legally, the new code is required to be in place by 1 July 2017, replacing the Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers which was written in 2003.” (#2)


An ethical dilemma that teachers up and down the country face is “should I be friends with my students on Social Networks?”

I first experience this dilemma back in 2004 when I returned to secondary teaching after 6 years out of mainstream education due to the passing of my wife (I worked in alternative schools/education during this time). My immediate boss, a greatly-loved and long serving staff member at an all-girls school had the cell phone numbers of all the seniors in her hockey team. I was installed as the second XI soccer coach and briefly considered doing the same but did not. Since then the situation has been presented to me in a variety of contexts but my response has almost always been the same (in fact, in the end, I have stopped using Facebook almost completely and have not joined any other social networking sites like Snapchat or Instagram as well)

Analyzing the Ethical Issues Involved from a Student Point of View:

Harder though is what stance a school/teachers should take in dealing with the fall-out from social networking conflicts amongst students. It is now common for all schools to be dealing with digital situations that have arisen because of conduct that has taken place outside of school grounds/hours, situations that are often too difficult for school administrators to police without outside assistance. With the introduction of the ‘Harmful Digital Communications Act 2015’ police now have the legal authority to enforce situations of cyber-bullying for anyone exposed to such practices. This does change the landscape in terms of what schools might be able to do in a court of law but almost all would be extremely keen to stay away from except in extreme cases (question: what does an extreme case look like given what takes place inside teenage social networks most days).

“The law aims to strike the right balance between freedom of expression and the need to protect individuals from cyber bullying” (#3).

In any case, a District Court must not grant an application from an applicant referred to in section 11(1)(a), (b), or (c)for an order under section 18 or 19 unless it is satisfied that the breach has caused or is likely to cause harm to an individual” (#4).

‘The Harmful Digital Communications Bill’ passed in Parliament last week, making intentional cause of harm by posting a digital communication a criminal offence, punishable by up to two years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of $50,000.

The legislation passed with an overwhelming majority, with 116 votes for the bill and only five votes against. People between the ages of 14 and 16 will go through the existing youth justice system and anyone over the age of 16 will be subject to the full extent of the legislation. It will not apply to children under the age of 14”. (#5)

Some Important Tools That Assist My Ethical Decision-Making.

Often Laws or a Code will not always provide the specific answer but can be a legal ground upon which you can move towards a possible solution.

A Code of Ethics is one way an organisation can set the limits for minimum behaviours in their profession or organisation. As a registered teacher in NZ, my practice is governed by the Code Of Ethics for Certified Teachers (and will be replace by the new code by 1 July 2017)” (#6).

Re Cyber-bullying:

The social media policies within Amuri Area School and the Code of Ethics for Certificated Teachers (Education Council) are as follows:

“Never reply to a harassing message as this can escalate things;

  • Make sure only trusted friends are in the phone address book;
  • Save harassing messages and then report the incident to an adult;
  • Stop using the cell phone!


The school has a complaints policy and if you wish to lodge a complaint about some aspect of school the following procedure should be followed:

  • If the complaint is of a minor nature, see the person concerned and discuss the nature of the complaint.
  • If the issues cannot be resolved, the complaint should then be put in writing to Mrs Habgood if it is a Year 0 – 8 issue, Mrs Mossman if it is a Year 9 – 13 issue or Miss Teulon if it is a bus issue.
  • If the issue cannot be resolved by this person, the complaint should be passed on to the Principal to deal with.
  • If it is not resolved by the Principal or the complaint involves the Principal, it should be put in writing to the Board of Trustees through the Secretary or directly to the Chair.
  • If it is not resolved by the Board, the complaint can then be lodged with the Ministry of Education in Christchurch.

The Principal is also available to discuss complaints of a minor nature at any time.” (#7)

Considering how this code should be interpreted to assist me in my ethical decision-making processes, the Ethical and Professional Dilemmas for Educator: Facilitator’s Guide suggests these guiding questions when working through ethical issues:

  • “What possible issues/concerns might this scenario raise?
  • How could this situation become a violation of the law, the “Code” or other school /district policies?
  • In this situation, what are some potential negative consequences for the teacher, for the students and the school community?
  • What responses/actions will result in a more positive outcome and/or what proactive measures might be considered? “ (p.7)

Our required reading from Hall (2001) recommends another set of questions to guide the process, including:

  • Which stakeholder should be given priority? Why?
  • What restrictions are there to your actions?
  • Which courses of action are possible?
  • How should the course of action be implemented? “ (p.5)

The questions above are useful as guides and are certainly helpful for the process of making ethical decisions about my day-to-day teaching practise. They cannot be more specific (in a digital sense) simply because it is impossible to be more specific given the ever-changing nature of how teachers are required to interact with their students, parents and community. Sometimes direct text contact with a student or parent is appropriate (e.g. in a sporting/cultural group or a fundraising day etc…).

It is hoped that the new guidelines that are coming in on July 1st, 2017 (#8) will not stifle communication and collaboration between, specifically, teachers and parents at a time when this digital generation truly needs greater contact, not less. However, the problems presented through social networks and the like make this kind of contact problematic at best and in the end I effectively suspended my Facebook account so that I wasn’t presented with such ethical dilemmas.


Actually I feel that there might be some anecdotal evidence to not being wedded to our smart-phones 24/7 (#9) which does represent another problem to being constantly connected digitally to our education stakeholders.




(#3) Susan Hornsby-Geluk,


(#5) Thomas Heaton, July 5 2015,





My Critical Understanding of Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Responsiveness in my Classroom

What is culturally responsive pedagogy?

“Culturally responsive pedagogy is defined by Gay (2001, p.106) as “using the cultural characteristics, experiences and perspectives as conduits for effective teaching”. It is reflected in five elements including knowledge about cultural diversity, the culturally integrated content in the curriculum, the development of the learning community, the ability to communicate with culturally diverse students and culturally responsive delivery of instruction (Gay, 2001).

Bishop in Edtalks (2012) suggests that a teacher whose pedagogy is culturally responsive challenges the “deficit thinking” of student educability and have agentic thinking, believing that they have skills and knowledge that can help all of their students to achieve, no matter what, in this “A culturally responsive pedagogy” Edpuzzle video

My knowledge of things indigenous pertaining to secondary classrooms in this country is, admittedly, rather limited. However, I do have the advantage of having taught in and around Porirua for 23 years and I also attended a poor predominately Maori/Polynesian church in the local suburb of Cannons Creek for five years in the early 1990’s. For a middle-class Pakeha from a rather different background (i.e. white, middle class, suburban, two-parent family for my entire upbringing), this was eye-opening and often confronting as I got to experience the collision of different cultural values up close. I feel the resulting learning and self-reflection certainly changed my life in the years afterwards; I even went to the lengths of ‘hongi’-ing (at the church door) all the attendees at my wife’s funeral in 2001 (some of the reactions of my Pakeha friends are not worth mentioning here). And it was Maori and Pacific Island values that I grew increasingly attracted to in the years following my wife’s passing, with its emphasis on family and the elderly. The Pakeha way of acknowledging someone’s passing left me searching for more as the years passed and I grew increasingly attracted to the Maori ritual of Tangi. What impressed me the most was how it allowed grown men the opportunity to grieve openly, hardly surprising since my own Pakeha male culture is not renowned for its open expression of feelings.

“Cultural Intelligence

Before you can deliver a culturally responsive pedagogy, you need to know where you are at in terms of cultural intelligence. Bucher (2008) identified nine megaskills that contribute to the cultural intelligence including

  1. Understanding My Cultural Identity — Understanding how we think about ourselves as well as the people and ways of life with which we identify.
  2. Checking Cultural Lenses — Recognising the ways in which cultural backgrounds differ and how they influence thinking, behaviour and assumptions.
  3. Global Consciousness — Moving across boundaries and seeing the world from multiple perspectives.
  4. Shifting Perspectives — Putting ourselves in others’ shoes and cultures.
  5. Intercultural Communication — Exchanging ideas and feelings and creating leanings with people from diverse cultural backgrounds.
  6. Managing Cross-Cultural Conflict — Dealing with conflict among people from differing cultural backgrounds in an effective and constructive manner.
  7. Multicultural Teaming — Working with others from diverse cultural backgrounds to accomplish certain tasks.
  8. Dealing with Bias — Recognising bias in ourselves and others and responding to it effectively.
  9. Understanding the Dynamics of Power — Grasping how power and culture interrelate and the effect of power on how we see the world and relate to others.Use this Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Self-Evaluation form to self assess your cultural intelligence. This should help you identify the gaps and what you want to change in terms of cultural actions.

A Snapshot: My Cultural Responsiveness as evidenced in my Classroom:

  1. How do I plan activities and lessons to support diverse cultural backgrounds and languages?

By having appropriately targeted (in terms of academic difficulty) and scaffolded work for all students. This would necessarily involve extensive ‘unpacking’ the often off-putting technical language contained in the Achievement Standards tasks in my subject.

  1. How do I use meaningful instructions that link to the students’ prior experience/backgrounds?

Through the use of informal pre-testing and class review discussions often through the use of use of ‘SOLO’ taxonomy (Structured of Observed Learning Outcomes – see )

  1. How does my school involve parents, families and communities in supporting their students’ and the school’s activities?

Through weekly newsletters, our school website updated frequently, regular contacts with home either by email or phone (we have the advantage of being a small rural community too so the power of word-of-mouth through informal conversations cannot be underestimated)

  1. How does my school ensure its vision, mission and core values reflect cultural responsiveness?

“The student roll is affected each year by the movement in and out of the area of families working in the dairy industry. This contributes to increasing numbers of students with different cultural backgrounds attending the school.

The school’s vision of ‘nothing but the best’ is widely communicated and understood. A positive culture, based on respectful relationships, and focused on students’ learning and wellbeing, benefits all students.”

(2013 ERO report)

  1. How does my school ensure that students maintain the integrity of their own cultural values and identity?

“School leaders and teachers continue to look for innovative ways to more effectively engage students and meet their needs. Significant changes to the senior timetable structure and programmes for students in Years 7 to 10 are having a positive effect on their learning.

Given the school’s rural location, learning pathways available to students are extensive. The modified timetable allows senior students to attend a range of programmes beyond the school without missing out on other key areas of learning.

Teachers are increasingly designing tasks that build on students’ prior knowledge and engage them in meaningful learning, often closely related to their lives.

Teachers work well together to develop and share teaching practices that are most likely to provide positive outcomes for students.”

(2013 ERO report)

  1. How does my school communicate (using verbal, non-verbal or symbolic representations) and create conditions where students can express their identities regardless of their ethnic background?

“School leaders and staff are continuing to improve the way they meet the needs of Māori students and promote their success as Māori.

Some positive steps taken since the previous ERO review include:

  • increased professional learning for staff appointing a teacher to lead developments in Māori education
  • a progressive te reo Māori programme being introduced in junior classrooms in 2013 several staff members, including the principal, studying te reo Māori
  • providing an opportunity each year for the parents of Māori students to share their views and receive information about Māori student achievement.

Māori students have been surveyed to gain their views about being Māori at this school. This process also gave staff valuable information about the students’ knowledge and understanding of their Māori heritage.

The school’s kappa-haka group is well supported and performs in the school and at local events.”

(2013 ERO report)

  1. How do my school curriculum and resources reflect content from a variety of cultures and ethnic groups? How does my school use achievement information and involve families in planning, and monitoring progress and achievement?

“The school has made pleasing progress since the 2010 ERO report in using achievement information to improve students’ learning. This is most evident in:

  • the closer monitoring of the progress and achievement of senior students (Years 11 to 13)
  • the earlier responses made to senior students’ identified needs
  • the way teachers across the school are using achievement information to personalise
  • learning and provide additional individual or group support for students
  • the quality of the reports to the board about achievement and progress of all students.

The introduction of electronic portfolios is helping students set specific learning goals, monitor progress and share achievement information with parents.

Levels of student engagement, identified in student evaluations of teaching programmes and other surveys, are mostly very good.

Contact with parents, for sharing student successes or discussing areas where more support may be needed, is regular and timely.

There was significant improvement in senior student achievement in all levels of the National Certificates for Educational Achievement (NCEA) in 2012 compared to previous years.

Most students in Years 1 to 8 achieve well in reading, writing and mathematics in relation to the National Standards. However, the progress made in writing in 2012 was less than expected. This has appropriately been chosen as an area for further development through targeted programmes in 2013.

Student achievement after the first two years at school shows that good progress has been made in reading and writing.

Most Māori students, across the school, achieve well. In 2012, Māori students as a group, in

Years 1 to 8, achieved better than other groups of students in writing and reading.”

(2013 ERO report)

(Questions adapted from from Te Toi Tupu’s (n.d.) resource, “Pasifika: Participation, Engagement, Achievement tool”)



Analysing the Use of Digital Technologies beyond my 2017 Classroom

Issue: The challenge of fostering deep learning in our classrooms using digital technologies while people are saying that all knowledge can now be googled.

We are being told by the experts (and more often than in the past) to expect change and to expect it at an exponential pace due to the increasing impact of digital technologies on lives in both developed and developing countries (*1). This is putting real pressure on most teachers to adapt our teaching to this “exponential” rate of change but in our rush to embrace digital technologies (and by implication, student-centred learning pedagogies like ‘blended’ learning or ‘flipped’ learning) we seem to have forgotten that our students also need to have memorised – facts! Put in SOLO taxonomy terms it simply would not be possible to reach the level of extended abstract (i.e. deep thinking) without having gone through the multi-structural level (*2).

The belief that a digital device somehow makes a child more intelligent has been successfully challenged by many researchers in recent times (*3) but many lay-people still insist that it does. How then to successfully encourage the deep learning required in today’s modern world (particularly with so many ‘white-collar’ jobs on the verge of becoming automated that previously needed a university degree – e.g. accountancy (*4))

Locally and Nationally

The rise and rise of Mindlab has met this growing need for teachers at all levels to receive more training with digital tools and collaborative approaches. The founder of the group, New Zealander Ms Frances Valintine, established the 6-month “Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning)”. It was launched in Auckland in October 2013 (*5) which myself and almost 1000 other NZ teachers have completed to date (*6).  Ms Valintine states that “that if 15 per cent of NZ teachers are taught to implement digital learning, it can bring about transformative change in industry” (the aim is about 10 000 teachers completing (the course) over the next 5 years).

Here in New Zealand successful (and complementary) teaching and learning websites teaching for computer science have been set up by both Dr Tim Bell (and his post graduate tutors) at Canterbury University ( Waikato-based internet educational ‘entrepreneur’ Michael Walmsley has also set up a portal called  as ‘code-avengers’ ( which performs a similar function (i.e. delivering computer science and discrete structured coding lessons to students of any and all ages. As at 2016 this business employed 15 to create and deliver the increasingly wide variety of programs encompassing python, HTML/CSS, Javascript and even game development.


Similar such initiatives have seen the creation of similar such websites by other developed countries around the world but there are also similar moves afoot in many to develop such programs as many have already embraced coding as a compulsory subject from the age of five, most recently in the UK.” (*7). Online learning portals such as and, both started in the USA, are having an effect worldwide including in my rural classroom in a school of 300, only 90 of whom are students aged 13 or more (years 9 to 13).

In conclusion, it can be said that educators around the world are engaging more and more effectively with the explosion of digital technologies in teaching. The only cautionary note to be sounded is that: “The average Kiwi teacher is a woman in her early fifties. She’s facing a generation of kids she wasn’t trained to teach who have grown up with Wi-Fi, the cloud and hand-held technology.” (*8)

This important group will therefore be retiring in the next 10 to 15 years so importance must be placed on training the training of tomorrow through institutions like New Zealand’s Mindlab.


(*1) Digital transformation: Are you ready for exponential change? Futurist Gerd Leonhard, TFAStudios

(*2) Learning Strategies: a Synthesis and Conceptual Model, John A C Hattie & Gregory M Donoghue, 10 August 2016

(*3) Is Technology Making Us Stupid (and Smarter)? Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic Ph.D,

(*4) The Future of The Accounting Industry In 2015, Russ Alan Prince, Forbes Magazine, 21st January 2015.





Professional Environment and Supports for my Digi-Tech Teaching


Organisational Culture:

Teaching staff are divided into two syndicates, Primary and Secondary, and these are overseen by an Assistant Principal and Deputy Principal respectively with overall governance across both accorded by the Principal.

One aspect of the organisation (that was only recently introduced by the Principal about 2 years ago) that has noticeably contributed to the positive environment of the school is a reward system for all students (both primary and secondary) using cards given out and accumulated like tokens. These ‘ASPIRE’ cards (known as ‘STRIVES’) have the words printed on them that are based around our school values and mission (

The ‘ASPIRE’ acronym means AMURI, Self-Discipline, Pride, Integrity, Respect and Excellence.

So all teachers have the ability to reward any positive student behaviours – not just academic – across a wide spectrum around the school at any time for any age level. Such is the success of the scheme that even Year 13’s value the scheme and react positively when they receive such tokens. Hence, I feel that this has had a real system has had a real impact across both schools and lifted the positive feelings of both students and teachers involved. As we all tend to learn in life, little things can mean a lot and I feel that such a system of tokens would serve well at almost any other educational institution.

It worth noting here that the school runs a ‘vertical’ form system where all students from year 7 upwards are mixed together with students from other levels. In my opinion, this makes any pastoral work so much more achievable across the school (remember that it’s both primary and secondary at the one location) and also provides more opportunities for regular contact between student leaders and the other students compared to a horizontal system.

My Professional Environments include

  • include membership to my secondary subject association ‘NZACDITT’, NZ Association for Computing, Digital and Information Technology Teachers. This is an important association to me and indeed, I doubt whether I would be able to function properly as a Digital Technology teacher without the support and information that I get through this online portal. I would refer to this community of around 150 teachers several times a day by email and would confer with individuals within it many times pr week. It would be impossible for me to carry out my job technically correctly if I did not not have access to this many-layered resource-bank of current NZ secondary practitioners, many of whom are experts in their field.
  • The use of SOLO (Structure of Observed Learning Outcomes) taxonomy across both schools to deliver learning gives the staff a common goal regardless of their subject or level of teaching. (A ‘taxonomy’ is any kind of ordered classification system and there are a variety used in education to classify learners). This school-wide approach give a shared structure for classroom instructional outcomes and provides greater collegiality through the opportunity to speak the same teaching ‘language’ regardless of age level taught.

{SOLO provides a simple, reliable and systematically hierarchical way of describing how a learner’s performance grows in complexity when mastering any academic task (Biggs 1999). By describing gains in the structural complexity of a learning outcome as the student learns, it provides both a structure and a process for learning.” (Hook, 2016, [8])}

  • The increasing use of digital technologies (both hardware and software) across both schools to deliver learning and increase student engagement. This also gives the staff another shared goal and many common experiences (and occasionally frustrations!) regardless of their subject or level of teaching. Digital technologies are essential as, when correctly used, they have been shown to produce better student outcomes, more in keeping with what is happening in the classrooms around the developed world. There are six stages in the adoption of digital technologies (as identified by Knezek and Christensen, Computers in New Zealand Schools, Nov 1999) and students are increasingly gaining a sense of confidence in using digital technologies for specific tasks.

Socio-Economic Background to my School:

Decile rating = 8 (*1)

“Socio-economic decile (also known as Socio-economic decile band or simply decile) is a widely used measure of socioeconomic status in New Zealand education, primarily used to target funding and support to more needy schools. A school’s socio-economic decile is recalculated by the Ministry of Education every five years, after each Census of Population and Dwellings using data collected during the census.” (*1)

The other statistics behind my school are:

School type: Composite Year 1 to 15

School roll: 300 approximately

Gender composition: Boys 55%; Girls 45%

Ethnic composition:          New Zealand European/Pākehā 79%;

Māori and Pacific: 12%;

Asian: 3%;

Other: 6%

The student roll is affected each year by the movement in and out of the area of families working in the dairy industry, which contributes to increasing numbers of students with different cultural backgrounds attending the school.

(*1) (for an explanation of decile meaning see: )