Posted in 05. Design for learning, Professional development, Uncategorized

English Department Professional Development session

At our school we have professional development sessions every second Wednesday morning. Our head of department, Meryl Howell, requested that we each take a session and in this way draw on each others’ strengths and skills. It is a wonderful idea to collaborate in this way, but also quite scary to present to those closest to you in your professional capacity. I’m pleased to say that once I got over the initial nerves, they were a very welcoming audience.

I had recently returned from the Apple Distinguished Educators’ Institute in Berlin so I was brimming with ideas. I kicked the session off some sketchnoting using the app Procreate. Karen Bosch (@karlyb) did a spotlight session on sketch noting and this is a great tool for mind mapping. I like to draw and write as I plan or listen to ideas, as do many students. So this is an app I’d recommend.

Next we looked at Don Goble’s spotlight session where he took Hemingway’s six word story and extended it to a six unique shots film. His students’ work is fantastic and it is wonderful to use as exemplars. I have included some of the resources I got and adapted from Don Goble at the end of this post. (@dgoble2001)

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Image from @dgoble2001

This lesson could be taken a number of ways.

  1. You could first look at Hemingway’s story on a creative writing level. How many interpretations have been suggested for the story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
  2. Next you could look at newspaper headlines where they very often are made up of six words. Since this session I find myself counting the number of words in headlines and invariably come away with the answer six. Those media stories could be a lesson in and of themselves.
  3. Then we spoke about getting students to write six word stories and story board these. The aim is to create a film with only six shots. So each shot has to be powerful to tell the full story.

As a group we decided that this would work with our year 10 students. I will post examples of my students’ projects next term.

Here is a link to the powerpoint I used: 6-word-story


Posted in 05. Design for learning, Professional development

Lifelong Learners

The New Zealand curriculum states as one of its visions that we want our students to be lifelong learners. What about our teachers? Are we modeling ourselves as lifelong learners?

I’ve been speaking to a number of my colleagues and the answer for many is yes. Take my one colleague who, when faced by a year 13 class who seemed reluctant to prepare for their speech, prepared her own speech. She researched her topic and applied the speech techniques. And so the teacher was the first to present her speech, modeling what she expected from her students. Another colleague has joined a band and has undertaken to learn a new instrument. He is, how should I put it, not a spring chicken. (He’s only a few years my senior, but then again, I’m no spring chicken either.) And then of course we have a number of staff doing post graduate papers. I’m happy to say I’ve signed up to do MindLab, based on the recommendation from my colleagues.

As an English teacher I find that, prior to introducing formal writing, I model what I expect from my students by writing an article. I submit my work to Fractus Learning which is an educational blog. Once it has been published, I share it with my students. Besides the idea of modeling what I expect from them, more often than not the subject of my article is my students. So it’s good for them to read about my reflections on what they’ve done and what I’ve learnt from them.

Link to my article here


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So this is a link to my article. My hope is that, through sharing this sort of article with my students, they will see that I am still reflecting on my practice and learning. And for some at least,  instill a love of lifelong learning in them.



Posted in 02. Professional learning, Professional development

LoopEd conference in Wellington 

I felt pleased to be invited to Wellington to present a session on blogging for students and teacher registration. I divided the session into the following sub sections:

  1. Why publish work to a blog when you are using Google Classroom
  2. The three way split between students, teachers and parents when work is showcased on a blog
  3. How blogs can vary across the year levels
  4. Examples of student blogs
  5. Teachers’ blogs for TAI and Teacher Registration
  6. We looked at the conference theme: Connection. Collaboration. Courage.


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So this is what we discussed:

  1. If blogs are used wisely with categories for posts, students will create wonderful digital portfolios. This will make it easy to refer back to published work. Having an authentic audience does mean that students need to proofread very carefully. This differs vastly from the stream of tasks in Google Classroom, useful in itself. But different.
  2. Blogs provide a link between teachers, students and parents. This is one of the big  bonuses to using  a combination of Google Classroom and blogs.
  3. The way we use blogs can vary across year levels. Middle school students can be encouraged to blog about topics that interest them. Media rich posts are very convenient as students can post video and photos directly from their camera roll. Publishing to YouTube is not necessary. NCEA students can be more selective, choosing to password protect certain blog posts. TurnItIn is used to check for authenticity.
  4. We looked at the differences between the genders with regard to their blogs.
  5. We spent some time looking at teachers’ blogs. We looked at TAI and Bundles of Evidence. We also looked at the 12 criteria for teacher registration. We spoke about blog-able moments and what evidence could look like. We also spoke about professional readings and reflection to improve practise.
  6. Finally we looked at the conference theme: Connection. This would be following and reading each others’ blogs. I suggested that teachers look at Twitter to develop their PLG. Collaboration. This could develop across schools, across the country and globally. Courage. We finished with this. It does take courage to encourage students to blog as some teachers do not feel fully confident with the process. Teachers also need to be courageous to put their reflections “out there.” But taking the first step is the best way to move forward. Have faith in students as they are the ones that trouble shoot and figure things out. You then end up with a couple of experts in the room.


Wellington did not disappoint, dishing up some glorious weather for us to enjoy after a well-run conference.

Posted in 02. Professional learning, Professional development

Teaching a thesis statement

Written text Essay

For our morning PD Gavin went over the best way to teach a thesis statement for written text essays. The main point he made for level 3 was that students should not feel afraid to disagree with the statement provided in the exam. They can also partially agree with the statement. But whichever stance they choose, they should spend a good amount of time planning so that they are clear on where they stand. The powerpoint he provided gave clear steps to take for classes ranging from year 9 right through to level 3.

Posted in Collaborative, inclusive, supportive environment, Professional development

Wellbeing in Schools

Wellbeing equals intelligent selfishness that is sustainable

In the holidays I was fortunate to attend a Wellbeing in Schools conference along with my fellow deans and senior manager. As so often with these events, it’s the small talk where you learn the most. Having said that, I did come way with some gems of information. Not that it was anything new. Rather a timely reminder to be kind to yourself and those around you. So ten things I took away with me:

1. Drink lots of water. You see every last student carrying a water bottle, but how often does the teacher get to midday and suddenly realize: “I’m parched!”

2. Do shoulder rolls with your students. Man, after sitting listening to lessons for three days, I realised why students love flexible learning spaces! Get up and move during lessons, and allow students to do the same.

3. Be aware of your students’ FLOW: the balance between skills and challenge. If the challenge outweighs the skill and becomes overwhelming, you’ve lost them.

4. Surround yourself with people that are on the same mission as you. Enough said.

5. When people smile, they learn more. Imagine how much they’ll learn if they laugh!

6. Be resilient without burning out.

7. Career wellbeing: what gets you up in the morning?

8. Forget work-life balance. Strive rather for work-life integration.

9. Health is not just the absence of disease, but a state of well being.

10. Wellbeing equals intelligent selfishness that is sustainable.

Posted in 03. Professional relationships, Professional development

ADE 2015 Institute Revealed

ADE Class of 2015

My friend Chris Wells, who also happens to be a collegue, and I were fortunate enough to be accepted as Apple Distinguished Educators, class of 2015. This meant that we could go to the institute in Singapore and these are my observations. The professional development and personal growth we experienced was priceless. The following video is a 5 minute snap shot of our experiences.




Each morning we began with stories from teachers from across a number of Asia Pacific countries. Inspiring stories which were linked by a common theme: it’s about having a passion for teaching, regardless of age or nationality. Teachers from a variety of backgrounds are flipping their lessons with incredible results and increased engagement. Blogging is the norm for both students and teachers. Multi touch, interactive books find students investigating and thinking for themselves. And a common thread was that teachers really have to have a growth mindset.  A teacher from Japan said that school should not be viewed as a place where only the students learn. Teachers need time to learn too, emphasising the need for professional development. Another teacher quoted Mike Tyson when describing teaching in a connected classroom. He said:

Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face: be prepared to adapt.


Bill Frakes

You might or might not recognise the name, but a quick Google search of Bill Frakes’ photography will probably show that you recognise his work. He is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer and we were fortunate to have a master class with him. Yes he has all the equipment to take some stunning images, but he also said that a smart phone and an app like Snapseed can yield some wonderful images. His view on taking good photos:

Take a slow walk with your eyes wide open and your heart engaged.

What struck me about him was his passion for his profession and his humility. He has spent time with and taken photos of heads of counties, the pope, and me. It must have taken him hours to take photos of the entire class of 2015. But he seemed to take time and care with each one of us. 

Image courtesy of

On what motivates him he said:

I’m focused. I have a voice and I need to use it.


The developers of both these amazing apps took to the stage and they did a work flow type demonstration creating a movie and accompanying music in real time. It made me think that I never want to resort to using theme music again. And certainly encourage my students to dig into their creative sides to create their own brand of music. 


The next highlight for me was the lessons on design in learning, and by that I mean the resources that we and the students create. The message was that our resources should be clear, crisp and clean in order to create interest. In the words of Einstein: Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.

We have been encouraged to stay connected with our fellow ADEs. We are all also in the process of creating  an iBook or iTunes U course based on our ‘One Best Thing.’ I think it’s a great way to share resources with a global network of hardworking and passionate teachers. So to sum up, the experience was uplifting and inspiring. I firmly believe that we are moving in the right educational direction.


Posted in 02. Professional learning, Professional development

Fun and laughter as we learn: Term 2 PD at OC

We have had a productive time in our PD sessions this term. The greatest value I have found is in the cross curricular discussions. We have shared and collaborated and had fun along the way. Our focus has been on:

1. Blogging. This is used by our students and our teachers. The gem is that you can add video directly from your camera roll, cutting out YouTube. We also looked at easy ways to embed presentations

2. We looked at Explain Everything and the multitude of ways to use this brilliant app 

3. My colleague Christine Wells helped teachers to develop a matrix to give students ownership of their learning path

4. Another colleague Korrina Kracknell helped us with Kamar and the powerful tools which help with data analysis 

5. Pearl Trees, Kahoots, Avatars, Talking Avatars and Video Star have featured strongly as possible apps or websites to enhance student work and engagement, as well as enjoyment

I include the following short video as a note to self to always allow students to learn through laughter. We all had a good laugh, and then my class started adding their own Video Star to the adverts they are creating. 

Posted in 02. Professional learning, Professional development

Excited to share my published article with my students

Teachers Step Off Their Stage

I’m looking forward to sharing my published article with my students. Showing them that blog posts are not just school based projects. Blogs are recognized by the ‘real world’ My third published article was sent through WordPress, published by an Australian editor living in Ireland. If that doesn’t make us globally connected, what does? Blogs rock!