Sunday, June 26, 2016

Professional Interdisciplinary Connections

A snapshot of the busy life of a school leader!
Via Coggle 

As I was putting together the Coggle brainstorm of my interdisciplinary connections above, I confess I stopped 'mind dumping' once the page started to get super busy, figuring the reader would 'get the picture'.  It is quite tiring to look at that dump of information above and know there are parts of my day as a leader missing and it is merely a snap shot of the important disciplines that impact on my day.  On a positive note, much of it links and interweaves together.  In this respect, the various areas I juggle as a leader, and the interconnection of the curriculum for teachers, is not that dissimilar.  

As a classroom teacher, I taught in an integrative manner - and when I see negotiated and personalised classrooms now, as it seems the push for Innovative Learning Environments (ILEs) has made it 'popular', I am reminded of the way my own classroom ran.  Tapping into my students interests, facilitating in-depth discussions and guiding inquiry (Mathieson, S. & Freeman, M. 1977) whilst integrating curriculum seemed like a logical way to manage workload and capitalise on the motivation of my students.   As a teacher, I never ran a structured, 'traditional' classroom - I always felt that if that approach 'bored' me, then what on earth was it doing to my students.  This kind of programme relies heavily on student voice, choice and agency.  I am a strong supporter of this kind of classroom, because I know first hand what the benefits are, and over a number of year, found work arounds for the issues that might arise.  Concerns such as 'watering down curriculum areas' whilst valid, were overcome with good planning and an in-depth knowledge of the New Zealand Curriculum (NZC)!  I made sure I had systems in place to ensure I had not just coverage, but depth of learning, and assessment strategies that uncovered areas of weakness.  

It would be fair to say that, as a leader, my teaching methodology has had a strong influence on my leadership.  To be integrative, you need to be a 'big picture' person.  This is helpful as a leader, as it allows me to be able to see how all the threads of the National Administrative Guidelines  (NAGs) - including Curriculum, Personnel, Finance, Property, Self Review and Health and Safety weave together to form the cloak that is education.   I was particularly struck with the idea of how innovation happens though 'mashups' and 'remixing' (Wiley, D. 2001), and being an 'idea match maker', because a big part of my job as leader is either finding new ways to rehash an existing structure or supporting others to find new pathways.  I was the same as a classroom teacher.  It is the fusion of disciplines that present teachers and leaders with opportunities - assuming we are brave enough to look at and observe them.  

Two Potential Connections:

On the left of my map there is a green 'stem' that highlights two potential connections.  One is a professional development need I have identified for myself and the other is a 'next step'  for our school.  

1. My Masters

Doing the postgrad work with Mindlab has been fabulous.  I see it as my next step to complete my Masters.  Doing this is interdisciplinary because it will impact on all that I do - professionally and personally.  The area I want to work on is Coaching, in particular how it might facilitate and support Communities of Learning and collaboration with teachers.  Working on this will cross over into all aspects of the map above, from Curriculum to leadership development.  The benefits of that will be significant because it has the ability to help me innovate systems and structures, the data I uncover will be useful in that it will help with progressing our schools journey with coaching forward (Wiley, D, 2001).   To have the mandate to focus on an area that I am passionate about has the additional benefit of keeping me engaged!  The biggest challenge will be fitting it into an already packed schedule (If we just look at this week alone, I am facing at least 12 -14 hour days each day, onsite - and it does not count the time I will devote to Mindlab, Family or the things I do for school outside 'onsite' time.  It is not a complaint, but it is something to be wary of.   

2.  ILE (Innovative Learning Environments) 

This is another BIG goal that will sit across all aspects of the mind map above.  Working with a team to design what an ILE looks like at our place is a highly collaborative process that will impact all areas of our school and my work.  Already, we have teachers who are innovating and exploring areas of innovative practice within their single cell settings.  IT is timely to now look at what a physical change might look like.  There are considerations for everyone to everything from budgets, property, Curriculum, staffing and leadership to Governance, self review and community engagement.  One of the concerns is making sure that everyone is on board, and communication is high level, and that we have a place for all voices.  Most importantly that we action the voice so that the process is not only collaborative but transformative.  There would be little point of progressing with this if all that resulted was a change in building but the pedagogy didn't match!  The benefits of setting up a collaborative ILE with a committed and interested team is that we will be exploring interdisciplinary learning within an authentic context, which will foster critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and strengthen communication skills  (Lacoe Edu, 2014) - all skills that teachers will also transfer to model and use within the classroom teaching environment.  

Finally, seeing ones teaching, learning and/or leadership through a interdisciplinary lens is a perfect way to navigate the magnitude of the NZC and the NAGs.  More importantly, to be an interdisciplinary teacher/leader means you can customise and personalise (Wiley, D. 2001) the educational journey for not only your own professional development but the learning experience for your students.   This in turn has the potential to ease workload issues, grow innovation in education in an organic way and really meet the needs of our students in ways that engage and provide them with ownership.  The reality is, our world is interdisciplinary - very little that we do is isolated or not connected to something else, so why would we teach or lead in a compartmentalised, segregated way?  

Let the fusion begin! 

 Jones, C.(2009). Interdisciplinary approach - Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI, 7(26), 76-81. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education (2016).  National Administration Guidelines (NAGs). Retrieved from:

Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from This review of literature of interdisciplinary studies can help you explore more about the interdisciplinary approach used by teachers in their class.

Source: TEDx Talks (2001, April 6). TEDxBYU - David Wiley - An Interdisciplinary Path to Innovation. [video file].Retrieved from

Source: Lacoe Edu (2014, Oct 24) Interdisciplinary Learning [video file]. Retrieved from

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Social Media - A Connected Educators Utopia

I am a fairly prolific user of social media.  I am an active twitter user, involved in a number of online forums and a member of a number of professional groups that interact on Facebook.  My online professional community one of my main methods of professional sanity and in addition, it helps me keep up to date with what is happening both here and offshore.  I am pretty confident that without it, I would be somewhat stuck in the equivalence of the educational ‘dark ages’. 

Key benefits of social media that are beneficial to teaching and learning?
Which social media platform bests supports my engagement in Professional Development? Why?

Being connected allows me to expand my skill base, access peers and like minds from all over the globe, keep up to date and relevant on all matters pertaining to education and most importantly, help me understand the power of the collective!

I find it fascinating how many educators and leaders are still disengaged with connecting via social media.   I have had people tell me they 'don’t have time for that kind of carry on’, but I would ask, do you have the time to not be engaged?   The tsunami of resources and the access to people who can enhance your teaching and leadership perspectives make the small investment of time well worth the effort.   I know that my involvement assists in keeping me relevant – there is so much that is happening across the world that I am unsure how I would ever be able to keep on top of it all without access to the huge resource bank that is the global educators network!   It does not matter what time of the day, or night, it might be – you can find out information, access resources or be connected to another leader or teacher from somewhere in the world within moments.  Most importantly, you can follow areas you are passionate about (regular readers of my blog will know that Coaching is the thing that sings to me) and connect with ‘gurus’ that you would not normally have access to.  Some of the best professional development I have been involved in has been during a twitter chat where the guest is one of my educational ‘heroes’.  To be able to seek advice and guidance from these stalwarts of the industry makes my professional skill base grow and I believe has to be of great benefit to my school. 

But more than that, social media gives me an opportunity to give back to the profession.  For all that I gain benefit, I would like to think that I do more than just ‘take’, but professionally give back.  When I support the #BFC630NZ crew each week, my hosting of the Tuesday morning slot allows me to give back to all the professionals that give their time to participate and share their expertise, by sharing my own expertise with the group.   It is such a rich source of teacher voice, and hearing perspectives of teachers from across the country (and often from other countries) also assists me in making things better within my own school.  I felt the same way when the #ldrchatnz chat was born earlier this year – seeing it as an opportunity to not only connect with other leaders across the country (and offshore) but to help set it up and host.  

I have received so much professionally, and made so many amazing connections from the social networks I have, giving back seemed the appropriate and professional thing, to do. 

My ‘go to’ is twitter.  I find it is a personalized (Melhuish, K. 2013)
backdrop to improving my own professional development.  I sometimes wonder what my teaching would have been like if I had been able to connect globally with the profession ‘back in the dark ages’ when I was teaching.   At the time I felt quite a ‘lone nut’, doing things in my classroom that would be considered innovative by todays standards, let alone then! To have been able to have ‘cross contaminated’ my thinking with real live teachers who were doing the same things across the world would have been amazing – and who knows what kinds of opportunities might have fallen out of that! 

I have always been an early adopter of educational innovation because it fascinates me, especially tech based,  and even now, as a leader, I see things and imagine how it might play out in the classroom.   Mindlab has been such an amazing opportunity for me – a real chance to take the time to ‘play’, ‘wonder’ and ‘experiment’ – in my busy world it is a privilege!  It is a real case of ‘you can take the teacher out of the classroom but you can not – not ever – take the teacher out of the leader’.    

Twitter allows me a chance to see, hear and interact with educators who are doing amazing things across the world.  I get to experience and understand the contexts of many classrooms and leadership situations, and most importantly, I get to connect with other ‘lone nuts’.  The world is less professionally isolating – instead, it is a rich tapestry of ideas, wonderings and out side the box happenings!   It is, in many respects, the equivalent of my adult sandbox!  

When I connect with others, I connect with a purpose in mind, something that makes my connection more than just a social opportunity and more of a learning one Silius, K., Miilumäki, T., Huhtamäki, J., Tebest, T., Meriläinen, J. & Pohjolainen, S.(2010).

Finally, social media is an opportunity to be embraced, not another ‘thing’ to do!  The benefits are immense.  For me, the ability to garner ideas from others and seek feedback on initiatives, and the way others from a wide range of contexts within education can challenge, contextualize and add value to my thinking are hugely beneficial - for both myself and my school.  

SO, why wouldn’t you!

Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrived on 05 May, 2015 from
Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2013). Social media for teaching and learning. Retrieved from,0

Silius, K., Miilumäki, T., Huhtamäki, J., Tebest, T., Meriläinen, J. & Pohjolainen, S.(2010). Students’ motivations for social media enhanced studying and learning. Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal, 2(1), 54-67. Retrieved from

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Influence of Law and Ethics - A Cautionary Tale


Tweet, like, comment, share, follow, unfollow, hang out, Skype, snap, chat, trend, connect, upload, download, instagram, pin, activate, login, create, consume, poke, hashtag, emoji, share, post, notify, message and code.  

The above is just a small list of ways to interact with social media, which, as I type, is more than likely adapting, morphing and evolving faster than I can keep abreast of what the benefits and pitfalls, might be.  The potential for teaching and learning in this digital environment is endless.  However, with this great potential also comes great risk.  

Over the last few years, my colleagues in schools around the country (and offshore) have encountered numerous scenarios, just with Facebook and Youtube alone, that have had the potential to turn pear shape.  Incidents from; cyber bullying, underage accounts (and subsequent inappropriate 'friends' that raise concerns around child protection), parental 'rants' that go viral and bring a schools reputation into question, and videos uploaded that show slanted and edited situations, oftentimes without permission from the participants, to name a few.   

As a leader, the responsibility for mitigating these risks predominately falls on my shoulders.  

One of the risks that concerns me the most is the harm caused by comments made on social media sites like Facebook, and videos which are uploaded onto Youtube without schools and teachers being aware.  It is an area I have explored on this blog before, in my post 'Social Media and The Dark Side', after a particular video went viral of a school bullying incident, at the end of last year.  It hit international headlines and caused no end of grief for the school and pupils concerned.  At the time, another colleague was facing a nasty Facebook post that was inciting unrest within their community.  In both situations, only partial stories were evident, and people were jumping to all sorts of inappropriate conclusions.  In that post I remarked;

Sometimes social media is a device used to harm and sometimes an uninformed post written in haste or anger, or a small snippet of video without the context included, has the ability to inflame, incite and go viral.  The unintended consequences can go from ripple to tidal wave in a short time. 

In that post, I outlined eight things to consider before posting on social media, and I concluded that it was timely to work with our communities to 'consider their online footprint and etiquette' (Thompson, 2015).  The reason I wrote that post in the first place was because it really struck me that, there but for the good graces of the Universe go any of our schools.  At any time, any one of us could be undergoing a PR nightmare caused by a rogue social media post.  It made me reflect on my own practice, and given we were about to undertake a BYOD trail soon, look closely at our systems for risk mitigation. In addition, the new Health and Safety laws were coming close to implementation, including the Vulnerable Children Act. 

The more I discuss issues with colleagues and read about them in the media, the more I notice that they share a number of commonalities.  

  • They are often posted to social media platforms that are hosted offshore, ones not governed by New Zealand law, making removal of inappropriate content by schools problematic (Ministry of Education, 2015.)
  • It can catch the school unaware 
  • If can divide a community 
  • It is stressful and time-consuming for the leadership to manage 
  • The backlash is unpredictable and can be dangerous, as was highlighted in the case with the viral school bullying video, where students were subjected to death threats (NZ Herald, 2015) 
  • They can go viral faster than you can say 'Netsafe'!  

We are fortunate in New Zealand in that we have access to a large number of resources that we can utilise to assist us when we are faced with situations where we need to address any issues that may occur.  The Ministry of Education, Netsafe and the Education Council all have a myriad of resources schools can use to ensure they have the policies, procedures and professional development in place to mitigate risk for their students, staff and community.  These are important tools to use in order to navigate the ethical and legal risks that may arise should an issue impact on the wellbeing of a school.

Whilst a procedure or policy is not a fool proof guarantee, the old adage by Benjamin Franklin, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail", applies, even though it was written well over two centuries ago!  As a leader, my first port of call is to work towards prevention of an issue, however, should a situation like the above arise, then I would rely on the policies, procedures and resources at my disposal.  

Tools of mass distraction, black holes of despair or avenues of great potential? 

I am of the opinion that it is a mix of all three and as educators it is our professional responsibility to ensure that we understand the implications distraction, despair and potential has within our practice.  As teachers, leaders and implementers, we need to keep abreast of both the potentials and pitfalls, ensuring we have the tools, policies and procedures we need to keep our students, staff and community safe.  


Connecticut’s Teacher Education and Mentoring Program.(2012). Ethical and Professional Dilemmas for Educator: Facilitator’s Guide. Retrieved from 

Education Council. (2016) Teachers and Social Media, links. Retrieved from

Educational Gazette. (2016)  NetSafe: Changing times, shifting perceptions. Retrieved from

Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper present at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from

Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of Teaching with Social Media. Paper presented at the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014, Adelaide, SA. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2015). Digital technology- Safe and responsible use in school. Retrieved from

NZ Herald. (2015)  Principal responds after students suffer cyber backlash.  Retrieved from

Thompson, S. (2015).  Social Media and the Dark Side. Retrieved from


Sunday, June 5, 2016

Cultural Responsiveness and Self Review

This post is quite timely. 

We are currently undergoing an in-depth review of all things bicultural at our place right now.   A systematic, no stone left uncovered, review of all that we do, how we do it and how effective our ‘doing’ is.  

By knowing what we do well, we can strengthen this and learn from our successes.  By knowing what areas we need to strengthen, we can ensure our resources and professional development is strategically aligned to improvement and the areas of most need.  

Professor Russell Bishop outlines how ‘agentic’ teachers are ones that are well supported
(Edtalks, 2012) to make a difference for our tamariki, and this self-review will give us solid evidence to help us best target support.   In addition, it will give us a good evidenced based insight into how culturally competent we are as a school, and how effective we are at pulling together what we know about the students and our community, and how that translates into what we do.  In effect, will find out how culturally competent we are!

As we undergo this review, we will look at what we can see (the visible) and what is less obvious (the invisible).  We will look at what impact this has on our students and our community (Savagea, Hindleb, Meyerc, Hyndsa, Penetitob, Sleeterd. 2011).   It will involve both quantitative and qualitative data, because student achievement data means little without the voice and stories that sit behind it.  It is not just our knowledge that we need to value but the knowledge of our community, as we place ourselves into the learners seat (Cowie, Otrel-Cass, Glynn, Kara, et al. 2011).   It is also an opportunity to check to see if our ‘walk meets the talk’ as we delve into the layers of policy, curriculum and Charter documents.

We expect some of what we discover to be reaffirming based on some of the review we have conducted already, and we are prepared for uncovering new things to assist us on our journey.  It is early days in the review, but so far the data garnered from staff voice and a recent Whanau Hui have shown encouraging signs of cohesion and a shared vision for our students.   Student achievement data shows our Maori students to be achieving at similar rates to other students and often at levels higher than comparable situations.  Most importantly, it shows ongoing improvement.  However, it still remains an area of acceleration, especially in Writing. 

We will have a new Board of Trustees soon, and one of our first tasks will be to work our way through the Maori self-review tool on cultural responsiveness, Hautu.  It is a good tool that works in conjunction with the Ministry of Educations Ka Hikitia strategy.  Given that the majority of the Board is anticipated to be new, or fairly newish, working through this tool will provide the Board with support in how to ensure they are enacting the intent of Ka Hikitia and ultimately being accountable for the success of our Maori students. 

As previously mentioned, this post is timely.  Being able to articulate what cultural responsiveness and competency looks like for us has always been a little elusive.  In part, it is because inclusivity is something that just ‘is’ at our place, much like the blood that pumps through our bodies.   However, this does not mean that we do not have much to learn from our community or from others.  This review will allow us to see what our strengths are, identify areas for improvement and ultimately, allow us to continue to strengthen progress and achievement for our students.  


Bishop, R, Berryman, M., Cavanagh, T. & Teddy, L. (2009). Te Kotahitanga: Addressing educational disparities facing Māori students in New Zealand. Teaching and Teacher Education, 25(5)734–742.
Findsen, B. (2012). Older adult learning in Aotearoa New Zealand: Structure, trends and issues. Presented at Adult Community Education (ACE) Conference.
Gay, G. (2002). Preparing for culturally responsive teaching. Journal of Teacher Education, 53(2),106-116.

Ministry of Education, 2013.  The Maori Education Strategy: Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013 – 2017.  Retrieved from

NZSTA, 2015.  Hautu – Maori cultural responsiveness self review tool for boards of trustees. Retrieved from

Shaw, S., White, W. & Deed, B. (2013) (Ed.). Health, wellbeing and environment in Aotearoa New Zealand.South Melbourne, Australia:Oxford University Press.