Making your own Learning – The 4 stages

This is something that I am sure that a lot of people are already know or are coming to the realisation of… as learners we need to take control of our own learning and not just wait for it come and find us. I would be a rich teacher if I had a dollar for every time I heard a teacher complain or state ‘That was irrelevant for me’ about school provided PD, and sometimes they are right, but if you ask them ‘Do you take time to learn things that are important to you and your teaching?’ they often look at you as if you are mad.

I have split personalising your learning into four categories based on my experiences and what I have observed (not very scientific, but hey does it matter ūüôā )

This is that thing we all do, often mid discussion when nobody remembers that name of the drummer of an 80s band or who was the director of ##### or any other obscure question that we need to know instantly… Google it. Although, most of my questions at work are more technical, such as what is the font that is used in Scratch, but there are FAQ and message forums to answer these questions.Google-It-crop.0.0

Needs based
You have to do something and you not quite sure how. Now this is when we call on YouTube and we watch tutorials or we delve through Blogs of those that have gone before us. It is very rare that we want to do something that has never been done before so why reinvent the wheel when someone has made a video that shows you how to make one in a thousand different ways.

Medium Term
This is where the learning transfers from that instant need to know to¬†when you want to make yourself a better educator and need some help. It takes a bit more thinking and planning. Online Courses or MOOCS (Massive Open Online Courses) cover a mass of topics – not all are good, but some are amazing. You have the choice to pay for the certificate at the end for a minimal fee, but are able to partake at no cost (if you don’t want the PDF). Just recently I completed an EdX course that was run by MIT on MIT - Launching Innovation ini SchoolsLaunching Innovation in Schools, which challenged me throughout and made me think deeply about my practice and vision for Education. Microsoft Education offers countless courses for free (and you get a pretty badge at the end) – the Mindstorms Robotics courses that have 6 hours of course time are incredibly comprehensive and will help any teacher trying to get their head around using the EV3. Lastly there is my favourite of the online courses that I have completed in the past year – Google Teacher Certification. I found the Google Educator course to be the most robust. The exam at the end was challenging and if you fail you must wait a set time period before resitting (Luckily I passed level 1, but I’m yet to face the challenge of level 2).

Now this is the one that I have yet to attempt and not sure if I ever will. This is the one that bumps you up the pay scale, prepares you for leadership, gives you a few extra letters after your name and can suck the life from you for years (so I’ve been told). I have known many to go back to school/university and partake in a Masters Degree or even higher to a Doctorate. This is for the most dedicated. The ones who love the challenge of late night forum entries and essay deadlines. It is not for me, but is for many.

So, after all these ramblings I only challenge to take learning into your own hands. Do not wait for it to come to you. Think about where you want to learn more or what you think you might want to learn and dedicate some time and brain power. Only you can make yourself a better educator, so now is a good time to start.



PLN and Connectivness is Awesome! #EduFriends

Again, Twitter and my PLN has blown me away with its awesomness!

As ICT Lead Teacher I had to lead an assembly and chose the Internet as my umbrella topic. My goal was to express both the ability to connect through the internet as well as make sure that students were aware of how to use the Internet safely and sensibly.

Part 1 – Teacher Quiz
10 simple questions. Two teachers. One teacher has a stack of reference books where all the questions came from. Other teacher has no books, looks sad so is allowed to use Google on their phone.
Result – A few good laughs and students get to see the power of a directed internet search in action.

Part 2 – The connection (This is what it is all about!)
How do you show kids about the true connectiveness of the internet? Sure they have all Skyped a family member overseas, but how could I show them in 1 or 2 minutes?

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A simple tweet, and maybe a few directed spam tweets, and the ball was set in motion. I was humbled by the replies and the time and effort that was put into the project. Instantly there were promises of a video or a quick video taken in the playground. I had replies from people I was not even following and so new connections were made.

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Below is the compilation video. I am sorry that not all clips are included, but my computer was fighting with me and not all of the clips wanted to go into iMovie for some reason. But thank you to¬†@NZWaikato¬†@mrs_hyde¬†@mrkempnz¬†@KleinErin @BowlerSarah¬†@jedipadmaster¬†@SamAllison06¬†@21stCTeaching¬†@MsBeenz¬†@PalmyTeacher¬†@room_ten¬†@tewakatroy¬†@chiaoyinanita¬†@ChezVivian¬†@tsbray¬†@lesal38¬†@mjbuckland¬†and of course the star of the show…¬†@GrogtheZombie.
(If I have missed you off this list then I am sorry – DM me and I will correct instantly as you are awesome and I am sorry for missing you out, but thankful for your existence!)

Part 3 – Cyber Safety
As most of the students play online games with back channel chat options I chose to show the video I have embedded below. I must say that I removed about 6 seconds of the clip towards the end as I think that I would have had the year 1 classes in tears.
Result – Enjoyable to watch, appropriate to the audience, students become more aware of cyber safety.

When you have everything just fall into place

I have taught a Lego Robotics Club for the past year as an after school activity and there have been good times and bad. There have been the great successes and aha moments, but they have been overpowered with lack of space and resources or havingMondstorms - Smiles kids who do not really want to be there.

Today was the beginning of a new session of ASAs and I had a senior student group of 17 kids. I was a bit worried, but I was prepared. I booked my classroom as the venue and made sure that there was enough resources to cover the group -living in China has it’s benefits and Taobao is one of them as I was able to pick up two new NXT Mindstorms sets quickly at a really cheap cost and no importing hassles. I collected a series of inspirational clips from YouTube showing what can be done with Mindstorms and WeDo and off we went.

I must say that it was a huge success and even though I could have used another kit or Makey Makey Pacmantwo it was clear through the engagement of the students that all is good. They were enthusiastic, questioned, worked together and built. When the groups of 3-4 began to look like they were too big I pulled out the Makey Makey kit for its first exposure to the students and they were wowed. Tea light candles became the buttons for Pacman and there was laughter and a whole new round of wows and aha moments. The board in the back ground continuously screened mammoth lego machines in action and there were sighs and cries of ‘Nooo…’ when I informed them it was time to pack up.

Additionally, this was the first time that I had had girls sign up for the club and they Mindstorms - Girls at workwere into it and more focused.

Next week – complete building and begin learning about programming. My main goal is to keep them focused and enthusiastic, but I feel that a few Makey Makey challenges will suit the purpose and do the job.

End result – 17 students developing an interest in Robotics and computer science and one teacher feeling very pleased about how his club went.

Here is their favourite of the motivational clips…

Education’s best kept secret – teaching at International schools.¬†

I assume that all who read this blog are teachers or somehow involved in the education game. What might make me different to you is that I no longer teach in my home country, but choose the life of a teacher in the international school world. This stint has been for 2 years and I can’t see it ending any time soon as it is providing a life far richer in experience for my family and I than could ever happen back in New Zealand. Yes there are things that we miss and the distance from family and friends is difficult, but I would not change it for the world.  


You see, as I write this post I am sitting at a quiet restaurant next to my hotel in the quiet Vietnamese town of Hoi An – a place I had never heard of, let alone thought I would ever visit. Christmas holidays were spent in Rome, Florence and London and last year we traveled to Singapore, Taiwan and many places throughout our home base of China. While we are travelling around the world and exposing our daughters to different cultures, cuisines and ways of life we are still paying the mortgage back home and saving some money for a rainy day. 

My daughters are receiving an world class education that is on a par with unaffordable private schools back home. Working hard and focusing on your learning is the norm and expected by both students and teachers. They are learning to speak Chinese in an environment where they get to speak the language every day. Their school trips so far have been to Cambodia, Fujian, Vietnam and Brazil – not quite a hike through the beech forests of New Zealand, but unforgettable life experiences. 

As an educator there are draw backs; professional development can be hard to find and you may have to learn a new education system, but when learning and students are the focus it is easy to find a work around any problem. A few friends and I are in the process of planning Nanjings first EdCamp, so I guess PD is what you make it and blogs and Twitter are always there to inspire and challenge you. 

So I guess the point of this is to say, if you are stuck in the grind of teaching back home, feel like a new experience and challenge send me a message and I will be happy to answer any of your questions. It’s not the right choice for all, but it might be the choice for you. 

Creating a quick Video Tutorial to support Home Learning

I though that I would share this experience from last term as I thought it was a pretty good example of problem solving and a great way to show my students to power of the digital tools they all have at their disposal.

I teach Year 5 and we were using protractors for the first time and some clicked but others took a bit longer to get it. The class asked for some more practice angles to take home so that they could master the skill and that was then end of that.

Later that evening I receive two emails from students saying “I just don’t get it!”. So what do I do, do I leave the kids hanging, email back saying ‘Don’t worry, we’ll go through it tomorrow’? I tell them that if they email me before 8pm I will try to get back to them.

Quick solution – record a quick tutorial on my iPhone and email it to the kids. 5 minutes recording time, 5 minutes editing and voice over and email it to students in a small file format. But, instead of just emailing the kids who asked for help I emailed it to all of them and their parents.¬†Next morning there were many others who needed help, but hadn’t asked, but thanks to the video all kids had completed the task there were several thank you emails from parents and it was all thanks to two kids asking for help and an iPhone.

Last Day of Term – App Smash not DVD

Kids used to love the last day of school DVD on the projector and while it was on the screen the teacher would complete the roll or compile assessment tracking data. In short the DVD was a way to keep students busy while the teacher completed jobs so that the teacher could leave a minute after the students did. But I like to create not stagnate, so I booked the pod of iPads and said your brief is to “Smash some apps into something bigger and better”.

I posed the question of what Smashing Apps meant and one girl said ‘You create something in one app, then put it into another app and then maybe do it again if you can” – she was pretty much bang on, but if you want a deeper explanation you have to read ¬†the post ‘Why App Smash’ by @ipadWells.

So we brainstormed what apps we could use and off we went. The music was created in Garage Band, they filmed and took photos, they animated in iStopmotion and created clips in Puppet Pals HD, then they put it all together in iMovie and recorded voice overs, sound effects and foley art. There was no learning intention other than Create something and Tell a Story. There was no assessment other than ‘Did you have Fun?‘ and ‘Did you create something?’. The whole class creating, not stagnating all morning and there was constant¬†transference of knowledge as one child learned a new way to do something then shared it with the person next to them.

So next time you think about putting on a DVD, which you know they have all seen before, get some iPads and get smashing!

Be not afraid of growing slowly; be afraid only of standing still.

This ancient Chinese proverb expresses how I feel my learning has been progressing the past 6 months, not stagnant, but moving forward slowly and as the end of the year approaches, and the first anniversary of this blog also approaches, I can say I am not standing still, but may need to walk a bit faster.

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This Webpage is Not Available – a very common occurrence behind the GFW.

This is my first blog I write since August where I have not needed to turn on my trusty VPN as I am in Singapore on holiday Рit is liberating. Living and working behind the Great Firewall has been an adventure, but the internet restrictions of the GFW have stolen half the tools within my 21st Century Teacher Toolbox…

-Google Docs and Apps for Education
-Edublogs (Unless we subscribe as a school for over $1000)

…all unreachable within my classroom environment. Blogging platforms and Google  gone from a modern classroom seems unthinkable and I have spent the past half year rethinking and reworking my philosophy to ed tech as it relates to my present situation.

Stolen from

The Classroom

All of the restrictions aside there is still much that I can do as a professional for my own learning and there are still ways that I can create a connected classroom…

-I am creating a class Wiki. ¬†Wikis are not my preferred ¬†tool with a year 2 class, but it will suffice in the absence of a blog. Additionally, it will allow me to embed YouKu videos (China’s version of YouTube) and gives us a platform to share work as well as host relevant clips for flipped learning at home. With many of my parents not being native English speakers it may also break down the barriers between school and home.

-Skype: I can access skype through my personal VPN, so connecting with other classes through Skype is achievable.

-Email: Letters never seem to arrive, but connecting to other classes through email is a definite.

The Teacher

Now for me as a learner and a connected teacher I just need to keep looking at the glass being half full. I am researching into some online study, but reconnecting with my PLN is a must, as through the GFW and timezone differences I have been inactive on Twitter and Google+ and not dedicated the time to blog reading and hashtag following that I normally would. Edcamp Home is a mere 14 days away and I can not think of a better way to inspire a new year and prepare a teacher for the second term.

I have discovered that learning to code is like a Soduku  or Crossword and is giving me a better understanding of how a computer and the internet works. I am halfway through a html course on Code Academy and trying to create Apps for my Android phone with MIT AppInventor (You have to give it a go if you have an Android, and get your class to give it a go too!).

I got my class involved with Decembers Hour of Code initiative for Computer Science week  Рseeing 6 year olds programming Angry Birds was inspiring and let me know that Scratch, another product of MIT,  will be part of my class program next term.

Lastly I need to remember about this blog – writing a blog post like this is the best way for me to clear my head and order my thoughts, make a plan and direct my thinking, let me reflect and redirect, as that was the purpose of this blog when I created it, but if I do not use it with regularity is is a waste.