Mindlab Post Graduate Certificate: A reflection

I undertook this post graduate Certificate of Applied Practice in order to understand and develop the quality of e-learning and technological practice in my classroom. However, there was so much more.

This reflection is organised around the four papers the certificate consisted.

The first, ‘Learning in Context’ essentially covered my key personal aims for undertaking this course. I discovered and became proficient in a number of digital applications and tools. These applications included augmented reality (Aurasma), animation (monkey jam), making videos and movies (movie maker), coding (scratch), gaming (Kahoot-it), using Booktracks, creating online discussion forums (wordpress, wikispaces), robotics and using 3D modelling.  I went beyond my own learnings to develop the powerful element of student motivation through technology.  Higher collaborative and cognitive engagement and publishing for authentic audiences are some examples of this.

Criteria One of the Registered Teacher Criteria (RTC) (Ministry of Education, 2011) addresses establishing and maintaining professional relationships. This certificate programme has allowed me the opportunity to engage in deeper educational relationships and learning.

I shared with my team a number of these tools and implemented them in my classroom. I expected higher engagement of students with the increased use of technology but was pleasantly surprised as to the collaboration and critical thinking that also evolved. The classroom was really buzzing and the results were more diverse and considered than from methods used in the past. As I developed my learning through 32 weeks, I developed classroom practice. All criteria from 6 to 11 of RTC were developed through this process.

The ‘Leadership’ paper guided us through various leadership theories, skills and approaches and helped my development of criteria 5 of RTC. Although I have twenty years’ experience in management leadership positions, this paper brought to light two key things for me. The first was that I was a leader in the classroom environment and therefore leadership theories and skills transfer across to how I run the classroom. The second was discovering through a research assignment, Daniel Goleman’s theory of primal leadership which emphasises the importance of emotional intelligence in effective leadership. I am a studious, committed and experienced teacher and leader. However, I have come to realise that social interaction beyond the task is a key competency in leadership.

Where the first half of this certificate involved four hours a week face to face learning in a collaborative environment, the second half was predominantly online learning and research. The ‘research’ element helped me improve academic habits; that of researching peer reviewed articles for robust authenticity, articulating ideas, using academic terminology and citing and referencing correctly. It supported deeper understanding of conceptualising effective practice, utilising 21st century learning skills, targeted assessment and cultural awareness – RTC: 6 – 12.   I enjoyed researching, analysing and writing a literature review on Flipped Classrooms. Although this concept appeared to be a great solution for time-strapped curriculum, it was valuable to evaluate the theory against the practical concerns of this approach. It was also a reminder of the need to thoroughly research before embarking on a time-consuming or major change.

Finally, the critical analysis of educational practice in ‘Applied Practice in Context,’ focused on the governance of educational institutions.  I explored not just the concepts but also the related school policies that are being challenged by new technology.  This included meaningful conversations with colleagues. Writing my first ever blog was an exhilarating journey in actively participating in professional online discussions.

Early on in the course I gained insight into the complexity and power of collaboration and developed the same insight into reflective practice.  I became a more active online community member with social media and online learning communities. Both will continue to be valuable skills in furthering my knowledge of latest trends and useful digital and collaborative tools, even though it quickly fills one’s inbox!  My perspective of social media has changed and I believe it adds value to students’ learning and social development.

Motivated to explore both Ministry of Education and my own school policies about ICT, ethics and cultural responsiveness in conjunction with other research sources, I developed a greater understanding of these policies and how they are applied in my school setting.

There are many other learned concepts not mentioned here that I have or will actively use. Design thinking and social entrepreneurship are two examples. I have used a modified version of an assignment for an inspiring class programme. Consideration of learning spaces and the financial literacy game are others, both of which are being developed in my class. Others supported my pedagogical thinking, such as the power of inquiry based learning.

Thirty two weeks of learning about future focused, globalised and e-learning has indeed led me to teach and provide learning programmes that are closer to the ideal of 21st century learning. I have been enlightened and the changes in my teaching have just begun.  Improved classroom programmes and greater success and engagement of my students will always be my primary focus. Increased professional collaboration and furthering my professional development are high priority goals.

Ministry of Education. (2011). Registered Teachers Criteria


A Cultural Response

He aha te mea nui? koru
He tangata he tangata he tangata

From the first arrival of the Europeans, our indigenous people have endured inequality. The statistics of today tell a similar story with Maori over represented in poverty and crime statistics and in the lower end of educational achievement. And yet, as New Zealanders, we pride ourselves on our Maori heritage as is evident in the common use of Maori cultural elements such as the powhiri or haka.

The UN Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states that Indigenous People have an inherent right to self-determination, including working within their own educational structures (United Nations, 2008). Rakaumanga School in Huntly is an example of the success that can be achieved when this self-determination is realized (Harrison & Papa, 2005). Furthermore, this educational organization not only appropriately supports the youth of today but nurtured members to become highly respected, valuable and contributing adults; many of whom in turn are giving back to their community. We need to get it right. Not just for every individual student, because that is their right and our responsibility, but also because it contributes to the positive cycle that will continue to benefit Maori in the future.

So what worked for Rakaumanga School? They talk of the students’ fundamental right to know about themselves, their personal, local cultural heritage and identity. It included multiple collaborations with agencies, both national and tribal. It included elders of their culture not just being included but having real power in the decision making and contribution to the daily operation and programmes of the school.

For the duration of one school I taught in, I had a Maori elder “guest lecturer” in the class on a regular basis. He spoke with students in the same way that knowledge had been passed down through his generations. For Maori and non-Maori alike, he brought alive Maori kaupapa; their way of life and language through the telling of stories. Regretfully, as a European I believe I could never duplicate that genuine immersion in the culture. A priority to employ such wonderful resources into our schools is essential in authentically educating our young New Zealanders on the precious gift we have of this culture. Ideally, local kaumatua would be involved to promote understanding of local tribal customs to further develop the sense of community and identity of those community members. Promotion of equality, that Europeans are not the powerful race but link arms with Maori for an equitable outcome can and must be achieved.

We need to understand that endorsing and celebrating the Maori culture goes beyond having a kapahaka group in our schools; starting from the fact that kapahaka is not just action waiata but the conditioning of mind, body and spirit. And that is what we need to do – condition the mind, body and spirit of the Maori and all our cultures that make our society the rich diversity that it is today. Empowering every student, allowing them the opportunities to explore understanding through their belief and cultural knowledge and providing the support structures to enable this to happen is our responsibility. A recent inquiry in my class involved students exploring their traditions and culture through interviews with family members, resulting in the creation of family memoirs. I saw firsthand the positive impact to each student’s self-understanding that this investigation had.

We now need more than the sum of individual teachers and schools committing themselves to the betterment of Maori and to the full inclusion of our many diverse cultures. “Structural barriers and school factors affect minority school performance” (Harrison & Papa, 2005. P.71). The solution needs to be from top down as well as bottom up in giving Maori an equal voice, self-confidence and determination as a valued people in their country. We can all do our part to help make this a reality.

Harrison, B., & Papa, R. (2005). The Development of an Indigenous Knowledge Program in a New Zealand Maori-Language Immersion School. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 36(1), 57 – 60.
Nations, U. (2008). United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People. Retrieved from http://www.un.org/esa/socdev/unpfii/documents.

Teaching: Our Ethical Code

The virtue ethics of the teaching profession is the “attainment of the highest standards of professional service in the promotion of learning” (Council, 2004). Paramount to this is the mindfulness of the holistic makeup of the student such as their abilities, culture and stage of development. This understanding is complex and requires collaboration with the students and their family as well as colleagues and the wider community in order for appropriate and robust learning programmes to be fully developed and utilised.

Four fundamental principles govern our teaching profession.code of ethics

  • Autonomy – treating people honourably and responding their rights
  • Justice – ensuring power is shared and not abused
  • Responsible care
  • Truth – with self and others

It is also our responsibility as New Zealand citizens to uphold the Treaty of Waitangi, elevating the interests of Maori in recognition of their status as Tangata Whenua.

Adherence to this ethical code of conduct involves our commitment to the learner, the parents and whanau, to society and to the profession. Above all else is the commitment to and nurture of the student and their learning capabilities to ensure they are best prepared to think and act independently and become informed and appreciative of our values in this democratic society. Relationships need to be professional and respectful, with students, whanau and colleagues. This necessitates active involvement on our part, through respecting confidentiality, honesty and others’ rights to be informed and involved in decision making.

It is also our responsibility to understand up to date pedagogy through continued professional development, in order to best cater for students’ diverse needs. This includes promoting hauhora, or the physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing and developing additional critical thinking learning opportunities. It is our responsibility to best prepare the students for the rapidly changing and unknown future that lies ahead of them.

We hamoral compassve a responsibility to our New Zealand and global society to prepare students for their society in the broadest sense. This includes presenting balanced views, actively promoting equality and cooperation in modelling the democratic ideas of our society. As professionals, we contribute to promote both sound educational policy and an open and reflective professional culture. Although we show respect and confidentiality toward our colleagues, it is also our responsibility to speak out if this code is breached.

The teaching profession influences the nation and its citizens. Every effort needs to be made by each of us to ensure that the virtue ethics of attaining the highest standards possible are met. Adherence to this code is essential for all teachers and its presence allows for action if this is not shown.

Council, N. T. (2004). Code of Ethics for Registered Teachers. www.teacherscouncil.govt.nz: Education Council, NZ.

The Relevance of Applied and Professional Ethics in Education

ethics headEthics is a reflection on reality and on moral dilemmas in different social contexts, and is therefore concerned with crucial aspects of our lives and professional work in the many decisions that need to be analysed and adopted.

Collste (2012) discusses the historical perspective to ethics and the key contributors to our understanding of ethics today.  Traditionally, ethics was the domain of the authority or moral heteronomy; in many cases across the world, this was the church. As society became more secular, moral decisions became increasingly autonomous and so expertise in understanding ethics or applied ethics – the academic discipline of analysing moral problems in society – was required. New technologies also brought a need to address different and difficult moral challenges (Collste, 2012. P 26). Collste further outlines various methods and theories relating to ethics, and explains how the academic understanding of applied ethics leads to practice based professional ethics. Ethics embraces all elements of our lives and, as such, is interdisciplinary in nature.

Collste’s (2012) article focused considerably on the domains of applied ethics. Understanding this is key to then developing or engaging in professional ethics. Correspondingly, three seminal articles have led to our current understanding of applied ethics. Firstly, Rawls’ (1971) A Theory of Justice, which put forward a Kantian philosophy and highlighted justice as a key element in ethics and proposed a ‘reflective equilibrium’ method. Secondly, Singer’s (1977) Practical Ethics discussed topical moral issues from a utilitarian point of view, demonstrating the strong social impact of applied ethics. Finally, Beauchamp and Childress’ (1977) Principles of Biomedical Ethics constructed ethical principles for people of diverse traditions and philosophies, with Beauchamp a utilitarian philosopher and Childress a Kantian philosopher.

Collste (2012) states that “applied ethics needs theory and method” (p. 31). Among a range of ethical theories outlined, Collste focuses primarily on the theories of the reflective equilibrium and utilitarian theories. The former is widely applicable and is centered on aligning the ‘right’ action with the appropriate values, while the latter is concerned with identifying which actions will result in the minimisation of harm and maximisation of positive outcomes in the world. Two key conclusions that became apparent through this discussion are firstly that a multiplicity of methods is advisable, and secondly that the decision maker’s experience influences their decisions.

Ethical inquiry allows one to investigate the theories and methods as well as information on the dilemma in order to come to well-grounded conclusions. Philosophical theories themselves are not sufficient and methods from other disciplines, factual information, conceptual clarity and assessment of relevant arguments are necessary for a justified position to be reached (Collste, 2012 p.22).

Using ethical understanding to develop professional codes is the field of professional ethics. This involves moral decisions based on the practice of a profession and aims to develop professional moral character. The non-professional worker rarely confronts ethical decision making as they lack autonomy in their work. However, more and more careers are becoming professional and the resulting focus on rigorous education of workers increases their self-determination, and, correspondingly, their autonomy and decision-making capacity. Accordingly, most professions have a code of conduct with the aim to improve professional ethical standards. Their goals are in striving for excellence, an ideal that Collste (2012, p. 30) refers to as ‘virtue ethics.’ These are our reference to act in a morally correct manner and they guide us when we are facing moral decisions.

The moral duties common to most professions include dependent relationships such as teachers with their students, collegial relationships and employer relationships. Each of these carry moral norms. As a teacher, I have an obligation to show and facilitate honesty, care and safety. With my colleagues I show respect, loyalty and solidarity; and with my employer, I show loyalty and confidentiality. However, these are not always in harmony and an awareness of ethical process or problem solving can assist when there is a conflict between these loyalties or between them and common morality. Finally, in 21st century learning, we as educators are involved in designing-in-ethics (Collste, 2012, p. 26) where we debate and action the design of our classrooms, including relevant technological structure in order to maximise best learning and social practice.

Beauchamp, T. L., & Childress, J. E. (1977). Principles of Biomedical Ethics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Collste, G. (2012). Applied and Professional Ethics. Kemanusiaan, 19(1), 17-33.
Rawls, J. (1971). A Theory of Justice. Oxford: Oxford University press.
Singer, P. (1979). Practical Ethics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Engaging in Social Networks

Being a shy person when it comes to high social interaction, it has only been in the last 4 years that my daughters persuaded me to subscribe to Facebook, a network that has been invaluableFB in notifying me of major events (such as a the death of a friend) and linking me back with long lost school friends that I never thought I’d have contact with again. It has meant that I can have regular contact with family members and friends in other cities in NZ and in other countries. I like that Facebook is only as demanding as I want it. I use this media to share and learn of meaningful events in people’s lives. I am not a fan of, and quickly flip past trivial and many forwarded posts.
Although Facebook has predominantly been for personal connections, I have recently joined the NZ Teachers (Primary) Facebook group which has been valuable for following current discussions and educational thinking and applications. I have also been a member of the Mindlab Facebook group.

Linked inI have been a subscriber to LinkedIn for three years; however my use of this network is at present limited and it is a goal this year to develop this avenue more fully. I have recently joined the Teachers’ Lounge group in Linked In. It has been interesting to keep up with movements of colleagues and, through the diversity of others’ professional avenues, I have gained deeper understandings beyond those that are classroom orientated. Discussions with a colleague who is now with the Education Ministry and others who are principals have been beneficial in deeper explorations of pedagogical understandings and thinking.

In the pastwikispaces few years I have used a wiki space for notices, class blogging etc. I still use wikispaces for holiday blogging with my class.  However, our school has a well-developed On Line Learning (OLE) system where class pages, news, photo galleries, blogs, submissions are set up and available for staff, students and parents to access anywhere, anytime. I update this a minimum of once a week, and often daily with new photos or messages to share with my class community. As OLEOLE is a school-wide system, it has professional links where as teachers we share professional readings and other professional development information.

Another school-wide learning network I am involved in is Interlead Appraisal Connector, where we as staff have selected other members to be privy to our goals, reflection journals and professional development. In a busy school, where deep conversations amongst colleagues are confined to set situations, this is a great social medium for sharing and getting respectful and critical feedback from peers of our choice and for learning others’ journeys and pedagogical thinking.

My engagement in social media as a key form of professional development is still in its infancy. Through the duration of my Mindlab study, I have joined the Educational communities of TES, Blendspace and ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development) Learning Community. These have been used to help me keep up to date with latest trends and thinking and to connect me with further professional development and valuable learning resources, including listening to their webinars. My goal with these is that within the next year I begin to contribute rather than simply receive and use information as I am at present.

I am beginning to understand the breadth of learning that can be gained from participating in social media, compared to the selected, solely face to face communications I have engaged in in the past. The former lends itself to quick incidental communication resulting in greater participation. With a busy professional career, finding time to visit to interact with others in increasingly difficult. A healthy combination of using both communication and interaction methods is my aim.








Top Three Contemporary Educational Trends

Top Three Contemporary Educational Trends

push boundaries“What is certain is that the world is changing faster than at any time in human history” (Stephens, 2012). The digital universe is expanding exponentially and social relationships are increasingly being affected by the internet at multiple levels (Telefónica, 2011) . How can we prepare balanced citizens in an increasingly internationalised, technology driven and rapidly changing world? We need to examine what education is most appropriate for our young people so that they are as prepared as possible for an unknown future. Furthermore, this education will not only affect the individuals but the societies they belong to (National-Intelligence-Council, 2012).
A seemingly obvious answer would be that education must provide the opportunity for students to learn how to adapt in order to keep up with the changing world. Research supports that learner agency – the process by which learners become capable of independent thought and therefore autonomous action – is an essential educational design for twenty-first century learning.  This pedagogy goes deeper than simply using learner-centric approaches as learner agency is interdependent with others and the environment, and is not about the student in isolation. It involves a holistic, integrated approach where the students have a personal sense of agency, where moment by moment they are actively involved in their own learning and well-being. This approach allows the learner to have “the power to act” (Wenmoth, 2014).

Learner agencyWe need to examine how students’ voices are reflected in all aspects of school life and adjust our education to promote learner agency among the school’s most valuable members. In examining trends involving the educational approach that will have “maximum impact in schools,” what was determined as the top trend is the shift to deeper learning approaches such as with inquiry and challenged-based learning (Noonoo, 2015). Being IB trained and seeing the impact of implementing inquiry learning in an educational environment where more traditional learning and teaching is commonly used, I see first-hand how learner agency / inquiry approaches engages students. I have received numerous positive comments from parents about their child’s increased engagement in learning. This approach is commonplace now in my Year 6 team and my next step is to to now develop this through the middle school team. Modelling and slowly but surely integrating this approach may assist a greater school-wide development. Schools are now challenged to rethink how they work, to move from “traditional bell schedules and siloed subject instruction” to more flexible, authentic and multidisciplinary approaches (Noonoo, 2015).

blended learnA second, again obvious trend, is that of digital delivery and the rise of blended learning (Noonoo, 2015). Although this may not seem to be such a recent trend, my experience is that it is happening far too seldom in our everyday classrooms, even though digital media pervades all aspects of these young people’s lives. With the growing proliferation of open-source sites or MOOCs (massive open online courses), we as educators and our students can edit and reorganise information to suit our own needs. This not only supports our ability to better manage learner agency but allows for exciting integrated learning with the digital media itself. The latest ‘eschoolnews trends report’ pegs makerspaces and BYOD as the two ed-tech movements “most likely to enter mainstream in the next year” (Noonoo, 2015). Most of us have only just begun to scratch the surface in using digital technology effectively in our classrooms. It is imperative that students better understand and use digital technology as this media will increasingly impact their lives. Developing this in my own teaching practice is the core reason I have undertaken the Mindlab Postgraduate Certificate.

The third trend influencing education is the learning of the 21 Century skills of collaboration, innovation, critical thinking and communication (Barseghian, 2011). Students need not only to use digital media effectively to navigate the world around them and make sense of the deluge of information on line, they must also know how to contribute to their community, local and global, to develop wisdom on what and who to trust and to come responsible, considerate and collaborative in their associations with others (Barseghian, 2011). Our educational programmmes need to have these social and communication skills embedded. Students need to work with others to achieve outcomes. The latest eschool trends report, states that collaborative learning approaches will be a key driver of technology in schools (Noonoo, 2015). Students need to learn how to be innovative and solve complex problems, bouncing ideas and supporting each other in the process. They need to learn to be socially robust for future economic success and for community health, as it is suggested that depression will become the second highest cause of disease burden in middle income countries (Patel, 2012).

Education is transforming and we all need to be actively involved in this development. To be effective and promote learning where students are best prepared for a rapidly changing future, we need to be familiar with and access a vast array of digital resources in order to develop programmes where the students have learner agency and the opportunity to collaborate effectively with others.

Barseghian, T. (2011). Three Trends That Will Shape the Future of Curriculum. MindShif”: How We Will Learn, February.
National-Intelligence-Council. (2012). Global Trends 2030 Alternative Worlds. Global Trends, 5(December).
Noonoo, S. (2015). Annual K-12 Horizon Report highlights trends and developments to watch. eschool news, 18(4), 18-19.
Patel, V. (Producer). (2012). Some stats on the devastating impact of mental illness worldwide, followed by some reasons for hope. Retrieved from http://blog.ted.com/some-stats-on-the-devastating-impact-of-mental-illness-worldwide-followed-by-some-reasons-for-hope/
Stephens, P. (2012). State verses citizen in tomorrow’s world, Financial Times.
Telefónica, D. (Producer). (2011, July 25, 2015). How will the world be in 2020. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XB0CORT1k9w
Wenmoth, D. (Producer). (2014, July 24 2015). Ten Trends 2014: Learner Agency.