Student centered learning

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In the past I’ve tried to let students decide what they wanted to learn about but for different reasons they haven’t always worked out.  For instance the Year 10 art class were really excited about the idea of designing and painting their own skateboards.  The skateboards were $90 each which was a discounted rate but still pretty expensive for us.  Initially the class was all on board we were going to do cake stalls and raffles to help raise the money so that all 24 kids in the class could have a skateboard to paint their own design on.  When it came to the first day of the cake stall about 6 students and myself had made the effort to do some baking,a couple more joined us at lunchtime to help man the stall and we made around $130.  We decided to do it again the following week this time one student’s mother did a tonne of baking and put together a raffle for us to sell,there was just two other students who brought something along.  When I put it to the class that only some kids were pulling their weight in the fundraising efforts the ones who weren’t contributing said they didn’t want to do it anymore anyway,it was too hard and involved too much of their time.  So we ended up with a bit of a stalemate and I wasn’t really sure how to take it from there.

We ended up dividing the money between the students who did actively contribute and they got skateboards.  We also had a skateboard business from Whangarei come and set up a skate park at the school for the day which everyone got to enjoy which was a lot of fun but we didn’t reach the goal of everyone earning their own skate board.   This was 3 years ago now,I was still fairly green at teaching and I like to think I’d do things differently next time.

I came across this fantastic video today where a teacher in the USA is putting her students first and letting them direct their learning.  This is exactly the kind of things I would like to be doing in my classes when I return to teaching next year.

#edchatnz Blogging Meme

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Thank you Janna Brewster (@jannabrewsterNZ) for the tag in the #edchatNZ Blogging Meme!

If you get included in the blogging meme:copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on Twitter by tagging 5 friends and using #edchatnz. Make sure you send your answers back to whomever tagged you,too!

1. How did you attend the #edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face,followed online or didn’t)

I found out about the conference on Twitter of course and was so pleased I went.  I came away feeling really inspired and ready to put some of the ideas into practice.

2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?

Just me unfortunately,a few others would have liked to have come but were busy with the school’s production of Xanadu.

3.How many #edchatnz challenges did you complete?

I wasn’t very good at participating I’m sorry to say,I think I could have done with a visual prompt here and there.

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?

One of the first people I met was Angela Lee @nzleeangela who told me about the Post-Grad Diploma she’s doing with Mindlab .  It sounds like a lot of fun and I’m envious I’m not able to attend.

I also connected with a dear friend and colleague Ros MacEachern @rosmaceachern,whose enthusiasm for teaching is always an inspiration to me.  I attended her workshop and learnt how we can work across departments regardless of our current systems.  Having listened to Ros,I’m really keen to make it happen and feel I may have the wherewithall to do so now.  Ros is a fabulous writer and her blog O Brave new School continues to motivate me and consider what is possible.

I was so impressed with Bron Stuckey’s @BronSt workshop on Cultivating Identity and Community Through Gamification and came away with my head full of ideas of things to try at school.  I especially liked the idea of using gaming to engage teachers into PLD and to use it to help develop relationships between teachers and students.

5. What session are you gutted that you missed?

I’m really sorry I missed the 3D printed workshops and the Solo Taxonomy there were a lot of good things on at the same time Saturday morning.  I hope the google doc agenda stays live because it has some useful links to refer to later on.

6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to #edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned? 

My neighbour,teacher and long time friend Ria, she would have been blown away by what some teachers are up to and even for her to see Hobsonville Secondary School would have been such a treat.  Ria is one of those teachers who gets on and does things.   She’s a natural teacher and really makes learning relevant for her students.

7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why?

Yes,I would have loved to have been able to connect with Steve Mouldrey and heard how he creates curiosity amongst his students.  Thank goodness for the web links that continue long after the event has finished.

I would also liked to have touch base with KarenMelhuishSpencer @virtuallykaren just to met her in person.  She gave a fun upbeat presentation with some fascinating statistics,all a bit sad when you look at how many people follow Katy Perry as opposed to the world wild life fund.  There were some really good tips in there for nurturing our students to be globally aware citizens.

8. What is the next book you are going to read and why? 

Sitting beside my bed is Responsive Pedagogy by Margrain,V.,and Macfarlane A.H.,(2011).  Earlier this year I attended a one day workshop  titled ‘Restorative Justice Practice’with Margaret Thorsborne.  It was a day well spent and I have used the process many times at my school.  I’m also studying a paper with Canterbury University this year called ‘Leadership for Learning’and restorative practice was one of the change initiatives that informed my assignment.

9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learned about at #edchatnz?

One thing I’ll be making a conscious effort to do is to stay connected to like minded individuals,I have had a habit of dropping out of the conversation when ‘life’gets too busy but maybe it’s more about prioritising my time better.    I’m also feeling pretty committed to start integrating what I’ve been learning in the classroom.  I’ve been studying towards my Masters with Canterbury for the past four years on a part-time basis and now feel ready to gear up a level.

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?

This is music to my ears,but making it work well puts me in a bit of a spin,which is why I’ve got to stay connected to hear and learn from other’s.  I have tried a number of times to stand aside and let the students instigate their own learning and while some students have ran with the idea many have been left floundering and not really knowing what to do.  It’s those ones that I need to support well.

I tag:






Innovating to Learn

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Below is the 2008 report from the Centre for Educational Research and Innovation which will be really helpful for my next assignment.

Safe Schools and Community Engagement is the Key

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Interestingly the front page of the NZ Herald on Friday ran an article called The secret of our highest performing low decile schools and Principal Anne Miles of McAuley High School,was quoted as saying ‘the board focused on making the school a safe place to be. Key to this was community engagement –school leaders and student ambassadors’.

Fundamental to the success of any school is that everyone staff and students alike feel safe,supported and encouraged to be who they are.   Our differences can be our greatest strengths or weaknesses,it all depends on what you are focusing on.


The Motivational Factor

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This is a fabulous video of a presentation by Dan Pink which I came across.  Pink defines what really motivates us,autonomy,mastery,purpose,challenges and making a contribution.   Now we just have to bring these ideals into the classroom. Cool

Students’ perceptions of a blended web-based learning environment

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A review of the Chandra,Darrell &Fisher (2009) paper

Research Findings:

In this study Science students from a secondary school in Australia were introduced to a blended learning environment known as Getsmart,a teacher-designed interactive website.   Students’ evaluations were observed over a 10 week period.  The ‘electronic cognitive apprenticeship teaching model’ IDEM Collins et al. 1989 (cited in Chandra,v.,Fisher,D.L.,2009) was the basis for developing the website.  Positive feedback from the study showed students liked being able to work at their own pace,they also enjoyed the interactivity of the web-based environment.  Students could email their teachers or use the ‘chat’ feature to communicate online although many students preferred to liaise with their teacher’s on a ‘face to face’.   This research project provided evidence in support of a blended learning environment from the students prospective

Implications for Practice:

Visual appeal,ease of access and clear instructions are essential elements to consider when developing an online learning environment.  In addition,for the course to be successful,the content needs to be scaffolded and sequenced in such a way that it maintains students’ interest whilst at the same allowing the student to work at their own pace.  Course content should be well organised and easy to follow while a consistent design that uses colour coded categories,tags and hyper links can help students navigate the online environment.   Embedding external websites into the blended learning platform,helps to keep students focused and on task by placing their learning in context.


Vinesh Chandra Æ Darrell L. Fisher
Students’ perceptions of a blended web-based learning environment
Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009 Published online:10 January 2009
Learning Environ Res (2009) 12:31–44,DOI 10.1007/s10984-008-9051-6

Blended learning with everyday technologies to activate students’ collaborative learning

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A review of the Mikko,Teemu,Jari,Sari,Anu &Sirpa (2010) paper

Research Findings:

This study examines the use of Qaiku (similar to Twitter) and Wikispaces as social media constructs to explore the potential of mobile learning thus eliminating the need for a computer lab.  Participants of the study were undergraduate university students in a Teaching Programme.  The evidence is interpreted from a socio-constructivist and a socio-cultural viewpoint which highlights ‘conversational interaction’ where learners can become fully immersed in participation and collaboration.   In this way learning can be placed in context,flexible and available 24/7,additionally students can learn from one another and develop their own resources.    Two cases of blended learning form the foci for the study;the first examines students’ use of the micro blogging platform Qaiku to create shared lecture notes.  The second involves students creating a collaborative book through Wikispaces.   Students’ feedbacks regarding the use of ICT in both observations were positive.  The learning encouraged collaborative participation and reflective thinking resulting in deeper understanding.

Implications for Practice:

Utilising mobile technologies,whether it is mobile phones or wireless networks,poses a set of challenges for the design of lessons for teachers but the efforts develop another dimension to collaborative learning.    An orientation overview of the tool to be used helps remove any technical barriers to learning.  Similarly by dividing the class into small groups’ students can learn from one another.  One of the barriers to the micro blogging style of note taking was the difficulty around linking Qaiku notes with the appropriate PowerPoint slides.  A solution to this could simply be adding a numbering   system with a #hashtag to each slide or using Slideshare where comments to the slide can be made privately.   Creating a book in Wikispaces gives students the opportunity to develop their own resource collaboratively.


Mikko,V.,  Teemu,V.,Jari,K.,Sari,H.,Anu,H.,Sirpa,K.2010
Blended learning with everyday technologies to activate students’ collaborative learning
Science Education International,Vol.21,No.4,December 2010,272-283

The first blended or hybrid online course in a New Zealand Secondary School:A case study

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A review of Parkes,Zaka &Davis (2011) paper

Research Findings:

The participants of this study were 8 Year 13 Home Economics students.  Due to timetabling limitations and other commitments held by the students the decision was made to move part of this course online into a Moodle platform to accommodate the required flexible learning needs.

Students noted that their confidence with using digital tools grew and they enjoyed being able to communicate their ideas creatively in a variety of ways.  The teacher observed students’ engagement and motivation had increased along with developing better written communication.  Students had a number of ways available to them to communicate with their teacher and peers,through Moodle forums,face to face,email and texting.  The teacher commented that the diversity of communication tools encouraged participation.  Students also developed better written material as a result of having to convey their ideas without body language visual clues.    This situational aspect also generated a friendly learning atmosphere which extended beyond school hours and was a catalyst to better teacher-student relations.   The study showed the potential Web 2.0 tools and hyper linking to specific sites offer

Implications for Practice:

Ongoing support is imperative if students’ uptake for online learning is to be successful.   Teacher’s can aid their students’ technical ability by providing plenty of ‘hands on’ assistance in the initial stages.  Allow time to sit alongside students’ whilst they participate in the online environment so as to guide and direct when required.  Students’ may bring with them preconceived barriers to communicating online with some members of the class particularly if they are not communicating with those peers in their face to face environment.  Consideration and time must be given by the teacher to develop a positive ‘community of learning’ and to germinate the covert benefits to students about learning in a collaborative online environment.


The first blended or hybrid online course in a New Zealand Secondary School:A case study
Computers in New Zealand Schools Vol 23 No 1 (2011)

Engaging Secondary School Students in Extended and Open Learning Supported by Online Technologies

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A Review of the Nicholas &Wan (2008) paper 

Research Findings:

This study observes the participation and development of a group of 16 ‘gifted students’ aged 13 – 15 in an online environment after attending a four-day Science camp in Australia.  Students were encouraged to continue with their learning for up to 6 months beyond the camp.  Their key focus was to choose any topic related to science and to discuss the ‘societal and ethical’ issues of that topic,via email,Moodle and web-based resources.  Researchers were interested to know how motivated the students were to continue with their (non-compulsory) learning through the virtual environment.  The researchers sought to support students to become independent learners. 

Research findings would suggest a strong level of external support is required to maintain the learning dialogue and for the learning to translate into a ‘tangible product’.  Students felt overwhelmed at times with the independence of their own learning in a non-traditional environment and would have welcomed follow up face to face classes with the facilitators.  Additionally a narrowing of topics and a set timeline would help provide a framework to follow.

Implications for Practice:

The study showed that two thirds of the online conversations between students were none topic related,indicating a need to provide the ability to allow ‘social’ conversations to be a part of the learning process.  This shows that spending time developing relationships online is just as important as it is in the face to face classroom.   Students also tended to use informal English similar to text language;by allowing this type of exchange during the ‘ideas development stage’ students can feel more at ease sharing their opinions.   Providing students with an easy way to find their logins and passwords can help alleviate frustration.  Technical problems can be a hindrance to this type of learning so it is essential that students are not obstructed by procedural issues.  


Nicholas,H.,Wan,Ng. 2008,Engaging Secondary School Students in Extended and Open Learning Supported by Online Technologies,
Journal of Research on Technology in Education;Spring 2009;41,3;ProQuest pg305

Provocative Pedagogies in e-Learning:Making the Invisible Visible

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A review of the Sinclair (2009) paper

Research findings:

The purpose of this research was to promote critical,reflective thinking for teachers involved in an online course to feed into their practice.  Participants were made up of primary,secondary and early childhood teachers and the focus for the study was whether or not a collaborative online community would encourage ‘deeper conceptual understandings’ for the learner than a traditional classroom.

It was evident that role-plays in the online environment work well and are a useful way of encouraging the examination of ‘others’ viewpoints in a non-threatening way,thus promoting self-reflection.    A positive outcome of the asynchronous interaction encouraged individuals to put forward considered substantiated arguments whereas in ‘face to face’ discussions ideas were largely put forward by the individual’s own experiences.

Implications for Practice:

Online learning whether to compliment the ‘face to face’ class as in blended learning or as the sole means of delivery has the potential to develop critical convergent and divergent thinking skills.  Key benefits that came as a result of the online discourse showed learners became more independent,they learned from each other,they developed deeper understanding and relied less on the lecturer. 

Facilitation by the lecturer was crucial however in terms of providing quality and timely feedback along with steering of discussions to an intended outcome.    Obstacles to learning within an online community were lack of broadband access and the unfamiliar learning environment.    Some younger students (5 – 18) may experience hinders to the learning process due to a lack of literacy in which case audio alternatives could be a substitute.

  • Heuristic – helping to learn,guiding investigation,allowing pupils to learn for themselves,
  • Dialectic – debate intended to resolve differences,logical argument


Sinclair Anne,Provocative Pedagogies in e-Learning:Making the Invisible Visible
International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 2009,Volume 21,Number 2,197-209