The Thesis Journey

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Writing a 40,000 word thesis is no small task,thankfully I’m one of the lucky ones and have a whole year of diligent focused study to complete it.  On commencement a year seems like a long time,the due date sits months away somewhere near Christmas and flowering Pohutukawa,but now it’s mid October and that deadline is looming ever nearer.  There are days when I doubt I will ever manage a paragraph and other days when I seem to skip through a thousand words.

For the past month I’ve been coding my results,then a little more coding followed by…yet more coding.  For some respite I managed to carve out a big section of my methods section which feels pleasantly satisfying but then it was back to coding.   In total I’ve spent a good three weeks coding my results which does tend to affect ones outlook in strange ways. Suddenly what seemed so simplistic is full of complexities,devoid of the essential connecting dots.  It’s in those moments that the term ‘can’t see the woods for the trees‘really plays itself out.

I’m lost.  Overwhelmed in a sea of themes,codes and comments.

Open coding has had it’s way with me and a fog has enveloped any clarity.

How timely then,that I was off to Auckland this week for a couple of days with the Woolf Fisher team.   Our discussions were rich and purposeful as always,full of  inspiration,tips of the trade,Piaget and anecdotes that brought life to the driest breath of any research methodology.   So yes,I’m refreshed,on track and importantly reinvigorated to get on and complete my thesis.    I still have a mountain to climb by Christmas but I’m feeling more and more confident that it’s achievable. One –step –at – a -time.

A huge thank you to Aaron,Kerry,Mei,Rebecca,Stuart and fellow scholars Liz,Carolyn,Gina and Sam for a great couple of days.



Doctoral and Postgraduate Symposium

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I attended the Doctoral and Postgraduate Symposium on Saturday at Auckland University and really glad I did.   Dr. Rae Si’ilata gave an inspirational speech for the opening address which set the tone for the day.  She was eloquent,informative and outlined all the reasons why you might want to consider doing a Doctorate.    Rae instilled how important is was to believe in yourself,stay connected to your whanau and keep the end goal in mind to help you through those times of self-doubt.

I saw some excellent presentations from both Masters and Doctoral students.  Cheryl Loughton was electric in her presentation Are there metacognitive differences between the sub-populations of secondary school students in New Zealand?  I particularly liked her use of the koru as a symbol for her whole thesis.  It really helped me to get an overview of her comprehensive study of thinking styles,motivations and processes for students studying science at high school.   Cheryl is looking at the benefits of using Betty’s Brain,a computer teaching tool that helps students to learn by putting them in charge of the teaching.  I found a short video (see below) which explains how Betty’s Brain works.

It was the first time I’d heard the term ‘hidden markov models‘which I think is part of the algorithm behind Betty’s Brain that is responsible for tracking students’movements.  This allows the programme to build a profile around how the student learns which would be very useful.

Katy Perry,not the one swinging in the jungle 😉 did her Masters dissertation research on the advantages and disadvantages of using instant feedback via scratch score cards and Socrative,an online app.  Both systems motivated students,cost was a factor with the scratch cards which she accessed online and internet issues were at times challenging with the Socrative app.

Jiansheng Cui embarking on his doctoral studies has been looking at common themes between schools and their BYOD policies.  The second part of his research will be looking into instructional design and how teachers use devices in the classroom.

Investigating fanau engagement in the Manaikilani project was Maria Meredith.  Her Doctoral study is about understanding the ways that digital schooling impacts families.  Maria is only in the early stages of her study but already she had come to understand what a rich resource our parents/caregivers are and by understanding their perspectives we can help raise the achievement and engagement of students.

It was a great day,a chance to meet other students and share the highs and lows of embarking on such intensive study.  Next on the University’s calendar in terms of symposiums is Exposure 2015 which includes presentations,academic posters and a variety showcase,looking forward to that one.

Three Minute Thesis competition

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I recently competed in the Auckland University Three Minute Thesis competition and was delighted to get through to the finals. There were some excellent presentations for both Masters and Doctoral students and it was great to get an insight into what people are researching.

The brief was to present your research in three minutes by outlining your objective,providing a background to your research topic by highlighting the significance of your research and to give a summary of outcomes.  No mean feat to get across all of that in 3 minutes with only one slide and no technical research jargon.

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