Marsden Professional Learning Session 10

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Always seeking to improve, in today’s Professional Learning session, I started with a ‘hook’: make a piece of jewellery from two pipe cleaners in 60 seconds. It always amuses me, and it’s something for me to remember, that adults are just like kids: we like to have something to fiddle with, and the soft, pliable nature of a pipe cleaner is no exception. (Next time – note to self – playdough!)

The purpose of this task was to introduce the future learning themes of creativity and critical thinking. I enjoyed the opportunity to make passing references to design thinking, and also to acknowledge some of the very recent learning I have been doing about the maker education movement. The accompanying presentation is here:

I felt a bit incoherent today, and I’m not at all convinced that my presentation was as fluid as I would have liked it to be. Luckily, the presentation is freely available for staff to refer back to, and there are lots of hyperlinks to allow people to continue to explore and learn. And also luckily, the next professional learning session in two weeks’ time also focuses on creativity, but this time showcasing examples of it in our classrooms.

The workshop I offered looked at the presentation tool Haiku Deck. The ‘help sheet’ I produced for this is available here. The lovely people who attended were very quiet, so I choose to interpret this as meaning they were thoroughly engaged in playing with the tool 😉 I enjoyed the clear link between the themes of creativity and critical thinking to this workshop. I also liked the question that I was asked as to what a concrete application of Haiku Deck in the classroom could be. I could think of two. This also reminds me, that like the pipe cleaners, all learners like to have ‘real world’ connections.

I would like to acknowledge Steve Mouldey’s work in creativity and curiosity. He is extremely well versed in this area, and I shamelessly plundered his blog (especially this post) for inspiration for this professional learning session. Why reinvent the wheel?!

Yet another reason why Design Thinking is Genius

I wrote a post a little while ago declaring my passion for Design Thinking. Since then I have done loads of reading and thinking about it. I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time participating in the #dtk12chat on Twitter – especially the day that it was summer vacation in the States, so I basically got an hour of one-to-one time with the lovely and uber-helpful Lisa Palmieri to ask her all my annoying novice questions. I’m currently preparing a design thinking exploration for my Year 8s in Term 4, and this resource centre, curated by Thomas Riddle, is proving exceptionally useful.


But this doesn’t explain why I have such enthusiasm for design thinking. And today it struck me. At the risk of making design thinking into some kind of panacea, I truly believe that it offers powerful potential for schools to address the needs of their 21st Century learners.

Last November, as I was starting my Future Learning journey, I read Bolstad et al‘s  (2012) research report “Supporting future-oriented teaching and learning”. I blogged about the reading here, here and here. Today I’ve had occasion to revisit those blogposts and the research, and I can see that design thinking can mesh beautifully with several of the future focused themes Bolstad and her colleagues pinpoint in their report.

There is the notion of personalising learning – that the activities and curriculum content students engage with should reflect their input and interests. Design thinking will certainly allow this, as students generate their own questions in relation to the topic or issue at hand, and then follow these ideas through a prototyping and feedback cycle.


Bolstad et al also speak of diversity. Design thinking offers a means by which a great deal of ideas and questions are generated, welcomed, and indeed valued. Learners must generate (ideate) a wealth of ideas, and learn to filter these through the human-centred lens of empathy. Different perspectives offered by people of diverse backgrounds can therefore only be of benefit in order to empathise with others and add to the collective knowledge and ideas of the design thinkers.

Design thinking requires creating and using knowledge in ways that are different to traditional schooling. Filling an empty vessel is so contradictory to the process of design thinking as to render it inconceivable and redundant.

And to work within a design thinking process is to fundamentally shift the roles of ‘student’ and ‘teacher’. The teacher truly does become a facilitator as learners explore their own ideas in relation to the issue at hand. Teachers are just the most experienced learner in the room.

Furthermore, design thinking offers much potential to integrate and foreground the Key Competencies of the New Zealand Curriculum. The potential of the Key Competencies to shape the senior secondary curriculum is discussed in another of Bolstad and Gilbert’s publications, Disciplining and Drafting (2008), which I read in the recent school holidays. I suspect the next book in my reading list, Key Competencies for the Future (2014), will continue to make this kind of compelling argument. By following a design thinking process and adopting a design thinking mindset, it is inevitable that learners would be thinking, using language, symbols and text, managing self, participating and contributing and relating to others. This is because design thinking is a human-centred process that has a bias towards (social) action. In fact, it has the power to equip learners to tackle with the “wicked problems” outlined in Keri Facer’s seminal book, Learning Futures (2011), which I have read and blogged about here.



Acknowledgement of images: The K12 Lab Wiki

So, when I get excited about design thinking, it is because I believe so strongly that belying its seeming simplicity, it offers a wealth of rich possibilities to transform education.

Guest Blogpost

I invited the two staff members from my school who attended #edchatNZ to contribute their reflections on the conference to my blog. Here are one of those teacher’s thoughts.

Words by Me:

I have dabbled in twitter (and Edchats) a wee bit – dropped into a few of the Thursday evening conversations about education and the recently formed English teacher’s edchat. Most of the time I’m a lurker on twitter. I appreciate that it works both ways, you need to share ideas as well as absorb them, but I’m still working on sharing the ideas I have and trying to be confident enough to let them go out to the world for anyone to see in a permanent marker. I like that twitter has links to all sorts of useful ideas for lessons and good quality thoughts on education, but sometimes it’s a little overwhelming sifting through the material; following links and having to read whole blogs in search of the gold that you are after. However, it is awesome when you do find something you can implement in class. It was hunting in twitterland that got me reading articles and finding out what Project Based Learning was, which gave me the inspiration to try something different with my Y10 class when they were studying a film last term. I’ve only tweeted a few times, I still feel rather new to it all, but the great ideas coming through on the #edchatnz ‘stream’ (is that the right word?), and Philippa’s enthusiasm, got me excited about the conference. It certainly did meet my expectations – the buzz that exudes from online chats was there; there was tangible excitement and an energy amongst the attendees. It was great to be in an environment where people were all speaking the same language, asking questions about learning and weren’t doing it because they were supposed to, rather because they wanted to be there.

The conference was also like a twitter ‘feed’ in that it was stacked full of useful ideas and thoughts and suggestions for teaching and learning, but instead of scrolling down or searching for something using a hashtag, you looked at the program on the wall which told you where the next interesting session would be, or you talked to someone after or during their session. You also immediately had in-depth conversations about education in general, or the future of education with other teachers. There was very little small talk. In the car ride to conference each day, my friend and I, quite naturally, found ourselves discussing our positions on this idea of change in education and considering our views on what a teacher’s role is, in quite philosophical ways. For me, this doesn’t often happen in staffroom conversations or with other teaching friends. Because the content of the conference was stimulating, it prompted big picture discussions and got me thinking again about my own beliefs when it comes to the purpose of education.

I came away inspired. This was by a number of things; by the style and layout of Hobsonville Point School, by ideas that make lessons appealing and relevant for students, by the responsibility we have to teach students the skills that will best equip them for their jobs and adult life – I’m sure they will be working with stuff that I can’t imagine (even when I’m trying to be super random). When I turned up on Friday, I was unsure about whether we needed to change in our thinking about how we approach education, but after seeing a 3D printer in action (it was creating a chocolate treat) and being gob-smacked about how it seems like only a few years ago they were something that only scientists had access to, it reinforced my idea that the time ahead of us is going to continue to be mind-blowing and weird, when it comes to the impact technology will have on our lives. Our students are going to be the ones who know how to go, “Okay, cool, we can try and figure this out and make it work.” Rather than, “What? Really? That’s epic! What will they think of next?” (My default phrase). I even found myself questioning the role of exams. I love exams. But I also understand that a lot of knowledge is available online (and many other places) and that if you are learning about something that you are passionate about, can see the relevance in, and personally invested in, you probably don’t need an exam to force you to learn about it or remember it (yes, I know,…in theory). It’s cool that we get to decide how this education thing will roll out for us. I’m taking teensy baby steps, but they are getting more bouncy thanks to edchatNZ’s inaugural (used deliberately here) conference.

#edchatNZ: Twitter Support Club

This is more of the overview of my experience of the first #edchatNZ conference, held at Hobsonville Point Secondary School 8-9th August, 2014. My other #edchatNZ blogposts can be read here and here.

Okay, so pre-conference, I wrote this blogpost, where I outlined what I hoped to learn from attending #edchatNZ. In it, I specifically listed these learning goals:

  • I want to learn more about design thinking and to feed that obsession.
  • I want to learn more about breaking down silos and encouraging traditional schools to shift.
  • I want to learn more about how to be an effective agent of change.
  • I want to learn more about the modern learning environment of Hobsonville Point Schools.
  • I want to learn more about being a future-focused educator.

I guess it would be fair to begin by charting my progress towards these goals.

  1. I attended Diane Cavallo‘s Design Thinking workshop. It was great to actually experience design thinking firsthand after spending so much time reading and learning about it. I can certainly attest to the fact that it is a challenging process and gets the learning juices flowing. (It was also fun to play with playdough. Oh. I mean prototype.) Steve Mouldey‘s session on creative confidence was awesome for this too. Having to rapidly ideate was an interesting experience. And I just loved hearing his blogposts, which I have been devouring for some time, ‘live’. A real conference highlight for me.
  2. Mel Moore‘s workshop on breaking down silos was a total eye-opener, as I blogged about previously. It was really brought home to me how easy it is to create a truly cross-curricular course in a matter of mere moments. This ease of this suggests how rich the opportunities are to work like this, and also how closely this mimics real life, as opposed to our utterly artificial discrete subjects.
  3. I’m not so sure I learnt more about being an effective agent of change. Not because the opportunities weren’t there for me to do so, but that I wasn’t quite in the frame of mind to absorb this. I was, however, hugely supported, and I want to say more about this shortly.
  4. I was gutted to miss Maurie Abraham‘s guided tour of HPSS – my fault for working off a draft programme instead of the real one! However, I did get to experience a class in session, and having read so many blogposts about the school and having been following so many of the staff on Twitter, I did feel I had a pretty good understanding of the school. Naturally, the spaces are beautiful and flexible. I was struck by the school’s ability to feel huge and intimate at the same time. The carefully designed break out spaces work well here to do this, I think. It’s certainly not about the beanbags (although I made a point of sitting in one!) it’s about the kind of relationships and teaching and learning the spaces allow. I hope to be able to explore these ideas further.
  5. I think rather than learning more about being a future-focused educator, I learnt that I am one, and I feel affirmed in this from attending #edchatNZ.

But what I think I really gained from #edchatNZ was the sense of comradeship. In her keynote, Danielle talked about being the ‘lone nut’ – a metaphor that has since gone viral in the #edchatNZ community!

But I learned that while I may be a bit of a ‘lone nut’ at my school, thanks to #edchatNZ I am not a lonely nut. Everyone is fighting the good fight to encourage schools to shift their pedagogical practice. For me Maurie highlighted the importance of this message when he commented that we already have 21st Century learners. Now we need the 21st Century teachers to support their learning.

More than meeting my PLN, my #edchatNZ comrades are a support group, fellow Twitter addicts and my champions. I was so amazed that educators on the forefront of the movement like Claire Amos knew who I was – and hugged me (sorry for being geekily star-struck, Claire. Next time I’d like to conduct myself more professionally and construct an actual sentence.) That there were teachers on Twitter who wanted to meet me! And thank me for helping them! (Wow, Kylie Ayson that blew my mind.) That innovative teachers like Alyx Gillett suggested I was one of her edu-heros! (Still think she was just being polite…)

I cannot really believe, looking back, what the #edchatNZ steering committee achieved – in four months, in fortnightly, half hour meetings, never having even met one another: a world-class conference. $20 a ticket. Over 300 delegates. I am so proud to have helped. I am so proud to have made a contribution to my profession.

To not continue fighting the good fight would be to let these passionate educators down. It would be to do a grave disservice to the youth of New Zealand. I feel in my bones and in my head and in my heart that what #edchatNZ promotes is the way education should be headed. Therefore I must continue, even in the face of strong opposition. I will keep dancing.

#edchatNZ Blogging Meme

“I have a few questions after the last two days at #Edchatnz and I think that lots of others will too. I want to keep the connections going and make more connections. So maybe a blogging meme will work.” Reid Walker

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 tagging 5 friends.

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

I was lucky enough to attend myself, in person, and even luckier to be involved with the amazing steering committee.
2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?
Two: @ikanarat and @gjgwellington
3.How many #edchatNZ challenges did you complete?
Oops. Two. *Hangs head in shame*
4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?
  1. @mrs_hyde: that even if you are regarded as “Twitter royalty” that you still can face uphill battles inspiring change in your school.
  2. @mrsmoorenz: that not only is breaking down silos possible, but it’s even easy.
  3. @allscots: the phrase “cells and bells”.
5. What session are you gutted that you missed?
So many! The HPSS tour with Maurie Abraham, anything run by Pam Hook, and Matt Nicoll‘s ‘Rewind Me’ as a start…
6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to #edchatNZ and what key thing would they have learned? 
Every one of the Heads of Department at my school to experience HPSS first hand, and to see the direction in which education should be headed.
7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why?
Argh! So many! I would have loved more time to just sit and talk with whoever was around. I also wish I had had the time to see the 3D printers in action, and to check out Booktrack.
8. What is the next book you are going to read and why? 
Easy: Key Competencies for the Future, Hipkins, Bolstad et al because this is the ‘assigned book’ for the #edubookchatNZ we kicked off at #edchatNZ!
9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #edchatNZ?
Keep fighting the good fight.
10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
In Term 4 I want to run a Design Thinking unit with my Year 8s, so they will be given a very broad scope in which to operate. So, blank in a way, but with some constraints around the borders of the canvas…at the risk of mashing the metaphor…
Who will I tag with this meme:
Jess Radich @ikanarat (yes, this means you need to start a blog!)
Kylie Ayson @kylieayson
Mike Boon @boonman
Annemarie Hyde @mrs_hyde
Heather Eccles @heccles01

Everything is Connected

This isn’t going to be the first blogpost I write spinning out of the amazing #edchatNZ conference, but it’s the one that was first inspired by it.

After the #edchatNZ steering committee, which I was privileged enough to be a member of, had had their dinner on Friday night – literally the first time we had ever sat down together as a team – I turned to Matt Nicoll and said, “You know, I have connections to everyone on the committee.” And, it’s true, I do.

  • Matt is my (second) cousin.
  • Danielle and Heather have worked with former colleagues of mine.
  • Alyx teaches at a school my cousin worked at.
  • Mel teaches at a school I went to.
  • Sonya is Samoan, and my husband is too.

And as I was relating these connections to Matt, my brain said to me: actually, Philippa, these are pretty tenuous connections. But then it struck me: there is a basic human need to feel connected to others.

And for me, this was the genius of the #edchatNZ conference. It was an opportunity for people who had built connections using Twitter and our little hashtag to meet one another face to face and develop these connections into relationships.

And as I was reflecting on the basic need to feel connected, I thought about this photo that I took:

HPSS Brainstorm

This is a section of a brainstorm HPSS students taking part in Danielle and Steve’s #apocalyps class where they’re using Science and Social Science perspectives to explore wicked problems. These brainstorms, as I understand it, were the students’ first thoughts, a jumping off place, for the term. They threw all their ideas down on big sheets answering the question: ‘What’s wrong with the world?’ It appears that after this, the students used different colours to find links between these problems. In purple, just above the ‘t’s’ in ‘What’s’, a very clever, insightful student has observed: ‘everything is connected to everything’.

This message was echoed in the workshop I attended (best facilitation ever, Mel Moore!) where we explored breaking down silos in the senior school, and how we might create cross-curricular courses. It took the group I was working with literally thirty seconds to brainstorm a truly integrated course based on the stimulus provided by Pete McGhie of ‘Our backyard’. We had Food, Technology, English, Maths, Science and Te Reo easily incorporated. I knew such a thing was possible, but so quickly? It blew my mind.

And so I wonder: How might we better offer our students to make connections? With each other, with their teachers, between learning areas? It is clear that it is both possible and indeed imperative.

From Tweeting to Meeting

Inspired by (or completely copying…) Matt Nicoll’s blogpost, I thought I’d still a few minutes to quickly jot down why I’m so excited by attending tomorrow’s #edchatNZ conference, and what I’m hoping to learn.

I have never helped organise a conference before. I can’t say I’ve contributed over much, but I’m so proud of being associated even loosely with #edchatNZ. I really hope to continue this post-conference. I would love to learn how to moderate a Twitter chat, and I’d love to be considered the ‘official’ #edchatNZ secretary. (Have the delegates enjoyed their emails – that’s mostly been me!) Also being involved in a small way with the organisation has helped me appreciate the boundless energy Danielle Myburgh, #edchatNZ founder, has. She is utterly amazing. Her commitment to her profession is awe-inspiring. I’ll say it now, and I’ll say it again in person: thank you, thank you, thank you.

I’ve also never gone to a conference knowing but not knowing so many people. I think I’m a little worried of looking like I have some dodgy fixation as I scan lanyards at sternum height and exclaim, ‘Oh, you’re [insert Twitter handle here]! So great to meet you!” I can’t wait to put faces to names – especially of the #edchatNZ steering committee. How strange to be working quite intensely with a group of people you’ve never met. But it the power of these connections that I’m so uber-excited to build upon at #edchatNZ. I mean zero disrespect to the amazing line up of speakers when I say: I really just want to sit around and learn from my PLN.

And what is it that I’m hoping to learn?

  • I want to learn more about design thinking and to feed that obsession.
  • I want to learn more about breaking down silos and encouraging traditional schools to shift.
  • I want to learn more about how to be an effective agent of change.
  • I want to learn more about the modern learning environment of Hobsonville Point Schools.
  • I want to learn more about being a future-focused educator.

I look forward to reporting back post-conference!


Marsden Professional Learning Session 9

Because I’d had some positive feedback about a previous session where I’d put more emphasis on skills for building professional knowledge and skills, rather than tools to use in the classroom, always under the umbrella of pedagogy and the Marsden vision of course, I decided to present this week’s theme in a similar vein. So, in focusing on the future learning themes of communication and collaboration, I chose to think about this in two ways: ways we can collaborate as professionals, thereby modelling life-long learning skills for students; as well as how to encourage communication and collaboration with our students. After all, we’re all learners.

I was hoping to have a teacher Skype into this session, but it wasn’t to be. This is an option I really want to explore further though, as I think it’s invaluable to hear similar messages from other voices. Nevertheless, I was particularly pleased with the collaborative Google Doc staff contributed to, to build a bank of ideas as to how to go about promoting or encouraging collaboration in the classroom.

The workshop I ran was on Edmodo. Staff seemed interested in how this can be used. It was very helpful to have staff members in the workshop who have been exploring Edmodo both for its potential in enhancing the classroom, but also for its potential for connecting with other educators. The help sheet I produced for this session is available here.