Find your Tribe

Whew. In the insane flurry of last-minute jobs, stresses, emails, worries it’s been hard to find time to relish in the upcoming #edchatNZ conference. But then, an invitation to speak at the conference by our amazing founder Danielle Myburgh prompted me to remember what I’m so passionate about with the #edchatNZ community. And, really, it’s best summed up in this sketchnote by the artistic Sylvia Duckworth:


For me, the sound of the first #edchatNZ conference was a squeal of delight – delight in finally meeting the educators you had been connecting with for months, years even, on Twitter. The delight (and frankly, relief) of finding out that you’re not the only one with the crazy ideas that education should be different – and how you might go about invoking this transformation. The delight of meeting fellow edu-nerds and edu-heroes.

At that conference, the running metaphor was one of the ‘lone nut’ and the ‘first follower’. You’ll possibly recognise the phrases from this great TED talk. This time, we have a tribal theme. I get that there are connotations with the word “tribe” and that some aren’t necessarily comfortable with its choice. We have deliberately chosen this because of the sense of connection and community that #edchatNZ gives us.

And, of course, because we’re #edchatNZ, we want more than this. At the conference all attendees have been grouped diversely into “learning tribes”. We want to grow the sense of community into a force to be reckoned with. A grassroots (chalkface?!) community who is empowered and inspired and supported to start change now – not waiting for the government, politicians, policies and the stars to come into the exact right alignment.

Our learning tribes will be facilitated by trained mentors (thanks to the uChoose programme from CORE Education) who will respectfully prompt, probe and promote deep thinking and learning. Behind them sits a Tribal Council (no extinguishing of flames here) to support and coach the mentors. It’s all been purposefully crafted and shaped to maximise personal connections and collaborative learning.

So, fingers crossed! It turns out there’s a lot to relish about the next few days.

I’ve not left teaching, I’ve just left school.

Last night I dreamt I was a primary school principal (male, of course. Don’t you love the weirdness of dreamscapes?!) and I was directing the school show. It was chaos but we were having a ball.

Ah, back to school dreams. (Aside from the obvious complications of never having been a) male b) a primary school teacher c) a principal.)

Except, this year, for the first year since 1999, I haven’t gone back to school.

Some people were shocked when it was announced I was leaving my high school teaching job for a new adventure with The Mind Lab. I do love the classroom. I love being paid to talk books all day. I love teenagers. I love school. And yes, I’m worried that I’ll miss all of those things.

But, these days, I kind of have a bigger picture in mind for education. Being a part of #edchatNZ, and learning through my PLN, and attending conferences like ULearn, has taught me to want more. And shown me that I can play a part in bringing more to New Zealand education.

I think we should be offering a 21st Century education for our 21st Century learners. I believe that the purpose of education is to empower citizens. I believe that design thinking can help to energise and spark a transformation along these lines. I believe that the key to achieving this is by reaching teachers. And I don’t believe I can achieve this from my classroom on the kind of scale I imagine.

I believe assessment is driving education. I believe many of our secondary school learners are impeded by the keeping of learning areas in discrete silos. I believe that a timetable is not just a schedule for ordering the day, but a hiding place for a closed mindset and upholding status quo.

I want change. Wholesale, drastic, transformative change.

So, here’s what I’m doing. I’m helping organise #educampwelly (have you registered yet?!), I’m helping run #WellyED (follow us on Twitter @Welly_ED), I’m a CORE eFellow (as I may have mentioned before), and I’m the Postgrad Programme Director (Wellington) for The Mind Lab by Unitech. And I’m going to change New Zealand education one teacher at a time. I love teaching. I’m an educator by vocation. I just don’t work in school anymore.

Now there’s a dream.

Image source:

A Call to Arms!

On Thursday, I attended my very first eduignite session and, actually, delivered a talk.

Here are my slides:

Thanks to Rebbecca Sweeney for her help, encouragement support with this.

The story behind the talk is simply this: I was privileged enough to be on the steering committee of the #edchatNZ conference, held in August at Hobsonville Point Secondary School. Attending the conference itself was an amazing experience, which I’ve written about here and here. And then I came home.

I feel amazing support from my PLN. I am so lucky to connect with like-minded educators up and down the country and even overseas. Some of those like-minded educators are in my school. But I felt – I feel – that there should be a way to experience more support within my own physical community.

I expressed this view on Twitter in early October, and have spoken to a few educators that my ‘real’ aim for enabling #educampwelly to be hosted at Marsden, my school, was to start to build this very community of Wellington educators. When Rebbecca tweeted this to me:


I felt so validated and understood.

Those of us in the Twitter conversation quickly realised we needed a Connected Educators group in Wellington. We met up briefly at ULearn and agreed this was the case. With the support of others, such as Nathaniel Louwrens, Tara Fagan and Leanne, a decision was made to use the eduignite evening to pitch the idea. Rebbecca put together a Google Doc so educators could register their interest.

The evening of talk I went straight from the offices of CORE Education, our eduignite hosts for the evening, home to participate (of course!) in the #edchatNZ Twitter chat (side note: real doozy – on collaboration with #aussieED). With “encouragement” from the ever-visionary Matt Nicoll, the founder of #edchatNZ, Danielle Myburgh, allowed me to ‘make a special announcement’ – that #WellyED, the Connected Wellington Educators’ Group had been born.

And it has – my Twitter notifications went off! To date, nearly 20 local educators have registered on our Google Doc. Tomorrow, a bunch of us are meeting at a local watering hole to plan #educampwelly – and, no doubt, discuss our burgeoning community. Exciting to say the least!

So, where to next? I have a few ideas, as do others … We’re definitely inspired by the Connected Christchurch group’s blog, and the VLN group of the Connected Rotorua educators. There’s a Wellington Teachers’ Network on Facebook, and Amesbury School kickstarted a Wellington Professional Learning Group. Hopefully, by bringing all these fantastic ideas and people together, we can build a supportive community which will showcase the innovative practice I know is happening in Wellington, and provide warm and demanding critique for educators wanting to be stretched in their thinking.

In my talk I kind of had a ‘cloud’ theme running through it. And you know what? The sky’s the limit!

Ring In

Yahoo! Today is Day 1 of Connected Educator Month – and I got to participate! This amazing, global, event champions collaboration and networking amongst educators. Unfortunately Danielle Myburgh, our wonderful #edchatNZ host, was unable to present in the ‘Connected Professional Learning: Stories from NZ‘ so I was her ring-in.

I thought it was really important for #edchatNZ to be represented because of its role in inspiring and empowering New Zealand educators. As I said during the session, to me #edchatNZ, and particularly our amazing conference in August, truly embodies the spirit of Connected Education Month. It is a community which aims to support and foster ‘lone nut‘ educators who seek to engage with professional learning in order to bring the best of the cutting-edge pedagogy for the benefit of Kiwi kids.

It was also interesting to be presenting alongside representatives from the Ministry of Education, NetNZ, Secondary Literacy Online and Te Manawa Pou. As one astute presenter commented: the thread really was collaboration. It’s amazing what we can achieve together.

Oh, and I earned a badge 😉


Pick Me!

This post is my application for a 2015 CORE eFellowship.

#edchatNZ steering committee. L-R: Heather Eccles, Sonya van Schaijik, me, Matt Nicoll, Alyx Gillett, Danielle Myburgh, Mel Moore
#edchatNZ steering committee. L-R: Heather Eccles, Sonya van Schaijik, me, Matt Nicoll, Alyx Gillett, Danielle Myburgh, Mel Moore

My application presentation can be found here.

My Twitter profile
My Twitter profile
The kind words of Steve Mouldey
The kind words of Steve Mouldey

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!