Monday, October 2, 2017

Mindlab Applied Practice in Context Week 30

In what ways has social media been used to support your engagement in professional development?

Social media is useful for expanding horizons – “the need to raise one’s head over the parapet is vital if teachers are to experience the cognitive dissonance needed to reflect on their practice,” (Melhuish, 2013, p.43). 

I learn things from my personal Facebook account due to the posts I follow, and also through Twitter and Google Plus which I use solely for professional purposes.  I follow people or groups that I rate as innovative and use these to find other like-minded educators.  This helps to broaden the boundaries of my professional knowledge.  I have engaged in formal online learning with forums, webinars and learning conversations in real time and these have been genuinely collaborative.  I have also kept a professional blog for four years and a You Tube channel for about six years.

Melhuish describes intended outcomes of social networking to include, “resource development, enhanced knowledge development in formal studies, professional reflection through peer mentorship and application of learning in face-to-face educational contexts,” (2013, p.39).  I particularly engaged in this type of intentional development when I was researching Google Apps for Education (GAFE) when our school was first moving into this system and it was a really good way of finding out how educators were addressing technical and roll-out issues.

The challenges
I find most of the social network learning is only partially purposeful.  There is purpose in the sense of who you follow, what you search and where you interact but often finding something challenging is just luck.  Also after a while, the same ideas seem to go round and round and it is hard to find genuinely new perspectives, so I am not as engaged as I used to be.

One of the benefits of social networking is being able to communicate asynchronously.  This means it is often done at unsociable hours when one is only partially committed to deep thinking and personal challenge.  Synchronous, more socially acceptable, timings often conflict with other professional commitments and so social networking for learning gets a more superficial engagement.  Melhuish writes, “Rarely did the activities of the educators critique teachers’ theories-in-use, create dissonance or challenge like-minded network members,” (2013, p.39).  I think this sort of practice requires deep trust and commitment and can be misread in a text-only space.

Social media can be am inhibitor of change.  Some collaborative sites may be great resource banks but teachers can pick up fancy-looking resources thinking they’re finding something new and innovative but are actually only rehashing traditional teacher-driven practice.   “Just because one is sharing information in a social network site does not mean that the comments one provides are theory-driven or particularly formative in ways that impact on practice.” (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010, cited in Melhuish, 2013, p.39).  I think there is truth in this and sometimes for me the function of social media has been to reveal new ideas or trends that I want to follow up further but will follow up by finding more academic, trustworthy sources or discussing with colleagues.

How are you going to address the challenges?
Social networking is a sampling of what is “out there” and what you might need to be aware of in order to continue to grow your practice and meet every-changing educational needs.  I think there’s a place for social networking for professional development.  It can be the impetus that leads to deep change, but I don’t believe it’s a medium for deep challenge and change in itself.


Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Mindlab Applied Practice in Context Week 29

Legal and Ethical Contexts in my Digital Practice

An ethical dilemma that I have faced was whether or not to make student's indiividual blogs public.  I will use Hall’s questions to guide the process of what happened (2001).

Distinguish between personal and professional values
My personal values around social media are a belief that personal information should be kept private.  So my own personal social media is quite private and only shared with trusted friends.  For media that I use professionally such as my Twitter account I don’t share personal information. 

Even though student work is often personal, I have a professional value that “published” work by students is in the public domain.  Work on the wall in the school corridors is similar to work on a school blog.  A school blog is more controlled than some other social media in that it is possible to moderate all comments so that undesirable interactions or predatory behaviour does not become an issue.

I also believe that if children aged 11-13 are not specifically taught safe online practices and what and how to share and interact they will get themselves into strife later.  This is even more the case now where many children are already on 13+ social networking sites from 9 years and up with no guidance.

What would happen if everyone did that?
It would be fine if all students this age did personal blogging.  However I have seen instances where a teacher has not thought the process through and given the students opportunities to co-construct practice guidelines and the students have posted in ways that have brought disrepute to themselves and their school. 

Vary the Variables
If the students in this case were adults they would need to understand the difference between professional and personal sharing.    If the variable of the medium were changed back to the physical school environment it only reinforces that the same standards of publishing need to be applied.

What would a good teacher do?
A good teacher promotes the wellbeing of learners and protects them from harm (Education Council, 2016).  However, prevention is better than response and potential risks can be managed through cybersafety agreements, including parental consent and we also developed a co-constructed blogging agreement.  In order for young people to become confident and safe online participants, they need to be guided into independent practice (Ministry of Education, 2016).

Nurture Disagreement
At the time, we believed the biggest disagreement would come from parents.  So we opened up conversation with parents and invited them into the classroom to see how blogging works, teach them how to respond to their children’s blog posts and the safeguards we had in place to protect them from unwanted attention (comment moderation).

Overall it was decided that the benefits outweighed the risks and we felt we could create a social media network that enabled the students to learn safe practices.


Education Council (2016). Our Code Our Standards – code of professional responsibility and standards for the teaching profession.

Hall, A. (2001). What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers. Paper presented at the IIPE Conference, Brisbane. Retrieved from

Ministry of Education. (2016). Digital Technology – safe and responsible use in schools. New Zealand Government.

Mindlab Applied Practice in Context Week 28

Culturally Responsive Pedagogy

In appreciating Maori achieving as Maori (Ministry of Education, 2013), we have moved away from looking at only the visible indicators of culture and are now more aware of the invisible indicators.  This means understanding that culture consists of values and a lens through which to view the world but that students are individuals with individual needs.  This avoids making culture a trait reliant on race and ethnicity and deters from making sweeping assumptions (Teaching Tolerance, 2010).  We have used the Education Review Office indicators of culturally responsive practice as self review (Education Review Office, 2016).  These are manaakitanga, whanaungatanga, ako and mahi tahi.  We find these indicators particularly applicable to Maori and Pasifika students and we find that they also sit closely within our Catholic culture of inclusivity and interdependence.

According to the Mauri model (Potahu, 2011), as the school level we have strong engagement with our cultural groups.  We have regular meetings where the groups come together to share experience and kai.  These groups feed forward to the Board of Trustees and on this level we are probably Mauri Ora (actively engaged). We employ an English Language Learning coordinator who is very proactive in developing cultural connections and understandings.  Staff are strongly encouraged to uncover and build prior understandings of all of our learners into our classroom learning.  We are presently engaged in culturally responsive maths professional development for Pasifika learners which is helping us to understand the importance of learning community and shared understanding.

An area for development where we are more Mauri Moe to Mauri Oho – where there is potential but it is not fully activated - is to build up culturally responsive practice from the grassroots level.  Russell Bishop describes agentic teachers as teachers who believe students can learn, and refrain from deficit thinking because they believe they have the skills to address learning and they believe students can be successful (Edtalks, 2010).  I think our teachers are agentic teachers but perhaps need more support and development in connecting with cultural capital.  Culturally responsive teachers are cultural translators and bridge builders, building on students’ prior knowledge (Teaching Tolerance, 2010).  We have been focusing on visible learning, giving good feedback and feed-forward and making the learning journey visible to the students.  We are now moving into a re-focus on our student-led curriculum and the need to bring in the cultural capital and interests of all of our students in a meaningful way.

A further support of development of grassroots manaakitanga would be to provide more development for our teacher aides on culturally responsive practice and support them to facilitate tuakana/teina learning relationships between children with similar cultural understandings and interests.  This would further activate the ako potential of all of our learners, where the teachers can also learn from the students.

Edtalks.(2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. [video file].Retrieved from

Education Review Office (2016). School evaluation indicators – effective practice for improvement and learner success.

Ministry of Education (2013). Ka Hikitia Accelerating Success 2013-2017, the Maori Education Strategy. Wellington: New Zealand Government.

Potahu, T. W. (2011). Mauri - Rethinking Human Wellbeing. MAI Review, 3, 1-12. Retrieved from

Teaching Tolerance. ( 2010, Jun 17). Introduction to Culturally Relevant Pedagogy.[video file]. Retrieved from

Mindlab Applied Practice in Context, Week 27

The Broader Professional Context - Trends

The National Intelligence Council identifies a wide variety of influences creating uncertainty and potential future conflicts (2017).  Concerning trends such as climate change, the increasing gap between rich and poor, displaced people and weakening systems of governance require that people are able to act altruistically for the greater good.  The exponential growth in technology, possibilities for robotics and automation of the workforce potentially disenfranchise large sectors of the population.  Yet with the potential ethical demands, conflicts and challenges identified in the near future, it is a time when we more than ever need enfranchised people who can make sound judgments, or else we face the possibility of tyranny.

The conflicting outcomes of the trends identified by the National Intelligence Council require common human ethical efforts (2017).  Technology and the growth in social media has led to a reliance on peers for information, a reduction in the quality and reliability of information and a focus on the trivial and fleetingly entertaining.  The same developments that will enable us to advance in the fields of automation and biotechnology may also rob us of the capacity to make mature and informed ethical judgments.

Education may be able to influence some of the outcomes.   There is a lot of talk about twenty first century skills.  The foremost must be social justice in the context of developing our understanding of individual and collective duty to each other and to the planet.  “Advances in technology will help boost productivity in developed and developing countries alike, but improving education, infrastructure, regulations and management practices will be critical to take full advantage of them,” (National Intelligence Council, 2017, p.14).

Advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence will raise questions about humanity.  An unemployed generation, plugged into social media is unlikely to be able to answer those questions. 

In this environment I believe that education has two vital roles.  Economic forces will naturally engender the creativity and problem-solving skills needed for the twenty-first century.  But I believe the critical thinking and moral compass necessary to manage our advances will not necessarily come about naturally.  The first role education plays is to develop a sound understanding of truth and the various interplays of truths.  “Regarding the co-construction of knowledge as it relates to the educational objective truth: whose voice counts?” (OECD, 2016, p.21).  Students need to be taught how to construct meaningful knowledge.  This is directly connected with the use of technology which is already the main conduit of knowledge as well as the main conduit of false information.  The second skill is an ethical ability to think about the common good, the environment and the effects of our actions on other people.  Our education systems need to develop ethically mature and responsive citizens.

“Schools and teachers are increasingly faced with the challenges of educating and guiding students through the advantages and disadvantages of the virtual world, without always having the necessary skills themselves,” (OECD, 2016, p.21) and so another key component of education moving into the future is the quality of teachers. Well-rounded, highly educated moral thinkers are needed to influence our future generations of thinkers.


National Intelligence Council. (2017). Global trends: The Paradox of Progress. National Intelligence Council: US. Retrieved from

OECD. (2016) Trends Shaping Education 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI: