Lab for the Mind

Teacher reflections and development



Last words (ML. W32.)

The opportunity to learn through Mindlab has provided me with data and research to back up many existing conceptions, new tools, pedagogy’s and ideas to challenge my thinking and the consolidation of the framework of academia, that I am slowly beginning to appreciate.

It has given me the reassurance that where we are heading in education is not some ‘trial and error’ situation, rather it is a (peer-reviewed) researched, data driven dream that is future-focused and ambitious.

I will never forget the way Mindlab has challenged my thinking, provided the research where others just waft and busted so many myths of education!

Rolfe’s (2001) advocates for a ‘What, So What, What Next’ model for professional reflection that I will use to reflect on some specific outcomes from my Mindlab experience.

Criteria 6 of the Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC) in e-learning is to Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme.

The what of this is what is an appropriate learning programme? For me, this should be evidenced based, data driven and not a ‘hunch’ or something that can be photocopied. This created the challenge of changing from a ‘do this worksheet (or the modern version – check out this website and make a Google Slide about it) to a constant question – what does the research say about how students learn? What have my own reflections taught me? How are ALL my learners needs being meet?


The What Next around planning appropriate learning programmes is not getting into bad habits, rather being deliberate in planning to meet needs, based on research. It may mean that things take more time, that learners are all working at different parts of a learning journey, that things get messy. Learning should be messy though, learning should be noisy, exciting and fun!

My goal is to keep up with current research, to understand the difference between a fad and evidence based best-practise and to apply my understanding to meet the needs of all my learners. I want to apply UDL principles to all learning – all the time.


Criteria 1 of the Practising Teacher Criteria (PTC) in e-learning is to Establish and maintain effective professional relationships focused on the learning and well-being of all ākonga. One of the themes that has been interwoven throughout much of Mindlab is the importance of communities, connections and collaboration.  I see a huge opportunity to achieve this outside of the silos of our own schools with Communities of Learning. 

The So What will be learning to work for the good of all our learners – not just those that currently fall under our care. To meet the standards of Criteria 1, teachers involved in COLs must learn to effectively contribute to their COL. Initially, the focus may be on establishing these links, but with an underlying goal of improving the learning and well-being of all learners, this must be prioritised by all.

The What Next for me will be to contribute to structures, tools and goals to make our COLs a collaborative, not cooperative, consortium.

Ministry of Education. Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako
National Center on Universal Design for Learning.
Rolfe, G., Freshwater, D., Jasper, M. (2001).Critical reflection in nursing and the helping professions: a user’s guide. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

TKI. Universal Design for Learning.


Catching up on 20 year old research on interdisciplinary learning (ML. W31).

Reading the analysis of ‘The Logic of Interdisciplinary studies’ (Mathison and Freeman, 1997) summarised many of my own understandings around interdisciplinary learning.

I have summarised their conclusions in the graphics below;

outcomes for teachersoutcomes for students...

My biggest surprise in their analysis was that it was concluded 20 years ago! Yes, 20 years ago research showed that interdisciplinary studies had positive effects for students and teachers, with diverse outcomes like increased motivation, cooperation, understandings and global perspectives.

I believe the reason that, despite conclusive research, progress is so slow is simply because it is hard. Working in a silo, with little or no collaboration is easier for administrators, teachers, parents and students.

Analysing my own interdisciplinary professional connections showed that I have many potential connections, that would be hugely beneficial. The problem is simply time, time to establish relationships – within my school and local community, both nationally and internationally.

My interdisciplinary professional connections. Green boxes indicate an area that is happening, blue a potential possibility that has not yet been explored.

On reflection, I believe that many of my current connections are happening because they are easy. Ironically, it is easier to have a #mysteryskype chat with a school in America than it is to arrange a visit to the local ECE. In fact, a lot of my connections are digital, such as knowing and utilising the Connected Learning Advisory team, but not utilising any other Ministry of Education advisers.

One specific goal I would like to work on is making a connection with the small local businesses in our community. I believe our learners could benefit from understanding some of the complexities of running a small business, especially in understanding the application of many curriculum areas. I also see many opportunities for our learners to contribute to local businesses, such as using website development, social media, graphic art and language skills to drive promotions to local stores.

Mulligan and Kuban (2015) addressed the need for time in their research ‘A Conceptual Model for Interdisciplinary Collaboration‘. One of the key conditions they establish is favourable workplace conditions, with time set aside for regular communication. I liked the idea they gave of a ‘standing’ meeting that is scheduled every week. This sets aside the time and makes it a priority for the collaborators to get together, rather than being ‘busy’ in their own silos.

A specific action for me is thus arranging a regular (monthly?) meeting with local business, potentially online or at a time where students can somehow be involved. We would share what is happening in our school, and discuss some of the challenges the local businesses are facing. For me, the beauty of a regular catch-up is that it takes the same amount of effort to arrange one meeting as it does to arrange a regular meeting. Anything to ensure we get out of our own silos has got to be good!



Mathison,S.. & Freeman, M.(1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago, 1997. Retrieved from

Mulligan and Kuban (2015).






#OverRated? (ML W30).


What is THE most impactful thing you can do in your career as an educator? Hattie would argue it is forging trusting relationships with your students, Phillips says modelling curiosity while Marzano states the importance of teachers receiving feedback. Having scanned multiple meta-analysis’s covering thousands of studies and years of research, I can confidently conclude that no study has found the words of Elani Leoni to be true – that (Social Media) is the most impactful thing you can do in your career as an educator. 

To me, the over-embellishment of statements like this (and she is not the only one) backfires. Like many, I was ‘told’ that ‘I had to’ be using Twitter at a conference years ago, how ‘all effective teachers have a PLN’ and of the classic presenters story of ‘I asked a question and had replies from around the world in minutes’. As a young, new teacher I jumped at this advice, but when I realised having a face-to-face conversation with a teaching friend from another school answered questions I did not even know I had, and that the sky did not fall in after not logging into Twitter for a week, I gave up for many years….

I believe the benefits of teachers using Social Media are positive, but are so over exagerated that teachers are both overwhelmed as to where to start to enable a question on any topic at any time to be answered – and underwhelmed at the lack of any rate-of-return for the time investment involved, that they either never begin or quickly give up.

An example of the classic Twitter advocate is Brian Crosby, who boasts that questions he posts are responded to within 5 minutes and advocates for all teachers to use Social Media. The problem is people like Brian Crosby do not support others. I can state this categorically as he, like many others, only follows a small percentage of the people that follow him. 


This brings me back to my own experience with using Social Media in my professional practice.

Years after being introduced to Twitter, I started using it. Why? My expectations were lowered, to the reality of where Social Media is effective for 90% of teachers who want to casually use it. Twitter is great for specific searches (Chrome 5.001433 error), time-relative searches (Matariki activities happening right now) connecting with companies and organisations (tweeting problems that are not answered via email), Twitter chats (such as EdChatNZ), and reaching out to people you have connections with (that guy you sat next to at a conference once). Once I understood this, and that people who get the ‘5 minute replies’ are either “rockstars” or have invested years of their waking life interacting with people online to reach a critical mass of followers, I found Twitter to be beneficial to my teaching practice.

I just wish people played down the expectations. #overrated



Killian, Shaun. Teacher Credibility: Why It Matters & How To Build It
January 30, 2017.

Leoni, Elana. Ten Tips for Becoming a Connected Educator


Marzano, R. J., & Toth, M. D. (2013). Teacher evaluation that makes a difference. Retrieved from

Office of Ed Tech. (2013, Sep 18). Connected Educators. . Retrieved from

Phillips, Patrick. This Is the Most Important Thing a Teacher Can Do


Disputed health claims. (ML. W29. Ethics).

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 7.29.49 AM

The ethical decision I would like to reflect on is the use of WiFi in schools, specifically an instance when a parent requested their child not be in a room with a WiFi Access Point due to concerns of radiation committed from the Wifi Access Points.

To address this issue, I would like to work though the questions Alan Hall presents in his “What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers”.

  1. What is the problem?
    Our school has an extensive wireless system, with WiFi Access Points in most classrooms. When did not actively communicate with our school community when our wireless system was upgraded, but later had questions around the health risks of radiation from the Access Points.
  2. Who are the main stakeholders with interests in the problem, and what are their interests? Students, teachers, the school and parents.
    3. Which stakeholder should be given priority? 
    The stakeholders that should be given priority are the students, specifically their health as school’s are responsible for providing a safe and healthy environment for their students.
    4. What restrictions are there to your actions?
    According to the New Zealand Code of Professional Responsibility and Standards for the Teaching Profession, teachers have a commitment to the teaching profession, learners, families and society.
  3. Which courses of action are possible?
    Removing all WiFi Access Points, having the child with paren concerns not be in a class with a WiFi Access Point, finding Ministry of Health/Education recommendations to share with concerned family, ignore the family wishes and continue with child being in a room with WiFi Access Point.
    6. Can you identify precedent cases that are similar to this one?
    Many previous examples exist of parents complaining about health and safety issues at school’s, with school’s always needing to show that they are addressing the problem. The difference with this is that the school is disagreeing that WiFi causes a health and safety issue.
    7. Which courses of action are least acceptable? Why?
    Removing the WiFi access points disadvantages the learning opportunities provided for all children at the school. Ignoring the family wishes goes against the New Zealand Code of Professional Responsibility and Standards commitment to families.
    8. Which course of action will you follow? 
    Further clarifying any potential health risks and communicating this with the family is the only course of action possible.
    9. How should the course of action be implemented?
    Once the school has consulted with Ministry officials to determine that WiFi does not hold any potential risk to students, they should clearly communicate this message to all families, and invite any concerns to approach a nominated staff member. The family who raised the issue should be personally met with to share the research, discuss potential issues and decide on a course of outcomes collectively.


Allan Hall. What ought I to do, all things considered? An approach to the exploration of ethical problems by teachers.

Education Council. Code of Ethics. 

Perceived culture and climate (ML. W28. Cultural Responsiveness).

From my research on culturally responsive pedagogy the emphasis on ‘culture’ is key. Jacqueline Jordan Irvine explains culture as ones word views, beliefs, values and language, while Geneva Gay explains culture as ‘the filters’ we all have that help us to make sense of the world. She separates culture into physical (tangible) and invisible (intangible) culture. Gay proposes that intangible aspects such as values, beliefs, feelings and perspectives are more important than the tangible aspects of crafts, art and music.

Reflecting on the method in which I promote a culturally responsive pedagogy, my output has often been on the tangible nature of culture, not the more important intangible values.

I have often introduced art, songs or creative technology tasks which focus on tangible culture aspects, such as koru patterns or cultural musical instruments. I do not believe this is wrong, or negative, but wonder how often these ‘visible’ cultural tasks are designed to ‘show off’ and make people feel good about promoting a culture, versus really understanding and promoting the values and beliefs of a culture?

downloadThis is seen in the direct clash of using play dough (made with flour) to create items with cultural significance or promote leaning of a language. It is widely acknowledged that it is bad tikanga to play with food, so though it may be positive in a tangible way, it is negative in the intangible values and beliefs of the Maaori culture.


I can see the importance of celebrating culture with art, songs, dance and craft, but it must not be at the expense of the more important intangible values, beliefs and perspectives.

Pohatu’s Mauri model is broken into Mauri Moe, Mauri Oho and Mauri Ora. The model helped me to reflect on the things I do well, and where I need to go next. In some areas, I am still Te Taunga o te Mauri Moe – with proactive potential. I am beyond not participating or being withdrawn, but am Kai te pūihi  – shy – when it comes to cultural dance. This likely says more about my own personality than my lack of cultural integrity, but could still be improved. In other areas, such as language, politics and my shared values I am Kua Maranga as I actively engage and discuss and share knowledge with others. I am not yet E kokiri ana is any area of my teaching practice or life in general.

A key takeaway from all of this is the importance of personalised learning and Universal Design for Learning as a frameworks that can support teachers to be the agile teachers needed to know their learners. Again, it reinforces the need to have true home-school partnerships that allow for teachers to understand the intangible culture of their learners.




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

Playdough use offends some.

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

A global approach to Education. (ML. W27. Trends)

hands-600497_960_720Globalisation is the process by which the world is becoming increasingly interconnected. The speed at which this is happening is such that the importance of ‘a country’ is fast becoming irrelevant as we are all global citizens, who are all affected by the same phenomena. Just like it is in everyone’s best interests to tackle climate change together, I also believe it is in everyone’s best interests to tackle education together.

The 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference demonstrated a potential model that could be followed to finally accelerate the worlds education system to where they should be.  Over many years, thought leaders, experts and government representatives representing most countries met to identify the problems, share how these problems could be addressed, then finally collectively commit to action of targets that would make a real difference to the problems.

To apply this to the education world, we would first have to acknowledge that we have a problem(s) that needs to be addressed. In short, this could be summarised as our education systems collectively not producing the talent needed for an unknown future. Collectively, we could then examine how this could be addressed. Do we really all believe that memorising knowledge will help with the problem? And if we devalue knowledge what would it be replaced with? Practical Application? Competencies?

The commitment to action is where it could get interesting – and really shake things up. Just like the goal of reducing greenhouse gases led would look different in New Zealand as to China, so would global education goals. For some countries, keeping students in education until they are 18 may be the first step, while for others it may be to invest further in the critical 0 – 5 years of a child.

What would be important is the criteria – the measurement that action is happening. I do not know what this could be, but I do know that going bigger than “the 3 R’s” is essential.

The thing is, with the trend of globalisation, we should all care not just about our school’s education system, or our counties performance, but equally the rate of high-school drop out in Bangladesh, or a students ability to think creatively in Singapore.

Globalisation means our success as a society depends on the success of the world.


2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference

Trends Shaping Education 2016


Can culture be Personalised? (ML. W26. School Culture).



I would like to analyse the definition of school culture as ‘shared beliefs, values and assumptions a school community share’.  Yes, school culture is about beliefs, values and assumptions, but in a diverse New Zealand, how often are these ideals going to be shared by an entire community of parents, teachers and learners? And if they are not shared by all, where does that leave the minority who do not share the majority’s view?

I believe 100, 50, even 20 years ago, the ability to have a shared school culture was a possibility. In general schools in New Zealand were less diverse, the world was more simple and the ability to experience any other school other than your local one was limited to educators.

Because of these reasons, a school used to be able to have a culture that was shared. A rural country school may have valued grit, togetherness and the outdoors and actually have had the entire community agree and have a shared vision. Today the same school – with the same written culture – may have a core group of community members who buy-in to this vision, but the community is likely to be far more diverse. The global-citizens working remotely in IT may not value the outdoors to the same extent, and be frustrated at the schools lack of emphasis on creating digital citizens who can communicate with cultures around the world. A new migrant family may value competitiveness and excellence far more than togetherness, and not understand the constant praise of students who ‘learn together and share their knowledge’.

So what does this small rural New Zealand school look to do? Two main options exist;

  1. A culture that a majority of people buy-in to, but a (growing) minority will never be able to truly embrace.
  2. A culture that is so generic it could be applied to any school in the world – it may not disgruntle the minority, but likewise will not be embraced and remembered by all in the community.

Neither of these options are ideal, so where does this leave school culture?

One solution is that school culture could be far more personalised to meet communities needs. It may be that the school vision is not explicitly verbalised, with weekly assemblies where certificates are presented to the learners encapsulating the school values, but rather each learner and their family agree upon some specific aspects of culture that they value.

Practically, this may look like teachers spending time with each learner and their family discussing what is important to them, what they want to achieve, what they value in life. It could be that the school identifies a list of possible priorities that each family ‘rates’ or selects from, or that groups of people that identify with specific groups are invited to huis to discuss the collective goals.

Like any personalised approach, the advantages of this would be many, and the main disadvantage would be time. However, school’s can not kid themselves that their diverse communities all buy-in to their beliefs and values, and if they these beliefs and values are constantly pushed to learners and the community this may have negative consequences.

With a personalised culture approach, the importance of school climate can then be focused on. The school climate is the little things that make all the difference, it can be the difference between a parent been welcomed or disgruntled or a learner loving school or not attending.

Climate can (and should) be controlled. Teaches should be given strict instructions around expectations of interactions with parents. Learners should be praised for positive interactions with each other. Systems should be in place at schools so visitors and  parents are always welcome.

Climate is easier than culture as it is more universal. Climate is about creating a positive, safe school environment. Culture is about beliefs – and our beliefs around education are simply to diversified to summarise into a few statements without alienating some people.

Maybe I have this all wrong, and the problem is actually the definition of school culture as been something that is shared by all members. I see a more honest definition being; “‘the beliefs, values and assumptions of the most vocal school community members that are emphasised by the school as important, “.


National School Climate.

School culture and climate.

Is the ‘knowledge of many’ always more than ‘the knowledge of a few’?

Maybe it was the word ‘community’ or perhaps ‘practice’ but reading the words ‘My community of practice’ I immediately jumped to the latest ‘Communities of Learning’ initiatives currently been rolled out.

The Ministry of Education explains a Community of Learning (COL) as;

“A Community of Learning | Kāhui Ako is a group of education and training providers working together to help learners achieve their full potential.”

While Wenger defines a community of practice as;

Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

Obviously a COL that can achieve Wenger’s vision would be a success. But what does Wenger suggest to achieve a true community of practice?

  1. Members that engage in joint activities and discussions; help, share, collaborate and learn from each other. How could the hundreds of members of any one COL achieve this level of engagement? Creating the time and environment for discussions to happen will be the easy part. Online spaces where users can share ideas, Teacher Only Day’s with prompted discussions and joint meetings with time to interact can provide the opportunities for cooperation, but to promote real collaboration, members of a COL need to have a shared goal….
  2. A shared domain of interest. Wenger explains that members need a collective commitment to the same mission. A collective vision that all members of a COL buy-in to is thus an essential ingredient. Initially, this might look like allowing a voice from all members, but at some stage a collective vision will need to be decided on that can then be shared with all members and used as the focal point behind every learning goal, meeting and decision.
  3. A shared practice. Members of a community of practice are practitioners. They have set routine, methods and ways of sharing their practice. Wenger explains this could be informal (around the lunch table), but it is consistent (not one-off events).  Beyond setting up learning environments and time for teacher discussions, a known-way of ‘the way we do things around here’ needs to be established and embedded into practice. One outcome from this shared practice is the development of ‘artifacts’ that are useful for members and help to collect and grow the shared knowledge for the entire community.

Reflecting on Wenger’s criteria, the membership size of a single COL concerns me. I believe a Community of practice could be hundreds, perhaps thousands, of members, but wonder if a collective mission with buy-in from all members can be achieved? Potentially a COL could aim at the board, not the target, with vague missions like ‘ensuring all priority learners met their potential’ but would this be enough to connect all members with a single focus that is collaboratively worked towards? Or would it only provide for cooperation, where each member interrupts the meaning of the mission to their own needs, and works towards a selfish, not collective, goal?



Collaboration vs. cooperation. Judit Kertesz.

Communities of Learning | Kāhui Ako. Ministry of Education.

Communities of Practice and Social Learning Systems. Etienne Wenger.

Introduction to communities of practice. A brief overview of the concept and its uses.
Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, 2015.




What 60 Schools Can Tell Us About Teaching 21st Century Skills: Grant Lichtman at TEDxDenverTeachers

  • Ask Questions more than give answers
  • Finding problems – not solving problems
  • Schools not innovative
  • Change is uncomfortable – not hard
  • Universal access to knowledge exists
  • Anchors/Dams/Silos stop us.

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