Lab for the Mind

Teacher reflections and development



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


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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