Friday, 30 September 2016

Legal and Ethical Contexts in My Digital Practice

According to Henderson,  Auld  & Johnson (2014) “Students will learn understandings about the law and morality from the actions teachers do and do not take associated with social media in the classroom” (p5). Whilst this statement is pertinent to a number of situations involving the use of social media in the classroom, in this particular instance I shall be exploring the ethical dilemma that arises with the use of online images, written content and music.

Photo Credit: K Anderson-McGhie Creative Commons License

The Dilemma

This is a particular ethical dilemma I have come up against on many occasions over the last few years, and for the most part it is one that stems from a lack of knowledge on the part of the various stakeholders - which can include students, parents and other teaching staff.  I am well known amongst other teachers at our school for my rigid adherence to copyright rules and laws, and will not hesitate to point out when something is in breach of copyright.

Earlier this year, consent was given and arrangements made for the children in my class to bring their own devices to school in order to create their own Weebly page about an area of interest to them.  These 'passion projects' as they were known, were the culmination of 2 terms worth of work facilitated by my classroom release teacher.  The children worked on their projects 1 day per week when I was away from the classroom fulfilling my team leader responsibilities.

In terms of the actual BYOD process and creation of individual websites, all appropriate permissions had been sought, arrangements had been made for the safe storage of the devices whilst at school.  In terms of the guidelines and policies laid out in the Ministry of Education (2015) Responsible Use document, everything was in place with regards to access and device & content ownership.

Once all the projects were finished, I had the opportunity to sit down with the students as they shared their work with me.  While I was impressed with the thought and effort that had gone into their web-pages, I became increasingly concerned at their use of music and images in particular which were in fact copyrighted.

Why Was This a Problem?

Part of the dilemma for me was that I was very concerned that the children had inadvertently broken the law. This had potential ramifications for the children, as according to NZ law they are the copyright holders of any work they produce, regardless of the ownership of the device it was produced on (Ministry of Education, 2015).  Secondly, there was the fact that the children, and potentially their parents, could be justifiably upset if I were to ask them to take their work down, both in terms of their owning the work and also the time involved in creating their sites. At the same time, parents could rightly express concern that their children were put in a position that potentially exposed them to legal action as a direct result of the task assigned by the school. The flip side being of course, that there was the potential for legal steps to be taken by the owners of the copyright.

Solving the Problem 

Ordinarily, before embarking on any online project, I take the time to educate children about copyright rules, and introduce them to creative commons licensing.  I also provide them with a list of sites where they can access creative commons licensed materials. I also tend to encourage the creation of their own images and music, and we talk about how they are the copyright holders of those. In this particular instance, what I ended up doing was talking to the children about what had happened and helping them to find images that were licensed for reuse.  There was some disappointment, as not all of the images available were as impressive as their original selections, but I was more comfortable with what they had online. Moving forward, I need to make sure that I check other teaching staff's understanding of copyright law and ensure that they have everything in place to enable the students to produce digital artefacts that are both legal and something they can be proud of.


Henderson, M., Auld, G., & Johnson, N. F. (2014). Ethics of Teaching with Social Media. Paper presented at the Australian Computers in Education Conference 2014, Adelaide, SA.

Ministry of Education. (2015). Digital technology - Safe and responsible use in schools.

Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Responsiveness in My Practice

In this post I have been asked to consider indigenous knowledge and culturally responsive pedagogy, both from my own perspective and how it looks within the context of my school.  Within a New Zealand context, the impact of these on Māori learners and their whanau is a core focus, supported by such initiatives as Ka Hikitia; however, on a wider scale, it is also worth considering the implications when engaging with learners from other ethnicities, particularly in a school like mine where we have a very ethnically diverse student community.
Photo Credit: K Anderson-McGhie Creative Commons License

My Understanding

Having completed the survey using the Self Review Tool in Cultural Intelligence, it reinforced for me that in general I have developed a good understanding of different cultural beliefs and practices, and I make every effort to acknowledge different cultural perspectives within my classroom. I enjoy having opportunities to engage with and participate in different cultural practices, and take every opportunity to ask questions, try new things and grow my understanding of different cultures. Having completed my teacher training at the University of Waikato, and later on having the opportunity to teach in schools in both West Auckland and Levin, I have had many opportunities to explore the richness of Te Reo and Tikanga in particular, as well as Pasifika and Chinese cultures. According to the Ministry of Education document Ka Hikitia - Accelerating Success 2013 - 2017 Ako is a two way process where the teacher both teaches and learns from the student and the student is also both learner and teacher and during my 5 years in Levin in particular, I had regular opportunities to develop and refine my understanding of culturally responsive practices. One aspect that I identified on the survey tool as being an area of continued growth for me is that of the less visible hidden psychological features of culture, such as beliefs and values, among other aspects.

My School's Practice

Communication Methods: Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., et al.(2011) state that "New Zealand primary classes increasingly include students with diverse cultural, linguistic and experiential backgrounds.” (p2) This is certainly the case at our school, with some of our more dominant cultural groups being those of South African, Chinese and South Korean descent. In fact, Māori and Pasifika students make up less than 5% of our school population.
What we have done as a school to support communication is employing Mandarin speaking staff of Chinese decent on both our teaching and office staff, we also have a Korean teacher aide and a number of South African teachers (including some who speak Afrikans). This enables us to more easily facilitate home/school communication, and means we can translate signage and newsletters as appropriate. It also means we have staff available to act as interpreters for meetings between parents and teachers.
We also liaise closely with members of our Māori parent community, who share their expertise with us in matters of protocol and in supporting our Kapa Haka group. Children are able to share their learning with their parents in face to face meetings, but also through platforms such as blogging and SeeSaw where they can post various digital artefacts including video and audio recordings. Children are encouraged to use their home language to support their learning and understanding as well.

Learning Activities: Our principal has certainly been a driving force behind lifting the profile of Māori language and culture within our school, and ensuring that teachers have the necessary skills and knowledge to include them in our classroom programmes. An example of this being that all teachers are currently completing PD in Te Reo and Tikanga through Te Wānanga o Aotearoa. The idea being that this is then taken through into our classroom programmes to upskill our learners, and acknowledge our Māori students. It is very much in it's early days and is happening with varying degrees of regularity across the school.


Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., et al.(2011).Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki. Wellington: Teaching Learning Research Initiative.

Ministry of Education. (2013). Ka Hikitia – Accelerating Success 2013-2017 Wellington, New Zealand: Author.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Exploring a Contemporary Issue or Trend: The Development and Ubiquity of New Technologies

There are many trends that are impacting on education. In this post I'm going to consider the development and ubiquity of new technologies

Photo Credit: K Anderson-McGhie Creative Commons License

Relevance to My Practice

As noted in the report produced by the OECD (2016), the internet has become very much a part of most people's lives, they expect instant answers to their questions, and are never far from it, especially with the growing uptake of various hand held devices. This is of particular interest to me, as over the 20 odd years since I first accessed the Internet, I have leveraged its potential as a tool to support my learners, as well as using it to grow both my professional capacity and my personal relationships. I am very much a self described "gadget girl" never far from one of my many devices. I am also a mother and a teacher, and over time have seen the potential for both harm and good that comes from a connected society. In my own classroom, I have children pleading for more time on our 9 devices as they explore different learning opportunities, and I also see the number of them who carry smart phones and iPods in their school bags. For me, my main focus, my main concern, is how to harness the power of this trend so that our children and their families can benefit from it.

According to data presented in the OECD (2016) report,  in 2013 the average number of Internet users was around 85% of the population, with just over 50% of those accessing the Internet from mobile devices. Interestingly, this placed us in a fairly similar position to Australia, but significantly ahead of the USA (although admittedly, both of those countries have larger populations). This indicates quite a high uptake in New Zealand, and when you consider that this data is 3 years old, it would be interesting to see the results if a survey were to be conducted today.
This trend certainly has a significant impact on our education system. When looking at CORE Educations Ten Trends for 2016, they identify issues such as equitable access, they explore the rise of networked communities, and also discuss the need to develop computational thinking and digital fluency with our young people (and I would add, their teachers and whanau too). In fact, a scroll through past iterations of the Ten Trends presents an interesting picture of the change over time, while also illustrating the increasing prevalence of digital technology in our lives.  
In July of this year, the Minister of Education announced that digital technology would be formally included as part of the New Zealand Curriculum.  This means, whether teachers are ready or not, whether parents want it or not, New Zealand children will be expected to explore digital technology as part of their learning.
Responding to the Trend
The OECD (2016) report suggests that with people now having the potential to be accessing several different things at one through their devices, this "... gives rise to worries about decreasing attention spans among today's youth" (p103).  This means that as educators, we need to make sure that learners are made aware of when it is appropriate to skim and scan, and when a deeper focus may be needed - and equip them with the skills to do both.  
One thing we need to consider is the role of reading and writing versus the use of video - both to present and share new learning. Unfortunately I can’t find a written reference, but many times in our work with Mark Treadwell, he has challenged our staff with the provocation that reading and writing will be unnecessary in the future.  I’m not sure I’m completely convinced, but this does mean that as educators, we may need to consider teaching our learners more in the way of visual language skills - such as interpreting and presenting visual media. Certainly in my own classroom, with the introduction of SeeSaw as a way of curating and sharing their learning, my students have produced a significant amount of video footage, and for many it is the preferred way to share their learning.


OECD (2016), Trends Shaping Education 2016, OECD Publishing, Paris. DOI:
Core Education's Ten Trends for 2016 Accessed from:
NZ Curriculum to include digital technology Accessed from:

Current Issues in My Professional Context

According to Stoll (1998) "School culture is one of the most complex and important concepts in education" (p9).  When considered alongside the impact of the socioeconomic status of learners, particularly the research that supports the correlation between low socioeconomic status and poor education outcomes APA (2016), it quickly becomes apparent that these factors play a significant role in determining the educational outcomes and experiences of our learners.  At the same time, these factors can also shape the beliefs, practices and well being of the teaching staff working in a school.

Photo Credit: K Anderson-McGhie Creative Commons License

What Does This Look Like in My School Community?

A quick look at 2013 Census data held by Statistics New Zealand  shows that the area in which our school is situated is one where most of the population are European, with the next biggest ethnic group being Asian, and only a very small percentage of Maori or Pacific Island decent.  Almost half of the people living in our area were born overseas.  Just under one fifth of the community are aged 15 or under. These statistics are reflective of our school community, a Decile 9, with a broad range of ethnic groups. We have only a very small number of Maori and Pasifika students, and a growing population of students from Asia - particularly China and South Korea. Interestingly, despite only a small proportion of the wider community being aged under 15, we have a rapidly growing group of Year 1 students (5 year olds), plus our school community is increasing on an almost weekly basis due to a housing boom in our area.

As a school we are aiming for a culture where all feel welcome, included and accepted. Where we embrace cultural diversity and strive to remove barriers to learning. Embracing the indigenous culture of New Zealand is valued and actively encouraged. We are committed to supporting both our staff and our students to be life-long learners and have the capacity to reach their full potential. It is a place where teachers are supported and expected to continue to build their professional knowledge and engage in current best practice.  One of the key factors in everything we do is the question: "Does this benefit our students?"

To achieve this we do the following:
  • Deliver a competency based curriculum
  • Translate signs, newsletters, and announcements into Hangul (Korean) and Madarin
  • Teachers and Senior Leadership are upskilling in Te Reo and Tikanga
  • Senior Leadership participate in all PD that the staff participate in
  • An active and growing Kapa Haka group
  • Minimising costs to parents for things such as stationery and EOTC events
  • Our Vision and Values are visible, living documents
  • Parent groups for ELL families, among others
  • And much, much more.

An Issue To Consider

Stoll and Fink (1996) as cited in Stoll (1998), identified a series of norms that can have an effect on school improvement.  In considering these 10 norms I certainly agree that these are all norms to which we aspire and, for the most part I'm pleased to say are evident in our school, particularly when considering the professional environment.  Having said that, I would argue that risk taking is something we continue to work on - we expect it from our students, but at times our teachers find this hard to do.  As a SL Team we have been considering this, and looking at ways in which we can support teachers to feel confident to do so. It is our culture of life-long learning and reaching your potential in an environment where you feel supported that is driving us as a team.  What we still need to reflect upon is - what is it that we are doing or not doing that is making this difficult for teachers? Furthermore, if we have teachers who are finding this a challenge, what does that mean for our learners?

APA. (2016). Education and Socioeconomic Status. Retrieved from

Stoll. (1998). School Culture. School Improvement Network’s Bulletin 9. Institute of Education, University of London. Retrieved from

My Community of Practice

What is a Community of Practice

Wegner (2000) defines communities of practice as ones in which members "...share cultural practices reflecting their collective learning"(p229). He also goes on to explain how the members of each community define the specific competencies required of community members and how these are comprised of three elements: joint enterprise, mutuality and a shared repertoire of resources (Wegner, 2000). I will come back to these later in this post.

Photo Credit: K Anderson-McGhie Creative Commons License

Identifying My Community of Practice

The communities of practice I belong to include: global teachers; New Zealand teachers; a member of staff at my school; a member of the senior leadership team at my school; lead learner in my classroom community; an active and long term member of global and local networks of Twitter educators. There are others as well, but for the purposes of this reflection I have decided to explore my school environment as a community of practice.
The Three Elements

Joint Enterprise: Wegner (2000) talks about the importance of learning as a community being the focus, and highlights the need for effective communities to consider both the gaps in knowledge as well as new possibilities. In our school we have taken on board a competencies based curriculum - facilitated by Mark Treadwell, which is quite cutting edge as we are one of only a handful of New Zealand schools to implement this particular iteration. This has meant that all of us, from the principal right through to our first year PRT (Provisionally Registered Teacher), have been involved in inquiring into our practice, establishing shared understandings, building upon our prior knowledge and best practice, and establishing the way forward for our school.

Mutuality: In order to build our community and help us move forward, we have a number of structures in place to facilitate support and interaction within our community.  We run two vertical teams, each comprising of around 11 teachers that come from all levels of the school.  This means that each team has a diversity of year levels and teaching experience.  Each team is lead by a Learning Leader, of which I am one. Teams meet regularly, and at all times professional development and student outcomes are at the forefront. As a staff we meet weekly, again with PD and student outcomes highlighted.  Each member of the teaching staff participates in GROWTH Coaching, with most of us acting as coaches as well as coachees.

Shared Repertoire: We have a shared OneNote notebook where we share ideas and examples of lessons we have taught that link to our competency based curriculum. Furthermore, because of the competency based curriculum we have a shared language with our learners and each other.

Defining My Practice Within the Community

As a Learning Leader and an early adopter of the competency based curriculum, I have quite an active role within the community.  As a leader I am expected to model best practice as well as showing that I am open to and actively pursuing new learning. Being on the Leadership team means I get regular opportunities to interact with Mark, which means I can clarify new concepts for my team, and have some say in the direction we are heading. As we are all on this journey together I feel very connected to the community, we all learn together, it is new for all of us, and as a staff we tend to be supportive and open with each other. There are many occasions where I get to learn from others in the community as they share something they have tried or experienced. On other occasions, I have the opportunity to take the lead or share my new learning, so it is definitely a community that is based on the principle of a social learning system, with each part contributing to the whole.

Wenger, E. (2000). Communities of practice and social learning systems.Organization, 7(2), 225-246.