Saturday, 20 May 2017

Week 25: My Community of Practice


If Flinders University (n.d.) is correct that, "Teachers are responsible and accountable for designing and delivering a high quality of learning and teaching practice." (para 5), then how can a community of practice help me to achieve this?  A Community of Practice is defined as, '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.' (Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner, 2015).

If I had been questioned during the first 12 years of my practice, I would've said that I was a reflective practitioner, often thinking about my teaching and how individual lessons went. I was also consistently looking for ways to improve my lessons, going to courses to be given ways in which I could improve in specific areas, such as art. However, if I'm honest, these 'reflections' and the courses sat at  Zeichner and Liston’s (cited in Finlay, 2008, p.4) 'rapid reflection', where I was regularly just thinking about how the lesson had gone. The depth wasn't there. 

Over the last five to eight years, my reflection has gained more depth. Although I still rapidly reflect, I also constantly look at what has happened, what has caused this, where I want myself and/or my students to move to and what other people are doing. This type of reflection is called 'repair' and 'review' reflections, also from Zeichner and Liston. I was pleased with this increased level of reflection. Then, over the past seven months, I have boosted my level of reflection further, moving to the highest levels of 'Research' and 'retheorizing and reformulating.'

Why have I changed?
The change in my levels of reflection and teaching practices are definitely connected to the enlarging of my Communities of Practice and realising the benefit these can have on my practice. My community of practice is now broad, (see Figure 1)

Fig 1: My Communities of Learning 

Today, I have a large group of colleagues whom I regularly discuss both my own and their practice. I am observed regularly, setting new goals and researching to improve my practice. I also use social media platforms, such as Twitter to keep abreast of new research and ideas in teaching.

So What?

As I discussed, my communities of practice have enlarged significantly over the past five years, but that is meaningless if I don't use these different communities to address key areas of practice (Knox,2009).

Team Tainui
My class makes up a quarter of Tainui, my teaching team. As teachers in this team, we share ideas of our units plans and reflect on them. The area where this becomes a growth domain is in our monitoring meetings. In these meetings, one of us introduces a student we believe we can help, often in writing, and we nut out a plan. Six days later, we provide an update/feedback/make a new plan and someone else introduces a new student. These meetings allow us to draw on our collective experience, as well as doing any research that is needed to allow us to meet the student's needs. This is the document we work through:

Now What?

The impact on my teaching and personal development have been immense - I am now less reactive, more proactive. I have become more humble, realising that there is so much more to learn and that it is not a sign of weakness to admit that others know more and that I can learn from them. On the flipside, I now know my areas of strength and enjoy supporting and mentoring others in these areas. I am now a member of the Aotearoa teaching community, and through Twitter, across the world. And it feels great.

The challenge for me is going to be keeping this proactive approach alive when I'm busy and I've finished my Mindlab studies. It is easy to default to the insular life inside my classroom. But I don't want to.

Finlay, L. (2009). Reflecting on reflective practice. PBPL. Retrieved from

Flinders University. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from

Introduction to communities of practice. (n.d.). Retrieved May 19, 2017, from

Knox, B. (2009, December 4).Cultivating Communities of Practice: Making Them Grow. [video file].

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Dyslexia PD - Ann Beckitt RT:Lit


Dyslexia is so complex, that it is hard to define (which can make it a controversial issue).


  • It is a specific learning difference/difficulty
  • Has a neurological basis independent of socio-economic status, intellect or language background.
  • It has a genetic component, is likely to be present at birth and is persistent.
  • It is a combination of abilities and difficulties that affect the learning process.
  • It is a continuum, not a distinct category with no clear, cut off points. It therefore varies for each individual.
  • It results in unexpected difficulties in the acquisition of certain literacy and (sometimes) numeracy skills.
  • it has an incidence of approximately 1:10
  • It tends to be resistant to conventional teaching methods.
  • its effect can be mitigated by appropriate specific intervention.

The brain:

Reading is a relatively new skill for the brain to process. It has no specific area (in the brain). It uses existing systems and builds connections across them.

To hold onto new learning, they have to be happy, secure and motivated. The brain dumps stuff if it is scared.


Have little phonological awareness - often can't break up words, eg. c-a-t
Errors are often 'v' on Running Records - substitute in words of they get the initial sounds, often have high comprehension.
Some may get the ability to read but never get the automaticity that we do.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Mindlab Session 4: APA Referencing

One of the things that has scared me off further study is the thought of having to learn how to reference and deal with websites for research (and referencing them!) when I have never had to do that, because I was at University prior to the internet!

So What?
I have to move past that, and this list will really help me with that:

Reference / Citation Management Tools
These tools are very useful for managing your references and generating citations. There are many tools that you can use to access peer-reviewed literature: 
  • Go to Google Scholar
  • Click ‘settings’ -> ‘library links’, search for ‘unitec’, check the box and save
  • In Google Scholar, search for ‘digital collaborative learning’
  • Scroll down the results to find the article ‘Learning, teaching, and scholarship in a digital age Web 2.0 and classroom research’
  • Click on the link to the right - ‘full-text at Unitec’ then download the PDF from the library (if you don’t have library access, use the other link
MendeleyCreate an account and/or sign in at Mendeley This allows you to highlight and pin notes on your electronic pdfs. Share reading lists, references and full-text articles with your network, publicly or privately. Create groups to tackle research assignments, share feedback and write papers with your collaborators.
Zotero is designed to store, manage, and cite bibliographic references, such as books and articles. It allows you to share collections and work closely with colleagues on a project.
Citeulike has automated article recommendations and allows you to share references with your peers.
Docear This video explains how Docear is used. You are able to create categories, highlight and pin notes on your electronic pdfs as well as draft and write your own documents which can be exported to Word.
Citethisforme can be downloaded via google play app Scan book and journal barcodes using your phone’s camera to automatically generate a citation. Sync with your account to manage your bibliographies on the go
Unitec currently uses EndNote X7 which can be installed on all student PCs if you personally attend Unitec to get this installed due to licensing agreements. Copies of the programs for PCs and MACs can be borrowed from all 4 library branches for use with your own computers. Unitec staff computers must have a job logged with IT for installation.
Example of video referencing
You may also wish to view Dr David Parsons video on 'Citing and Referencing Sources in a Video Assignment'
Examples of APA referencing:
Reference List
Benseman, J. (2013). Research-Informed Teaching of Adults: A Worthy Alternative to Old Habits and Hearsay?. Unitec ePress. Number 2. Retrieved From
Freeman, R., Reiss, M. & MacDonald, J. (2013). Good Practice in Leading and Supporting a Research Team: A Guide for Research Staff and Project Managers. University of London Institute of Education. Retrieved from
Now What?
Just do it...and with the first assignment due next week, I will have to suck it up.

Mindlab Session 3: Reflection

This week our digital learning session was about Augmented Reality.

Our reflection questions were:
Consider ways that you may be able to use Virtual or Augmented Reality in your classroom or school? What would it add? How would it change the learning?

Last year, we were lucky enough to have the Google Cardboard tour through our school, and I led several classes through tours. I really enjoyed it and the students had fun. However, I haven't included it in my classroom programme for two reasons:

  • Devices and viewers - I would need to have at least 15 viewers and the equivalent number of phones. Some students have phones but would have to add the apps at home. Rhen I'd have to run the tour in a couple of sessions to get everyone through.
  • We have a seriously busy programme. Some weeks we only have 6 out of 24 blocks in the classroom to run the whole core classroom, so every second counts. I just don't see Google Cardboard tours as giving me enough bang for the buck.
I enjoyed the augmented reality we did in the last session. Several of the options were fun for my students (eg the colouring in Quiver), but the learning level is too low to extend my students (great entertainment on a wet lunchtime though).

The benefits are great for the more advanced apps, though. For example, in science we're going to be dissecting a heart soon, so we'll be able to put the Anatomy 4D augmented heart on our Promethean panels using Airplay.

An idea I will use - Aurasma:

  • With Aurasma you can take a photo of something and then when you scan it, it opens up a video you've linked to it. At the start of the year, I'm going to get the students to record an introduction to themselves and then link it to a photo. That means we can all get to know each other in a fun way at the start of the year.
  • This could also work in heaps of other areas. For example, in maths they could photograph a triangular prism, then record themselves explaining how to work out the volume of the shape. The pictures could then be up around the romm and the students click on them if they can't remember how to work something out. Very cool :)

Thursday, 17 November 2016

2LL Teacher: Term 4 Reflection

I am writing this from a point of frustration. This term, I have seen each group for  4 X 35-minute sessions. How am I supposed to run a programme where there is no continuity? I feel like it has been so hard to build on their knowledge. I had so many ideas of what I wanted to get through, yet I’ve gone nowhere.

So What?
Although I am frustrated, I need to look at the positives - most students can translate times from English into Japanese and vice versa. They understand the ways in which the Japanese people's’ attitude towards time itself can be the same and varied from their own.

Now What?
There are two ways to approach frustrations like this:
  1. Show evidence of how difficult it is, and see if there is another way 2LL teaching can be structured
  2. Make sure every lesson counts - checking that all of the lessons maximise time and learning activities with lots of repetition to help retain what is learned.
The reality is that two is the available option to me, so when I’m planning my lessons, I really need to think about what activities provide the most ‘bang for my buck’; the best use of time.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Midlab Session 2: Reflection

As a part of our preparation for Week 3, we've got to reflect on session 2.

We learned about the 21st Century Learning Activity Rubrics. We needed to take one of the skills (I chose 'Collaboration') and reflect on how one of our learning activities met the criteria of the associated skill rubric.  I chose to reflect on our PYP Exhibition.

My video is way too long. I have used this as a learning tool for myself for the first assignment. I have used iMovie, learned to add clips, picture-in-picture, transitions and add free music (attributed), the volume of which I change when I'm speaking. I then learned to generate an appropriate image to use as the thumbnail on Youtube (because I didn't like the place where it chose - I think the thumbnail should show what the video is about).

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Mindlab Session 2: Pre-session Readings

As a part of our preparation for sessions, we need to do readings and view videos (a flipped classroom - front-loading first so we can discuss in class).  One of the readings for this week had a section that resonated with me.

The reading was entitled: 

Towards Reconceptualising Leadership: The Implications of the Revised New ZealandCurriculum for School Leaders

According to Wynne (2001), the literature on teacher leadership offers a profile that defines teacher leaders as those who:
  1. demonstrate expertise in their instruction and share that knowledge with other professionals
  2. are consistently on a professional learning curve
  3. frequently reflect on their work to stay on the cutting edge of what is best for children
  4. engage in continuous action research projects that examine their effectiveness
  5. collaborate with their peers, parents, and communities, engaging them in dialogues of open inquiry/action/assessment models of change
  6. become socially conscious and politically involved
  7. mentor new teachers
  8. become more involved at universities in the preparation of pre-service teachers
  9. are risk-takers who participate in school decisions. (Wynne, 2001, pp. 2–3)
So what:
I found myself wondering how I match up against each one:
  1. I feel that I have a good knowledge across the core subject areas (expertise). I regularly share my knowledge with my colleagues, sometimes formally (in a workshop or staff meeting) and sometimes informally in discussions, where people will come and ask questions.
  2. I am constantly wanting to upskill myself. I do this formally through workshops and conference (plus this Mindlab Post-grad diploma) and informally through internet searches and readings (Twitter is a good place to find links to research and blogs).
  3. I think this PLJ is a testament to my reflections and attempts to constantly better my practice.
  4. Number four continues from the previous point. I am involved with teacher inquiry into second language learning with Auckland University, who is contracted to complete this research by the Ministry of Education.
  5. For number five, I definitely do this with my peers, but I am not strong at collaborating with parents and the wider community to bring about models of change.
  6. I am socially and politically involved as y Twitter feed will demonstrate.
  7. I do this formally in my role as a tutor teacher for a first-year teacher, and informally in conversations where I share ideas and answer queries.
  8. Berkley is a 'Normal' school, meaning that we have a constant stream of pre-service teacher through our rooms. I have been an associate teacher to over 60 student teachers.
  9. I am a risk taker in my teaching, but as a Scale-A in a large school, I don't feel that I have the opportunity to partake in school decision making, although I endeavour to do so in my team.
What now:
I was pleased with the way I stacked up in this list with, 'collaborate with their peers, parents, and communities, engaging them in dialogues of /action/assessment models of change' being the only area where I felt a real deficit. Having said that, I'm not sure that this is an area where I am open to change yet. My experience with parents being involved in engaging in dialogue about models of change, has been with parents who are centred on their own children only and have often come from years of feeling that their child has been disadvantaged. The majority of parent interaction I engage in is from parents who are really happy with the current model and want things to continue in this way.