Mind Lab Finale (Week 32)

Wow! 32 weeks done and dusted! It doesn’t seem like that long ago when we all started our Mind Lab journey and what a journey it has been. It’s been a challenging year both professionally and personally trying to keep up with everything happening around me. In saying that, I haven’t been alone as the Mind Lab has provided me with a sense of belonging. It’s been great being a part of the online Google+ community but even more than that I have really enjoyed being a part of the Wellington Mind Lab community. What an amazing bunch of educators and friends who are constantly pushing the boundaries both professionally and personally! Many of the assignments have been challenging not only academically but finding the time to sit down and complete them. Despite that, all those assignments were incredibly valuable (even the literature review which definitely caused a few sleepless nights!!!).

Reflecting is an important part of life. It’s embedded within our HPE curriculum and is something we encourage our students to do in order to improve. It’s no different for us- Osterman and Kottkamp (1993) describe reflective practices as a professional development practice. I even chose to look at reflective thinking and the Experiential Learning Cycle as part of my first Mind Lab assignment. As with any NZ teacher, reflecting on the Practicing Teacher Criteria (Ministry of Education, nd) comes with the job. I always find it hard to select one or two to reflect on individually as with most things in education, the interrelationships between the criteria are numerous. The two that go best with my Mind Lab journey would be Criteria 4 (Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice) and Criteria 5 (Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning).

So, how have I demonstrated a commitment to ongoing professional learning. I think it goes without saying but attending the Mind Lab and completing the assignments has made me far more aware of my professional practice and how to think more critically about what I’m doing and why. It has catapulted me into a Innovative Learning Practices committee within my school where it has sometimes felt as though I’m looked to for answers (I definitely don’t always have them!). This has made me very aware of the needs and fears of many people on our staff and because of this I have teamed up with another colleague to plan where we see value and where to next.We are both in it to help make positive change for our learners and teachers- it’s not a short term fix.

I guess this leads in quite nicely to Criteria 5 and showing leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning. We had quite the turnover of staff at the end of last year leading to many Provisionally Certified Teachers (or newbies as I like to call them) joining the ranks. While it has been challenging having many new teachers around, it’s also been inspiring to watch the staff learn from each other- inexperienced and experienced alike. I myself have thoroughly enjoyed the fresh take on things but have also been a port of call for our HPE newbies and also the not so newbies. Mind Lab has provided me with knowledge around change leadership and the opportunity/excuse to apply and evaluate it. I found this one of the most useful aspects of the course and have discovered that leadership, specifically leading change, is something I am genuinely interested in.

My next step for the future of my professional learning? Get a small group of teachers from a couple of different departments and get some junior cross curricular units in the pipeline for next year. The only way to learn is to do. I also want to get some student blogs/portfolios going. What has become apparent is that Mind Lab was purely a vehicle to kick start this journey. I don’t need an excuse to evaluate my practice or leadership (although nothing like a deadline to get the creative juices flowing!). The Mind Lab has prepared me with knowledge of where to go, who to ask and some key tools to utilise along the way.



Osterman, K. & Kottkamp, R.(1993). Reflective Practice for Educators.California.Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files.

Ministry of Education (nd). Practising teacher Criteria and e-learning . Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/

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Using social online networks for teaching/professional learning (Week 30)

Karen Melhuish mentions in her 2013 thesis on social online networking, we are all busy. Teachers and those involved in the education sector seem to be busy all the time- I know that’s how I feel a lot of the time. It always feels like there’s never enough time to get everything done- the to do list is never completed (that might be a blog for another day). Despite this lack of time and the feeling of always being busy Karen also noted that we as teachers need to get involved with (and make time for) social media if we want to experience the opportunity to discuss and debate the ins and outs of what we do- a space to critically reflect on our practice (Melhuish, 2013).

My thoughts on social networks for teaching and professional learning is positive. Sure, there are downsides to using social media such as privacy and blurred boundaries but overall the benefits fall favourably on the positive side. I use Twitter for professional learning and Facebook for personal and professional use. Most groups/organisations I follow use both but as yet there are a few that are still to jump on Twitter. The outdoors community is one such group that favours Facebook over Twitter and I’m yet to see large amounts of OED teachers on Twitter…one day!

Unfortunately, I haven’t been active on Twitter or Facebook lately…life got busy (there’s that word again!). I’m making an effort from next week to get back on board and play a bit of catch up on blogs, podcasts and the usual people I follow. The main reason I like Twitter is that I can tailor it to my own personal wants, needs and goals. This doesn’t necessarily mean I follow people that have the same ideas as me- I’d say it’s about a 50-50 split. I like people that make me think and through their thoughts and ideas, help me to critique what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and why. Twitter chats are an excellent way to do this and I’m feeling the need to get back to my #BFC630NZ whanau as soon as possible.

When it comes to my teaching, I use facebook to communicate with my students but wish I could use social media more like the teacher in this video. She has managed to bring the outside world into her classroom. At this stage, my school is not keen on this happening. We are currently working on social media and privacy policies to allow this to hopefully happen soon. I’m always keen to keep our kids and colleagues safe but it’s a little sad that paperwork is holding up the process.

Why do I use social media? I’m sure we’ve all said to our students something along the lines of two heads are better than one when encouraging co-operative collaborative learning. I feel that we’re no different and if the opportunity presents itself for us to work with educators across the world without leaving the couch, then why not? Since being encouraged by a friend to join Twitter a few years ago and then shown by another friend how to actually use it effectively, I have been blown away by the things I have learned. It also turns out that I can help others learn new things too.

My advice…get on the Twitter train! It has heaps of stops/stations and you can get on and off when and wherever you want (or need!).



Melhuish, K. (2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrived from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/han.

TVO Parents. (2013). Using Social Media in the Classroom. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=riZStaz8Rno

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Week 29: Legal and ethical contexts in my digital practice- Teachers, students and social media.

The digital world is rapidly changing and I think it’s fair to say some schools are struggling to keep up with the power that social media has in our students lives. As teachers, we often have to call on our ethics with regards to the use of social media with students. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had the odd friend request on Facebook from a student but thankfully with a name like “Jo Smith” it doesn’t happen too often.

My school is currently in the draft stage of social media policies and it can’t come soon enough. For most teachers, we didn’t grow up with social media and navigating what, when who and how can sometimes be tricky. I’m sure we’ve all seen that one friend we have that always posts something we see as inappropriate. So what would you do if a student sent you a friend request? I’m talking teenagers here, but imagine if you as a primary or intermediate school teacher was friended by a 10 year old? Or even someone at tertiary level? I previously worked with a teacher back in 2010 (in a very small community) who would send friend requests to students and saw no problem with it…I wonder if they have since changed their mind.

In New Zealand. certificated teachers are required to work within a code of ethics. One of the key points outlines that teachers are to strive to develop and maintain professional relationships with learners based upon the best interests of those learners (Education Council New Zealand, n.d.). This becomes very difficult to do if you follow each other on social media and have access to the ins and outs of each other’s private lives: the lines have been blurred and this can no longer be considered a professional relationship. What we are willing to share with our friends might not be the same for sharing with our students or teachers.

I use facebook as part of my teaching and learning programmes. I have closed groups (so we keep out the random people) and parents are informed and invited to join the class pages if they wish (but they never do!). I have a personal policy of not accepting friend requests from students while they are still at school. I will never look for them on social media once they have left school. There are other ways to show your students that you are human and live a normal life without delving into each others online lives.

How do we make these decisions? For me it all comes back to the Education Council’s Code of Ethics regarding professional relationships- this helps to maintain boundaries over what we share and what we don’t.

So, what would you do?



Education Council New Zealand (n.d.). The Education Council Code of Ethics for Certficated Teachers. Retrieved from https://educationcouncil.org.nz/content/code-of-ethics-certificated-teachers-0

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Protected: Week 28: indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness

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Protected: Education for environmental sustainability. Week 27

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Protected: Issues in my Professional Context. Week 26

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My Community of Practice – #BFC630NZ (Applied Practice, Activity 1)

Community of Practice vs Community…What’s the difference? A community of practice (COP) is more than just having something in common, it’s about “groups of people who share a concern or a passion or about a topic, and who deepen their knowledge and expertise in this area by interaction on an ongoing basis” (Wenger, McDermott & Snyder, 2002, p.4).  These Communities of Practice must have 3 elements to allow them to differentiate from a standard community: Joint enterprise, mutual engagement and shared repertoire (Wenger, 2000).

The education community on Twitter definitely fits into the COP category- sharing ideas and expertise, challenging the status quo, discussing concepts and curriculum and helping to bring about pedagogical change one tweet at a time. One such Twitter based COP that I have found very valuable in 2016 is the NZ Breakfast Club (#BFC630nz). As an active user of Twitter, I often searched up the hashtag #BFC630nz to see what they’d talked about each morning. After meeting the co-founder, Kerri Thompson, at Educamp Palmy I decided I needed to get in on one of these early morning chats.

I remember my first chat well: 3 important traits of a quality leader. I left the chat feeling energized, inspired and like I had a whole new bunch of colleagues from around New Zealand. It wasn’t hard for me to jump in on the collective understanding and culture (Joint Enterprise) of #BFC630NZ. I felt as though I could contribute straight away due to the welcoming nature of the group. At that exact moment, I decided I would definitely be back.

The #BFC630NZ whānau comprises of some great leaders who take on sharing an educational topic and facilitating the chat, sometimes even playing devil’s advocate in order to encourage rich discussion. It was started to inspire/spark thinking and provide a sense of connectedness and belonging while allowing educators to feel supported in building their professional learning network (Thompson, n.d.).

Our Shared Repertoire is defined through our routines, common language and stories we share. The chats kick off every weekday for 15 mins at 6.30am (hence the hashtag) meaning a small amount of time to give for a big reward in terms of motivation and inspiration. I have been able to build connections with educators from a variety of education sectors through participating in regular chats (I try to make it at least once a week). Sometimes however, I don’t always make it. Work demands, prior commitments or sleep deprivation can get in the way, but that’s ok- an integral part of the #BFC630NZ kaupapa is ‘when you can, when you need’.

This community of practice has provided me with a place to debate and discuss thoughts, opinions, pedagogy and research while delivering professional learning online. Through mutual engagement, we interact and maintain a kaupapa based on education: there is mutual trust in our online interactions (Wenger 2000). When I recently had to complete a Mind Lab assessment and needed feedback on a question, I immediately thought to tag #BFC630nz. Little did I know this would actually lead me into running a chat on innovative learning environments a few days later. 


With the support and encouragement of others in the #bfc630NZ community, I tried to keep up with tweets coming in from all directions. It was an inspiring experience and confirmed for me that you don’t need to know people face to face to feel safe, supported and a sense of belonging (even in disagreement). My role within this Community of Practice has gone from standing in the background to new comer to an active member who has made many connections. Depending on the topic, I am able to learn, offer expertise, share experience and contribute to the thought provoking discussions with the #BFC630nz whānau. They are my community of practice.



Thompson, K. (2015). #BFC630NZ. Retrieved from https://breakfastclubnz.wordpress.com/

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

Wenger, E., McDermott, R., & Snyder, W. (2002). Cultivating Communities of Practice: A Guide to Managing Knowledge. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Business School Press.


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