Virtual School Meanderings

February 27, 2014

A Newsletter For All Members Of Ethos NZ Community – February 2014

Another item for my Kiwi readers…

Ethos NZ Community Newsletter

A newsletter for all members of Ethos NZ Community – February 2014

Kia ora, everyone,

As I type I am melting in the heat of a glorious, but rather humid day in New Zealand…and feel for those of you who are either being pelted by rain, or frozen by ice storms. Hopefully, no matter where you are, you will find something to enjoy in this month’s newsletter.

Matt Nicoll, this months’ featured blogger, has been trialling a range of approaches with his students, and together they have figured out what works for them. His inspirational post provides insights about how students can lead the learning…although I know from reading Matt’s other posts, that it hasn’t always been plain sailing.

One of things I feel is sometimes overlooked is that the greater the choice, the greater the need for the provision of scaffolding and support for learners. From experience, moving from a more structured, to a less structured/more choice and more autonomy stage, is most effective for learners when it is taken in steps. A blended approach, for example, where students can access guides etc, just-in-time can be really powerful.

With groups of students I worked with a couple of years back, it took 4 overarching ‘project’ inquiry cycles spread over 40 weeks to move from teacher-centred (the mode they were most used to), to a place where they were comfortable choosing the approach, topic/question, tool…and knew how to work with the grading rubrics…as well as where and how to seek help (virtually and face-to-face). Each cycle the ‘training wheels’ were further removed, and a greater level of sophistication in the skills and thinking applied, was sought.

The good news is, most of the students involved reported that they had increased in confidence, enjoyment, skill-levels and engagement. The achievement data was interesting too – the ‘high flyers’ soared…the number of students who were in the ‘comfortable’ band remained about the same, but the number of students achieving at the lower end of the spectrum increased (the data was collected with student cohorts (approx 200 in each) over 3 1/2 years). After some head scratching, we figured out that it was because the number of failing students had decreased significantly…those students who may have traditionally ‘not achieved’ (gosh I hate that terminology), were “succeeding”. I must admit to being elated! And much was to do with cycles and the scaffolding (in part enabled by a blended approach), as well as the social learning and support that occurred between students.

What are your experiences with moving into a learner-led approach? Would be great to hear your stories.

Welcome to new members – February 2012

The Ethos Online Community now has 280 members. I hope you will all give a warm welcome to Novembers additions to the community:

  • David Rhodes, is an educator based in Auckland. David is passionate about teaching and technology – sounds like you’re in the right place David – welcome.

  • Anne Kenneally, is a Mosgiel based educator. Anne is “passionate about Modern Learning Pedagogy, Flexible Learning Spaces, Mobile devices, Literacy, Creativity, Blogging and making learning fun!”. Anne has a great blog you can check out here.

  • Gavin Clark, a Hamilton based teacher, is “interested in how digital technologies can enhance teaching and student engagement and attainment” – I hope that you find the conversations on Ethos feeds these interests Gavin.

  • Fionna Wright, a facilitator based in Christchurch. Fionna is interested in a wide variety of ways ICT enhances learning. You can take a look at Fionna’s blog here:

If you know of anyone who might like to be involved in the Ethos online community – or to contribute a guest post, please feel free to invite them using this link:

Member Posts and discussions

In this newsletter, as always we have some great featured posts. Please jump into the conversation and feel free to ask questions.

  • This month’s featured blogger is Matt Nicoll, who shares with us an initiative he and his year 9 students undertook. A science based magic show was planned and facilitated by his students to demonstrate to the year 3 students of the school. It proved to be a very effective way to get students engaging and interacting. Take a look at Matt’s post and the results here.

  • Monika Kern has just enrolled to take a MOOC on gamification. If anyone else is interested on the subject or has any advice for Monica please take a look and leave your comments here.

  • Stuff about MOOCs leads to many questions… is  a post from Pascale Hyboud-Peron. This post is great as it has started a discussion about the pros and cons of MOOCs and how they affect education. Also some helpful links.

  • I do not know is a piece from John S. Oliver reflecting on the virtues and power in admitting ignorance rather than lying about our knowledge or avoiding subjects we are not educated about.

  • Is radio a good medium for teaching english? a question that Adon Kumar hopes to answer in his latest project: a radio show called “English for Migrants”. Adon hopes to focus on a different topic each week that will be relevant for migrants to New Zealand. Check out all the details here.

  • Monika Kern shares with us her thoughts on what ideal education would look like. Monika has some creative and innovative ideas about how education could be improved. Take a look here: My successful schools of the future. I’m sure Monika (and everyone else) would love to hear other’s ideas on the matter too.

Recommended Blog posts / Discussion

As always we have managed to accumulate a great variety of subjects covered in this months’ blog posts. Here are some of the posts and topics that could be of interest:

  • If you are working with ESOL students from year 7 – year 13 take a look here to gain more information and see if they are eligible to participate in ELLINZ.

  • The Educational Review Office (ERO) released a review on “Including Students with High Needs: Primary Schools” in July last year. While a large number of New Zealand primary schools were mostly inclusive there is still room for improvement. In order to aid this improvement the Inclusive Practices Tools (IPT) have been developed. Read more information about the tools and the efforts being made here.

  • Dialoguing problems… reflects on the work of Brian Edmiston (from Ohio State University) regarding how to encourage dialogue between teachers and students. Edmiston, says that “challenging authority is something that children need to learn to do, when it’s the right thing to do”. There are some great tips and advice on how to approach this.

  • John S. Oliver shares with us some super student learning outcomes he spotted at a college in Dallas, that we could all benefit from incorporating into our own practive. Check them out here.

  • Rows of Too Perfect Faces reflects upon the now prolific use of photoshop and other such retouching tools, especially in magazines and other such mass media. What drives this and what will the consequences be? Please feel free to jump in with any thoughts.

  • This post features a critique by Karen Melhuish Spencer, who is one of the leading lights in eLearning in New Zealand. The focuses on a piece of research entitled “The Impact of Digital Technology on Learning”. It would be great to read your opinions on the matter.

  • Can ICT enhanced learning and teaching help aid vocational education and training? click here to find out more.

Recommended videos

From the ever growing repository of videos (938 in total – thanks as always to John S Oliver for his awesome contributions), these are a just few of the highlights.

  • Logan Laplante is a 13 year-old boy who was taken out of the education system to be home schooled instead. Not only was he home schooled, but Logan had the ability to tailor his education to his interests and also his style of learning, something traditional education often does not offer. This is Logan’s Tedx Talk. Charlotte Caines mentions that she personally found it entertaining and very clever! “What an insightful young man, well worth a watch”. Would love to hear if you enjoyed it too.

  • Take a look at this hilarious and poignant speech from Tim Minchin, the former UWA arts student described as “sublimely talented, witty, smart and unabashedly offensive”. A highly entertaining and worthwhile video.

  • Dale Williams is Mayor of Otorohanga and Chair of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs. Here Dale discusses his work training young people through apprenticeship programmes and how vocational training can be of great advantage.

  • Check out this great video to further the discussion about using Wikipedia in education. What are your thoughts on it’s use in this area?

  • Take a look at this cool little video on Animation basics: the art of timing and spacing

  • Every webinar you have ever been in – an entertaining video that, if you have ever been in a webinar or video conference, will be instantly recognisable! I couldn’t stop laughing!! :-)


  • For anyone working with primary (elementary) students and incorporating laptops into the learning experience, this is a great post filled with research, resources and tips that may be of help.

  • Has anyone started using Chromebox for meetings? This post discusses the tool. It would be awesome to hear if you are using it and how you are finding it.


Lots of other things happening (online courses, conferences and other opportunities), including  – the 10th international conference mobile learning – have a look at the events listing for more details.

Please feel free to add events to share them, or just let me know and I’ll add them :-)

Many thanks once again to Matt Nicoll, Adon Kumar, Adam Fletcher, Karen Melhuish Spencer, Charlotte Caines,  Monika Kern, Leigh Hynes, John S. Oliver, Pascale Hyboud-Peron, Glen Davis, and Fiona White.

Please keep your posts (including cross-posts), comments and recommendations coming :-)

Ngā mihi nui, and all the very best,


Leave a Comment »

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: