Virtual School Meanderings

August 31, 2016

Your Newsletter From The Ethos Online Community – August 2016

For my Kiwi readers…

Your newsletter from the Ethos Online Community – August 2016


Kia ora, talofa lava, and greetings,


Most people in today’s workforce and communities – especially when they are in leadership positions – are expected to work well with people. This expectation includes being able to help people to grasp the courage to act, develop new ideas, take risks, and “make the changes that we know in our hearts are essential and right in the world” (Robertson, 2015, p. 15). However, it’s often asked ‘How do I do that’? ‘What changes can I make’? And, ‘what sort of support is there to help me’?

This month in the Ethos online community these questions are explored from a number of perspectives. From the aspirational such as the post from Paula Eskett (Literacy should wear a superhero cape), who states that “We have the evidence that proves reading and being literate changes lives. But, for many, poverty, access to libraries, books, and resources continues to be an unfair barrier”. Paula shares a story of inspiration from Ntomboxolo in Khayelitsha, South Africa, where essential change has been made through a combination of community collaboration, innovative thinking, and taking considered risks … to combine laundry, libraries and literacy.

Writing from a different angle with a focus on immediate professional dispositions and practice, Sarah Grace Del Rosario has posted The Changing Role of the Teacher: 5 Ways to Adapt and 5 Habits of Creative Teachers. And, Monika Kern details the amazing example of how she and her students have worked together to create change, in (and outside of) existing formal learning paradigms, in Chromebooks for 6 & 7 year olds and Minecraft and Literacy – midpoint review.

These examples are just a few that illustrate some of the ‘what’, ‘why’, and ‘how’, of making essential change. You may still be wondering though what your first steps might be. From my own experience I’ve noticed that those people who have a strong mentoring or coaching relationship feel supported to make change, as well as inspired and motivated. You can find mentors and coaches by doing an online search, from recommendations, or via companies or individuals who offer coaching and/or mentoring services – and many offerings are virtual so you have pretty much global choice and won’t have to travel.

Some organisations are also supporting leaders by working toward the establishment of a whole-organisation coaching culture will be one where coaching approaches are ‘normalised’. For instance, it will be the preferred way of having candid, respectful conversations that aren’t restricted by reporting relationships (Crane, 2005). Part of this is  ensuring that everyone has opportunities to develop their own coaching skills. Otherwise, the tendency is for people to default to the neurologically energy-efficient approach of telling, which “requires less intellectual and emotional energy than engaging …[someone] in a thought process to advance their capability” (Hoole, & Riddle, 2015, Para 29).

It would be great to hear what changes you are making that you know in your heart are essential and right – and to find out who is walking alongside you as part of that change. Please share.


Welcome to new members – August  2016

The Ethos Online Community now has 419 members. Hope you will all give a warm haere mai (welcome) to August’s new members to the community:

  • Auckland based teacher, Bronwyn Edmunds, who would like to use ICT to support the teaching and learning process embedded within effective teaching theory. Bronwyn is passionate about the potential of effective learning to ignite and engage students and develop skills and values to be lifelong learners.

  • With particular focus on how ICT can be used as a tool to enhance student engagement in learning,  Amira Aman is  a secondary teacher working in Christchurch.

  • Paula Eskett, a librarian from Christchurch, is interested in how we gather and learn from information. She has already posted her first blog, which you can read more about below (Literacy should wear a superhero cape).

  • An Ocerint Secretary, all the way from Istanbul, welcome Metin Demir. Metin is our go-to conference expert.

  • Another member from a faraway land, Sarah Grace Del Rosario joins us from Cabanatuan, Philippines. Grace is a writer with a keen desire to share her knowledge (yay for us!). Sarah has already shared two very interesting posts on the changing role of the teacher and 5 habits of creative teachers.


Know anyone who would like to join an international Online Community that’s all about learning – across all education sectors, business & ITOs: Please invite them :)


Member Blog Posts and discussions

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

  • August’s featured blogger is Monika Kern. Monika has written about the educational potential of the video game Minecraft before, but in Minecraft and literacy – midpoint review it’s time for her to take action. Monika is now working with her class of 6-8 year olds to explore how the virtual world can help grow their literacy. Monika talks us through the process of setting the classroom up and negotiating a Minecraft treaty. The project is now 3 months in and Monika shares with us some of the set tasks. Particularly focusing on how these can ensure the students are learning, not purely playing a video game. Monika also shares the pitfalls to the program and whether it has made a difference to her students.

  • We are then lucky enough to get a further update on this fascinating project. In Chromebooks for 6&7 year olds, Monika observes her students starting to take some responsibility for their own learning, gravitating towards expert peers and even asking Monika to ‘keep it down’ so they could start learning from one another. Monika explores how the program is helping them manage self, relate to others and actively participate and contribute. She also notes her students initiative as they start to use Google docs to share information. This post also looks into the technical side of things, where Monika recommends some tools to help students with the typing and writing process, and to help teachers monitor individual progress. A great initiative that seems to be getting a very positive response!

  • Time time time – this is a revisit of a post from last year that still carries a lot of relevance, which focuses on time – the commodity we truly have no control over. Here Leigh Hynes  shares her frustrations (which I am sure many of you can relate to) about how there’s never enough of it, yet there are also things that can’t seem to happen soon enough. Unfortunately this is something that affects professional and personal development, as well as the development of students, particularly when it comes to gaining access to resources promptly.

  • It is often easy to take education for granted; sometimes we may forget that this is a privilege that many are unable to experience. Luckily some socially entrepreneurial Oxford students are trying to change this. Literacy Should Wear a Superhero Cape looks at the Libromat project currently being implemented in Ntomboxolo 30km outside Cape Town in, South Africa. This innovative idea provides both laundry equipment and literacy resources to impoverished areas. Although the combination may not make sense straight away, it’s a winning one. Women in these areas spend on average 9 hours a week handwashing clothes. The onerous task of laundry takes its toll on the amount of quality time able to be spent connecting and teaching their children. The Libromat is a combination of training hub, library and Laundromat, encouraging and teaching parents how to share and enjoy picture books with their children, while using low-cost washing machines to complete the family washing. Within weeks the program has already demonstrated marked improvements for both parents and children. Author of this post, Paula Eskett, was lucky enough to visit the Libromat in Khayelitsha. One of her observations of this time was, unfortunately, a similarity between the situation in Khayelitsha and some areas of New Zealand. This post explores how a similar program could work in NZ.


Also recommended

As always you have contributed a superb variety of posts this month. Thank you. Here are some of the posts and topics that you may find of interest:


  • In today’s advanced world, young people are already learning in very different ways to even ten years ago. But it seems educators aren’t advancing their practices at quite the same rate, causing a rift between instructor and pupil that manifests itself in sliding test scores, retention rates, and educational quality in general. What needs to change on order to amend this? Does the trouble lie in constant theorising and no action? Surely students won’t wait for the next shift in pedagogy. Take a read and add your thoughts: The changing role of the teacher: 5 ways to adapt.

  • Linking perfectly with the above blog, this post looks at 5 habits of creative teachers. What can you do as an educator to inspire and make your method of instruction different, effective? In early December, seven teachers in New York were recognised by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for their creative approaches. This post looks at what makes a creative teacher and how we can all strive to be top of our game in this arena. A big thanks to Sarah Grace Del Rosario for the above two posts.

  • The power of women is slowly being globally acknowledged, and this new resource is another positive move in the right direction. Free to use: Women in global workplaces looks at Images of Empowerment, a new Creative Commons licensed ( CC-BY-NC ) photoset from the The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. The photos focus on depicting women in decision-making roles around the world. The company particularly wanted to show the positive, strong side to women working in locations that are often overshadowed by negativity.

  • Extending wireless out to the community for students: Pt England school looks at how one Auckland school is addressing a common problem; student accessibility to technology outside of school hours. The solution comes in the form of distribution of netbooks to students in the Manaiakalani Cluster. For around $450, each can have a full-featured Asus Eee PC netbook to take home as their own and keep after three years. There are also plans to roll out a wireless network that will provide internet to all houses in the school zone. The above post explains in more details the security of this program and how it positively affects the community.

  • Technology has enabled many amazing things, one of which being constant connectivity. While virtual meetings provide the opportunity for collaboration (and to wear pajama pants in a meeting), it’s important to know how to run these in a way that is efficient so that everyone gets the most from them. A guide to running virtual meetings is a helpful little infographic with lots of tips on how to make your virtual meeting the best it can be.

  • As above, technology doesn’t just enable virtual meetings, it enables virtual workplaces. Many jobs are now able to be successfully completed from the comfort of a (connected) home (or similar). But with this luxury also comes a number of distractions, temptations, blurred work-home boundaries and a completely different work environment. This post looks at a 2012 article published in The Taranaki Times which analyses the personality and work styles that do and do not suit working from home. The article also gives insight from home workers and some tips on how to make it work for you from time management expert Robyn Pearce.

  • This month is Awake August, an initiative that encourages people to write ‘a small stone’ everyday. A small stone is a short piece of writing that precisely captures a fully-engaged moment. The idea is to help people engage with the world and its beauty by paying extra attention to gather detail for their writing. It is essentially a mindful writing technique, and a very cool idea. John S. Oliver has been participating this month, and has been kind enough to share some of his musings. Go to John’s page to find his sharp observations on media saturation, construction workers, plants, the elderly and more. A very interesting project and some very interesting writing.


Recommended videos

From the ever growing repository of videos (1342 in total), these are a just few of the highlights.

  • My world my view  is shared by the wonderful Catriona Pene who writes: “The Ministry of Education spoke to children who will enjoy a more inclusive world under the revised disability strategy. This is their take on inclusion in Aotearoa New Zealand”.

  • This is the Ted Talk of Rick Hanson (Hardwiring happiness: Have a good experience, enrich, absorb…repeat). Hanson is a neuropsychologist and offers practical ideas based on research and experience.

  • This powerful video illustrates the power of empathy as the one key thing (out of a list of 5) that we, as humans, have above and beyond machines. The argument is that empathy fuels curiosity, a desire to innovate and problem solve, and a deeper understanding of the ‘why’. Highly recommended watch (and thanks to Suzi Gould for sharing), take a look – Without empathy, can we learn?

  • The Pearson Affordable Learning Fund makes significant minority equity investments in for-profit companies to meet the growing demand for affordable education across the developing world. One of those investments is in SPARK Schools, a network of primary schools in South Africa that use a blended learning model with adaptive technology and personalized learning, combined with high-quality teachers. Here SPARK teacher Leon Museti talks about how blended learning helps to use her time more intelligently to the benefit of her students.

  • World War I – : The Seminal Tragedy – I: The Concert of Europe – Extra History is a quirky overview of WWI and the influence it has had on today’s world. A simple way to explain the war in an accessible way.

  • Can we learn to lead, or is leadership something we’re born with? In this thought-provoking talk, Tasha Eurich shares a prescription to be not just awesome at leadership, but anything else you want to improve.



  • Opening up the world with open reading looks at two resources shared by Richard Elliott. Richard has shared two brilliant resources (The Open Library and The Open Textbook Catalogue) that allow users access to a wide range of books, both academic sources and fiction books. The sites have a variety of paid for and free options. A fantastic classroom resource as well as a treasure chest for any keen readers.

  • Engaging reluctant learners provides links to a session facilitated by Clarrie Yates a while back. It provides some ideas around why learners might be reluctant and/or disengaged, and some strategies as an educator that you might apply, this is a useful recording and set of resources are useful to dip into.

  • There have been a lot of online workshops / web conferences available lately. While these provide some fantastic opportunities, the lack of face-to-face contact can also present challenges for both facilitators and participants. In order to provide a place where these challenges can be discussed and hopefully solutions found, Karen Melhuish decided to start an open Google doc. More information and links are available in the blog post (How do you facilitate synchronous sessions?), but basically everyone is welcome and we would love to have your input.



  • Cyma Ltd is looking for a new team member! This is a permanent position as a senior architect in New Zealand’s best architecture consulting company. You will have the opportunity to work with some great clients as well as help bring on board new ones. The work will range from business and enterprise architecture through to solution architecture.


What’s on?

Lots of other things happening (online courses, conferences and other opportunities) including The 49th Annual Meeting of the British Association for Applied Linguistics in Cambridge from September 1st-3rd.


You might also be interested in signing up for the TRCC Mentoring Conference in April 2017, shared by Amira Aman.


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



Much gratitude to Charlotte Caines for continuing to do the lion’s share of work putting this monthly newsletter together. Please keep your posts (including cross-posts), comments and recommendations coming :-)


Nāku iti nei, faafetai lava, and warm regards


Hazel Owen

Education consultant / Director

Ethos Consultancy NZ Ltd

PO Box 90391, Victoria Street West,

Auckland 1142

Phone +64 (0)9 9738027 / +64 (0)9 5750206

Mobile +64 (0)21 2273777

Web site:


Email addresses: /

Skype: hazelowendmc

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