Virtual School Meanderings

October 2, 2016

Your Newsletter From The Ethos Online Community – September 2016

This showed up in my inbox on Friday, so I held it until now so I could post it in conjunction with the beginning of a new week for my Kiwi colleagues…

Your newsletter from the Ethos Online Community – September 2016


Kia ora, talofa lava, and greetings,


You may have experienced those times when someone comes up to you and asks a question – and it may be something that is covered in the manual, was mentioned in the last meeting, or you are pretty sure is available via a quick online search. Nathaniel Louwrens explores this tendency, in his post “We don’t know what we don’t know” – So what can we do about it?, starting with the wondering if the notion that ‘we don’t know what we don’t know’ “could, sometimes, just be an excuse”. He goes on to pose the question “is there a way for us to find out what we don’t know other than having someone come and tell us”?


It’s a really good question! Organisations of all types around the globe are supporting their employees…or students to develop “critical thinking and problem solving; collaboration; and creativity and imagination” (see, for example, Leigh Hyne’s recent blog post). However, it seems that some people are still falling back to the possibly more familiar option of waiting for know how to come to them.


Nathaniel outlines what he does when faced with something he doesn’t know about or can’t yet do. I too, when faced with a practical question around something I am totally unfamiliar with – like the recent one of my laptop going ‘beep, beep, beep’ and refusing to start – do an online search. (You may have spotted the issue – you do need another Internet compatible device to do a search.) The search in this instance brought up forum posts, videos and diagrams galore, all there to help me with this (for me) complex problem. I worked through four of five of the results (to evaluate how reliable they were), and then settled on a step-by-step video that 1) told me that my RAM had become unseated, and 2) how to fix it!

On more philosophical questions … and when looking for inspiration … Nathaniel notes readily available resources, collections, and communities where you can be inspired and keep up to date, especially “blogs, lots of blogs of teachers, educators, school leaders, and other experts that have enlightened me as to what is possible”.

Maybe there are two underlying factors at work here. The first is knowing how to search, what to look for, and how to evaluate reliability; and the second is a person cultivating the curiosity that motivates them to read blogs, participate in communities, and keep up to date with emerging ideas / trends.

What are your thoughts? :) Are you going to accept Nathaniel’s challenge to “see if we can find out what we don’t know because we want to continually improve our practice and give the benefit to our students” (and I would add colleagues)?


Welcome to new members – September  2016

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

  • From lovely Pt Chevalier in Auckland, we welcome Lynne Thomas. Lynne is a Learning with Digital Technologies Facilitator who was interested in joining an online community to see what it was all about – we hope we can help Lynne!


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.

  • In the featured blog post for August 2016, How to thrive online an important point is made – just surviving online is not enough, we need to strive to teach young people how to thrive online. Howard Rheingold, cyberculture expert and academic, has developed 5 key literacies needed to achieve this. He calls these literacies – attention, crap detection, participation, collaboration and network smarts. In the above post Leigh Hynes explains these literacies as well as linking us to a video of Rheingold himself discussing them. This is an interesting theory and definitely one that is relevant to anyone with young students, children etc. who are learning to function effectively in an online environment.

  • There are basic tips in photography that anyone can follow whether you are a beginner or more experienced with photography. There are some common things you can follow to get the best results from your photography. Vikas Rana shares with us 5 Photography Tips for Beginners.

  • Sometimes it is easy to forget just how far things have changed and developed. John S. Oliver has posted this very interesting infographic all about the history of education technology.  He, rightly so, suggests it could be used to educate just about anyone on how far these resources have developed in a short period of time.

  • It is we can slip into making excuses, intentional or not. One of the more commonly used ones is “we don’t know what we don’t know”. However, as Nathaniel Louwrens points out in his post, shouldn’t we then be questioning how to fix this issue? Nathaniel delves into methods we can use to bridge potential knowledge gaps. Tools like Twitter, Facebook, online forums and even trusty old Google provide a very easy way to expose ourselves to a wealth of otherwise unknown ideas, activities, resources and much more. Nathan also shares some fabulous blogs and resources to get you going on your hunt! Take a look: “We don’t know what we don’t know” – So what can we do about it?

  • Like Nathan, Leigh Hynes is a strong believer in Twitter as a teaching and learning tool. In fact Leigh uses Twitter regularly to source information, share resources and notes and find new topics of interest. She recently had the opportunity to further research Twitter as a learning tool due to a paper she is studying, and put out a call to action to find how people really felt about the social media platform being used in the education environment. In 2 days Leigh had a fantastic 50 responses.This allowed her to gauge people’s attitudes and techniques. You can see the results in the link above, but it is interesting to note that respondents had a positive outlook on Twitter in education. The respondents were also questioned on how Twitter may have affected their practices and the learning of their students. Given the agreeable response, Leigh questions why so many people are doubters. She does point out however, that most who use the platform don’t move away from it, suggesting that the dubious ones may not have actually experienced the pros and cons. Leigh leaves us with a questions – what do you think – is Twitter a useful teaching and learning tool? Take a read and find out!

  • Peter Breach has been involved in the creation of syllabi for many years now and in multiple locations. In Reflections on teaching ICT Peter writes about the changing landscape, particularly in regards to technology, and how this must influence the skills students have and need, as well as how they acquire them. Particularly the age students are exposed to ICT has changed and they have access to powerful devices, sometimes from a young age. Peter observes that nowadays by the time students reach the level he teaches (year 9) they already have plenty of basic ICT skills – so how does he change his approach to ensure he is keeping students engaged and not going over old ground? Peter has decided to look at using more of a workshop style approach, while also supporting teachers to develop materials and use of technology in their teaching by focusing on whole school Staff Development. As such, the teachers have stopped being a “teacher” in the traditional sense, and are now facilitators. Peter has also included plenty of resources and product suggestions. Has anyone else found their job has altered dramatically due to similar environmental changes?


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:

  • Should the ‘Distance’ be taken out of distance education? Should it just be called education? With technology changing the way we are learning (e.g. the ability to export education, new apps, and eportfolios), does this in turn affect how we measure someone’s level of education? There is, in general, concern that education isn’t working, and if we just continue doing what we have been doing, we will continue to get the same results. Will this result in a revolution of sorts – perhaps a shift in people’s mindsets and the role of teachers and learners? Take a look at these thoughts, and add your own, in The future of distance education?

  • On choosing the wrong drivers for whole system reform looks at the 2011 paper of the same name, by Michael Fullan. The paper looks at the common mistake leaders make in the rush to move forward – choosing the wrong drivers. This can lead to missing the fundamental targets and ineffectiveness. This paper identifies these wrong drivers and searches to discover why they are selected and the effect it has.

  • Continuing on from the theme of coaching and mentoring that has been popping up here on the Ethos online community for the past few months, Making change in education – by building a coaching culture looks at why many organisations are choosing to prioritise a coaching culture. A coaching culture helps solidify how interpersonal interactions and communications should take place in order to accurately reflect the values of an organisation. So how do organisations go about implementing this and what does it look like in practice? And why is it so important? Luckily the post answers all these questions, with plenty of tips and resources along the way.

  • This thoughtful, honest reflection about moving from a lurker to a more confident community participant was shared by Diana Ayling (here). In her post Stephanie Bader, reflects on the fear she faced when initially jumping into the development of her personal and professional learning network, and the steps she takes from a fearful first (and abandoned) attempt, to a fully fledged active member of social networks. It is reassuring to read Stephanie’s account, and she also offers some great tips for folk who are just lurking in the wings, wondering how they might confidently take a meaningful part in the performance on the main stage.

  • How do mature students experiences in tertiary education differ? In her research study – The engagement of mature distance students – Ella Kahu uses a definition of mature students as 25 and over years of age. Ella looks at the factors that influence mature students and what these factors in turn impact. Looking into things like motivation, satisfaction, social interaction, time management, the research explores how much of an influence age has on these factors – for instance there is obviously a low level of satisfaction in students who consider leaving, but does this differ between a mature student who is considering this and their younger counterpart? Mode of study was also investigated. In A different pattern of student engagement: Mature distance students at university you can read the research and a synopsis of the findings.


Recommended videos

From the ever growing repository of videos (1353 in total), these are a just few of the highlights.

  • What are we teaching our kids!? Bring on the female superheroes – in this passionate, sparkling talk, media studies scholar (and father of a Star Wars-obsessed daughter) Christopher Bell addresses the alarming lack of female superheroes in the toys and products marketed to kids — and what it means for how we teach them about the world. A passionate, heart-felt challenge to media companies … and to us! He talks about the messages we are sending when boys and girls are taught about what society expects and what it is OK to like or not like, sometimes with tragic consequences.

  • It’s a bit dated (from 2006), and is a bit of Microsoft bashing, but this humorous take on technology design still holds many elements of truth. If nothing else, watch it for a bit of a trip down memory lane. In Designing technology – simplicity sells , New York Times columnist David Pogue takes aim at technology’s worst interface-design offenders, and provides encouraging examples of products that get it right. To funny things up, he bursts into song.

  • In See Microbes with this DIY Phone App  John S. Oliver shares with us how you can see the tiny creatures living in a pond or puddle using your smartphone, poster tack, and a laser pointer.

  • Do you struggle to keep a conversation going with someone after you say hello? In this speech, Jason McGarva shares a simple secret that will make it easy for you to improve your ability to talk with people anywhere you go.


What’s on?

Lots of other things happening (online courses, conferences and other opportunities) – in particular including Moodle Moot NZX (2016) in Whangarei, New Zealand, and uLearn in Rotorua, both starting on October 5th.


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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