Virtual School Meanderings

November 30, 2016

Your Newsletter From The Ethos Online Community – November 2016

One for my Kiwi readers from the inbox overnight…

Your newsletter from the Ethos Online Community – November 2016

Kia ora, talofa lava, and greetings,

I am guessing you are reading this newsletter…or you may have a screenreader reading the text out to you; or perhaps someone is reading it to you. The thing is, I can’t assume how, or if, you will be able to access it – something I need to have thought about to ensure that the design is inclusive.

I remember having a discussion with a dear friend and colleague, Chrissie Butler a few years ago. At the time…and I cringe as think back…I posited that while, of course, accessibility was a key aspect of designing inclusive learning experiences in online spaces, that there was research that supported the efficacy of learning with, for example, interactive flash objects (which are very definitely not accessible). We had an animated conversation, which really challenged my thinking and changed my mind. Now, I strongly feel that we need to design so that accessibility is the goal, with inclusiveness as an underpinning principle not a final thought.

In the community this month Raymond Rose, who has been involved in “online accessibility since I was part of the team that created the first virtual high school in the US back in the mid-90s”. He blogs regularly about “latest issues on accessibility as well as on other issues related to quality online learning”, and has shared a really interesting post: Have You Started Thinking About VR (Virtual Reality)? What about VR and Accessibility?. There is, he shares “a world of folks who care about accessibility in games and a group of game developers who have disabilities”. Ray is concerned that the momentum with Virtual Reality continues, and doesn’t go the way of the hype / boom / bust cycle of Second Life. Mark Bartlet from The AbleGamers Foundations feels that “the hype is a good thing”, and goes on to say “I am not 100% sold on what the tech will do for gaming, much less the disabled community”…. “the market is going to speak and then we will decide if we like virtual reality or not … it has been in the hands of so few people, that we don’t know what the truth is yet” (source).

One of the key messages though is, when the design is accessible, it is way better for everyone. In other words, we need to improve our tools and our practice to be truly inclusive; there is no thing as ‘mostly accessible’ – whatever you design and develop is either inclusive to all or it’s not. At the end of the day, it shouldn’t even be a question; it should just be ‘who we are’.

Would love to hear your thoughts, and experiences. Do you have any examples (good, bad, and ugly)? Ray is also interested in any examples of enforcement actions on access to digital resources that you may know of.

Welcome to new members – November  2016

The Ethos Online Community now has 429 members. Hope you will all give a warm haere mai (welcome) to November’s new members to the community:

  • Mentor, Merryn Dunmill, joins us from Christchurch. As a virtual mentor and coach, both education and technology play large roles in Merryn’s world.

  • From lovely New Plymouth we welcome, Wharehoka Wano. Wharehoka is the General Manager of the Taranaki Iwi. Wharehoka believes ICT to offer communities the opportunity to access information, communicate and stay connected. Take a look at his blog here:

  • Raymond M Rose is an all round general evangelist for online accessibility learning, joining us all the way from Port Aransas, Texas. Raymond was part of the team that created the first virtual high school in the US. He also advocates for access and equity in education, and in particular online learning. Raymond is the Public Policy Chair for the Texas Distance Learning Association and a former faculty teaching instructional technology to pre-service teachers. A very impressive list of credentials! To learn more familiarise yourself with his blog;

  • Centre Manager for the coding education initiative, Scratchpad (, we welcome Jennie Cronje. Jennie works closely with ICT enhanced learning and carries a belief in the empowerment of students by learning to code and to change the future.

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.

  • Our featured blogger for November is Pete Jones. In Cracking the code: Helping students understand the IELTS band score descriptors, Pete takes us on his journey of discovery (or as he like to term it, uncovery) in the understanding and teaching of IELTS candidates. Pete had been working with IELTS candidates for a few years when he noticed a flaw in the system; the understanding of the assessment criteria. Students were consistently showing confusion and frustration when trying to comprehend these guidelines. Pete took matters into his own hands and began paraphrasing and illustrating the IELTS Speaking and Writing band score, with much success for his students. From this Pete has created a fantastic series of IELTS Speaking band score videos. Each short clip focuses on a single part of the IELTS Speaking test and one feature of the IELTS Speaking band score descriptors. Pete also links us to his blog, where there is a written piece associated with each clip. A creative and informative resource.

  • John S. Oliver has posted a fantastic blog on an amazing project he plans on involving himself in this summer. In I Plan to Apply Myself as an Educator in this Practical Arena John introduces us to SOIL Haiti. SOIL is an initiative that aims to promote the use of ecological sanitation (EcoSan), a process by which human wastes are converted into valuable compost, in order to help ease the waste problem that has developed in Haiti. John shares a great video and web links to the project.

  • Merryn Dunmill has very kindly set up a google doc for people to hopefully will contribute to so we grow and share knowledge and good practice as we engage with our Māori and Pasifika students. A really helpful resource – thanks Merryn!

  • With nature as his inspiration, John S. Oliver, has composed a magical, lyrical piece of writing. Bud to soil imaginatively describes the life cycle of a leaf. This piece could serve as inspiration for students to  illustrate the process or as the starting point for a creative discussion.

  • This month we have pulled an old fave from the archives as it deserves some further attention. Using a reflective framework to support professional learning and reflective practice delves into the importance of collaboration and open learning. Bronwyn Hegarty reflects upon how her exposure to collaborative research projects aided in developing her ability to share ideas and resources and helped her gain entry to certain networks. This eventually led to the discovery of open education and social networks – enabling further collaboration. Bronwyn has always found this accessibility to the cross fertilization of ideas breeds very effective results. Why then do so many educators still believe it easier to work alone? Lucky for us, Bronwyn has put time and effort into developing a three step process to move away from this individuo-centric approach.  The Three-Step Reflective Framework encourages the practitioner  to think critically about the event, and then to reflect upon it critically also. Have a go and let us know your thoughts!

  • Virtual reality (VR) has been a hot topic this year, one that has managed to creep into the education sphere. In his post, Raymond M Rose, reminisces on the similar excitement around the arrival of Second Life (2L), a few years ago. 2L, however, never seemed to quite reach its predicted potential. In Have you started thinking about VR? What about VR and accessibility? Raymond ponders if one of the reasons for this was 2L’s lack of access. This is an issue that, unfortunately, VR doesn’t seem to have addressed yet either. Raymond links us to two further blogs of his that explore VR as an instructional tool and from the perspective of having students create VR experiences.

  • Fittingly following on from above, in My Take on Online Accessibility, Raymond M Rose gives an insight into his extensive work on the subject. Raymond’s work started with the creation of the first virtual high school in the US back. As well as being involved in the development of policy, in 2007  Raymond co-authored  a  publication for NACOL, (now iNACOL) that was one of the first to address what he saw as a growing problem with access and equity in online learning. In 2014 Raymond was asked to rewrite this publication, and in the process he has built a rounded view on the topic. In the above blog you can read the article as well as some other great resources. Raymond is always after new materials on the subject too, so please get in touch if you have any resources or ideas.

  • This year we have been lucky enough to be part of Lorraine Vickery’s postgraduate learning journey. In November we received the last installments for the year. The first post, My ‘maker-space’ journey, talks about the ‘maker’ movement. This is the idea that student learn from ‘making’. Lorraine relates this back to her own work with special needs students. With these students she realised the process of ‘making’ needed to reflect real-world, everyday concepts, rather than segregated  school subjects. Lorraine further explores the concept, as well as looking into the exact classroom environment that is needed to invoke a creative, challenging ‘maker-space’, therefore developing confidence. Lorraine goes on to explain why she believes ‘making’ deserves such a strong position in the learning environment in her following post, Making learning visible. This post explores the visibility created by ‘making’ and how educators can go about assessing the process and results. Lorraine shares a great resource to help define what actually counts as learning for students whilst undertaking ‘making’. She emphasises this focus on the process and progress made during ‘making’ rather than a purely results driven assessment criteria. In our final installment, The journey’s end… but only for 2016, we are given the results of Lorraine’s own ‘maker’ experience. In the above post Lorraine shares how the students reacted to this learning experience as well as what she feels she gained through implementing the ‘maker’ movement. Very interesting to hear more about this concept and get a taster of Lorraine’s experience!

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:

  • Characteristics of eLearning: A model and associated resources has some great resources and articles aiming to provide professional readings and practical ideas for eTeachers.

  • This research was shared a while back by the late Vince Ham who indicated that there were “Some interesting digests of research here”.The research focuses on new Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Programme publications summarising the findings of the 5 year ERSC/EPSRC funded programme with eight large projects. Take a look: Technology Enhanced Learning (TEL) Programme publications from London Knowledge Lab.

  • Merryn Dunmill shared this interesting resource (original post here) that looks at Classroom ideas for learning with the iPad and “has an excellent model for adaptation for those of you looking at how notebooks, iPads etc should be integrated into learning, not just as tools, but in relation to curriculum goals and teacher/learner inquiry. Could be useful for your school as a planning framework and rationale statement.

  • Neil Ballantyne suggests that blended learning is not a lesser model than purely face-to-face. He looks to Social science knowledge (declarative knowledge – knowing about), clinical practice (knowing how), and which type of knowledge you might put online. In Blending learning for human service education we look further into Neil’s work around distance education in social work and current and emerging trends (US Council survey of social work).

Recommended videos

From the ever growing repository of videos (1,368 in total), these are a just few of the highlights.

  • A great one to show younger students to explain Autumn… Why do leaves change colour in the fall? Autumn means leaves are turning different shades of red, orange, and yellow and falling to the ground. But why? Jessi takes you deep inside a leaf to explain…

  • Collaboration and cooperation are both vital for creative work. This short video explores the difference between the two and why it matters for creative work.

  • The simple solution to traffic – sounds like something we could all use right? This is a very interesting video about the causes of traffic and how we may be able to solve this annoying issue.

  • What makes a street a street and an avenue and avenue – is there any logic to this? Yes, and all is revealed in How streets, avenues and roads are different.

  • A follow up from last month’s video, Death & Dynasties (rules for rulers follow up), delves deeper into how family dynasties and rulers are created.

  • Beyond the echo chamber: The extraordinary possibilities of a networked profession is a wonderful video from Tessa Grey which provides a great overview of this session, including: “Networked learning where anyone can connect and share ideas with each other, whether your face to face or online is a powerful catalyst for change. The challenge is to understand the value – from the way we are connecting and how we are connecting, so that we’re not just receiving messages in a filter or an echo chamber.”

  • Invisible forces shape us and our performance. Only by understanding these forces can we influence the people and things around us. Find out more in The hidden source of success.

Job Opportunity

  • An exciting job opportunity has presented itself in the form of an Associate Professor or Senior Lecturer role to lead research and teaching in e-Learning/Technology Enhanced Learning at the University of Canterbury. For more information please see the post: Here. Applications close December 11th.

What’s on?

Lots of other things happening (online courses, conferences and other opportunities) – in particular the Scratchpad Holiday Programmes, taking place over the Dec/Jan break. There are a variety of courses for young students taking place here in Auckland. Places are filling up quickly! Head to the post to find out more and book your place.

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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