Virtual School Meanderings

March 6, 2017

Your Ethos Newsletter for February

This arrived in my mailbox on Friday – something for my Kiwi readers…

Your newsletter from the Ethos Online Community – February 2017

Kia ora, talofa lava, and greetings,


First a quick update. Hazel is undergoing a few health challenges at the moment, so I (Charlotte) am picking up the whole of the newsletter for this month.


Leadership is something that seeps into all aspects of life – family, work, friends, education and more. Leadership has been a discussion of high visibility lately, with one of our most powerful nations gaining a new controversial leader in the form of Donald Trump. While Trump may not be everyone’s cup of tea, he does bring to light an interesting question – what makes someone a good leader?


This question is one I always find challenging as it has little to do with likeability or the usual benchmarks we use to measure the appeal of our peers, for example someone can be a good leader but not necessarily a good person. While Trump may have met a lot of negativity, there is no denying that he has managed to capture the following of a significant amount of people. This is a well-known and common occurrence with past world leaders.


This month, John S. Oliver, has shared with us his stance. In Here is my article on leadership… what do you think? John comes from the standpoint of assessing a leader more on the guidance they can give and how effectively this is delivered, rather than the normal method of analysing qualities and traits. This looks at what a leader provides rather than how they provide it.


As the world has witnessed many a time before, there is a dark side to leadership. While we need good leaders to be in control, sometimes this control isn’t used in a positive way. In Carol Black’s documentary, Schooling the World, she ponders how this control is asserted in education. Carol states “as our climate heats up, as mountaintops are removed from Orissa to West Virginia, as the oceans fill with plastic and soils become too contaminated to grow food, as the economy crumbles and children go hungry and the 0.001% grows so concentrated, so powerful, so wealthy that democracy becomes impossible, it’s time to ask ourselves; who’s educating us? To what end?”


This is a particularly interesting point – one that is commonly overlooked due to people associating education with inherent good and therefore not feeling the need to dip below the surface. In Merryn Dunmill’s post around the documentary and this subject, she points out how accustomed our society is to having an education system that is simply dictated to us. How often do we question the motive behind our curriculums, assessments, and the collection of data? We accept that being tested and ranked is simply part of gaining an education – something we consider a privilege.


What do you think about the subject? Should control in education be something we are concerned about? And if so, what is the alternative? Jump into the community to add your comments!


Welcome to new members – February

The Ethos Online Community now has 434 members. Hope you will all give a warm haere mai (welcome) to January’s new members to the community:

  • Nicholas J Major, a Nelson based Education Consultant. Nicholas is curious about how ICT can help best harness the benefits of digital technologies to support education without becoming either overwhelming or distracting


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.

  • We’ve most likely all come across someone we considered a great leader, but there seems to always be an air of mystery around what exactly makes someone a better leader than someone else. It’s therefore always a great topic to discuss and hear others opinions on. John S. Oliver shares his thoughts on positive leadership in here is my article on leadership… what do you think?. John delves into the different types of guidance a leader should be able to effectively provide. It would be great to hear others thoughts and experiences on this.

  • While education is seen as a privilege and has even been described as the key to freedom, do we ever delve deeper into the control that may lie behind the current systems? In ‘Occupy Your Brain’ Carol Black ponders, when so many negative things are being allowed to happen at the hands of the ‘educated’ powers that be, do we ever stop to ask, ‘who’s educating us, and to what end?’ In developed societies we have become worryingly desensitised to an education system with centralised control. This is magnified due to the fact that education is often viewed as innately ‘good’ and therefore it doesn’t come naturally to question the motives behind it. However, we are letting others dictate what we must learn, how, when and the assessment process.  Occupy Your Brain: On Power, Knowledge, and the Re-Occupation of Common Sense looks at Carol Black’s documentary, Schooling the World. This was the culmination of many years of research into cross-cultural perspectives on education. Thanks to Merryn Dunmill  for this fascinating post.

  • Nicholas J Major has this month posted an interesting blog that fits nicely into the mentoring information we’ve had filtering through over the last few months. Nicholas simply asks, what’s in a question? Here Nicholas asks how effective the questions commonly used during mentoring sessions actually are. Particularly the often used ‘why’ question. Nicholas states that a number of sources he has recently encountered suggest that ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘when’ and ‘how’ questions are information seeking questions, whereas ‘what’ questions are wisdom accessing questions. The difference being that the former questions tend to elicit responses grounded in the past, whereas the latter can produce deeper insights that help understand what is important to the other person or help them move forward to accomplish their goals. Nicholas gives some great examples of particularly evocative questions and research that’s gone into the subject. What do you think about the different styles of questions?

  • Paul Keown has kindly shared with us a series of posts focused on values in schools. The first addresses the ambiguity around how values in education are defined. Addressing the value dimensions in curriculums can be challenging and confusing. Nicholas draws upon some key educators and theorists, along with the dimensions outlined in the NZC values statement, to simplify these down to three categories. Paul stresses the importance of all parties involved (parents, teachers, schools and students) comprehending these three dimensions in order for the values programme to be a balanced one. Off the back of a question raised from this post, Paul then discusses the third dimension in more detail in The issue of the 3rd dimension of values in schools. This dimension focuses on the need for a school’s programme to be fully discussed and negotiated in the community and, once adopted, made clearly evident in the all actions and interactions in the life of the school. From Paul’s work implementing values systems it is evident that the third dimension is the most challenging and often the one left behind. Paul stresses the importance of an action plan and gives some in-depth and insightful advice on how to get around the difficulties this dimension may propose. Some values bouquets and More bouquets: Two secondary schools then analyse four case studies. One example looks at a school that has done particularly well at building their values system across all dimensions (including the tricky third one) while another looks at a school that has taken an unconventional approach that has produced some interesting ideas. Great to see how values can work in practice also.


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:

  • Although Twitter is a widely used social tool, it doesn’t seem to have found its place in the education world just yet. This post references a session by Lyndon Walker that looks at different ways Twitter can be used in teaching. The session starts off with ‘transmission’ (e.g. reminders that appear via Blackboard directly to a student’s Twitter feed), as well as class questioning, microblogging, interaction (such as debate and discussion), and sharing of social media links. Lyndon also introduces R – a  free software environment for statistical computing and graphics that is widely used and well supported. There are tools such as usage statistics, networks (which enable you to map followers across the world) and sentiment analysis – in other words what students are tweeting. Twitter has many useful teaching applications, and access to the underlying data can add a meta level to student engagement and learning

  • Unfortunately, we all know what it is to feel snowed under and short on time. Thankfully we received a fantastic time saving recommendation from John S. Oliver. The power of the crowd: Online communities that help save you time will send you to a great blog that helps address some of those ‘time’ challenges we all face

  • Xochitl de la Piedad Garcia suggests that engagement comprises of the time, energy and resources that students devote to activities designed to enhance learning at university. Xochitl wanted to investigate how to harbour engagement in a first year statistics unit. Using behaviourism as a framework, Xochitl’s idea was to encourage  behaviours that were going to increase the likelihood of students developing specific strategies related to improved performance. Xochitl used weekly online exercises to facilitate the engagement, while also providing opportunities for detailed feedback. Take a look at this post to find out what the students comments on the system were, both negative and positive. What do others think of this system?


Recommended videos

From the ever growing repository of videos ( 1,424 in total – thanks as always to John S Oliver for his awesome contributions), these are a just few of the highlights.

  • We live in a time where we quickly put people in boxes. Maybe we have more in common than what we think? Introducing ‘All That We Share’ – a touching video about getting past ‘types’ in order to connect with your fellow man: TV2 – All that we share

  • Interactive notebook is a nifty little video all about using Interactive Student Notebooks in your ELA classroom

  • In this video you can learn about ‘New Classrooms’, a non profit organisation that leverages classroom design, teacher talent, and technology to enable personalised learning for more than 7,000 students in 15 pioneering schools

  • How to learn faster with the Feynman technique (example included) – If you want to cut your study time, using the Feynman Technique is a great way to do it. Named after the physicist Richard Feynman, it revolves around explaining a concept in simple language as if you were teaching it to someone else

  • In every workplace, there are three basic kinds of people: givers, takers and matchers. In Promoting a culture of generosity, organisational psychologist Adam Grant breaks down these personalities and offers simple strategies to promote a culture of generosity and keep self-serving employees from taking more than their share

  • Working hard but not improving? You’re not alone. Eduardo Briceño reveals a simple way to think about getting better at the things you do, whether that’s work, parenting or creative hobbies. And he shares some useful techniques so you can keep learning and always feel like you’re moving forward. Take a look – How to get better at the things you care about.



  • Online communities, ideally, should play an important part in their members long-term learning, contributing also to their professional development. An effective community should provide a space for people with common interests to creatively, robustly and respectfully, unpack some of the interesting challenges in their own practice and everyday lives. However, this is easier said than done. In Developing relationships – the key to fostering online professional communities there are a number of resources and articles designed to help those facilitating communities do so in a positive way

  • One of the great things about technology and the internet is the access to information we may not have previously had – such as the ability to hop online and learn a new skill – for free! 10 tips to get your head around design – especially in the digital realm is one of these fantastic resources. The linked article gives lots of tips on how to get the basics down, and progress, your design skills.


What’s on?

Lots of other things happening (online courses, conferences and other opportunities) including the 2017 Global Student Conference – keynotes and presentations by students for students, taking place on March 4th as an online activity.


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



Nāku iti nei, faafetai lava, and warm regards


Charlotte Caines

Community Coordinator

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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