Why MMP is important to keep

Disclaimer: This is just my opinion being expressed here.

I remember voting in a number of elections and becoming more and more confused. Numbers didn’t seem to add up at times and I think for a lot of us the 1981 election results tell a graphic story. Back in

the day we didn’t have all those little parties that we have today – we had the major players – National and Labour and we started getting some smaller parties that were growing throughout New Zealand. In the 1981 election Social Credit was the minor player and the results by number were quite interesting.

Labour took 39.6% of the vote (702,630 votes)
National took 39.4% of the vote (698,508 votes)
Social Credit took 21% of the vote (372,056 votes)

That looks like this in a pie chart:

Based on those results Social Credit should have got 21% of seats in parliament (around 19 seats out of 92) – instead what they got was 2 seats – clearly a vote for a minor party was worth less than one for the major parties.

MMP gives us a fairer system – it’s not perfect but it is fairer. And it means that if you want to vote for a minor party then you can – and depending on the proportion of votes they get we will see them in Parliament.

And if you’re still not sure then think about this fact: The last time a single party got the majority of votes in a New Zealand General Election was … 1951 – that’s more than 50 years ago!

Make sure YOU get out there on November 26 and VOTE!

Mini-posters in Google Draw

I’ve just created some Google Draw templates for my students to use to create mini-templates. I got the idea from creating my mini poster (see previous blog post). One of the things I want my class to be aware of is creative commons licensing and to make sure they don’t use other people’s images without attribution. To get them started I chose 5 of my own photos (taken last year as part of my 365 photo challenge) which are all freely available on Flickr under a creative commons share alike basis (much the same as this site is licensed).

Google docs makes it easy to submit these as templates so that students are able to access them and use them. (Create new-from template-submit template.) Hopefully next week there will be some student examples to display.

I want to encourage my students to start taking their own photos and using them for drawings like this and also for presentations using the Google Presentations tool.

Google Docs in the Classroom

I’m currently using Gdocs in my classroom as a draft writing book replacement. Here’s how it works:

1. Each student has their own account in our school Google Apps for Education system

2. I created a shared folder (simply called Room 12) which I then shared with all my students and my personal gmail account (that means I don’t have to swap out of one account and into another for marking purposes)

Various folders help to sort the contents into a manageable collection

3. Students are then taught that all work needs to be put into the shared folder (there are folders within that master folder for organizational purposes only)

This is a shot from my inbox showing where the stories have been shared

4. Once a student indicates that their work is finished I then go in and mark it – using the comment feature. Commenting allows me to suggest an alternative; guide a student to the correct spelling or grammar; or even to ask a question about the text.

I like to comment on beginnings or endings that are particularly great.
The text relating to my comments is automatically highlighted
In this case with a Maori word I've given the correct spelling

5. Students are then expected to go back in to check their work and fix up anything that needs fixing. I can see at a glance if the student has gone back in by viewing the ‘last modified’ list. (Both Me and Jo are actually me – it depends on which account I was in as to what shows up – my students know who I am)

Jo/Me indicates that the student hasn't done any more editing

6. I can then go back in and check the final story. From that point on students will usually post the story to their blog or their page on SuperClubsPlus.

Our class individual blogs on Kidblog
SuperClubsPlus - a great site for kids to learn about online presence

7. One feature that is particularly helpful is the revision history (File-See revision history) as I can see all the editing the student has done prior to my first look at the work. I can also see changes they’ve made in response to my suggestions. I also found that it was helpful while writing my writing comments for their reports as I could open their latest piece of writing and comment about their editing and proof-reading skills that showed up when view the revision history.

Pink text indicates new changes from the previous save


  • Google apps is ever improving – it’s certainly a better product now that it was a year ago.
  • Later this year my students will be working collaboratively with students in another city in New Zealand. They can work on the same document because it’s cloud based computing.
  • My friends and I always use Gdocs for shared note taking at various educamps and conferences – this helps our shared understanding of the day
  • I’m still discovering what I can do with Google apps – I’m looking forward to attending a Google Masterchef session at the upcoming Ulearn11 conference in Rotorua, NZ
Feel free to comment with any ideas I’ve not mentioned.
And I’d like to end with this presentation by Tom Barrett
Interesting ways to use Google Docs in the classroom

OS X Lion First 24 hours

This time yesterday I downloaded and installed Lion. There are new things and quirky things and broken things.

New Things

  • Full screen apps (Mac Native only) – I’m actually using mail in a full screen in its own desktop & Safari full screen in its own desktop
  • Full screen apps have their own desktop – nothing else shares it
  • Remembered state – whatever was open when I closed the thing (safari, pages, firefox etc) automatically opens when I next open it
  • Easy access to all the desktops via three finger scrolls (up/down/sideways)
  • iCal & Mail – I’ll actually use these now – I can default to my Google mail/calendar for both of these apps – and keep them open in full screen
  • Designating which desktop an app will open in – especially good for non-mac apps that can’t open in full screen
  • Preview + signature – very cool feature – I’ve scanned my signature into preview (via the built-in signature feature) and now can add to any PDF
  • All my files – great new feature in finder – sorted by creation date it means it doesn’t matter where your current files are you can locate them quickly – I use an alias on my desktop to quickly drop my files into a relevant folder – things can be resorted from there but in the meantime they’re not cluttering up my desktop

Quirky Things

  • Scrolling up and down – if you have an iPad you’ll know that to scroll down a page you put your finger at the bottom of the page and scroll up – this is now the default (but easily turned off) action for the trackpad

Broken Things

  • Voicethread – unable to record voice or video comments – found a fix for the voice but I still don’t have video
  • Schoolmaster (for those of us who use SM @ school) – doesn’t work

It’s hard commenting on just this as Google+ is also firing on all cylinders at the moment and with two new things to explore it’s very hard concentrating on just one!

Today’s technology/tools/what I’m using today!

This morning I noted in my Google+ stream a comment that Mac OS X Lion is launching tomorrow (US time).
I thought perhaps I should make sure my backup was current before the new OS was released. This got me thinking about what I would lose if I upgraded and something went wrong. This then got me thinking about the “tools” I use in my everyday online life.

I realised that I wouldn’t lose much. I do weekly backups so anything created since the previous backup would be lost (hence a great reason to backup before you do a major update/upgrade).

However, one of the big reasons I wouldn’t lose much is my use of dropbox. I have a paid account with them which means I have 50+GB of space in the cloud where my stuff resides. I have a default ‘documents folder’ in the dropbox so anything I create using computer based software is automatically saved there; I use it to save all my bits and pieces for school – I have several years of resources there; all my IWB files are in the dropbox; in short anything that’s a document of any kind is in my dropbox. I have alias icons on my desktop so I can drop various other files/items into specific folders too.

The other big reason I wouldn’t lose much is cloud computing. It’s interesting to hear people starting to use the term and ask me things like “have you heard about the new big thing called cloud computing?” when I’ve been cloud computing for years now.

Google docs is the ultimate (for me) form of cloud computing. Within docs you can create documents, spreadsheets, drawings, forms,  and presentations. All of these can be embedded into websites for others to view (or kept private just for you or shared with a few other people).

I also like the collaborative ability in docs – an example would be the notes I took last Friday at a teacher only day with James Nottingham – I then shared the notes with friends of mine who I knew were attending various workshops with him while he’s here in New Zealand. They are adding to my notes and we will end up with a great set of notes – far better than if we had handwritten them into our notebooks (paper or electronic).

Here in NZ we have a government funded Mahara distro called MyPortfolio – I’m beginning to aggregate my professional content together – I’m able to import existing content through rss feeds which is very helpful. Once again this content is all online which makes it a lot more safe than if it was just on my computer. (Imagine losing your CV!)

As I type this up in a Google Doc I’m also doing a bunch of other various jobs around the house – I can just walk away knowing my work is saved – I can even come back to it on another device if I so wish. Even with my iPhone on the run. Who wouldn’t like this tech? (The last 2 sentences were indeed typed on the iPhone!)

Other tools I use are Blogger and wikispaces. These are just the tools I use for me – I have other cloud tools that I use with my classroom – but that’s another story!

My essential tool summary – aka what I couldn’t live without

  1. Dropbox – http://www.dropbox.com
  2. Google docs – http://docs.google.com
  3. Wikispaces – http://wikispaces.com
  4. Blogger – http://www.blogger.com
  5. MyPortfolio – http://myportfolio.school.nz/

In the raw – notes from James Nottingham PD session at school

James Nottingham

  • Many schools are about proving rather than learning
  • Gardner quote – teachers obsessed with categorizing kids
  • What is a holiday?


The Learning Challenge

  • The Learning Pit
  •  Curling parents/teachers – sweeping in front of the kids to make it easier for the kids (While we need to do some guiding I think we sometimes do too much for the sake of order & harmony in the classroom!)
  • Learning intentions – process driven rather than content driven (key to helping kids learn how to learn)
  • Job of teacher not to teach but to help kids learn how to learn
  • If teachers tell them/guide them through all the steps the students become dependent rather than independent
  • Create a learning journey – big LI/SC that we’re working towards (might be content based) but then the intermediate LI/SC could therefore be process driven
  • Generate/create the best learning opportunities for our kids
  • Questions for kids
    • What is learning about?
    • What are learners like?
    • What was it like when you learned how to …?
  •  ASK model
    • attitudes
    • skills
    • knowledge
  • Get the kids to clarify what exactly learning is all about
    • Derron Brown – youtube – don’t kill the kitten : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ceaaSsnTiKc
      • Show a kid something with a button and they’ll press it; show a adult something with a button they’ll ask what it does (cf DK)
    • What would an outstanding learner look like/be like?
      • Then create learning intentions (NO reference to content)
      • Today is about exercising our curiosity by using the most searching questions about …
    • Should we measure teaching or learning?
    • You get what you focus on or measure

How can we fit this in without being constricted by National Standards?

  • Don’t concentrate on what you don’t want the kids to do – rather on what things you want them to do
  • (From school in Sweden – Soderporten School, Norrkoping – high level of asylum seekers – http://www.soderporten.se/?sp=cde)
    • We are positive, enthusiastic and show joy
      • Write your aims and learning intentions as if they are happening right now
    • We celebrate each other’s differences
    • We treat each other with respect
      • Best exam results in 2010 since 1997; turned off video surveillance in 2010 because behaviour problems dissappeared

Demo Lessons

  • engage with each other
  • questions in each other
  • identify assumptions in each other
  • content driven by their questions

Why are you studying this? Because the teacher told us to!

The more we praise kids for getting the right answer the more desperate they get. It gets in the way of their learning. Praise instead for things like asking good questions …

When learning is hard it’s uncomfortable – therefore the pit. Need to change their notion of how to get out of and through the discomfort.

FOAFOY (F off and find out for yourself)

Blocking the kids normal “route” – making them find another way. Saying ‘well done’ for their correct answer stops them thinking any further about the question. The pit is not having ‘no idea’ – it’s having conflicts of ideas
Cognitive conflict is the key to ‘wobble’
(Stealing is wrong vs Robin Hood was right)

Teaching what to think vs teaching how to think.

Teaching what to think also teaches how to ignore the other side of the argument (ie Bullying is wrong & tell the teacher vs My dad says to hit them back)

kriticos ⇒ able to make judgements

When you listen to children are they making judgements or are they repeating learned reponses.

An ethos for learning

Not all of our questions answered … but all of our answers questioned!
If I question your answers it’s not because they’re wrong it makes you think more.

Reframing Questions

(My questiong from The Incredible Journey)
Is dog fighting okay? → Opinion
What is fighting? → Concept

What happens when you die? → Opinion
What is death? → Concept

Was the mouse telling lies? → Opinion
What is a lie? → Concept

Eureka ⇒ greek for “I’ve found it!” (not my teacher or my parent)

The eureka moment won’t happen unless they’ve first struggled. (Eureka the ecstasy of learning – if we are curling teachers our kids will never get the eureka moment.) The pit may start out as a puddle … becoming more challenging. The bigger the challenge the bigger the eureka.

No point to do research unless there is a question to be answered …

How to get kids into the pit


  • If A=B then does B=A?
    • If a friend is someone you trust then is someone you trust a friend?
  • If a friend is someone I play with then are the girls in the netball team who I play with my friends?
  • Not looking for a right answer – looking to block the ‘right’ answer so that they can come up with other answers
  • If A = B then if it’s NOT B = NOT A?
  • IF Real = See it then does Can’t see it = Not real?
  • If a friend is someone I play with then if I don’t play with them does that mean they’re not my friend?
  • Can anyone think of a time when your friend did not look after you?
  • Ok to rehearse with kids how to do this

Colliding Concepts

  • Similar/opposite concepts
  • Synonym or antonym
  • Because English comes from so many different sources we have a huge rich language (more synonyms and antonyms)
  • Lies and make-believe

Into the pit – fact → concept
Out of the pit – combining ideas (rank them/limit them/venn diagrams) → Eureka moment!

Classroom management

    • Knee to knee groups (6-7 times over an hour) (fours)
    • smaller groups can’t discuss the bigger concepts so narrow it down
      • IE Truth & Opinion
        • “If I believe that the world is flat but I tell you that the world is round am I telling the truth?”

  • Introverted thinkers → need to think before they talk (if you put them on the spot they usually will say nothing)
    • start your sentences with : perhaps, maybe, i’m not exactly sure yet
  • Extroverted thinkers → talk to think – will often be the person who shouts out the answer
      • teach these guys to have the conversation in their heads with themselves
      • acknowledge them non-verbally when they’ve called out (maybe with a thumbs out)


  • Thumbs up rather than hands up (armpit sniffers)
  • What are we focusing on – quiet, well managed classrooms or kids thinking?
  • Larger class sizes – inner circle/out circle
    • inner circle taking  part in the discussion
    • outer circle taking notes
    • swap round
  • (P) Review (James’ classroom on Friday)
    • What attitudes have helped us this week
    • What skills have we used
    • Knowledge – a quiz – kids come up with the quiz questions
      • question that others got right 1 pt for grp that created question and those that answered the question
      • question that others didn’t get right 5 pts
    • Pre-view next week
      • Context set by teacher (ie Habitat) → Spider habitats
        • What do you want to know about ….
        • Kids come up with questions
      • Maths
    • Kids would spend weekend researching
    • (James’ story about stacking Trivial pursuit so he could win on Christmas Day)
  • Preparing kids for the lessons rather than making them a mystery
    • (James would send a letter home every Friday telling parents what the kids were going to be learning next week – that way the parents/grandparents could be included in the learning – Get dads onside by adding “…to give your child an advantage next week…”)


Alfred Binet – created first IQ test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Binet)

  • identify which kids the curriculum does not suit (not clever/stupid)
  • indication of what they’ve learned to this point

HH Goddard

  • translated from French to English
  • eugenics movement
  • put a intelligence spin on it

Stanford IQ test (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Terman) / (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanford-Binet_IQ_test)

  • skewed to prove that whites were superior
  • linked low intelligence with crime & anti-social behaviour
  • white came out top
  • black came out bottom

Mediation → encouraging children to focus → focal point for a newborn baby is the distance between their eyes and mothers eyes when breastfeeding

What do we get kids to focus on (ie on the right answer or thinking for themselves)?

Number of words heard by children
616/hour ⇒ words spoken by child by the time they are 3 ⇒ 500 – welfare dependent home
1251/hour ⇒ words spoken by child by the time they are 3 ⇒ 700 – working class home
2153/hour ⇒ words spoken by child by the time they are 3 ⇒ 1100 – professional home
(1995 Hart & Risley)

As adults we use Beginners, intermediate, advanced BUT we use special needs, Average, Gifted/Bright
(OR below, at, above!)

Self-fulfilling prophecies
Pygmalion in the classroom by Rosenthal & Jacobson : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pygmalion_effect

Does our testing set kids up to come to school to learn that they are dumb? Testing doesn’t focus on learning it focuses on showing off.

Spelling testing (pre-testing and post-testing ⇒ progress score (post-test score minus pre-test score = progress score)

Plasticity of our brains (Video example of girl who had one hemisphere removed)
Just because kids arrive with certain dis-abilities do they have to stay that way?

Gardner – I wish teachers had never come across my theory because they’re all obsessed with categorising kids.

Look at what I’m strong or weak at and what I want to develop next.
Self-fulfilling prophecies – I can never be good at …
We have limited amount of hours in the day … how are we going to spend these hours with the kids …

de-motivational posters

Marshmallow experiment, 1972

Phrases/words that do more harm than good

  • gifted (suggests a gift)
  • clever
  • brilliant
  • bright
  • top of the class
  • by far the best

Carol Dweck – Mindsets

All children should hear process praise and process criticism
“Wow that’s a really good score. You must be smart at this.” (Intelligence praise)
“Wow that’s a really good score. You must have tried really hard.” (Process praise)

Great phrases

  • You figured it out
  • How extraordinary
  • Great discovery
  • Well worked through
  • You figured it out

Wellington Educamp

I’m in Wellington this weekend spending time with some friends from my PLN. On Saturday we all attended/participated in the first ever Wellington Educamp. (Twitter feed here: http://twitter.com/#!/search/%23educampwelly) Right from the start it was all about conversations whether they were 2 minute snapshots at the smackdown starter or around a table all talking about the same thing or over lunch at Maccers.


Smackdown #EduCampWelly

(It was great working with Fiona on the smackdown!)

After the event 6 of us headed back to our motel where the conversations continued. We talked, laughed, shared stories, laughed some more for several hours before heading out for dinner and more conversation.

The six of us have got together before on a number of occasions over the last 3-4 years but always around conferences where you snatch bits of time often around breakfast to catch up. How fantastic then this has been – just to be able to site around and talk with no pressing timetable to cut us off. It was the same at Educamp – we didn’t have to stop a conversation just because it was the end of a session or time for the next session.

I loved the informality of the day, meeting new people, seeing people from my area attending (woo hoo), and being inspired by others. I was amazed at the Year 5 student (same age as mine) with stunning abilities in Scratch. And I was so inspired by the account of Shakespeare on Twitter from a high school teacher (who I discovered I had multiple degrees of separation from) that left me wanting to do something similiar with my students.


@shakespearenut & @dragonsinger57

Thanks to all the workers on the day (the Wellington based people) and to all who came – we had a great time.

Panorama shot

Not obsessed at all

I’m really NOT obsessed at all with apple products – just because I’ve got so many of them doesn’t make me obsessed … or does it?

i, Mac & Pro - time for work

Absent from this picture is the iPad, iTouch and iPhone.


Life in Room 12

This is just a catch-up of happenings in our classroom & school.

We had a special visitor to our class for 10 days – Rohi. Rohi has her own blog and is on an intrepid journey around New Zealand visiting a number of schools on the way. Here is a slide show of her time with us.

Rohi and Room 12 @ RBS on PhotoPeach


eLearning classrooms tend to use a lot of technology at different times. Here’s a slide show of some of the tech at use in Room 12.

Technology in our Classroom on PhotoPeach


And here’s a snapshot of life @ RBS – just a mixture of things.

Life @ School on PhotoPeach

iPad in the Classroom

I’ve had an iPad for a week or so and the kids are very enamored of it. Today I found a new thing that I could do thanks to a blog post that one of my PLN tweeted about (thanks Wes).

The blog post talked about how to mirror your laptop onto your iPad and then, using some specific software, turn it into an interactive whiteboard.

The display software costs $$$ to buy for your iPad but seems to be free for the Macbook. It was easy enough to install and run. Then I wondered. Would it still work if I closed the Ink2Go software and ran my IWB (ActivInspire) software on it’s own.

Sure enough it worked very nicely indeed. In the picture below you see:
Top Left: my initial desktop mirrored;
Top Right: writing on the iPad;
Bottom Left: drawing on the iPad;
Bottom Right: both screens mirrored.

Day 78 - iPad & Air Display

How it could be used in the classroom? Well – I can see it being used quite nicely during maths time – I teach my small groups using the IWB – each group has it’s own flipchart which we use to record all figuring out – the iPad could be used by a student to show how they’ve worked a problem out. Now I might not use it as much as others (thanks to my awesome IWB) but this is a nice way to give IWB ability to those who have a data projector but no IWB.

Time will tell.

I should mention that the mirroring gives the iPad user full control over the laptop including all menu control.