Sunday, June 9, 2013


Visiting groups of educators often ask how do we run our professional development at Freemans Bay School. 

This has got me thinking about our professional development model - ofcourse it has been a journey and has changed over time. However what has developed sits within a framework of key beliefs about   personalised learning, as it is with students.

We expect our professional development or teacher learning model to emulate or parallel our learning model with students. We don't want a one size fits all, front of class, one size fits all whole class instruction for students or teachers. We do want learning to be personalised,  authentic, meaningful, contextual and set in small groups or with individuals. It is also set within the context of solving problems around student learning outcomes.

Teacher learning model reflects student learning model
·         Personalising learning
·         Opportunities for interaction / small group/ online
·         Interaction / feedback/ feed-forward
·         Replicates teaching methods (virtual and real) expected of teachers
·         Capacity to delve deeply into topic based on student and teacher needs

Key concepts front loaded
·         Future focused learning
·         Personalising learning
·         E-learning
·         Inquiry
·         Reflection frameworks
·         Interaction / online / small groups/ feedback/ feed forward

 Encourage as many staff as possible to grow the vision.
·         to present at conferences, workshops and participate in vision school tours.
·         to apply for awards / fellowships/ university study
·         to present to each other – in open workshop style
·         Around school vision, beliefs about teaching and learning

This model starts with co-constructing what our beliefs are about personalising learning and then drills down to specific issues with student outcomes. Teachers are able to work together on common themes, researching and discussing ideas, trialing new ways to respond to issues and co-constructing new ways of teaching practice. The learning needs of teachers are identified and co-constructed based on the needs of students.

   Collaboration, innovation, reflection, feedback, feed forward are all part of the process.  New practices are expected and results shared in a supportive structure for learning. In other words teachers are supported to explore problems related to their students learning through a variety of learning experiences that are co-constructed with their peers.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013


Student led conferences are a real celebration of personalised learning at Freemans Bay School.  Our teaching and learning beliefs put the child in the driving seat of their learning journey. We believe that students are active participants in learning, with the opportunity to engage in a dynamic, interactive process, sharing aspects of their learning with those who matter most to them – their parents and their whanau. (Family). 

For all of the students in our school, including our newest five year olds, students are asked to talk about what is happening with their learning and to share  their learning goals and next steps for learning.  Parents have an opportunity to check in with the teacher to discuss where their student is achieving in relation to what is expected for their age. Student led conferences give parents the opportunity get to the heart of the students’ learning at school and to explore ways of supporting learning at home.

At our student led conferences yesterday, parents were able to go into KnowledgeNET, which is our online learning system, and view and respond to student learning reflections. We hope that more parents will start to interact through commenting on their students’ learning on KnowledgeNET as we believe that such interaction is a powerful motivator for learning.
Freemans Bay School Student Led Conferences 2013 on PhotoPeach

We had an exceptional turnout at the Student Led Conferences. 96% attended on the day had already booked times. Of the 14 students whose parents are yet to make a time, some are away and some are unwell.  Parents who were unable to have their student led conference yesterday are encouraged to make a time with the teacher over the next week. To ensure that their child is able to participate in this powerful learning experience.

W.B. Yeats captured the challenge of personalising learning in his quote: “Education in not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Thinking about school design

In 2010 at Freemans Bay School,  we demolished a large subsiding classroom block and built new learning hubs in a two story building. This building design was scoped to develop flexible spaces to enable teachers to teach and students to learn in a variety of ways.  The remaining school buildings since have been identified as either leaky or past their use by date. We are now in the Ministry of Education’s new schools building project.

The challenge of totally rebuilding Freemans Bay School sparked my interest in thinking deeper about how spaces are designed and used to engage learners. The new building block gave us an opportunity to try working more collaboratively. 

Visits to schools, universities, libraries and co-corporate organisations continue to play a significant role in shaping my thinking around design and pedagogy. I have had many rich conversations with; educational, Ministry of Education, architects and business leaders with a passion for exploring change and innovation in their own contexts.  

I am thinking about how learning occurs within school design and what does that look like.
In terms of design I wonder what does exemplary practice look like? How does it link with what we believe about learning and why do we believe that? How is that prepare students for their future - say the year 2030.

While at the CEFPI conference I visited the Owen Glen building and  the Engineering School at the University of Auckland. I looked at the building design through the lens of flipped learning. In other words here were tertiary students, in charge of their learning and doing it in ways that is natural to the way they learn. I took a few pics on my phone and reflected on what they might mean for future learning spaces in our new school builds.

What does  the culture of learning look like at University of Auckland?  on PhotoPeach

What is your thinking on how design in schools should link with learning beliefs and in preparing today's five and six year old students for the year 2030?
Mark Treadwell presented this Prezi Learning to Learn as the opening Keynote at the CEFPI conference in Auckland last week.

Mark provoked us to stop using the term - preparing for 21 century learning - after all we are in the second decade of the 21 century so we just need to get on with it!

He discussed how learning happens! An important prerequisite for anyone involved with learning including businesses and corporate organisations, Imperative information for educationalists who need to know how the brain works and how we actually can rewire the brain to make learning happen!

Mark then linked brain / learning theory on what should happen int school building design - where students should have the opportunity to:

  • Have different spaces to do different things
  • Have spaces to collaborate, work in groups and work in teams
  • Have quiet places to work on your own and to loose yourself 
  • Have spaces that can be reinvented - that are flexible
  • Have spaces that meet the needs of individuals differences
  • Have interesting views and outlooks
  • Natural light
  • Great acoustics
  • Explore concepts and ideas when learning
I recently ready Noreazena Abu Samah, Noraffandy Yahaya and Mohamad Bilal Ali,  paper called,  "Individual Differences in Online Personalized learning Environment,"  which has some correlations.

They conclude:

" In order to develop a learning environment, individual differences need to be taken into consideration to ensure the impact on students' achievements and satisfactions. Therefore, the learning environment must be suitable for their differences, to include their learning styles, learning orientations, preferences and needs in learning. In addition , there is a need for instructional design  to include new conditions of learning, such as; new information, context for learning and practice, feedback, transfer, organizers and attention devices. For this reason, the integration of interactivity functions in the learning environment could ensure that those external conditions of learning are provided to students."

We need to think about the types of teaching and learning practices that school design enables and the way design and teaching pedagogy can support the way the brain works and the ways we learn in both physical and digital environments. 

What is your thinking about linking how the brain works and school design for learning?

Enabling Teachers to Change Pedagogy through School Design

Last week I enjoyed the Australasia Region Conference of Council of Educational Facility Planners International. (CEFPI) here in Auckland.

Stephen Harris gave a thought provoking presentation called "Factories no More: The Key Role design and furniture has in enabling Teachers to Change Pedagogy"

Stephen Harris is principal of Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney. On the  school website you can view information about the school, Stephen's blog and their professional development arm activities and related research called scil.

Stephen contends that schools that think about their vision for learning that prepares students for 2035 and beyond, that have modern open learning environments that promote flexibility, collaboration and personalised learning will disrupt old thinking and cause learning to happen that is fit for purpose.

I had a look on our Ministry of Education website examples of recent remodeled learning environments.Sadly they do look like classrooms that I experienced as a student in the 1960s.
They are currently  promoting examples of single celled classrooms with adjacent cloakbays.

Stephen was exploring the notion that the design of a school, that drives where education needs to go can cause teachers to shift from old last century thinking and learning to happen at a different level.

He provoked thinking around: What are we prepared to change in order to shape a positive, resilient learning culture?  Promote what you expect to happen in teaching and learning in the design of the building.

Use design to cause learning to happen otherwise we might end up with graduates like this one - who says - " I choose C!"

What are you prepared to design into the fabric of a  building for learnng?  How does this link with your thinking about learning, preparing students for 2030 and why?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Asian Awareness at Freemans Bay School

This week I attended the Auckland Principals  Asian Aware Network. (PAAN). This network has been set up by the Asia New Zealand Foundation to support principals in preparing New Zealand students for their future in a global world. Our students today need to be prepared for a world in which Asia is highly influential.  Freemans Bay School is providing more opportunities for our students to be more 'Asia Aware" by learning more about our Asian neighbours, their culture and languages. 

We were delighted to have the opportunity to host this Shaolin workshop at school this week.
International artists from Songshan Shaolin Wushu Vocational Institute, China accompanied by musicians from Hanan University. In New Zealand care of Hanban for our Auckland Confucius Institute network of schools. This was  a spectacular not-to-be missed event and our students were delighted to have the opportunity to see and take part in the workshop and encouraged our students in their learning of Mandarin, which we teach in every class of the school.

Shaolin Concert on PhotoPeach

Learning Space Design

Last week we took 12 of our school leaders and teachers to visit three schools in Auckland. We were looking at the relationship between teaching and learning and the design of the classroom spaces.  We were interested to explore how recent built learning environments are really working. How has the design supported personalised learning or other thoughts on contemporary educational practice. What was working and what were the challenges and what would the teachers working in them do differently if they had the chance?

Such visits help us to inform our thinking about our future school design as most of our school is to be demolished and a new school built over the next two years.We believe that it is important that our educators have a role to informing our future school design to ensure that our new environments reflect the needs of future education rather than where education is  currently at.

We were impressed with the designs and the discussions.

The spaces we saw were supportive of:
  • personalising learning
  • inside and outside connections
  • e-learning
  • collaboration
  • engaging learners
  • linking thinking about teaching to design spaces

School design and teaching and learning tour on PhotoPeach

Friday, May 10, 2013

Technology in Our Classrooms

The second term has commenced at Freemans Bay School with excitement from teachers and students alike. I am pleased to be able to share the TVNZ clip about e-learning at Freemans Bay School. As some people said to me they found it hard to find it on the TVNZ site. Orcon have it up on YouTube. Orcon are our ISP and we can only run our blended e-learning curriculum if we have excellent service through our fibre connection.

The video shows how we use KnowledgeNET as our learning management system for students to reflect on their learning and share with their teacher, peers and parents. As you can see in the video clip, the reflections can be written, audio or video. The great thing about the video clips is that the students do not have to upload them. The system works with WYSISYG and the option is embedded in the system so the students can film off the screen camera and post!

It is a great facility and having a decent fibre connection means that several students can be doing reflections in a variety of ways to articulate their thinking about their learning. I believe that the  opportunity to reflect and to consider where to next is very powerful for learners to consolidate their learning experience. Having the video facility is also very motivating and engaging.

How do you get your students to reflect on thinking about their learning?

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Framing learning through our class online learning links on KnowledgeNET

Each teacher frames the class learning through the online class learning links pages on our online learning environment, KnowledgeNET.

Students access these at school for their collaborative  and independent learning. They can of course access this from home or anywhere they happen to be. This means that the learning framework can be accessed from any place at any time.

Generally the learning links page of each class has four areas: reading, writing, maths and learning pathways - (this is our student enquiry area).

The learning links welcome page looks like this or similar.

The students click on the links to access their work - I will show the Learning Pathways link as it is associated with the next post which shows students reflecting on their learning pathway work for the term.  On this page the teachers have framed the lessons around the student enquiry on attracting birds to the school grounds. The authentic task was  to design a bird feeder.

You can also view an article written by the students on their work on creating bird feeders on our school website.

You can see from the photographs and the article that the students are engaged, enriched and empowered which is our vision for learning at Freemans Bay School.

I wonder how other educators have used OLEs to frame pedagogy - in particular encouraging students to reflect on their learning and their thinking - I would be interested in your sharing and feedback.

Student weekly learning reflections

Our learning is about enriching, empowering and engaging students in authentic learning tasks. As part of the weekly programme, student make reflective comments on their learning on the class authentic student centered enquiry.

This example is from a Year 3 and Year 4 composite class. They have been studying about birds and their enquiry has been around how to attract birds into our city school playground.

This group has designed bird feeders.

They have been asked to reflect on their design and what they would do change if they made another bird feeder in the future.

Here is a selection from this class blog this week.

Parents are able to check in on the class blog, view the student and teacher comments and support the learning at home.

I wonder what other strategies educators have utilised to encourage feedback from student peers, parents and teachers in an online environment. What has worked? What has been tricky? What are the challenges and successes? I look forward to your sharing.

Student reflection and feedback on KnowledgeNET Online Learning Environment

Our students have just completed their reflections on their learning goals for term 1. They could do this by video, audio or text reflection.

Here is an example of how the goals are set up.

The student is a 6 year old yr 2 student. The first column on this page is the goal in either reading, writing or maths. The second column is the learning intention for the period and the third column is the success criteria - what would it look like if the goal was achieved.

The student clicks on the area they wish to comment on. This is an example of a 6 year  old student's learning journal - notice that each area has comments on it. In this case the comments have been made between the student and the parent from home or work on the reading goals in a combination of text and video. Sometimes the dialogue goes on while the student is in class and the parent is commenting from work (having got an email notification).

Notice how the parent is giving feedback to the student about their learning as well as to the teacher. Teachers and peers can also give feedback. This framework supports collaboration, home and school learning partnerships, engagement, learning anytime and anyplace.

I am interested in finding out what other systems people have put in place in their schools to encourage student / parent partnership in schools through an on-line environment? What have been the challenges, successes? What works and what would you suggest to do differently?

Friday, April 19, 2013

Funky Friday

Our curriculum vision is to empower, enrich and engage students with their learning.

We believe that both teachers and students should be able to follow their passion or discover passion through a rich and creative contexts that are self selected.

On Fridays each week, we have our Funky Friday programme.

This gives teachers an opportunity to share with students things they are passionate about and students an opportunity to explore or discover their passions.

The electives change each term and include many options that students and teachers select.. For example, movie making, comic strips, freeform soccer, animation, rock band, engineering, enviro-schools. dance,  trash to fashion and much more.

Each week our student news team is putting together a "Photopeach" slide show to feature on our school website:

The slide show this week showcased the golf and gymnastics options on Funky Friday.

I hope you enjoy their presentation.

">Funky Friday -Gym and Golf on PhotoPeach

I think it is getting really challenging to have enrichment programmes in schools like this - particularly in an era when standards based / national testing politics is so dominant in the education right wing political arena.  Educators  have to be prepared to stand up for what they believe in to maintain such programmes around the arts, technology, science,  and other creative pursuits in schools.

I wonder what other educators thinking is around this? Do you feel that curriculums are in danger of becoming narrower - only focusing on tests through reading, writing and mathematics? Are there enough opportunities for students to develop and for teachers to share things they feel passionate about? How is this done in your school or education district? Do you think it matters and if so why / why not? What is your thinking around this?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Video link of 5 and 6 year olds working in an e-learning classroom

This is a clip of a class of 5 and 6 year olds working in a blended e-learning environment at Freemans Bay School.

The students are reflecting on their learning using KnowledgeNET our online learning environment. A parent gets an email from the the OLE and responds to her child's learning reflection at work. 

I hope you enjoy the clip that featured on TV1 breakfast news this morning.

Sunday, April 7, 2013


This year our teachers have more autonomy over their own learning though our teacher professional development programme.

In terms of 'future focused learning" our teachers first task was to consider  different ways that  a range of teachers provide a  personalised learning environment in their classrooms. They looked at a range of online video clips to consider what personalised learning in a classroom looks like, sounds like and feels like.

This clip of Simon Breakspear was a good place to start.

Simon Breakspear: Personalisation as the way forward from EDtalks on Vimeo.

The next step was for our teachers to consider the learning needs of their students and to decide on an area to develop. They are working with other teachers who wish to strengthen in a similar area. They collaboratively developed an action plan to work on over the next six months  in these small professional learning groups. (PLGs).

In developing and implementing the action plan teachers  followed these steps:

Describe what you want to happen and describe how you will know it has happened.
What steps will you take to make this happen?
Map out the times that you expect this to happen
As you complete each step - reflect and record on your online log.

It has taken quite a few weeks to set these PLGs up and to get the action plans started.

This week teachers will be checking in with their PLG  and  will be discussing what changes they have made to their classroom practice to strengthen personalising learning for their students.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

2013 - Exploring Future Orientated Learning at Freemans Bay School

2013 is the Chinese Year of the Snake. The Year of the Snake promotes new beginnings and new ideas. 

Our teachers have started the year exploring  our vision at Freemans Bay School, that twenty-first century education must be future oriented and adaptable  to meet the learning demands of an increasingly global, diverse and complex world.

We have been exploring National and International research on the future of learning and practices of innovative schools and educators.

At Freemans Bay School we have adopted a future orientated approach to learning in the twenty-first century encompassing themes identified to the recent New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER).This research. " identified key themes for a connected and coherent future-oriented learning system. These themes include a commitment to personalising learning, a curriculum that uses knowledge to develop learning capacity, the rethinking of learners’ and teachers’ roles, and the forging of new partnerships with the wider community."

Our first teacher workshops of the year had our teachers working collaboratively to explore effective and innovative ways that we can strengthen our practices in 2013.

Teachers started in groups exploring these resources.

They then  worked  collaboratively on "Etherpad" to explore ways of unpacking the themes in the research.

The idea of working this way was for teachers themselves to experience a different way of working. Once they had explored the theme they had to put together a creative presentation of their findings to share with all the staff.

I worked with a group of teachers exploring the theme around new views of equity, diversity and inclusion. This is a theme that I feel very passionate about as I strongly believe that we need to promote valuing the different attributes of individuals and our diverse communities, rather that focusing on deficit thinking related to exam specific underachievement.

Here are some of the posts from the group of teachers working on the theme of "New views of equity, diversity and inclusivity."

Why is it important to both us as ‘future orientated’ teachers and our students to embrace new views of equity, diversity and inclusivity?
 It is important to address equity and diversity within the classroom in order to prepare our students for the future in the 21st century, by teaching them the skills to deal with others diversity and enable them to gain knowledge. Then they can use these skills when they leave the schooling system.
 To be able to embrace and solve problems unforseen. What will our petroleum fuelled world be when this resource runs dry. Having skills running alongside adaptive knowledge is more important than just knowledge
 To ' develop in learners a love of their environment, of the place where they are living, of its social history, of the bio diversity' 

What could new views of equity, diversity and inclusivity look like at Freemans Bay School?
We need to teach for diversity so that our students develop an appreciation of peoples from different cultural, religious, language, world view from theirs. They need go engage with  and value diversity.

This is about valuing different ideas, diverse world views so that everyones view is embraced .
It needs to be safe for everyone to contribute. We need to encourage our students to value everyones ideas and views and their differences.

The new thinking about diversity is not just to focus on underachievement of specific groups but to embrace and promote the strengths that they bring. We need to promote valuing the different attributes of individuals and communities. If this is not addressed then we are not preparing them for future, so that they can contribute to the social, emotional and economic world. 

Freemans Bay School vision and strategic plan provide a platform for our teachers to continue to explore a future orientated approach to learning and teaching. We look forward to seeing what creativity and innovation our teachers and students will bring to our school vision  in 2013, the year of the Snake!