Learning remotely

Four weeks have passed since I last posted and already it is May. May is generally an important month for me as I usually associate May the 1st as the date I launched TeachMeetNZ.  It has been a couple of years since I have run a Google Hangout for professional learning. However the skills I developed running online learning for teachers have been invaluable as I have supported our teachers during ‘Lockdown’ acclimatise to leading learning online with each other and with their own learners.

I have observed the thinking that teaching face to face can be shifted to online learning with little thought to the challenges that surface when teaching the upcoming ‘TikTok’ generation. Those of you who have explored TikTok will know the speed that media moves. Trying to replicate any of those skills is a challenge in itself to maintain the learner’s interest.  TikTok media snackers are used to swiping up when they are not interested in what we are trying to teach them. 

Personally the aspects that I struggle with with remote online learning is when video conferencing is used for face to face teaching via ZOOM as there are much more effective ways of ensuring learning happens. I observe our teachers undertaking the challenge and I wonder how many of them have been an online learner themselves? How many of them have sat in ZOOM classes or Google Meets themselves listening to an online teacher in real time? 

Some of the excellent online courses I have undertaken only use real time face to face to make connections or to celebrate with an end product. In one of the courses, I never met my teachers face to face in real time except the option was there if I needed personal support. 

I have never sat on a face to face virtual lesson to learn how to do something. That is what Youtube is for and more recently what Tiktok is for. At least in Youtube I can speed up the video when it starts to drag and in Tiktok I can swipe up when the content does not motivate me. I do feel for the learners having to sit and listen to their teachers ‘teach’ virtually and in real time. Our teachers need a strong understanding of cameras and of online tools for editing in order to do something like this effectively. 

With all the technology available to us, I continually search for ways of having the learner share what they can do. I am particularly interested in any tool that opens up for collaboration. Some of my favourites are FlipGrid, Book Creator, Wevideo, Seesaw and even good old google tools. If teachers need to teach, then create self help videos for the students. At least the learners can speed up the video or slow it down to suit or even revisit for clarification as a reference point. Even better they can choose to sit and watch if they are really that keen.

Probably my greatest challenge with using ZOOM for real time teaching is not recording when the children are on.Teaching in real time takes our teachers and our students into each other’s homes so it’s important to consider privacy. As teachers we must also remember that we are like a guest entering our students’ home. Student safety comes first and how many of our teachers have spent time teaching their students how to blur their backgrounds when in real time.  

When teaching in real time, I think, ‘Is this the best way that our students learn? How much would our students benefit from this type of delivery? Are we not supposed to be leading the balance in using screen time for learning?  Would it not be better to record a lesson using ZOOM, Youtube, Flipgrid, or Wevideo? Then at least there is a recording that can be repurposed across the team, with another class.’ Also teaching videos would cut down some of the instructions I have seen in text form, especially some of the long instructions I have read on Seesaw messages for families. There appears to be an expectation that families would then translate these instructions for their children.

I look at all these upcoming scheduled teaching sessions taking up parent devices and think surely these ‘small group lessons’ would be better prerecorded and the actual scheduled times used for full student social connections, just like we would at school at least once a week. Kind of like a team assembly. Also a great way of checking in with colleagues and ensuring staff well being.   Oh and have a colleague host the session. They can deal with muting mics and letting in any late comers. Then again offer a second opportunity for scheduled check in times and make use of real time chat boards, that can be locked down when not in use. I suggest Padlet. I was super excited when one of our young teachers agreed to trial a real time chat board with her students. I showed her how to lock it down when she was not online. Creating a real time chat board allows other students to see if their question had also been asked.

I would be really interested in hearing from schools using video as prerecorded lessons for learning. What have you noticed and are they successful for supporting learners? 

Leave a comment below.

NOTE: while searching for examples of teachers teaching in real time via video conferencing This very good article from ISTE popped up. 10 strategies for online learning during a coronavirus outbreak 

Home learning at Newmarket School.

#NPSFab Teachers

What a week we have had??

At Newmarket School we have been preparing for online learning for several years. This past couple of weeks have thrown us all into that learning whether we are fully prepared or not. Personally I needed just two more days and I would have felt better about our processes and systems  for home learning during our lockdown period. I had begun preparation a few weeks earlier by checking how robust our systems were and whether our teachers would be ready to enter this new phase of teaching and learning. I had already sent out a home questionnaire and one key idea was using video to help maintain effective social relationship between learners and their teachers. Families wanted to see videos of teachers reading and maybe sharing lessons. This did not have to be in real time.

Then I read Danielle Myburgh’s Tweet, and spent a few days pondering some of the questions she had on the graphic.

‘Is your School Really prepared for Lockdown.’ Danielle Myburgh

  1. To what extent do you think your school has prepared all students for managing their own learning at home?
  2. To what extent do you think your school has prepared students and staff for managing rapid change and volatility?
  3. How will your school ensure equitable learning outcomes for all students during lockdown periods?
  4. How will your school be supporting vulnerable and physically at risk students during lockdown?
  5. How will your school support students with special learning needs during lockdown?
  6. To what extent will your existing policies need to be adjusted should lockdown processes continue for longer than four weeks?
  7. How prepared is your school to support teacher well being and personal circumstances throughout lockdown periods?
  8. What do you anticipate will be your biggest challenge should lockdown continue for longer periods of time?

At Newmarket School below are some of the online tools and systems we use.

Hapara is the system that sits behind Google Apps for Education and has been fabulous for ensuring learning is accountable. At the end of last year, our records showed that most of our year 3 and older teachers had completed their Hapara Champion Educator Certification. So with a little encouragement our next cohort completed theirs by March. They were our newer teachers. 

For home communication, we use Seesaw and this platform has been particularly useful for our predominantly migrant families as it has the ease of working easily on any device and is accessible via smart phones, Seesaw also has a facility for quick translations for our families. At our school nearly all of our teachers are Seesaw Champions and this has made a tremendous difference in taking advantage of all features of Seesaw and in using the platform for teaching and learning.

Our other paid for Apps include WeVideo for creating movies online and Reading Eggs which is an online system that helps reading. 

 We also have been delving into a few free tools for chrome books.

Last year we explored FlipGrid which has been great for capturing learning in real time and for capturing student voice. This year our year 3 and older teachers have embraced the platform. 

Last year we explored Book Creator and our year 3 and 4 teachers embraced the platform for writing. This year our year 5 and 6 teachers took it on board to learn how to use for teaching and learning. During this lock down period Book Creator have opened up their free introductory system to the paid level of collaboration and so we have made use of this free upgrade. 

Last week I undertook to learn Zoom an online virtual meeting platform and this has proved valuable for hosting meetings. Last Monday our Pandemic team met via Zoom and together we finalised what would happen in event of school closure. After school we had a quick training session with all the teachers.

The last few days

During our final few days, we checked our systems and had sent a form to all families in preparation for closure. The data gathered helped identify students who needed a device. We also identified  which families might struggle with access to WIFI.

However we did not ask if there were any children who would be in a different lock down address to their normal home address.

Level 3 Lockdown.

When the news hit us late on the Monday afternoon, the unrest had already begun at our school because we had so many children away. Our management team made the decision to send all school devices home as well as the letter of agreement for its use and asked for these to be emailed back to me. On Tuesday many more families arrived to collect their bag of learning which included a device and letter of agreement signed for on the spot.  On Wednesday, we locked down devices remotely and sent a reminder message that I was still waiting on agreements from families. We were successful in doing this, because we received 90 responses via email. 

On Thursday we held our second Zoom Staff meeting synchronously and this was successful because everyone managed to get on in time and we had no problems with the tool. Thank goodness for all those years running TeachMeetNZ. This gave me the skills to pull this learning quickly and easily. One clear message from our senior management team was how to support teachers’ well being and personal circumstances during this period. We agreed that we would continue to work in teams online and that all planning and access to all spaces continue to be shared by all. If anyone was sick, then the team picked up the pace with monitoring. We agreed on hours of work when we would be available to our learners. We agreed on locking down devices over the holiday period because the children were using school devices and school systems and so if they were open, teachers needed to be actively managing them.

Support staff.

During this trial period we prepared our support staff too. They all have access to both a chromebook and a school iPad. I ensured they also had training with Zoom and we then met online on Friday to find out how they were coping. On Wednesday with the children online, we identified hot spots of learning and so on Thursday I placed support staff in strategic places to support teachers with monitoring. The time spent moderating on Superclubs plus helped me anticipate areas we could find challenging. 

Strategies I have learnt from being a Global educator

  • Plan
  • Track
  • Communicate
  • Anticipate 
  • Record
  • Adjust 
  • Reflect
  • Share

We had an issue with communication across the school that we have since dealt with. One way of ensuring that miscommunication does not happen again is to use our group text communication. We told families that school devices would be locked down overnight as a trial, but had not told our teachers. The test happened with our senior team but our middle school team was swamped with seesaw messages and this affected them working effectively during their first full day of managing home learning.

What have we learnt?

How important it is to manage school devices remotely which we do for our school chromebooks via Google Management System, our students log ins, via Hapara Student learning system and our iPads using Meraki.

Teachers recorded reading using youtube unlisted using their school account, however when sharing, chromebooks had the link blocked. Teachers sharing FlipGrid videos via Seesaw had a blocked message. Then we received a message from LIANZA reminding us about copyright issues when recording teachers reading a story and sharing this online.

So a quick reminder was sent to all teachers reminding them of their obligations when reading books. A lot of this is just good teacher pedagogy.

  • Introduce yourself and where you are from.
  • Introduce the title, author, illustrator and publisher.
  • But if we used a hidden link on youtube, then our learners cannot hear the stories read by their teachers  on a chrome device.

My principal reminded me that we pay print copyright fees, but we are both unsure of how this new way of sharing is affected.

We have tried to focus on the positive such as our principal asking the children and parents via email to send her photos of home learning happening.  Photos of the joy or silving lining each day brings.

Over time, we know that children will test the systems and how we deal with this is of vital importance. So we screenshot and follow up any incidents. Warn using Hapara Highlights, or we change their passwords and alert parents. We utilise support staff with monitoring and tracking. I get them to add a heart on Seesaw. I have placed two support staff to support teachers in highlights, one for each team.  They have alerted me to a few unusual activities. 

But most importantly we are all being kind to ourselves, and celebrating the huge step up that our teachers have undertaken. 

School Values
During this period of uncertainty, our school values become even more important and guide our school and home learning. 

  • Kindness
  • Patience
  • Perseverance

Where to next

Currently our system is locked down for the two week break. We have encouraged all our families to focus on non device activities and to spend time with each other when they can. Teachers will continue to meet via Zoom and plan the next two weeks. They will spend time familiarising themselves with unknown tools and also take some time to spend with families and look after themselves.

Right now I am in the process of collating data for the Ministry of Education as to where our children are living in this Stage 4 lock down period.

Myself, I have been gardening, walking every day, and working online finalising a few last minute school tasks to ensure that both teachers and students have a positive experience when learning from home.

A big shout out here to all those providers who have opened up their systems for a longer trial period. An extra big shoutout to Newerait our technical team who work to ensure our systems are operational and to N4L for the high speed internet access provided to us at school. My home WIFI is a tad slow and I really notice this when I am uploading learning.

I also give an extra big shout out to the staff, children and families at Newmarket School. They are absolutely #NPSFab and have taken to home learning with enthusiasm and growing excitement.

My final shoutout goes to Wendy and Ginny our senior management team for being the first to create video messages for our children.

Our school values.

 E iloa le tagata i lana amio ma ana aga. (Samoan)

You can tell a person by their deeds and actions, and the way they treat others.

At our school, our three core school values are kindness, respect and perseverance. We have a Maori version too but remember that translating the Maori core value back into English can have an impact on meaning. 

This week I was in one of the junior classes and for their writing the children were describing our school values. Each day the teacher modelled one value using shared writing strategies. In addition she provided the children with sentence starters to help them frame their writing and support them depending on their abilities. Then the children went and wrote their own version. What the children wrote about our school values left such an impression on me that I thought I would also have a go but write them from a teacher perspective. So what I have done is put the values  together and used the Maori version to help strengthen the English value.

Manaakitanga is the process of showing kindness, generosity and care for others.

At Newmarket School kindness is one of our school values We teach our children the importance of being kind. As teachers we model being kind with our words and actions. We show empathy for each other by choosing the words we use when we are together and are conscious of the impact of our words. We are role models for our children and for each other by upholding a high standard of what we say and how we say it. We show kindness by taking pleasure and pride in our team work and produce great lessons that our children remember. We show kindness by building relationships with our children and their families and take the time to greet them using eye contact and remember their names and where they come from. Kindness is important because kindness is central to who we are at Newmarket School. We value people above all things and in doing so, we are ourselves uplifted. The very act of talking and writing about kindness encourages our children and us to be kinder. Let us make kindness visible. We can smile at people and ask how they are. We can make an effort to connect and act in kindness. We can practice being approachable by being gentle with words and actions. Kindness sits at the heart of well being.

Whanaungatanga is the sense of connection and belonging. It is about building respectful relationships through shared experiences and working together. It develops as a result of rights and obligations. It also extends to others to whom one develops a close familial, friendship or reciprocal relationship.

At Newmarket School respect is another one of our school values. We teach our children the importance of being respectful with a focus on manners. As staff  we highlight respect beginning with greeting each other, our children and their parents whenever we see them. This year we have spent the year unpacking belonging and what this looks like in learning. The concept was developed by our student curriculum leaders. As a staff member of Newmarket school I am conscious of my rights as a person and also my responsibility to our children, my colleagues and our families. One major responsibility we have with our children is to build that reciprocal relationship with their families. At Newmarket school we have a history of creating shared experiences for our children. Their favourite event, as was highlighted by our leaving year six children, is our annual camp. This major event sees a huge input from our families and staff to ensure a safe and memorable event for our children. Respect is important because it serves to strengthen each member of our school group.

Kaitiakitanga is about guardianship, stewardship, trusteeship, trustee. 

Our third Newmarket School value is perseverance. We teach our children that perseverance is about never giving up, giving things a go, trying one’s best. However we must also remember that  perseverance is also about duty and not just the playground grind. It is more like service and for us at Newmarket School it is about acknowledging our historic motte, ‘Not self but service.’ Perseverance is about knowing our heritage through storytelling and sharing our story. Again this was an area highlighted by our curriculum student leaders in their planning for learning for 2019. Our children wanted to know more about our school’s history. Perseverance is important because it is about guardianship and looking after our surrounding environment sustainably. It is about building a legacy for future learners. It is about leaving our school in a better place. 

Overall in today’s climate of learning, it is important for schools to have a core set of values that underpin all that they do and are communicated clearly with all involved. Often when we design learning ,we focus on what we can see and yet the greatest learning space is the space between the ears. When we focus on values, we focus on actions and again we focus on what we see and yet the greatest action is how we treat others.

By communicating our core values with each other and our children, we build citizenship and make a difference. I have written before about citizenship and presented my understanding about citizenship here.

Maori say, ‘He aha te mea nui o te ao?  He tangata! He tangata! He tangata!’ What is the most important thing in the world?  It is people! It is people! It is people!

If you have written about your school values, can you please share this with me?

Note; Nikki @Nikki_From_NZ thanks for reminding me about revisiting our school values. I look forward to seeing what you do with these in your classroom.

Our Journeys to New Zealand.

Belonging has been our overarching theme at Newmarket School for 2019.

The concept was developed by our student leaders in the curriculum development team.

I wanted to share some exciting developments that happened with the team I worked with this term. 

I had been playing with Book Creator and was impressed with the ease of creating and wondered if I could persuade the team to use it as a platform to develop writing.

I created a writing unit framed using SOLO Taxonomy and the key idea was to have our children write their migrant journey to New Zealand or a close family member. 

When I first approached our teachers with the idea, I suggested that in order for the project to work, they themselves must also create a migrant story about themselves or a family member. They must also use book creator to craft their story so they could experience that challenges their learners might have with the app. I shared my own journey to New Zealand that could be used as a model by both teachers and children. 

Link to my story

I applied for and gained book creator ambassador status and this opened up further ideas for collaboration. 

Another idea was for each teacher to share the code to their class library so that all teachers could learn from each other. This they did.

Teachers used Seesaw to communicate with families. Most of the images came in this way for the children. Some teachers created a page in Google Docs and saved the families links there. That was so the children were then able to access their images. For art the children created patterns from countries that they associate with and this was also included in their books. They also included a reflection on the art process.

All in all, the unit of work was successful. We learned so much about who we all are, belonging, and the diverse cultures that make up our school.

Our families gave us positive feedback because the children came home and asked so many questions that conversations around family photo albums were animated and exciting.

In addition several families needed to contact extended families overseas for further clarification for some information.

When the books were completed, we printed out one paper copy for each child and also shared the digital copies with families in a hidden link via Seesaw. 

As an added bonus, I was also able to cocreate a story book with some of the children about the area that we live in. They created all the images using the new drawing tool. The book is called ‘The Patupaihere of Tāmaki Makaurau’ and retells the story of how the mountains appeared in Auckland.

The children created Patupaihere using the new drawing tool.

Where to next: I cannot stress enough the importance of going through the learning yourself first as a teacher. Two parts of the learning included: ‘How to write a recount’ and ‘How to learn to use Book Creator’. In addition, be really clear about driving the learning deeper and I do this using SOLO Taxonomy. Finally remember to leave time to reflect on the process. I can hear Ginny now, “Where is the SOLO Taxonomy rubric?”

Stockton University

Over the past few days I noticed a surge in twitter followers.  As in previous years I spotted they appeared to be coming from Stockton University. Today when I followed a group, one immediately responded with 


I was then able to direct message Mason and ask, how come I was being followed by students from the university.

Here was his response: “Hi! There is a class where we are learning how to create PLN and other global learning techniques! I also believe your Twitter header is in our textbook and your page is a great one to follow!”

I asked for a screen shot of the page and straight away, it was the entry from ‘The Global Educator’ by @JulieLindsay

Aw such a small world. 

Mason shared the hashtag they were tweeting with #GEN2108

So of course I responded with a shout out.


To be honest, the discussion made my day. This past year, I have been feeling a tad disconnected from twitter especially after losing wikispaces. This past month I had felt really disconnected when I received the youtube message that I am no longer able to live stream a Google Hangout. So yes tools come and go, but human connections is what helps keep us grounded. 

And Mason, @masonstockedu thanks for reminding me about acknowledging when I get followers. Good luck with your studies and tag me when you blog.

Jane Kaa

Manaaki te katoa, Kindness to all. That was Jane.

Jane Kaa was an experienced teacher from Newmarket School in Auckland, New Zealand. She was 75 years old this year and was still hearing the children read daily right up to Thursday of last week. She passed away peacefully at home on Saturday night. 

She was already teaching at Newmarket School  when I arrived and I had the good fortune of relieving in her class for the first term in 2009.  It had been a while since I taught 5 year olds and coming down from senior students I might have spoken a bit stronger with the children than I intended. But Jane was there to subtly remind me about other people’s children. 

That first year I was reintroduced to Smarty Pants by Joy Cowley, one of Jane’s favourite children’s authors, and my senses were flooded with crazy 5 years olds interpretation of being a smarty pants. Those MASSIVE drawings took up the whole wall. I was also reminded about giving the 5 year olds extra time to have their breaks. Jane ensured that they began eating five minutes before the school bell rang. 

The week we had swimming, she asked me to lead like a mother duck. Those of you who know me know I walk really fast. I got halfway down Broadway before realising I had left Jane, the extra parent helpers and the children around the corner still coming up Nuffields street. When I got back to her, she shook her shoulders, smiled and said “ that is why we leave a little earlier.”

Jane found out I was keen to learn about Tui’s and so she brought me old books to help me with my Global Project. We spend several sessions talking about Tuis and it was through Jane that I found out that Tuis don’t generally walk on the ground because they have curved claws from hanging onto branches. I also found out about their brush tongues through Jane.

I wrote about Jane before when I wrote about our schools history and how she alluded me to the fact how huge it was. It is because of Jane that I began collating images and historical artefacts about our school. It was through Jane that I found out about ‘Ti Tutahi’.

After she retired, Jane continued to work at our school supporting our children with reading. She always told me how amazing the children were and could stretch them through a passion. She would go out of her way to look for science books, insects books, story books, that would fit the level of the children she was working with. 

She had two sons of whom she was immensely proud. Sometimes she would ask me if I had caught up with their lives on Facebook. That always made me giggle because I spent several years trying to get her to turn her teacher laptop on. However she discovered the ease of the smart phone for keeping in communication. I would sometimes bounce her tidbits of information that she could watch on youtube or read on her smart phone. She would respond in kind with photos of the grandchildren. Just last week I had rediscovered Emere’s speech on the environment and had thought how I must share that with her.   

Jane had such an interesting life and she knew so many people. I remembered when the Prime Minister and Governor General visited to talk to our students about leadership. I often wondered if it was her connections that helped our case for a visit. She used to tell me about her life as a young wife for Hone Kaa. How the presbytery was the stopping in place for the various movements that passed through over the years. 

She was interviewed by our children about her part in the springbok tour and I remembered what an incredible impact that was for the children to hear from someone who was there. 

Jane hated photos and being photographed with a passion and had a way of sneaking away. But over the years I did manage to get a couple. When we set up the historic photos outside the hall, I even managed to sneak one of her in there. You do have to look for it. 

Ah Jane I am going to miss our talks. No one else quite gets those Tui’s like you do. I think of all the service you gave Newmarket School, all the families you have been a part of the dinner tables conversations, and how you helped leave the school in a better place. I know you will continue to read my blog from where ever you are.   

Ia manuia lou malaga.

Book Creator

I have been using book creator on and off for a few years since @Allanahk introduced me to it. This year I began using it again but instead of an app on an iPad, I have been using it on chrome and absolutely love the new features.

Last term I worked with the year 3 students at our school and wanted to publish their science learning into a book. Which I did. Here is the link to see all the science books collated together as one large book.

I really like book creator because of the way I can control how the book looks.

My favourite part of book creator is being able to use it with my learners. This term I have a writing project and book creator is at the centre. I think it is the ideal tool to showcase the children’s writing.

As I investigated more about the tool, I found out that Book Creator headquarters is in Bristol, England. You can find out more about them here on their linked in page.


Follow them on twitter: @BookCreatorApp.

Join the Book Creator Teachers on Facebook.

In New Zealand we already have several Book Creator ambassadors. 

@barbs1 @sharpjacqui @Jordan_priestle @BeLchick1 @naketanz @flexie @ShareWithUsEDU

Some of the new features I like about Book creator include 

  • integration with other apps such as Flip Grid. 
  • the new drawing tool and I love the paint bucket.

When I started using the book templates I really like the landscape comic one because I can make the contents interesting.

Book creator utilises many elements and the ability to order images, texts and other visuals is exciting. All elements can also be locked and unlocked.

This is where I believe the true power of Book Creator lies. The ability to co-construct a book.

I look forward to sharing more with you about Book Creator.