Connections are the beginning of collaboration

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Yesterday we had the most amazing experience with our children as part of our school wide focus on Chinese language and culture week. One of our parents set up a WeChat session with a kindergarten in Zhengzhou, Henan in China. She came, was part of the session and and helped to ensure that it was a success.We spent approximately 30 minutes with the children and teachers. The kindergarten is one her son attended before they came to New Zealand.

The experience was a little different to Skype in the classroom because our children are learning Mandarin. Therefore we did not do the usual ‘Guess where we are sessions.‘ I was really lucky to have a translator as this helped immensely with the experience.

The video quality was low from their end, but that is OK because I know that as educators we are problem solvers. They shared with us via WeChat what it looked like from their end and it was so exciting to see the faces of their children. The children were really excited as ours were too. They had hooked up a computer to a data projector and their teachers were balancing the computer and holding up the computer for our benefit so that we could see their children. The really exciting thing about using WeChat was that we did not fall off. I have had experiences using Skype with China where there is a lot of interruption but using WeChat seemed to eliminate this.

I used my iPhone to record or children and streamed this through apple TV so that they could see our children. My main technology was heaps of bluetac to connect the iPhone to the top of the television. Before the session Lili one of our parents and I had carried out a test run with our virtual guests. Then before the live session I flick on the video so that our children could see themselves on the television screen. This helped align our children for the camera in preparation for the session.

Our children practiced saying

大家好 dà jiā hǎo Hello everyone!
您好 ni hao Greetings
您好 ni hao lǎoshī Greetings teachers
再见 zài jiàn Good bye 

We went live and both classes greeted each other.

Then they sang us a song. We sand them a song in Chinese. They sang us 5x little Ducks in Chinese, we sang them a Maori song. Next their teacher suggested we sing a song together that we both knew. This was twinkle twinkle little star, so cute. After that I had our teachers introduce themselves in Mandarin. Finally we all said goodbye and thank you.

The point of all this you may ask?

The authentic use of a language. The chance to share our learning in Mandarin even though it is really basic. The opportunity to make connections with children in another country who are the same age as our little ones. To show our teachers that there are new ways of learning. So rather than using photos or videos of another country, culture and language, we can be doing so much more.

Where to next?

The learning I learnt from taking part in Flat Connections student projects is the importance of co construction. I was really excited when their teachers suggested singing a song together. This is something I know about early childhood teachers, they always think outside the box. My imagination is all fired up with the possibilities. I have suggested that our teachers explore Wechat so will do another big push again with this tool.


The rest of this week is about celebrating the culture and language of one third of our student population as part of the National Chinese Language Week.  We have so many activities and experiences organised.  I give a massive shout out to the Asia New Zealand foundation who approved our application for support. The extra amount enables us to help make this week memorable for our children.

Teacher Only Day Part 2 #SOLOtaxonomy

travelwiseUnder the leadership of Virginia Kung, our assistant principal, Newmarket School are trialling the New Zealand Transport Agency Resource Road Safety, Everyone is a Road User.

According to Pam Hook, “Students need a context where they have a voice and feel like they belong, matter and can make a difference. These road safety education resources are designed to enable students’ agency as active citizens so that they contribute to a safe road network. Students are encouraged to seek community-based solutions to help road users experience safer journeys. This focus aligns with the New Zealand Curriculum vision for young people to be active participants who contribute to the well-being of New Zealand.

Just from this paragraph alone I am excited because I am Newmarket School’s Travelwise Lead Teacher. It is like a whole pile of events are aligning. Pam Hook came to school and ran a teacher only day for us about the resource and refreshed our thinking around the use of SOLO Taxonomy.


Pam, aka @arti_choke, began our session by explaining the use of SOLO Taxonomy in our teaching and learning. If you are looking for resources or a definition on SOLO Taxonomy, then visit her site

Pam reminded us about loose ideas, connected ideas, extended ideas.

The tool is agnostic in any curriculum area.

Single strips for SOLO is a great way of clarifying understanding and use of SOLOTaxonomy.

Single SOLO line

See, Think, Wonder

Pam then shared the New Zealand Transport Agency Resource Road Safety, Everyone is a Road User.

We discussed some learning ideas such as:

  • How much space is taken up by parking.
  • Compare parking spaces with the space for learning
  • Sequence morphing from a driver to a pedestrian. (Typical Pam approach- thinking outside the square.)
  • Wicked problems map (Already in the project)
  • Use google maps to take a snapshot of the area (I am using this idea.)
  • What would happen if the road was not there? (Never thought about this)
  • What does it make you wonder?
  • What questions would you ask Gillies Ave? (Personalise the road, love this idea)
  • Invent the design of the new road. (this idea I am already using)

Situational Awareness is when you are aware of all that is around you and this is one concept I will add to my global project proposal. For me situational awareness happens when Pam Hook runs professional development at our school. Our senses are heightened and our professional discussion and learning deepens. The following weeks has a hive of SOLO based learning happening. One of the challenges is sustaining the buzz that always follows Pam Hook sessions.

Where to Next:

Newmarket School would benefit from exploring what we mean by ‘student voice’. Is student voice a gathering of student views through surveys or focus groups, or is student voice when students actively participate in school decision making. How well do we as a school promote student leadership and students being in charge of their learning? How do we as a school explicitly show that our students have a voice?

This year I wish to investigate what student voice is and the impact that this might have on learning.

One way of doing this is via a planned Flat Connections global project led by our Travelwise leadership team where we are focus on on being Participatory Citizens.

The plan for this project is that the Travelwise student focus group will be actively involved in decision making. They will practise self efficacy by being in charge of their own learning. They will gather student views through surveys and communicate their findings school wide, nationally and globally. They will think critically about information and ideas and reflect on their learning.

They will do this by investigating a wicked problem in our community.

Through this our student will collaborate with other student focussed groups nationally and internationally and devise a solution that benefits future generations. By using the New Zealand Transport Agency resource I will refine the global project further.

Basically our global project is about our students being involved in local council planning decisions that affect their health and wellbeing. Students will have  opportunities to develop leadership, self efficacy, and resourcefulness while participating with others within a high‑trust culture and through a stimulating curriculum.

Through carrying out this inquiry I want to further strengthen my understandings about student partnership and students’ ability to make and take accountability for their own choices so they can actively contribute to school life and their education experiences. This learning aligns against the Registered Teacher Criteria, RTC 08: teachers demonstrate in knowledge and practice their understanding of how ākonga learn.