Sunday 30 December 2012

Well, it has been a long time since I lasted posted, however I have a stack of good excuses. It has been a very busy end of term this year; junior classes increased as we got rid of electives- a good thing in some ways. We all have good intentions for this time of year- once the seniors have gone I am going to... Never happens and I still forget this every year! There has been catch up sessions for staff who need help, students suddenly realising that no netbook means no Facebook over the holidays etc. Plus there are all the other commitments that end up taking over time, and now we are finished for the year.

So, what happened? Well, aside from all of the other stuff, the MITA academy was launched, with the intention of giving the teachers in the Manaiakalani programme the chance to extend themselves and do something innovative during 2013. I applied, as you do, and was accepted after an interview (which I found nerve-wracking for some reason) and my topic of research will be the use of social media in the classroom. My theory is that we as educators tend to go straight for the 'block it' attitude, yet kids communicate more via social media than any other way. Email is very early 21st century! So, why not embrace the technology and use it to our advantage as a means to communicate with the students: wouldn't this increase their buy-in? I already use Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn personally and have started playing with Edmodo in the class, which my students have already indicated they really enjoy using- it looks and feels like Facebook so got instant buy-in. Interestingly, the students without netbooks really felt they were missing out with this site and were sharing netbooks to get access. Cool, and a good start (as mentioned in the last post).

The final couple of weeks of the term were taken up with activities, which being a year 9 tutor meant I was 'forced' to go to Rainbow's End, Waiwera, ice skating and the movies. Hard job, really. Rainbow's End was a rather wet day with the wettest part being just as another teacher and myself got strapped into the Invader. It turned out to be more like the spin cycle of a washing machine as the rain poured onto us as we span around. The rest of the day wasn't that wet; just those 10 minutes...

I stayed off the Fearfall this year, but was able to describe the physics of the rollercoaster to one of our kids (while we were going around...) Waiwera was as lovely as it ever is with very warm weather (sunburnt shoulders- ouch). Many of the teachers got into the water and a whole load of the kids didn't. We went in the hot pool (adults only!), some of the cooler pools, the slides, the lazy river and had a generally good time. When we got out we found out that there had been a tornado through west Auckland, motorways were in disarray and traffic was atrocious. Our coach managed a sliding skid as we had to brake hard, causing the car in front of us to accelerate into the next lane to avoid us hitting him. We were very lucky not to have a serious accident.
The final day was spent at Paradice in Pakuranga, with most of our kids taking to the ice for the first time in their lives, some taking to it more posterially... Then off to the cinema to watch Hotel Paranormal which was a pleasant way to wind down.
Final couple of days were taken up with junior prize-giving and the end of the year clear up, meaning farewells and packing up my four frogs to come home with me over the summer, putting the plants out to get watered by any rain (which there has been a fair bit of so far..) and generally clearing and cleaning. It has been a long year, exasperating at times, very funny at times but finally over. This is going to be my last post until the new academic year as we have much to do over the hols, and guests arriving from England. One thing that will take some of my time though: my CHROMEBOOK has arrived! Yay!

Wednesday 21 November 2012

Busy week, and Manaiakalani Film Festival!

The seniors have been gone a week and a half, but as usual the intensity of events at school have shifted up a notch.
Firstly, Tuesday was Diwali, and being a Hindu I made a huge batch of chole (chickpea curry) for a shared morning tea for the staff. 4 litres, all gone in the space of an hour or less... not forgetting all of the other food that people brought in as well. Phew. People enjoy sharing cultures at TC; one of the wonderful things about working there.
Wednesday was the annual Manaiakalani film festival, at Hoyts, Sylvia Park with the biggest screen in the southern hemisphere. And the students from the cluster are the big stars. Wow.
It has been a few years since the festival started at Hoyts, and we found out this year that they actually moved the GLOBAL release of the latest Twilight movie forward to allow us to still have the date we booked earlier in the year! Thanks must go to the cinema for honouring their commitment to us and a huge thanks to the movie company for being so understanding!
Having said that, our films are probably thousands of times better than Twilight anyway...
There were 4 daytime sessions and an evening session with over 50 films being screened during the event. Check out the videos here especially "Water" by St Patricks; they use my classroom for the lab scene! The student presenters from some of the primary schools were incredibly confident stepping onto a stage in front of nearly 400 people to introduce their film. They really are incredible. This event is getting bigger and better every year.

Another turning point for me this week has been the introduction of Edmodo to my junior classes. It has gone  down very well as a collaborative tool, looks and works like Facebook and allows me the options of deleting silly messages and controlling who has access to my pages. My students have all taken to it really quickly and love it! There have been several of them not only answering my questions but creating questions for their peers. I can create badges for their profiles as well, which they find really cool.
Here is what my students thought:

More to come on this later in upcoming posts!

Saturday 10 November 2012

Taking it to the next level

It has been an interesting week. It started off with the acquisition of a Samsung Gio smartphone and retiring my old Samsung flip phone with VGA camera. Okay, so I liked the flip because it reminded me of an original Star Trek communicator and I always felt like opening it and making a request to be beamed up...

Also, this week was senior prize-giving with TVNZ's Pasifika correspondent Barbara Dreaver as our guest speaker. It was an awesome night for our students, as always. It actually makes me proud to see kids I have encountered somewhere along their journey leaving the school, having achieved academic and extra-curricular success. Even better, Barbara Tweeted throughout the ceremony with pictures of our kids (@barbaradreaver), and mentioned us on Breakfast on Wednesday morning ( - the Fiji article). I will, however, not forgive Petra Bagust for calling us a south Auckland school; the cheek of it!

Senior students were then dismissed Tuesday morning, and the panic appeared to set in. How can they log into Facebook (at home) of their netbook is in for repairs?! Sorry, I mean study hard for their exams...
We were inundated with requests for return of said netbooks, most of which were still away being fixed, or in need of the $70 excess being paid. It was also hoped that the workload would start to reduce, not so though it would seem. Perhaps the juniors are the worst at looking after their machines (I know this to be a fact).

On Thursday we had the final ever netbook teachers' meeting for the cluster, as 2013 is going to see more specifically-targeted training being delivered. It was also the launch of the MITA- Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers Award to be offered to 10 experienced teachers within the cluster. I am going to apply for this, as it sounds interesting. Also, I feel that after 2 years extensive involvement with the programme, I am reluctant to move away from it all and return to being a full-time classroom teacher again next year. I have enjoyed the Manaiakalani experience, and I have learned a lot about e-learning and also programming (with the guidance of Nevyn the master!). It was also announced that Nevyn Hira had won the Education category at the NZ Open Source Awards for his work on the image and netbooks that we are using as part of the Manaiakalani cluster. Stunning performance!

To end the week, I have started making forays into the world of social media as a teaching tool. I would like to trial Twitter and Edmodo with my classes, and I am also looking at an application called Grouptweet to make the process easier. It is early days yet, but I am interested in this method of teaching and communicating with the students. This is an area that I am going to spend some time developing over 2013 and beyond, and something I will probably report back more on as this idea develops!

Monday 5 November 2012

Seven months on...

Good grief. Is it really March since I created a post here?
Well, what has happened this year?
Deploying the netbooks at Tamaki College has given me a huge amount of work to do, with all of the resultant issues. I have learned a huge amount about networks, programming, repairs and how to manage students in getting the best out of their new learning tool. And that is before we have to do anything with the staff.
Most of our teachers are now using Google sites, docs, forms and know how to share these items with their students. Some of the staff have done some incredible things now and their sites etc can be found at and most are open for people outside of our domain to view.
So, other things we have done: a hui for all of the concerned parties about the Manaiakalani project, presentations at several subject conferences, several attendees went to the NZ Google Apps for Education (GAFE) summit at the Albany Senior High School Campuses and further improved their skills. Many of us now feel closer to Google ninja-ism (is that a word??). We also had the opportunity to present at Ulearn 2012 at Sky City, which saw us actually presenting at the ACG Senior College.
As well as this, we have hosted many other schools, principals and teachers who have been keen to see how we are implementing the programme.
This is all as well as being a 0.5 science teacher and writing a Masters dissertation. I feel ready to say goodbye to our seniors very shortly...
I aim to try and post to this blog once in a while, but more often than every 7 months so that will have to be a  new target for me! Having said that, there have been no comments at all on here, so I'm not sure if anyone even reads it. Am I wasting my time???

Sunday 1 April 2012

What a week that was...

It has been a varied and interesting week. Classroom teaching is nearly always fun, and being a science teacher gives access to greater fun quotas.
Also, this week I finally committed myself to the idea of uploading videos and photos to share them, something I have always been wary about before. As we at school are using Google Apps for education, we get a free Picasaweb album, so I have been busily filling that, and also having a play with Vimeo and YouTube- all great fun, and shocking for my students when they realise they are on the internet! Far more sanitised than some of the stuff they are usually posting on the internet themselves, so not sure why they are so shocked... Perhaps they don't want their friends to see them HAVING FUN AT SCHOOL!
My ventures into this uploading world started with a trip out to Motuihe island, where we got to see 60 Northern Brown tuatara reintroduced onto the island after many years of absence. There is a One news video clip here, and it was covered by the Herald too! These are my pics:

Monday was interesting in an icky sort of way for my year 12 biology class who got to dissect some cockroaches. Ewww.  Not the nicest thing in the world, but it helps them to learn about the respiratory system and other body organs of insects.

And a fairy prion that was blown way off course and died in the school grounds was next to be used for scientific purposes, same class.

Finally this week, we have learned about fish respiratory systems by dissecting fish heads. Another smelly lesson...

There is video to follow this!

Meanwhile, the year 9s were getting to grips with heating liquids and gases to see what happens:

And then they got to play with dry ice too! What fun!

Videos will follow here too!

Thursday was spent at a selection of religious institutions for the y13 Social studies class. Why me you ask? Well, because I am a Hindu, know quite a bit about Buddhism and Sikhism, some stuff about Islam (but absolutely nothing about Judaism so I really enjoyed the visit to the synagogue!). We started at the Swaminaryan temple in Papatoetoe, which is a new one on me, having never been there before.
Our next stop was the Auckland Hebrew Congregation synagogue in Auckland city.
where the boys got to cover our heads. Really interesting, and very modern too (for such an old religion!).
Third stop was the mosque in Ponsonby, where apparently Sonny Bill goes when in town. Girls heads were covered this time.
The final destination after lunch at Botany Town Centre was the Fo Guang Shan (North Island) Buddhist temple in Flatbush. Very beautiful and the students really seemed to enjoy this one!

I was quite glad the weekend arrived to allow me time to actually catch my breath! And the clocks fell back too.

Friday 23 March 2012

All the fun of 1 to 1

We are now two and a half weeks from the end of a trying term 1. Time for a little reflective thought about where we as a school have come from, and where we are heading.
I work at a decile 1 (very low economic status) secondary school in urban Auckland, New Zealand, with mostly Polynesian and Maori students. They are wonderful to work with by the way, very cool.
So, why the trying term? We are part of a group of schools that are part of the Manaiakalani 1:1 initiative (see, where we aim to have a personal electronic device (netbooks) in front of each and every student from y1 to y13. The programme also will deliver FREE wireless internet available at home as well as at school, so learning can take place anywhere.
Getting the devices in front of the kids has been a challenge. The parents or guardians must first pay a deposit, after which their name is placed on the distribution list. It is then my job, and that of Karen, my colleague, to find where that particular student is, whether they are in school etc. and then we go and place the device in their eager (and occasionally sweaty/ sticky) hands.
Then there is connecting them to their Google accounts, which requires them to remember passwords, and ensuring all machines are working as best as possible. And training our staff to use this technology... a completely different set of challenges, which they have risen to really well, embracing huge amounts of challenges and taking on some really new technologies.
It has been a toughie, I am also in the final stages of writing up my Masters and the stresses this has caused have been immense. However, we are 90% there. The rest of the year will be hopefully a little easier, although there will always be challenges to face; part of the fun though!