Holding tensions between Place Based Education and Digital Technologies

There is an internal battle I have in my head between Place Based Education and Digital Technologies. I liken it to that of Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars movies, and his inner conflict with The Force, questioning the lure of ‘the Dark Side’.

Place Based Education can allow learners to explore the stories, histories, and experiences of different cultures that have influenced the shaping of their geographical location. Such learning might instil a deeper sense of personal identity and belonging for the learner and allow for assumptions to be challenged and new perspectives to be explored (Ministry of Education, 2018).
It is this learning that excites me as a teacher. I see it as developing critical consciousness within a school and surrounding community. However, I also have a passion for Digital Technologies and the enhanced opportunities these provide regarding Learning Design Skills like innovation/problem-solving, collaboration and learner agency.

The two areas can appear to be in opposition to one another. There is a general acceptance that environmental education is best supported through direct sensory experience with the outside environment. Whereas, Digital Technologies are the perceived enemy with screen-based media exerting power and control over body and mind, and causing environmental destruction through their means of production.

Recently, I read a paper that got me wondering about my ‘internal head battle’ in a different way. Rather than viewing these two tensions in opposition, I am thinking about holding the tensions together in the development of a critical and pragmatic stance towards digital technology in place conscious environmental education. Part of Greenwood & Hougham’s (2015) paper takes an ‘adaptation and mitigation’ approach to technology in environmental learning and offers critical conceptual guidelines for policy and practice.

When analysing the concepts of adaptation and mitigation, both are intertwined with one another, as adaptation looks to develop strategies to deal with present moment changes, while mitigation looks to prevent or delay catastrophic effects in the future.

Adaptation strategies
Greenwood & Hougham (2015) state that it is common sense for educators to take an adaptation stance towards the use of new devices, especially when making the most of the inevitable relationship with digital technologies. They acknowledge learner-centred pedagogy and digital trails as part of this process and the potential of using digital technologies to enhance this process further.

Learner Agency
Putting Place Based Education and Digital Technologies aside, there is the acknowledgement that contemporary education has to overcome the separation between students’ personal experiences, subjectivities and interests, and that of school environments rooted in traditional learning methods. As Dewey informed us, ‘learners need to be met where they are’ (Greenwood & Hougham, 2015). It means as educators we embrace an online and digitally mediated world, our learners’ world. We need to assess what students already understand about digital technologies and adapt by integrating this knowledge into curriculum and pedagogy to empower students further in their learning.

Digital Trails
Greenwood and Hougham (2015) go on to discuss how digital technologies can influence the stories, movements, and legacies of plants, animals and our shared environment. They acknowledge the decades of scientific inquiry and data collection through the use of digital tools like monitoring equipment, mapping technologies and electronic surveys that have created digital trails of information about our changing environment. They do not discredit the importance of the sensory experience of the environment or the place-conscious environmental education that comes from these explorations, but instead they look at the various other forms of digital technologies and media tools which can influence pedagogical potential to support today’s digitally literate learners.

The digital technologies and media tools currently influencing Place Based Education which can be considered when looking to adapt place-conscious pedagogy are:

  • Geographic Information Systems creating citizen science opportunities
  • Environmental Monitoring Projects providing uploading of information e.g. plants, and access to a network of information creating problem-based learning and student-driven inquiry
  • Digital Storytelling – film-making and blogging to communicate
  • Virtual Worlds/ Game-Based Learning to recreate place-based learning and support knowledge acquisition
  • Internet/Virtual and Augmented Reality – bridging distant places and forming relationships between them
  • Mobile Technology/Social Media to influence direct action and movements like climate change rallies or community beach clean-ups.

Greenwood and Hougham (2015) do not shy away from a critical analysis of how digital technologies impact people, place and planet negatively and discuss the importance for educators to approach contexts with humility and critical efforts to discover who does and does not get to speak: “An environmental education that seeks multiple perspectives and purposefully looks for competing stories of places could also be a powerful way to nurture understanding of the inherent contestation in all places, near and far” (p.111). While digital technologies can enhance place-conscious environmental learning, these same innovations can have severe consequences depending on the human condition and which direction a person’s moral compass points in. It is vital as educators that we incorporate this consciousness into our pedagogy and practice, and explicitly teach it.

Mitigation strategies
In Greenwood and Hougham (2015) work on mitigation strategies they discuss two approaches which can be used to reduce the reliance on tools and technologies to open opportunities for unmediated (undigitized) experience, which can create new relationships with technology: technofasting and slow pedagogy.

Any addiction develops a patterned way of experiencing the world. Unlike trying to beat an addiction, technofasting isn’t ridding oneself of the addiction, but instead developing periods of abstinence in order to achieve a benefit. By abstaining from technology we can limit its negative effects and become open to other ways of sensing, being, knowing and communicating. “Like fasting from food, the point of fasting from technology is not never to eat (or use technology) again, but to develop a new relationship to food (technology) and to one’s body” (p.104). By cultivating this relationship we create an opportunity to step back and assess the ways we interact with technology, and what these impacts are and could be on people, place and the planet.

Slow pedagogy
Greenwood and Hougham (2015) acknowledge Gruenewald’s (2005) work on strengthening a professionalized culture of accountability. There is a current pattern that educators are in regarding a fast paced process to meet predetermined outcomes prescribed by this professional culture. Gruenewald (2005) discusses a shift from individual achievement as a sole focus of assessment to a broader view of the institution of school and wider community. Instead of focusing and judging student and teacher performance, teachers take into account and focus on the larger contexts of where learning takes place, creating a shift in responsibility where relevant and meaningful learning encompasses the community.

Greenwood and Hougham conclude their discussion on mitigation strategies with a powerful quote from Chet Bowers: “We cannot totally eliminate our reliance upon technology once it has become part of the society’s infrastructure, just as we cannot totally eliminate our reliance on the industrial approach to production and consumption. The challenge is in reducing our reliance in those areas where the technology undermine the self-sufficiency of individuals and communities, and where it has a destructive impact on the environment” (2015, p.105). By being critically conscious of how we are engaging with technology we are able to open ourselves to other ways of being, knowing and communicating in the world.

Unlike Anakin Skywalker who ultimately succumbs to the Dark Side in the Star Wars movies, allowing his two forces to stay in competition with one another, because of what I’ve discovered from my reading, I’ve learned to accept the tensions between Place Based Education and Digital Technologies. I remain critically aware of these tensions as I utilise this reading and continue to find ways to unify them further to complement and enhance student learning though my teaching practice.


Greenwood, D., & Hougham, J. (2015). Mitigation and adaptation: Critical perspectives toward digital technologies in place-conscious environmental education. Policy Futures in Education, 13(1), 97-116.

Gruenewald, D. (2005). Accountability and Collaboration: Institutional Barriers and Strategic Pathways for Place-based Education. Ethics, Place and Environment, 8(3), 261-283.

Ministry of Education. (2018). Māori History. Retrieved from http://maorihistory.tki.org.nz/en/programme-design/place-based-education/

Circular Education – Can it be done?

Recently, I listened to a talk by 5 Gyres – an organisation focused on pursuing science to solutions for a planet free of plastic pollution (5 Gyres, 2018). I went along to the talk with a skeptical mindset as I’ve heard the ocean dweller cum ocean activist story many times. I worked for one… I am one!
The talk by 5 Gyres founders, Cummins and Eriksen, began with an emotive self realisation narrative of our planet’s peril, with photos/specimens of destruction as evidence, followed by discussion around taking individual action through consumer choice and beach clean-ups. This organisation’s street-cred became apparent when they spoke about the importance of research, studies, and peer-reviewed publications. The two spoke about how they were collaborating with scientists globally and collecting citizen science data to find solutions to effect change. Then Eriksen mentioned the buzzwords Circular Economy and Design Thinking as part of the solution.
He went on to talk about the Linear Economy and how few corporations are taking responsibility for their production of plastic consumables. He spoke about a system change approach and how citizens could lobby local and national governments around waste management using alternative approaches. He used Xtreme Zero Waste in Whāingaroa/Raglan as an example.

Eriksen sparked a wondering for me. Education can be perceived in a similar ‘linear economy’. Students essentially go ‘through’ a system. Could we look at education in a more circulatory way to effect change?

Circular Economy vs Circular Education 2 (4)

After exploring the comparisons between a circular economy and potential for a circular education, I’ve alluded to the fact that my mind cannot disassociate education from the human/societal life cycle and acknowledge the experiential element of the lifelong learning process.
Within the schooling/manufacturing process I struggled to create a circulatory model and recognise that I’m trying to simplify a future ‘best practice’ into the Simple Domain of the Cynefin Framework when I should accept the organic complexity of education. However, I don’t want to ignore the discomfort I have for the way we are progressing in this system. The reason for this discomfort is that through this exploration I’ve come to understand the schooling system and life are in opposition.

So, how do we achieve more balance between the system and life regarding the concept of ‘school’ involving the future focused principle?

I know from my own experiences, that to survive the workload and to maintain working relationships it is easier to continue to fall back into the dated system we are in than to continuously challenge it. It has lead to burnout, but this isn’t how I want to teach!
This is not the mindset to have when we look at the statistics. The 2010/2011 TIMSS New Zealand Year 5 results indicate a relatively low achievement compared with other countries and has steadily decreased back to 1994/1995 levels (see 2015 results here). Along with New Zealand’s average PISA scores in mathematics, reading and science declining since 2009. Although we can say the range of achievement in TIMSS within NZ was wider than nearly all the high performing countries tested in English, and NZ’s average achievement in mathematics, science, and reading remains above the OECD. The concern is something happens around Year 4 when students report a positive attitude towards science and this aligns with the expected levels described in NZC. Whereas in Year 8 this attitude shifts and the year level results do not meet the expected levels of the NZC. These findings are consistent with TIMSS and persistent NEMP findings since 1995 (Bull, 2017).
When looking at the research it shows that teachers and students do not typically possess adequate conceptions of the Nature of Science. At best, conceptions around NoS are learned through explicitly reflective instruction as opposed to implicitly through ‘doing’ science. Although I agree with this statement mostly, I challenge it in regards to dialogic pedagogy and the balance with ‘in the moment’ unplanned class discussion that can come from ‘doing’. It goes on to say teachers understanding of NoS are not necessarily translated into classroom practice or valued as highly as content outcomes (Lederman, Lederman & Antink, 2007).
The reason I target science when addressing my concern is the evidence which aligns with what Sir Ken Robinson states as the school system
killing creativity, curiosity and building a misconception for students around the importance of being ‘right/correct’ through exam/content style assessments.

There are fantastic schools implementing future focused changes, but these are pockets of innovation. It can be better! When exploring the idea of ‘circular education’, I revisited past learning and experiences to imagine what alternative approaches could look like.
The linear school system isn’t completely dated, it does have some positives. It provides a scaffolding for students to learn, understand and work in institutional systems. At the same time the linear system caters for socialisation etc and for students to internalise these norms and ideologies to then operate in society. However, this learning should be secondary to the learning that is challenging their self awareness, and the forming of their own world beliefs.

Circular Education - Apprenticing with a Problem (1)

Looking at the figure above, a student can gain a strong beginning in self awareness and to navigate institutionalism and socialisation through the first three forms of schooling (ECE, Primary and Middle). This is providing individual schools are addressing an empathic/inclusive community focused culture, incorporating learning approaches to enhance curiosity and innovation like inquiry, play, game and place based learning etc with questioning as the base for all approaches, and acknowledging the current trends that are happening in education as a learning foundation.
But, we can start to look at high school/upper secondary differently. Perhaps as the beginning of a ‘learning/transition village’ approach to lifelong learning. This village can lend itself to supporting a diverse range of local solutions to emerge, collaborate and interconnect with each other to create a diverse ecology towards learning.
One example being the ‘apprenticing with a problem’ approach (Papi-Thornton, 2016). This focus is on finding a career with social impact which is a balancing act between improving self and working to understand the problems facing our world. It would require trained facilitators to support students to recognise their core skills and strengths, and identify how they could use or build these skills to fuel social progress through participating and contributing towards existing organisations, start-ups, governments, or labs, farms, investment firms to banks etc.

Going back to what Eriksen said about the Linear Economy and how few corporations are taking responsibility for their production of plastic consumables. We, as educators, schools and learning communities, need to adhere to what he is saying and take responsibility for the education of our students. We should look at alternative approaches that decentralise this school institution into smaller, diverse and manageable forms to create balance between systems and life.
With the advancement in technology and the increased automatisation of human labour, this is the time to look at the heart of our practice and ourselves, so that we are not only engaging in the art of teaching and learning but that we are fulfilling the role not obstructing it. These thoughts are timely with the Education Minister’s announcement of a three-year review to reform education in line with changing societal needs and I hope consideration it taken to achieve this balance.

5 Gyres Institute (2018). Retrieved from: https://www.5gyres.org/

Bull, A. (2017). Research synopsis of STEM education. In The National Science-Technology Roadshow Trust (2017). Proceedings from the workshop Sir Paul Callaghan Science Academy. (pp.19-22). Wellington, New Zealand: The National Science-Technology Roadshow Trust.

Lederman, N.G., Lederman, J.S., & Antink, A. (2013). Nature of science and scientific inquiry as contexts for the learning of science and achievement of scientific literacy. International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology, 1(3), 138-147.

Papi-Thornton. (2016). Tackling Heropreneurship. Clore Social Leadership Programme. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Ftacklingheropreneurship.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2016%2F07%2Ftackling-heropreneurship-daniela-papi-June2016.pdf

Identifying the growth points in a failed piece of writing

Recently I posted a piece of writing that wasn’t good. I had various mentors/peers critique it and all of them said I could do better. It was an Austin’s Butterfly moment. When looking at the experience through a metacognitive lens, a few ideas emerge.

  1. Caring about a problem
  2. Lifelong learning and the visible learning process
  3. Dunning-Kruger effect

Caring about a problem
Through the years three areas have impacted my time and thoughts; education, environment, and social movements. These areas have woven together, but mostly have been separate entities vying for attention with one being particularly dominant at a certain time. Long term this has caused imbalance and for a while I lost motivation around all three. While searching for a common thread among them, it appears to be Systems Thinking. This has rekindled a flame and is a topic I want to explore deeper. I want to understand the problems and see if the challenges are what I think they are and find a way I can add value. By being conscious of this process I can feed this back into my teaching as inquiry.

Lifelong learning and the visible learning process
I wrote a post on learning through failure and how we develop strong values around what challenge us. This was in relation to experiential and authentic learning. One object I have battled with throughout my teaching career is the dreaded eraser. For me it symbolises fear and perpetual perfectionism. The amount of times I have said to students ‘Please do not rub out your work. It is evidence of your thinking and I like seeing your process and how your brain works to support you better.’ usually falls on deaf ears. I now have to contend with the delete button as we shift our focus to digital technology. So, I can not delete my previous work as I will go against my kaupapa and the visible learning process, but rather acknowledge it for producing this current thought and consolidating my values. Going through this reflective process, I’ve been thinking how I can better support students to unpack their learning through reflection and will consider exploring single point-rubrics in future writing/posts during my inquiry.

Dunning-Kruger effect
I was fortunate to read Plato’s work in secondary school. What stuck with me most was The Apology which is an account of Socrates speech while on trial for not recognising the gods recognised by the state. He defends himself when being accused of thinking he is wiser than others by saying he is aware of his own ignorance and understands that he knows nothing. This could make him wiser than most because while plenty of people are knowledgeable in specific matters, they claim to be knowledgeable in other matters when clearly they are not which displays ignorance. This is essentially the Dunning-Kruger effect. I consider it all the time. I ask myself if I’m being ignorant/arrogant in my perspective or is it a case of Imposter Syndrome. Whatever the case my inquiry comes from a place of learning and wanting to better my practice to support others in their learning. Hence why I titled this writing ‘Judgey McJudgeface and the perils around systems thinking’, drawing attention to the fact that I’m aware I was being judgemental and do I have a right when like Socrates ‘I know enough to know I know nothing’. However, having over a decade of teaching experience behind me could say I have knowledge on education.

So, reflecting on the original piece of writing I see three threads to explore:

  • Definition of Systems Thinking
  • Systems Thinking for social impact in education
  • Changing models in education for greater social impact

With more research I will share learning in future posts. However, this is subject to change due to the nature of inquiry.


Mapping Aotearoa’s future through an education lens

Recently, I was at a science hui and I had the fortune of watching a dated video clip of Sir Paul Callaghan, one of our great thinkers, talking about mapping Aotearoa’s future. The video clip is still relevant today because not much has changed in more than seven years. You can even say it has got worse. Some of these issues include:

  • Environmental degradation
  • Social inequality/inequity
  • Health and wellbeing

(McGuinness Institute, 2011)

Our world is becoming increasing complex and what is required is a shift in mindset. Sir Paul quotes Lao Tzu ‘the words of truth are always paradoxical’ and what he means is truth lies in the opposite of what we might think (McGuinness Institute, 2011).
He relates this to changing the way we live to stop exploiting our natural resources, and this could be said of our rangatahi. We need to shift our mindsets to provide the best opportunities for all our taonga to succeed, whatever that word may mean for them.

To shift from a traditional mindset is hard when you don’t know what you don’t know and phrases like ‘we are not meeting the needs of today let alone tomorrow’ and ‘we need our children to be equipped for what is coming their way, not knowing what this might be’ are being said (MCAET Talks, 2017). Hence the importance of deeper learning competencies to apply skills and understanding to job and civic life.

We are fortunate in Aotearoa to have a curriculum framework this is values-based and lends itself well to change due to its flexibility. However, I question how well we have been guided to weave the front end of the curriculum into our individual school’s kaupapa to extend to the learning of our community and stakeholders.
What opened my eyes and got me thinking about the possibilities was the NZ Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World – an illustrative draft vision. I was shown this about a year ago in a Postgrad course. My initial thoughts were ‘WTFudge?’ but it turned the abstract into a pathway for me and I commend the forward thinking shown in the visual document from MoE. It formed the ‘why’ basis for my research/inquiry into ‘how’ and is now what my kaupapa and tikanga are heading towards. Along with other ideas that I have picked up along the way.

Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 8.43.11 AM
Ministry of Education, 2015.

Eden (MCAET Talks, 2017) articulates these ideas in a concise way addressing the assumptions that prevent systematic change. These include:

  • Students are accountable to teachers
  • Education is about learning information
  • Teacher as expert
  • School is separate from the rest of the world


By no means am I saying the ‘aha’ moment equates to ‘easy’ now. In fact, it’s harder and more complex. Definite open/growth mind-setting and problem solving have occurred so far and will continue, but the outcomes will be much better for our rangatahi and the future of Aotearoa.
Now having an idea of where I want to steer my waka and seeing what is possible, I’m experimenting with the different ways to put this kaupapa into practice where I can and share this with others. Hopefully we can chip away at this almighty ‘system’ together. The results being to produce the talent that appreciates what Aotearoa has, and who want to live here to be part of regenerating a prosperous nation.


MCAET Talks. (2017, July 17). Aaron Eden, Education Transformation Catalyst. Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/225904235

McGuinness Institute. (2011, April 17). Sir Paul Callaghan StrategyNZ: Mapping our Future – March 11. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhCAyIllnXY

Ministry of Education. (2015). New Zealand Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World. Retrieved from https://education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Ministry/Initiatives/Lifelonglearners.pdf


Changes in Practice – Where to next?

Critically discuss the changes in practice.

Recalling the last 32 weeks (a little longer in my case) and reflecting on these moments is quite the task to explain in 600 words.

I’ve been fortunate throughout my profession to meet people and set up various reflective practice networks in and out of the school setting, which challenges my professional thinking, provides opportunity for my performance to be critiqued, and betters me as a person. “… reflective practice is viewed as a means by which practitioners can develop a greater level of self-awareness about the nature and impact of their performance…” (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993, p. 2).

The Postgraduate Certificate in Applied Practice (Digital and Collaborative Learning) was a continuation of this, especially as I had recently returned from overseas and wasn’t receiving the digital and collaborative learning development I was while over there. Being on the course helped to consolidate the learning I had received overseas. As well as provide the opportunity to schedule time to think about concepts I wouldn’t necessarily have been able to think about due to a busy school schedule. It gave me reason to continue to interact with my overseas networks to seek advice and perspective online that could have otherwise ceased due to geographical distance.

One of the key changes that impacted my professional knowledge in practice was the literature review. At the time, I was questioning the behaviour of some students in the school and wondered if they saw themselves as lifelong learners. It lead into an inquiry around how school and community stakeholders work together to create inclusive and socially equitable learning environments in relation to the NZ Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World (Ministry of Education, 2015). This relates to Criterion 7: Fully certified teachers promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment (Ministry of Education, n.d.). When reviewing the Practising Teacher Criteria  in relation to e-learning, my objective was to find ways to bring about inclusion for collaboration. With the understanding that education is changing towards “a highly connected, independent education system that equips students with skills for the future, fosters students’ identity, language and culture, and prepares students to participate as successful citizens in the 21st Century” (Ministry of Education, 2015).

Another key change that impacted my professional knowledge in practise was the second assessment in Digital & Collaborative Learning in Context paper and the second assessment in the Research & Community Informed Practice. I was able to work with a group of students who explored learner agency with me in the Digital & Collaborative assessment and, later provided constructive feedback for me in the Research and Community teacher inquiry on the School’s culture. When looking at the Practising Teacher Criteria, this relates to Criterion 12: Fully certified teachers use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively  in their professional practice (Ministry of Education, n.d.). I was reflecting using the experiential learning cycle (Osterman & Kottkamp, 1993), ‘systematically and critically engaged with evidence and professional literature to reflect on and refine my practice” (Ministry of Education, n.d.). As well, “responding to feedback from members of their learning community” i.e the students (Ministry of Education, n.d.). This experience was insightful, especially in regards to my teacher inquiry. The students had thoughtful suggestions which were of benefit to improving the school culture, and this will continue to be an ongoing inquiry for me.

For years I have been toying with the  idea of doing a Masters in Education. However, I have questions still about this idea and am dubious as to how I will approach it.
My interests are in Education for Sustainability and I want to explore concepts of ecological literacy/ Place Based Learning in relation to Disruptive Design and Systems Thinking. The way the education system is in New Zealand, to attempt a MEd in addition to the workload requirements is hard, if not bordering on impossible. My next step is looking at returning overseas for employment.

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Ministry of Education. (n.d.). Enabling e-learning. Retrieved from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/Practising-Teacher-Criteria-and-e-learning

Ministry of Education. (2015). New Zealand Education in 2025: Lifelong Learners in a Connected World. Retrieved from https://education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Ministry/Initiatives/Lifelonglearners.pdf

Osterman, K., & Kottkamp, R. (1993). Reflective Practice for Educators. California: Cornwin Press, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.itslifejimbutnotasweknowit.org.uk/files/RefPract/Osterman_Kottkamp_extract.pdf

Future goal mapping through interdisciplinary connections

Critically discuss the interdisciplinary connections in practice.

Within interdisciplinary instruction, students can become more involved in their learning and teachers can work towards eliminating discipline lines. Students can become independent confident individuals who learn how to learn and develop lifelong learning skills” (Duerr, 2008, p.177). These lifelong learning skills are necessary to teach and develop mindsets equipped to addressing complex, or, even, wicked problems, especially in a society that is rapidly changing due to technology. It makes sense to transcend disciplines so various ways of thinking and perspectives can be acknowledged and applied to different concepts, contexts or situations.

Interdisciplinary_Professional_ConnectionsEmma_McFadyenuploaded_image (2)

Created using Coggle – https://coggle.it/

Interdisciplinary_Professional_Connections Image 1

Throughout my professional career I have made interdisciplinary connections which have occurred organically by the way of a learning journey.
Currently, through my learning journey, I have shifted back into the role of a learner more than a teacher. So, when addressing a future goal, I want to reconnect with an area of interest – Education for Sustainability, furthering my understanding of Place Based Learning, with relation to Disruptive Design and Systems Thinking.

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Created using Coggle – https://coggle.it/

My journey into EfS began when I became concerned with how ecological literacy was being taught in school. I began implementing an EfS programme into the school I was working in at the time, incorporating an integrative approach through an inquiry model. I met a variety of people from different sectors of the community who supported and challenged by thinking and helped the school in this implementation process.

The benefits of having these different sectors involved meant a sense of community was created and a diversity of expertise was being shared in the school environment. “In our interconnected world we need the power of shared insight and working together to effect long-term and significant change” (The Enviroschools Foundation, 2008, p. 11).
However, collaborating with and coordinating the different community sectors was time consuming. Frustrations were shared around workload pressures and the ongoing commitment to the programme. “Interdisciplinary curricula is time consuming and takes collaborative team work to create, which can seem like a hard and exhausting disadvantage” (Jones, 2009, p.5).

Future_Goal_Education_for_Sustainability_with_focus_on_Place_Based_Learning_in_relation_to_Disruptive_Design_and_Systems_Thinking_ (2)

Created using Coggle – https://coggle.it/

Future_Goal_Image 2

Later, while overseas, I was teaching the International Baccalaureate curriculum at an international school. I gained experience developing units of inquiry involving transdisciplinary themes, working within a grade level team and collaborating with specialist teachers. Again, the same benefits and challenges as before rose in this process.

During that time, I was fortunate to attend the Green School Bali Educators Course. I met a man there, who has a background in transformational design and enterprise. He questioned the effectiveness of inquiry and interdisciplinary approaches to learning in relation to learner agency. He thought these were teachercentric approaches to learning without much consultation with students during the planning stages. “Currently, students are accountable to teachers (and parents). In the healthy model, students are accountable to themselves for meeting goals they set, with assistance from teachers and other mentors” (Eden, 2016).

I agree, even with an integrative approach, I’ve found there is an imbalance with the concept of “teachers and students as partners in curriculum design” (Mathison & Freeman, 1997, p.15). I’m interested to learn how a teacher effectively incorporates learner agency with obligations such as national standards and curriculum objectives into interdisciplinary units. As well as navigate issues like time, resourcing, up-skilling and collaboration. Do we need to look at a paradigm shift to achieve this?

Future_Goal_Education_for_Sustainability_with_focus_on_Place_Based_Learning_in_relation_to_Disruptive_Design_and_Systems_Thinking_ (3)

Created using Coggle – https://coggle.it/

Future_Goal_Image 3

Taking this thinking into consideration, I’d like to connect with the educators at Green School Bali, educators and designers working in similar fields of expertise and past interdisciplinary connections to explore my goal (previously stated) further.
I can see the potential of such learning being of benefit to community based education programmes, where, possibly, the education system has failed certain students. This could, then, put teachers in the role of facilitators around concepts of interdisciplinary, integrated, integrative instruction.

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Duerr, L. (2008). Interdisciplinary Instruction. Educational Horizons, 86(3), 173-180. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.eric.ed.gov%2Ffulltext%2FEJ798522.pdf

Eden, A. (2016). Assisted Accountability – The True Flipped Classroom. Retrieved from https://edunautics.com/2016/08/18/assisted-accountability-the-true-flipped-classroom/

The Enviroschools Foundation. (2008). Enviroschools Handbook. Hamilton, New Zealand: Fusion Print Group Ltd.

Jones, C. (2009). Interdisciplinary approach – Advantages, disadvantages, and the future benefits of interdisciplinary studies. ESSAI7, 7(26), 76-81. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Fdc.cod.edu%2Fcgi%2Fviewcontent.cgi%3Farticle%3D1121%26context%3Dessai

Mathison,S., & Freeman, M. (1997). The logic of interdisciplinary studies. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Chicago. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.eric.ed.gov%2Ffulltext%2FED418434.pdf

Becoming connected via Twitter


Critically discuss the use of social online networks in teaching and professional development.

In a world influenced by technology and becoming increasingly connected, it is important for a teacher to interact with social media. Elana Leoni (Office of Ed Teach, 2013) states “… it’s like the number one necessary thing to be a 21st Century educator, be connected.”

One area of social media that has contributed greatly to my ongoing professional development has been joining Twitter. Steve Dembo (Office of Ed Tech, 2013) talks about how most people have built a personal learning network have done so organically and realised that it is transformative once they started broadening and developing it. This was the case for me.

While working in a different field for an environmental and leadership organisation, I gained the knowledge to grasp the workings of Twitter to communicate information.

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Student practises giving peer feedback on a classmate’s e-portfolio.

Once returning to teaching I utilised this knowledge to start communicating learning and ideas through appropriate educational hashtags. I met people and organisations that were interested in my professional inquiries and I began building an online community. Looking at how others were communicating their professional development, I attempted this myself, e.g. creating an e-portfolio and blog. Through my personal exploration into this, it helped to introduce and teach these tools to my students to enhance and develop soft skills like self regulation. Timperley (2008) states “To engage in professional inquiry that makes a difference for students, teachers need to learn how to identify the pedagogical content knowledge and skills they need to assist their students to achieve the valued outcomes” (p.13).

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Science Learning Hub/TeachMeetNZ 2015 presenters.

Through my Twitter community I was invited to present at a TeachMeetNZ with the focus on science. Interacting with scientists and science educators via Google Hangouts helped me to bridge concepts between secondary and tertiary sectors, grow professional relationships, and reflect on my practice. Later, the invitation was extended to me to become part of the #SciChatNZ team which involves organising educational chats in science education via Twitter. This challenged me to develop my online identity, leadership and technical skills. Melhuish (2013) states “… the value of networking with educators beyond their own environment was considered a vital condition for experiencing divergent thinking…” (p.41).

As my online identity grows professionally through Twitter, I am concerned about the potential exposure this brings. Interacting in various professional learning networks means I open myself up for all to view. It is difficult/impossible to control how certain parties perceive my online identity and how the content I publish can be used. I have to be conscious around my own safety online and a certain amount of trust and faith is applied with each tweet/post. Melhuish (2013) states “There is a balance to be struck between total anonymity and the benefits of opening up one’s identity and sharing data as part of contributing to the network’s social capital” (p.47).
One incident involving work I published online was used to further another blogger’s agenda, taking what I had written out of context and shining a negative light on my identity. At the time, it was disheartening and I went into a process of reflection around the incident questioning my online presence, the professional danger involved, and considered withdrawing from social media. I confided in a colleague who was blogging about Teacherpreneurs. His feedback was not to withdraw as my voice was necessary in providing a balance of views and shifting mindsets around education. He writes “…they (Teacherpreneurs) take a risk that their ideas might fall flat. This may be… Teachers who speak up. Who are not comfortable with business as usual – who have a gentle ‘uneasiness’ that they can and should be trying to innovate…” (Ives, 2016). He was right, but every online step I take involves added caution now and this learning has been transferred to the students via cybersafety.

Teachers have to be bold and confident when engaging in social media, taking professional risks with sharing their learning online. If we are not prepared to interact online as educators and role model this, walking our talk, how do we expect students to?

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Ives, M. (2016). Zeroing in on the Essence: The Teacherpreneur. Retrieved from http://mattivesonline.com/2016/05/

Melhuish, K. (2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved from http://researchcommons.waikato.ac.nz/bitstream/handle/10289/8482/thesis.pdf?sequence=3&isAllowed=y

Office of Ed Tech. (2013, Sep 18). Connected Educators. . Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=216&v=K4Vd4JP_DB8

Timperley, H. (2008). Teacher Professional Learning and Development Educational Practices Series-18. Belley, France: Imprimerie Nouvelle Gonnet. Retrieved from chrome-extension://ecnphlgnajanjnkcmbpancdjoidceilk/content/web/viewer.html?source=extension_pdfhandler&file=http%3A%2F%2Fedu.aru.ac.th%2Fchildedu%2Fimages%2FPDF%2Fbenjamaporn%2FEdPractices_18.pdf