Judgey McJudgeface and my perils around systems thinking

My brother and I were talking about social impact and I got on my high horse called Judgey McJudgeface about how we (society) apply shallow solutions to deep and complex problems (I generalise). My brother works in probation and I could tell he was applying some of his learned strategies on me which felt patronizing and I got even grumpier. However, he asked one question which brought it back into perspective for me. ‘What would happen if these organisations didn’t exist?’

In part there is jealousy playing a character in my thoughts when it comes to questioning

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A card from a student

social impact. I’ve chosen a career that means I’m in a system where the recognition is usually a pat on the back from colleagues, possibly parents and mostly students – their drawings are my favourite. This always reaffirms the kaupapa and reasons for choosing the education profession far more than any accolade could. But, it does highlight an imbalance which has lead me to start exploring systems thinking and system change.

My background in systems thinking began in my early teaching days. I had Education for Sustainability advisors who introduced me to the EnviroSchools programme. This kaupapa is around creating a healthy, peaceful, sustainable world through people teaching and learning together. There is an action learning cycle at the centre of the programme which encourages student agency. It addresses change through four areas:

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    Visual kaupapa of The Enviroschools Foundation, (2008).

    Place/Wāhi

  • People and Participation/Tangata
  • Practice/Tikanga
  • Programmes/Kaupapa Ako

The entire programme runs on five guiding principles: empowered students, sustainable communities, learning for sustainability, Māori perspective and respect for the diversity of people and culture (The EnviroSchools Foundation, 2008).

 

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Clean-up and recycling process at mealtimes in Green School Bali

Later, I discovered Green School Bali and had the opportunity to visit the school when I worked in China. I learned how they were incorporating social impact into the school through electives and had created programmes like LEAP Academy which can be described as a ‘social impact school within a school’ approach. As well, the school has a wall-less, holistic and balanced curriculum towards learning areas with a focus on project-based learning in the elementary area of the school.

These examples are great ways of going deeper in education to shift behaviour and mindsets to then attempt system change. However, I have seen them used poorly usually in the form of teacher-directed initiatives. When I begin to get judgey, I have to go back to my brother’s question – ‘what would happen if these organisations (initiatives in this case) did not exist?’

Recently, I came across a fantastic report by Daniela Papi-Thornton (2016) called Tackling Heropreneurship which addresses the concerns I have around barriers to systems thinking. These include:

  • The glorification of the social entrepreneur/founder, how this overshadows other paths to impact and how we have set up education and funding models to direct this current focus.
  • Solution-focused (and I’m going to add product evidence/accountability) education. There is an expectation to solve problems when students (and teachers) have not lived and do not understand the issues or the system. This can be as basic as students building success for themselves in a school environment. It can mean we unintentionally set people up regarding The Dunning Kruger Effect, which is when people fail to adequately assess their own competence or incompetence around their knowledge of a task or idea.
  • Misguided views on how social change happens where the dominant idea is to scale organisations which minimise other collective impact movements. Most people perceive scaling up the organisation as creating bigger impact. Where social impact looks more like organisations collaborating and collectively creating change. Imagine smaller and more ‘schools’ as an idea?

Papi-Thornton (2016) goes onto share her ideas of ‘apprenticing with a problem’ where we can support students to find out what they care about and guide them to better understand the problem, examine potential solutions, gain experience through some form of apprenticing, understand and develop their core strengths and skills and then reflect on where they see their potential is to create change. This could be to go into and grow an organisation from an enterprise to government to an NGO as an intrapreneur (or teacherpreneur), or potentially go out and create a startup as examples. However, whatever the decision, it should be given equal weight and worth in society, and accolades should recognise the team effort not just the leader.

Papi-Thornton targets the tertiary level in her report, but I’m interested in what the building blocks could look like to support this thinking at a secondary, primary and early childhood level? It certainly indicates teachers taking on a facilitation role to support the lifelong learning process. What professional development is required to support this transition?

Being conscious of the Dunning Kruger effect, jumping on Judgey McJudgeface is not effective. Instead, I should acknowledge ‘the good’ organisations are making towards social impact and the slow shift towards collective system change that is happening. As my brother pointed out to me – imagine if these organisations didn’t exist? From an education perspective, let’s look at how we can introduce an ‘apprenticing with a problem’ approach and systems thinking to the way we educate.

References

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

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

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.

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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.

References:

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.

Phwoar!
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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References

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.

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

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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).

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

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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/

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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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References

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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References

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

Ethics, Online Access and Activity

Critique and address issues of law, regulations and policy in practice.

The Situation/ Predicament
A student came to me enquiring into whether I had access into students’ Google Drives

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Digital Citizen engaging in online activity – Image: Emma McFadyen

and how often I check what students do online. The student started to share that she had been involved in an argument with her friend which had led to written abuse through email. She was aware of the school stance and the consequences in place regarding cyberbullying and was concerned if this would impact on her opportunity to go on camp.
When reviewing the student’s Google Drive, there were a number of back and forth email correspondence over a period of two weeks. The emails displayed unpleasant communication between the two girls.

Analysis of the issue
The central issue posing an ethical dilemma is that of Cybersafety, which comes under the School’s Health, Safety and Welfare policy (Te Hapara School, 2015). In this policy there is a section on Digital Technology and Cybersafety which states “We maintain a cybersafe school environment by: setting and sharing clear guidelines about acceptable and unacceptable use of the technology, and monitoring these guidelines” (Te Hapara School, 2015). In the same paragraph it states there being a “clear process dealing with breaches of policy or agreements, including incidents of cyberbullying”, and guidelines “for the surrendering and retention of digital devices.” The policy states that these guidelines apply to every member of the school community authorised to use the digital technology equipment (Te Hapara School, 2015).
When reviewing the Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers (Education Council New Zealand, 2015) in relation to the central issue and taking the School’s policy into consideration, there are two areas to consider:

  1. Commitment to Learners
    Teachers will strive to:
    f.) promote the physical, emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing of learners.
  2. Commitment to Parents/Guardians and Family/Whānau
    In relation to Parents/Guardians and the Family/Whānau of learners, teachers will strive to:
    a.) involve them in decision making about the care and education of their children.
    d.) respect their rights to information about their children, unless that is judged to be not in the best interests of the children.

(Education Council New Zealand, 2015)

Having consulted the Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers (Education Council New Zealand, 2015) and school policy documents (Te Hapara School, 2015), it’s important to look at the stakeholders surrounding the issue and their interests.
Of primary concern is the students’ welfare with their well-being being at risk. Then, their parents or guardians who are the legal carers of them. Next, is the school who has a responsibility to the students and parents to ensure they are being looked after, but, also, that policy and procedure is being upheld to maintain a good school reputation.
Taking all areas into account when looking at the course of action regarding the incident, there is the immediate action and the long term action to consider.
The immediate action will require the following of protocols which have been put in place through school policy.
The long term action will involve the review of the policy relating to digital citizenship to prevent situations like this incident happening again.

Course of Action – How was this resolved
At the same time as I was notified, the teacher of the other student involved was notified. She immediately shut down the students access to their Google Drives while a review took place. The Principal and SENCO teacher were notified of the situation. They reviewed the online material and spoke to both students to hear their version of events. The parents of the students were notified and together all parties meet to discuss the incident. A contract had been signed at the start of the year by students, parents and the school stating they would honour school policy. Due to the behaviour choices of the students, consequences were put in place. The students’ school laptops were confiscated and a warning was put in place relating to attending school camp.

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Online User Guidelines poster – Image: Emma McFadyen

Reflection – Next steps
Due to it being the end of the year, there wasn’t the follow through to look at long term action relating to the incident. However, reflecting on the process, the school does a good job of teaching digital citizenship at the start of the year, but this can tail off as the year progresses and other events and learning become a priority. The school can look at ways to consistency keep digital citizenship in the minds of the students as a preventive measure to avoid situations like this occurring again.

 

 

 

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References

Education Council New Zealand. (2015). Code of Ethics for Certified Teachers. Retrieved from chrome-extension://oemmndcbldboiebfnladdacbdfmadadm/https://educationcouncil.org.nz/sites/default/files/coe-poster-english.pdf

Te Hapara School. (2015). Health, Safety and Welfare Policy. Retrieved from https://tehapara.schooldocs.co.nz

Culturally Inclusive Inquiry

Critique and evaluate how indigenous knowledge and cultural responsiveness inform practice.

Recently, I was fortunate to attend a Te Toi Tupu Primary Science hui. I had the privilege of hearing Dr Daniel Hikuroa speak about science and indigenous knowledge. He talked about using an inquiry driven approach which offered support systems, provided a relevant context, explored beliefs, methods, criteria for validity and systems for rationality. He suggested an inquiry incorporate Mātaurangi Māori and include Te Reo Māori. This is supported by Cowie, Otrel-Cass, Glynn, & Kara, et al., (2011) who discuss one of the major implications for teaching and learning science is “teachers building bridges and creating opportunities to connect the classroom curriculum with children’s and communities’ lived experiences beyond school” (p.2).

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Class brainstorm – Identifying the ways Maui was a scientist. Image: Emma McFadyen

Hikuroa’s insights inspired me and I decided to engage in a personal teacher inquiry. During the hui Hikuroa posed the question ‘Was Maui a scientist?’ The audience acknowledged Maui to be curious, creative, challenging and mischievous. All the elements of a great scientist. Hikuroa stated that it was important that when students think scientist they think Maui, broadening their understanding of the term ‘scientist’. This became the starting point in my inquiry and Maui became one of our class role models.

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A science inquiry into our local estuary connecting to a class cultural performance on the legend Te Ika A Maui. Image: Emma McFadyen

Through the exploration into developing culturally inclusive units of science inquiry, I started engaging with scientists, science communicators and science educators. We began discussing the issues of diversity in the domain and how the ‘Western’ view of epistemology (Barnhardt & Kawagley, 2005) is impacting on perspective in science, which isn’t an issue isolated to the science sector. Savage, Hindle, Meyer, Hynds, Penetito, & Sleeter (2011) discuss “so-called mainstream schools are not multicultural but actually mono-cultural in asserting dominant cultural values and ignoring, if not actively devaluing, minority cultural values” (p.184).

Around this time I moved to China and started working in an international school

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School group testing the water quality of a pond in Suzhou, China. Image: Emma McFadyen

teaching the International Baccalaureate Curriculum. The IB Curriculum Mission incorporates the concept of international mindedness stating “The International Baccalaureate aims to develop inquiring, knowledgeable and caring young people who help to create a better and more peaceful world through intercultural understanding and respect” (International Baccalaureate Organization, 2007, p.2). Coupled with experiencing my culture as a minority while living in China, I gained valuable insight into how minority cultures in a Western society might feel and how this can potentially impact their self-worth through these experiences.

I believe that indigenous cultures’ knowledge is a key puzzle piece to unlocking how we solve the complex problems facing our world, and requires necessary support for their voices to be heard in a range of disciplines. During an EdTalk (2012) Bishop states “the Māori population are an incredibly educable population and just as easily educable as any other population in society.” Bishop continues to discuss agentic teachers who are the key to making a difference, where students are being partners in the learning process and are able to bring their understanding and knowledge of the world to the conversation to achieve success for themselves.

By creating opportunities in the education sector where students see their knowledge as valuable to broadening the minds of others, creates engagement and deepens their value system in that context. The experience could be what sparks them to start specialising in a certain discipline.

In the bigger picture, this student’s voice is what will create diversity of thought and perspective in a sector, which is what is necessary in attempting to solve the problems facing us today and in the future.

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References

Barnhardt, R. & Kawagley, A. (2005). Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Alaska Native Ways of Knowing, Anthropology and Education Quarterly 36 (1):8–23. Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.libproxy.unitec.ac.nz/docview/218130193?OpenUrlRefId=info:xri/sid:primo&accountid=8114

Cowie, B., Otrel-Cass, K., Glynn, T., & Kara, H., et al. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogy and assessment in primary science classrooms: Whakamana tamariki. Wellington: Teaching Learning Research Initiative. Retrieved from http://www.tlri.org.nz/sites/default/files/projects/9268_cowie-summaryreport.pdf

Edtalks. (2012, September 23). A culturally responsive pedagogy of relations. . Retrieved from https://vimeo.com/49992994

International Baccalaureate Organization. (2007). Primary Years Programme Making the PYP happen: A curriculum framework for international primary education, United Kingdom: Antony Rowe Ltd.

Savage,C, Hindleb, R., Meyerc,L., Hyndsa,A., Penetitob, W. & Sleeterd, C. (2011). Culturally responsive pedagogies in the classroom: indigenous student experiences across the curriculum. Asia-Pacific Journal of Teacher Education, 39(3), 183–198. doi: 10.1080/1359866X.2011.588311 Retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.libproxy.unitec.ac.nz/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=1&sid=ef7ae91f-0e87-4b7a-8fde-c9bd6d474cc4%40sessionmgr4010