Digital & Collaborative Learning

The Mind Lab by Unitec Postgraduate Certification in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning)

This professional learning opportunity is an innovate blend of face-to-face and online study grounded in practice, allowing educators to gain a recognised qualification while continuing in full-time employment.

Go Local

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At the end of 2014, after nearly one whole year as a classroom teacher, I had found an interest and enthusiasm for teaching in a collaborative and digital way. An email from my principal alerted me to the an upcoming professional learning and development (PLD) opportunity which sounded too-fitting-to-be-true. In a wide-eyed, ‘newbie’ fashion I jumped at the mention of local PLD and set about exploring. The following review is a snapshot into the last 28 weeks of The Mind Lab by Unitec’s Postgraduate Certification in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning) experience.

Two Stages

The programme is divided into two stages, each of 16 weeks.

Stage 1

This first half of the course truly ‘walked the talk’. Delivering a range of materials via its online portal, providing the opportunity for challenging discussion in face-to-face sessions, and leading the critical reflection of current classroom and leadership practices through assessment tasks and activities. This stage was very engaging. The material was fresh and relevant including all the ‘hot topics’ of current educational theory. Perhaps, most beneficial of all was the opportunity to discuss these issues with fellow educators of our region, making connections and gaining a deeper insight into the culture of our local education scene.

The Mind Lab Answer Garden Topics

Stage 2

The second half of the course was carried out through the online portal. The content was relevant and discussion forums stimulated thoughtful discussion. However, it was vital that participants were diligent. Staying up-to-date with readings and assignments, on top of a busy teacher workload, does present some challenges. Face-to-face sessions were essential for survival.

Assessments & Workflow

Assessment tasks were grounded in practice and the regular contact times encouraged critical discussion and collaboration. However, the workload is quite substantial on top of a full-time teaching load. While assignments were enjoyable, completion of these can feel frustratingly limited by the time constraints of a busy teacher schedule if attention is not paid to planning and strategy.

The assessment process was robust and high expectations set the standard for deep thinking. If I could do it again, I would try to be more disciplined in getting my tasks completed early for review and reflection well before submission. I would also choose to collaborate on more assignments although this usually took more time, sharing led to increased learning and creation of new knowledge.

If I could do it again, I would try to be more disciplined in getting my tasks completed early for review and reflection well before submission. But, hindsight is 20:20. I would also choose to collaborate on more assignments – as while this usually took more time, sharing led to increased learning and creation of new knowledge.

Who is this PLD for?

Anyone looking to build on their teaching practice through 21st-century teaching pedagogies and the use of technologies to deepen learning should seriously consider enrollment. But also, anyone looking to take a refreshing look at their own practice and the wider education frameworks we  are operating within would enjoy this course. Delivered in a fun and friendly manner responsive to the learners of each cohort. A time committment is required and good time-management is a neccessity. Importantly, this course also helps educators to develop thier local perspective as they collaborate with other teachers and leaders from across the education sector.

Five stars


The Mind Lab by Unitec. (2016). The Mind Lab – Programme Overview. Retrieved 7 February 2016, from



A Teaching Philosophy

My Personal Teaching Philosophy

As part of most teacher training programmes, we are asked to develop a personal teaching philosophy. This narrative is meant to convey our teaching values, beliefs and goals as a teacher.

“Definitions of education are as vast as those who seek it. To me, the purpose of education is to foster a desire to learn and to provide the opportunities whereby learning can take place. My role as an educator is to help every student uncover their learning potential and to assist them in acquiring the skills and understandings beneficial to them as individuals and members of society.” Renee Raroa, My Personal Philosophy Statement – What Teaching and Learning Science Means to Me. (2013).

In the Beginning

Looking back at the components of my personal philosophy statement which had been considered so carefully as a beginning teacher, a strong sense of the ‘purpose of education’ was evident. However, an appreciation of the complexities of working in an ever-changing  and volatile education system is something that many beginning teachers are not aware of in these early days of theorising and philosophising. These appreciations develop rapidly once you are on the ground in schools and continues to be developed by experience.

Metaphors and Sense Making

Conceptualisation of our teaching philosophies can be developed through metaphor. Drawing on the specialist subject area of Science and Biology, the following metaphor considered the eukaryotic cell as a descriptor for the many roles and responsibilities of a teacher. Within this conceptualisation, the systems and procedures of cell activity are  examined as the workings of a classroom.



Building on Beginnings

As we grow from our beginning teacher infancies, we able to build on such models. In the example of the eukaryotic cell, we might develop an understanding of the importance of each and every cell (teacher), in all their contrasts and variations. We being to sense that the survival of the organism (school) is highly dependent on the functions of each and every cell as they work together toward a common goal. Then we grow in our awareness of the significance of each organism (school), working alongside other organisms in a delicately balanced ecosystem (our communities).

A Call to Collaborate

Of course, these comparisons will run deeper still. Our new roles and experiences continue to transform our personal philosophies. To ensure that we continue to broaden our views of the educational landscape we must also draw on the expertise and experience of others. Through collaboration, we build understandings which would not have been possible on our own.

Comments, questions and additions to this conceptualisation are very welcome.

“It is through the meeting of minds that innovation is born.” Renee Raroa (2016)

 References,. (2016).Teaching Philosophy Statement | Graduate School. Retrieved 31 January 2016, from
Renee Raroa. (2013). Teaching Metaphor . Retrieved 31 January 2016, from
Renee Raroa. (2013). My Personal Philosophy Statement. Retrieved 31 January 2016, from


Welcome to My Digital World

Ko Wai Au?

I am a learner. Raised in the fresh sea air on the eastern most edge of New Zealand. I am a teacher. Learning alongside students, teachers and leaders as we navigate change. I am a leader. Uncovering strengths in myself and others to help weave a path of best practice, to reflect on mistakes and to learn, unlearn and relearn.

Ko wai au blog pic

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ” Alvin Toffler

Memoirs of a Mother

As my Twitter bio claims, I am both a mother and an educator. Ironically, one of my most vivid memories was formed in my role as a mother and learner. My daughter came home from Kindergarten, with one of those crunchy questions. She asked not why the sky was blue, nor the classic; from where do babies come? As an educator, these wonderings were always welcomed. I revelled in the chance to share in her learning and to help her to explore. No, the soft mumblings of my two-year-old daughter which shook my world to the core were “Mumma, where is our i-Pad?”.

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Birth of a New Age

This story begins way back in dark ages of mobile technologies. It seems like half a lifetime ago, but it was less than six years back, in 2010 when Apple released the first i-Pad.

At this time, my tech skills were little-to-none. I had been kept busy entertaining myself with several odd-jobs while raising the children, “screen-time” was an unnecessary luxury.

The Life Cycle of Change

My reaction to this other-worldly request precisely followed the Kuber-Ross Greif Cycle:

Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle

1. Denial — In my initial shock and confusion I wondered… How does my two-year-old even know about i-Pads? What is the ‘typical’ playground chit-chat in this digital age?

2. Anger — How dear the world be forcing these extravagances down the throats of babes! We cannot all afford these “toys.” Kids these days need to be outside climbing trees. Sound familiar?

3. Depression – Woe is me. What are we going to do, to support our poor child in this rat race world?

4. Bargaining – Accosting my partner with the ‘Five W’s and an H’ as he walks through the door with “Why does our daughter think we should have an iPad? Where did she learn about them? Who does she even know that has one? When did two-year-olds start thinking about such things? What are we going to do about this? How will we ever keep up?”

5. Acceptance – Then finally, with a sigh of relief, I remember that there are no rules. I allow my preconceptions to dissolve away and try to imagine what the future might look like for my daughter. I realise that if I am going to be a part of her digital world, then I need to step up to the play.

A Journey Begins

The journey into my digital world begins there. Five years later I have trained extramurally to become a teacher, taught in two secondary schools in the disciplines of  Science and Mathematics, taken on the role of e-Leader and carried out postgraduate studies in applied practice of digital and collaborative learning with The Mind Lab by Unitec. I am now a Facilitator of Learning with Digital Technologies and an Advisor for the Connected Learning Advisory, as part of the government’s initiative to increase digital proficiency in learners and teachers across New Zealand. I am still only at the beginning of the road, but I now know that I am ready to learn, relearn and unlearn as I walk beside my children into my, their, and our digital world.


Rowley, K. (2016). The 5 Stages of Grief after Death. Retrieved 24 January 2016, from
YouTube. (2016). Steve Jobs introduces Original iPad – Apple Special Event (2010). Retrieved 24 January 2016, from


Why Blog?

“ An intellectual is someone whose mind watches itself.” Albert Camus

The Adventures of Miss Happ

Before getting too settled in my new found passion for blogging, I wanted to consider the process more critically. I understood that blogging my reflective journal had many advantages.

Forbes Magazine lists 34 reasons to blog:


The idea that stood out most to me was the notion that blogging could ‘Make you Happy’, Slide 27. Happiness, isn’t this the holy grail? What else are we working toward if not to be happy? But, how? Then came the next concept on the list, Slide 28, ‘It gives you freedom’. Ahah! The lightbulb moment hit.

I would continue my creative pursuit as an exercise in freedom. Allowing myself unbridled expression in whatever way I felt might free my thinking…

SilhouetteI recalled a conversation with Dr Michelle Dickenson, aka Nanogirl, where she talked about her alter ego allowing her the freedom to exist in realms that had been previously disabling for her as a shy ‘science-type’. I have always wanted to write science-fiction. I believe in the power of storytelling.

From these thoughts, I decided to use my blog as an opportunity to reflect as though I was another self, looking in. I have named this observer Miss Happ as an encouragement to my being comfortable in the presence of unexpected misfortune. The more comfortable we are with mistakes, the more we can be free to take risks and to learn from their outcomes. By reflecting in this way, I hope to develop new perspectives and importantly to have fun.


How To Start A Blog Online. (2015). Why Blog? Should I Start a Blog? 34 Reasons You Should. Retrieved 14 February 2016, from