Tag Archives: themindlab

Postgraduate Learning Journey

Summarising 32 weeks of Learning

A journey quote

Image: The Journey of 1000 Miles by Jack Standbridge, (2014). Retrieved from http://goo.gl/uWI1Tn 

They say ‘The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step’. Those first steps I took, 32 weeks back, toward enrolling in The Mind Lab by Unitec’s Postgraduate Certification in Applied Practice have certainly led me on a journey.

Putting into few words, 32 weeks of learning and discovery is no easy task. Each week delivered such a breadth of topic that even the PLD post reflecting my thoughts on  ‘Digital & Collaborative Learning’ which I made at 28 weeks in, is miles from where my thinking is now.

The growth I experienced in the programme has been exponential. The following Tagul image shows the responses of our intake when asked what our ideas for 21st Century learning might be.


Over the sessions to follow we explored these ideas through critical discussion, research, hands-on experiences and creative pursuits. Developing strong collaborative relationships with our fellow classmates and a deepened understanding of what it is to be a learner in our digital world.

Practicing Teacher Criteria

Throughout the course, each participant is demonstrating and collecting evidence toward the Practicing Teacher Criteria (PTCs) through shifts in practice.

The following resource by the Ministry of Education (2016) via the Enabling E-Learning site, links each of the twelve criteria to examples of e-learning supporting the PTCs.

Professional relationships and professional values

  • Criteria 1: Establish and maintain effective professional relationships focused on the learning and well-being of all ākonga.
  • Criteria 2: Demonstrate commitment to promoting the well-being of ākonga.
  • Criteria 3: Demonstrate commitment to bicultural partnership in Aotearoa / New Zealand.
  • Criteria 4: Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice.
  • Criteria 5: Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.

Professional knowledge in practice

  • Criteria 6: Conceptualise, plan, and implement an appropriate learning programme.
  • Criteria 7: Promote a collaborative, inclusive, and supportive learning environment.
  • Criteria 8: Demonstrate in practice their knowledge and understanding of how ākonga learn.
  • Criteria 9: Respond effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.
  • Criteria 10: Work effectively within the bicultural context of Aotearoa NZ.
  • Criteria 11: Analyse and appropriately use assessment and information, which has been gathered formally and informally.
  • Criteria 12: Use critical inquiry and problem-solving effectively in their professional practice.

My Three

If I had to choose just three skills that this learning journey had helped me to develop well they would be:

Criteria 4: Demonstrate commitment to ongoing professional learning and development of professional personal practice.Kickstart

The commitment to my own ongoing PLD is obvious. Enrollment in the course and the dedication with which I completed each assignment in a way that really impacted my professional practice can be evidenced by assignment submissions and my teaching as inquiry. However, my interest and enthusiasm for PLD sparked, I then engaged in a huge array of other PLD opportunities from workshops to online events, my professional learning networks grew and my professional discussions broadened beyond my own classroom practice.

Criteria 5: Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning.

Seeing the value that PLD had given my practice I then went on to join the PLD committee at our school, to help lead the e-learning team, to run an e-Learning PLD day for 50 plus staff and eventually to move into a full-time role as a PLD Facilitator.

Criteria 9: Respond effectively to the diverse and cultural experiences and the varied strengths, interests, and needs of individuals and groups of ākonga.

The practical and applicable nature of the programme made it easy to transfer our learnings into practice. Using my Teaching as Inquiry I was able to explore How Gamification might support responsive teaching practice. My literature review of Gamification and GameBased Learning in the New Zealand Education System led me to consider my new role as a facilitator and how I might support my new ākonga being teachers in this way. I c0-developed an inquiry into the Gamification of Teaching  the Adobe Slate version of this is linked to the image below.

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Next Steps


The next steps for me as an e-leader might be better described as leaps. My goal for 2016 is to strengthen my ability to facilitate change through developing the ability to help others have an awareness of their thinking, around the use of digital technologies for learning. I would like to do this by developing mentoring skills such as effective questioning techniques so that schools might develop sustainable shifts toward the effective use of digital technologies for learning. I have identified several enablers that might support me in this goal including:

  • my awareness of the need to develop critical thinking for change
  • an ability to feel comfortable in different situations and environments
  • being well supported in admin and tasks side of my role as a facilitator
  • being well supported by family who enable me to spend time on developing in this role
  • being well connected in local education environment – PLD providers, local educators, local experts, helping with my own critical thinking and as a support network and
  • having strong cultural and family links to my region.

I believe that using my strengths will help me develop my ability to facilitate change. This goal is linked to the Te Toi Tupu -Professional Dimensions for Facilitator Practice, Dimension A2. Facilitators engage in appropriate professional relationships and demonstrate commitment to professional values – Professional Leadership.

I am also working with my mentor to build collaborative practices in my community of learning by designing community collaboration initiatives to increase engagement and collaboration across stakeholders. In achieving this goal I will have created a visualisation of my local PLN with the intent that this will allow me to see connections across my network and make links where beneficial. I will have explored ways of supporting COLs to find common goals and I will have a kete of skills, techniques and tools for working with COLs and other groups toward common goals.

I am excited by the opportunites these next steps bring and the new pathways that open ahead of me as I continue on toward the next 1000 miles.


Ministry of Education. (2016). Practising Teacher Criteria and e-learning. Enabling E-Learning. Retrieved 27 March 2016, from http://elearning.tki.org.nz/Professional-learning/Practising-Teacher-Criteria-and-e-learning
Wagner, T.(2016). Tony Wagner’s Seven Survival Skills. Retrieved 27 March 2016, from http://www.tonywagner.com/7-survival-skills

Key Competencies & Me

A Focus for Change

In the beginning weeks of The Mind Lab by Unitec’s Postgraduate Certification in Applied Practice (Digital & Collaborative Learning), we are asked to think about the New Zealand Curriculum’s Key Competencies (KCs). Using a Google Form each cohort considers which KCs they see as strengths and pinpoint those they would like to develop over the next 32-weeks of the course.

‘Thinking’ was the KS that I decided I identified with most. In a leadership sense, I perceived that my strengths in creativity and thinking outside the box helped to spark enthusiasm and positivity in others. In my practice, I tried to always be consciously aware of the metacognition involved in learning and considered how I might use this to lead a particular innovation or idea in a way that was respectful to teacher learners and helped them to make their own connections with the innovation.

When asked to reflect critically on strengths of practice, I decided to make a shift of focus toward designing learning experiences that focussed outside my own personal strengths. Up until this time, I had felt an inert lean in my teaching, toward activities of a ‘thinking’ focus. However, in order to facilitate the growth of well-balanced learners, it is important to focus on the area of relative stillness in our own personal growth – for me, this was ‘Participating and Contributing’ and ‘Relating to Others’.

“Exposing our weaknesses can be painful. This process takes effort. We must learn to feel comfortable in the discomfort of not knowing.” Renee Raroa

Key Changes in Practice

  1. Seek knowledge: I quickly realised that I did not have all the answers on this one. Colleagues, mentors, family, friends, students and professional learning networks play a big part in helping to evolve practice.
  2. Feel the fear and do it anyway: Deciding to make a conscious decision to jump into those situations where we feel less confident participating. Adopting the ‘fake it till you make it’ mentality means that the doors to possibility are opened.
  3. Relationships! Relationships!: Feeling part of a community and being connected to students, colleagues, whānau can make or break one’s ability to contribute. Feeling valued can be key to helping unlock our ability to participate and contribute.

So, what do we do when developing an action plan to reach these goals? Look for the unseen – those areas of our practice that we usually are not attentive to. Then ask questions. What were the needs of the community we want to connect with, participate in and relate to? What strengths can we draw on to find value in ourselves first?

Digital technologies

Digital Technologies. This was one skill that infiltrated every learning area, however, the confidence of many teachers with this was very low. I had realised the power of online and collaborative learning through distance teacher training. I was by no means an expert, but, I had recently experienced firsthand the change in mindset needed to make that fearless leap into the unknowns that can accompany using digital technologies for teaching and learning.

Recognising the vulnerabilities that were present in myself and that there were different strengths and weaknesses for teachers at every level, helped me to make connections with my colleagues as fellow learners. I soon found myself an e-leader within my school. The next challenge was to take up an opportunity to become a facilitator of Learning with Digital Technologies for CORE Education. One year later I reflect on my target KC’s –  ‘Participating and Contributing’ and ‘Relating to Others’. In my new role working across schools in Te Tairawhiti and beyond, I am relating to a whole range of new persons and personalities as I participate and support change.

“It is by working on our weaknesses that we experience the most profound growth.” Renee Raroa (2016).


New Zealand Government. (2016). About / Key competencies / Kia ora – NZ Curriculum Online. Retrieved 21 February 2016, from http://nzcurriculum.tki.org.nz/Key-competencies/About

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 http://themindlab.com/programme-overview/


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?”.

Screen Shot 2016-02-20 at 8.14.05 PM

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. Houseforkim.com. Retrieved 24 January 2016, from http://houseforkim.com/2013/02/06/5-stages-grief/
YouTube. (2016). Steve Jobs introduces Original iPad – Apple Special Event (2010). Retrieved 24 January 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KN-5zmvjAo&feature=youtu.be