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Inviting your school community onto the modern learning practice (MLP) waka

Nau mai, haere mai te katoa!

This discussion is a pledged event for CEM and will be opened on October 1st and running for the entire month of October - and hopefully beyond!  All welcome - teachers, leaders, whānau and community members.

The kaupapa (theme) of this discussion is...

Modern Learning Practice: How do we take our communities, students, parents and whānau on the journey as we explore teaching and learning in a technology-enabled world?


In this VLN discussion I encourange participants to:

  • explore why schools are changing
  • discuss key principles of Modern Learning Environments and Practice
  • review key transitions for learners and how Modern Learning Practices may assist
  • share experiences, concerns, questions and journeys
  • explore strategies to engage teachers, students, parents, whānau and community

Firstly, let's take a look at what modern learning practice looks like in one particular New Zealand kura (school).

Modern-learning-practice from EDtalks on Vimeo.


I can't wait to 'meet' and kōrero (talk) with you online and would love to hear your thoughts-he aha ō koutou whakaaro?


Things to note:

I am co-facilitating a workshop on this exact kaupapa at ULearn 2014 in Rotorua on Thursday 9th October, 11.15-12.30pm, in the Rotorua Convention Centre, Mezzanine.  I will be sharing this online discussion with the participants in the workshop and will also be asking them to contribute their ideas too, to maximise exposure to this discussion and include a wide range of ideas, opinions and thinking. 


Finally, I strongly enourage the discussion to go live into the Twittersphere too so please feel free to use the following hashtags on Twitter...




And my own twitter handle is @mrs_tbell


  • Tamara Bell  (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 8:44am ()

    Kia ora, talofa, malo, bula and welcome to this online discussion for Connected Educator Month, Aotearoa.  To kick the kōrero off today, I want to start with the concept of huge change to our education system here in New Zealand and no doubt throughout the world.  In my opinion, we are in the midst of massive change to schooling in NZ and there is plenty of debate, excitement, anxiety and a sense of the unknown for many teachers, leaders, parents and children. 

    What do you believe are the drivers for such huge change to teaching and learning?

    What are the opportunties and benefits that could arise for such change?  What are some of the challenges?

  • Tracey Janes (View all users posts) 09 Oct 2014 10:14pm ()

    Thanks for opening up the discussion Tamara! Hope the conference is going well.

    You asked what the drivers might be for so much change: certainly here in Christchurch (my perception is) the 'driver' would have to be Mother Nature and the way she has shaken us up! Rebuilds and restructuring have been necessary and I think MLEs are the obvious choice partly because they are economical, and partly because they reinforce and embrace the sense of community and collaboration through all of our communities (not just the education ones) that has emerged in these shaky times! 

    What opportunities and benefits does this change afford us? I believe the changes have made us all necessarily reflective of our practice - and much more open to collaboration. We are all in this together! Technology is a big part of this - it allows us to communicate and share freely and people are beginning to do so, which is exciting!

  • Anne Sturgess (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 9:17am ()

    Morena Tamara, I agree... reminds me of an Irish blessing "May we live in exciting times." Some teachers have always taught this way but it's so much easier now thanks to the internet and accessible technologies and there's 'permission' to teach students not just content. That Principal who told me my Year 10 class needed to stay inside (i.e. not work on the deck) and that I should have more 'control' over their learning (i.e. all doing the same thing) is an anachronism now - I hope. My definition of an MLE - Great teachers using the most effective strategies and tools available at the time to create a learning environment that invites the gifts and talents of every child to rise to the surface and be nutured in a way that is joyous, celebratory and fulfilling. Success is an inevitable outcome of engaging in deep learning. I recommend Jackie Gerstein's blog to others who are excited about the possibilities of Education 2.0 and 3.0. Have fun at ULearn14

  • Phoebe Fabricius (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 9:21am ()

    Hi Tamara

    Wonderful questions and I think for me as a facilitator, I would like teachers to think about the modern child that walks in that door and the world that they bring with them, especially the technology knowledge that has been embedded in their every day lives.  My challenge is getting teachers to think how they got to that point.  Was it alone?  And I don't think so.  I think by asking students how they knew about that piece of knowledge, teachers would be enlightened to know it was by trial and error and playing/using/working it out with a family/friend. (a 'discovery inquiry'?)  So how can teachers use that to change the way they learn in their own classrooms?  Schools want to jump into this modern learning environment, but it is not going to happen with a bunch of cushions and few tables in the room.  I think teachers need to co-construct, moderate, communicate, listen and together with their students create an environment that is safe to be a modern learner.  We would like students to know it is safe to have a voice; safe to learn the way that engages them; safe to investigate and make mistakes.  A journey to success?

  • mary jamieson (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 10:20am ()

    Hi Tamara

    I think this is a great area to focus on. The "why" to "why change"? Why do we need to and what could this new era look like?  You're so right when you say that mles are more than cushions and tables, Phoebe. In this age of the significantly changing workforce, where machines replace people quicker than you can count to 10, it is the creative and innovative thinkers which will lead the way forward, I believe. So, learning static content is no longer the be all of education, knowledge creation and manipulation is coming to the fore.

  • Derek Wenmoth (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 10:28am ()

    Morena Tamara - this is indeed a massively big question! Here are some quick thoughts...

    We are seeing drivers of change at many levels:

    economic - it costs money to provide an education - it features in NZ as one of the top three areas of government expenditure. We have spent decades adding more and more to the education budget, and so inevitably there is pressure to make savings or get the best return on investment. The downstream impacts here are the decisions around class size, viability of small schools, targetting of PLD to specific areas of need. In the end it becomes a case of being prepared to pay for what we want - and in the case of some of the higher socio-economic areas we're seeing that occur with parents paying directly for their child's education - but what of the kids and families at the other end of the socio economic spectrum, where public money is the only source?

    cultural - the place of formal schooling within society, the changing expecations of parents and learners and the 'valuing' of eduation are all aspects of the culture of our schooling system that are changing. Increasing student agency and voice changes the nature and experience of learning in the classroom (and beyond) as well as our thinking about curriculum, assessmenet etc. Schools were once the places of authority within our society, the providers of quality teaching, resources and authoritative in their role - but all of that is being challenged, as learners now have access to alternative sources of these same things. 

    structural - the notion of school as a place, bounded by fences and walls is being challenged nowadays. Whether it's the emergence of more open and flexible learning spaces within a school (breaking down the egg crate classroom mentality), the use of technologies to enable more virtual learning experiences or the acceptance that school is only one of the physical places that learning occurs (leading to greater links with community resources - home, library, business etc.) - all of these changes are putting pressure on us as educators to think differently about the structures we use to support learning - classrooms, timetables, allocation of teacher time etc.

    political - we're certainly at the whim of political decisions - whether that be to do with class size, charter schools or performance pay. All of these are characteristics of policitcal systems that are keen to demonstrate that they are (a) maximising the investment of the public dollar and (b) leveraging success for learners from this - particularly in preparation for the workforce (and thus contributing to  thriving economy etc etc). 

    Around the world, and in NZ, we've seen a focus on a massive accountability system around schools. What they've failed to do, in the meantime, is build an engagement system within them. As a result we're making matters worse by handing our most talented and engaged teachers manuals on how and what they should teach. Teachers aren't failing us; instead, the system they're forced to work within is failing us and them.

    There's heaps to add here I'm sure - but those are some quick thoughts to get the conversation going - interested to hear what other may contribute here...


  • Tamara Bell  (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 10:44am ()

    Wow - what an amazing start to this discussion!  So lovely to see friends and colleagues contribute their thoughts as well as new connections to educators I am yet to meet.  All 4of you have added different ideas and perspectives which is fantastic.  I love how Derek has broken it down into some critical influences that are driving change in education.  I agree wholeheartedly with the statement "Teachers aren't failing us; instead, the system they're forced to work within is failing us and them".

    Thanks Anne for the link to Jackie Gerstein's blog too, your contribution really did give the feel of some of the excitement and possibilities all this change can bring to our teachers and tamariki!

    Phoebe - I connected strongly to your last sentence " a journey to success".  As you will see in the title of this discussion, I believe strongly in the idea of it being a journey.  First we need to understand why change is upon us, as Mary so rightly pointed out and the implications of this change before we can start to look at how this will influence our own practice and in turn the educational experiences of our learners.  It is a journey, not something that can happen overnight, in a term or even in a school year!  Many educators, leaders, teachers have been walking this journey for some time and just like many journeys, the course can change, we may get delayed, lost or even change our destination but it is the journey that is the important experience to have!

  • AliciaNT (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 4:41pm ()

    Kia Ora Tamara- I have been lurking through the VLN community for a couple of months now but due to a busy schedule at school and at home this is my first time joining in on a conversation. The CEM events have got me really excited ;-) For me as a teacher and curently an ICT teacher it is the students that drive the type of teaching and learning that we do today. There is no doubt that issues of economics, politics etc (as mentioned by Derek) factor into this however for me because our students walk into the classroom everyday already knowing so much about technology that we have to make that change. We all know that technology is not a phase in education and if we havent started that journey than we should. There are many different ways that schools do this. My old school (international school) I feel did a phenomenal job driving the change. Throughout the year School leaders, teacher and parent community worked collectively to research why and how. The following year our whole platform was changed and teachers were given devices, apps and programmes to explore. The only expectation given to teachers by school leaders was to try things out, discuss, share, see what works, see what doesnt etc. Since our teachers were all on varying levels on the tech spectrum from beginner to expert this worked really well. Less than 6 month later devices were given to students with the same expectations. In amongst all that was parent community workshops and teacher pd -mostly inhouse as all of us were so willing to share what we were learning and able to do with and for our students. By the end of that year there was so much innovative teaching practice, learning and creativity going on across the whole school it was amazing. I'm forever grateful for that process as it marked the start of my own elearning journey.

    My current school (in NZ) is working towards MLEs and are probably at the beginning compared to what I've come from, but that is totally okay.  In my experience the opporutinites that arise from a MLE are situations where teachers and students are often exploring and going on a learning journey together, and quite often teachers are learning from students just as much as students are learning from teachers. If done the right way it doesnt take long for everyone to get on board and drive towards the common goal of success for students.

  • Jilena (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 8:42pm ()

    Does anyone have ideas or tips on how to get community buy in to modern learning environments and practice, both of which aren't too far from what we have/do already, but the community still view these ideas as far fetched and are nervous to take the leap (really a lady bird step)?

    As a teacher I am excited to see the school I work in head in this direction but am loosing enthusiasm the longer it takes to get the community on board.

  • Tracey Burgess (View all users posts) 01 Oct 2014 10:19pm ()

    Start small is what I am learning from my various visits to those embarking on the journey in an MLE. This means the teachers are more secure in what they are doing and can speak to parents with confidence and the parents can see change working and adapt and be more ready for the next introduction. 

  • mary jamieson (View all users posts) 02 Oct 2014 9:18am ()

    Hi Jilena

    Not knowing exactly what your school has in terms of resources or what you have already tried....some suggestions are:

    a parent survey- this can give you the opportunity to find out what they don't understand or 'buy into'

    student demonstrations at open evenings or other parent meetings- these are so powerful as it is the students who will sway pubic opinion when they see what they can do!

    sharing of student work via weebly, blog, etc

    authentic inquiry which involves connecting outside the school gates and requires authentic use of digital technologies

    providing a computer in the foyer or other easily accessible place for parents

    linking with local intermedate/secondary schools to see what the students are doing there and the skills, knowledge and understanding they need to transition into them

    strategic planning that always looks at how the community will be involved. For example, when looking at digital citizenship, some schools are planning programmes which they will roll out across the school, what provision is made for parents to learn about this too?

    These are just a few ideas...select or discard as you wish! It would be interesting to know what you have tried already and what sort of resistance you are encountering, if you feel happy to share this.Laughing

  • Diane Mills (View all users posts) 02 Oct 2014 10:03am ()

    Kia ora Jilena,  getting family in to see what learning looks like in a modern learning environment is obviously one of the most powerful drivers for acceptance and change.  One of the schools I worked with hosted such an evening, at a suitable time for families (earlier rather than later!); it was hosted by students, with students showing and talking about their learning.  I will put a link to their story here, which might help give you some ideas: Open Evening at St Mary's School.  Two of the key things for them were using a variety of ways to sell the meeting to parents: facebook, twitter, newsletters, word of mouth; and of course the part that many students had to play in the event.  The turnout, positive feedback and enlightenment of parents amazed the school.

  • Callie Ballara (View all users posts) 02 Oct 2014 10:21am ()

    Hi Jilena

    Don't lose your enthusiasm it's one of the best resources you'll ever have! You are lucky to have your school on board as this can be difficult, particularly when it comes to encouraging staff who have been teaching the same way for years to embrace change.  Last year I trialled BYOD in my year 2 class, and parents were very sceptical, asking things like 'will my child still learn to write?' It was a long journey, but by the end of the year the parent community were much more open.  I involved the parents as much as I could in the journey and emphasised the fact that I was learning too and that some things we tried would work, while others wouldn't.  I asked for their feedback continually.  What they couldn't deny is the children's level of engagement in the way they were learning, children would go home and continue work they had started at school and then upload it to the class blog (6 year olds!) I did and still do, find myself making sure there is sufficient 'written work' in books for when parents inevitably come to look.  It is not that we aren't writing, it's just that we are doing so more collaboratively, in meaningful contexts rather than always at our desks in our exercise books.

  • Tamara Bell  (View all users posts) 02 Oct 2014 2:34pm ()

    Kia ora Jilena,  

    I understand your position and I hope that this online discussion will provide lots of different ideas as to how to get community on board.  I will be posting plenty of links and resources to aid with this very kaupapa right throughout the month of October.  I am presenting at ULearn next Thursday and can promise you that after that many of the key ideas & strategies I share in that presentation will be linked back in here for you to access as well.  But to start you off, check out this fantastic Google site that a school here in Chch has created and shared publicly to support their community with the concept of becoming a BYOD school 


    It is a fabulous resource that is extremely thorough & readily accessible for parents anywhere, anytime to deepen their knowledge around BYOD and support their understanding so in turn they can support the school and their children with this huge change in their classroom. Keep in mind that this site was not the ONLY method they used to consult and communicate with parents, but just one method, but in my opinion it is a great example of harnessing the power of online support.  

    Consider how this could look if the kaupapa for the site was MLE/MLP rather than specifically aimed at BYOD (an aspect of modern learning practice for many schools anyway).

  • Megan McLellan (View all users posts) 05 Oct 2014 1:45pm ()

    Hi Jilena - You have had some great replies already, but here is what I think has had a great impact for our school when we were starting down this path.  

    Several staff and myself had visited a school that was teaching in a similar way that we were aiming to develop which was a great inspiration to us as teachers - but the BOT / parents had concerns.  So we sent a couple BOT members to visit the school as well and see for themselves the different attitude to learning that the students there had.  As these BOT members were also key community members their opinions held a lot of sway with the parents and when they saw what we were trying to develop in action we had great buy in and support.  

    I think it was also important that they saw it working in another context so they were reassured we weren't 'experimenting' on their children and that other schools were further down the same track.

  • Tracey Janes (View all users posts) 09 Oct 2014 10:21pm ()

    Hi Jilena,

    THere are lots if useful answers to your questions already, but one of the 'selling points' for our parents when we transitioned to an MLE was that there would be more similarities (to our current practice) than differences in the new environment. If you are already using modern learning practices, emphasise this to your community - much of the 'change' they are anxious about has already happened (eg new technology, emphasis on self management).

    Good luck!

  • Helen Cooper (View all users posts) 02 Oct 2014 11:30am ()

    Kia ora koutou, What a great discussion!

    When discussing with teachers how they have engaged whānau and community, the most common tips I hear are:

    Engage them early- the sooner the better, don't leave it.

    Provide multiple oopportunities to discuss, ask questions, observe, experience and explore ideas.

    Use the power of student voice – identify opportunities for students, including the very young ones, to share their experience and what it means to them. As a parent with a child in a school that has been prototyping this year, I know when I have asked her questions about her learning, and what the changes mean to her, I have been blown away with her response, and what a change it has made to her. Convincing stuff!..

    Callie's practice of asking for feedback continually sounds like a great way to show parents that there input is valued.

  • Tamara Bell  (View all users posts) 03 Oct 2014 1:55pm ()

    My tip for today is to make you aware that there is a wealth of knowledge within the VLN and more specifically, related to this very kaupapa.  Some great discussion happening here around what collaborative planning looks like - don't be afraid to hunt out the gold online! Cool



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