Wednesday, 13 August 2014


If you get included in the blogging meme: copy/paste the questions and instructions into your own blog then fill out your own answers. Share on twitter tagging 5 friends. Make sure you send your answers back to whoever tagged you too.

1. How did you attend the #Edchatnz Conference? (Face 2 Face, followed online or didn’t)
Face 2 Face! I was determined to attend - I registered as soon as possible and was planning to be 'sick' if I didn't get permission from school (but they were nice).
2. How many others attended from your school or organisation?
Just one other - the wonderful Jeni Little (@chimaeratweet) who presented the SING! session on Saturday. I'll mention Sarah Rodgers (@themsrodgers) too, who was my amazing student teacher last term.

3. How many #Edchatnz challenges did you complete?
I completed two - can you tell I wasn't trying?

4. Who are 3 people that you connected with and what did you learn from them?
Steve Mouldey (@GeoMouldey) - I got to see Steve in action in his (and Danielle's (@MissDtheTeacher)) Apocalypse Now module. It was fantastic seeing some cross-curricular teaching in action and it really got me thinking about what I could do in class. We didn't really get to talk a lot, but connection made! I totally agree with Steve's emphasis on curiosity and creativity and I look forward to learning more from him in the future.

Connor Young (@TheSpyderGaming) - HPSS student Connor 'adopted' me during Steve and Danielle's Apocalypse Now module on Friday. All I can say is wow, what a perceptive young man! I grilled him about HPSS from a student perspective and I learned heaps about all the awesome things they do at HPSS. Now Steve, I do apologise for being a distraction, but in my defense, we did talk about why I thought it important to find out about HPSS from a student perspective and your lesson was all about different perspectives - so we were actually on topic.

Chhaya (@ChhayaNarayan) and Matt (@mattynicoll) - Great to meet up with some other chemists! We didn't get to talk much at all but I'm excited about the future and what we can learn from each other. Also, I'm totally amped for #scichatNZ!

5. What session are you gutted that you missed?
From what I heard the political debate was awesome. So kind of gutted I missed that, but being in Apocalypse Now for all three hours was a far better learning experience for me.

6. Who is one person that you would like to have taken to Edchatnz and what key thing would they have learned? 
Mike Cole - Asst. HOD Science at GBHS. I feel a little isolated in my department as the guy into all this innovative teaching and learning and that I'm always feeding back to them. I really want someone else to join me in being proactive and I think Mike would be a great start. I reckon he would have had his mind blown by what was going on at the conference.

7. Is there a person you didn’t get to meet/chat with (F2F/online) that you wished you had? Why?
Probably Alyx Gillett (@chasingalyx) - she was the first of the #edchatnz steering committee I followed on Twitter (doodle bars!). It would of been awesome to talk with Steve (@GeoMouldey), Chhaya (@ChhayaNarayan) and Matt (@mattynicoll) more but it was a hectic two days.

8. What is the next book you are going to read and why? 
Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess - because it's on Steve's reading list and because pirates are awesome!

9. What is one thing you plan to do to continue the Education Revolution you learnt about at #Edchatnz?
Spread the word; continue to learn, innovate, and drive change in my corner of the world; and share my successes and failures (when i have time).

10. Will you take a risk and hand your students a blank canvas?
Yeah, I've tried that... doesn't work for most students. I really need to learn/figure out what the minimum amount of structure is to get most students started.

Who do will I tag with this meme:
Who hasn't done one yet?
If you're reading this and haven't done it yet - You're tagged!

Tuesday, 12 August 2014


Time for a little bit of history...

When I started at Green Bay High School in 2011 the junior science schemes were pretty traditional, which was nothing surprising - I had never been exposed to anything different. They were as I'm sure many of you know, basically lists of content to cover with some suggested activities, practicals and workbook pages.

After taking a while to settle back into regular teaching after being a 'Mission Commander' in the US for a year (I'll do a post on that one day) I came to be dissatisfied with the status quo. The approach of rushing the kids through a mass of content and then those who could regurgitate half of it on a piece of paper would 'pass' and - I think I'm preaching to the choir here...

"Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for.'

Thank you Barack Obama for such inspiring words. I wish I had googled 'change quotes' back then! Anyway, I started reading. I read books, lit reviews, white papers, websites, a lot! A vision started to develop that included...

1. The Nature of Science - super important! The NZC even tells you! Yet the schemes we had didn't even mention it. This had to be part of what we did.

2. Big Ideas - a couple of papers (such as this one) got me onto this. The content should be whittled down into some coherent units built around some really important scientific ideas. An excerpt from the paper linked before regarding developing Big Ideas: "The
 test your content knowledge to its limits
push you to deepen 
 understanding of
 science." Rad. (It still amazes me the number of gaps in teacher understanding we uncover while collaboratively developing units). We should expect mastery of these ideas, not 50% coverage.

3. A Big Question and a Thesis - Teaching Science With Interactive Notebooks by Kellie Marcarelli introduced me to the Big Question idea with a Thesis to answer it. The Big Ideas alone are just content. The Big Question puts the Big Ideas into context. The Big Question brings in the Nature of Science. The Big Question was the glue we needed.

I could go on and on. So feel free to ask any questions you have in the comments.

I put it all together in a document. Check it out. (That reactions topic was a brand new one to replace acids and bases - I can be sneaky like that :P)

Assessment is by a short test in a novel context - to prepare for externals - and by the thesis - which is great preparation for internals.

It blew everyone away, was implemented, went incredibly successfully with the students last year, and has set us up incredibly well for BYOD (which was not intended, so yay!).

Next time I'll go through a topic with you - Y9 Energy. I promise it'll be more reflective.

Anyway, the take home messages are:

Don't be afraid to be the change, just make sure you back it up with research and evidence.

There's loads of good ideas out there, but mix a few together and you could create something great.