Saturday, 14 December 2019

The Creative Brain

What's a Saturday morning with no sport... Netflix has provided! Check out the preview:
This morning I fell upon THE CREATIVE BRAIN. It promised to take audiences on a journey with neuroscientist and best-selling author, David Eagleman, to meet accomplished professionals from across the creative spectrum, unravel the creative process, and encourage all of us to be more creative.

As teachers, it's crucial that we understand this concept. We are in the creative age (not the digital age, as some still believe). Creativity is a fundamental piece that our educational experiences are lacking. WFRC has been telling us this for the past few years, however I think teachers lack the understanding of what that means. It's not "creating", in the traditional sense.
Creativity is the ability to take on new information and put it together with what we already know.
Humans have transformed the world we live in like no other species. People often link creativity with the arts, however, it is so much more than that. To consider what doesn't exist. To rise above our instincts and consider our other options before deciding what to do.

Most animals have the input and output parts of the brain right next to each other, so there's a direct path between the two. There's an instant reaction. Not much happens in between. Our brains are wired differently, we are able to disengage our instinct to see it differently. Input can collide with what's already there to forge new pathways, make new connections... considering possibility based on what's already there. We can process information in limitless ways. The enlargement of the human cortex, the expansion of the prefrontal cortex behind the forehead... This gives us imagination.

Being original is not about generating something out of nothing

Michael Chabon - Novelist attempts to debunk the theory saying there never has been such a thing as a truly original idea. A Pulitzer Prize winner that's not afraid to take ideas from anywhere, he operates on a basis of instead of "how can I make mine different from my predecessors? How can I utilize what they did to make mine better?"

What we create is unique because our life experiences are unique.
It's about getting out into the world and generate new concepts. Take the ordinary and make them extraordinary by putting them in a yet unseen combination. The creative process often involves making something, yet it also has the power to remake our lives.

Ehron Tool - Potter. He was a Gulf War veteran. He came back with a notion to do something different with his life. His creative outlet allows him to create discussion, generate a feeling. It's become a real healing process.

Lafayette Correctional Centre runs a groundbreaking programme by writer Zachery Lazar. His father had been murdered and this impacted his entire life. Upon visiting a correctional facility as a journalist he realised something surprising. He was surprised by a connection he felt to a lot of the people he talked to. He felt that there was a real lack of creativity in the prison. He felt that by harnessing those people's creativity, it could be a way of preventing them from being in the prison cycle. He now works with the prisoners to nurture their creative writing skills. The impact has been described as helping them think differently about things, think differently about themselves and think differently about other people. They are able to see themselves. It's about changing the narrative.
Tim Robbins (of Shawshank Redemption fame) runs acting workshops with prisoners. Often prisoners are defined by their mistakes made and any potential is never considered. By telling them that they are defined by who they are as human beings. The emotions that they suppress are real emotions. Prisoners taking part in these programmes are up to 80% less likely to re-offend.

Michelle Khine of Shrink Nanotechnologies, combined her childhood experience with Shrinkydinks and utilised it to advance science, by creating the tools she needed.
In order to advance science, you need to think about things in a different way otherwise nothing changes.

Bjarke Ingels is a Danish architect renowned for his imaginative designs. He operates by using a lot of material on hand to mash it with what is in his imagination. We have the power to imagine a world that isn't our world yet.

He blended his idea of lego with preconceived notions of a house. A ski field with perceptions of a building.

Image result for nathan myhrvold Nathan Myhrvold - Bill Gates described him as the smartest man he knew.
Taking ideas from one place and putting them in an entirely different context. He surrounds himself with influences.

"It's always better to be a critic than a creator." Nathan Myhrvold

Creativity is the interplay of billions of neurons sending trillions of impulses. Every experience you have is a raw material for your brain to create with and fashion into new ideas, by bending them into something new.

It's all about refashioning what already exists

Phill Tippett - Animator and Monster Maker.
He has a things and ideas room filled with "junk and stuff I've picked up over the years". He has organised it into an ideas generator. He randomly cut out pictures and put them into a book. He described the feeling of "I got it" when using them. It's an ability to put disparate information together and make something useful.

Robert Glasper - Musician
Jazz is a mashup of other forms of music. All of the forms of music that were around at the time was pulled together and reflects the time it was created in... it's always changing. If it stops changing then it's not following the tradition. If people of the previous generation are saying "You're not doing it right" then you are doing it right.

3 ways we can take advantage of how we are wired:

1. Try something new.

Being creative means fighting the instinct of not choosing the path of least resistance. Our brains naturally default to what we've done before. We need to dig deeper and get off that path of least resistance and try something new. For adults, this often translates as a career change. I've heard of the idea of getting kids to generate the first 3 ideas that spring to mind, then drawing a line under them and saying "You can't use this." Specialisation can mean 'learning a lot about less' can transpire into 'knowing a lot about nothing'. To be able to think outside the box you have to be willing to be wrong. You also have to be willing to be right when everyone thinks you are wrong.

2. We have to push boundaries. 

Our brains are novelty seekers. There's a fine line between exploring the range of possibilities between the familiar and the unfamiliar. Being willing to turn your back on traditional unwritten rules and test ideas that might be considered "wrong". Things that are considered "weird" are things that people are unfamiliar with. If it is considered weird than it is pushing boundaries. There's a spectrum between too familiar and too far out and wacky... its the in-between that is where the magic happens. tp create something that's not too new too unfamiliar but something in between.

3. We need to risk failing. 

Failure feels awful so we avoid it. The reality is that most peoples successes arise out of the ashes of their failings. Game of Thrones co-creator and writer, D.B. Weiss describes himself as failing very consistently for a very long time. He learned to be less worried about failing. All of the failures ultimately contributed to him being able to do this thing.

A school transforms...

10 years ago a Vermont School was on the verge of being shut down. Poor community. Terrible test scores. H O Wheeler. to save the school they decided to put creativity and the arts at the heart of every subject
When can kids learn? When they're engaged. - Bobby Riley (Principal)
When you focus on the arts and the process of the artistic experience, then they are able to blossom in unique and very special ways.
Learning geometry through the medium of abstract art. When it is integrated it hits more avenues that different learners use to access information. With creativity at the heart of every subject, the kids are learning a creative mindset. They're being taught to get off the path of least resistance and keep trying. It's about teaching them to try their best and to take a risk. It's about developing the process that allows them to interact with the world around them.

To succeed in an unimaginable future we need to instil creativity in our the children we teach so they can be successful in navigating that world.

How can we instil more creativity in our akonga?

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

DFI 9 - Beating Around the Bush

A weird feeling with this being the last day of our intensive. What will the next challenge be? It's been great having the opportunity to delve in deep and soak like a sponge. It's highlighted that I thrive on that and in many ways need it.


Leaping into the learning pit:

Today I leapt in and became the learner. We often put our kids in assessment conditions and flippantly assure them "not to worry", "it'll be fine", etc...
To leap into that position as adults, many of whom in the room were rather nervous about the daunting task ahead of them... was actually a really valuable reminder of how it feels. 
I had a few glitches while attempting the practice tests for modules on the certification site. Many of my problems were due to my nature of over-thinking. "Could it be that simple?" "Surely it's wanting more...?" Apparent;y it wasn't.

The Level One test was in two parts. One was multi-choice, with a scenario given and the number of answers which should be checked.

The other was actual tasks that we were required to go through, from creating a site with specific content to creating a YouTube playlist and sharing it with a specific audience. 

The daunting part was dealing with Google Classroom, which I haven't used before. I found it easy to complete the actual tasks within that domain, however it was hard for me to answer the multi-choice questions because I couldn't relate it to my own tangible experience. How often does this happen with our students, particularly those stepping up into Year 4 and suddenly working in a digital learning environment?

All in all... I passed!

So Many Opportunities:

Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers

- Focused on your Inquiry. Throughout the process, you design a tool to be used to support this Inquiry. A fabulous think tank experience to help develop your inquiry process. Great opportunities from this as well as the extra support.

Google Class On Air.

Throughout the year, you put up 16 episodes of learning in your classroom as well as the work that akonga present from it.

Tuhi Mai Tuhi Atu

Buddy classes from throughout New Zealand. 

Online Toolkits

Term 4: October 22, 23, 24
Professional Learning, where you lead a toolkit in something that you are comfortable with sharing. It doesn't have to be absolutely amazing... just something.

Social Media

Keeping up with what's running already, such as professional blogs, Google + Community, Twitter etc.

What next?

The question of the day.
I've come to realise that I'm a creature that likes to be in the deep end and being challenged. I can't just paddle in the shallows. It has been invaluable being in such an intense learning environment for this past term. I need to keep the pressure on to keep learning.
  • Google Certified Teacher Level 2
    • I've committed to leaping in and giving this a go... what's the worst that can happen? I fail? (I'm forever telling the kids that it stands for First Attempt In Learning)
  • Hapara Champion Educator
    • I've submitted my application for this online course. The Objective is to develop basic proficiency in the Hapara Suite—Highlights, Dashboard, and Workspace—from the point-of-view of a classroom teacher. Practice and reflect on positive, student-centred instructional use. While I've been using most of the features for years, I haven't been using workspace, so I'm interested in looking into this and how it can be harnessed for my practice.
  • Could we be doing mini-interviews for everything that happens at school... then putting up a mini news bulletin, a simple iMovie, that is uploaded to blogs and Facebook at the end of every week.
  • Next Year... there are a number of opportunities floating around. I need to "step into the arena".

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Empowering: Learners, Teachers... and Me!

Connecting with Manaiakalani

We had the fabulous privilege to have Dorothy Burt leading us today. I always find that her perspective serves as a bit of a recharge.


Learners and Teachers

Each of the 11 Manaiakalani communities has there own "why".
It began with the word "agency"... but that doesn't work within some of our communities, as the agencies that whanau are used to equate to various government Agencies... which equate to also turning their life upside down. Whanau interpretation is more important than ours.

It's important to not slip into a deficit model when talking about our communities. Despite the housing shortages and financial difficulties. Despite the outside influences that are impacting and adding stress.

5+ a day

Creating a dialogue with our kids, to develop their oral language, by bouncing the conversation backwards and forwards 5+ times. (Just like we want to create a thread with our blogging). This is a great strategy to combat the low oral language that our akonga arrive at our door with. By having deliberate conversations with the children we are effecting change in a positive way for them.

Google Forms

We went through a Chalk n talk to create a Google Form. It was great to be forced into amping up the use of it, rather than sticking to the tried and true. We created pathways etc, which was good to actually get stuck in and done.

Google My Maps

I'd never seen or used this before. pins can be dropped on actual maps, then pathways can by mapped, with distances measured etc.

Could use it at the beginning of the year to get kids to locate where they're from. Houses or countries.

Google Sheets

Protecting cells
Super Sheets! Using the Explore tool to work for you, creating graphs etc.

Tips & Tricks

  • You can freeze more than one row by selecting the row first and then freeze up to row.... You can also "grab" the grey line and drag it to where to freeze to.
  • Resize columns by highlighting the range. Then go to the top... double click on the blue line that appears. It'll allocate width due to length of word.

Getting Creative with Google Sheets

  • Split name Add-on... when you have both names in one cell, you can split them into two columns (first and last names)
  • Crop sheet Add on - to delete all the extra blank cells in a sheet, so that focus is drawn to what you're dealing with.
  • Filtering for effective workflow and saving to utilise them
  • Conditional formatting
  • SPARKLINE adds a visual line to
  • Macro Recorder... formatting a sheet and recording that, so that you can apply the same formatting to another sheet.

Students carry out a statistical inquiry about their blog.

Open a spreadsheet and gather some data.

What opportunities/provocations are there for 2020?

  • Who would benefit from doing the DFI next year? 
    • Whoever is new to the Takitini Team!
    • Whakatau Leader, to ensure that the pedagogy is embedded within the Whakatau team.
  • To quote Brene Brown... I need to step into the arena! 
    • I'm interested in applying for Google Class on Air for next year.
    • I want to consolidate some of the systems that hav'nt been working and have them more efficient to hit the ground running. 
  • Amp up creativity.

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Blinging sharing with Biteable

Today I leapt onto the learning pit alongside my learners to test a new tool. We learned to make a video using Biteable where we could teach others how to comment on our blogs.

It's such an easy tool to use and could be great for akonga sharing their learning about any topic. It also helps the,m to think about font and colour for easy readability for their audience. 

Here's my creation:

Learn to comment on a blog on Biteable.

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Connected Learners and Teachers

DFI #7 - Media

Live Streaming YouTube

What is possible?
What can you do?
How can we take the kids passions and what they do further?

Live Streaming all school events. We have a multi-cultural school who have whanau all over the world. How can we get what they are doing out to them?
- Streaming from our phones as well as laptops.


Maaniakalani has created a powerful network. It sprang from a culture where people held things to their chest without sharing. 

How can we create stronger connections between our two clusters? School Leaders?
It is our Shared Language, which creates the connection. The pedagogy and kaupapa language. Learn. Create. Share. Visible. Ubiquitous. Connected. Empowered. We create the language for our akonga through the cyber smart programme.

Our akonga need to be able to make authentic connections. In order to make a connection, both parties need to Share.

There's a misunderstanding that Share is about digital sharing. Seeing in real life is always going to be better than seeing digitally, but it makes it possible for people who aren't able to be there and to take it out to a wider network. Face-to-face is always the ideal.

Tuhi Mai Tuhi Atu was designed specifically to connect our learners.
Online Toolkits then came about. It enables us to connect and learn alongside colleagues from around the country.

Google Draw

We looked at ways to utilise Google drawing. It really is the tool for any task and is very underused. 
I can see uses that have previously been monopolised by websites, such as Padlet, which were once free but have now locked themselves down to needing to pay to maintain services.
The Google Drawing Sandpit gives some great examples of how this can be utilised in the classroom for a wide variety of uses.
I created the About Me drawing for the sidebar of my Professional Blog.

Google Slides

Concepts around using Slides as a tool to enable access to learning have been sitting in the back of my mind for a while now. I've been trying to throw ideas around in the back of my head, for a method of planning on slides that tick all the boxes and is effective as well as efficient.
There are so many benefits for using slides over docs. It's useful for embedding onto sites. It makes it easy to embed and link content, texts and tasks. There is clear and consistent formatting, making your end-user appreciative. The current week's slide can be moved to the front.

Because you are an editor, you can see the comments. If people are view only, they can't see reflections in the comments. All planning is on slides so that it is visible, while still keeping reflections private to editors because they are comments only.

By putting instructions in the side, off the side of the slide, it means it is there for akonga to see and use, but once they publish it, only the pallette is seen. Same is the case in Google Draw.

You can also insert audio instructions with the teacher's instructions.

Game Changers:

  • Getting traction for change with Google: when something isn't working, then email them with what's not working. Even better, email your class with the wording for what you want them to say and get them to copy and paste the wording into the help box.
  • I'm envisaging learners creating their own jeopardy game to share their learning from Literacy!
I'm falling down the rabbit hole of additional resources and links at the bottom of each agenda!

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Arse Kicking and Shit-Storms: Stepping into the Arena

Watching "Brené Brown: the Call to Courage" on Netflix tonight has been an absolute privilege. It really resonated with me, particularly with where I'm at right now.

It's really easy to slip back and cruise when things feel a little chaotic and uncomfortable. When we are uncomfortable with our vulnerability, it's easy to default into sticking to your comfort zone and not taking risks.

BrenĂ© Brown talks about the fear of criticism. Do you engineer smallness in your life? We'veg all been there. You stick to the status quo and don’t take chances or don’t put yourself out there... because you don’t know whether you can withstand the criticism.

When we've put ourselves out there and regretted it, finding ourselves in a shame shitstorm (her term... I love this term!) you know, where you slip into hibernation, numbing ourselves with tv or a movie. Probably unhealthy foods etc... She reminds us that "it’s not the critic who counts". The credit belongs to the person who’s stepped up into the arena. The one who’s taking chances.

If you choose to be in the arena... You’re going to fall. You’re going to get your arse kicked. If you’re not in the arena, stepping out of your comfort zone then your opinion actually doesn’t count.

Each day when you get out of bed, say to yourself "Today I’ll choose courage over comfort".

Vulnerability is having the courage to show up when you don’t know the outcome. There are millions of cheap seats in the world. It’s not that you don’t give a shit about what anybody thinks, it’s that you don’t give a shit about what some people think. The people who make the list are the people who care about and love you not despite your imperfection and vulnerability but because of your imperfection and vulnerability.

How can you let yourself be loved if you don’t let yourself be seen. When you have thoughts running through your head during uncomfortable conversations, have the courage to say “The story I’m telling myself is...”


It is often considered to be:

But it also gives birth to:

"The opposite of belonging is fitting in."
Belonging is speaking your truth. Being yourself... who you are.

Practice gratitude... Allow yourself to lean into joy.

Understanding what we can do better to "show up":

  1. When you are grateful for what you have, you are able to understand the magnitude of what has been lost. It can be healing.
  2. The ordinary things... the simple moments that you don't take notice of when they are happening. You miss them when they're no longer there and gone. We're quick to chase the extraordinary moments while just skipping over the ordinary.
  3. Just do the joyful thing for the hell of it.

Work Vulnerability

hard conversations
ethical decision making
No vulnerability = no creativity.
No tolerance for failure = no innovation
We need to ensure we build a vulnerable culture. To not have the conversations because they make you uncomfortable is the definition of privilege. When we build cultures at work where there is zero tolerance for vulnerability, where perfectionism and armour are rewarded and necessary... you can’t have difficult productive conversations.

We spend more than half of our lives at work. You can’t have a joyful wholehearted life if you are miserable at work.
Brave leaders are never silent around hard things. 
Our job is to excavate the unsaid.
Vulnerability is defined as: uncertainty risk or emotional exposure. There is no courage without uncertainty or risk.

The Myths of vulnerability:

1. Vulnerability is weakness
2. I don’t do vulnerability
3. I can go it alone
4. You can engineer the uncertainty and discomfort out of vulnerability.
5. trust comes before vulnerability
6. Vulnerability is disclosure

You choose who has the right to share your story. Vulnerability minus boundaries is not vulnerability. You don’t measure vulnerability by the amount of disclosure, you measure it by the amount of courage to show up.

Vulnerability is scary and it feels dangerous... but it’s not as scary and dangerous as getting to the end of our lives and saying “what if I would’ve shown up?” What if I would’ve said I love you?

Show up

Be seen

Answer the call to courage

Come off the blocks

Curiosity Unleashed

While trying to find the personal blog I began about a year ago, only for it to sit on the back burner... I stumbled across the blog I began 'way back when'.
Check out Curiosity Unleashed HERE

This is exactly what I needed right now. This is exactly why we as professionals blog. It gives us a window into how far we have come and the process we go through. I had forgotten so much of this part of the journey as it seemed to go by in a blur.

This blog was 5 years ago.
I was in a single cell class. My kids had individual desks which were identified in a painstakingly labour intensive in-depth consideration as to the seating plan!
Everything was completed in books.

I cannot fathom teaching in this way again. The fact that it was only 5 years ago... when it feels like a lifetime.

Reading it, I can remember the excitement and passion I had for the paradigm shift I was embarking on. I was stepping into an unknown world, where we were leading the charge for those around us. We had to make the mistakes ourselves to find out why some things needed to be done in certain ways.

For anyone who questions why they should have a professional blog... This is why!!!