Saturday, January 9, 2021

Summer Learning Journey partners with Nanogirl

 The Manaiakalani Summer Learning Journey, covering the summer holidays of 2020-2021, was launched on December 14th with a full six week long programme of activities, including Christmas Day and New Year's Day. This has been designed to support the young people in Manaiakalani schools over the long break, where traditionally learners who are not exposed to stimulating opportunities experience the Summer Slide ie go backwards academically.

The theme for the current SLJ is 'Celebrating Summer' - something we were all desperate to do after the events of 2020. The activities are designed to be fun, as well as providing opportunities for learning along the way.

This year the design team chose to use a blog format for the activities, rather than the website approach used in previous years. This enabled us to design fun activities in strands, with a focus on STEAM, and to schedule new activities to appear throughout the day. This 'drip-feeding' is particularly engaging for young people with time on their hands and not a lot else planned for their day.

We were very fortunate to have Dr Michelle Dickinson – a.k.a. Nanogirl- and her team offer to partner with us and enrich the Science strand of the SLJ. Nanogirl designed science activities for our learners that kept in mind the limits of available resources on hand for children in our community. These have been enormously popular.

The activities created can be viewed here. 

Examples of the responses posted by children who engaged with the science activities can be viewed here and here and here.

We were delighted to see an article appear on the Stuff website on January 7th reporting the contribution Nanogirl and team are making to celebrating science and making it accessible to all young people.

The full article as it appeared on Stuff follows:

Dr Michelle Dickinson – or Nanogirl, as she’s perhaps better known – is a pro at getting children excited about science on a shoestring budget.

But when she launched Nanogirl's Lab during lockdown, beaming experiments into children’s homes, she realised that some of them didn’t even have string.

Or paper, or tape, or scissors.

Five hundred students from 12 schools across Tāmaki, Glen Innes and Panmure are spending their summer holidays taking part in a Nanogirl programme, doing a new experiment each week at home.

Knowing that many of them might struggle to access basic tools at home, Dickinson helped pack hundreds of boxes of stationery to make sure a lack of resources didn’t stop anyone taking part.

The programme is an expansion of a 50-student pilot run earlier in the year, which gave Dickinson insight into some barriers to STEM for kids in low socio-economic areas.

Eleven-year-old Finau Fileta from Auckland’s Pt England school is one of the students who took part.

She said she liked it because all the experiments used objects she already had at home, like kitchen roll tubes, serving spoons and bowls.

“You didn’t have to buy expensive stuff.”

She said she felt more confident with science after doing lots of experiments at home.

Check out some of Finau's blogposts sharing her science experiments here 

Manaiakalani, the cluster of schools involved in the programme, already have digital access sorted, so the students upload photos and videos of their experiments to their school blogs.

One student’s reluctance to blog during the pilot made Dickinson consider the messaging for the summer programme.

He didn’t want to post his video for an experiment about weight because he had used cans of spaghetti, and he was embarrassed about people seeing what he ate at home.

So the summer programme features a video at the beginning about how everything in your house is useful, “and it’s great that you’re resourceful”, Dickinson said.

Nanogirl is a social enterprise, and the summer programme for low-decile kids is funded through a ‘buy one, give one’ model. But that doesn’t mean it's the same as the subscriptions available off the shelf.

“We never do things that are generic for high-risk groups – it’s always customised.”

A lot of the time when they’re working with low-decile students, that means going offline because families don’t have internet access.

Not having scissors at home is one challenge, but the biggest barrier to kids getting into science is that they’ve made up their mind by about age 12 – and at the same time, primary school teachers are saying they feel ill-equipped to teach science.

There’s also a lot of intergenerational fear around maths and science, she said – when a parent tells their child they were bad at maths and hated it, it gives the child permission to not try.

To tackle that attitude, they include parent cheat sheets with every programme, so parents know what to ask their kids and can answer their questions.

It’s the feedback Dickinson gets from kids that makes it worthwhile, she said. “It's enough to make you cry.

“The kids come to us and say I never thought I could – but now I realise I can.” 




Tuesday, December 1, 2020

MIT-2020: Rising to the Challenge of Design Thinking

 The 2020 cohort of Manaiakalani Innovative Teachers (MIT-2020) rose to the challenge of collaborating with colleagues from around the country in the year of COVID disruption and lockdowns and produced exceptional outcomes through a design thinking process.

To explore their final presentations, delivered to the principals from the Manaiakalani Network at the annual wananga in October, use the links attached to the names of the eight teachers below. Most of the presentations were updated in December after final academic data had been collated.

Alethea Dejong

Learning through Listening

Sarah Daly

Accelerating Reading

Comprehension Through


Kerianna Stirling

 Ka rere te Reo

Kiriwai Tapuke

Transition from Primary

to Secondary School

Angela Seyb

Algebra as a key pathway

to senior maths 

Tanya Mundy

Creating Writers

Jo Gormly

Engaging whanau in


Sonali Carter

Supporting teachers

implement  ENGAGE

We did not know how important our first hui of the year was going to be as we all travelled to a small seaside spot in the Coromandel to pitch tents and spend a few days getting to know each other and embarking on a design thinking journey. With plenty of time for recreation and reflection, we formed friendships and collegial relationships and began to wrestle with the 'wicked problems' each teacher had brought to the group.

Group members went back to our own regions enthused and committed to making an impact on the learners, whānau and colleagues we would be working with in 2020.  We were due to regather in March in Auckland for the next step in the journey.  This was not to be as COVID-19 disrupted all our plans and we quickly moved to an online environment to continue supporting each other.

This also meant that for most people the design and focus of the project they were planning needed an overhaul, and everyone was up for that.

We were delighted to be able to come together at the end of the year and present the projects and tools that had been designed to the principals of the Manaiakalani and Outreach schools at the annual wananga. About 150 people were in attendance and feedback from the audience included gratitude for the resources that had been gifted to them and admiration for the resilience and expertise demonstrated by this group of teachers.

Feel free to use and onshare any of the resources created by the MIT-2020 team, with acknowledgement.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

NEXT: A seamless switch to home learning

The Next Foundation has been a generous supporter of the Manaiakalani Programme for a number of years and this month produced a publication that included positive stories to emerge from our schools, ‘Rising to the Challenge, Stories from the Covid-19 Crisis’.

Term two has been a crash course in home learning for many New Zealand students and parents – but a group of schools from some of our most challenged communities have made the switch with ease

“The digital world is the world of our young people, but the key component is not a device, it is a teacher who knows how to teach and knows how to make connections with children and young people,” says Burt. 


“The kids are enjoying home learning. We are getting surprising numbers of children turning up to class with over 50% joining the video chats, even during the school holidays. And the cool thing we are discovering is that a lot of whānau are listening in too.” 

Supporting their children’s learning through the lockdown illustrates the high degree of engagement in the programme from Manaiakalani families. 

Read more on the Next Foundation website

Monday, March 16, 2020

Limit the Links

Kia iti ngā kuputoro

The Manaiakalani Programme response to Distance Learning

February in Aotearoa, NZ has seen us enjoying a beautiful Summer and although we were back to school the warm evenings and sunny weekends have been outstanding.
The news coming from overseas about the spread of COVID-19 has felt distanced from our experience, although it was impacting international students arriving to study at our universities and higher decile schools. Despite stories of ill travellers on cruise ships and NZ citizens being flown home from Wuhan on a special flight to quarantine in a military facility occupying our media, this felt like another northern hemisphere epidemic  that would have little impact on our lives in NZ, unless we were travelling to China, then Italy, then...

We had a case in NZ on Feb 28th, and the last couple of weeks have seen more cases of COVID-19 being identified with eight by this weekend.  At the same time we have seen parents overseas start to keep their children home from school and teachers talking about distance learning, home learning and blended learning. We have seen teachers overseas rising to this new challenge and teachers at a loss as they wonder how to cope.

It is looking highly likely that New Zealand will be impacted by this and our schools could be asked to supply socially distanced learning for our young people, and it would be wise to plan for this while we still have children attending schools and we have the opportunity to plan and prepare for this.

Over the weekend we worked on a document that schools implementing the Manaiakalani Programme could use as a guide and a support. These Manaiakalani schools around the country are well placed to move seamlessly into learning from home because we have established systems for our parents to buy a device for their child and we have a pedagogy that has been proven in a wide range of contexts.  But most importantly we have teachers with effective practice, who know their learners and their whanau, and have been leading learning using a digital learning environment for years.

In this time of uncertainty we want to empower teachers to back themselves and continue to design learning experiences that they know will be effective for their young people.  To neither be distracted nor confused by the offers that have begun flooding in from commercial companies offering their products and services. To take stock and plan for the eventuality we could end up in a similar scenario as schools in the Northern Hemisphere.

We called the document " Limit the Links" and sent it out to all our principals on Monday morning, with the suggestion that they share it with their staff and call upon our facilitation team to help them unpack it.

The biggest challenge if our young people find themselves learning from home is 'where do I find my work?"  "Where do I access my learning?"  So we have suggested principals make sure their school website is set up to be a direct portal that students can use to locate their learning - if it is not already.  Anyone can locate their school website through a simple Google search, so no one needs to remember a URL for this at all.

Our teachers lead learning via a class or subject site, so once the young person has landed on this from the school website, they should be good to go. No passwords to remember, a clear pathway to accessing learning online.

The missing ingredient here is the important link connecting our children and their teachers in real time. We emphasised that using the tool we already have as part of our Google Apps domain, Google Hangouts Meet, would have an important role to play as we focus on learner wellbeing. on making and maintaining connections with students and their families.  And of course invaluable as a teaching tool.

The final link we emphasised in the document was one we use to support our young people connecting with each other, sharing their learning with their peers, their teachers, families and friends.  This is their individual blog.

We believe that this will be enough- hence, Limit the Links.  Back yourself as a teacher, as a professional. Use the tried and tested technology teachers and learners are familiar with and together we will make this work!

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Hāpara: World Class

In 2010, when we piloted the idea of every child in the class having their own netbook and their own Google account, we did not factor in how much more content these engaged and enthusiastic young people would generate! Early estimates were that they were completing three times as much work.

There were two immediate consequences:

The teachers' Google Drives were flooded with documents, and they struggled to locate their own content, let alone sort out the students'.

Too much valuable teaching time was being spent on checking up on basic functions, "Have you shared your Doc with me?" "Do you know where you saved that Doc?"  "Do you remember what you called that Doc?"

Sharing this with a new friend who lived in our part of town, over dinner and red wine at La Vista, we discovered that Jan Zawadski was not only very clever with tech but was also a design thinking genius.  Some jottings and diagrams on a paper napkin (why did we never photograph that artefact?) led to many sessions gathered around whiteboards with groups of teachers and friends of Manaiakalani. And one momentous day Jan delivered a working model of the solution to our challenge - Teacher Dashboard.

Fortunately, I did have my phone handy when Teacher Dashboard went live in Toni Nua's year 7/8 classroom. You can see the record of that moment in the video.

Fast forward a decade, and in December 2019 representatives of the Global company Hāpara, operating in 64+ countries around the world, rocked up to honour us with a recognition for the part we played in the birth and development of Hāpara Teacher Dashboard.

I am deeply honoured to be designated a "Hapara World Class Educator" along with Russell Burt and Lenva Shearing.

Making Learning Visible

This is what spins my wheels :)