24th June 2022 will be the first official Matariki holiday in Aotearoa, New Zealand. Last year the government agreed to have a Public Holiday to mark Matariki. This is a very significant step as it… More
How bi-cultural is your school?
I am currently learning. What’s new? I am currently deepening my understanding about culturally responsive practice and what it looks like. This blogpost is my response to Janelle’s Blogpost – “I don’t see colour, I treat everyone the same”.
When we first arrived in Aotearoa New Zealand we needed to find schools for our boys aged 8 & 12. Before we left the UK we searched online for prospective secondary schools and did a bit of research about the education system. We learned that schools were zoned which meant that we needed to live in the right area to get into a school. My husband had secured a job at the University of Waikato so we looked at which schools were in the immediate area thinking that that was where we would live. There were three schools; one was a Catholic Boys school, one was an all boys school and the other was a mixed school. We talked to our son who was already at a mixed comprehensive school in the UK to see what he would prefer. He said he would prefer the mixed school so we called them to see to find out more. The lady who answered the phone had a very familiar accent. She was warm, friendly, very informative and it turned out that she came from West Yorkshire just down the road from my home town of Leeds. We immediately felt a connection.
When we arrived in New Zealand, we went to enrol him at the school and met the lovely lady from West Yorkshire (we have since become friends!) Having someone there with whom we connected made all the difference in making us feel confident and comfortable that this was the right choice for us and our son. Well, to be honest, by the time we’d arrived it was the only choice as we weren’t in zone for any other school except the Catholic one and since we aren’t Catholic that wasn’t an option. So it was heartening to have some sense of familiarity.
So, to our wee son. There were several primary schools in the rohe. We looked at their websites which, to be honest, didn’t tell us much 11 years ago. We measured how far they were away and whether we (our son) could easily walk or cycle there from our rental home. Then we arranged to visit. The closest to home seemed like the favourite on the face of it. Five minutes walk, round the corner from our other son’s secondary school so they could walk together, relatively small so he wouldn’t get lost as he got to know the place and the people.
No connection. The office lady met us and made no effort to talk to our son. She talked over the top of him at us. We didn’t get to meet any teachers and she suggested that our son would have to go back a half year so that they could work out where he really fitted in terms of his academic level. Being a teacher I had done my homework so I knew which year he should be starting in although I would have been happy to discuss with a teacher to ensure that he was best placed.
On we went to the next school. We walked in. The first person the receptionist spoke to was our son. She asked him his name, how old he was, when his birthday was, what he liked doing, where he came from. Shyly he gave his answers. As soon as he said when his birthday was she said what class he would be in and talked about other children in the class who would help him settle in. Then she turned to us and invited us to meet the DP.
It was a no brainer. We never even went to the 3rd school.
In retrospect, we didn’t see any evidence that we were arriving in a bi-cultural country in those schools. There may have been a few Māori words around and some artwork but nothing that shouted out to us “Aotearoa, NewZealand – Bi-cultural country with 3 official languages and a Māori history and tikanga.”
I guess what I’m saying is that as a newcomer to the country having a welcome and friendly face who connected with us and our child made a huge difference at the start. (What happened next is another story!) So, when I think of any child and their whānau making that step into a new school, the relationships and the connections you make right at the start make all the difference. In Janelle’s post she asks “What would I hear, feel and see in your school that would send a message about how my child’s history, language and tikanga are going to be celebrated?”
As immigrants, we knew that we were coming into a ‘foreign’ country where we would see a different culture and history, though of course, it would be our language (or would it? That’s also another story!) But looking back now it didn’t feel different enough. Yes, my youngest came home telling us about songs he learned, and his first piece of artwork told the story of Māui and the Sun, and he talked about learning about the Treaty of Waitangi and having to make a class treaty. For my eldest at secondary school, there was no obvious evidence that we were living in a bi-cultural country.
And there should have been.
What is whakapapa?
For the Wananga course I am doing at the moment we have been asked to consider what whakapapa is. I found this resource useful; https://teara.govt.nz/en/whakapapa-genealogy/page-2
Whakapapa is what binds all things – animate and inanimate, known and unknown, terrestrial and spiritual. It is the line of descent from our beginning.
It is how we make our connections, recognise our identity, ground ourselves to a place and to people.
It is the core of our knowledge and that knowledge builds layer on layer through generations.
There are different ways of presenting your whakapapa. Here are just a couple.
This includes all the family tree – the marriages and connections across and between tribes as well as the direct line of descent.
One single line of descent with no reference to marriages and connections – this is the most commonly recited one.
The Wharenui is also a way of telling the whakapapa of an iwi or hapū – the oldest ancestor is on the tetoko – the carved figure at the top of the whare, and then spreading outwards and downwards where the most recent lines are traced. They show how people are linked together.
Creation Genealogies are like the stories that many cultures develop to try to understand where we all come from. Many are told in song or waiata;
Ko te Pu is a sung karakia or lament to acknowledge the creation of life.
Te Pu (root, origin).
Te More (tap root).
Te Weu (rootlets).
Te Aka (creeper, vine).
Te Rea (growth).
Te Wao-nui (great wood).
Te Kune (conception, form).
Te Whe (sound).
Te Kore (chaos, void).
Te Po (darkness, &c.).
Ki nga tangata maori na Rangi raua ko Papa
From this came the people through Rangi and Papa
Ko tēnei te timatanga o te Ao
From them came the birth of the world
Ko tēnei te timatanga o te Ao
From them came the birth of the world
It’s a creation story telling of the origins of life, the whakapapa of the world, our beginnings, so it is for all of us. It talks about coming from the darkness, the void in to the light as Rangi and Papa are pushed apart by Tane. About the growth of the world from the roots, to the shoots as they grow into trees and climb towards the sun, of the wind and the elements affecting nature and then coming back full circle as we descend back into the darkness where our souls leave us. In this way it also represents the circle of life. It talks of how we are kaitiakitanga of the world and everything that came before it, that it will still be there after we have gone and the need for us to look after it.
I was talking about this to a colleague and we pondered that it is a similar story to many cultures and religions. How the world came to be is a big mystery even now that we have scientific research to help explain it but way back when, we sought to answer the question by creating stories to explain the mystery of life. It isn’t surprising that many cultures came up with similar stories. But how does this story sit with us if we don’t believe in religion, in the myths and legends? How does the scientific ‘Big Bang Theory’ align?
We wondered if we could look at it this way?
The darkness or nothingness was the time before the big bang. Then from the explosion the molecules, cells, organisms found tenure in the earth and started to grow, they put down roots (physically for plant life, metaphorically for animal life), they grew and reproduced, took form and shape. Inevitably, they have a limited life span and so as they die they break down and go back to the earth, back into dark matter to nourish the ground so more life springs.
I have more questions about how we whakapapa back depending on our culture, nationality. I few years ago, I started working on my family tree. My Uncle had done some work on one from the maternal side of my family but there was nothing from my Dad’s side. It is complicated trying to unpack the lines through intermarriages, changes of names and movement between cities and countries. I had some information from Mum and Dad about immediate ancestors – grandparents and great-grandparents but nothing that went back any further. I dug through census records, Births, Deaths and Marriages, and connected with my cousin who had also started looking into our family tree.
It’s interesting that in our pākeha, white European world we don’t seem to develop a need to know about where we come from until we are older. That may be too late – the knowledge disappears. My parents were older when they had me, my grandparents all died when I was very young, my Mum died when I was 20 and my Dad didn’t know very much about his extended family as he had been a ‘late’ baby in his family and most of his older relatives had died when he was young. My sons are not that interested in where they come from – their grandparents all died before they were in their teens so they didn’t really have a deep connection with them. Many of our connections have been lost. I remember some stories from my Grandma but I am sure they have become confused in my mind. Now that I have come to Aotearoa where whakapapa is so important in te Ao Māori, I can see that knowing where you have come from has a profound effect on well-being and identity.
And it’s not just about the people we connect to but the places as well. In a world where we have travelled, where families have moved to other places to get employment, to seek out new places and cultures, where do we call our ancestral home? As I have developed my pepeha and given thought about which places I connect to it has made me consider this. Do I connect to a maunga or an awa that has special meaning to me personally, to my birthplace, or do I go right back to the furthest back ancestors that I have in a direct line from my Mum and my Dad and use those even though I don’t have any direct connection with them or have any stories connected to them?
A question was asked in our wananga class – how long does someone’s family need to be in a country before they can claim they are tangata whenua? If a 4th generation kiwi has only ever known Aotearoa, New Zealand, if their great great great grandparents came to New Zealand in the late 1700s and settled in Whaingaroa, can they claim that Karioi is their maunga and the Wainui is their awa? Do Māori pepeha back to Hawaiki or to the place they settled when they arrived in Aotearoa? If my pepeha is a story – and I don’t know if it is or not – of where I come from and the journey I have been on to get where I am now, then how do I tell that story to include all the places my family have called home? I can go back as far as the 1500s on my Mum’s side and the late 1700s on my Dad’s but clearly my genealogy goes back further than that. So, going back to where we pepeha to, if I were a 4th generation pakeha kiwi and I only know my genealogy as far back as my great-great grandparent who settled in NZ in the 1800s, then can I use Karioi and Wainui as my places?
I raised this in one of our facilitator hui and also in discussions in schools; it was interesting to hear the range of views. Some who felt that if those people felt a strong connection to the place they were born and grew up then it was ok to use it in their pepeha, others who were absolutely adamant that pakehā shouldn’t recite a pepeha at all because it is part of Māori culture and it is not their own. To use a pepeha is to compound colonisation and the appropriation of a culture.
Update to this post: In 2020 Reverend Canon Chris Huriwai tweeted about pepeha;
These non-Maori academics throwing around pepeha is getting really old. I don’t care how “connected” you feel to mountains and rivers, to claim these as your own not only cancels the local whanau, hapu & iwi, but also claims a relationship to me that you do not have. Don’t do it.
– Rev Chris Huriwai, Twitter June 29 2020
This podcast from eTangata is a response to that tweet.
This article in eTangata followed quickly on its heels.
They both raise some interesting thoughts and questions….
Digging in to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
This post seeks to answer some questions from the learning I am doing through Tātai Pūmanawa. I will always have the voice of my friend and colleague Maria Tibble in my mind as I consider Te Tiriti o Waitangi and what it means to me, the people with whom I work and the way that I interact and live my life in Aotearoa, New Zealand. I can feel her looking over my shoulder, I can picture her smile and hear her voice. Her passion was infectious. So, I will try to honour her as I grapple with the questions and my jumbled thoughts.
Who would hold power after the Treaty was signed?
It seems clear from the articles of Te Tiriti that power would be shared equally; Kāwanatanga, Rangatiratanga, Ōritetanga but if we look at the history of colonisation by Britain, it is clear that the aim was to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories. The aim may have been initially to open trade opportunities but Britain also sought to benefit from the countries it colonised. The underlying sense of superiority that the British had contributed massively to the way that Māori and other indigenous populations in Australia and Canada were treated. The Church which had a powerful presence in Europe, it was at the cutting edge of colonisation across the world and it contributed and legitimised the actions of colonising powers. In “Healing our History” (Consedine & Consedine p.68) there is a quote from a J.M. Blunt; “A missionary might have great love and respect for the people among he or she worked, but would not be expected to believe that the culture and mind of those non-Christians was on a par to that of Christian Europeans.” Whilst the negative impact of colonisation on indigenous populations had been recognised in Britain, and ideas were beginning to change about colonisation the need to protect trade and British economic interests was stronger.
With those mindsets, how could the idea of shared power ever become a reality?
Did the Treaty create new rights for Pākehā people? Did it create new rights for Māori people?
‘New rights’ or any rights? In theory, Te Tiriti formalised or set out a framework for governance and the way that Māori and Pākeha lived together with shared rights and responsibilities. In theory all Māori men had the right to vote by 1867, in practice there were so many conditions that they couldn’t. As long as Māori were seen to be inferior in terms of their intellect, their ways of interacting, working, living, communicating, their beliefs then their rights would be compromised.
What important things does the Treaty say Māori will keep?
Rangatiratanga: Māori would maintain independence and control of lands and all that is important to them. My interpretation of that would be that Māori maintained their taonga – their language, culture, stories, tikanga, beliefs and the values upon which their way of life was based.
However, in 1907 New Zealand government passed the Suppression of Tohunga Act which banned Māori traditional healers and religion. This Act meant that Māori knowledge with respect to medicine, the environment, the arts and links between spirituality and secularity was disregarded and not recognised. It was not repealed until 1962. This sort of approach amounts to systematic cultural genocide. George Tinker, American historian suggests this as a definition for cultural genocide;
the effective destruction of a people by systematically destroying, eroding or undermining the integrity of the culture and system of values that defines a people and gives them life.
What impact did the population of Pākehā and Māori have before and after the Treaty was signed?
At the time of the signing of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Māori outnumbered Pākeha by 200,000 to 2,000. The Māori economy was strong, communities flourished, traded internationally and had a sophisticated socio-economic system. Following the signing of the Treaty immigration to Aotearoa, New Zealand boomed. The conditions that ensued, the way that Māori were treated and the impact of that on their way of life, their economic status, the diseases that were imported with the new settlers to which Māori were immune all led to a steady decline in the population.
Linda Tuhinui Smith says in respect to the promises that were not kept by the colonisers which were enshrined in Te Tiriti o Waitangi;
“Indigenous populations may have survived colonisation but the impact on their social, political and economic systems is huge.”
Is partnership the same as collaboration? Or consultation? What could Tiriti based partnership look like at CORE?
I believe that partnership means that we have a shared understanding of what our vision for the way our world should be and the way that we interact within it. When I think about my conversations with Maria I remember her fierceness and her absolute belief that her mokopuna should live in a world that recognised – not just recognised, celebrated, respected, revered and absolutely empowered them to know their whakapapa, to practise their beliefs, use and develop their language, to reach their potential and go beyond it. But she was also open to seeing things from different perspectives and acknowledging that the history of Aotearoa, New Zealand is a shared history. We shouldn’t blame the descendants of settlers for the wrongs their tipuna committed. We should encourage them to know the real history of Aotearoa, New Zealand, support them in understanding what happened and why and empower them to own the history. Vincent O’Malley says in the foreword of his book, The Great War for New Zealand, that the stories need to be told and heard if we are to reconcile ourselves with the past, we need to understand it and freely acknowledge it so we can move forwards.
The Waitangi Tribunal commented: “While only one side remembers the suffering of the past, dialogue will always be difficult. One side commences with anger and the other side has no idea why. Reconciliation cannot be achieved by this means.”
For us at CORE and indeed in all our kura and our nation as a whole, we can only work in true partnership if there is recognition, acknowledgement, empathy, understanding and forgiveness of what has happened in the past so we can learn from it and move into the future together.
Further questions I am still pondering;
If we are thinking about working in partnership with tangata whenua, ask yourself what you might know about tangata whenua. Does your own world intercept with the Māori world? If so, to what extent? What is Māori ‘worldview’? What is different about Māori culture to your own culture? If your culture was a ring, and te ao Māori was a ring (picture a venn diagram) how would the two worlds meet?
Notes on Creative Commons & Open Licensing
If we look carefully at the Values and Vision in the New Zealand Curriculum we see that inquiry & curiosity, equity, community, sustainability, integrity, respect – all fit perfectly into the values of the Open Movement – the idea of collaborating on projects, sharing resources, crowd-sourcing and drawing on the expertise of each other. The Key Competencies also fit well especially participating and contributing as students learn to be effective and positive citizens. The Vision – totally fits! So many parallels! Members of communities, making informed choices, effective users of communication tools…..
If we are really working to develop these values as students go through school then we have to include a fluency around referencing, acknowledging other people’s work, giving credit and showing gratitude as well as being generous with our own IP. It should be easy to marry up the principles, values and vision of the NZC and embed good practice and understanding around the Open Movement and Creative Commons.
Using information we find in different websites is OK as long as we acknowledge where we found it and credit opinions and ideas to the person who wrote them. It is important to check what restrictions an author/creator has put in their work. The information should be somewhere on the website. If it isn’t, don’t just assume that you can use it. If is says that you should seek permission to use the work, then that is what you should do.
Learning how to reference is another thing, but Google makes it easy. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about why we need to do it and examine the process. Give credit where credit is due, respect others and my additions – show gratitude!
“Respect and acknowledge the work’s creative heritage, as well as that of the creator, and always, always give attribution.”
Intention: critical creativity in the classroom Amy Burvall & Dan Ryder
YarnBombed bicycle by Anne Robertson CC-BY
Quotes provide short sharp commentary that you can talk to but are easy ‘take aways’ for participants. They are also a great way to link to research. But keep them short – choose the bit that really captures what you want to say. The referencing should be specific e.g. chapter/page so participants can find it easily later in context.
NZGOAL is guidance for agencies to follow when releasing copyright works and non-copyright material for re-use by others. It aims to standardise the licensing of government copyright works for re-use using Creative Commons licences and recommends statements for non-copyright material. NZ Health Research Strategy, 2017 – 2027. Action seven says that “The Government will ensure that… policies support open access to research findings.”
Current employment law means that the Intellectual Property on anything a teacher creates whilst in employment belongs to the employer i.e. the Board of Trustees. This means that our teachers, by sharing their work and by taking it with them when they leave a school, are technically going against the law. The reality is that we all share, we are encouraged to share, it is good for our profession, for our professional learning and for the school when teachers share resources. Adopting a Creative Commons Policy means that the BoT, as employer, says – we, the BoT still own the IP for works you create but we recognise the work that you put in, we appreciate it and we encourage you to continue sharing and creating, but if and when, you leave the school, you have to leave a copy of all you do with the school but please feel free to take anything you have created with you.
Adopting a Creative Commons Policy in your school – presentation for BoT & SLT
Adopting a Creative Commons Policy in your school – notes for NoT & SLT to go with presentation
Template Intellectual Property Policy for schools
Paula Eskett posed this question to us last year as part of a proposal for the CC Global conference.
|An observation as a relative newcomer to the CC and Open movement is that much time, energy and resourcing is put into backfilling people with the understandings and raison d’etre of the Open movement. What if instead, we used existing national education curriculum frameworks and embedded the principles, potential and possibilities of Open and Creative Commons into a student’s learning and thinking through that framework? My proposal is to look at New Zealand’s Curriculum Framework – NZC. Instead of backfilling adults, let’s start preloading our tamariki (children) and have their graduate profile (when they leave school) include; contributing, collaborating and creating and SHARING new information and resources as their business as usual.|
My observations in no particular order – in addition to my thoughts above, just as they came to me, are these…
The struggle often with teachers is that they have gathered bad habits around the use of media which is on the internet – the horse has metaphorically bolted as teachers have made use of photos, videos, music on the internet, overwhelmed by what is out there. There is also a lack of clarity around what they can use and what they can’t. It was quite clear cut with books, magazines and even videos to a certain extent. Most had a copyright notice in the front plate or on the package. The internet seems to be a place full of free stuff. And to be fair, the people that put stuff there didn’t necessarily think about the ramifications of intellectual property either. For many of our teenagers it may not be too late but it is hard to convince them that they can’t use everything out there and they should seek Open Resources or at the very least reference accurately. It is just too hard – especially when many of the images they get are from curation sites such as Pinterest, Scoopit which have no referencing protocols. I remember asking kids when I was teaching about where they get their images for presentations and their response was, “Well if people put it there, they must want us to use it, so why shouldn’t we?” It’s a hard observation to respond to when all they have known is a plethora of media out there for them to consume. How do we get them to become critical, considerate, grateful consumers of media? Even better, how do we encourage them and teach them the skills to be creators of media with a good understanding of their own rights as authors, artists, musicians, filmmakers?
Primary school kids are the target audience but teachers also need to have understanding if they are to teach good practice – how do we do that if we accept that backfilling is too hard?!
Teachers are used to using resources that they are allowed to use in an educational context e.g. films, music but which cannot be used in the public domain. Currently not many reference those resources and don’t model good practice. A good example came up on the Teacher Primary School Facebook last year – a discussion about showing videos at camp and at the end of the year for relaxation – the rules are quite clear about the use of films – they have to be for an educative purpose…so, if you can make filling in time or reward for hard work or entertainment at camp fit an educative purpose then, all good! They also can’t be shown in an environment where there are members of the public – a camp with parents could be argued to be a public place, with a public audience. I don’t think we need to be all moralistic about it but conversations need to be had.
Many teachers I have spoken too also don’t understand the concept of making their work freely available and are even opposed to giving away their work. Sites such as Teachers Pay Teachers encourage teachers to sell their work and buy other teachers’ resources. Understanding around intellectual property of resources created by a teacher whilst in full time employment is very poor. Just have a look at the threads on the Facebook Teachers’ Primary page!! (not sure how many times I have had to weigh in and explain again …) Lots of indignation about the work they have put in and how it should be theirs to do what they want with. The message is slowly getting out there that a CC Policy is the way to go – the last time the question was raised two or three other teachers mentioned it whereas a few months ago I was the only one!
Academics in universities also have limited understanding of Open Resources and are fearful that their work will be ‘stolen’ if it is not copyright. (My hubby’s input – he works in a Uni). There is also a perception that ‘free’ has less worth (!?)
Amy Burvall has this to say (see below) about creating, acknowledging those who have come before and ownership of creative works. They are all derivatives, we all use other people’s ideas to spark our own and we build on them. That’s why working collaboratively is so effective. But we should always acknowledge the other voices that contribute to our creative works.
Digital Story Telling: 5 x 5 videos
Whilst preparing for a workshop about digital storytelling, I came across this idea of video stories which I thought would be quick and easy to do. I was attracted the idea of short glimpses of life that together create a story.
The premise is simple; take short 5 second clips of your everyday life. Link them together without any editing and publish, no commentary.
Ha! Easier said than done! First of all I kept forgetting to record, and then when I did, the videos were too long. Never mind, I thought, I can trim them in the process of putting them together.
Next question was which video creation tool to use. I started with WeVideo as I have used that quite a lot already and know that it is reasonably easy. All seemed to be going well. I did add a title slide and a end credit slide, but other than cropping the too long videos to 5 -6 seconds, that was it. Until I processed the videos and got the final result.
The videos I had taken in portrait mode on my phone were tiny little rectangles on the screen. Unfortunately, that was most of them! In editing mode, the videos played fine and filled the screen albeit with the black background showing on each side. I edited, trying to fiddle with the size but whatever I did made no positive difference. I googled it, tried ‘help’, but the only information was that it was best to use landscape if possible.
I managed to make this one out of just the landscape videos:
I still wanted to use my portrait videos so decided to see how iMovie coped. I haven’t used iMovie before despite having a MacBook for 3 years! (I know, I know! but you get used to something…) So, it was little unfamiliar to me and took me a while to get my head around the interface. But 15 minutes later I had a video that was made up entirely of portrait videos and it worked!
Next frustration was uploading to YouTube. Several failed attempts before checking with Google – Is YouTube down? Err! Yes! 77 error reports in the last 5 minutes!
Anyway here is the iMovie. The story behind this one is that as part of Kingitanga Day celebrations at the University of Waikato, there was a Hikoi Rongoa to look at the native plants and how they are used for wellbeing, nourishment of the body and soul.
These videos are simple, no (or little) editing, no narrative, so I wonder how they might be used to stimulate further storytelling in the classroom. A prompt for children to interpret, to invent, to imagine the dialogue, the connections, the missing links?
As a stimulus to create their own videos and then to add a narrative, an interpretation.
I have still shots of the Hikoi Rongoa and a brochure with information about the plants that we examined. I want to explore the stories behind some of those plants and how they were used. How people worked out how they could use them and which ones were edible, which were not, which needed to be processed, which healed and which soothed. I plan to tell the story of our hikoi rongoa …..soon!
A thought or two about online learning communities
Just a thought about the impetus for joining an online community and then staying in it. I have joined some of the groups in Edspace, which is the online community recently created by CORE Education. I have also created a couple of groups. Why did I join them or create them? And why have I chosen the ones that I have?
If I am honest, the initial reason to join was to support one of my colleagues who was instrumental in the vision and creation of the space and her mahi. She is so passionate about it that I couldn’t help but want to jump in and have a look around and explore. It may also be that I felt a sense of duty or responsibility since this is ‘our’ space and as a CORE employee, I should support the product. But I didn’t have to and there are some people who haven’t engaged. Why is that?
Well, I think that partly it comes down to friendship and relationships. If we trust and respect people, we trust in their ideas and their passion that a place like EdSpace is a good place to be. I am a loyal employee, I have a good relationship with the company and I want to support it. Maybe if those relationships didn’t exist, I wouldn’t have been so quick to jump in? But that’s not to say that those who haven’t jumped in don’t have a respectful and trusting relationship either. So there has to be something else, right?
I have had a positive experience already in online communities. Communities in which I have been welcomed, where dialogue and discussion have been challenging but positive and warm, where I have become ‘friends’ with others who are also involved in them. Some of those virtual friends have become ‘real’ friends!
I am also always game for a challenge, happy to try things out, open to new spaces and ideas.
So perhaps the willingness to get involved is about disposition too, about personality and about prior experience. If someone has had a poor experience in one online community, they are likely to be less confident or willing about getting involved in another. If they are naturally reserved or risk-averse, they may not want to take the step.
Then I think about the times that I have had good experiences in online communities. What were the circumstances which prompted me to join? Mostly, because there was a clear purpose. When I first joined Twitter (which I know is not quite an online community like EdSpace, but it is a community, and it is accessed online!), I really didn’t engage. I joined because it was new and because a couple of other people I knew had joined, but for a couple of years, I really didn’t engage. I didn’t have a purpose, I didn’t know what to do or say. Then, I went to an education conference, I was on my own and although I was in the middle of masses of people, I didn’t know anyone. BOOM! there was my purpose – the twitter feed was displayed on the screen, people were sharing ideas, I needed to capture those ideas, it was a way of connecting to people and having a conversation about what was energising me and exciting me about the keynotes.
Curiously, I became engaged in an online community whilst I was in the middle of thousands of people! Weird, I know!
Another online community in which I engaged was in a MOOC. The first MOOC (and the best) that I was involved in, EDCMooc. The online discussions in that MOOC were brilliant. I communicated with people from all over the world, across time zones, on some amazing topics. We challenged each other, shared resources, peer-reviewed artifacts we created for the MOOC, questioned and celebrated.
So, purpose is key. The groups I have created in EdSpace have had mixed success. The first really was right at the start and I don’t think there was anyone really there to join it except CORE facilitators. I created it to try to get some discussions going about Guy Claxton and his theories on Education as I was working in a school who had adopted his ideas as a basis for their teaching and learning. It has flopped big style. Was that because, whilst I had a purpose for creating it, there was no purpose for anyone else to join it? Since nobody joined, I stopped going there. Nor did I really populate it with any taonga – there didn’t seem much point in putting effort into something that was empty!
The second group I have created is for a group of teachers with whom I am working. They are sole charge principals in 5 schools. We meet together roughly once a month face to face and have really robust discussions. I wanted a way to keep those ideas sparking in between face to face visits. So I broached the idea of an EdSpace group. They were a little nervous but were willing to give it a go. It is still in its infancy, but we are gaining traction. One of the teachers is more engaged than the others, so she and I are really keeping it going.
I use it a little like a ‘classroom’ space where I post pre-workshop thoughts for them to consider before our sessions together, and post-workshop reflection activities. We have also added resources and links to readings, videos, and articles pertaining to the topics we are exploring, but also for other things that come up out of left field as we discuss face to face.
To help them get involved, we have the first 10 minutes of our face to face sessions discussing any ideas that come up in the online discussions. That gives those who didn’t have time to get online in between, a chance to see what the others had said and maybe that will also engender a bit of FOMO too!
I can’t make them engage, I can only provide a space that is welcoming and interesting to be in. And of those in the space, there are a couple who either aren’t comfortable discussing online or who as yet are not comfortable with the technology, so they contribute less although they say that they read the others’ posts. They need to be supported because they do see the purpose of it. For them, it is being able to continue conversations that otherwise they wouldn’t be able to have as they all go away to different schools. My challenge now is to keep the interest going, encourage them to be proactive in the group rather than only reacting to my posts, get them to join other groups and see what others are doing in areas they are interested in.
After reading the introductory article The Spinoff Ātua I got to thinking about the online space and how that relates to the space on the marae ātea. If we can make it a space where we can:
- trade and spar ideas in a respectful, robust and passionate way
- acknowledge each other’s knowledge and experience
- meet as equals
- build partnerships based on mutual respect
- nurture our minds and our souls with new learning
educators will be encouraged to engage, to share their knowledge, to question, to wonder and to learn.
I have considered trying to get other schools I am working in online too. But they are in a different position to my Sole Charge Principals. They already have a space in which they can share ideas on a regular basis – a physical space – their staffrooms or workrooms in school. They don’t see the point yet of sharing and discussing their experiences and ideas more widely. I am sowing seeds. Helping them to see what the benefits might be. Encouraging those who are more open to join individually and find some groups to get involved in. But for the time being I am encouraging ideas sharing in other spaces as part of the mahi. Maybe they will get there.