My name is Kerri Thompson and I am a Year 7 teacher at Tamatea Intermediate in Napier.

#NZreadaloud is a connected literacy initiative modelled on The Global Read Aloud (GRA). The purpose is to focus on New Zealand authors writing New Zealand stories with a mission of “One book to connect Kiwi kids”.

Having involved myself in the GRA  in Term 4 of 2014, I was left with a sense that this is where the future of literacy lies. Flattening the walls of my classroom and connecting with teachers and kids around the world was an exciting and new way to have my learners share and build understanding with others about a story. As Pernille Ripp writes, “ the future of literacy “ will centre around these 5 themes:

  • (Global) collaboration
  • Meaningful integration of technology
  • Student voice and choice
  • Authentic purpose and audience
  • Personalising learning for the kids in front of us

What initially began in 2014 as an inquiry into how I could use a read aloud to demonstrate and model reading comprehension strategies in a more authentic way and at the same time engage my more reluctant readers, has evolved into something quite powerful.

I am excited to have an opportunity through Grass Roots Ideas to carry out some research into the impact of #NZreadaloud. I will be gathering evidence of the ways #NZreadaloud is empowering learners, engaging them in learner led inquiry, providing a scaffold for how we get meaning from text, and creating collaborative environments where students can learn from each other. In addition to this, #NZreadaloud is about connectedness. Educators have opportunities to flatten the walls of their classrooms and have their learners build and share understanding of a story with others and in doing this, practice their digital citizenship.

Empowering and Connecting

At the Lower Mataura Valley Community of Learning we are looking at connecting together our students from across our schools through a shared digital platform.  We have five schools, four primary and one College.  Our schools are rural or semi rural.  Being separated by distance is now not a barrier through digital technology and we want to use that technology to connect across our schools.

The first phase of this is to empower our teachers as to the possibilities and ways they can go about digitalising their classrooms.  Once that is secured we can then begin connecting our students.

It is an exciting initiative for us and we are looking forward to the new learning that we all will take on board.

Strengthening learning partnerships with whanau via digital learning journals

We are interested in how Seesaw, a ‘student driven digital portfolio’, can help increase whanau engagement and give our Year 1-3 students at Park Estate School an authentic audience for their learning.

Seesaw is a digital tool students, teachers and whanau can use to document and share learning, talk about learning and identify the next steps in learning.

A priority for our school is strengthening connections with whanau to support acceleration of our students’ learning.  By sharing learning via Seesaw we hope to further engage parents, students and teachers in learning conversations. By being actively involved in their child’s digital learning journal, parents can gain understanding and ‘real-time knowledge’ of where their child is at and what the next steps are in their learning journey.



OneNote Learning Tools supporting our writers – Georgina Howell Opaheke Primary School

My project is designed to support all the writers in my Year 4 class. The students can use the learning tools in a variety of ways to support their writing. The Learning Tools has an immersive reader will be used so the children can listen to their own writing to hear the audio cues about transitions from subordinate to main clauses, these are not apparent in a written text. I will also be working on the use of the dictate tool to see if this can support those students who have the ideas but struggle to record their ideas for various reasons.

At the start of the project, students will complete an e-asTTle writing test administered by one of the Senior Leadership Team to gain the baseline data for the project.

If our trial is successful, there will be a correlation with the use of the learning tools and improvement in writing results from the students in the classroom.

A 3D printer in a primary school??

We are very fortunate to have an entry level 3D printer. We will be undertaking a project into ‘how can we use a 3D printer in a primary school to raise student achievement and engage students in digital technologies’. This will be an exciting journey as the teachers involved have never used a 3D printer so getting it out of the box will be our first task! We will be investigating how we can use this tool at all levels of our primary school and how it can be achievable for any teacher / group of children to use.

Robotics, Coding and Maker Space Leading us Toward Genius Hour

Kia ora! Talofa! Welcome to my learning journey! My name is Vicki Hagenaars and I facilitate learning within the Year 7 and 8 class at Waiouru School.

Waiouru School’s Senior team are inquiring into how we can maintain or enhance the accelerated learning taking place as a result of a very successful inquiry in the Junior School as the target group move through the school over the next three or four years.

I am wanting to implement two of the great ideas to encourage student agency and enterprise that I have learned about during my time as a facilitator for CORE Education now that I have moved back into a teaching role.

The first of the main ideas involved is the use of Maker Spaces, including coding, to encourage inquiry learning, problem solving, knowledge building, and innovative thinking among my students.  As the students have already undertaken woodwork, fabric and food technology as part of their learning this year I am looking to focus more on coding, robotics, electronics, polymorph, virtual reality and animation.

Another teacher is trialling the ideas associated with the ‘Grandad’s Shed’ version of Maker Spaces with her class.  Combining our findings over the next 18 months will help us to see whether the opportunity to design, make, redesign and recreate within these environments will encourage the continued improvements in learning across the same target group.

The second is Genius Hour. This is an education adaptation of the Google policy allowing their employees 20% of their work time to follow and develop the ideas and projects they are passionate about. In the long run this will involve the students using digital technologies in a variety of ways from research to coding to connecting with students or experts from around the world.  However, at the moment we are in a situation where the students do not know what they do not know.  Time this term spent learning new skills and working with some new tools will give the students a wider range of possibilities when it comes to choosing possible projects next year.  Over time the classes will probably be combined so that the Grandpa’s Shed Maker Space and the Digital Maker Space will be open to whichever students prefer to follow those particular project forms.

As a school already using Google Apps for Education the students will be encouraged to blog about their learning, including videos, photographs and other evidence of their journey into the learning pit and their climb out the other side.

Alongside this I am hoping to build a solid working relationship with whānau members and the wider community in order to encourage the students learning in areas that step outside traditional academic curriculum areas as their projects finally take flight next year.  There is a wide range of skills to be tapped into within this group of adults which will, in turn, help the students see the wider impact of their ideas and projects for their community or within other communities.

I am in the process of researching these ideas, as well as gathering the tools needed to implement them and aiming to develop them as a platform for my class to learn through the genuine application of the principles, values and key competencies contained within the NZC.  It will drive the learning they undertake to come from their own agency – experiencing failures as a positive step in their learning journey and developing their problem solving abilities, perseverance and resilience.  All of these traits are among the most common ones I hear teachers say our young people are lacking.

This inquiry will equally develop my own problem solving abilities as I have enough knowledge and learning to introduce the students to these new ideas but not enough to be regarded as an expert by any means.  Having my students see me uncomfortable in the learning pit with them, failing as part of the process and trying over and over again to implement new learning will place me on the same path of knowledge building that they themselves are on.  I look forward to this inquiry as, effectively, we will all be learning together.

The reflections as we move along the Digital Maker Space path this year, including the scraped knees and triumphs, will be shared through my blog – E-Learning Best Practice Discoveries.  Join me on the journey I am on this term and learn alongside me.


The Lab

Our goal is to create a Makerspace at Mt Roskill Primary called The Lab.

“Makerspace is a general term for a place where people get together to make things. Makerspaces, might focus on electronics, robotics, woodworking, sewing, laser cutting, programming or some combination of these skills.” RoSlund and Rodgers, 2013.

Our inquiry will focus on how a Makerspace in the school setting can support increased motivation, engagement and achievement of students at risk of not meeting their potential.

The Lab will be accessed by the whole school but the initial intention is to create a Maker group of at risk students and use a project based learning approach in a withdrawal program.  We will apply the the TMI – Think, Make, and Improve design model (Martinez & Stager, 2013) as a framework for the projects occurring within the Makerspace.

Provision of the appropriate resources will allow the projects to include-

  • Film and production.
  • Robotics and electronics.
  • Modelling and 3D printing.

The vision is for the Makerspace to become a source of ongoing and often self directed learning and exploration. Once set up it would also be a forum for other school groups, for example coding and robotics clubs.

Using the GrassRoots Funding we are able to have a teacher work one day a week taking groups and managing this space. For the rest of the week the space is able to be available to be used by classes.

The space will have thee capacity to offer tools for digital imaging, coding, electronics, 3D printing and robotics. 

Our school is a decile three school that caters for a diverse range of learners including many with special needs. Many of our children do not have exposure to the technology that prepare them for future career opportunities and this Makerspace will be one way to address this. In addition for some students an innovative teaching approach is needed to engage them in school.

The benefits of this include but are not limited to-

  • Develop 21st century learning skills
  • Promote STEM
  • Provide collaborative learning opportunities
  • Provide real world, practical learning opportunities
  • Provide multidisciplinary learning experiences
  • Create links with our other campus schools and community
  • Provide an alternative pathway for achievement and success in school
  • Be a leader in this field with respect to the other schools in our CoL

Podcasts – encouraging autonomy, engagement, and technological literacy.

Research suggests that students thrive when they have autonomy over their learning. My idea aims to increase student autonomy by allowing students’ choice over what and when they study, through the use of podcasts. The content that would be traditionally communicated to the students on the teacher’s terms would be pre-recorded and available to the students all at the same time. Recommended activities and suggested content would allow the students to develop their understanding and be able to learn what they what, when they want (either at home, during class, or elsewhere).

The teacher would need to be available to provide feedback and guidance during scheduled class times. The guidance in class would need to be targeted via either scheduled mentoring times for each student or some other mechanism. Furthermore, a means of tracking which podcasts are viewed would be needed to ensure students have the background knowledge required before they are assessed.

For an example of this in action, take the English classroom. In the instance of novel study, the teacher could upload various podcasts on theme, techniques, background, character, setting, as well as more in-depth specific podcasts relevant to New Zealand, the world, or a teacher’s specific interest. The students would listen to the podcasts on their own terms, and, when in scheduled meeting times, discuss what they have learnt and an individual pathway forward. This would allow student autonomy as well as differentiated learning.

Update – 22/11/2016

After trialing Podcasts in the classroom, here is snapshot of from my journal and student feedback:

 Week 3 / 4 – 18/08/2016

Today I trialed a podcast that I created on Audacity with my year 11 English class. Due to unforeseen circumstances, I was unable to book devices for the students to listen to the cast individually, so we listened to it as a class. The verbal and written feedback I received was mostly positive and the students provided me with some valuable feedback. I have summarised their feedback in the chart below:

Was the quality (sound) of the podcast sufficient? ·        Yes

·        Clear, and easy to hear

·        Mostly. A little muffled but you could understand what you were


·        Sufficient, could have been better

·        Nice and loud

What could have been better? ·        Short breaks if we are expected to takes notes

·        Stuttering was distracting

·        No music, or a bit quieter

·        Talk a bit slower

·        No background music when talking

·        Summarise everything that has been said at the end

·        Words on screen/no background noise

·        The quality of the audio

·        No music in the background


Was the content at the right level/helpful? ·        Yes

·        Good level of info, could talk more in depth

·        Yes, good information

·        Could expand on points and emphasise the important details

·        Good notes and examples

·        More historical facts would have been nice

·        Summarise into shorter sentences

·        Detailed and helpful

Any other comments? ·        Overall, very good. Maybe no music whilst you are talking

·        Repeat main information. Talk slower. More breaks

·        More simple sentences

·        I enjoyed the music in the background

·        Words on screen. No background noise

·        I think listening to the podcast on our own devices would be better with earphones so we can stop and write notes down at our own pace

·        Insert the music later, not record it

·        No lyrics in the music, keep low volume. Don’t speak so closely into the mic.

·        Key points

Evaluation of feedback:

  • Some of the feedback is contradictory
  • Some of the feedback pertains to the circumstances out of my control (you should speak slower if we are to take notes). The vision is that the students will listen to this by themselves so that they can pause when they want to. Therefore this issue will resolve itself.
  • Some feedback that I will take on board.

What to trail as a result of feedback:

  • Trial music in the background that is quieter and has no lyrics.
  • Talk slower and have lengthier pauses.
  • Start with short sentences that state what the podcast will discuss.
  • Summarise key information


I trailed another podcast this week with the same class. Contrary to what my plan states, I used the same software as my previous podcast but tried to implement some of the feedback that my students had given me. They were:

  • Talk slower
  • No music in the background
  • Summarise key information

The students feedback is below.

Was the podcast better or worse than the previous one? ·        Good

·        Better

·        Worse

Why do you think that? ·        No background music

·        Less information to remember and compress

·        Easier to understand

·        You (DA) developed what you said more

·        Summary at the end

·        Not as clear

·        More examples

What worked well? ·        Helpful information

·        Mr. writing on the board

·        Time to listen to the music

What could be improved? ·        Give time to take notes

·        The amount of time to write (not enough)

·        Labels for sections of notes

·        Go slower

·        Sound quality of the music

Evaluation of feedback:

  • Some of the feedback is contradictory
  • Some of the feedback pertains to the circumstances out of my control (you should speak slower if we are to take notes). The vision is that the students will listen to this by themselves so that they can pause when they want to. Therefore this issue will resolve itself.

The next steps would be to:

  • Trial individually
  • Trail fixing the sound quality (perhaps with a different software)

It is becoming clear that podcasts could be used in a variety of ways. One could, as I have done most recently, play the podcast and write key notes on the board. However, I think it may be beneficial to change the way they view the podcasts. For example, teach them some shorthand for taking notes and facilitate conversations that encourage discussion of the material.

Closing thoughts:

  • One could trial different uses of podcasts. For example, as an occasional tool to maintain interest (in various forms), or as a complete rearrangement of the structure of the class (my original inquiry).

Google Classroom efficient, easy to use, —but how effective is it—all the e’s however, in the end, it is engagement.

Used Google Classroom for two years as a foundation for face to face, online and independent learning in Mathematics Year 10, Level 1, Level 2 Calculus and I have extended into the Pastoral field

While we have found it to be an excellent tool for engagement, learning, and achievement, we need to have the evidence and data to support this.  Google Classroom has led to efficiency: it is the effectiveness that we want to work out.
Interestingly , we also now have the challenge to engage our parents and community via Google Classroom.  This is not directly available at the present time and there is a need to make Google aware and to provide feedback and solutions.
With parents able to access Google Classroom,  we see the positive benefits for them, students and teachers alike.
We are learning and adapting Google Classroom as shown by this link as being one of the many helpful resources. As stated it is the foundation that we use other Apps whether they be iOS, Android or other.

Building Parent & Whanau Engagement with the app Class Story

otonga grassroots image

Visit our Website

We are two teachers (Sonja Hoogenboom & Shaun Wood) from Otonga School, in Rotorua New Zealand.

The focus of our project is parent engagement in student learning. We are targeting three areas of parent engagement (engagement in the school, engagement in the classroom of their child/ren, and parent engagement in their child’s learning).

Our Inquiry mostly will focus on the use of the app Class Dojo to connect with parents and whanau. We will focus specifically on the use of Class Story (a quick and easy to use and access page), where ‘snack bite’ posts with or without pictures are sent instantly to invited members. We will also investigate the use of another Class Dojo feature; Messaging, to send notices, general information and individualised information whenever necessary. By providing links in our posts and messages, to our Class Blogger pages, we also hope to increase engagement in these sites too.