Thursday, 7 September 2017

Bipolar Spectrum Disorder Comorbid with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Very few studies have investigated the characteristics of individuals with Bipolar Disorder (BD) comorbid with Autism Spectrum Disorders (Austism, Asperger's Syndrome, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder). Both conditions are independently associated with a high degree of morbidity; combined they represent some of the most challenging conditions faced by clinicians, educators and caregivers. Challenges exist not only in differentiating psychiatric symptoms from characteristics of the developmental disorder but also in the identification of effective strategies to help support students diagnosed with these conditions.

Bipolar disorder affects about 1% of children and is characterised by severe mood swings between mania and depression. Some of the symptoms, such as irritability and aggression, are also common in autism. While many large-scale research studies of bipolar disorder exclude ASD patients for methodological reasons, a study in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry suggests that as many as 30% of children diagnosed with BD may also have autism. Other studies have found that as many as 27% of those with autism also have symptoms of bipolar disorder. By contrast, its prevalence in the general population is around 4%.

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) are characterised by significant impairment in communication, and social interaction, and are associated with stereotyped, repetitive, and idiosyncratic behaviors, interests, and activities. Psychiatric comorbidity is often present, particularly disruptive behavior disorders and learning disorders.

Frazier et al highlights the difficulty involved in ascertaining the rate of comorbidity between AS and BD since the diagnosis of AS has been used rather indiscriminately, referring to a heterogeneous group, and the actual incidence of pediatric BD is probably underestimated until the definition of bipolarity in children is more fully agreed upon. Another challenge is that BD often begins in childhood or early adolescence with the clinical features of unipolar depression, acute psychosis, or comorbid disorder (e.g., ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), panic attack, or eating disorder), while manic symptoms appear later. As a consequence, the rate of bipolar diagnosis, can increase with the mean age of studied population. The current classification of mood disorders has poor reliability and validity. It has been suggested that the differential diagnosis between unipolar depression and BD should be based on the lifetime presence of four days of hypomania. Information on mild symptoms overlapping with manifestations of well-being is subject to recall bias, unreliable evaluation, misinterpretation, incoherence. Furthermore, the source of information (patient, relatives, social institutions) can suggest different conclusions. Notwithstanding such gray area, growing evidence suggests that PDD and BD frequently co-occur.

Interestingly, a family history of BD may influence the phenomenology of students with PDD. In students with autism spectrum disorder and a family history of BD, many features of childhood BD have been observed, including affective extremes, cyclicity, obsessive traits, neuro-vegetative disturbances, special abilities, and regression after initial normal development. On the other hand, students with autism spectrum disorder and without a family history of BD showed less florid agitation, fearfulness, and aggression, and were of lower functioning.

The American Psychiatric Association (2000) describe the Criteria for Manic Episodes as a distinct period of an abnormally and persistently elevated, expansive, or irritable mood, lasting at least one week. While depression can be quite obvious, it can be more challenging to recognise mania in a student with Autism.

Gary Heffner has identified what the Criteria for Manic Episodes may looks like in a student with a comorbid diagnosis of BP and ASD. During periods of mood disturbance, the following criteria may be present to a significant degree:

Inflated self-esteem or grandiosity 
When a student cannot talk or has a communication disorder, it may be hard to identify this symptom. Many children act like they are in charge of the world anyway. What you may see in a student with autism is a marked improvement in the child's usual mood. The student may seem overly happy, silly, or laugh inappropriately or even hysterically. A student who once feared certain situations may show no fear. The student may show irritability rather than a good mood. Behavior may become more aggressive than usual. Tantrums may increase dramatically. The student may act like the rules no longer apply to him or her. The student may act as if he or she has "super powers". The student may say he or she will report others to the principal or to the police, etc.

Decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep) 
Many children with autism have sleep issues to begin with so this may be a difficult symptom to track. What you may see in a student with autism is that the child may not sleep at all or their normal sleep times are decreased significantly. Alternatively, since sleep is usually a pleasurable activity, the student may sleep too much in the beginning of a manic cycle. Many children and adults with Bipolar Disorder have a "crash" after a manic phase and may not want to get out of bed at that time.

More talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking 
For students who have a communication disorder this symptom would not seem to apply. However, many children and adults with autism and Bipolar Disorder show an increase in their speech and vocalizations during a manic cycle. Many parents report the "good news" that their child is suddenly more verbal only to later report that the child is driving them crazy with the accompanying manic behavior. Children with autism may use more words, talk/vocalize faster than normal, be difficult to stop or interrupt, and/or may talk through the night.

Flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing 
The child's interest in activities may increase dramatically. The student will be restless, bombard you with "requests" for activities or other things, and will flit from one activity or thought to another. If the student is verbal he or she may be able to talk about their many conflicting thoughts and interests. Their speech may make no sense, may be a series of unrelated sentences or words, or may be songs or rhymes that have little relation to what is going on. They may be expressed as extreme hyperactivity.

Distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli) 
Attention is too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli. Many children with autism and ADHD have this symptom already. However, in a manic cycle the distractibility would be more than usual. May focus on unusual aspects of objects that are different from their usual interests.

Increase in goal-directed activity (socially, at work or school, or sexually) 
It may be impossible to redirect ritualistic behaviors. Once the student starts an activity he or she is almost impossible to stop. He/she may repeat activities over and over (with more intensity than usual). The student may masturbate or engage in other sexual activity to an extreme degree.

Excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences
Examples involve unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments in an adult context. As above, sexual activity/interest may be taken to the extreme. The child may sleep excessively, self stimulate excessively, eat excessively, toilet excessively, or engage in any other pleasurable behavior with more frequency and intensity.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Changes in Practice: Inputs, Outputs and the Black Box

Input and output refer to the interfaces that different functional units of a system use to communicate among each other, or to the signals sent through those interfaces.  Inputs are the signals received by the unit, and the outputs are the signals sent through it.  The black box is considered to be something whose function is invisible, a space that is hidden, where the transformation takes place (Chauhan, 2013).  In this analogy, I like to think of the black box as my mind, learning, analysing and reflecting on the multitudes of inputs the Mindlab course has exposed me to, transforming my practice and student outcomes as an observable output.   We have been exposed to experiences, professional literature, research, flipped learning initiatives, instructional videos, collaborative webinars, infographics, presentations, a multitude of social media platforms and so much more.  Swain (1985) pointed out that there is no better way to test the extent of one's knowledge than to have to use that knowledge in some productive way, and the intensive nature to use the course to examine and improve our practice has been testament to this. 

What this model does not explicitly show is the fundamental importance that interaction has had on my transformation.  It is through interaction that we have generated comprehensible outputs, which can then also be turned into sources of input for others.  We have sought meaning, clarified misunderstandings, challenged each others thinking and given and received feedback.  It seems fitting at the end of the course to reflect back on the earlier work we did examining the theories of Vygotsky, who theorised that children learn through interpersonal activity, such as play with adults who provide 'scaffholding', whereby they form concepts that would be beyond them if they were acting alone.  In this respect, the notion of the zones of proximal development is important, which are created through interaction with more knowledgeable others.  The co-constructionist nature of the Mindlab course has certainly added testament to this.  The colleagues whom I have shared this experience with have been a shining light and added so much value to my learning.  Friendships have been formed through this network that will enable us to continue to support each others growth and development as we move forward.

Demonstrating commitment to ongoing professional learning and the development of professional personal practice:
My decision to commit to the Mindlab Postgraduate Certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning was driven by the acceptance of my role as the Director of eLearning.  I wanted to ensure that I had the most comprehensive training available, in order to effectively lead the staff at our school on their journey to include Digital Technologies in their teaching and learning programmes.  I had been in this role for only a couple of weeks when the intake began, and quickly learned to manage the demands of my new position, various other PLD priorities, postgraduate studies, and support the needs of my 8 year old twins at home - that's not to say it was always easy!  I wanted to ensure that my commitment to this course was reflected in my participation, and embraced each aspect of the programme, participating responsively in all professional learning opportunities within the multiple learning communities that were established.  My own professional personal practice has been transformed through this programme, where we were exposed to the latest research and models including the Microsoft ITL rubrics, design thinking model and TPACK model which have all significantly changed the way I present my teaching and learning programmes.

Show leadership that contributes to effective teaching and learning:
Providing effective eLearning leadership in a school requires the school to have an understanding of where they are now and where they want to be in the future.  The global focus of this course has helped me to incorporate these ideas into our school vision and create our eLearning strategic plan and drive a much stronger Digital Citizenship programme for our students, who we want to become confident, connected, actively involved, and lifelong learners (NZC, 2007).  As part of my role, I need to provide a professional learning programme in which teachers feel comfortable to incorporate eLearning in their classrooms, while shifting pedagogy.  The Mindlab course has also given me the confidence to create an eLearning Network for our CoL which is growing rapidly, and has recently expanded into open workshops where teachers from any of our schools are encouraged to come along with questions or areas where they would like support.

Where to next?
My desire to move further into a senior management role remains, where I am able to ensure that every student achieves success - and use digital and collaborative practices to support this.  I really enjoy the elements of my current role that enable me to coach and mentor teachers, working in partnership to challenge and reimagine pedagogy, and was devastated last year to learn that the National Aspiring Principals Programme was to be discontinued.  After much thought I am still undecided if my best option is to complete the last few credits I need to achieve my Masters (in either Educational Leadership or Applied Practice) or to complete the Growing Great Leaders Programme that I have also heard so much about.  Either way, my commitment to education remains as strong as it has even been, and I am excited about the groundswell that is starting to transform education in New Zealand and around the world.

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Interdisciplinary Education: From STA to STEAM

Interdisciplinary practice allows individuals to focus on collaboration and participation with others to find solutions to increasingly complex problems occurring in the world today.  When working across disciplines we can draw on multiple perspectives, practices, epistemologies and methodologies to identify how these can be utilised to solve real world problems.

Despite the best efforts of educators and those who support them, our system struggles to meet the challenging need of today's learners.  We need to cope with complex lives, and social, economic and environmental issues.  Now, more than ever, the education system must equip young people to be the problem solvers of the future.  Our students need to become innovators, designers and creators - not just passive consumers.  They need to be able to solve complex problems, often in cross-disciplinary and collaborative settings.  New Zealand's prosperity depends on our ability to compete in a flattened, gobal economy driven by innovation, specialisation and entrepreneurship.  

Interdisciplinary Education has implications for curriculum design and delivery.  Scrutinising the effectiveness of existing structures is important here.  Some parts of the Education Act are barriers to innovation and need to be reviewed, for example covering the length of the school day, hours of instruction, and enrolment and attendance requirements.  If we are serious about supporting learning anywhere and anytime, breaking down institutional boundaries and allowing far greater flexibility to create tailored learning programmes around the needs of learners, then existing systems and structures will need to change.

You will see from my Interdisciplinary Education Popplet, that I am very engaged in cross disciplinary practices.  This has always been an interest of mine, and I struggled moving to a system last year where I no longer had the ability to work in such an integrated way.  While we still have a long way to go towards addressing these barriers at our school, the groundswell is underway, and is being driven from both the top-down and the ground-up.  This year we have changed our timetable to accommodate an interdisciplinary approach to teaching and learning; having integrated our English and Social Science Departments to create an Integrated Literacies team, and our Science, Technology and The Arts Departments to create our new STA team.  While we do include Engineering and Design Thinking in our programme, the 'E' just doesn't fit nicely into our name ... yet!  It is within this team that my teaching of Computer Science falls.  

This alignment is the first stage in a larger move towards STEAM.  The combination of Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is part of a global movement, designed to increase economic competitiveness.  Currently Auckland is facing an employment market shortage in STEM related industries, driving a need for a more skilled workforce.  Initiatives within schools have included:
  • providing mobile devices for students (sometimes in the forms of computer labs, and other times in the form of 1:1)
  • after-school STEM clubs or programs
  • STEM curriculum, where projects using STEM practices are embedded
  • BYOD initiatives (bring your own device)
  • STEM days to encourage hands-on exploration within each of these disciplines
  • robotics programs
However, while STEM initiatives are a wonderful start into the exploration of these four areas of study, the critical process of creativity and innovation is missing.  STEAM is a way to take the benefits of STEM and complete the package by integrating these principles in and through the Arts.  STEAM removes limitations and replaces them with wonder, critique, inquiry, and innovation (SteamPortal).

Andrews (1990) defines interdisciplinary collaboration as occurring “when different professionals, possessing unique knowledge, skills, organisational perspective, and personal attributes, engage in coordinated problem solving for a common purpose” (cited in Berg-Weger & Schneider, 1998).  As a team, we meet regularly to share ideas and show examples of student learning that is happening within our rooms, however we each maintain sole responsibility for our 8 week component of the programme.  At this stage we are investing a lot of time in the intentional connections between the different curriculum areas, aligning and unpacking assessments, the creation of a shared language, processes and strategies, and reflecting on implementation.  Our classrooms are spread across the school, and the programme still runs under a traditional model with one teacher, and students are located in an individual class.  I often dream of an STA ILE similar to those at Glenfield College, Northcross Intermediate and Auckland Normal Intermediate, where the open, shared workplace, qualities/attitudes and common goals have enhances their collaborative, interdisciplinary experience for staff and students alike.

Our schools need to foster innovative teaching and leadership, support leaders to make change and stimulate innovation and nurture new and emerging approaches to teaching and learning.  We need to work to implement a coordinated, system-wide effort to align curriculum, digital technologies, property, infrastructure, funding and legislation within our schools, however this alone will not improve learning.  Students, teachers and leaders must adapt their practices to make best educational use of these investments (Future Focused Learning in Connected Communities)

Reference List:

Berg-Wege, M., & Schneider, F.D. (1998).  Interdisciplinary collaboration in social work education.  Journal of Social Work Education, 34, 97-107.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Professional Online Social Networks

Social Media platforms are part of the wider Web 2.0 landscape, designed to promote collaboration and promote user-generated content as we move away from the mostly read-only Web 1.0 of the past. These applications support asynchronous collaboration; the wildly read-write web that encourages interaction between people through sites such from Facebook to Picassa, and Pintrest to Youtube.  These sites and applications encourage users to move beyond mere posting of content by allowing them to become part of the process through collaboration.  In The Conversation Prism, Solis shares the evolution of popular Social Media applications alongside the transformation they have undertaken within the digital landscape.  This infographic clearly shows how far beyond the commonly known, used and favoured applications Social Media now extends, and alludes to the many different purposes for this development.

The user is central to this model, and like Hoadley's CoP model, Solis asserts that you should only create and manage a presence where it is warranted, finding networks where you can gain or introduce value. This becomes particularly relevant when accessing Social Media for Professional Learning and Development (PLD).  Interestingly this model reflects the principles of the three elements Wagner-Trayner (2011) identified as a requirement for a CoP, with Solis suggesting users consider the 5 pillars for meaningful engagement: Vision, Purpose, Value, Commitment and Transparency.

Although created for business, the desire to 'Always be Improving' through listening, learning and adapting is easily transferable to education, and I believe it is at the core of our role as inquiring educators.  

When I first looked at this topic, my use of Social Media for PLD was very easily identifiable.  I regularly use social networks, blogs, forums, discussion boards, social streams, videos, content/documents, events, podcasts and live-casting as tools to support my passion to improve my practice.  These tools enable me to access personalised PLD that fulfills my needs, at the right time.  This is so much a part of my development as an educator that I have created a dedicated professional identity that is now linked to all of these accounts, is observable in this established blog, links to my own professional site, and is also accessible through my online portfolio. This has created a marketable identity that continues to grow among educators working in the digital space, however, being so connected does come with a warning:  You are never truly away from work.  In her Masters Thesis, Melhuish (2013) suggests that one way to overcome this at a school level might be to integrate self-directed PLD of this nature into legitimate professional learning design rather than adding it on, in an already time-poor context.

Although I teach Computer Science and am surrounded in digital tools everyday, I needed to carefully step back to really examine how I am including Social Media in my classroom.  Merriam-Webster defines Social Media as "forms of electronic communication through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content" which is much more broad than I had originally thought.  When I combined this definition with The Conversation Prism, I came to realise that my students are actually engaging in Social Media on a daily basis - despite not having access at school to social networks such as Facebook, Google+ and Yammer due to their age, and our school policies.

My students regularly post to our class blog, labeling their work so it can be easily identified as an individual student portfolio, use Q&A sites (Wikianswers,, location sharing software (Google Maps), Enterprise applications (Microsoft O365), social curation tools (Pintrest, Google Keep), videos (Youtube, Edpuzzle), social bookmarking tools (Symbaloo), brainstorming content (Popplet, Padlet, Coggle), collaborative documents (O365, Google Docs, Prezi), music, podcasts and images (PiktoChart, Canva, Tagul) to share information, ideas, personal messages and other content.  These tools enable me to engage students in active and constructive learning opportunities where they are required to comment, critique and construct knowledge, while working collaboratively to share emerging understandings.  They can support creativity, collaboration, communication and sharing of resources.  They enable our students to share their learning effortlessly with whanau, and help to extend learning opportunities outside of school hours.  

Social Media sites can offer a range of learning opportunities, involve and draw on the experience of people around the world, and provide students with challenges and opportunities to defend opinions and amend their ideas.  Unfortunately, the same sites can also provide inaccurate information, biased comments and hostile responses (Sharples, de Roock, Ferguson, Gaved, Herodotou, Koh, Kukulska-Hulme, Looi, McAndrew, Rienties, Weller and Wong, 2016).  For many students, learning in groups is not a natural process, and working collaboratively online is even further removed.  We need to support our students to cooperate and develop positive interdependence, by arguing constructively and resolving conflicts while maintaining respect and integrity.

Educators need to be very aware of these challenges, and deliberately teach students the skills they require to navigate these complexities.  I firmly believe that our core responsibility as educators is to prepare students for the world they are entering into.  Our students, as emerging adolescents, are not only moving into a world where Social Networking is rampant; they are already in it.  The vast majority of our students already have Facebook, G+, Instagram and Snapchat accounts - yet by blocking access to these at school, rather than establishing safeguards, the work I do to encourage Digital Citizenship does seem somewhat superficial, lacking genuine context and the ability to provide meaningful feedback.

In such a flooded marketplace, I think it is important to take a step back and remind ourselves that while doing all of this, we need to ensure that we are choosing the right tool for the job - and sometimes the best tool for us is time to interact with the person sitting beside us, unobstructed.  

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Law and Ethics in Professional Practice: Copyright, CC and OER

Do you use information ethically when creating resources for teaching?  Do you know when it is OK to take that perfect resource (image, video, quiz etc) from the internet?  Do you know if you are breaking copyright laws?  Have you ever created a resource for your students and then shared it online?  The above are just a handful of examples that reflect common discussions of educators throughout New Zealand, illustrating just how little teachers know about their legal, ethical and moral responsibilities in this area.

In schools we are surrounded in copyrighted materials including books, searching the internet, working with interactive whiteboards, watching videos and listening to music.  We are copyright consumers (NEN, 2012).  Copyright is a complex subject and here is a guide to what you can and can't do within a school setting.  Just because it is OK to use resources for educational purposes, it is an individual's right not a shared right of the school, and it is time for teachers to develop a more comprehensive understanding of our legal, ethical and moral responsibilities in relation to copyright.

As teachers we have the responsibility to honour the privilege of the high expectations the public rightly have of us when we are entrusted with the education and care of their children and young people.  It is vital that we make conscious ethical decisions, exemplify moral integrity and recognise that our conduct profoundly impacts on our professional image.  We have the responsibility to lift the status of our profession and build on its reputation as we maintain the highest standards of behaviour and professionalism.  A lapse in judgement can adversely impact students, damage teachers' credibility and erode public trust in schools and the profession (Connecticut's Teacher Education and Mentoring Program, 2012).  Advances in technology and greater access to digital resources over recent years mean the challenges educators are likely to encounter have also increased.

Generally, students own the copyright of any original work they create at school regardless of who owns the device it was created on (Netsafe, 2015), however Hutchinson (2017) cautions that primary school students do not create original work as writing it in their own words is not original.  "Many teachers talk to their students about the importance of giving credit for where they find the information but never expect a reference list" showing a real lack of understanding about information and where it comes from.  She argues that no primary school student is going to write something original when researching because this is what you are asking them to do.  This issue is then compounded if that students work is shared in school newsletters, on school websites, class blogs or social media as if nothing is referenced we are breaking copyright laws (Hutchinson, 2017).  I would argue that likewise, it is not alright for students to take pictures and information and not say where they got it form, simply because their work is only going to be displayed on the wall of a classroom.

Another common misunderstanding is that many teachers do not realise they don't own copyright to the resources they produce in the course of their employment.  This is becoming more pressing as teachers look to share resources they have created online, or take them with them when moving to another school.  Any resource you make while in the employment of a school is owned by the BOT and if you leave the school, the BOT of that school retains the ownership.  Some teachers feel this is unfair considering that they make many of these resources at home our of school hours.  This highlights the need for all schools to have clear Intellectual Property policies on the sharing and reuse of resources.  In my experience, educators rarely have the opportunity to openly discuss these issues and it is important that we create the time and space for this to happen.  Creative Commons (CC) and Open Education Resources (OER) have shifted from sitting on the edge of education to now being a mainstream way of sharing and building on our collective knowledge.  But, still many of us just don't have the time to get our head around what's involved and how to bring CC to life in our schools.  Teachers need to work with their BOTs to create a Creative Commons Policy to enable their teachers to legally share their creations with other teachers (a real strength in the New Zealand education system) and avoid unnecessary conflict.

In the interim, the following infographic, created by Shirley Booth (2015) is a helpful guide when deciding what to share online:

Monday, 13 February 2017

Indigenous Knowledge and Cultural Responsiveness: Culture, Ethnicity and Diversity

"If we look at a child's colouring book, before it has any colour added to it, 
we think of the page as blank.  It's actually not blank, it's white.  
That white background is just 'there' and we don't think much about it ... "

Culture forms the base of our world views, beliefs, language, values and identity.  It acts as a filter that helps us to make sense of our world.  It consists of visible or tangible elements such as crafts, music, art and technology, and also the invisible or intangible elements such as our values, beliefs, feelings, opinions, perspectives and assumptions (Irvine, 2010).

When our students come into our classrooms, they bring with them all of their cultural experiences.  This provides a rich foundation for us as educators to build on their prior knowledge, acting as cultural translators to help make appropriate linkages between what the students know and what they need to understand.  However, research has shown Māori and Pasifika students are not doing so well at school due to a number of factors, including how the culture in the classroom is not reflective of the culture known to Māori and Pasifika students (Hunter & Hunter, 2016).

The dilemma lies in the incompatibility between the cultural filters educators use to send messages to students, which are being received through the student's own set of cultural filters.  If these do not match, then learning cannot be effective (Gay 2010).  As educators, we need to explore ways to adapt the sending mechanism, by critically identifying and exploring our own cultural filters. We need to know ourselves, where we come from, and who we are - turangawaewae, as well as the learners we engage with.  We must pull apart what culture is, and what our culture is, to ensure we do not complate it with ethnicity.  This requires some radical re-wiring in the minds of educators about their role and how they relate to their students.

It is important to recognise at this point that students are not mirror representatives of a cultural ethnic group.  Culture is not a trait on their membership in a particular community (Gutierrez, 2010).  They are individual students with their own strengths, interests and needs.  Their attachment/bonds to an ethnic group vary, are are influenced by how long they have been in the country, social class, experiences in the community and neighbourhood.  While there may be commonalities, the Ministry of Education's requirements that we identify, report and adapt specific teaching pedagogies based solely on student ethnicity does provide a dilemma here.

Diversity encompasses many characteristics including ethnicity, socio-economic background, home language, gender, special needs, disability, and giftedness. Teaching needs to be responsive to diversity within ethnic groups, for example, diversity within Pakeha, Māori, Pasifika and Asian students, however we also need to recognise the diversity within individual students influenced by intersections of gender, cultural heritage(s), socio-economic background, and talent (Alton-Lee, 2003). Evidence shows teaching that is responsive to student diversity can have very positive impacts on low and high achievers at the same time, an emphases the importance of quality teaching methods compatible to Maori and built on relational trust.  This is central to the classroom endeavour and should be the focus of quality teaching in Aotearoa, New Zealand, where our culturally diverse groups often struggle to find success in a largely Pakeha education System (Pihama, 2012).

I believe we have an fundamental obligation to ensure our schools reflect all of the cultural experiences of our students, at every level.  At our school we have recently reviewed our vision.  As a staff we shared a number of ideas, ranging from acrostic poems reflecting our school name, listing the key skills and values we believed to be important (similar to a graduate profile), through to ideas that reflected our schools logo and the meaning of Te Atatu: The dawn - such as 'Rising to Success'.  Armed with these ideas, we facilitated a community day where members of our SLT, selected student representatives from our Leadership Academy, whanau and our BOT were invited to come and share their thoughts.  It was a great day, but what impressed me the most was how the vision transformed after the different cultural lenses we each had were applied.  We emerged with a very different vision which I believe much better reflects our diverse community and shared aspirations for our students: 

Working Together - Mahi Tahi, 
Learning Together - Ako Tahi, 
Growing Together - Tupu Tahi.

This new, inspiring vision, is transforming the way that learning looks within our school.  It is such a dramatic move from our previous vision - 'Wisdom with Truth' that there is a sense among the staff that it has brought with it permission to transform how learning looks and how students work within our school.  The signage within our school is changing to reflect the cultural diversity represented in our school, and our PB4L resources have also been redesigned to reflect the different languages spoken within our school.  Our unit themes have also changed dramatically, from contexts such as 'Careers' and 'Flight' to Turangawaewae and Whanaungatanga.  This vision encourages teachers to research and explore culturally-based examples and contexts that reflect the lives of our students and inquire into practices that are underpinned by a strong awareness of indigenous cultural values, which is being supported through school-wide PLD.

In my own practice, I aspire to create to a place where:

  • Teachers are aware of the students different cultural identities.
  • Students cultural contexts are incorporated into teaching and learning environments and programmes.
  • Teachers provide practical opportunities for all students to be proud and share their languages and cultures through cultural groups, special events and school festivals that celebrate cultural difference.
  • Students experience learning contexts from multiple cultures.
  • There are clear expectations in schools' charters for celebration of diversity, stating the right for all children to feel culturally safe.
  • Staff are representative of many cultures and reflect the diversity of our student populations.

As a school, we are not there yet, but great things come from small beginnings.  I aspire for our school to become He wahi tutaki mo nga tamariki o te ao - A meeting place for the children of the world, where each student genuinely feels like they belong - Manakitanga, and are supported and accepted Whanaungatanga, for who they are, the experiences they bring and knowledge they are able to share.

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Contemporary Issue or Trend: Student Mobility and School Choice

Each year, parents around the world face a similar conundrum: Should their child attend the school around the corner or opt to travel away from home each day to a school outside of their local community?  As a parent, I too have had to make this decision. For some, the choice is limited by income or geography while for others the allure of top academic results, an all-conquering rugby team, or the proximity from poverty helps dictate the decision.  

Choosing a school is one of the key times when parents reflect on what is important to them in terms of their child's education.  While the Ministry of Education has now stopped the publishing of school decile ratings (established in the mid 1990s to facilitate more systematic and objective decisions about fair funding to all state schools), there is still a lot to consider: Public or private school, single sex or co-educational, full primary or separate intermediate/middle school, school zone regulations, school culture and reputation, quality teaching and learning programmes, subject choices (and how well they are resourced), class sizes, the provision of extra curricular activities,  access to technology, school fees/donations/uniform/stationary costs to name just a few.  

The factors that influence parental choice of school have been well documented.  I have found the following research papers helpful:
  • Karen Wespieser examines some of these priorities in her report: How do parents choose a school for their child after interviewing over 1,000 parents of students aged between 5-18.  
  • Caroline McEnvoy has also examined the factors that influence parental choice of school in her dissertation published in 2003, and I would argue that not many of these factors would have changed since then.
  • Peter Morey provides an Australian perspective in his Research titled School Choice: What parents choose 
  • Matt McFadden provides an alternative perspective and looks into the roll that marketing has on school choice 
As mentioned in my previous post, one of the big problems for many residents across West Auckland is education.  Few of the schools have an outstanding reputation and thousands of parents choose to send their children out of the area for schooling (Prasad, 2011).  This is supported by the Ministry of Education figures that highlight that over one third of our West Auckland students went outside the area for their education in 2010 to schools perceived to be successful or fashionable.  We are blessed that our school continues to be the school of choice for families in the wider West Auckland area (ERO, 2011), with almost 40% of our students coming from outside of our school zone, however we also have a large number of in-zone students who choose to attend schools outside of the area.

The OECD Trends Shaping Education 2016 Report acknowledges the mobility of students' and their families is driven by the search for a better life and increased opportunities.  Increasingly affordable and accessible methods of transportation are just one of a number of factors influencing this trend.  Toby Morris explores some of these issues in this confronting comic.

Waipareira Trust Chief Executive, John Tamihere, says it's natural for parents to send their children wherever they can get the best education, and those parents that can afford to offer their children better opportunities will endeavour to do so.  He acknowledges that west Auckland schools are limited by the area's socio-economic situation with many schools in our area being decile four or below.  He adds, sadly, "For the most part, Waitakere has a lot of hard working people who aren't necessarily making a lot of money and that socio-economic factor will take a long time to change." (Prasad, 2011)

The Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds Report predicts that between now and 2030 individual empowerment will accelerate substantially due to poverty reduction and a huge growth of the global middle class.  This is fundamentally important as for the first time, a majority of the world's population will not be impoverished.  While most new members of the middle class in 2030 will be at the lower end of the spectrum, the growth in the number of those living in the top half of the range of this new middle class will be substantial, rising from 330 million in 2010 to 679 million in 2030.  Much of the future global leadership is likely to come from this segment.

The increasing cultural and linguistic diversity that emerges out of these mobility trends, has a strong impact on our schools and classrooms, which need to prepare students for a global life.  Emphasing multiculturalism and implementing a responsive and rich curriculum for students of different backgrounds will continue to be a priority within school systems.  Lifelong learning is also an important component to keeping our societies abreast of the new challenges and opportunities that arise from an increasingly mobile world.

However, I feel it is also important to acknowledge that not all families will be able to take advantage of choice, whether because of family circumstances or limits on the capacity of schools to accept new students.  School policies are predicated on the assumption that parents have enough information to make informed decisions on where to send their children.  School choice policies also assume that students have the means to get to their desired school, however many families do not have the flexibility to drive children across the city, or schools do not provide a bus service.  Research also suggests that many parents prefer to send their children to their local school and that they would rather have higher-quality local schools than the option to send their children to high quality schools elsewhere.

Reflective Questions for Discussion:

  • Should parents be free to send their children to any school of their choice, regardless of where they live?
  • Do students who have been educated outside of their local community (or country) have a responsibility to return to work in their community (or country) in order to transfer that knowledge back to their peers?
  • How can schools better prepare for the inflow of students from various backgrounds, socio-economic classes and cultures?
  • What responsibility do schools have in communicating and teaching the values of society?

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

A school’s culture: How it can be shaped by history, context and the people in it

Te: the; Atatū: dawn, originally called Ōrukuwai - Ō: place of; Rukuwai: an ancestor of Te Kawerau-a-Maki; coined its current name in the early twentieth century in recognition of the spectacular views of the sunrise.  Until the 1950's this area was largely rural, however the construction of the north-western motorway spurred its development, and during the 1960s and 1970s the area was covered in low-to medium-income houses (New Zealand History).  This increase in residential property prompted our school to open in 1968 to cater for Year 7 and 8 students.  

School culture is influenced by a school's external context, and can be shaped by it's history, context and the people within it.  Since its founding, our school has been recognised for its emphasis on achievement and high standards of academic and sporting excellence, and this is reflected in our school culture.  While learning is no longer based on the book of truth (the Bible), the school strives to instill Wisdom (to make good decisions) with Truth (honesty), and still holds some of its historical traditions quite tightly.  The development of the schools behavioural 'RISE' values of Respect, Integrity, Service and Endurance are embedded in school life and create a sense of connectedness and belonging for our culturally diverse school community. 

According to our school enrolment data, we have over 30 different Nationalities represented within our student population this year.  This includes 20.4% Maori, 21.4% Pasifika, 24.2% Asian, 31.1% European, and 2.7% MELAA.  Our teaching population is similarly diverse, however is very heavily female dominated. 

Few of the schools in West Auckland have an outstanding reputation and thousands of parents choose to send their children out of the area for their education (Prasad, 2011).   Our staff work hard and take security from knowing that our school is highly regarded within the community and "continues to be the school of choice for families in the wider West Auckland area" (ERO, 2011), with almost 40% of our students coming from outside of our school zone. 

Our school continues to be driven by a focus on improving teaching and learning, the development of a global learning community who are future ready, continuous professional development and close working relationships with parents and whanau.  We embrace our diverse social class populations and believe that our students benefit from the richness this diversity offers.

We have recently started to critically reflect on our schools vision, in acknowledging that while it has supported us well, it was developed at a time when the school community and priorities were quite different.  With a school steeped in such a strong and well respected history, this has been a bold move, but must happen to bring our school into alignment with current Educational Policies and to reflect the significant changes in leadership that have happened in the school over the last 24 months.  In joining the voices of staff, students and our community we have drafted Mahi Tahi: Working together, Ako Tahi: Learning Together, Tupu Tahi: Growing together as our new school vision, and feel this reflects the culture we would like to bring into the school much more accurately.

It could be argued that this vision is equally apt for our staff.  Staff acknowledge that over the years collegiality, the desire to take risks, and a willingness to support each other has faded, and I have observed little room for celebration and humour.  In striving for an adapted school culture that encourages these things, I believe even greater things will happen in our school, but Stoll (1998) notes that this change will be much more likely to happen when school leaders play a significant role in steering the shift.  That is not to say that teachers do not have an important role to play though!  Hongboontri and Keawkhong (2014) challenge teachers to consider what role they personally may have had in helping to shape their schools culture - and interesting thought to be left with ...

It is my hope that my influence on our schools' culture is positive.  One that embraces and celebrates diversity, promotes innovative thinking, encourages openness and collegiality and reignites peoples' passions.  I'd like to help bring our school into the future while continuing to build on the strong foundations of the past.

Stoll, 1998 notes that a schools' culture is influenced by the school's students and their social class background.  Our students, who are reaching adolescence, are trying to shape their identities, and certainly flavour our school in their own ways.  Interesting research continues to emerge examining the complexities and effect of socio-economic factors on student achievement, including the work of Hattie (2016) who has found that socio-economic factors, with an effect size of 0.54, are still an important area to examine.  While this is higher than an effect size of 0.4 which is regarded as average or typical, he argues that many other factors are more influential.  Others believe socio-economic factors have a much larger, and detrimental effect, and this is one of the deeply embedded concerns for many residents across West Auckland, where our school is located. 

Monday, 23 January 2017

Communities of Practice: GEGNZ

Hoadley asserts that one of the most important concepts in social or situated learning theory is the notion of a Community of Practice (CoP).  CoP rely on situated theories of knowledge; consisting of groups of informally bound people, who share an interest or a passion, and who increase their knowledge in this area through discussion and shared experiences.  When working well, CoP create a body of shared expertise and promote best practices in the area of interest.

I belong to a landscape of professional communities including Virtual Learning Networks, Professional Learning Networks, and I am actively involved in our Community of Learning.  However, according to Wenger-Trayner (2011), three elements are crucial in distinguishing a Community of Practice from other groups and communities: 

I believe the Google Educator Group New Zealand (GEGNZ) undoubtedly meets these requirements. 

The Domain:  GEGNZ is an independently run community of over 1700 New Zealand Educators who are invited to participate and collaborate with the intention to learn, share, inspire and empower each other; Changing the world of technology and education in New Zealand.  GEGNZ members support each other’s learning in a variety of ways, but at its core, the group has emerged to provide a CoP where members can learn more about how technology can be best used within education to support student learning outcomes and increase engagement. 

The Community: Members are located throughout the country and hold different roles within their schools, but all have a common interest in teaching and learning.  As Bates (2014) has identified, CoP are not dependent on any particular medium, and GEGNZ members regularly meet and contribute online and kanohi kit e kanohi (face to face); joining discussions, sharing knowledge, contributing to meets and professional development opportunities that are held once a term and remotely through Google Hangouts.  They regularly offer feedback and help each other, supported by the multiple platforms the group has developed to enable the group to explore and create ideas, build meaningful relationships and share materials, resources and expertise.  

The Practice: GEGNZ members are actively engaged in the teaching profession, and have recently ranked at the top of the Google Educator Group Professional Development Leaderboard for the second concurrent year.   They work together to develop a shared repertoire of resources: experiences, stories, tools, ways of addressing recurring problems as evident on their social networking sites (including the GEGNZ Google+ Group, and Google Apps NZ Primary Facebook Page).  Formed in May 2014, this CoP has been developed over time with sustained interaction, supporting members to transform their classrooms, work through their Google Certified Educator Qualifications; become Google Certified Trainers (who provide Professional Development and Training services on Google for Education tools; and also consists of Google Certified Innovators (who are acknowledged as outstanding educators committed to the innovative use of technology to transform classrooms).  Recently the community has also grown to include Reference Schools who have opted in to connect with other schools and educators interested in using Google products in their classrooms.

I joined this community in 2014 after attending #EdChatNZ’s first conference.  Being part of this group has transformed my teaching practice and enabled me to build professional relationships with some exceptional educators who I now consider it a privilege to call colleagues.  Their support and encouragement lead me to complete my Google Certified Educator qualifications, conduct a research trial in partnership HP and Cyclone Education into the potential impact of Digital Tools to support students with Special Education Needs, be a part of the first Google Education Group Student Summit, lead workshops at various GEGNZ events, and gave me the confidence to move into my current role as the Director of eLearning at a large Intermediate School.  Involvement in this CoP has also enabled me to support other teachers throughout the country, offering my skills, experience and resources to support them in their professional endeavours.  While my school does not use the Google Apps Suite, instead having chosen to use Office365, I continue to attend GEGNZ events and offer support via their online network as often as possible, maintaining and progressing my professional knowledge, and promoting the outstanding contribution this CoP makes to education in New Zealand.

My experience is supported by Bates (2014) who notes that CoP can be very effective in a digital world, especially as lifelong learning becomes increasingly self-directed, through collaborative learning, sharing of knowledge and experience, and crowd-sourcing new ideas and development. The evolution of the Internet, the social media tools now available, and the need for sharing of knowledge on a global scale, is driving the development of virtual CoP – and I am thankful for this beyond words!  CoPs are not the solution to everything though, and they do not replace teams and other professional networks.  Each has its own place in the ecology of the learning system, providing different types of social learning spaces that open up new opportunities for developing learning capability (Wenger-Trayner, 2015).  

Reflective Questions for Discussion:

  • How have/could your Community of Practice evolve with technology?
  • How might technology be used to support the continuation of your Community of Practice?
  • With the rise of social networking groups, what level of participation in an online community constitutes legitimate membership of an online Community of Practice?
  • Can you have a genuine Community of Practice if participation within the group is mandated or compulsory?
  • Bates (2014) suggests that most Communities of Practice have no formal design and tend to be self-organising systems.  He advises they have a natural life cycle, and come to an end when they no longer serve the needs of the community.  How can you help sustain and improve the effectiveness of your Community of Practice to overcome this challenge?

Sunday, 8 January 2017

What is the potential impact of immersive participatory simulation games on students and teachers in an educational context? A Literature Review

This literature review was written by Emily Bagrie and I as part of our Postgraduate Certificate in Digital and Collaborative Learning through The Mind Lab.

What is the potential impact of immersive participatory simulation games on students and teachers in an educational context?

Dewey (1938) suggests that the goal of education is not to prepare students for life, but for engagement with it.  This is increasingly challenging when the world is frequently being described with terms such as constantly changing, rapidly evolving and uncertain.  The primary goal for education continues to drive educators to nurture every student's potential to develop the knowledge, skills, and epistemologies necessary for dealing with the complexities of the 21st century (Toppo, 2016).  There are clear indications that the future will certainly differ dramatically from the past and our students will be expected to master different forms of knowledge than our schools have traditionally demanded, to grow as citizens and workers (Jenkins, 2007; Squire & Jan, 2007). It is becoming more widely accepted that teachers should teach not only curricular content but also competencies. The programmes should encourage and include the use of the learning material in a variety of situations that students will face in the real world, be problem-oriented, varied, interesting, sustainable and motivate students to learn (, 2015).  

Professionals with an inherent interest in education, including philosophers, psychologists and educators have endorsed educational games, involving elements of play, to promote learning for centuries (Vanek & Peterson, 2016).  However, this form of experiential learning is more commonly seen in programmes designed for younger students, subsiding to more traditional forms of academic learning as students’ progress through the education system.  The social nature of learning in this way has also been supported by social constructivists who argue that we all generate meaning from our experiences (Kolb, 1984; Andrés, Angeles & García Casas, 2011).

Immersive participatory simulation games (IPSG) are a sophisticated progression of such games, and are in a relative state of infancy, however their rapid global adoption within the entertainment industry and subsequent fusion into the educational sector, warrants closer examination. This literature review defines the emerging pedagogy of IPSG and examines their potential impact on the development of student outcomes and skills within an educational context.  The potential implications IPSG have on teacher pedagogy are also examined and discussed.  Mātauranga Māori and Kaupapa Maori approaches are identified and situated within the conclusion which positions this review alongside suggested areas of future research within an educational context.

Immersive Participatory Simulation Games
Game-based learning initiatives have been suggested as a future-focused methodology that can support immersive and participatory pedagogy.  Immersive participatory simulation games (IPSG) situate learners in complex thinking tasks, driven by authentic questions and real-world problems that require critical, creative and innovative thinking to solve in a collaborative context (Barab, Thomas, Dodge, Carteaux & Tuzum, 2005; Gee, 2004; Shaffer & Gee, 2005; Squire, 2005).  They present students with a series of challenges that ignite their natural drive to problem-solve within a given role and scenario.  IPSG are accessible to a wide range of background knowledge, experiences, ages, genders, skills, physical abilities and present a changing perspective of learning on the part of the students and educators; embracing divergent learning goals and involving learning contexts that are meaningful for students.  They provide challenging opportunities for students to develop and demonstrate determination and motivation while encouraging them to believe their abilities can be developed through effort and a positive belief in their capacity to learn (Ministry of Education, 2009).

Duke predicted the use of such games within education in 1974, however we now see that these types of games did not emerge as suddenly as he had envisaged (Duke, 1974).  Only recently have educators begun to see them as a future’s language, with great global impact, across numerous different educational contexts including Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education, as well as in public spaces such as Museums, Libraries and Conferences.

Immersive participatory simulation games (IPSG) present educators with an opportunity to incorporate social constructivist theories within their programmes, with their focus on active rather than passive or receptive learning, and are becoming an emerging type of interdisciplinary curricula for supporting education (Barab & Dede, 2007). While initially designed for entertainment purposes, they are now being repurposed with an academic focus.  This literature review combines the findings from IPSG such as Escape Rooms, Live Action Role Playing (LARP) games, edu-LARP, Nordic-LARP and BreakoutEDU, all of which have grown in popularity rapidly in the last few years within educational contexts.  

BreakoutEDU, for example, was introduced to NZ through the EdTech Conference in 2016.  Having first reached the critical mass required to appear on Google Trends in 2006 before lying dormant until rising sharply towards the end of 2015.  It is now followed actively by over 15,000 teachers from around the world in their online Facebook community.  

What is the potential impact of immersive participatory simulation games on the development of student outcomes and skills in an educational context?

Student Motivation and Engagement
The most common theme to arise from the literature, was the impact immersive participatory simulation games (IPSG) have on student motivation and engagement towards and within learning. They are identified as being a catalyst for improved student focus, drive, motivation, engagement and even improve interest in a subject or topic of study. (Vanek & Peterson, 2016; Bowman & Standiford, 2015; Sellar, 2012; Andrés et al., 2011; Ihsen, Schneider, Wallhoff & Blume, 2011; Lantada, Morgado, Munoz-guijosa, Otero, & Sanz, 2011; Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013). The primary reason for this is largely to do with the fun involved in gaming. (2015) observed that fun makes learning easier and students are more likely to take on challenges and less likely to become discouraged by falure. Andrés et al (2011) support this by reporting that fun promotes learning by generating joy, reiterated by the students studied who reported that they learnt and had fun through experiential learning. These observations were also reflected when students studied by Bowman and Standiford (2015) were observed to experience increased enjoyment and interest in science through participation in an Edu-Larp.  It is the challenge and the aspect of “hard thinking” which makes them so appealing and which causes the learning to become a by-product of the task, rather than the end goal (McDowall, 2015). The level of excitement experienced, compels students to continue discussing concepts and learning outside of the gaming experience (Jung and Levitin, 2002). It is important to note however, that in order to achieve these outcomes the motivation needs to be sustained through reflection, active involvement and feedback and is also highly dependent on the types of games the individual player finds enjoyable (Andrés et al, 2011).

IPSG have also been shown to have a significant effect on the motivation of students due to the component of immersive role-play. These experiences enable students to disconnect from the complex, trivial or boring nature of reality into something far more exciting, comprehensible and epic (Sellar, 2012;, 2015). Total immersion in IPSG can create something referred to as flow, a natural state of learning when motivation to complete tasks is at its peak, or defined as the “state of absolute immersion into an activity, when concentration is effortless due to the fact that the person is enjoying the activity” (Anglickeho et al, n.d, p. 23). In this state students can become less self-conscious (Wiemker, Elumir, & Clare, 2015),  feel safer to take risks in thinking, feeling or reasoning without any negative repercussions (, 2015) and are invited to become personally embodied in the game (Rosenbaum, Klopfer & Perry, 2007).

Although a lot was said around the positive impact of immersion and enjoyment using IPSG to increase motivation and engagement, Madigan (2010) warned that “not all games should strive to be immersive” (p. 10 ). It was observed that certain scenarios may evoke situations and emotions that bring up memories or experiences, wanted or not, or make participants uncomfortable or feel psychologically unsafe (Nicholson, 2015; Anglickeho et al, n.d.). Teachers need to be aware that these situations could be harmful to students Mana Atua, and can reveal some aspects of personality that students were not aware of, as identified by Anglickeho et al (n.d.), could also be perceived as both a negative and positive outcome depending on the aspect revealed.

Real-World Problem Solving
Experiences which have direct applications to real problems, by modeling aspects of real-world complex systems, can give students opportunity to engage and interact, explore and experiment within set parameters, learning how to manipulate these and observing outcomes (Rosenbaum, 2007). This Mana Aotūroa allows students to develop working theories for making sense of the natural, social, physical and material worlds (Ministry of Education, 1996). IPSG help students to develop the ability to reflect more carefully and accurately on their experiences, enables them to visualise the complexity of real life processes and experiences and therefore, should be employed in teaching (Duplessie, 2013; Anglickeho et al, n.d.). They can provide a forum to explore multiple perspectives on a problem (Christopher, 1999), test ideas, make connections, measure outcomes (Rosenbaum, 2007 and Anglickeho et al, n.d.) and to effect changes as they see fit (Madigan, 2010). There is a contradictory perspective though, with some arguing that IPSG are not similar enough to real life and that participants behave more informally or that the situations are gross simplifications as they only include a few real-world factors (Christopher 1999; Anglickeho et al, n.d.). Others, doubt the benefit for all students, as some may gain more from the role they play than others (Jung and Levitin, 2002) or simply be passive or even unwilling to participate altogether (Anglickeho et al, n.d.).

When role-play is utilised within this context, students are no longer required to think and act like students but as investigators, thinking, arguing and producing evidence and counter-evidence as they participate in the world in new and interesting ways (Squire and Jan, 2007).  IPSG enable students to explore, gain and trial the skills and knowledge they need to achieve success which is the foundational principle of Ka Hikitia (Ministry of Education, 2009) and is reflective of their lives outside of the classroom.  Although IPSG can force students to imagine situations they have not previously experienced (Sellar, 2012), the contexts are not always required to be completely unknown. Squire and Jan (2007) also argue that playing a game in a familiar place encourages students to apply knowledge, as well as challenging them to consider how abstract concepts might play out. When meaningful problems are addressed and abstract content is placed in a concrete, practical context, students can develop a contextual understanding of facts and principles and these take on a tangible relevance (Barab and Dede, 2007;, 2015).

Collaboration, Communication and the Development of Soft Skills
In our information-based economy students require soft skills that traditional classroom practices do not teach adequately (Dewey, 1938) such as teamwork, conflict resolution, problem solving (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013), Mana Tangata, Mana Reo (Ministry of Education, 1996), time management, critical thinking, empathy, and one of the most important, accepting and learning from failure (Vanek & Peterson, 2016).
A valuable feature of immersive participatory simulation games is that they are usually centered around completing a task as a part of a collective. Emphasis is placed on cooperation as a way of winning (Andrés et al, 2011), resulting in the perception of what the goals are changing from knowledge-based to personal and team-based (Rosenbaum, 2007). This leads to the development of cooperative and creative skills and Mana Whenua (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013). The current generation of learners is growing up with exposure and immersion in technology which impacts on their preferred learning style, so much so that it is often argued that they now prefer active, collaborative learning, although it was stated in one study that students, regardless of generation, agreed on the value of using gaming in education (Bekebrede et al, 2010). It was also suggested that as the IPSG environment is fictitious, players behave differently than they would in a real collaborative situation, becoming less confrontational and being more flexible and responsive to each other (Christopher, 1999).

Through rich discussion and deliberation, students can experience the consequences of joint decisions in a low-risk environment (Jones, 1980) and learn from each other as they may benefit from the explanations of concepts, actions and decisions from their peers (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013). Duplessie (2013) states that we tend to retain 90% of what we say and do compared with only 50% of what we see and hear.

The engaging and interactive nature of IPSG means that students readily engage in discussion (Rosenbaum, 2007) and use language to turn their motivations into results (Sellar, 2012). The necessity to negotiate a shared view of reality (Christopher, 1999) and participate in the communicative process (Andrés et al, 2011) means that IPSG can also be an effective language tool both for foreign languages (Jung and Levitin 2002) or simply in the development of native oral language which is critical to later academic success (Gee, 2004; Squire and Jan, 2007; Ministry of Education, 2009).

Construction of Knowledge
Despite a growing emphasis on soft skills it is still important for students to be able to construct and manipulate knowledge. Through the use of Immersive Participatory Simulation Games (IPSG) students can develop understandings across a wide range of subjects (Vanek & Peterson, 2016) and explicitly unpack and explore concepts related to particular disciplines (Klopfer, Osterweil, & Salen, 2009; Groff, McColl, & Gilbert, 2016; Google Trends, 2016). There is a substantial body of research around the impact IPSG have on students ability to construct knowledge and how they can be valuable in skill development (Groff et al, 2016). IPSG encourage students to engage in deep thinking, more so than they might otherwise have done with more traditional methods of teaching (Squire and Jan, 2007 and MoE, 2016). Antonio Ferreira Randi (2013) notes that with greater student interaction comes better performance in their construction of knowledge, as students learn new pathways to consolidate what they know. They also serve as the ideal way to integrate new knowledge into a student’s previous network (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013) and meets students, regardless of ability, where they are at in their learning, serving as either an instructional experience or as a place to practise and reinforce concepts (Bransford, Brown & Cocking, 1999; Groff et al, 2016). Furthermore, they provide an ideal environment in which to learn through trial and error, connecting content and skills (Andrés et al, 2011; McDowall, 2015).

Some concerns arise with the use of IPSG to teach however; students in one study were afraid of missing material or not learning effectively (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013) and Andrés et al (2011) advises that some students learn from games while others simply do not. Squire and Jan, (2007) observed that there is notable difference between the way younger and older students engage in IPSG in the way that they transfer their prior knowledge to solve problems.

Student literacy skills were notably referred to as being challenged through IPSG, with observable increases in comprehension (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013), children reading substantially above their level (Buckingham, 2003, Gee, 2003, Steinkuehler, 2005) and students engaging in higher order thinking skills and behaviours such as synthesizing, communicating, questioning and debating what they had read (Squire & Jan, 2007). This is crucial to note as Māori students in English medium schools continue to be more likely to have lower levels of achievement in literacy, numeracy and science than non-Māori students (Ministry of Education, 2009).

It would be easy to assume that IPSG would be beneficial to Māori, who traditionally learnt through active methods, based in a real-world context, or because Māori knowledge was historically formed, shaped, constructed and transmitted through an oral tradition, however, Te Mangaroa (2011) cautions against this type of convenient stereotyping, stating that it is simply not accurate and does not apply to all Māori students.  It is critical in the wake of Maori underachievement in education that Maori are engaged in programmes that reflect their unique identity, capabilities and skills, are engaging, challenges their thinking, accelerates their progress and supports them to select pedagogies that are most closely aligned to their needs and help in the construction of knowledge (Ministry of Education, 2009).

What are the implications of immersive participatory simulation games on teacher pedagogy?

Changing trends in education are fundamentally changing the way we think about learning, problem solving and personal development (Burke, 2014) and therefore, are also changing the way that teachers are presenting their learning programmes.  Student engagement in participatory games is just one of a number of forces that are reshaping the way learning programmes are being presented to students.  Interest in immersive, participatory simulation games (IPSG) is at an all-time high, with more educators choosing to incorporate a variety of games for learning in their classrooms (Groff et al, 2016; Google Trends, 2016), as the educational system is disrupted and primed for a transformational change (Burke, 2014).  This shift presents teachers with a challenge of developing tools that engage students and increase active participation and critical thinking rather than emphasising the memorisation of scientific concepts and facts (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013).

The Ministry of Education propose that the inclusion of games of this nature in educational programmes present an opportunity for teachers to think differently about learning, and about what students and teachers might be doing (Ministry of Education, 2016).  IPSG have developed a reputation with educationalists around the world, and are perceived as a potentially engaging form of supplementary learning that could enhance the educational process and has been used at all level of education including primary, secondary and tertiary education (Hainey, Connolly, Boyle, Wilson, & Razak, 2016), although Vanek and Peterson (2016) argue that this is simply a new name for a pedagogical technique which has been used throughout the world for centuries.

The best teaching methods change the teacher too (Sellar, 2012); when IPSG are used within the classroom programme, Andrés et al (2011) has found that the time devoted to the more traditional form of transmissive education and lecturing is reduced, and teachers are actually teaching less.  Groff et al (2016) propose that this is one of the reasons that the inclusion of games in the classroom is discouraged in some schools. Interestingly, even with the reduced teaching time, IPSG are still having a positive result on student outcomes (Andrés et al, 2011).  The teacher's role within this methodology changes but remains essential in guiding, facilitating and encouraging students to learn from the experience (Andrés et al, 2011).

The importance of the teacher’s influence on the success of this methodology is supported in the findings of Antonio Ferreira Randi (2013) and Anglickeho et al (n.d.) who assert that the cooperative learning experience is heavily impacted by the teacher’s discourse, beliefs and enthusiasm, finding that a teacher's positive attitude is vital. Antonio Ferreira Randi’s (2013) work has identified  that a large number of teachers continue to be orthodox and reluctant to change their teaching style and cautions that this resistance to new methodologies can constrain teacher participation and attitudes.  Groff et al (2016) suggests that this may be the result of a lack of teachers own experience and understanding of games for learning. Andrés et al also warns that these games can be time consuming (2011), and this can act as a barrier to a teacher's desire to include IPSG in their programme.  Simulations require considerable time and effort on the part of the teacher (Jung and Levitin, 2002) and teachers need to be very well prepared because students tend to ask more questions when actively participating than when passively listening (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013).  However, the benefit of this methodology is celebrated and continues to remain the main teaching tools in some nordic schools (Anglickeho et al, n.d.).  It is therefore important to ensure that the potential impacts of these games are shared with teachers, students, administrators, school leaders and parents who also need to understand the pedagogical impact of playing IPSG (SIIA, 2009).  This is particularly important for Maori, for whom whānau hold an integral role in the learning and development of children (Ministry of Education, 2009).  

IPSG can provide a powerful mechanism for capturing rich data on student learning (Phillips & Popovic 2012); however, there is still considerable work to be done to ensure more robust models of assessment-based games are designed and in examining how they might play out in an educational context (Groff et al, 2016). Andrés et al (2011) promotes the potential of these types of games in the acquisition and development of soft skills and suggests that teachers could use IPSG to assess student outcomes that reflect these skills alongside the content of the game.  Farber (2016) presents a more traditional perspective suggesting that teachers should look to assess the learning transfer that has been facilitated within the game experience back to the various content areas of the curriculum.  Royal (1993) argues both of these areas are of equal importance, and explains the traditional Maori conceptualisation of the mind (hinengaro) as having two parts: Te Puna Mahara and Te Puna Wananga in which both of these types of knowledge are reflected.

There are numerous varying perspectives of the role of assessment within this methodology, however it is commonly agreed by researchers and educationalists that teachers do need assurance that the experience prepared for their students involves quality learning outcomes and will provide them with meaningful information related to the effect they have on student performance.  Regardless of whether these experiences are used to support key curriculum concepts, or the acquisition of future skills required by our students, with IPSG still in a state of infancy, it is widely agreed that there is a lack of quantitative data and assessment feedback from these types of games (Groff et al, 2016).  It is hoped that as teachers are trained and gain more experience with IPSG, they will produce better results in terms of the students’ quantitative performance (Antonio Ferreira Randi, 2013; Anglickeho et al, n.d.).  

Conclusion and suggested areas for future research  
The introduction of immersive participatory simulation games is relatively new to the educational context, and as such research in this area is limited. While this literature review shows that IPSG have been found to be a powerful tool for education, it is also clear that more attention, awareness and study is needed. It would be beneficial for a wider body of IPSG to be studied and compared for its educational capabilities and to further examine how it compares to more traditional pedagogy.

Analysis of those IPSG that have been successful would be advantageous in determining how these games could be better included in teaching and learning programmes, and how they can be used to target and support learning outcomes and identified student needs.  In order to do this, educators need to establish parameters to determine a shared understanding of what constitutes a successful game experience.  The development and design of usability tests that measure the degree of improvement in students learning outcomes and the development of skills would also be beneficial, as evidence of effectiveness and improved student outcomes will become increasingly important as these games continue to increase in popularity and schools continue to seek assessments using evidence-centered methodologies.  

Much of the literature reviewed in this study has talked about the engaging aspects of IPSG and the positive impact this has had on student learning and experience.  Educators are likely to find further research examining the correlation between their level of engagement and enthusiasm for using IPSG, to the level of excitement transferred to students interesting. It would also be beneficial to examine how we can harness the engagement and motivation for learning experienced within IPSG into other contexts, and what this would look like.  However, in order for this to be widely adopted, work also needs to be done that addresses the needs and barriers of IPSG on educators, and their students.  This research then needs to be shared with the growing global community who already show an interest in this developing pedagogical approach, increasing opportunities to better share good practice, grow knowledge and increase evidence of their impact within an educational context.

Although the New Zealand Council for Educational Research has commenced research into the use of games for learning, there is no available research that examines the use of immersive participatory simulation games in a New Zealand educational context, and there is also no research that specifically addresses how the needs and academic outcomes of our Maori and Pasifika learners could be improved through such approaches. The open nature and ability to design IPSG to reflect the needs of all children provides an opportunity to connect Maori aspirations, philosophies, processes and pedagogies to political, social, economic and cultural wellbeing (Hemara, 2000; Ka'ai & Higgins, 2004; Ministry of Education, 1996, Ministry of Education, 2009).  This is particularly important as the primary and secondary education focus areas cover the largest number of Māori students in formal education.  The complexity of Maori pedagogy presents a multitude of possibilities for those that are willing and committed to bringing about positive change for Maori within education (Pihama, Smith, Taki & Lee, 2004).   As such, specific research into the potential impact IPSG has on our students with diverse cultural and educational needs would be beneficial and timely, as innovative approaches to education that are engaging, effective, enjoyable, rewarding and positive continue to be sought for students who are identified to be at risk of disengaging and falling behind academically (Ministry of Education, 2009).

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