Being a board member in a school, it is hard for me not to worry about protecting our kids from harm. As a board we comply with all MOE requirements with digital technologies, but I can’t help but feel like as a sector we are now more than ever vulnerable to corporate influence (Take the recent example of Google being taken to court for using student data without the permission of the students or teachers).

It worries me that we are not asking enough questions or thinking critically about what products we are using in schools. This is an easy trap to fall into due to the speed at which technology is moving in schools and lure of ‘free’ products. But as Aral has shown us in his talk ‘free is a lie’ nothing is ever free, it always comes at a cost.  The question we need to be asking is: what is that cost and are our parents and children aware of that cost?

We are teaching our kids to produce more and more content online. We are teaching our kids to blog, program and create their own apps and this is fantastic, but I’d argue that if we are going to teach our kids to create online then we also need to teach them how to secure their content online.

Netsafe have some great resources for teaching digital citizenship and basic security. But I wonder if we could be a bit more proactive in the current technological climate.

There are two issues that are on my mind:

1. The school online environment is very different to the home environment. We are teaching our kids in a very heavily protected online environment at school which doesn’t reflect the open Internet in homes. Given educationalists advocate the wall-less classroom and 24/7 learning, how then are our kids learning to create safely and ethically outside the classroom. Not my problem you might say, we can only control what happens in school time you might protest. That may well be true, but I can’t help but think that we probably could do more in schools.

2. I wonder if there needs to be more conversation around privacy, security and creating ethical digital products. After reading this document on ethical programming, I wondered to what benefit this would have if our kids thought about creating online through an ethical lens. If our kids thought about who they were creating for and what harms could come from the products they are creating/developing, then hopefully they will go on to be better designers and creators of products as adults. I know that there are schools out there starting to do this where students as young as 11 are creating online material in authentic contexts. In room 11 At Taupaki school, students are creating maths games for the juniors to play using Scratch. They need to consider the age and appropriateness of the games, they need to listen to feedback and make sure they are attributing and licensing  their work according to Creative Commons and copyright law. They have the benefit of a teacher who can get them thinking about what goes on beyond the surface of computer and the digital environment.

If our kids had a better understanding of privacy and security issues they would be better-equipped digital citizens. Do our kids understand what they are giving away when they click ‘I agree’ to the terms of use for apps and products? Do they understand what goes on behind the scenes of a website and security vulnerabilities?

At NetHui privacy and security were hot topics with lots of great minds thinking up solutions to ensure people are better protected from privacy breaches. Raising the general public awareness of privacy and security issues was one way of achieving this. In my view it is much easier to raise awareness at a younger age than to try to change people’s behaviour when they are older. This article explains why security is a mindset not a product.

We have some wonderful people who work in IT and information security that are willing to work with schools to deepen understanding in these areas. There are also an increasing number of resources available and I have listed some below. I guess the real question here is are these concerns warranted, doe this stuff really matter? That is for each and own to decide I suppose, but if we don’t think about these things and talk about them, then we are all vulnerable to influence and control by corporate companies. (Karen Mulhuish Spencer writes about this far more eloquently than I in this blog post). The last thing I want for our kids, school and society is for one day to look up and realise that we no longer have any choice or control over our digital environment.




Netsafe blogs


Getting kids thinking about infosecurity















This is the third instalment in the governance as inquiry journey. In my last blog post I talked about our next steps, which included the board and staff meeting to co-construct a way forward. Here is what happened:

After a meet and greet over dinner, teachers and board members set to work on shaping up the numeracy review and the governance as inquiry model.

We split into three groups of mixed teachers and BOT and started grouping commonalities between board and teacher generated inquiry questions. When we had each decided on an overarching question we stopped to share our discussions. Next we moved on to the model and fleshing out each phase.  Each group had five minutes on each phase to jot down what they thought each phase should encompass. Lastly each group had some time to design what they thought the working model should look like.

Bot and teachers co-constructing

Bot and teachers co-constructing

As we were working a question was raised around how the review model differed from teaching as inquiry. It is a critical question because if the model looks like teaching as inquiry then we are doing it wrong.  This is still something we need to fine tune.

The data has been aggregated to share in order to finalise the inquiry question and how the model will look. Here are some pictures of the team at work and what they came up with on the night.

Governance a sinquiry

Governance as inquiryGovernance as inquiry

The highlight for me was that teachers that were not even in the numeracy team wanted to join in. The fact that they wanted to give up their time to work with this on us made me so incredibly happy – true authentic, autonomous collaboration to benefit our kids. As one board member put it “we didn’t meet tonight as BoT and teachers, we met as people focusing on our kids”

The model

The model

Our big challenge: We have review as inquiry, but do we have governance as inquiry? We need to make sure the board is reviewing it’s own policy and practices within the numeracy review context.

As part of the review we need be asking how the board’s existing practices and policy helps support the review area in question.

We shouldn’t be asking questions we know the answers to, we want to know what we don’t know. We want to dig deeper, put ourselves under the microscope and find out what is driving outcomes.

There was a lot of alignment on the night and wonderful contributions from teachers. I am grateful we have such a talented and dedicated team at Taupaki School.

This is the second instalment in the governance as inquiry journey.  In my first blog post I talked about the ‘rational’ behind governance as inquiry and next steps. These are the conversations had since then:

The first iteration made its was to our team leaders who discussed the model and the idea.  Feedback wasn’t too rough – some of it centered around the cosmetics of the model which is easily remedied.  One critically important piece of feedback was a request for more alignment between the school inquiry model and the proposed governance one.  The challenge is that we want as much alignment as possible, all the while preserving the intended purpose of each one. The governance model is a review model and will have its own unique features, but, the essence of inquiry must be paramount.

Taupaki School Inquiry Model

Taupaki School Inquiry Model

Taking this on board, we set up discussion time in the March BoT meeting. The goal of the meeting was to walk away with a shared understanding of what governance as inquiry is and what it might look like in practice. This is an essential step to ensure we are aligned so we can move forward together.

After gathering everyone’s current understanding of what inquiry is it was apparent that we had a reasonable amount of overlap and alignment; albeit varying levels of understanding. We agreed Numeracy would be the curriculum area we would review as Big Picture might be biting off more than we can chew first up! There was a lot of discussion around the model, but not much traction for alignment.  For the most part we just weren’t sure, we knew it wasn’t quite right, but what to do? Our VC Frank Janssen interjected and said lets just make a start, put it into action and iterate along the way.  So we did. We started at the ‘INQUIRE’ circle and generated a list of potential inquiry questions.

1      Why are we doing it?

2      Can we improve what we are doing?

3      How engaged are our students in Maths Learning?

4      What constitutes ‘Best/Better’ practice in Maths: How do we educate the students, teachers, community in what is best practice?

5      How does our current practice align with current research in numeracy?

6      What should at/above standard be in our school

7      How do we achieve excellence in numeracy?

8      Is numeracy a differentiator for the school?

It was great to see everyone collaborating and participating enthusiastically and new ideas emerging from the discussions. One such idea was to use some of the questions generated in the INQUIRE stage for staff PD sessions and spin off projects.

Taupaki school Governance inquiry modelConversation quickly turned to how we going to involve the teachers in this process. The numeracy team has been subsequently briefed on the process so far and invited to give feedback before they get together and generate their list of possible inquiry questions. We will decide together on the one or two questions we will be focusing on in the review.  I feel it is really important that BOT and teachers collaborate and do this together rather than us mandating how it’s going to be.

We have set aside a whole session dedicated to carving out and shaping the next steps in the inquiry model. We are using what we have at the moment to guide us, but must be ready to pivot at any given time.  We can’t rigidly hang on to the first iteration of the model if it is not delivering the goods!

So now a reflective pause: What could we have done differently? What worked and what didn’t? The act of spontaniously ‘doing’ created an open space for sharing ideas. But a disadvantage was that we had not looked at the vision or NZ curriculum. We need to be continually reflecting on our past actions and feeding forward into next steps.




This is the first blog post in our ‘governance as inquiry’ journey. I don’t know how many more there will be or exactly where we will end up – this is both an unnerving and exciting feeling as we move into the unknown…


During the last three years the Taupaki school board has focused on ensuring robust systems and structures were in place. This included the creation of a Governance Manual, a Work Plan and using modified ERO BAS assurance indicators as a way of ensuring compliance and quality policy delivery.

With good systems and structures in place and working well, we sought to look at how we could deepen our practice. We wanted to improve and deepen our curriculum reviews and self review. What we didn’t want was a tick box compliance method where standard industry questions were asked and existing evidence is found to show compliance. This type of review typically does not result in deep changes in practice, it often results in minor tweaks and more of the status quo.

I remembered a tweet from Claire Amos that said the words ‘governance as inquiry’. This provoked a lot of thought on how this might look and if we could use this idea to deepen our practice to benefit our students. The first question I asked myself was why inquiry? I believe inquiry is a method for delving deeper and pushing out of comfort zones.  Inquiry cycles pull focus and give process to asking good questions, using research to find answers and using information gathered to reflect and make changes to improve the way things are done. Teaching as inquiry is used to deepen reflective practice and so why not at governance level!

So the next step was to look at current inquiry methods. We looked at several including, spirals of inquiry, SOLO, Get it, Use it, Sort it and the HPSS Learning Design Model. The one we took the most inspiration from was the HPSS model and so I drafted a quick concept to take to the board. Taupaki school Governance inquiry model

This is a prototype which has gone out to staff for input and feedback. There will be many iterations as we get a handle on it and seek feedback from our community and other interest parties – this is our ‘rough first draft’.

At the centre of the inquiry cycle is the question “ how will this action help our students?”.  This comes from our belief that at the heart of of all we do are our children and our people. Lifting student achievement and cultivating a nurturing, inclusive and collaborative environment must always be at the forefront of our minds.

The first circle is named INQUIRE This is where questions are formulated and the focus of the review or activity is defined. For us we would be drawing on our vision documents as well as the NZ curriculum.

The next circle is FRAME This is where the purpose is defined and what methods we will be using to collect data and the voice of our community.

The next circle is GATHER This is where all the information is gathered (data, research etc..)

Next is ANALYSE This is where information is sifted, sorted and made sense of by reflecting on the the first two circles.

Next is SYNTHESIZE This is where findings are discussed, conclusions drawn and next steps proposed.

The next circle is SHARE This is where we share what we have learnt with all stakeholders.

Share feeds into the next circle which is REFLECT This is where we reflect on what has changed as a result of our actions. Is there a need for continuous action (prototyping) or are we happy with the changes? What did we do well (what worked) and what did not work so well?

Reflect then feeds back into INQUIRE because we want to use our past experiences to inform our future actions. Sometimes the inquiry will be small and sometimes it will need to be big and we use past action in this area to determine the need and focus of the next inquiry.

Each circle will need to be fleshed out more and unpacked. There will need to be a shared understanding of the wording and above all it needs to be practical and functional to give rise to school wide improvement.

At the moment we are starting small and focusing on using governance as inquiry for our reviews in our Work Plan. This includes curriculum review and how we review ourselves. In self review we are thinking of inquiry over a year long period. One idea the board is looking into is an inquiry around community engagement and collaboration. How this will look will need to be unpacked in our meetings set aside for strategic thinking in our Work Plan.  Our next steps will be looking at how can we embed inquiry into all our practices, including our approach to policy.

One of the challenges we will face is time because good inquiry takes time and we cannot presuppose the questions that will be asked and the outcomes we will get. As a board we need to be flexible, responsive and able to adapt to change. We will need to accept that there will be failure and we will need to be creative with problem solving.  We will need to be collaborative, we can’t do this alone, we need all stakeholders to come on board. We give thanks to Claire Amos, Stephen Lethbridge, Andrea Wylie & Rebbecca Sweeney for the critical conversations had so far – We value collaboration and any suggestions!


The Education Review Office (ERO ) suggests that successful boards are boards that work cooperatively with school leaders for the benefit of students. While I agree with this I am not convinced it goes far enough and suggest a whole school approach is more beneficial to students.

A whole school approach includes boards, schools & parent community working together in collaboration to lift student achievement. Working collaboratively looks different to working cooperatively. Collaboration involves more cross pollination and gathering of ideas and voices from all stakeholders. Collaboration breaks down walls that keep knowledge in silos and is a breeding ground for leveraging strengths to lift student outcomes.

Collaboration involves having a shared vision and planning together to ensure we are all on the same page heading in the same direction. If you think about a car with all it’s wheels going off in different directions, it’s not going to get very far. But, if the wheels are all going in the same direction then you can reach maximum velocity very quickly.  It’s like that with schools, if we are all heading in the same direction we will get where we want to go much faster.

A shared understanding of school work is an essential part of working together to lift student achievement. One tends to reject more readily what they don’t understand than what they do.  It is worth taking the time to include the BOT and parents in learning conversations because this builds trust which is in essential ingredient in successful teams and collaborative environments.

Boards are made up from parents from different sectors and different minds rubbing up against each other is good for generating ideas!  Eco chambers will keep us in the current factory model of schooling. If we ever want to move on from this we need to utilise the diversity of minds around us.  Utilising the diversity of minds on boards and parent community means creating opportunities for conversations between BOT, community and staff.  I believe every person’s voice has value and there is not one person that I have ever met that I have not learned something from.

In order to build relatedness between all stakeholder we need to create opportunities to spend time together.  In our school, board members are invited and encouraged to attend conferences so we can gain a shared understanding of best practices in schools.  Our principal brings learning conversations to our meetings and at parent information afternoons. The use of social media like Twitter, Facebook KnowledgeNet or other interactive forums can be utalised to build relationships and networks.

ZombiebotsThe respect and admiration I have for teachers has deepened from watching them work as parent help and being inspired by them on twitter. I would encourage teachers to create opportunities to have parents and board members in the class more often. I recently was invited to watch a group of children learning robotics and programming and it really helped me understand  ‘why’ this was being introduced into the school.

One could argue that governance is about governing and is hands off – parents and board members should not be getting involved in all that teacher stuff.  I’d agree that governance should be hands off, BoT and parents should not be involved in the day-to-day business and running of the school.  However, collaboration, inclusion  and consulting and being involved with day-to-day school matters are not mutually exclusive.  We can exist in our own domains and be connected by collaborative practices that exist in our schools at the same time.