Saturday, October 31, 2015

Discretionary screen time - how much is too much?

With increased use of technology in many teenager's lives, some are spending a large proportion of their day looking at TV, computer, laptop, mobile phone and tablet screens. Heavy technology use is linked to fatigue, stress and depression in young adults (Thomée, Härenstam, & Hagberg, 2011). Furthermore, high levels of screen-time combined with physical inactivity are associated with a range of health issues for young people such as obesity, metabolic syndrome, and poor mental health (Graham & Hipp 2014). Although teenage boys are typically more active than girls (Hallal, Andersen, Bull, Guthold, Haskell, & Ekelund, 2012), boys report significantly higher levels of screen-time, making them susceptible to unhealthy weight gain and poor social and emotional well-being.

Although parents report being worried about their teenagers screen-based activities, they acknowledge computers and the internet as valuable learning tools (Turow, 1999). Many education providers such as Christchurch Boys' High School are placing an increased emphasis on using technology for student learning.

Recommendations for the amount of discretionary screen time (not homework related screen time) for teenagers varies. Netsafe recommend "Good Old Fashioned parenting" when setting boundaries for technology use:
  • Setting boundaries as soon as a child gets their first device means it becomes normal for internet time to be limited in your household and less difficult to enforce later on.
  • Parents can also model good behaviour, perhaps agreeing to no devices at the dinner table or after a certain time at night so emails and texts don’t disrupt family time.
  • Moderation is key – try to make sure your children have plenty of other activities to balance the time they spend online. As a parent or caregiver you may be faced with anger and tantrums over this
The New Zealand Ministry of Education offers non-specific advice to parents regarding technology use for teens: “It’s a good idea to make sure your child’s ‘screen-time’ is balanced with other activities to ensure their health, safety and happiness” (NZMOE 2014). The New Zealand Ministry of Health has a more specific recommendation: “Guidelines recommend that children and young people (aged 5–18 years) spend no more than two hours in front of television, computers and games consoles per day (out of school time)” (NZMOH 2012). Interestingly The Canadian Paediatric Society has strict recommendations from a time before the current prevalence of technology: “No child should be allowed to have a television, computer or video game equipment in his or her bedroom" (CPS 2003).

Dr Aric Sigman recently created a report for Family First New Zealand analysing screen time in New Zealand youth. Sigman describes discretionary screen time as an emerging factor in child and adolescent health. His report highlights the dangers of too much discretionary screen time as a health and development issue. "Parents should be encouraged to monitor and control the time their children spend on hand-held computer games / media / tablets / smartphones with justification that discretionary screen time is now officially a health and development issue not merely a lifestyle / cultural one" (Sigman, 2015). Sigman recommends youth employ self-awareness and self-discipline and that 12 - 15 year olds do not exceed 1.5 – 2 hour/day of discretionary screen time and people over 16 years of age do not exceed 2 hour/day of discretionary screen time.


CPS (2003) Canadian Paediatric Society, Position Statement (PP 2003-01), Psychosocial Paediatrics Committee. Impact of media use on children and youth: Recommendations. Paediatr Child Health Vol 8 No 5 May/June 2003.

Graham, D., & Hipp, J. (2014). Emerging Technologies to Promote and Evaluate Physical Activity: Cutting-Edge Research and Future Directions. Frontiers in Public Health Front. Public Health.

Hallal, P., Andersen, L., Bull, F., Guthold, R., Haskell, W., & Ekelund, U. (2012). Global physical activity levels: Surveillance progress, pitfalls, and prospects. The Lancet, 247-257.

NZMOE 2014. Learning using digital technologies. Providing balance. November 14 2014. learning-at-school/learning-using-digital-technologies/

NZMOH 2012. Ministry of Health 2012. The Health of New Zealand Children 2011/12: Key findings of the New Zealand Health Survey. Wellington: Ministry of Health.
Sigman, Aric. We Need To Talk. Auckland: Family First New Zealand, 2015. Web. 31 Oct. 2015. Screentime In New Zealand.

Thomée, S., Härenstam, A., & Hagberg, M. (2011). Mobile phone use and stress, sleep disturbances, and symptoms of depression among young adults-a prospective cohort study. BMC public health, 11(1), 66.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Students, Computers and Learning.

The recent OECD report titled “Students, Computers and Learning: Making The Connection” gained considerable media attention. An excerpt from the report stated “…countries which have invested heavily in ICT for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science.” The report further noted that technology can be distracting for students and there are significant concerns about plagiarism. Many media outlets reported on this document with headlines such as: Don't bother buying computers for schools, says OECD report and Schools wasting money on computers for kids: OECD.

At a time when Christchurch Boys' High School has just begun its journey in to students using their own computers as part of their education, these headlines are discouraging. However when one digs deeper in to the report there are some interesting revelations:

“The report leaves many questions unanswered. The impact of technology on education delivery remains sub-optimal, because we may overestimate the digital skills of both teachers and students, because of naïve policy design and implementation strategies, because of a poor understanding of pedagogy, or because of the generally poor quality of educational software and courseware”.
Director of eLearning at CORE education Derek Wenmoth asks "is the apparent lack of 'difference' in achievement attributable purely to the affordances of the technology, or is it more to do with the wider issues of teacher and student digital skills, pedagogical practices, assessment regimes etc.?"

It would be foolish to “throw out the baby with the bathwater” and give up on technology in education. Technology is an important part of most people’s work, home and social lives and is certainly an important aspect of education in New Zealand. In 2015 many Primary and Secondary Schools are asking students to bring their own technology to aid their learning and many Tertiary institutions offer online and blended learning courses. The report gives a timely reminder that computers are not a panacea for education. Two of the greatest creators of computers are firm believers of this: 

Computers are only beneficial for learning when the technology is used effectively as part of good teaching and learning practice. “We know that technology can really enhance good teaching, but the key ingredient is the good teaching to start with. [Technology is] more an amplifier and it’s a tool for good teachers rather than a magic wand which transforms bad teachers into good ones. We see that the best teachers tend to use it moderately” (Chowdhry, 2015).

Pedagogy and e-Learning

Noelene Wright’s 2010 five-year international literature review provides valuable insights for effective teaching practice to eLearning classes. Wright explains that technology in classrooms becomes an effective tool for teaching and learning when the technology is deliberately used in relation to appropriate and targeted pedagogical practices. Wright also finds a strong consistently reported desire for 21st century students to work with peers to learn collaboratively and socially, to problem solve and talk together about what they need to learn. In these kinds of learning environments, students rather than teachers are at the centre of the learning experience. The teachers’ role becomes one of a facilitator to afford opportunities, rather than the expert at the front of the room. Teachers must use student-oriented co-constructive pedagogies where students work collaboratively with interactive problem-solving ways of teaching and learning which foster co-operation. These pedagogies appear to lead to effective learning and better teacher/student relationships over time. These ideas link consistently to the New Zealand Curriculum’s focus on connection and active involvement as 21st century citizens.

Many of the teaching strategies Wright mentions can be developed with technology such as collaborating and constructing knowledge with OneNote Class Notebook, but others are more effectively achieved without the use of technology. Social interactions and talking through complex issues with critical thought may be better suited to class and group discussion. John Hattie’s research from 2009, reinforces yet again that the teacher and their teaching approach holds the greatest influence on a student’s educational outcomes.


Chowdhry, A. (2015). Computers in classroom have 'mixed' impact on learning: OECD report. Retrieved October 6, 2015, from

OECD (2015), Students, Computers and Learning: Making the Connection, PISA, OECD Publishing, Paris.

Pelgrum, W. J., & Plomp, T. (2002). Indicators of ICT in mathematics: Status and covariation with achievement measures (pp. 317-330). Springer Netherlands.

Wenglinski, H. (1998). Does it compute. The relationship between educational technology and student achievement in mathematics. Princeton, NJ: ETS.

Wenmoth, Derek. 'Does ICT Assist Learning?' Derek's Blog 2015. Web. 6 Oct. 2015.

Wright, N. (2010). e-Learning and implications for New Zealand schools: A literature review. Ministry of Education.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

eLearning and Flipping the learning at Christchurch Boys’ High School!

Students in a Year Nine eLearning Maths class at Christchurch Boys' High School regularly experience flipped learning. Flipped learning is a teaching approach which reverses the typical teaching and learning programme. Bergmann and Sams (2012) defined the flipped classroom as “that which is traditionally done in class is now done at home, and that which is traditionally done as homework is now completed in class”. Using this approach, students can gain the necessary basic knowledge before class, and class time can be better used to allow students to work at a level specific to their ability. 

Many researchers and teachers have reported positive outcomes of a flipped, approach to teaching (Baker, 2000; Lage, Platt, 2000; Bergmann, J., Overmyer, J., & Wilie, B; Wright, 2011; Pearson, 2012). While many of the reports are anecdotal, the sheer number of reported successful uses of a flipped teaching approach provides some evidence of a powerful method of effective teaching and learning.

In an eLearning Maths class at Christchurch Boys' High School, all students and teachers use Maths Buddy as a key tool for the 'pre-homework' phase of a flipped learning approach.

"The Maths Buddy program ... gives students the opportunity to watch, listen and re-do maths lessons again, to stop and rewind the teacher when needed. Maths Buddy allows the student to learn from an excellent teacher with the powerful help of sight and sound – a super effective combination where improvement is guaranteed." Information for teachers (n.d.)
In the pre-homework phase students are set Maths Buddy activities which involve animations, questions and worksheets about Maths content which is due to be taught the next day in class. Using this format, the teacher has found students are more prepared for the lesson, ask better questions in class time and may have more confidence to participate in class discussions. 

A Flipped learning approach appears to be beneficial for the students in the eLearning class, but perhaps even more beneficial for the teacher. Maths Buddy provides the teacher with a wealth of valuable formative assessment information. Students who achieve very high grades in the Maths Buddy pre-homework tasks work with similar high performing students in the 'experts group' during class time. Students in the experts group work on activities usually set for Year 10 students. Meanwhile students whose level of achievement in the Maths Buddy pre-homework was not as high, work in similar ability groups and are given extra help from their teacher to revise content. "Flipped learning helps teachers move away from direct instruction as their primary teaching tool toward a more student-centered approach" Sams & Bergmann (2013).

While one size does not fit all, and there are a range of effective teaching practices, a flipped learning approach looks to be a valuable tool for the modern teacher and is made much easier with the use of technology. With a clear focus on improving student achievement, teachers of eLearning classes at Christchurch Boys' High School have a wealth of tools at their disposal to continue their commitment to enhancing boys’ achievement.

Baker, J.W. (2000). The “classroom flip”: Using web course management tools to become the guide by the side. In Selected Papers from the 11th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning, (pp. 9-17).. Available online at

Bergmann, J., & Sams, A. (2012). Flip your classroom: Reach every student in every class every day. International Society for Technology in Education.
Bergmann, J., Overmyer, J., & Wilie, B. (2011). The flipped class: Myths vs. Reality. The Daily Riff.

Enfield, J. (2013). Looking at the Impact of the Flipped Classroom Model of Instruction on Undergraduate Multimedia Students at CSUN. TechTrends, 14-27.
 Lage, M., & Platt, G. (2010). The Internet and the Inverted Classroom. The Journal of Economic Education, 11-11.

Pearson, G. (2012). Students, parents give thumbs-up to Flipped Classroom. Education Canada. Retrieved from -parents-give-thumbs-flipped-classroom

Sams, A., & Bergmann, J. (2013). Flip Your Students' Learning. Educational Leadership, 70(6), 16-20. Chicago
Information for Teachers. (n.d.). Retrieved September 10, 2015, from

Wright, S. (2011). The Flip: why I love it and how i use it. Retrieved from /2011/07/25/the-flip-why-i-love-it-how-i-use-it/

Thursday, August 6, 2015

The Pen is Mightier than the Keyboard!

The teaching, learning and technical aspects of the 2015 eLearning classes at Christchurch Boys' High School have been overall very successful. General feedback from teachers has been positive with eight out of eight teachers who responded to a recent survey either very happy, or happy to be teaching students who bring their own devices to school to aid their learning. 

As the year progresses many common themes are emerging, one of which is the keyboard vs the stylus. A Maths teacher from one of the eLearning classes has spoken of the inability for the students to do ‘real Maths’ on their devices when using the keyboard only. He (along with many other members of the Christchurch Boys’ High School Maths department) feel that laptops will not be fully embraced into Maths pedagogy until all students have write on touch screen capability. It is easy to understand a Maths teachers’ frustration as students attempt complex Algebra indices problems using a keyboard only. Similarly, teachers of Languages have recognized the time it takes Year Nine students to accurately type French, Japanese and Chinese letters and characters on a keyboard. A visit to a nearby school in Christchurch also revealed a similar issue. eLearning class students were not allowed to use their laptop in one Maths class unless their device had write on capability. Students who did not have write on screen capability worked with pen and paper.

With the emergence of technology in almost all aspects of everyday modern society, the use of the pen and handwriting is declining. A recent British survey of over 2,000 people revealed that one in three respondents had not written anything by hand in the previous six months (Docmail in the Media: Handwriting dying a slow death, 2012). However, research is emerging to show that students using keyboards for taking notes may not achieve as highly as students who take notes with a pen. A study published in 2014 involving more than 300 University aged students from California, suggested that students who took written notes were better able to answer questions on a lecture than those students who used a laptop. The findings revealed that students who took hand written notes memorized the same number of facts as students who typed, but the laptop users performed far worse when they were tested on ideas. “The students using laptops were in fact more likely to take copious notes, which can be beneficial to learning, but they were also more likely to take verbatim notes, and this 'mindless transcription' appeared to cancel out the benefits (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014)."

 “...there is something about typing that leads to mindless processing. And there is something about ink and paper that prompts students to go beyond merely hearing and recording new information… (Mueller & Oppenheimer, 2014)."

A similar study published in 2010 found writing by hand allows the brain to receive feedback from a person’s motor actions, and this specific feedback is different than those received when touching and typing on a keyboard. The movements involved when handwriting, “leave a motor memory in the sensorimotor part of the brain,” which helps the person recognize letters and establish a connection between reading and writing (Mangen & Velay 2010). The researchers believe since writing by hand takes longer than typing on a keyboard, the temporal aspect may influence the learning process.

While good teaching practice at Christchurch Boys' High School does not require students to take notes on what a teacher says, research is suggesting that we must consider the importance of students being able to write and not just type in the eLearning classes. Further research is needed about whether the effect is extends to when students write notes on screen as opposed to on paper, so too is research needed in to education specifically at secondary school level. One of the major benefits for students using their laptops at Christchurch Boys' High School is the ability to keep all of their thoughts neatly in one place, eliminating the possibility of losing notes while providing organization and clear legibility. Of the 55 students in the eLearning classes at Christchurch Boys' High School, 15 have touch screen write on capability. Not one of the 15 students have ever used their stylus to write on their screen at any time while at school. Many students cite reasons such as an inability to write accurately on the screen, or the functionality of their laptop does not allow the user to write at a comfortable angle. While further research on this fascinating topic is needed it will be interesting to see how laptop manufacturers react to this evolving area of research. Mike Reading (Microsoft Education Master Trainer and Google Certified Teacher and Trainer) predicts the next release of laptops designed for education will have a greater emphasis on full function write on screen capability and the stylus will play an increasing role for students in education. Furthermore a Director of eLearning at a local secondary school in Christchurch has recently reviewed the recommended device specifications to strongly encourage students to bring devices to school which have write on screen capability.

Docmail in the Media: Handwriting dying a slow death (2012). Retrieved August 6, 2015.

Mangen, A., & Velay, J. (2010). Digitizing Literacy: Reflections on the Haptics of Writing. Advances in Haptics.

Mueller, Pam A., and Daniel M. Oppenheimer. "The Pen Is Mightier Than the Keyboard Advantages of Longhand Over Laptop Note Taking." Psychological science (2014): 0956797614524581.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Modern Teaching Practice

In the 1960’s students were taught like this:

Because they were being prepared for jobs like this:

Historically many schools were based around the needs of employers - schools mainly existed to prepare students immediately for the workforce (21st Century Schools, 2008). Modern schools do much more than prepare students for jobs . The Mission of Christchurch Boys' High School is to educate fine young men toward outstanding achievement. Many modern schools have a dual focus of supporting students to achieve academically and also to help their students to be good citizens. Attempting to prepare students for the workforce is an outdated and could potentially become an impossible task for schools. Zappa (2012) suggests that up to 65% of today’s secondary school aged students will end up at jobs that haven’t been invented yet. In order to help students to prepare for an uncertain future, several authours have written about the skills needed for the 21st century secondary school graduate. The Global Achievement Gap by Wagner (2010) advocates the following seven skills for 21st Century citizens:

·        Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
·        Collaboration across Networks and Leading by Influence
·        Agility and Adaptability
·        Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
·        Effective Oral and Written Communication
·        Accessing and Analyzing Information
·        Curiosity and Imagination

All teaching in New Zealand is guided by the New Zealand Curriculum and it makes clear statements of what is important in education. “We want our young people to be lifelong learners who are confident and creative, connected, and actively involved” (Ministry of Education 2007, p4). Among other things, the New Zealand Curriculum believes students should be resourceful, enterprising and entrepreneurial, able to relate well to others, effective users of communication tools, members of communities, international citizens, participants in a range of life contexts, contributors to the well-being of New Zealand – social, cultural, economic, and environmental, critical and creative thinkers, active seekers, users, and creators of knowledge, and informed decision makers (Ministry of Education, 2007).

Class room design can have a considerable impact on educating young people (Walker, Brooks & Baepler 2011; Barrett, Zhang, Moffat & Kobbacy, 2012) and in the example below it would appear that the environment would be conducive to encourage students to communicate freely with each other, to be creative, connected and relate to others.

Technology and eLearning can also play a major role to equip students with 21st century skills. Teaching and learning with technology can encourage students to be effective users of communication tools, to be members of communities, to collaborate and to be international citizens.

However, classroom design or technology alone are not an end in themselves, (Imms, in press). The greatest impact on student performance is the teacher (Hattie, 2013, Wayne & Youngs, 2003). The New Zealand Curriculum (2007) states students learn best when teachers:

 ·        create a supportive learning environment
·        encourage reflective thought and action
·        enhance the relevance of new learning
·        facilitate shared learning
·        make connections to prior learning and experience
·        provide sufficient opportunities to learn
·        inquire into the teaching–learning relationship

There have been significant changes in education and pedagogy since the publication of the New Zealand Curriculum in 2007. The implementation of Bring Your Own Device teaching and Modern Learning Environments are just two examples of how teachers have adapted their teaching practice. The New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) recently drew together more than ten years of national and international research on the future of learning. The research identified key themes for a connected and coherent future-oriented learning. Themes include a commitment to personalising learning, a curriculum that uses knowledge to develop learning capacity, the rethinking of learners’ and teachers’ roles, and the forging of new partnerships with the wider community. Teaching students in the 21st Century is an exciting and uncertain task. The modern teacher faces many demands which were not previously encountered in the 1960’s. Teaching every student as an individual, teaching global citizenship and preparing for students for an uncertain future are significant challenges for modern teachers. “Twenty first century education must be future orientated and adaptable to meet the learning demands of an increasingly complex world” Bolstad, Gilbert, McDowall, Bull, Boyd, & Hipkins, (2012).


21st Century Schools (2008). Retrieved from:

Bolstad, R., Gilbert, J., McDowall, S., Bull, A., Boyd, S., & Hipkins, R. (2012).Supporting future-oriented learning & teaching: A New Zealand perspective. Wellington: Ministry of Education.

Hattie, J. (2013). Visible learning: A synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. Routledge

Imms, W. (in press). Occupying curriculum as space. In K. Fisher (Ed.) The Translational Design of Schools – an Evidence Based Approach to Aligning Pedagogy and Learning Environment Design (pp. 180-) Amsterdam, Netherlands: Sense Publishing.

Ministry of Education. (2007). The New Zealand curriculum.
Wagner, T. (2010). The global achievement gap: Why even our best schools don't teach the new survival skills our children need--and what we can do about it. Basic Books. Chicago.

Wayne, A. J., & Youngs, P. (2003). Teacher characteristics and student achievement gains: A review. Review of Educational research, 73(1), 89-122

Zapper (2012). Retrieved from:

Monday, April 6, 2015

OneNote: The digital note taking programme which boys are loving!

As the end of Term One nears, students from the two Year Nine eLearning classes at Christchurch Boys' High School are becoming experts at using Microsoft's OneNote.  "MicrosofOneNote is an easy-to-use note-taking and information-management program where you can capture ideas and information in electronic form."   
At the beginning of the year all eLearning class teachers used OneNote Notebook Creator to add students to their teachers Notebook. There are three areas in OneNote Class Notebook which allow for an ideal set up for teachers and students in a class. The Content Library (Teacher can edit, Students can view only), Student Notebook (Student and Teacher can view and edit), and Collaboration Space (all Students and the Teacher can view and edit). 

Initially it was a very steep learning curve for students and staff at Christchurch Boys' High School to use OneNote. Only one of the 55 boys in the eLearning classes had any previous experience with OneNote and two teachers had only had brief experience.  Staff and student feedback after two weeks revealed the steep learning curve: Student Z: “I enjoy the e-learning class just how complicated it can be is annoying” and student A “I enjoy the learning but onenote confuses me and I find hard to adapt. Teacher S: "OneNote will be great for the boys in the long run, at the moment they haven't even figured out where they can and can't type!" More time for professional development and learning is planned for next year

After about six weeks teachers and students became more comfortable with using OneNoteAs comfort ensued the advertised benefits of OneNote became more obvious. Teachers like not having to take home a class set of physical books for marking, while students feel their work is tidier and many prefer to work with technology. An advantage highlighted by parents was that their son can gain access to all teaching notes even when absent from school. Student B stated at a recent parents evening: "You don't even really need to come to school!" 

Recently I attended the Future Schools Conference in Sydney and I showed a Microsoft Education Expert how we are using OneNote Class Notebook at Christchurch Boys' High School. She was very impressed and reminded me that we are among the world leaders in education to be using Microsoft OneNote Notebook Creator. She challenged me to use of the Collaboration Space in the Notebook more. She observed that many students and teachers in the eLearning classes are 'substituting' technology for pen and paper. OneNote is much more powerful than simply recording notes into an electronic notebook. The Collaboration Space allows all students and their teacher to create content which is shared to all members of the class. This is when really powerful learning and collaboration occurs. Recently students in one of the Year Nine eLearning classes have created screencasts of themselves completing Maths problems and sharing these in the collaboration space. 

Fellow class members can see what their peers are doing and their thinking, therefore the learning is shared. I have found students are much more likely to ensure their work is accurate when it is shared. Students were also encouraged to comment on their peers screencasts.

This is a considerable advantage over students working on paper onlyNo longer is the student's work book kept hidden from his peers and only passed occasionally between the teacher and back again. The advantage of the Collaboration Space was also evident when students were revising for an upcoming exam. All students were asked to put their revision in to the collaboration space. All students could contribute to revision of the exam. Students no longer need to revise for exams alone.