Author Archives: glenysharwood

The Digital Divide

Technology is here to stay there is no doubt about that. Are we moving at such a pace that not all can keep up the latest and best suitable. This could link more to being a reflection on the social and financial position of families. As digital literacy becomes as important as numeracy and literacy there is a greater pressure on families to make the latest available to their children so they can access the best aspects of education that is possible.

In an article in the NZ Herald “Plugging Children into Online Education” Dr Michelle Dickinson questions whether those “lacking digital access are in severe risk of being left out”. Reality is that there are a large number who do not have this access especially in their homes.

We recognise that in the last decade reference material in the form of books etc is being taken over by online research tools. Our Ministry of Education recognises the importance of the full integration of digital technologies into our curriculum.

How best do we make sure that is it equitable for all students no matter their background or parents financial situation?


Building Resilience

Building Resilience – Families on the go , over scheduled diaries for parents and kids, growing peer pressure, being part of the world of social media and exposure to the undesirable effects of the digital world are a few of the things that put tremendous stress on parents and families.

We are seeing children and parents that are far more anxious and who don’t have the skills to support themselves when challenges and adversities face them. Many of the signs are invisible and while the growth of digital connectedness has many pluses it can also add to the pressures.

In the 21st Century Resilience has become a parenting concept that every parent needs to understand. Fortunately research tells us that it is something we can build and nurture in our kids whether it is at school or in the home. To do this we need to understand the implications and recognise it as a continuous process especially when things go wrong. It has been shown that it is just as important to build strengths and protective strategies as it is to take away or minimise risk factors.


Children’s Online Safety Pledge

What was relevant then still applies today. “The online pledge.” I came across something I had written quite a few year ago when children started to spend an increasing amount of time on the Internet. It talked about  a growing concern about children’s safety on the Internet. The ability for undesirable material to filter through our email and internet poising an ever increasing problem. The importance of getting children on-board right from when they begin using the Internet.

The pledge  seems just as important and relevant now as it was then. However, now it applies not only to the internet itself but how it is accessed form the many different types of digital devices available to kids or for that matter the phone and other implications form text messaging etc.

The type of message I was giving my children over 20 years ago still applies today but has a wider context.

Technology Effective or Not

Is it the technology that matters? What determines it’s effectiveness? What about the teaching? In an education world that is being increasingly driven by technology there are still a number of questions that need to be answered. How do we effectively measure the success and what creates it more successfully in one context as opposed to another? A lot of questions I know.
In a recent article I read “Five Golden Rules for Using Technology in Classrooms” I was reminded that it isn’t the technology that counts it is the purpose and that the right technology for the right purpose that has the best outcomes. Well who determines that? The educational institution decides on the best equipment for them but it is the teachers that decide the purpose it has each day and how well it is integrated into their programmes. It does appear that different types of technology suits different purposes. The ipad has its place and suits some learning aspects as does the many other forms of devices that are available. Not easy decisions for institutions or students and parents to make. It is important that all the facts are available. Whatever decision is made it doesn’t change the fact that the teacher is at the heart of making effective use of it in the programmes that they include day to day.

Homework is the Big Question

Should homework be ditched for play? That has been an ongoing question for educators and parents alike. How much homework? Should it be compulsory? What if they don’t do it? and …. of course what about just being a kid. Between school and after school activities some children don’t have much down time to create their own play or just  to socialise with other kids. Each school decides on it’s own policy regarding homework and how it will be enforced.

I personally don’t believe homework should be a battle ground between parents and children. Often children are exhausted after a day at school and whatever they are involved with afterwards. If their parents are both working sometimes homework doesn’t even get looked at until after dinner.

However it is well recognised that children’s learning is enhanced when the school and parents are supportive and share the same goals. Developing reading skills and maths number sense can be reinforced at home and support the progress that students make.

Homework needs to be something that reinforces what they have learnt at school and not new learning which can often put more pressure on parents. Supporting children’s learning at home should be a time in which parents and children can spend positive time together.

In this technological age, however we do recognise the necessity of play and developing all those important outdoor skills. In a recent survey by the Herald on Sunday there were some interesting thoughts on this topic.




Train Your Brain

Living longer, being better educated, having better health and being fitter are all things most people aim for. Within that is the need to keep our brain as active and connected as possible. People in their 80’s are studying for higher qualifications and students of all ages are encouraged to retrain. As jobs are constantly changing this often becomes a necessity. It is now thought that the brain continues to adapt and change throughout our lifetimes.  Neurosplasticity ( encompasses both synaptic plasticity and non-synaptic plasticity—it refers to changes in neural pathways and synapses due to changes in behavior, environment, neural processes, thinking, and emotions) can alter the strength and number of connections between cells in the brain. Trying new things, learning and retraining all keep our brain stimulated. Learning a musical instrument, new language or totally new skill all stimulate the brain.

According to a new study and discussed in an article by Christopher Wanjek  Learning a New Language at Any Age Helps the Brain” It discusses how students who learn two languages do much better in test and exams then students who learn one language.

This is an exciting concept and one which encourages us all to keep trying new things and attempting new skills. As i try to continually master the ever changing field of technology I am encouraged by the fact that i am keeping all those brain cells connecting.

Top 10 Skills for 21st Century Workers

The top 10 most important skills necessary for success in the workforce while maybe worded a little differently go hand in hand with those that are required for a successful learner. Surely the role of education is to produce students who become successful workers. Even before starting school children are exposed to some of these skills.

Collaboration is the new “in” word. Not only in their own environment but the global world in which they are continually connecting and with it comes a range of communication requirements as well as thinking critically about what they are reading and seeing. Global citizenship requires an awareness of how what they do impacts on others and of course there is a continual need to filter and screen information.

I am already seeing 5 year old children using these skills at their level. Keeping up and ahead of the students we work with also equips us and should keep us searching for as many ways as possible to develop these skills both in education organisations and at home.

The top 10 skills for the 21st century worker, according the visual below by the University of Pheonix, include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Leadership
  • Communication
  • Collaboration
  • Adaptability
  • Innovation
  • Global citizenship
  • Productivity and accountability
  • Enterpreneurialism
  • Accessing and synthesizing information


Graphic by University of Phoenix.

Graphic by University of Phoenix.

Helping Kids Resist Unwanted Advertising

As technology changes race forward there are so many aspects we have not necessarily been prepared for. Thank goodness for a fledgling New Zealand company who has recognised the need to support children to be able to resist the advertising that is often directly focused on them.  As children as young as 3 navigate themselves around different devices and apps they are exposed to in-app or opt in purchases and advertising. A little difficult for young kids not to be resist if it is appealing enough.

This Auckland based company wants to train kids to resist different forms of advertising in a positive way. Supported by psychologically based concepts this supports both children and parents. It uses an online solution to teach children strategies for resisting ads and in-app purchases. What a great idea and one that can support kids at home and school both places where they spend the majority of their time. This start up company and what they are doing is worth reading more about.

A Language Dilemma

Are we creating a generation that will struggle with oral language and a range of adequate vocabulary due to the lack of face to face interaction and social dialogue? An article written by the herald “Use of gadgets and parents too busy to talk suspected of hindering children’s language development” discusses what seems to be a growing dilemma with young students starting school. How wide spread this is seems to be debatable but a growing number of schools are reporting a drop in oral language for those starting school. Most schools test students oral language upon entering school  in New Zealand so it will be possible to track some of this data.

How will this impact on students as they continue their education and what are the underlying reasons? There is a growing awareness that the numbers of hours spent by students on individual devices both at school and at home does affect certain aspects of development. No longer is there a need to interact with your family on a shared board game throwing the dice and arguing over scrabble words. All can be done while each has their own device needing very little oral interaction. Parents and educators alike need to be aware of this and recognise the importance of time and opportunity for talking with children not at them or directing them. I like these simple things that can be done throughout the day.

  • Help children with simple activities and, in doing so, have lots of conversational exchanges.
  • Tell children words and expressions but also make sure they are able to frequently try out new language.
  • Read aloud to children and give them time to think over what they have heard. Ask lots of closed questions (with one-word answers) and open questions (those with many different answers).
  • Try to talk with, not at, your children.
  • Encourage them to retell their favourite stories from books or their own experience.

Single Sex Schools Versus Co-Ed

A new report analyses achievement in state secondary boys’ schools and explores the top strategies used by high-performing schools. This report by two well recognised New Zealand educationalists brings the age old argument as to whether boys achieve better in single sex schools as opposed to co-ed. Many aspects that are discussed could also support girls learning. High-performing schools in New Zealand advocate a student-centred approach, offering a wide variety of activities as well as strong academic programmes,

To support students to achieve the best results it is important that they are self-managing and motivated to set high goals for themselves, Providing students, whether they are boys or girls with as many opportunities and a desire to achieve their best supports them for the future. A strong belief that they can do it coupled with good self esteem helps to create success.

Are boys distracted by having girls in their classes? Quite possibly. However boys in co-ed schools also show success. Perhaps there are a number of factors that contribute. Good role models and an expectation that students do their best, also physical and mental well being.

Schools along don’t produce these good results it is the home and school working together that supports and leads to success.