Fahrenheit 451 - Book Review

Fehrenheit 451 is set in one of those ‘alterative universe’ kinda places. The main protagonist is a guy called Montag whose job is a fireman – A fireman not in our traditional sense but rather in this universe it is one who sets fire for the greater good of humanity. More specifically it is the job of the fireman to seek out books and torch them, arresting those who harbour these texts that remind us what asses and fools we are.
Montag is happily married and been working as a fireman for quite some time. His wife suffers from terrible dreams and sucicidal tendencies. This seems to be managed by some sort of vacuum contraption carried by the EMTs which literally sucks out these thoughts along with any memory of the incident itself. Montag is not unhappy just becoming tired of this somewhat limited existence.
Finally several incidents collide, causing him to call his profession into question: 
  • firstly, he happens upon a 17 year old girl, Clarrise who world view is somewhat broader than his own and she opens his eyes to new possibilities such as the simple delight of tasting the rain
  • secondly, Montag, hios captain and the squad on assignment when a library is discovered. It is their job to clear the house, pour Keresene, and light it up. Only the old lady whose collection it is refuses to leave, instead she strikes the match herself, flames engulfing along with her books.
Montag begins to question, choosing to save and read a few books here and there. I won’t spoil the ending for you, simply to say he begins to seek out like minded people as he reflects on how:
The sun burned every day. It burned Time. The world rushed in a circle and turned on its axis and time was busy burning the years and the people anyway, without any help from him. So if he burnt things with the firemen, and the sun burnt Time, that meant that everything burned!
All is focused around Montag however it is Faber I connect with. He’s the wise old professor who has been safe guarding books by reading and memorising them. Montag seeks his help but Faber is weary of him, with being a fireman and the questionable change of heart, is it a set up? That mix of eagerness and caution toward change I find relatable. Too often I think we, and when I say we I really mean I, allow caution to paralyse me into inaction or perhaps eagerness and enthusiasm run away with me. There should be some carefully considered balance in my decision making.

Dragon Books begins

Dragon Books is a channel on Youtube which is dedicated to sharing news and reviews of interesting reading material.

The plan is to have a news section which we hope will focus upon new literature, authors in the press and film adaptations.

The reviews will be shared by 'regular folk'. Its all about what regular people like and enjoy as much about the classics and weightier material. Below is the introduction video give you some context but feel free to go direct to the channel for the latest episodes, and don't forget to like, share and subscribe through your gmail account.

Future updates can be found in the tab at the top entitled Dragon Books.

Wonderful things outside this window

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.
One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.
His bed was next to the room's only window.
The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.
The men talked for hours on end.
They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation..
Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.
The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and colour of the world outside.
The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake
Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every colour and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.
As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.
One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.
Although the other man could not hear the band - he could see it in his mind's eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.
Days, weeks and months passed.
One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.
She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.
As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.
Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.
He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.
It faced a blank wall..
The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.
The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.
She said, 'Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.'

Think about water safety now and be prepared

It may be cold but now is the time to be thinking about getting the skills you and your kids are going to need this year. Drowning is far too common in New Zealand and simply hoping and praying its not you and yours is not really enough. In the video below I lay out few tips to help keep you safe on the water.

Below are some sound ideas from KidsHealth:
"Buddy up!"  Always swim with a partner.
"Get skilled" Know some life saving skills, they may just come in handy.
"Know your limits" If you're not a good swimmer or you're just learning to swim, don't go in water that's so deep you can't touch the bottom.
"Swim in safe areas only" It's a good idea to swim only in places that are supervised by a lifeguard.
"Be careful about diving" Only diving in areas that are known to be safe, such as the deep end of a supervised pool.

The Sun

D-Day 6th June

68 years ago was the D-Day landing. In this video I share my personal connection to that event. Lest we forget.


June 4: Queen's Birthday

Today is a holiday in New Zealand that is not shared with the rest of the World. It is Queen’s Birthday. Although the reasons for having an official Queen’s Birthday a somewhat obvious the exact day is somewhat questionable. The video below shares my thoughts about the day and below that again is two links to some useful info about the occasion.


Managing Personal Change

Its Sunday afternoon and I've spent the morning thinking about some possible changes I am having to make in the near future. But change can take its toll on the body and mind so here are three tips to help cope through difficult change:
  • Diet - A quality breakfast and a balanced diet 
  • Rest - 20 minutes quiet time of reflection each day, and a quality nights sleep 
  • Exercise - 20 minutes aerobic exercise, or join a sports team or in the very least walk a little further.
Managing personal change pdf

June 2: The important but not emergency numbers you may need

Second of June and we're talking about Emergency contact numbers.
It amazed me that the number for the local police station was so difficult to find that by the time I came across it, buried in the phone book, the need for it was gone.

So what are the important but not emergency numbers you may need in your phone?
Do you have an ICE number in your phone? And whose number will be called?
Are there other important numbers that you store in your phone.

June 1: Wierd Water

Last year I produced a video everyday over the month of May. This year it'll be June. Here is my first day's effort. I'm sure I'll warm up. If you have any thoughts about content and ideas to be discussed please leave a comment.
And if you know the answer to my question on the video definitely  leave a comment as I really don't know.

Present - Are you there?

Visit to Te Papa

Went to Te Papa today. They have some great exhibition on at the moment. And as with all such things it gets my creative juices following. There is such richness in our collective history in New Zealand. Many stories to be told.

Obviously there is much preventing the sharing of images from Te Papa as many exhibits are protected.
One such exhibit surrounded the migration for humanitarian reasons. Lots of stories being told through video, poetry and art. All very emotional.

Trip to Zealandia

The future can no longer be "What is going to happen?" It is "What are we going to do?"
The Dam at Zealandia

A walk in the woods
Adolescence Tuatara

The Zealandia Valley

The Old pumphouse

The Victorian pumphouse


More Kaka

The fence around Zealandia - keeping the pest out

Koru fern

Wild Fusia

Top tips for IWB use

D9 Teacher presents...

Time: 3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
Venue: St Matthew’s School, Hasting, NZ                                    
Using  IWB  software tools  to  empower  students  and   maximize  teaching  and  learning.'

… IWB + Literacy                20th March
We  explore  hardware,  software  and   freeware  options  to get the most from your interactive whiteboard to support  your literacy   teaching  and  learning.    

… interactive whiteboard for beginners    3rd April
Considering activities and strategies to maximize your students effective use of the IWB in the classroom.

… Inquiry and ICT               15th May
We explore ways  ICT tools can broaden, deepen and enrich the inquiry process. 

Email direct to book your place.  

Simon has spent time delivering ICT professional development to teachers around the North Island. Before that he was a primary classroom teacher for 11 years both in NZ and the UK.
Simon is particularly interested in the impact of Web 2.0 and other digital literacy tools on teaching and learning.

It's called reading

‘The Story in You’

Launch of our new Readers and Writers Club for Teens

Come along and meet published authors:

Deborah Burnside

Adele Broadbent

(both finalists in the 2012 NZ Post Children’s Book Awards)

and Jackie Rutherford

who will all be talking about writing for teenagers.

Thursday 15th 5.30pm

RSVP to books@beattieandforbes.co.nz or ph (06) 835 8968

Te Manawa Pou: free online Professional Learning and Development

Te Manawa Pou is a free online Professional Learning and Development [PLD] programme for te reo Māori teachers from English medium primary schools (Year 1-8). It is designed particularly (yet not exclusively) for teachers based in rural areas, or for teachers who may be the only teacher of te reo Māori in their school and thus may benefit from making connections with others.
Every aspect of Te Manawa Pou is focused on supporting individual teachers to:
  • improve their te reo Māori proficiency
  • improve their confidence in teaching and using te reo Māori
  • enhance their quality teaching and learning of te reo Māori practices
  • explore strategies to give every encouragement and opportunity for iwi and whānau to be involved in their children’s te reo Māori learning.

Further information

Te Manawa Pou overview page
Te Manawa Pou Information Sheet [ PDF 397KB ]
Contact us about the Te Manawa Pou programme 

Developing Independent, Self Directed Thinkers...

Auckland: 6th March
Hamilton: 7th March

Time: 4.00pm - 7.00pm

$125 per person
$110 pp for groups of 3-9
$100 pp for 10+

We are living in challenging times... and also times of great opportunity. The very best gift we can give to our students is to prepare them to adapt and to develop their full potential in this fast-changing world.

Teachers make every other profession possible and, in a dynamic teaching environment, deciding what to include and leave out of the curriculum is important. This workshop will explore 7 key ideas as well as the importance of authentic learning and developing the dispositions of the Habits of Mind.

In this fast-paced 3 hour workshop, you will explore 7 important keys for teaching ...
  • Understanding how the brain learns
  • Minimising the Fear Factor
  • Teaching contextualised content
  • Empowering students to think
  • Hook learners with authentic learning
  • Never work harder than your students
  • Assessing for Learning

Plus... you will explore how to teach within an authentic context and integrate the Habits of Mind seamlessly into your classroom.
You’ll also learn...
  • What the 16 Habits of Mind are
  • Practical ways to use and implement and develop the Habits of Mind
  • How to foster the use of the Habits of Mind in school and at home
  • How teacher language affects the thinking and learning process
  • How a shared vision for teachers can make a significant difference to children’s lives.
Karen Boyes is described as Australasia's "Mrs Education." An expert in effective teaching, learning and living, Karen turns research into practical and simple to use techniques that create success. As the Founder of Spectrum Education, an author, publisher of the Teachers Matter Magazine and an Associate Director of the Institute for the Habits of Mind, Karen is an expert of teaching and learning throughout the world.  A dynamic presenter, she inspires teachers and students globally.

For further information and to place a booking.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talks to Jon Stewart

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan talks about the importance of getting the balance right in the curriculum.
Some food for thought for all educators. We are all in the business of bettering the next generation for an unseen future.

"The best ideas always come at the local level. Not from me and frankly not from anyone in Washington"
Full interview
Extended interview - Part 1
Extended interview - Part 2
Extended interview - Part 3

Useful links

Race to the top
No child left behind
Respect initiative

Quote of the Month: Clifford Stoll

"Data is not information, information is not knowledge, knowledge is not understanding, understanding is not wisdom."

Clifford Stoll

Do you know your next steps?

Presenter: Pam Hook
Hamilton • 15 March

About this seminar

During this presentation Pam will outline how teachers can build primary and secondary students assessment capability using a modification of SOLO Taxonomy (Biggs and Collis 1982). This approach will support teachers to monitor and give effective feedback and feed forward on how students are going and where to next with their learning.
Who will benefit from attending this seminar?

This seminar will be particularly useful for educators who are interested in practical approaches to:
  • Improving student learning outcomes
  • Raising student confidence
  • Increasing student engagement

CORE Breakfast: Leadership post the quakes

Presenter: Chris Jansen
Christchurch • 28 February

About this seminar

Since the quakes, many organisations around Christchurch have lost staff and students, lost buildings, lost files and systems, and yet have re-emerged on shared sites, often operating in innovative and inspiring new ways. The quakes have not only triggered the temporary breakdown of conventional organisational structures, but also led to the spontaneous emergence of self-organisation, individuals and groups responding to the threat and the opportunities to support each other and create innovative solutions to the challenging situation.

This presentation will explore these phenomena. In particular, it will consider whether such self organisation can only occur post a traumatic event, or whether it is it possible for organisations to foster this level of self motivation, creativity, and generosity in its members (staff, students, communities) throughout its 'normal' operations?

CORE Breakfast: Sustaining curriculum conversations

Presenters: Christina Ward and Jane Nicholls
Dunedin • 7 March

About this seminar

It is four years since the launch of The New Zealand Curriculum Online web site. 35,000 teachers a month now visit this site. How are schools sustaining the momentum of curriculum review and development?

At this breakfast, we aim to introduce a feast of curriculum resources available online to support these conversations and decisions. We will guide you to a number of important curriculum research, learning resources, and tools. We will talk about ways schools take these online resources and use them effectively to guide curriculum conversations and thinking.

  • What recent research is available to inform school curriculum development?
  • How might schools use curriculum stories to challenge, inform and inspire conversations and decisions?
  • How does NZC Online support learning about the NZC principles?

This seminar will be particularly useful for:

  • School leaders, middle leaders and classroom practitioners
  • Those with responsibility for developing and supporting The New Zealand Curriculum within schools
  • Professional learning facilitators working with schools on curriculum review and development.

22nd Feb - Flowers and Roadcones

Intergrating technology thoughts

"High Stanadards" from John Spencer

These are few thoughts of "high Stanadards" from John Spencer, US blogger.
Often, the proponents of the drill-and-kill testing environment hold up the banner of "high standards" as a rationale for excessive testing. I disagree with this premise entirely. Here are ten reasons most tests lead to lower standards:

Extrinsic Motivation: Kids will work hard to learn, because they are naturally curious. When we replace this with an extrinsic motivation, it moves to economic norms, where they learn to do the least possible work for the highest results. A kid learns that it's okay to do a half-ass job if a D is still passing. Similarly, high achievers are often allowed to skate by complacently with good scores. That kind of mentality isn't present if a student is excited about learning.
Cramming: If I ask a student to learn something today and expect that student to remember tomorrow, a month from now and at the end of the year, the student will probably remember it. However, ask the same student to learn the information for the test on Thursday and it becomes easy to cram and forget.
Time Is Wasted: I visited a campus on Friday, figuring I might see some time-wasters. Maybe a crossword puzzle for good behavior or PAT time. Instead, as I walked through the halls, I saw entire grade levels of students silently taking a test on information that could have been assessed in an ongoing way throughout the week. I've written about this before. My students spend seven weeks (almost a quarter) of the year taking tests. The test is longer than the Bar Exam or the MCATs. It's insane.
Low-Level Thinking: Most tests are multiple choice. These tests, by design, do not assess what a student knows. Instead, they test what a student fails to recognize if he or she isn't guessing correctly. True assessment requires deeper critical thinking and avoids sloppy guesswork.
Slow Feedback: Students should be able to have instant feedback regarding how well they did. However, in an effort to avoid cheating, most students are not allowed to self-grade and reflect upon their learning. It can be a week or two before they get a test back. The best kind of assessment is the type that allows a student to think about his or her learning in order to adjust as a result.
Excuse for Avoiding Formative Assessment: I am shocked when a teacher says, "They did poorly on the pretest and now I'm shocked that they bombed the test." Really? How does that happen that a teacher can't figure out if a student is mastering a standard?
The Bell Curve and Other Deflators: I remember being a student and hoping that the whole class bombed the test, because low scores along around meant the teacher would curve it and I would receive a B instead of a C.
The Wrong Feedback: Tests typically focus on an overall grade rather than the mastery of a standard. Thus, there are two things vying for a student's attention: the grade and the learning. Often a student doesn't get to retake a test or find a different method to demonstrate mastery. Meanwhile, the qualitative, customized feedback is often missing from this type of assessment. And yet, it is this customized feedback that leads to higher standards of learning.
Risk Aversion: Learning involves taking risks. You can't have high standards without a certain level of risk-taking. Most tests are designed to not only discourage failure but encourage a certain fear of failure.
Complacent Teaching: If we say that a multiple-choice test is our only method of testing, we send the message that different learning styles and preferences make no difference. It becomes totally acceptable to move away from the notion of no child being left behind and instead pushing all students into the same myopic view of success. In the process, teachers have the permission to ignore the "lower level" students and focus on those who are "on the bubble." We're watering down our professional standard in the name of higher standards.

Further posts from John

The Real World
Abolishing Homework: Practical Thoughts
Or Maybe We'll Just Jam . . .

Wearing two hats

by Pinelopi Zaka (pinelopi.zaka@gmail.com, @paz11uc)

With the beginning of the new school year down under, teachers set their own new goals and many decide to apply some new strategies. For some this might involve using ICT and perhaps trying out blended online approaches that combine both online and face-to-face teaching and learning. In New Zealand and worldwide blended education is a fast developing area that is expected to continue growing, especially in kiwi schools with the rollout of UFB. This is an exciting opportunity to experiment with new tools and approaches, but also to motivate teachers to take one step further and investigate how they and their students experience the whole process, through research. Here are some of the reasons:

  • Knowing yourself! Through the process of researching your own class you wear two hats – that of the teacher and that of the researcher. This twofold role helps you to continuously self-reflect on what you are doing as a teacher and why you are doing it.
  • Knowing your students! Similarly to knowing yourself, through research you investigate your context in a more systematic way. You collect and analyse your data from your students, either through interviews, surveys or observations in a thoroughly designed way, preferably informed by the literature and other studies looking into similar topics.
  • Improving your teaching! While you research your class you collect lots of evidence regarding the success or not of your approaches. It is an ongoing process where, at any stage, you can adapt your practices, change your approaches, use different tools or do anything else that you think might improve your students’ experience.
  • Sharing your results and your learning journey! Nobody can deny how great the feeling of sharing is. Learning about what other teachers did, how they did it and what the results were is always interesting for educators who want to improve students’ learning experiences. A presentation at your school’s staffroom, a poster at a conference, or even better a published article in a research journal, are a few ways to communicate your class story to inspire others and contribute to the body of knowledge for the improvement of teaching and learning. Even if you think that your results are not that impressive, the learning journey you went through and your growth as a teacher is something that is definitely worth sharing!