Welcome to my Professional Learning blog.
My name is Matt Nicoll and I am a high school teacher in New Zealand, interested in improving the classroom experience for my students. I am open to trialing new approaches and hope to use this blog to reflect on my ideas and practices.

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Mirror, Mirror...

Having just enjoyed a three week break, I finally had time to do some genuine reflecting on my initiatives and ideas from Term One. In the hustle-bustle, I kept trying things out but only really reflected on the successes. What about the "not-so-successful" ones? Well, here we go... Before I start, I must stress that I still think these ideas were valid and in most both cases I intend to use them again, albeit tweaked.

Year 9 Class Blog


My Year 9 students were to have a blog for their notes, so we could spend more time on the actual learning and mastering how to use SOLO for self- and peer-assessment. The students would have turns doing the blog entry for one lesson each, and would be exempt from the online homework as their "reward".


  1. Some of my students were not 13 yet, so could not create a Google account.
  2. Many of my students lacked the digital literacy required to do even a simple blog post (and we lacked the time for me to dedicate a week to digital literacy alone).


For Year 9, I do the blog posts myself now. The students film my teaching and photograph the work on the board and I do the blog post while they do a collaborative task. They are encouraged to "help" me with it in class, but not expected to post any more. This also avoids the issue of students being too young to sign up.

The Job Interview


My Year 11 students were about to learn about meiosis and mitosis and, to be blunt, I think these concepts can be BORING! "Compare and Contrast Mitosis and Meiosis" - no thanks. I was given a great idea, but did not execute it too well:

Mr/Miss Mitosis and Mr/Miss Meiosis are to apply for a job in the Cell Division of a business. Depending on the type of business (The Gonad Collective or Epidermal Enterprises, for example), one would be better suited than the other. This interview was to be filmed. Then the interviewer had to work with a Mr/Miss Mitosis and Mr/Miss Meiosis from another group. Again this was to be filmed.


  1. Some students (primarily boys) were unprepared to "lose"; even if they were not the better cell division process, they used weak arguments and got loud and obnoxious to try to "win".
  2. Time. The groups which planned this well needed a lot more time than what I set aside. I adjusted for this, so the results were pretty good from a couple of groups.
  3. Quality. Some groups' respective work was not good enough. It showed a lack of planning and, in some cases, no evidence of critiquing their own work. This may be due to time constraints but was more likely due to a lack of road-markers from me for guiding them to create a mini film.


I now think I have a workable way to do this task:

NOTE: No prior teaching about mitosis and meiosis was done. After reviewing the students’ work, a brief overview was done, however.

  1. Split the class into groups of 4-5
  2. They allocate roles:
    • Mr/Miss Mitosis
    • Mr/Miss Meiosis
    • Interviewer
    • Camera Operator and/or Prompt
  3. They script a job interview for a role in the “Cell Division”. I gave ideas for companies such as The Gonad Collective and Epidermal Enterprises and intend to do so again. The guidance I gave this year was that both applicants have to start genuinely thinking they are the better applicant for the “job”, but ultimately it has to become obvious which cell division process is correct for the type of daughter cells desired. I think this is still good advice.
  4. They film it, critique it and often re-film it. I explicitly encourage them to do the first effort as a “draft” and be critical of it so the second attempt is better.

Now, it is time for things to get uncomfortable. The students are not warned about this next part:
  1. Mr/Miss Mitosis and Mr/Miss Meiosis now have to do a “blind” interview with a different Interviewer (from a different group)
  2. There is no forewarning about the “job”
  3. There is no chance for a draft, then final effort

The students now process their films to make a finished product which they publish to YouTube. Road-markers are set in place too: researching both cell division types; writing the script; practicing the interview; filming the interview; critiquing the film; re-filming (if required).

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