A massive shout out to Brian Rickets (@kiwigeolog) for sharing this post with us. You can read more of Brian’s work over at his blog 

Moral indignation

I had thought to comment on the June 7 #SciChatNZ that dealt with ‘Morality and Ethics in Science’, but decided that an analysis of what was said, commented or argued might be a bit tedious. So instead…

Some time before the SciChat (and not related to SciChat) I received a comment about the choices one makes in life; these comments, made during a discussion on climate change, were a polite but thinly veiled criticism of some of my own choices about where and for whom I had worked over the past 4 decades.  I was given to understand that working for oil companies (mainly offshore Taranaki) and mining companies (NZ, Chile) was a blight on my character; how could I talk sensibly about climate change science when I was one of the main contributors to the world’s problems.  That I had assuaged my conscience by also working on groundwater and geothermal projects (renewable), CO2 sequestration,  teaching and research seemed irrelevant.  I had given in to the dark side.

I’ve had discussions like this on several occasions and as with them, little was resolved during this particular discourse. But I did feel annoyed.  The phrase “but you had choices” and something about souls had been trotted out two or three times during the chat, and it was this insistence that grated most.  Choice, it seems is a convenient crutch on which to foist an opinion.

There are plenty of everyday choices which are obvious: what to have for dinner, who to vote for.  These kinds of choices are explicit and for the most part reasoned.  But there are also choices that, while not necessarily unconscious are hidden, or if not hidden then conveniently tucked away lest they become uncomfortable.  Discussions about renewable resources, climate change and environmental issues are good examples where our efforts to be responsible citizens (and scientists) can begin to unravel if we take too much notice of these hidden choices.

Consider the following – you are going to a conference.  Here is a list of a few inconvenient but inevitable choices you will make:

  • You will need to travel (car, plane, train). Every step of this journey will require the use of fuels, plastics, metals, food, clothing, communications (the list goes on). Hydrocarbons will be front and centre of virtually everything that gets you from A to B.  Would you choose not to attend the conference because of the carbon footprint?  Most will feel some guilt but attend anyway, either ignoring the issue or designing some arcane explanation involving necessity.
  • Accommodation (same kind of list)
  • Most people at the conference will have at least one form of communication – phone, tablet, laptop (plastics, metals, including rare earths). Tweeting directly from a conference is now common place. But will any thought be given to the atrocious working conditions under which some foreign governments and mining companies extract the rare earth metals used in these devices?

There may of course be arguments that the improvements to society and science that someone makes by going to the conference (or to the office, the lab, the field, home) is worth the sacrifice of a few dark choices. Or that some choices are worse than others. But this is a pretty self-serving and unnecessary position to take. I doubt there would be many who would begrudge the scientist travelling to Antarctica to collect data that improves the veracity of climate models.

I now feel vaguely vindicated. My soul is largely intact. I have played my part in providing the wherewithal for conference goers and field trippers. In the end whatever tasks I might have undertaken for the dark side, were no better or worse than the crosses that our conference goer and field scientist have to bear.  As Jane Austin’s Mr Bennett said “I will get over it and probably more quickly than I should.”

I also have faith in science’s and society’s ability to find solutions to many of these unfortunate choices.  I expect it will be a gradual process.  Yes, we can learn to recycle, locally, our old cell phones, and purchase electric vehicles when they are reasonably priced and when there is sufficient infrastructure.  But in the meantime most of us will still need to fill the petrol tank or hop on that plane.  If climate change is a reality (and there seems to be a consensus that it is), then so too is the length of time it will take to make the necessary structural changes to the way we live.  In the end, moral indignation at these darker circumstances seems neither fair or useful.


Science in a social context

A MASSIVE thank your to Brian Ricketts (@KiwiGeolog) for allowing us to repost this blog. You can find the original post at his blog

I have created this Science in Context chart, partly because I am interested in the links, or the possibility of links among Science and other human endeavours like art, politics and so on. Science has never taken place in a vacuum; people who have conducted scientific investigations have had affiliations with or have needed to react to political or religious forces that helped shape our world – in some cases reacting simply to survive the vagaries of current ideologies. Science during the Renaissance and Enlightenment was often in conflict with prevailing religious dogmas. Thomas Kuhn, scientist and philosopher (of paradigm fame), would argue that this “tension” between science and the Church was crucial to the advancement of science in the Western, predominantly European world. In contrast to this often brutal conflict, eastern religions tended to coexist more harmoniously with their scientific cousins.

I have chosen the period 1859 to 1920 for purely selfish reasons; it is a period in which the ‘rules’ in art and music were constantly being broken; I love the art from this period. The result was a whole new world of creative composition, from plein air impressionism to the reconfiguring of three dimensional cubist space, or the imagining of Debussy’s sea and the dissonant restructuring of music by Schoenberg. The examples of painting, music, writing and so on are what I think are reasonably representative of the artist for a particular date.

timeline peopleThe period 1859 to 1920 contains three paradigm shifts (sensu Kuhn);  the first two were science-based but resulted in significant changes in social perspectives – Darwin’s Origin of the Species and Einstein’s relativity. 1920 is kind of arbitrary.  Breaking the rules of scientific thinking, challenging social mores, and the increasing popularity of art that was refused entry into the more traditional exhibitions or concert halls (salon de refuses), are some of the defining characteristics of this period.  It must have been exciting.  It ended with the horror and social-political upheaval of WWI.

In New Zealand the 1860s and 70s defined the initial rationale and actions for land ownership, the legacy of which we still deal with. Other institutions that we take for granted such as the right to govern and voting rights also were promulgated in the 1880s and 90s. And then of course there was WWI…, that many think was one of the defining historical events that shaped modern New Zealand.

What is it that triggers a person’s imagination and creativity; what combination of events outside a person’s everyday experiences contributes to discovery and invention?  For this period the industrial revolution was in full swing; Darwin’s “Origin” was a bolt out of the blue that upset traditional Church and social conservatism.  Did exposure to so called ‘primitive art’ from Africa and the Pacific, or the linear perspective in paintings from Japan and China trigger a response in artists like  Cezanne, Braque and Picasso?  Was there a tangible link between cubist ideas and the revolutions in physics and psychology?  The answer is I think a resounding YES!   Artists and scientists were eagerly communicating their ideas, whether in formal journals, manifestos, cafes or press releases.  Scientists, no more or less than anyone else are influenced in their thinking by a world view, by emotional links to places and ideas,  and to the vagaries of bias.  Creative acts for scientists are probably no different to those of the poet or painter.  But science does have some rules or methodologies that help guide them through the social and philosophical maze.

The chart is not encyclopedic. Anyone who reads it will immediately locate gaps in events; fill these in yourself, or better still get your students to do it. Likewise, the time range of each ‘ism’ is approximate and most have significant overlap with preceding or subsequent styles or schools; Claude Monet continued to paint impressionist water lilies into the 1920s, when Expressionism, Dada and Surrealism were the order of the day (I produced the chart in Excel which has pretty limited capacity to show overlapping data cells or colour gradients).  Add a country column of your own but perhaps be more adventurous then me and add a country for which you have no direct familial or emotional ties.

The download-link to a PDF version of the chart is shown below.


#scichatnz 10 tips to PONDer

This is a guest post by avid Pond user and #scichatNZ regular Tony Cairns

This is a few tips and suggestions from my perspective and completely independent from N4L nor the Pond. I think the pond is a great idea – well I would say that wouldn’t I since I am knee deep or neck deep in in. I have loaded over 782 resources into 66 ‘buckets’ (folders) in the 503 days i have been involved. I was pioneer or early adopter educator and I have attended several meetings, workshops and seminars on the Pond.

To me the origin of the pond was a fusion of the need to find a use for the UFB: content, skills and professional learning and the desire by teachers and administrators to learn form the best resources available. It was free, fast, flexible and friendly – mainly because it was run for, by and with teachers. The designers and coders were responsive and eager for feedback and very willing to make changes – rolling out new and better features on a monthly and quarterly basis.

Uptake by teachers was fast – presently a community of 15,241 members is made up mostly by teachers i.e. 11, 612 educators in 43 groups, with 400 education providers and 2611 schools. Students are yet to arrive – possibly in 2016 when protocols and policies have been further explored by teachers, schools and providers. BUT contributors do have the option to make any or all of their resources available to any group, public or private, of any age, expertise or group affiliation.

My ten top tips on wading in the pond:

  1. Tag wisely and consistently all your resources to make them easier to find and more targeted to end users.
  2. Place all resources into clear consistent well labelled buckets (folders) and help others by tagging (with restraint) relevant resources
  3. Load whole units, ready to go with all files, features, presentations and tests into the Pond – be generous with your time and resources – we all owe others for our education and learning – it’s time to give back and share what we know.
  4. Add the Ponder this… app into your browser and use it to clip the items, articles and lesson you think may help others – or your own students
  5. Order your folders so that the lessons and topics flow and link to your lesson plan.
  6. Tell others your successes by all means but also discuss your failures – you can learn more and stress less form reading others mistakes than making more of your own
  7. With permission and mindful of copyright (we use creative commons with attribution) load the images of your work in action, the student exemplars (with their permission) to show how the lesson went and what can be learned from it to further improve your practice.
  8. Follow the leaders – the teachers and providers you like – the debates that interest you and the groups that you are affiliated to
  9. Comment and Ka pai (like) the successes of others and give some ripples to those who may appreciate some feedback from your own experience of the topics or lesson plans you have used.
  1. Keep it positive, upbeat and concise – a little wisdom can go a long way and more is not always better


Thanks N4L, Carolyn, Paula, Andy, Ian, Pete, Chris, Tim, Barry, Gary Keely, Alex, Alfonso. Kris, Matthew, Simon, Adeel, Kris, Sian and all the others I am yet to meet. Thanks Providers Science Learning Hub (to die for resources) Kiwa (KIWA is the world’s leading production house for experiential digital books) and NZ On Screen (amongst too much excellence to mention in full.) Thanks Educators Eliot, Gerard, Giles, Mike, Anna Gregory and al the wonderful contributors who give up their time, energy and resources for no gain but to make the world, education and teaching better. Thanks for the tips on how to use the Pond Better esp from Eliot 

Tikanga up your science

A guest post from Hōria Moana Bell – @HoriaMoanaB

Customs provide us with a framework for understanding the world around us. Customs help us to interact with people and the environment, provide us with a window into cultures and, thus, invite us to new ways of thinking. In Māoridom we call these customs Tikanga. For me, Tikanga are a series of guidelines on how to treat people, how to be a productive person, and how to optimise the health of our people and land.

I took part in the recent #scichatNZ as introduced by the @SciencehubNZ. Being passionate about Māoritanga and science, naturally I was gleeful to engage in conversations around cultural context within science.

As a disclaimer, I am not a school teacher, however I am involved in science wānanga and I work part time at the New Zealand Marine Science Centre. I am a Master of Science (M.Sc.) student in the Department of Marine Biology, University of Otago. My tribal affiliations are Ngāti Marutuahu and Ngāti Maniapoto.

Throughout my studies I have become very passionate about the education of our young people, as I often reflect on my own educational experiences and how that can be used to improve those of the next generation. I believe that the use of of Tikanga in classes can be the Golden Ticket as this is what encouraged me to fully engage with my learning at a University level! It is important to understand the reality of what we were learning in the classroom as well as a perspective of what science might look like in the real world!

Back in the time of our tupuna they were very in tune with their environment. Their analysis and observations built Tikanga. Why is it tapu (an activity or area requiring extra care and precautions) or forbidden for menstruating wahine to collect seafood? Because back in their time they found that the presence of blood in the water could potentially attract sharks and thus you would become dinner! Most aspects of tapu were practical like this example, but commonly spiritual connotations were added – perhaps to really scare us!

In my experiences in the science world, Tikanga was often challenged, in particular Tapu. When I was working in a Cancer Immunology lab I processed blood from people with colorectal cancer. Intrinsically, it was important to treat the samples with extra care out of respect for the patients (wouldn’t want to ask for another sample!), but also to protect myself working with samples that could have contained Hepatitis or HIV. For me this was a clear example of how Tikanga such as Tapu can be modernised in today’s society.

One could spend a very long time discussing all the aspects of Tikanga, their origins and their meanings, due to their complexity and malleability to all areas of life. It is best to experience scenarios where Tikanga play a big role such as a hui at a Marae or at wānanga. These experiences may be intimidating for some at first, but after a while you will get a feel for what these customs mean and how they are put into practice.

Other people may also have their own interpretations on aspects of Tikanga, but essentially their underlying meanings will still be maintained. In the rest of this post I will interpret some common Tikanga within the context of science and include some explanations and examples:

  1. Whanaungatanga/Whakapapa

These concepts embody relationships with people and our surroundings. In an environmental field this aspect can be applied to the context of both macro and micro levels. For example, discharging treated waste leads to hypoxic conditions in coastal systems, this can cause damage to eels whilst an influx of nutrients can potentially induce toxic algal blooms.

Within the field of Immunology, working out the lineage of individual immune cell types is a good analogy of whakapapa links. I always tell people that if they are capable of figuring out the link between themselves and their 5th cousin, then they can understand the pathways required for the generation of a macrophage.

Untitled pictureHigher quality image

Whakawhanaungatanga can also be translated as networking. Good scientists network to get help for research collaborations; sometimes this whakawhanaungatanga will spread far and wide to the people who live on the other side of the world! It takes a collaboration of people to run a Marae, just like it does to drive good research!


This is commonly translated as guardianship. We often think about looking after our land and people with this term, but we need to make sure that we are catering to all the other species that co-inhabit the world. Consideration of kaitiakitanga is currently occurring with research on the effects of climate change on different organisms. The aim of this research is to determine whether these species will cope with climate change and, if not, what could we possibly to facilitate coping mechanisms.

Our tupuna would put rahui (gathering bans) on shellfish beds that had been over harvested. The rahui would allow for foodstocks to replenish, thus ensuring that there were plentiful resources for future generations.

  1. Manaakitanga

This is interpreted as showing generosity and care for others. Manaakitanga is not only necessarily for people and things that are ‘here and now’ but for those in the future too. If all our resources are spent and there is no land for our future generations, how will they survive?

Personally I like to think about Manaakitanga in respects to passing on science knowledge to our future generations. Are we providing our young leaders with the right tools and resources to become future scientists themselves? And do they have the fundamental understanding of the challenges that we have come to?

Something for our students to think about is: What are the science questions that we need to answer to ensure a better life for our kids, and for their kids?

  1. Kotahitanga

This refers to the need to bring unity and to work collectively. People from Kotahitanga marae in Otorohanga explain that Kotahitanga means the bringing together of people from all different walks of life with different skills and different opinions. We don’t have to be of the same construct, but we might have similar agenda.

In my Post Graduate Diploma studies we were told by our then Head of Department (Frank Griffin) that he believed it was important for him to encourage a range of people from different cultures to work in the department. Why? Because we all have very different sets of lenses through which we see the world. Many hands make light work, and many minds with different lenses allow for a more complex understanding of research questions! …perhaps it is the customs of other cultures that allow our differences!

Some points for our science students to think about with regards to Kotahitanga:

– everyone has a different role in a research group, just like on the marae or in your family home

– embrace the differences in the way your peers see and understand things, as they may be adding a deeper and more complex understanding of the research questions!

  1. Rangatiratanga

This means leadership and chieftainship. It is important that we prime our young people in a way that is empowering (and not intimidating) to be leaders. They can show Rangatiratanga at any stage of life by doing things that empower and care for others.

I like to encourage students to take home what they have learnt from wānanga and pass it on to their families, friends and Iwi.

To conclude, why might it be important to utilise these concepts in a science context? I feel that not only do these aspects give students inspiration to do science, a sense of belonging and connectivity, but also provide some awesome guidelines for making wicked scientists! I like to think that teaching with Tikanga primes these young minds with different and innovative ways of seeing science challenges!

Feel free to leave any comments for further clarification of anything in this blog, please note that I am meant to be writing my thesis so there may be some delay in replies.

Mauri ora ki a tātou!

For further reading on Tikanga check out;

Tikanga Maori: Living by Maori Values – by Sir Sidney (Hirini) Moko Haerewa Mead (book)āori.html?id=XXa3fXxLshMC&hl=en

Tikanga Māori Pre-1840 – by Timoti Gallagher (electronic article)

And you can see the storify of the chat ‘What contexts from Te Ao Maori (and others) can we use for teaching Science’ here

Sharing Best practice

This is a guest post by Sonya van Schaijik, who recently hosted a #scichatnz discussion on sharing best practice

The process of hosting

Science has been dominating my time this past few months and it has been exciting.

@mattynicoll approached me to lead the 24th of February #ScichatNZ and of course I said yes. I know Matt because we were both on the steering committee for #edchatnz and he is one of the teachers joining the #TeachMeetNZ meets #Science session.

I enjoy teaching science and learning through the Nature of Science. For those of you interested in learning how to run a twitter chat, I use the #GlobalClassroom training shared with me from @mgraffin. He is an Australian Science passionate teacher that I have met on twitter. I set up a google Doc and divided the hour up with questions. You can see the one I set up for #SciChatNZ here. Matt was fabulous in supporting me by giving me the topic: Sharing Best Practice. During the hour chat, I have learnt too from #aussieEDchat the importance of using a graphic for questions as this helps hold the chat together. So I created a presentation of the questions here . I exported the presentation as jpgs and tidied up the images leading up to the session.

The session was storified by @NZScienceLearn so had to go back and revisit the session. I was grateful for the #SciChatnz team who rallied around me and helped ensure that the twitter chat flowed. In fact it didn’t just flow, it stormed and we trended on twitter.

One of the important lessons I learnt from @julielindsay is about keeping a record of the sharing. So I like to see some kind of an archive of chat history. This is something that the #SciChatNZ team do very well.

I believe the session was successful because science educators made connections and they collaborated to create an artefact for the community. In addition a map was created to list all the #scichatnz participants,

#TeachmeetNZ meets Science – Awesome happened

A couple of weeks ago I get an e-mail from Cath at the Science learning hub asking me if I wanted to be involved in a Science #teachmeetNZ. I hadn’t participated in an online teachmeet before, but was keen to help out in anyway I could, and I love working with Cath, so of course said yes and was given the roll of twitter broadcaster. It also meant I got to worth Sonya van Schaijik again after she did an amazing job moderating a #scichatNZ chat on sharing best practice.

teachmeet me

wearing my #scichatNZ hoody for the occasion.

Like all things, there is a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, and there were practice sessions, checking timings, review slides, making revisions etc. Then there were the last minute kinks and practices, and then we were live. I really have to acknowledge the hard work and amazing support the Sonya put in – nothing seemed to bother her and she always had an answer. She was also incredibly understanding of my occasional dropping in and out due to my todler being a spoon about going to bed.

It was a little bit weird being the broadcaster on the day- because I wasn’t involved in the actually GHO I couldn’t talk directly to the presenters. I did flick a few messages via twitter or e-mail, and it worked really well.

The quality of the presenters was exceptional. I am constantly amazed at both the quality of educators in NZ and how generous they are with their time.


the highlights for me were

@MissDtheTeacher talking about removing the ceiling from students learners. I only wish I had the freedom of timetable and content that she has. But there were still things for me to think about – especially in my approach to teaching my juniors. Why do I have to stop at the ‘prescribed level’? How can I differentiate my lessons so I can meet all of my learners needs? And most importantly, how can I model life long learning and learn along side my classes rather than being the sole bearer of knowledge.

@MattyNicoll is always awesome sauce. His advice – Don’t wait for it to be perfect to get started: Just get started – is something I need to remember. So often it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the quality of resources and educators out there and fall into the same trap my students do – not wanting to start in case it is not good enough. So I need to keep making the effort, finding the time and working on making my lessons more accessible at all times.

There was also an interesting discussion around the ‘stats’ of when the youtube clips where being watched – 2am in the morning before internals was a common time. Is this a good thing or a bad thing, yip students should be asleep, but also at least they are accessing the info at some point. I used to pull all nighters before big uni exams….. horses for courses perhaps

@TheMrsRogers did a fabulous presentation on the importance of being a connected educator. Her advice was heartfelt and summed up my thoughts exactly.

@2footgiraffe talking about making 6secondvideos was something new for me, and I am definitely going to look into using this with my classes. Short, sharp awesomeness sounds perfect for my Yr 10 class.

@Doctor_Harves talking about Kahoot – I have seen this before (at U-learn I think) and had forgotten about it, but will also explore using this with my classes.

I also really enjoyed learning more about the Royal Society Science leadership scholarship from Jennie Lyall, and was super impressed with the work Dianne Christenson – some of the bubble experiments her students had done were awesome. And while coding isn’t a strength of mine, is was interesting to learn about how Belinda is using it in her classroom – coding is on my list to get to.

There will be another #teachmeetNZ happening on April 11, and then another science focus on november and I will be queueing up to help out again. It was a really rewarding way to spend an hour (and a bit) on a saturday afternoon. I also learned alot about running digital meetings and some tricks for presenting in this format. I had some interesting conversations with fellow educators, and got another teacher from my school signed up for #scichatNZ. So by accepting a ‘job’ I learned a whole lot and had a good time doing it.

Thanks everyone, and see you at the next one

You can see the presenters and their slides here

And watch the presentation via youtube below

This post was origanally published by Rachel on