Aotearoa ... kei te aroha au ki a koe

New Zealand is simply amazing. What can I say about the many sights I have seen, people I have met and things I have experienced? Time and space are not enough, but I will try: Perhaps the crowning highlight of my three week tour was the traditional Maori Powhiri and honour that was bestowed upon me during the ICELF Conference in Auckland. I was invited to present my keynote speech in the Maori sacred meeting house - the marae. This was a barefoot keynote, because no-one should enter the marae with their shoes on. Afterwards I was presented with a greenstone gem with inlaid paua shell as a symbol of everlasting friendship with the people of New Zealand. I will treasure it always. Many photographs of the conference can be found here on the ICELF website.

The sights of New Zealand are absolutely stunning. The lakes and hillsides and the majestic mountains and volcanic outcrops are awe inspiring, as are the natural phenomena of this great island. The geothermal activity down in Rotorua can be spectacular, provided you don't mind the constant smell of sulphur in the air. Hamilton, Palmerston North and Wellington all have great places to visit. In Hamilton, the statue of Richard O'Brien as Riff-Raff is bizarre, and is streamed live on the internet through a web cam, 24/7. Palmerston North's Massey University campus is one of the most serene, arboreal places I have had the pleasure to visit. Wellington's Te Papa museum on the beautiful waterfront is a place to lose yourself for many hours, as you explore and discover the history and culture of this great country. The Lord of the Rings tours (there are several) are a must for all Tolkien fans. The guides are knowledgeable with inside gossip from the film industry (Wellywood) and the visits to iconic location shoots are exciting for film fans. A visit to the Weta Cave in Miramar is also good value. Meeting an ex Plymouth University graduate in a shop across the road from where I'm staying was strange. Bumping into Dermot Donnelly on the Lord of the Rings Movie tour bus in Wellington and finding out that we had similar research interests in online learning and wikis for education was even stranger.

I discovered that innovation is alive and well in some very rich seams of education in New Zealand. My visit to Albany Senior High School impressed me for its bold break away from the tired old silo mentality of traditional schooling. In their fabulous learning spaces they exclusively use open source software and encourage BYOD as well as integrated curriculum practices. AUT's soon to be constructed learning precinct also breaks the mould of traditional university campuses, and by the look of it as I drove past today, it is on target for completion next year. The smart shed project I visited at Unitec will provide richer situated learning experiences for construction students and will no doubt be copied by other training colleges in the future.

But it is the people of New Zealand who have left the most indellible impression on me. Kiwis are some of the most friendly, helpful and accommodating people in the world. Perhaps it is their relative isolation from the rest of the world that makes them so affable. Perhaps their location in the South Pacific and its long tradition of hospitality makes them so welcoming. It was great to catch up with Jedd Bartlett and Derek Wenmoth (Core Education) again, and to meet up once more with old friends including Nigel Robertson (Waikato University), Niki Davis (Canterbury University), Thom Cochrane (AUT) and Michael Fawcett and to meet in real life some new (but strangely familiar) Twitter friends such as Vasi Doncheva, Jonathon Hagger and Karen Melhuish. My grateful thanks go to all those who have organised my travel and accommodation here this year, and especially to Mark Brown (Massey University), Linda Keesing-Styles (Unitec), Mandy Williams (Waiariki Institute), Noeline Wright (Waikato), Mark Osborne (Albany Senior High School) and their colleagues for making my stay here so delightful.  And finally, my special thanks to my cousins Linda and Alistair Robinson (AUT), for welcoming me into their home in Auckland during my stay here. To all of you I say - Kei te aroha au ki a koe!

Image source and ICELF

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Aotearoa ... kei te aroha au ki a koe by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Anonymous said…
It was both a privilege and a pleasure to listen your lecture at Albany Senior High. I really hope you find your way downunder again.

Scott McLeod said…
I had the privilege of spending 11 weeks in New Zealand earlier this year, working with Niki Davis (and many of the others that you cite here). Truly an amazing place full of incredible people. Glad you had such a wonderful experience!
DermotDonnelly said…
Great bumping into you Steve...twice! I have finally started a blog and I can see myself probably never getting off it now. I actually went on another LOTR tour since in the Shire, just outside Hamilton. It was enjoyable, but not as fun as the tour with Ted in Wellington! Hope you have a safe trip home and I look forward to reading your blog posts from now on!
Helen said…
Hi Steve
really getting a lot out of this blog spot. I was at your keynote at the eLearning Futures conference 2011 in Unitec and would really have liked to ask for more details on how to assess student blog writing. One of my papers has a blog set up for post graduate students. One of the assessment tasks wasked them to select four blogs to post as an assignment for me to assess. Really want next semester to assess the blog (not as an academic writing assignment) but for how it developed (images and hyperlinks) and how it engaged the readers and encouraged comment.

Am working on a marking rubric and am finding your "What makes a good blogspot useful" . Any suggestions from you or readers on assessing Web 2.0 readers most appreciated.
teachernz said…
You have to come back... we didn't do the Time Warp on Riff Raff cam. Next time.

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