Category Archives: ICT Blog

Principal’s memo re: Artificial Intelligence

The promotion and use of digital technologies in the classroom, including Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) has aroused a high level of concern in the media with fears that its use could compromise the academic integrity of schools’ learning and assessment programmes. Since the start of the year we have been developing a strategy to address this new phenomenon and sought advice from various sources including the Ministry of Education, NZQA and our policy advisors at Schooldocs. As a result we would like to share with you our response to AI.

At MHJC AI, like other digital tools, will be embraced to support and enhance teaching and learning . As akonga/students engage with these technologies, they are expected and encouraged to demonstrate academic integrity by submitting original work and so uphold the school’s values – pono (integrity), ako (learning to learn) and wānanga (life long learner). 

Akonga will learn about the opportunities and challenges associated with using AI technology. The recent advancements and use of AI to enhance student learning will be covered through the fulfillment of ePassport requirements, completing in-class activities, and/or as whānau-based learning which supports the Great Learner Profile. 

Kaiako/teachers will be upskilled on the use of AI in the classroom. Their use of AI can further support students’ development of critical thinking and research skills. A focus will be placed on promoting more authentic and relevant learning and assessment opportunities while also providing additional scaffolding, templates and prompts to support learners in all subject areas.

Students are also being informed about the school’s position on AI and the advice comes with a warning which is consistent with current assessment procedures:

If a student is suspected and/or caught submitting AI generated work as their own, they may be asked to reproduce the work either by hand or verbally or submit a similar assessment. Students may also be given a Working Towards for their assessment. 

We thank you in advance for your support of our efforts to ensure that our akonga remain responsible and safe users of digital technology and continue to become empowered through their learning (whakamana).

Smartwatches at MHJC

We are noticing a growing number of students who are bringing smartwatches to school. This blog from our ICT Managers will address the concerns such new technology may bring to our learning environment.

Smartwatches are expensive and can be distracting and/or disruptive if misused as with all digital devices.

Our school policy allows students to bring personal digital devices to school, smartwatches included as they may be useful tools for learning. However if they are brought to school, the following guidelines apply as for all personal digital devices which is contained in the Cyber Safety Agreement signed on enrolment:

  1. The school does not accept responsibility for loss, damage or theft
  2. Students must keep such devices in their bags and may only be used in class with the permission of a teacher

In the case of smartwatches, they can be worn but should be turned to aeroplane mode so as not to be a distraction.

We want to encourage our students to be responsible users of technology and a conversation with your child would be of great benefit before you consider purchasing such a device.

The Social Dilemma

There’s a recently released Netflix documentary called “The Social Dilemma” that’s been going somewhat viral and has made its way into Netflix’s list of trending videos.

The documentary is more or less an attack on social media platforms (mostly Facebook) and how they’ve steadily been contributing to tearing apart society for the better part of the last decade. There’s interviews with a number of former top executives from Facebook, Twitter, Google, Pinterest (to name a few) and they explain how sites have used algorithms and AI to increase users’ engagement, screen time, and addiction (and therefore profits), while leading to unintended negative consequences (the rise of confirmation bias, fake news, cyber bullying, etc). There’s a lot of great information presented, none of which is that surprising for data scientists or those who have done even a little bit of research on social media.

In a way, it painted the practice of data science in a negative light, or at least how social media is unregulated (which I do agree it should be). In spite of that, I think it did an awesome job of distilling this crisis for non-tech folks and illustrating how the ‘models’ and profiling works. Even then, most people have a knee-jerk reaction to the insinuation that they could possibly be vulnerable to these exploitative designs that are explored in this documentary.

There’s no magic bullet here. Healing the damage would require a dramatic education overhaul of some sort; more universal literacy in computer history and science, more care for mental wellbeing and attention to emotional intelligence and more literacy in the methods of persuasion and product design. A large portion of the Mission Heights’ digital passport is dedicated to some of these areas, but of course, more can always be done.

I highly encourage everyone to watch it. One of the guys featured, Tristan Harris, heads the Centre for Humane Technology and runs a popular podcast called “Your Undivided Attention“. In this podcast, he discusses more in-depth potential solutions to the challenges presented in the movie.

MHJC and TikTok

As schools go into a well-deserved term break, parents will probably be wondering what to do with their children. A lot of us will not be able to travel overseas, given the warnings from PM Arden regarding COVID quarantine measures. We are expecting many of our students to stay at home and keep themselves occupied.

Social media in particular is popular amongst our students during the holidays. One of them in particular is Tik Tok. In this blog, we explain how Tik Tok works and the dangers that entails from using it.

Tik Tok is a free social media platform for creating and watching short videos and sharing them with friends and strangers. Users can embed music and filters, special effects and animation. Most of the videos have to deal with talent, short comedy skits and challenges but there have been some videos of a questionable nature uploaded.

Some concerns have already been raised over the use of Tik Tok over this by schools. One concern is privacy. While Tik Tok’s terms of use state the minimum age to join as 13, Tok Tok has been fined US$5.7m in 2019 over the harvesting of private information from such users.

Added to this issue of privacy is the well documented issue of online predators targeting young children. In a report by the BBC, many sexually explicit comments were found on videos posted by children. Tik Tok has not been responsive enough in removing these comments from the relevant videos and this is deeply concerning.

We have noticed also in MHJC that there is a growing tendency by students to use social media such as Tik Tok to post degrading and offensive content. Event if they are not the people posting, they can view such content posted by other people. I had several cases of challenge fads where students are encouraged to do dangerous tasks, to name an example.

In MHJC, we ensure our students are well educated about the dangers of social media. The MHJC ePassport is a series of activities designed to help students use the Internet safely and competently. Above all, students have to show evidence and their competency in developing robust and positive relationships online, whether it be on social media such as Tik Tok or other websites.

We empower our teachers through tools such as Classwize in keeping the class focused on the task at hand. Teachers can actively monitor their students’ internet usage in class and focus on encouraging good internet citizenship as well as correcting bad behaviour in class.

Our teachers also engage with parents on a regular basis reinforcing responsible use of devices and internet use at home. We recognise the importance of our parents and the role you play in your child’s cybersafety and the school will continue to support the tripartite relationship of school – parent – child in growing greatness in our MHJC graduates.

Devices in MHJC

The school had seen a spate of incidents where there was damage, either intentional or unintentional, to students’ devices by other students.

Students are expected to look after their own property, as well as that of others. This is in line with our vision of “growing greatness through innovative evolving personalised learning”. One of our values, Awhinatanga, relates to how students are to be kind and compassionate to one another. We hope to be able to enrich the students through our efforts in promoting Awhinatanga.

Having said that, we encourage parents not to buy the most expensive laptops for their children to bring to school. Our Year 7 and 8 students can start off with Chromebooks, and indeed, this has been expounded on during the meeting with MHP parents last year during the Year 6 BYOD meeting. Year 9 and 10 students can use Windows or Mac laptops congruent to their needs in their various option subject areas. These are spelt out clearly under our BYOD policy.


Stay safe on-line

N4L (Network for Learning) has launched a free DNS filter that parents can apply to a child’s device while they’re learning from home. The N4L safety filter blocks access to a range of websites known to be unsafe and inappropriate for learning. These include adult websites, as well as those known to host unsafe software, such as malware and phishing scams.
This is entirely optional and parents can apply this in conjunction with Microsoft Family, Google Family Link and Apple Family Screen Time to keep their children safe during their online learning journey.
All instructions and FAQs can be found at

How to improve your home wifi

(Reproduced from Google’s blog. I thought the points made in this blog post by Sanjay Noronha are sound and worth repeating to our community.)

These days, access to a reliable Wi-Fi signal can feel as crucial as having basic electricity or plumbing. In fact, a recent study conducted by Kelton Research and commissioned by Google found that 28 percent of people don’t think they could last a single day without Wi-Fi. But in that same study, a whopping 81 percent of people said they have experienced issues with their Wi-Fi at home. So why is something so essential considered such a hassle?

Luckily, there are some simple strategies to maximize your home Wi-Fi network to avoid slow loading times or grumbling when you’re trying to get online. Here are a few tips for making the most out of your Wi-Fi.

Place your router as centrally as possible. 

Wi-Fi signals get weaker the farther away you go from your router, so if you keep your router by the front door, your videos might load more slowly if you’re trying to watch them by the back door. So if you can, place your router as centrally as possible within your home, though this may not always be possible depending on where your internet provider brings in the connection. And if you don’t mind your router sitting on the counter top, keep it out in the open. If you can avoid hiding it by a bookcase or filing cabinet, you can really help boost your Wi-Fi signal.

Consider a mesh network. 

A mesh network is a group of routers that wirelessly communicate with each other to create a single, connected Wi-Fi network over a large area. It allows you to have multiple sources of powerful Wi-Fi throughout your home, not just one from the main router. Having a mesh network solves the problem of having the router just relegated to a corner in the house. We created Google Wifi as a mesh system because having multiple points work together to create a seamless single network provides consistently strong coverage for all connected devices in every room of the house. 

Make sure your router is up to date. 

If your existing router is more than three or four years old, check to make sure it supports 5GHz Wi-Fi signals. Some older routers only support 2.4GHz signals, which can make your devices much slower. Think of it as having a car that isn’t fast enough to drive on the freeway. Upgrade your router to at least an 802.11ac system so you can also use 5GHz frequencies, which are like the autobahn of Wi-Fi. (There are more lanes, and higher speed limits.) 

Always, always make your network password-protected. 

Having an “open network” without a password might seem convenient, since there’s no need to remember a complicated password. But if you do that, anyone even driving by your home could join your Wi-Fi network and compromise your network, devices and data by accessing your drives or slowing down your network. Choose a strong password that’s tough for anyone to guess, but easy for you to remember. 

Create a separate Wi-Fi network for guests. 

If you have kids at home, or just get a lot of guests, chances are you’ve handed out your Wi-Fi password a lot. Setting up a guest network creates a second Wi-Fi network in your home so your guests can have a great experience while your own devices stay secure and private. 

How to restrict your child’s screen time

With the holidays coming up, the media is chock-full of advice on how you can restrict the screen time of your children. With all 3 major OS manufacturers touting methods on their operating systems (Microsoft -> Microsoft accounts, Google -> Digital Wellbeing and Apple -> Screentime), there is no shortage of avenues that the parent can take. This post isn’t about them.

There are some other methods in which parents can help ensure that their children are getting the benefits of technology. Here are a few that you could try during the holidays :-

  • Establish consistent “media free” times, particularly at meal times. (That means no hand-held games for older kids, or cell phones or iPads for grown-ups).
  • Make your own media. Give your child a low-cost digital camera and teach her how to plug it into your TV. This is a great way to review memorable events and can be a rich language experience for very young children, as they name family members from their last birthday party, for example.
  • Provide exciting non-tech options in your child’s life. Instead of trying to remove current media from your child’s life, continue to enrich her playtime with new, concrete, interesting alternatives, so your child will want to turn off the TV.

Having said that, media consumption on computers doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach. Computers and television can play a key role in helping children wind down and relax. For example, a half-hour session of Thomas the Tank Engine after dinner can help your 5 year old make the transition from dinner to bed time and this will be more beneficial than 3 hours of it on Saturday afternoons.

Monkey App

It has come to our attention that some students may be accessing and using a social networking application called “Monkey app”.

We strongly advise you to read the following review from a web site which investigates the safety of this and other apps so that you can be well informed about this and other possible on-line dangers to our students. 

These types of instant messaging applications are automatically blocked on the school’s network however we advise parents to monitor their children’s phones to see if they have downloaded it. We restrict the use of mobile phones at school and only allow their use to support learning e.g. recording a speech or Science experiment but these apps may be used after hours hence our communication on the matter.

Flat Bush 7 Conference

We had an amazing day yesterday during the Flat Bush Cluster 7 conference held in the Mission Heights Schools. For the uninitiated, the Flat Bush Cluster 7 is an annual gathering of the 7 schools in the Flat Bush area, Ormiston Primary, Ormiston Junior College, Ormiston Senior College, Baverstock Primary, Willowbank  Primary, Mission Heights Primary and Mission Heights Junior College. Keynote talks from notable speakers and breakout workshops enable teachers to connect and learn more about their role as educators in Aoteroa.

One great takeaway from the keynote talks was the importance of education and its role in shaping society. Chris Clay touched on the need for educators to empower learners to harness the collective will to solve the world’s problems. Grant Pix emphasized on mindfulness as a competency to be developed and Prof Peter O’ Conner related his experiences on vitality and the importance of imagination and creativity in and through learning about a world of wicked problems and our learners’ places within it. It was amazing to hear Melinda Webber; her awesome wahine toa and korero touched many in the audience.

As an ICT professional in the education industry, it has been always my view that ICT in the school should be used as a tool and an enabler. While information technology is indeed a positive tool for many, its possible abuse is too well-known and needs no repeating here, especially in New Zealand. Our challenge is how we can help raise the importance of empathy in our dealings with one another, especially in the realm of information technology. This and many more factors will be instrumental in shaping the future of ICT within the two schools.