A chance to investigate

Issue: Volume 96, Number 8

Posted: 15 May 2017
Reference #: 1H9d7n

Neil Baker, principal of Christchurch’s Northcote School, was last year awarded a TeachNZ sabbatical to research the use of interactive video floor projections in the primary school environment. Education Gazette asks Neil about what he discovered.

What inspired you to be a teacher?

I started my career in the medical field, but became aware that the type of job I was doing might become obsolete in time. I’ve always been a science nutcase and the thought of sharing my interest in science and technology with children really appealed to me.

I had an optimistic vision where I would inspire, excite and engage children in this subject and that all kids would think it was fantastic, and I’d easily solve any problems – which obviously wasn’t true!

But that love of learning, and the idea that I could inspire the ‘wonder’ of science in my students, is what brought me to the profession.

What motivated you to apply for a TeachNZ Study Award and what did you research?

I saw the awards advertised in the Education Gazette. Previously I’d thought it would be too hard to fill out the application or I didn’t have time to organise it with my school. But it was the fact that I wanted to find out more about something in particular that pushed me to apply.

I had attended a presentation by a fellow principal about a trip they took to England, and in one of the clips shown I noticed children interacting with a floor projection that moved. That sparked my curiosity about the educational possibilities of this medium and whether it would be worth investigating for New Zealand classrooms. It struck me as a tool that had great potential for student engagement, but I couldn’t find any information about its use here in New Zealand.

Interactive floor projection is where a video is projected onto a floor either from an overhead or wall-mounted data projector. It includes a sensor to pick up the position and movements of a person standing in the projected image. A computer connection delivers the image, which can move, change and provide information, depending on the movements of the person in the beam.

Through my research, I wanted to find out whether such projections had student engagement potential or educational value or both, and to see if there were designers out there who could produce material of educational quality, beyond a game or novelty.

I was also interested in looking at the applications for projections within the modern learning environments that many schools in Christchurch have introduced since the earthquake. It was about asking ‘how do we maximise the potential of these new spaces?’ Projections that have high interest for students could provide another activity of value in communal, open-floor spaces.

My research found that the projections were highly engaging for students, but probably had a lower educational value than many other resources.

While the TeachNZ award gives you the time and release from teaching, it doesn’t fund the research itself. I was able to personally fund a trip to Australia to explore a company that made digital projections, and I also researched other companies that might be able to create resources of this nature.

The sabbatical enabled me to engage with some interesting people making collaborative and interactive resources. I was also able to talk with various projection experts and software designers from around the world, through the internet.

As a result of my study, I’ve now got a prototype running here at Northcote School and by the children of a special school. It’s also being looked at by occupational therapists for its ability to get children moving, so it has spin-offs in other areas for child development.

What would you say to fellow teachers thinking of applying for a Study Award?

I would definitely recommend that fellow teachers and principals apply for a study award. I’ve found it absolutely brilliant. It gave me the chance to investigate an idea of my own, and time to truly explore it. I was thrilled to be able to do something completely new and look at something that hadn’t been done before.

When applying, I think it’s best to have something specific in mind that you want to study. It should be something important to you – find an area where you can take a different slant – something that hasn’t been done many times already.

I also recommend checking out the online reports written by teachers who have already undertaken study awards. There is a lot of really interesting and relevant research there to explore.

I’ll admit that it was wonderful to have the time off work, but that wasn’t my true driver. My driver was: “I really want to find this out, and this is my chance to do it”. I’m so appreciative for this opportunity and thank everyone involved with making it happen.

I actually wish I’d done it sooner!

Take time out for a 2018 TeachNZ study award or sabbatical


Applications are now open. Please check the 2017 closing dates as they will differ, depending on whether you are in an area, secondary or primary school.

The Ministry of Education is committed to supporting the professional development of teachers and principals.

The TeachNZ Study Awards are part of the negotiated union collective agreements which provide paid study leave to complete part-time or full-time study in an educational priority area. The length of study leave awarded is based on your proposed study. Sabbaticals give teachers and principals the opportunity to spend three, five or 10 weeks completing a professional learning activity, and a chance for reflection and rejuvenation.

Area and seconday school sabbaticals


Closing date for applications is Tuesday 6 June 2017.

A total of 29 Study Awards and Sabbaticals for area teachers and principals are available.

  • 12 Area Teachers Sabbaticals (ATS)
  • 10 FTTE Area Principals Sabbaticals (APS)
  • 7 Full-time Teacher Equivalent (FTTE) Area Teachers Study Awards (AT)

A total of 175 Study Awards and Sabbaticals for secondary teachers, principals and managers are available.

  • 50 Secondary Teachers Sabbaticals (STS)
  • 40 FTTE Secondary Principals Sabbaticals (SPS)
  • 10 Secondary Senior Managers Sabbaticals (SSMS)
  • 75 FTTE Secondary Teachers Study Awards (ST)

Primary schools

A total of 230 Study Awards and Sabbaticals for primary teachers and primary principals and managers are available.

  • 50 Primary Teachers Sabbaticals are available (PTS)
  • 105 Primary Principals Sabbaticals are available (PPS)
  • 75 FTTE Primary Teachers and Principals Study Awards are available (PT)

To apply now and for more information, go to the TeachNZ website(external link) 

The Study Support Grants will open next month.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 8:36 PM, 15 May 2017

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