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Digital Technology


Curriculum Pioneer

Digital fluency

Learner agency

Student-driven learning

Co-constructed learning

Game-based learning


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Mixed Reality 

Curriculum Innovator

NZC KC assessment

MiniDevs | HackMinis

Minecraft | Portals 2


LEGO Universe | Eco 

Virtual worlds

Mixed reality

Multimedia | Game design 

Online citizenship & safety

Gender Equity

Learning Specialist

Curriculum design

Learner Agency

Games & Learning 

Game design | Multimedia

Online communities

Mixed Reality | Hackathons

Online safety & citizenship 


Follow the Learning

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In 1981, I packed my bags and headed off to my very first teaching job in Sapporo, Japan. Little did I know that I was taking my first step on what was to be an incredible journey of learning. Nothing could have prepared me for the cognitive dissonance I would experience over the next four decades as I watched emerging technology reshape almost every aspect of our world, with the exception of schools.

In 1991, I accepted a primary school position at The Elisabeth Morrow School. The founder's progressive philosophy of building learning based on "the best of the old and the best of the new" became a foundation for all the curriculum my colleagues and I designed.

I became driven by the question of how to keep learning relevant when the world was changing so rapidly. My curiosity led me to experiment with how to best leverage digital technology to meet that goal. In 2004, my administrators noticed those efforts and invited me to accept the position of school technology integrator. I was both thrilled and daunted by the challenge. How does one develop a curriculum for emerging technologies when there are so many variables?


With no map to follow, I turned to my students for clues on how to design a curriculum fit for purpose. I decided to follow their learning. I wanted to know which apps and devices they were choosing to use, outside of school. I wanted to understand how they were learning to use these technologies. Perhaps that knowledge would inform me how to build a digital technologies curriculum that would be relevant.

What I learned from students made me rethink everything I thought I understood about teaching and learning. My students taught me to:

  • Let go of teaching content to learn. Instead, focus on supporting students creating content as a means to learn. 

  • Trust students' ability to drive their own learning.

  • Co-construct curriculum with students.

  • Ask questions without knowing the answer.

  • Embrace the messiness of real-world problem-solving.

Those lessons brought me to New Zealand to do a deep dive into the NZC Key Competencies and, subsequently, the Māori concept of Ako. The Key Competencies provide a robust framework on which to build the kind of learning necessary to prepare students to adapt to unprecedented change and face epic challenges. Ako provides the ground on which to build that framework.

Road to New Zealand

In 2015, I travelled through New Zealand visiting a variety of schools and makerspaces. I wanted to learn how educators and institutions were interpreting the NZ National Curriculum. I was especially curious to understand various perspectives regarding the push for Innovative Learning Practices. What I discovered inspired me to return to New Zealand to learn more through immersing myself in the education system.

Newlands Intermediate School offered me that opportunity. Principal, Angela Lowe, tasked me with the challenge to develop a digital technology program that would fill students with awe and wonder. I knew I had landed in the right place because I couldn't imagine a better job description! 

It has been exactly the right place to continue my journey.

NZCER Set Journal: Special Issue
Learning Through Play and Games

"Play, games and culture: How games transformed my pedagogical practice"

Journal issue: SET 2018: no. 3

Author: Marianne Malmstrom

The MiniDevs is a unique collaboration between real developers and real students co-constructing a real platform.


It grew organically from two ideas merged at a mixed-reality hackathon in 2017. Theta developer, Jim Taylor showed up with a HoloLens and wanted to build a platform for people to create their own virtual museums. Cool! I showed up hoping to find developers willing to create a sandbox platform for students to create their own content. A team was formed, a prototype built and the hackathon won.

Unbeknownst to me, Jim continued to work on the prototype for the next several months. I was surprised when invited me to Theta to see his progress and announce that Theta wanted to develop our prototype with the caveat that students help design it. Radical. Brilliant!


The Minidevs were formed and Mixiply is now a reality.

The MiniDevs &


















New Zealand Ministry of Education: School Journal

"Game Changers"

School Journal Level 4 May 2020 


Theta Innovation Lab

"Tech-savvy kids take on Mixiply"

July 31, 2020 


Microsoft Education NZ

You’re Not in 2006 Anymore, Toto: The Future of Education

July 11, 2018


New Zealand Ministry of Education: Education Gazette

"Real-world software changing students' career outlooks"


May 23, 2018

MiniDev, Heena Sharma

"Who are the MiniDevs?"

Oct 25, 2018


Theta Innovation Lab

"Innovation lab working with Newlands Intermediate on HoloLens exhibition tech"

Sept 12, 2017


"Future reality hackathon - AR/VR and IoT"

May 18, 2017 

Game Changers graphic.png
Curriculum in Action


New Zealand Ministry of Education: Education Gazette

"Curriculum of awe and wonder"


Feb 27, 2020


New Zealand Ministry of Education: Education Gazette

"Now is the future"


March 25, 2020

Ngā Motu


Microsoft Global Minecraft: Education Edition asked Newlands Intermediate if they could bring a film crew to our school to help launch a Māori world built by Piki Studios. When we got a sneak peek of Ngā Motu, we were so excited that we decided to organize a "HackMini" to give this New Zealand world the world premiere it deserved. As you can see in the video, we all had an absolute blast doing it!


Microsoft Global Minecraft: Education Edition

“Ngā Motu: Explore Māori Culture with Minecraft”

Sept  09, 2019


TVNZ 1 News

"Minecraft builds Māori world for Kiwi kids to explore language and culture"

Sept 09, 2019

New Zealand Ministry of Education: Education Gazette

"Navigating Te Ao Māori in the digital universe"


Nov 22, 2019



Hackathons are powerful and agentic learning environments where ideas are incubated and collaborations formed around common interests. They can be just as powerful for kids, provided we don't 'schoolify' them by seizing control in an effort to ensure success.

I designed the HackMini to showcase the powerful learning that happens when we get out of students way and watch what happens when they drive their own learning. HackMinis accurately replicate the conditions of a real hackathon with developmentally appropriate time constraints. 

Interested in learning more about how to run a HackMini? Contact me for details.


Theta Innovation Lab

"#HackMini: MiniDevs, Microsoft, Mixiply & Minecraft"

Dec 12, 2018

Creative Commons
HackMini Origin Story


Follow the Learning:

"VR Hackathon Mini"

May 23, 2015

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