Quote about Mythologies

Whether it be sport, education or life, it can be easy to be typecast. The challenge is how to break this myth once it is established.


Glenn Maxwell: To Play or Not to Play, is that the Question?

When it comes to cricket, I am intrigued by Glenn Maxwell. On the one hand, he has shown the ability to achieve the unthinkable. Performing at the highest level, in a number of roles, with the bat, ball and in the field. Continually finding his way out of tricky situations through a mix of improvisation and creativity. This success and ability seems to have also been a part of his downfall as it has led to him being put in number of no win situations. Rather than seeing him cement himself in a particular position and subsequently a test career, he has seemingly been stuck playing something of a perpetual Mr. Fixit role.

In a recent interview with Sam Ferriss, Maxwell touches upon some of these challenges, one of which is the desire from selectors to just focus on white ball cricket.

Selection chairman Trevor Hohns said on Wednesday the National Selection Panel (NSP) want Maxwell to focus on white-ball cricket ahead of the 50-over World Cup in England later this year.

Maxwell shares the challenges associated with batting in six different positions in his first six test innings. With all the limited over cricket Maxwell has played, Ferriss suggests that in some ways it is amazing he has managed to play any test cricket. Some have blamed his character, the way he trains and his lack of runs and/or wickets. However, the biggest hurdle is often just opportunity:

If you are playing Shield cricket you’re not playing for Australia and if you’re playing for Australia you’re not playing Shield cricket.

Although he has taken the opportunity to play County cricket over the IPL, this is still restricted to just a few games. So much of his opportunities that Maxwell craves are therefore out of his hands.


Typecasting Teachers

This scenario has me thinking about education and the way in which teachers can be typecast into particular positions. Although this can be to the benefit of the school or system, it is often to the detriment of the individual.

Like Maxwell, I feel I have been thrown into a number of different situations as a Mr. Fixit. Whether it be to a change in staffing or timetable issues, personally they were often no win situations. Although I have the pedagogical nous, I did not always have the content knowledge to reference and build upon. In addition, these areas were often poorly supported with little room for development or innovation.

The catch is in an effort to break the Mr Fixit moniker you at the same time reinforce it. If you do poorly, then it justifies to some why you are just not good enough for what it is you were meant to be doing (even though that was not the reason given the change in roles), while if you do succeed this only adds to the myth made for you therefore earning yourself more Fix It jobs.

So often it feels like we talk about coaching and development until it no longer suits. Some argue that the answer is to move schools or change systems. However, just as it is not possible for Glenn Maxwell to go play test cricket for New Zealand it is not always possible to just move to the ideal role. Here lies the limit of a ‘solution focused’ approach that preaches ‘more runs’ or ‘different attitude’. The solution focus is to simply be grateful for what we have https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2018/03/west-virginia-oklahoma-protests-teacher-pay/555434/, especially when in Maxwell’s case it has the potential to earn him millions of dollars and to be glad that he has been able to play test cricket at all (see Jamie Siddons).


So what about you? How have you been supported to succeed? Are there sacrifices that you have had to make for sack of the students and the wider system? As always, comments welcome.

NOTE: I always did my best and was often the best fit for the position or maybe I simply cared more than others. This tendency though to have people teach outside of the expertise is a growing trend, especially around Mathematics.


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Chilly Gonzales on the future of music

A reflection on the music that represented my soundtrack for 2018.


Depth of Field (Sarah Blasko)

Although Blasko’s use of synth bass and programmed beats with this album leads to comparisons with artists like Goldfrapp, Depth of Field never quite reaches the same dancefloor intensity. Instead the mix often creates a feeling of fragility. In listening I was reminded in part of LCD Soundsystem’s american dreams, as the more I listened, the more the choice to hold back on certain elements seemed to make more sense. Overall, I found it one of those albums that never seems settled and subsequently hooks you in because of it.

I would place this album between Goldfrapp and Lamb.

Lilac Everything (Emma Louise)

Lilac Everything is a captivating album. The decision of Emma Louise to definitively augment her voice makes for an intriguing listening experience. Where some may be critical of the artificial nature of pitch correction, the use in this circumstance is novel and critically challenges the notion of identity and belonging. There is just something uncanny about listening to a female artist taking on a male voice.

I would place this album between Father John Misty and Jeff Buckley.

 

Isaac Gracie (Isaac Gracie)

The strength of Isaac Gracie’s self titled album is the rawness of his voice. In a world of lush productions, this album cuts things back to basics. Many of the tracks consist of drums, bass and guitar. This simplicity allows Gracie to stand out. In some ways this reminds me of acts like Beach House and London Grammar, who fill out their sound with less rather than more.

I would place this album between Art of Fighting and London Grammar.

Wildness (Snow Patrol)

It is interesting listening to artists who I grew up with, but have not necessarily listened to lately. They change, the world changes, music changes, I changed. The one thing that remains the same with Snow Patrol is Gary Lightbody’s distinctive voice. There is nuance with this album with a continual battle between acoustic and electric. Although some have argued that Jacknife Lee’s polished production is to the detriment of the album, I found that once I stopped comparing the album with the past it grew on me.

I would place this between Radiohead and Collective Soul

MassEducation (St. Vincent)

I loved last year’s MassEduction, but the rawness of Annie Clark’s voice accompanied by Thomas Bartlett on piano takes the music to a whole new level for me. Even though her music is relatively structured she manages to find creativity within constraint in this reworking. This is epitomised by a track like Slow Disco, which she has played supported by Bartlett’s piano, strings on the album, acoustically for NPR Tiny Desk and electroically in the Taylor Swift inspired reworking as Slow Fast Disco. Other artists to peel the layers back this year were Kimbra and Chilly Gonzales.

I would place this between MTV Unplugged and Chilly Gonzales

BONUS: Beckstrom Holiday Extravaganza Volume X (Chris Beckstrom)

Christmas is always an interesting time of year when it comes to music. There are those like Michael Buble that have carved out a niche. Last year Sia created an interesting album of original music. With all this said there is something truly joyful about Chris Beckstrom’s ‘Holiday Extravaganzas’, where each year he electronically reimagines a collection of Christmas classics. The pictures are also a useful reflection of the effort involved.

I would place this between Daft Punk and Aphex Twin


Some of the artists that stood out for me this year, but did not make the cut include The Presets, Amy Shark, Guy Pearce, The Wombats, Nils Frahm, Missy Higgins, Dreams and Aphex Twin.


Looking back it feels like the year of imagining, whether it be different versions (St Vincent) or new ground (Emma Louise). So what about you? What music has caught your attention this year? What albums and artists have you had on high rotation? Is there something that seems to tie your year together? As always, comments welcome.


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I’ve also noticed a lot more intentionality and value coming out of people who are writing their own posts and replies on their personal websites first. Because it appears on a site they own and which is part of their online identity, they’re far more careful about what and how they write. Their words are no longer throw-away commentary for the benefit of a relatively unseen audience that comes and goes in a rushing stream of content on someone else’s social site. Chris Aldrich ‘On Blogs in the Social Media Age by Cal Newport’

Many argue that something is not right with social media as it currently stands. This post explores what it might mean to make Twitter great again?


Responding to Jack Dorsey’s call for suggestions on how to improve Twitter, Dave Winer put forward two suggestions: preventing trolling and making changes. Some of the particulars Winer shares include giving control over who can reply, eliminate character count and allow organisations to curate lists. Although I agree with Winer about some of these changes, I wonder if the answer to improving Twitter is always to make Twitter great again?

I feel the ways I use Twitter have changed considerably this year. My one word this year has been ‘intent’. A part of this is being more aware of my ‘prosumption’ online. One of my concerns is that Twitter is not the Twitter it once was for me. In short, it feels like there has been an increase in branding, as epitomised by ASCD’s recent spotlight on edu-twitter influencers. There has also been a rise in hostility and abuse. Some of which is automated, some of which perpetuated by crowds.

Deb Netolicky's Edutwitter

Although I have not wiped my account and started again, as Anil Dash did, I definitely started reviewing my practice and participation there. To be fair, my participation on Twitter has taken many guises over time. In the past it was the place where I shared ideas and connected the dots. The problem I found was that although I could dive back into my archive, it was far from organised. If this was my ‘outboard brain’ (as it had seemingly become) it had become rather chaotic. Initially, I adjusted things to syndicate to Twitter using Dave Winer’s Radio3 linkblog platform. I then moved to sending from my own site, however this did not feel right.

I wondered why I was actually sharing on Twitter (and every other site, such as Google+ and Tumblr), especially after reading Ben Werdmüller’s reflection on POSSE.  Maha Bali suggests that sharing is a reciprocal act:

Giving means bringing something to gift to others … whereas sharing means reciprocity … you bring something of yours to give some to others, but others also bring some of theirs to give you, whether immediate or over time.

If this is so then isn’t it enough to share via my blog and rely on pingbacks and webmentions for reciprocity? As Kicks Condor describes:

I do find that Webmentions are really enhancing linking—by offering a type of bidirectional hyperlink. I think if they could see widespread use, we’d see a Renaissance of blogging on the Web.

Posting on Twitter therefore lacked purpose, contributing to something I did not feel comfortable with. As I have elaborated on in the past:

Often it is presumed that sharing out links and continuing the conversation is always a good thing. However, at some point it can become too much of a good thing. The effort and intention to connect and engage in this situation has the opposite effect.

I also thought that if these links were for me then why not simply post them on my own site, what Greg McVerry describes as a social media of one. Posting on Twitter has now become about sharing if there was actually someone in particular that I felt might be interested and that was my main point on contact.

Some have found Mastodon to be the social answer to Twitter’s ills. This is something Doug Belshaw has written about in the past. However, I have never found a place. In part I agree with Ben Werdmuller, who suggested that:

Mastodon doesn’t suffer from the organizational issues I described above, but by aping commercial social networking services, it suffers from the same design flaws.

Associated with this, I have tried to engage with Micro.Blog, but feel frustrated by the technological constraints. I love the use of RSS, but personally use my headings for too much to give them up and have yet to crack open the code as John Johnston has.

 


In the song Miss Those Days, Jack Antonoff sings about pining for the past:

I know I was lost, but I miss those days.

I think this conundrum captures the desire to return to what Kicks Condor  has described as a weird Twitter. Although I was not tgere for the weirdest of times I remember my early days of anxiety and axiliration, of constant notifications, questions and check-ins. This is epitomised by Craig Kemp’s image of addiction:

Craig Kemp's Twitter Chat Alarm Clock

Although I never set alarms, there was a time when it encompassed a lot of what I did. I do not regret that time, but it is not necessarily something that I miss. My fast food social media diet has been replaced by one managed around blogs, feeds and comments. I do sometimes feel I miss out on some things, but trust that if I need to know something that I will probably capture through some other means.

What I am left most intrigued by is how my thinking has changed since I started talking with Dr. Ian Guest about this topic. Ironically, I think that his investigation inadvertently spurred my own inquiry. The ever present flanogropher.


NOTE: This post has sat in my drafts brewing for a few months. It involved a range of research. I apologise if it is inconsistent or incoherent, it is a topic that I have been really grappling with. I would love to know if anybody else has any thoughts. As always, comments and webmentions welcome.

Also posted on IndieNews


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The problem with feedback

Back in the 90’s, John Laws lead an ad campaign for Valvoline. It had the catchphrase of “oil ain’t oil”

It focused on the supposed quality and excellence of the oil in much the same way as John West did with salmon.

This focus on quality and excellence had me thinking lately about data and whether in fact ‘data ain’t data’ and that data is not neutral.

In an article for The Atlantic, Megan Ward provides a history of feedback. She touches on the origins associated with improving industrial machine efficiency and focus on finding fault. The problem is that in recent times it has been appropriated as a tool for managing people as a form of human machinery.

Positive ratings are a kind of holy grail on sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor, and negative reviews can sink a burgeoning small business or mom-and-pop restaurant. That shift has created a misunderstanding about how feedback works. The original structure of the loop’s information regulation has been lost.

Ward explains that this confuses things and in the process we risk making the activity one of noise, rather than any sort of purposeful meaning and change.

I was particularly reminded of this during a recent holiday to Fiji. I had some points of frustration about the place where we stayed and thought that it might be worth providing feedback. However, what I realised the longer I stayed was that such feedback would most likely miss the mark. Rather than improve the experience for others, as I imagined the feedback should, it would more likely be weaponised and lead to worse working conditions for the staff. To put the issues in context, they were each dealt with in a timely manner. In some respects that is all you can ask for. In addition to this, it would take away from what actually made the whole time most hospitable, the people. I decided not to provide feedback.

Another scenario that comes to mind is performance reviews in schools. I remember there was political outrage a few years ago that the vast majority of teachers in Victoria seemingly moved up their increment each year. It was felt by some that the review process was not weeding out under performing teachers. The problem I had then (and have now) is that it is failure for the wrong purpose. Teachers are not steam engines in need of optimisation towards some sort of greatness. Instead, they require feedback and follow-up based on particular contexts and conditions. This is why performance reviews are different to coaching programs. Jon Andrews explains this difference as improvement verses development.


The question that often feels overlooked when it comes to feedback is who or what is it actually for? It is easy enough to collect clicks and likes, but without purpose it can quickly just become noise. Data ain’t data, to treat it so misunderstands its purpose and association with feedback.


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On Experience

During a recent trip to Fiji celebrating our ten year wedding anniversary, my wife and I were lucky enough to visit a local primary school. It had roughly 200 students with a class for each year level. It is always interesting appreciating learning in different contexts. It highlights some things that we take for granted.

Using the lens of the Modern Learning Canvas:

Modern Learning Canvas
The Modern Learning Canvas is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Here are some of my observations of education in Fiji:

Roles, Strategies and Resources

A Fijian computer room … one computer

Although the students we met were vocal, it was hard to decipher much choice or action over their learning. On the flipside of this, the educator’s role seemed pretty traditional with the teacher driving much of the learning.

It is always hard to properly judge learning by a walk through on a random day. What stood out though was the environments. The rooms were relatively dark, with the school building shaded by a veranda on one side and a hill on the other. The only cooling was via ceiling fans. I wondered what Stephen Heppell’s Learnometer would make of it?

The walls were covered with posters of various words and facts, while the chalkboards were full of formulas and activities. By their faded nature, I am not sure how many of the resources are changed around and it made me feel almost indulgent the way some teachers cycle through charts and posters. Having said this, I imagine that posters and paper would probably suffer from the humidity?

It is interesting to think about such technology as the chalkboard in regards to pedagogy, something Audrey Watters’ recently reflected upon. Although many people in the community had smartphones, there was limited access to devices in the classroom. No projectors. A few desktops in a room, but nowhere near enough for a class, let alone the school. Most teachers had a laptop though, which they would use to support learning. This reminded me of my own experience a few years ago and a post I wrote about what you could do with just one computer.

We were shown the library, which was a room with a few boxes of books around the edge. I did not notice many books in the classrooms. Although the government has a policy focusing on access and quality:

A reasonable collection of resources should comprise ten books per student.

It was not clear how this resourcing is funded. This also goes for the push for more devices too. Resourcing seems dependant on donations from companies, such as Vodafone.

Culture and Policy

Fijian Education at a Glance 2018

With limited access to resources, more emphasis seemed to be put on speaking and performance. For example, students went through a rendition of a number of stories, such as We’re Going On a Bear Hunt, where the class was divided into two with one side repeating the lines of the other. A part of me wondered though if this was as much a reflection of the way in which they learnt in general, as music and oration seemed to be ingrained in a lot of what Fijians seem to do?

Each of the schools in Fiji seemed to have some religious affiliation. In part I would guess that this was based on the missionaries who set them up. In the school we visited this was evident in the bible verses posted on the walls.

On the flipside of this focus on culture, students were preparing for exams used to gain entry into secondary school. As with NAPLAN, The focus is on literacy and numeracy. Along with the supply of milk for Year One students, these were the only visible impacts of government intervention.

On a side note, the school had one of the most extreme emergency evacuation places, documenting what to do in the case of tsunami, earthquake, fire or mudslide. A reminder of nature’s presence.

Outcomes and Beliefs

It is interesting to consider Gert Biesta’s three arguments for a good education: qualification, socialization and subjectification. I felt the school touched on the first two of these. Speaking with some of the workers at the resort where we were staying the focus of education was very much about qualifications and what possibilities that might provide, while the posters discussing social media and alcohol touched on what it might mean to be a good citizen within the wider community. What this looked like in terms of outcomes was not so clear.

A Chalkboard and some desks is better than a tree in a field

When I think about other education environments I am always come back to a story, shared via Tom Whitby’s blog, involving teaching 230 children underneath a tree in Malawi. Although the school was not at those extremes – they had rooms and stable class sizes – it was a true reminder that sometimes we need to stop and appreciate the lot we have and make the most of it. What intrigued me is that as education becomes globalised, through such policy bodies as PISA, we overlook the expectations that can come with such changes. In some respect this is the purpose of the current project I am a part of, to bring schools up to a particular standard. Visiting Fiji has helped me think about some of the challenges and opportunities moving forward, as well as highlight some of my biases.

So what about you? Have you visited a school that helped challenge your thoughts and assumptions? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.


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What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950s and the mall in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now. danah boyd ‘It’s Complicated’

What might it mean to be ‘digitally mindful’ and does such a thing exist?


I was a part of a discussion about technology and wellbeing today. It was framed around the work of Hugh van Cuylenburg and the Resilience Project. For van Cuylenburg our focus should be on gratitude, empathy and mindfulness.

The focus then moved to Common Sense Media and the addiction to phones. The need for ‘tech-free time’ was brought up. This reminded me of a keynote last year from NSW Secretary of Education, Mark Scott, and his push for deep work, a term attributed to Cal Newport. The suggestion was that to be mindful we need to put the screens away. I was therefore left with the question, what might it mean to be ‘digitally mindful’ and can such a thing exist?

In an article for Common Sense Media, Elizabeth Galicia discusses some strategies families and tech companies can use to foster healthier habits. In addition to screen-free times and parental controls, there is discussion of ‘humane’ design and protection of data. The problem is that there does not seem to be any support for student action?

Maybe this action accounted for through the discussion of citizenship addresses this, but I feel there is a missed opportunity. Rather than wait for the ‘humane’ solutions to arrive, I wonder if there are opporrtunities to create deliberate safe spaces that can be used to support students in learning.

I did this myself with three classes connected together using Edublogs. One of the benefits is that comments were moderated, therefore if there was something shared that was inappropriate then it provided an opportunity for a learning conversation. As danah boyd points out in her seminal book It’s Complicated:

What the drive-in was to teens in the 1950s and the mall in the 1980s, Facebook, texting, Twitter, instant messaging, and other social media are to teens now. Teens flock to them knowing they can socialize with friends and become better acquainted with classmates and peers they don’t know as well.

Although teens will still most likely go online out of school, this safer space within school at least allows them a place to start. We are so adamant about enabling a generation of coders, yet overlook the importance of communication.

A further extension on this is the #IndieWeb and the Domain of One’s Own project. There is something about not only being a part of networked publics online, but also actively engaging with what that actually means. For me, that has come to include commenting, collecting and posting from sites that I have some sort of say over. Some who are currently immersed in what this might mean for education are Greg McVerry and Ian O’Byrne. Although I think that there are currently hurdles around ease and access, for me this is what it means to be ‘digitally mindful’. It is not always easy, but I feel that as I have stepped back from engaging  directly on social media I have become more aware of my presence online.

Although we can push for limited screen-time and better technology, I think that the challenge that faces many of us today is being more aware of the technology we have at our mercy and being more informed about what it all might mean.

What do you think? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.

Also posted on IndieNews


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Instead of buying our way out of obsolescence, we program, adapt, and workaround. What makes a phone great is not how new it is, but how long it lasts.

This post started as a response to a possible future of technology. However, it grew and grew, so I have split it up. This then is a response to my reading of James Bridle’s book The New Dark Age and the place of the future of the smartphone.


John Philpin recently wrote a response to a post from John Harris I shared discussing the destructive nature of mobile phones. He asked:

If we didn’t have them … what would the world look like … Can we definitively say ‘better’ ?

For me, this is such an intriguing question. My initial response was a little circumspect. In particular, I think the idea of ‘better’ is problematic and instead argue for difference. This particular change is captured by Vala Afshar in the form of emojis:

In less than 10 years, 📱 replaced: 📟 ☎️ 📠 💽 💾 💻⏰ 📷 📹 🎥 📺 📻📰 💿 💳 💼 📎 📄⏳ 🔦 📼 📚 ⌚️ 🎮📓 ✏️ 📁 🎤 📇 📆🎰 💵 📬 📝 🆘 🏧🎫 ✉️ 📤 ✒️ 📊 📋🔎 🔑 📣 🎼 🎬 📀📒⌨️🕹🎙⏱📿🗝📇🗄📁📋🗂✉️⌨️

There is no doubting that the smartphone has simplified so many actions and activities. When I think of my own habits, my writing and reading often starts with my phone, whether it be flicking through my feed reader or jotting down a few notes.

Yet I am left feeling something is still missing in the discussion. I wonder about the inherent design and consequence of smartphone use? I wonder about those places involved in the production? I wonder about the ethics involved?

This is something Adam Greenfield captures in his book Radical Technologies:

This is our life now: strongly shaped by the detailed design of the smartphone handset; by its precise manifest of sensors, actuators, processors and antennae; by the protocols that govern its connection to the various networks around us; by the user interface conventions that guide our interaction with its applications and services; and by the strategies and business models adopted by the enterprises that produce them.

I am not necessarily arguing we should ‘ban’ smartphones in schools as it often feels like such decisions are sometimes made for the wrong reasons, whether it be liability or control. Instead I am striving for more critical reflection.

Here I am reminded of Doug Belshaw’s work on digital literacies. Rather than defining it as a thing in itself, Belshaw discusses eight different elements that come to play in different contexts and situations:

  • Cultural – the expectations and behaviours associated with different environments, both online and off.
  • Cognitive – the ability to use computational thinking in order to work through problems.
  • Constructive – the appropriate use of digital tools to enable social actions.
  • Communicative – sharing and engaging within the various cultural norms.
  • Confident – the connecting of the dots and capitalising on different possibilities.
  • Creative – this involves doing new things in new ways that somehow add value.
  • Critical – the analysis of assumptions behind literacy practises
  • Civic – the something being analysed.

Too often the focus of mobile technology in education is on cognition and communicative, rather than the critical and constructive. We are often willing to talk about moonshots and wicked problems unwilling to let go of certain assumptions and certifications.

Clay Shirky suggests that workflows need to be a little frustrating:

The thing I can least afford is to get things working so perfectly that I don’t notice what’s changing in the environment anymore.

To return to Adam Greenfield, he argues that rather than being flexible and aware of our impact, we have bought into an ethos of efficiency of everyday existence.

Networked digital information technology has become the dominant mode through which we experience the everyday.

The question is at what cost? Should students be encouraged to use the portable over a more complicated device? Is it an ‘everything now’ cloud computing that we should aspire to? As I hold my old Nexus phone, I wonder what is it we actually need verses want? What next, phones inserted under our skin? As Douglas Rushkoff suggests, “What makes a phone great is not how new it is, but how long it lasts.”

So what about you? What are your thoughts on the ‘smartphone revolution’? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.


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Collaboration needs to be Disciplined

A reflection on my participation with a collective looking at the re-imagination of student reporting and the innovation associated with people and processes.


I was recently reflecting upon an ongoing reporting collective that I have been a part of for the last year and a half. One of the things that I have noticed is how hard change is. It often takes a long time and considerable commitment to turn turn the ship. For example, in a previous project, a principal shared with me that it had probably taken his school five year to transform the way in which teachers engage with data to inform learning within his school. Unless it is a new school or a school in crisis (e.g. Templestowe College), this timeline seems to be common trend.

It can therefore be a challenge to identify the specific points of change based on a year and a bit. One of the reasons is that sometimes we have a predefined ideal as to what such change might look like. A mindset of revolution rather than renaissance. It therefore occurred to me that I might have been thinking about this all the wrong way. Although the schools a part of the collective had not radically torn up their reports. They were still restricted to what providers make possible and the expectations of the various constituents. Instead the innovation came through in the actions, rather than the end product.

I would break this practice up into four aspects:

Time

One of the biggest inhibitors of change seems to be time. This is captured in part by Tom Barrett’s discussion of innovation compression. There is something about committing yourself to regular meetings.

Structure

It is important to have structure to guide things. This has come in several forms, such as appropriate spaces to work collaboratively and activities that supported the reflective process.

Celebrations

Associated with the structure is the opportunity to celebrate the small wins to maintain energy and motivation. Sometimes when you work in a small team driving change this is missed.

Conversations

Beyond the explicit structures, one of the most powerful aspects to come out of the collective has been the serendipitous conversations. Although it is possible to structure opportunities to share, sometimes the greatest learning comes through in the random conversation. This is something that I describe as the hidden professional development.


In the end, this experience has reminded me that content and change is people, the challenge is being disciplined about the process. As always, thoughts, comments and webmentions welcome.


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Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.

I recently attended DigiCon18. I was left with a few thoughts on the nature of presentations. I discussed this before, as well as the re-imagination of such spaces. I find this topic important to continually come back to as much as a reminder about what I myself need to improve upon as anything else.

  • Slow Down: I was in some sessions where presenters would run through all their material. I feel this is something that I sometimes do. One strategy is to provide points where you can stop and reassess.
  • Incorporate Storytelling: One of the things that stood out from all the keynotes was the power of storytelling. I was left thinking that if you do not have a story to tell, you probably need to start making one up.
  • Involve Humour: On the flip side to storytelling, it is important to include humour, this opens presentations and workshops to the human side. One of the hard things about this is that humour is often situational and cannot always easily be contrived.
  • Don’t say what doesn’t need to be said: If you are not prepared or do not know everything, do not admit it. I recognise that everyone is human, but more is lost than gained in my opinion.
  • Structured Hands-On Time: There were too many sessions that involved arbitrary activities. If you are going to provide people time, provide them with purpose and structure. This is something that I have been guilty of not doing well in the paste.

With all this said, I think that it is people that make a conference. Maybe above all else we need to start there.

If you were one of those people at DigiCon18 and had a reflection, I would love to hear it.


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Kath Murdoch on noticing

A reflection on participating in the ‘7 black and white photos in seven days‘ activity and the power of constraint and images.


My one word this year has been ‘intent‘. Although this can mean many things in different contexts, one of the things I have tried to do is participate in meaningful activities when they may arise.

I was therefore taken by Ian Guest’s invitation to participate in an activity focused around sharing photos of my life. The catch was there were a few constraints at play. The images had to be black and white, involve no humans and have no explanations.

Here then are my seven photographs:

Day 1
Day 1

Day 2
Day 2

Day 3
Day 3

Day 4
Day 4

Day 5
Day 5

Day 6
Day 6

Day 7
Day 7


What struck me about the exercise was how much more aware I felt of the world around me. Rather than be drawn into a podcast or simply lost in thought, I was instead thinking about what I could or should capture to tell the story of my life.

In addition to noticing the world, I was also forced to think more visually. Where I am usually dependent on words (or audio) to convey a story, I had to think differently about the story being told.

This experience reminded me of Alan Levine’s recent discussion of picking a noticing pattern, something that keeps the brain active and engaged. For Levine, the pattern is ‘106’:


“A House of DS106” by cogdogblog is licensed under CC0

Amy Burvall on the other hand is always open to creative pursuits. Rather than looking for something in particular, she recently celebrated ‘looking down‘ and capturing the serendipitous surfaces:

Amy Burvall's Unicorn
Twisted unicorn in Canberra

What each of these situations has reminded me is that creativity can be cultivated, nature is full of inquiry if we are willing to notice it and sometimes it just takes something to spark that intent.


NOTE: Without a hashtag, they can be hard to collect. Although John Johnston has collected his, many others have just left them on Twitter. If anyone has a collection that would like to share, I would love to see them.


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