If you have a stupid idea, or a hurtful idea, the solution is not to stop thinking. The decision is to have better thinking, better ideas. Kevin Kelly ‘On Why Technology Has a Will’

Reflecting on my year in space last year and my theme of ideas for the new year.


For a few years now, inspired by Kath Murdoch, I have been choosing a word to focus on each year. Last year I made a change, where rather than thinking about outcomes, I instead turned to inquiry.

Inspired by a few reflections, I wondered if maybe I was approaching it all the wrong way? Rather than having something with explicit or implied outcomes, maybe I needed a new approach, one focused on an open-ended concept? Although Kath Murdoch talks about nudging you along a path, maybe the nudge that matters most is an inquiring mind?

This is something that CGP Grey touches upon with the idea of a yearly theme that is ‘broad, directional and resonant’. Although this focus may not have a direct impact on my work and relationships, for me it helps keep me focused when life becomes so busy. Last year I explored space. After my focus on flânerie, I had wondered about the space that helps make such practices possible. I had a heap of books I intended to jump into, such as The Production of Space and Assemblage Theory. However, then the COVID-19 hit and ironically changed the space. Instead, my collected reflections seemed to became about online learning, remote work and social distancing. Still thinking about some of these things, I felt that an interesting theme to dwell on was the notion of ideas. Here then are some of my initial thoughts:

  • History of ideas: How are ideas developed over time?
  • Ideas in space and time: What is the impact of context on ideas?
  • Bad ideas, good ideas and the way ideas produce other ideas: What is the difference between good and bad?
  • Musical ideas: What does it mean to have an original idea in music?
  • Assemblages and ideas: What is an idea and how does this differ from an assemblage?
  • Creating the space for ideas to fester: What are the conditions required for ideas to prosper?
  • Ideas and manifestos: What is the difference between an idea and an ideal?

So my journey continues from capacity to communication to intent to flânerie to space to ideas. Appreciate any thoughts or ideas about resources on the theme of ideas.


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When the world stopped, music continued. Its power was more vital than ever, providing comfort in times of great anxiety and loneliness, and adding fuel to the righteous anger that exploded across the planet. Music itself rarely fixes anything: it’s not medicine, listening to a beautiful piece of art doesn’t absolve you of the need to confront the issues this year has brought on. It does help, though. A lot. When things are grim, it can get you through. Sometimes that’s all we can hope for. At least for the moment. Great music, and the communities that have formed around it, will be one of the best legacies our generation will leave. This year did not test that, it brought the importance of this art and those who make it work to the fore.

A reflection on the music that represented my soundtrack for 2020.


With 2020 a strange year on so many levels, here is the music that tied it all together.

The Slow Rush – Tame Impala

I am sure that some might be put off by Parker’s move to ‘deft auteur-pop synergy‘, however I found this to be the first Tame Impala album to really capture my attention. Although the album touches on themes of nostalgia, lose, anxiety and inner peace, first and foremost I feel this album offers up a sound that envelopes you.

As a producer, Parker has more moving parts to balance this time, but he arrives at a deft auteur-pop synergy in which every last decision, down to the assorted cathedral-like reverb effects that lend his voice an otherworldly aura, become as intrinsic to the music as the melodies or the words. Though there’s a lot going on in the latticework of the music — springy analog synthesizer arpeggios, guitars doing unguitarlike things, layers upon layers of pastel lushness — the post-psychedelic swirl of The Slow Rush registers as an organic blend, with the songs never feeling cluttered or too tightly scripted.

Written before the onset of the coronavirus, it has been fascinating to listen to it in this new light. This was an experience that also happened with Run the Jewel’s RTJ4 and the death of George Floyd. Take for example the lines from One More Year:

Not worryin’ if I get the right amount of sleep (One more year) Not carin’ if we do the same thing every week (One more year)

Or On Track:

But strictly speaking, I’m still on track Strictly speaking, I’m holding on More than a minor setback But strictly speaking, I’m still on track And all of my dreams are still in sight ‘Cause strictly speaking, I’ve got my whole life

Or Tomorrow’s Dust:

I was blinded by a memory Like it’s someone else, like it wasn’t me And there’s every chance I’ll be learning fast And the day will come and then it will pass

It has also been interesting to see Tame Impala address the constraints of performing/promoting these tracks. After turning to solo performances, they have since morphed into a synthpop setup, driven by sequences and drum machines. In part, this was due to some members not being in Perth, but one wonders if this is where Parker was heading anyway.  It will be intriguing to see how much of this persists in the long term.

Folklore – Taylor Swift

This year produced a number of albums that were clearly responses to the situation at hand. For example, Charli XCX stripped things back to what she had on hand with her quarantine album, How I’m Feeling Now. Taylor Swift used the opportunity to explore a different collaborators, sounds and storytelling.

With folklore, Swift has made a self-consciously minor transitional album, a grand readjustment. She’s nailed it. Swift, it turns out, is one of the few great pop chameleons to come along in recent years. She was great at gleaming Walmart country. She was great at bright-plastic global-domination ultra-pop. She was a bit less great at quasi-trap club music, but she made do. And now she’s great at lightly challenging soft-thrum dinner party music.

Although Antonoff features on the album, Swift used Folklore and the sister album, Evermore, as an occasion to team up with Aaron Dessner from The National. What I find interesting is that the album is a departure for all parties. Although some would like to pigeon hole Antonoff, his oeuvre has shown nuance. While it feels like Dessner further unpacks some of the sounds explored with The National’s I am Easy to Find, as well as Big Red Machine.

With its woodsy black-and-white art, not to mention its title, Folklore advertises itself as an expected pop-star maneuver: the “back to basics” or “stripped down” revelation. But the album’s more complex than that, and does not conjure the image of Swift slumped over a guitar for an acoustic set. With the producers Aaron Dessner (of the indie band The National) and Jack Antonoff (the rock singer turned pop-star whisperer), she swims through intricate classical and folk instrumentation largely organized by the gridded logic of electronic music. Melancholy singers of ’90s rock radio such as Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlan seem to guide Swift’s choices, as do contemporaries such as Lana Del Rey and Lorde. The overall effect is eerie, gutting, and nostalgic. If Folklore is not apt for summer fun, it is apt for a year in which rambunctious cheer and mass sing-alongs have few venues in which to thrive.

Although it is possible to find correlations with Swift’s past albums, what previously was at the edge is placed front and centre. There has been some conjecture about whether these tracks will fit with Swift’s stadium spectaculars, this was one of the reasons she gave for her live recording with Antonoff and Dessner. At the very least, with the absence of the traditional pop singles, it is at refreshing is to hear a track like Cardigan played on mainsteam radio.

Djesse Vol 3 – Jacob Collier

There are some albums that stick straight-away, while others take a bit more time. Djesse is one that took time to sink in. Collier’s tendency to mash-up so many ideas and sounds can sometimes be an affront to the pop senses. I think what helped was not only appreciating the tunes, but also the sonic world Collier created.  However, I feel this uncanny experience is somewhat intentional. As Collier explained in his Switched on Pop interview with his exploration of unfamilar keys and new sounds. When it clicks though there is a certain joy and exuberance that cannot be escaped.

Collier claims that Djesse is a quarantine album both in its sound and structure.

“Djesse Vol. 3,” recorded remotely, is “really a quarantine album,” he said. One of the songs, “He Won’t Hold You,” with Rapsody, “is about coming to peace with being alone. So much of my process is a solitary one. I wanted to craft a journey that described that—a mixture between very chaotic sounds that wrapped themselves around you and a simple melody that can rock you to sleep.”

However, it could also be argued that he has been building to this moment. Not only has he always recorded and produced his own music, but he also has tendency to push what is possible to the limits. Whether it be singing ahead of the beat to perform duets over Zoom, using Source Connect to capture recordings from around the world or performing as a one-man band, Collier is always innovating.

The Ascension – Sufjan Stevens

WIth The Ascension, Sufjan Stevens takes a step back to drag the listener in. There are many pop elements within all the layered synths and beats, however the mix always feels held back. Rather than sad bangers, Stevens’ presents what he labels ‘rage-bangers‘. In the hustle bustle of lockdown life and political upheaval, the album provides a point of meditation. Jon Pareles describes it as, “more metaphysical than biographical.“. While Grant Sharples argues, although it may not be the optimistic answer we may be craving for, it captures the current air of contemplation.

Though it’s still an incredible album, The Ascension better suits the cynicism of 2020. It feels banal to say that, but The Ascension isn’t exactly the optimistic salve that people may be looking for in 2020. Fans can find solace in this colossal work, sharing Stevens’ valid sentiment that, simply put, everything sucks right now.

Lost in all the sounds and starts, Sam Sodomsky compares the album to a big-budget IMAX movie.

Don’t get too hung up on the plot—just tilt back your head and watch him float.

Kate Miller-Heidke – Child in Reverse

Whether it be The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, Washington, Washed Out, The Naked and Famous, Empress Of or Sylvan Esso, there have been some great pop albums released this year. However, the one that stood out to me was Kate Miller-Heidke’s Child in Reverse. Her sense of authenticity and honesty, as well as the measured production reminds me of Lorde’s Melodrama. Whereas, Lorde’s album recounts her transition into the adult world, Miller-Heidke is looking back on life with a sense of acceptance of who she is and forgiveness for any misgivings.

It’s hard to separate Miller-Heidke’s musical theatre dalliances from songs like ‘Twelve Year Old Me’. Her storytelling is so precise and the imagery so vivid that you could transplant it into a theatrical setting with ease. Her balance of poignance and playfulness has always set her apart, and there are countless moments on this record that highlight how emotionally commanding she can be, without coming across overbearing.

Some of the tracks came out of an APRA SongHub songwriting weekend. She signed up after going through a phase of writer’s block. Miller-Heidke reflects upon the experience of working with Evan Klar and Hailey Collier and the benefit of letting the songs live through the ‘ears and hearts of others’:

It actually needs to live and breathe through the ears and hearts of others, and sometimes that can paradoxically make it sound more personal and more intimate. Sometimes other people can just help you distill what you’re saying down to an essence.

The album was produced by Klar. Miller-Heidke explains what she felt he brought to the table.

[Klar’s] arrangements are a little bit strange and surprising, but they’ve got this sparkly, airy sweetness and I think that style compliments my voice beautifully.

His aesthetic as a producer is what really drew me to his work, and made me want to work with him across the whole record. These are all sounds that come out of his computer, but there’s such a warmth and analog humanity there. They are imperfect sounds, but there is so much sparkle and air to them. What he does sounds so beautifully fresh and real to me.

I have always been aware of Miller-Heidke’s music and appreciated her virtuosity. However, I was always a little put off by her vocal gymnastics. This album changed all that for me.

We Will Always Love You – The Avalanches

This album was on the periphery for a while, with various teasers released throughout 2020. However, it was not until the album dropped that the vision for it fell into place. Although there are some great tracks, with my favourite being Wherever You Go, the strength is listening as a whole. Chris Deville describes the this as an odyssey.

Like the other two Avalanches albums, We Will Always Love You is an odyssey. Each track feels like an encounter with some new character or a scenic passageway in between outposts.

Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi, with the help of Andy Szekeres, stitch together voices from the past and present in an act of musical remembering. Touching on themes of contemplation and transcendence, Kate Streader describes it as The Avalanches’ own Golden Record.

In many ways, We Will Always Love You is The Avalanches’ own Golden Record, tracking their sonic DNA through an epic list of collaborators who have influenced their sound in some shape or form over the years while exploring love, human connection and our place in the universe.

As with Oneohtrix Point Never, We Will Always Love You feels more like a mix tape, a hopeful one that was needed to end the year with.


With all the talk of the ‘new normal‘ this year, the theme that seems to tie them together is the idea of ‘new beginnings’. Whether it be new collaborations, new sounds, new mindset or new approaches to performance, I feel each of these albums has offered something different.

So what about you? What albums soundtracked your 2020? Were there any themes that tied things together? As always, comments welcome.


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The most important blog post It is on the most important blog. Yours. Seth Godin ‘The most important blog post’

Supporting our daughter at home with her learning this year was interesting. One of the challenges related to knowing where you stand and what is your roll. Early on, our daughter cared a lot, putting effort and detail into everything she did. However, as time has passed, this interest  turned to apathy. Although she looked forward to the daily online session, the rest was something of a chore.

One of the ideas the school introduced was the idea of a ‘passion project’. I found our daughter frustrated with the task of identifying deep interests and following through with them. Initially, she said she was focusing on ‘slime’. She discussed a whole range of tests she wanted to do, but it did not go anywhere with them (other than create a whole lot of slim). She then turned her attention to Minecraft. In part, I think that this was a justification for spending more time on her tablet doing things that she wanted to do.

Although I have no issue with Minecraft and have always encouraged her with this, my concern was with what she was actually doing and whether it fit the brief of her ‘passion project’. I therefore suggested that instead of having a clear outcome, she at least document her learning. She was still unconvinced. I then proposed that I would create her a blog where she could record a log of her thoughts. After explaining that she was the only one who could access the space, she was convinced.

Although she did not have a clear plan for the project, recording thoughts in a blog led to a number questions, such as how can I add video and images. This all reminded me of the power of blogging and the importance of letting people find answers for themselves, even if this means being frustrated and failing forwards along the way. As Clive Thompson posits in regards to blogging:

Children who didn’t explain their thinking performed worst. The ones who recorded their explanations did better

On a side note, it is sad to see the end of an era in regards to blogging in Victoria.


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Until we call out the ridiculousness when it appears, until we recognize exactly how broken things are we may be falling into the trap of longing for nostalgia. For a past we can return to where the problems we have didn’t exist. Or, we can recognize that nostalgia is fed from exactly the dynamic that got us to this thorny moment in the first place: the denial of our broken social contract, and institutions and rituals that were performatively there, the way the debate was, but no longer providing the function that was the stated reason for their existence in the first place. Zeynep Tufekci ‘Against Nostalgia’

Responding to the presidential debate, Zeynep Tufekci draws on the work of William Fielding Ogburn to discuss the mismatch between a past we hope we can return to and the actual reality that has moved on. Debates worked in an era with little choice, however with so many other means of communicating it does not make sense.

We could, instead, have panels of journalists interrogate the candidates in separate hours, where the candidates have time to speak. The panel could consist of journalists chosen by the candidate and his opponent, with questions alternating between the friendly questions and those less friendly. The questions could be negotiated so that some of the same questions are asked of both candidates. They could be a mix of questions submitted in a town hall and questions polled among the public. The follow-ups could also alternate. And so on. Something else. Anything else.

Although different from the debates, this notion of mismatch is something that has been called out by the current crisis.

As students return to classes, there is a lot of discussion about what has changed and the dangers of snapping back into an old sense of normal. For Steven Kolber, the move to offsite learning has highlighted the opportunity for asynchronous learning.

A ‘build back better’ move would be to allow a portion of students’ load to be delivered remotely, giving teachers and students some space for variety in their schedule, and freedom from the byzantine and industrial timetable of schools.

I think that this opportunity is something pertinent both inside and outside of the classroom.

In my work in supporting schools, the move offsite has forced a rethink for how schools and staff are supported. Where in the past, there was a focus on in-person workshops, structured around particular topics. In their place we have been forced to explore other approaches. One of the consequences of this is that it has broken up sessions into support that is done at the point of need.

One of the things I have been doing for a while is following up support calls with a summary of how I saw things. Many take their own notes, but having my own set allows for cross-checking. Associated with words, I have been exploring a number of other ways to communicate and explain various points.

Annotations

The simplest way to supplement a written explanation is with an annotated image. Although it is possible to provide clear descriptions, this presumes we all share the same language. For example, here is my online course associated with Global2 which is regularly broken up with annotated images. Although in the past I used Google Drawings to create such images. These days I use SnagIt to quickly capture and create images, especially when connecting remotely using BOMGAR.

Gifs

I have taken to using GIFs to capture more complex workflows which cannot be presented in a static annotation. This was in part inspired by Jake Miller’s EduGIFs. It involves turning short screen-casts into GIFs. I have found if short enough, they can be sent by email or uploaded into a Google Doc. As with annotations, I have been using SnagIt to create these GIFs. Although I like Miller’s combination of text and image, this is not possible with SnagIt. I therefore still provide these with written instructions.

Video

One of the limitations to both images and GIFs is that often they only capture a particular part of a longer processes. Therefore, I have taken to using Captivate to record video demos this year in something of a flipped model. This has involved:

  1. Recording the video. Although research suggests that showing your face is important, I find it impedes the ability to edit the video unless you keep your face really still. If I make a mistake or am unhappy with a particular instruction, I usually just do it again while recording, knowing I can then just cut this out later.
  2. Fixing up the audio. Opening the narration in Audition, I normalise the volume and silence any unwanted noises, such as coughs, umms and words I inadvertently repeat, like ‘now’. In the past I have used Levelator and Audacity for this, however Captivate has a direct integration with Audition, which makes it easier.
  3. Trimming the video of parts not needed. This includes pauses and moments where I may be completing a task that does not need to be demonstrated. Ideally, it would be good to keep such moments in and speed them up, but I have not found a simple way of doing that with my current setup.
  4. Editing the narrative. Using the Zoom and Highlight Box functions I guide the viewer’s attention to match my instructions. This includes updating the default Highlight Box so that the background is basically blacked out.
  5. Publishing the video. Once complete, I upload the videos into Google Drive to be shared. I have been thinking about whether it would be better to load these into YouTube as unlisted to provide access to transcripts, as Mike Caulfield does with his instructional material. However, for now Google Drive works.

Much of this is captured in this video from Paul Wilson and this guide:

It needs to be noted that another influence in regards to asynchronous videos has been Ben Collins. I have written about presentations before, focusing on the importance of content, delivery and supporting materials. Lately though I have been inspired by Collins’ courses and the way in which he carves out succinct narratives and breaks-up the whole into its parts. I am sure that hours of effort have gone to getting this stage.

The challenge I have with my work is two fold: to build the capacity of users, as well as develop a sustainable support processes. In addition to using images, GIFs and video, I endeavour to use de-identified data in the images that I share, this means that if somebody else has the same request that I can easily just send them the same message and image.


So that is my new normal beyond the classroom. What has it been like for you? As always appreciate any thoughts and feedback.


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Imagine being born 2000, 1000, 500, or even 150 years ago and being shown an iPhone or a self-driving Tesla. It would surely seem like magic or witchcraft - David Truss ‘We Are Not Alone’

A colleague recently said to me, “You just go and do your magic.” It was intended as a compliment, however it left me wondering about what it means for people to think about work as ‘magic’.

Wikipedia defines magical thinking as follows:

Magical thinking, or superstitious thinking. is the belief that unrelated events are causally connected despite the absence of any plausible causal link between them, particularly as a result of supernatural effects.


Growing up, I remember being wowed watching magicians on television. However, what interested me more were the shows that unpacked the various tricks and illusions. More than slight of hand, I was interested in the steps that made such acts possible.

I guess it is often easier to wed yourself with the mystery, rather than do the heavy lifting. This is something Cory Doctorow captures in discussion of Kirby’s film Trump, QAnon and The Return of Magic:

In a world of great crisis – pandemic, climate inequality – it’s not crazy to want to feel better. For all that magical thinkers cloak themselves in “skepticism” their beliefs are grounded in feelings. Evidence is tedious and ambiguous, emotions are quick and satisfying.

For many, technology is full of magic and wonder. However, often such perceptions are produced by our willingness to give ourselves over to the narrative. As Doctorow explains in his response to Shoshana Zuboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism:

Surveillance capitalists are like stage mentalists who claim that their extraordinary insights into human behavior let them guess the word that you wrote down and folded up in your pocket but who really use shills, hidden cameras, sleight of hand, and brute-force memorization to amaze you.

Rather than handing myself over to a world of magic and mentalists, I am more interested in trying to be more informed. For me this come by asking questions, learning with others and continuing to challenge myself.  As Clive Thompson touches on in regards to coding, this often involves repetitive work done over time.

You should try to do some coding every day—at least, say, a half hour.

Why? Because this is just like learning Spanish or French: Fluency comes from constant use. To code is to speak to a computer, so you should be speaking often. Newbies often try to do big, deep dives on the weekends, but that’s too infrequent.

This repetition is not only about understanding simple processes, but also building on this to join the pieces together to how they maybe interconnected. One way of appreciating this is using the SOLO Taxonomy, a learning model that focuses on quality over quantity. It involves a  progression of understanding from the task at hand to more generalised leanings.

The model consists of five levels of understanding:

  • Pre-structural – The task is not attacked appropriately; the student hasn’t really understood the point and uses too simple a way of going about it.
  • Uni-structural – The student’s response only focuses on one relevant aspect.
  • Multi-structural – The student’s response focuses on several relevant aspects but they are treated independently and additively. Assessment of this level is primarily quantitative.
  • Relational – The different aspects have become integrated into a coherent whole. This level is what is normally meant by an adequate understanding of some topic.
  • Extended abstract – The previous integrated whole may be conceptualised at a higher level of abstraction and generalised to a new topic or area.

Doug Belshaw talks about levels of understanding in regards to moving from competencies to literacies.

In a similar vein to the SOLO taxonomy I believe there’s a continuum from skills through competencies to literacies. As individuals can abstract from specific contexts they become more literate. So, in the digital domain, being able to navigate a menu system when it’s presented to you — even if you haven’t come across that exact example before — is a part of digital literacy.

This is something I tried to get capture in my presentation at K-12 Digital Classroom Practice Conference a few years ago where I explored ways in which different Google Apps can be combined in different way to create a customised ongoing reporting solution. It was not just about Docs or Classroom, but about the activity of curating, creating, distributing and publishing.

John Philpin approaches this problem from a different angle. Responding to the question as to whether we should all learn to code, he suggests that appreciating how technology works is actually an important part of any business. This does not mean you need to have written all the code, but it does mean you have an awareness of how things work.

You wouldn’t think about running a business if you didn’t have the fundamental understanding of law and accounting, why would you assume that it is ok not to understand technology.

This touches on Douglas Rushkoff’s point about programming or being programmed.

Coming back to my work, I feel appreciating these pieces is not only helpful in understanding the ways in which technology is a system, but also the way strategic risks can be taken when approaching something new. In Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb talks about measured risks:

It is much more sound to take risks you can measure than to measure the risks you are taking.


For me this means taking risks based on prior learnings and experience. I may not have all the answers, but I think I am good at capturing particular problems at hand and with that drawing on past practice to come up with possible solutions. I am going to assume this is why people come to me with such diverse questions and quandaries.

I am not saying all this because I feel that I know and understand everything. However, I cannot help but feel that references to ‘magic’ are often attempts to cover up the hard work, sacrifice and opportunity that produce such moments. As always, comments welcome.


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I have used Google Music for the last few years, however it is going away. This has been on the books for awhile. As the lights are slowly turned off on another Google product, here is my reflection on the options and my choice moving forward.

YouTube Music

The most obvious choice is to simply move over to YouTube Music. As Ron Amadeo shared, the demise of Google Music is about YouTube as anything else.

Google’s decision to kill Google Play Music is mostly about YouTube. For a while, it was negotiating two separate music licenses with the record labels—one for YouTube music videos and another for Google Music radio—so combining them makes some amount of sense. In a Google Play Music versus YouTube fight, the service that pulls in $15 billion a year (YouTube) is going to win. YouTube Music pulls songs from YouTube, and Google can consolidate into a single license.

Therefore, a few months ago, I transferred my data over to YouTube Music to try it out.

The one thing I initially noticed was that there is some confusion between ‘YouTube’ and ‘YouTube Music’. I had some pre-exisiting music related playlists in YouTube. These too were available in YouTube Music, often meaning that I could listen to live performances without also watching them. I think this would sort itself out in the long run as my playlists become a bit more consolidated. However, it was an initial point of confusion.

Another observation was the way in which YouTube Music organises artists. For those without a channel, YouTube automatically generates a channel. This means without an official channel, YouTube Music incidentally mashes together different bands/artists with the same name. Look at the Canadian synthpop band DIANA for example, their collection is combined with other random DIANA’s which I am pretty sure are not the real DIANA band. This is a problem also carried over from Google Music.

Bandcamp

Damon Krukowski recently explored the question as to whether Bandcamp is a streaming platform. The reality is that it is not. Although it provides such features, of being to access music across devices, the focus seems to be on creating a marketplace for people to purchase music, as well as merchandise. Although I have stepped up my purchases on the platform, not every band is on Bandcamp, therefore this is still primarily about supporting artists.

Own Your Own Music

I have read about people setting up their own personal music servers. I imagine I could probably do this with Reclaim Cloud. The other alternative is to go complete old school and scrap streaming altogether and just load purchases to my devices as I used to do. To be honest, it just isn’t a priority for me right now. I guess I have become far too wedded to the cloud, even with all the hidden costs.

Spotify

My last stop was Spotify. In regards to user experience, YouTube Music and Spotify seem very similar.

One point of difference between the two platforms is the ability for children to tune in. Although my daughter was able to create her own account to connect with the family subscription associated with Google Music, this was not possible with YouTube Music. I would assume this relates to the fact that YouTube accounts are restricted to 13+, but am not completely sure. Alternatively, Spotify has created a separate app for children. Although this does not allow access to all artists and songs, it does mean at least allow my daughter to have full control without needing to create an account.

There’s a library of 8,000 tracks, judged by Spotify staff to be age-appropriate to children and teens, with more songs to be added over the app’s lifespan.

In addition to this, there are still some artists and albums available on Spotify that are not necessarily available on YouTube Music.


In the end, I ended up going with Spotify. This included using Tune My Music to bring across some of my playlists from Google Music. Maybe in the future I will resurrect my music files and create my own server? As I am apprehensive about the data mined and the move into DNA. Or maybe I will join the (re)turn to vinyl in a search for an optimal experience. I guess we will see.

As always, comments welcome.


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I didn't have time actually means, it wasn't important enough. It wasn't a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list. Seth Godin on Time

I remember reading Seth Godin’s post on time a few years ago:

“I didn’t have time” This actually means, “it wasn’t important enough.” It wasn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.

This is something that really challenged me. It had me rethink my approach to things, especially social media and notifications.

This quandary came up again recently when in response to an invite from Chris Aldrich to participate in a meetup about Domain of One’s Own. Other than the logistical problem that it would be the middle of the night for me, I stated that was was never very good at such attending synchronous sessions. I explained that I much of my time spent on such tasks as IndieWeb and Domain of One’s Own is stolen. In response to this, Nate Angell asked who the time was actually stolen from?

What i meant by my throw-away comment was that time is always a balance. Whether it be work, family or chores, there is always something to chew up the time. The problem is that each aspect would be enough on its own, let alone find time for the personal stuff.’

Therefore, I have learnt to ‘steal time’ for me. This involves making the most of situations to read and respond. This is often done by doubling up when doing more menial tasks. At the moment, this means listening to podcasts or my Pocket feed in the morning as I do the chores, such as getting everyone’s breakfast ready and tidying up the kitchen. I then curate in the odd moments throughout the day. While in the hour or so when I finally stop at the end of the day I try to carve out time for my thoughts or do a bit of tinkering or creating. I have written about this workflow before and although it continues to evolve, it still remains much the same.

I must admit that although I love many aspects to working from home, one aspect I miss is the way in which my commute seemingly gave permission to stop working or doing chores. I have subsequently found myself working more than I would have if I were in an office setting. I am not implying that I am lazy in an office setting, however it provides certain structures and expectations that do not exist at home. For example, with an hour commute, I was always mindful about leaving on time to pickup my children from childcare. This is no longer an issue.

I remember reading Doug Belshaw talk about breaking up the day into different spaces, although I cannot find the reference, only this. Sadly, that is not necessarily possible where I live or in the job I do. However, it is probably something that I need to be a bit more deliberate about.

Another challenge I have being a connected educator and learner is justifying what I do in regards to my work, whether it is writing my newsletter or writing these reflections. The reality is that blogging and Domain of One’s Own is very much a passion project. Although I used blogs when I was in the classroom, sadly my current work involves supporting schools with learning management software. In saying this, I actually apply a lot of my lessons from blogging and actually cracking open the database in the work that I do. However, not everyone sees professional learning like that.

As always, thoughts and comments welcome.


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Adults don’t call what we’re doing “homeworking,” we call it “working from home.” Consider not calling it “homeschooling.” Consider thinking about it as “learning from home.” Austin Kleon

As the cases of the coronavirus in Victoria continue to grow and the possibility of a return to learning at home becomes a possibility, I thought I should really stop and reflect upon my experience as a parent supporting our daughter as she learnt from home. I had intended to submit this to the governments review, but time got away from me.

Structure and Rigidity of Online Learning

The learning was very methodical. In many respects, it followed the same structure of the schools day with a block of literacy, numeracy, integrated and personal/social learning. This was supplemented by weekly activities provided by the specialist teachers. Students were encouraged to submit tasks each day, however the only aspect that seemed to be explicitly required was logging into the daily video conference.

A few weeks in, students were given an additional option to pursue a passion project. For my daughter this became Minecraft. This choice came as a breath of fresh air and became a focus for the rest of the time. Sadly, there was little guidance provided and this often led to hours of tinkering and never actually produced any sort of question or problem. It was a reminder that even passions need to be cultivated.

Communication with School

In regards to communication, the parent portal was used to broadcast information via the news feed. This included links to things like daily learning, weekly assembly and any other updates. For those wanting to contact the school, the platform provides a module for messaging a student’s teachers.

The problem with this is that the expectations associated with communication were unclear. Although solutions were put in place, there were no protocols about what would be appropriate. Was it appropriate to provide updates on the struggles that I was seeing at home or were these actually being picked up in the daily conferences? These were things we may have written in the school diary, however for fear of coming across as a helicopter parent, I often stayed silent.

Play and Social Spaces

Each day there was an hourly class video conference. This session usually had a particular focus, such as writing or numeracy. There was also opportunity to connect with other students. However, this space was managed by the teacher. This was the same with the use of Google Classroom. Although there is a space for writing posts, students were encouraged to use this for questions and conversations about learning task.

Although so many of the structures were carried online, one that was absent was a deliberate social space encapsulated in the yard. A part of me understands why. Some may abuse such an opportunity. There is no means of putting in place clear habits and policies before moving online. Also, it would become another thing for teachers to manage. Maybe such a space is the responsibility of home, I still think that this social side is one of the limitations to moving online, a place for play and experimentation.

As Kathleen Morris touched upon in her post on Facebook Messenger for Kids:

One thing that instantly annoyed me about Messenger Kids is that there are so many distractions from the core features of messaging and video calls. There are filters, stickers, and mini games (like spinning to choose a llama head during a video chat… go figure… kids love it!).

My 6 year old is SO drawn to these features as are her friends. So far, this is their main interest during video calls. They don’t talk very much. They just play.

Initially, I kept prompting in the background, “ask them what they’ve been doing”, “stop playing with the effects and talk!”

Then I took a step back and thought, this is what they want to do. This is play. They’re only 6/7 and if they were playing together in the same room, they probably wouldn’t be sitting chatting about what they’ve been up to. They’d probably be playing in a way that’s sometimes hard for adults to understand.

So my way of thinking now is that it’s okay. Maybe the novelty won’t last. However, when my daughter is talking to her grandparents, for example, I’m insisting that she talks rather than simply playing with the effects. It’s about changing your interactions to suit who you are communicating with; a vital lesson for both online and offline encounters.

The Role of the Parent

I found it hard to know my place within the learning process. Maybe this is because I myself am a teacher, but I actually think this made it even harder. Although information was sent home about the expectations of where, when and how students would learn, it was not clear the place I served as an aide within all of this.

In some ways, I felt more akin to being a relief teacher with little agency. Although I was happy to help my daughter unpack various tasks, she regularly made clear, “but you are not my teacher.” Even with a planner provided each day, this did not necessarily elaborate on the intricacies of the various steps and strategies the school or teacher uses.


If schools are forced to work remotely again, it will be interesting to see what stays the same and whether any lessons are learnt. Simon Breakspeare talks about the importance of recognising the effort put in, my fear is that that for many there has not been enough time for such reflection.


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The virus is rewriting our imaginations. What felt impossible has become thinkable. We’re getting a different sense of our place in history. We know we’re entering a new world, a new era. We seem to be learning our way into a new structure of feeling.

Strange events like the coronavirus provide the opportunity to look at the familiar with new perspective and reimagine a new sense of normal.


There is something uncanny about social distancing and staying at home. One oddity is that there is so little to compare it to. A colleague compared it to being trapped on a desert island. This made me think about Wilson and Castaway, however I feel that is a bit extreme and does not completely capture the situation.

The strange thing as to consider various pieces of fiction and how if they were set in the current climate they might be different. Jessie Gaynor reimagined the beginnings of a number of stories, such as Pride and Prejudice:

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be hoarding toilet paper.

However, the book that has left me thinking has been How to Make a Movie in 12 Days.

Written by an old friend of mine, Fiona Hardy, the novel tells the story of Hayley Whelan and her journey to create a film over the summer break in memory of her grandmother. It grapples with one calamity after another in an epic quest against time set in suburbia.

After finishing the book, I was left thinking about the world it depicts. Whether it be riding around the streets, sending messages to friends on the family computer or posting on YouTube channels, I wondered how this may date in the future. However, the pandemic has taken these thoughts to a whole new place.

I was left thinking about the impact that the requirement to stay at home would have on the ability to film various scenes, the limitations in regards to socialising, especially not in parks, cafes or libraries, and definitely especially not with the older at risk members within the community. There is also the impact of hygiene practices, such as washing hands, wearing face masks and disinfecting equipment, and the challenges this would create in regards to the movie making process in twelve days.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I realised it was in fact a great novel for capturing the current circumstances. Although there is a longing for face-to-face communication, with pyjama clad late night rendezvous, there is also the reality of asynchronous communication. Associated with this, the novel was built around a personal passion project with an authentic outcome. Something essential during times when formal learning is not occurring. Much of the inspiration stemmed from the long movie binges that Hayley and her father would partake in. This all encapsulated what Ian Bogost suggests when he says that we are all basically already living in quarantine.


Discussing what The current virus is so confusing, Ed Yong suggests that the coronavirus itself does not have a clear narrative.

I cannot read about the losses that never occurred, because they were averted. Prevention may be better than cure, but it is also less visceral.

I would argue that other than dystopian tales there are not many pieces of fiction which help in making sense of the current normal. However, what I have found is that solace and meaning can often be found in strange places.

What about you, what books have helped you during the current crisis? How have they helped you in making sense? As always, comments welcome.


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Kath Murdoch on noticing

Reflecting on my year as a failed flânerie, I take on space as a new word and a new approach to my one word.


I am not exactly sure what I thought 2019 would be, but I certainly did not not expect what I got. My one word was flânerie. So many aspects of my life are structured, I therefore felt I need some serendipity. As I stated:

What I liked about [flânerie] was that it was not about merely observing, but also actively producing.

I tried walking. Failed.

I tried reading random books, but that seemed to dry up as well. Although I read them, I would never get around to doing anything with it all.

I think a part of me thought that a focus on being a flânerie was some sort of licence to let go. However as the year meandered on I realised that being a flânerie was probably as much about being structured and deliberate.

It all reminded me of those who claim to be agile or distributed. So often people have the right intent in trying to change, but they do not allow the appropriate resources for such ideas and initiatives to flourish.

A useful heuristic that comes up again and again in my job is the Project Management Triangle. This is where the quality of the finished product is a combination of time, scope and cost. Sacrifice any of these elements and you reduce the quality of the outcome.

Thinking then about my focus on flânerie, one such resource that was a problem was time. With my limited time wedged between family and work, I was often left trying to achieve more than was possible.

As the year ended, a part of me wondered if my year as a failed flâner came back to the expectations that I set for myself at the beginning. I was therefore left considering where to next. I often have my one word sorted out as the new year passes by. As January unfurled, I wondered if the practice had its day?

Inspired by a few reflections, I wondered if maybe I was approaching it all the wrong way? Rather than having something with explicit or implied outcomes, maybe I needed a new approach, one focused on an open-ended concept? Although Kath Murdoch talks about nudging you along a path, maybe the nudge that matters most is an inquiring mind?

Therefore, my one word for 2020 is ‘space’. Unlike past years, this year will be a wondering about everything associated with the idea of ‘space’. Here is my start:

  • Space as a Non-Human Actor: In Ian Guest’s research into Twitter, he talks about non-human actors.
  • Learning Spaces: What is impact of space on learning?
  • Space within the Mind: What would … do? Who are the defaults we fall back on? Theatre of the mind?
  • Space and Place in the World: What is my place within the world? What space do I take up? How do we perceive it? How does this fit with other people? What are the possible spaces?
  • Coalescent Spaces: Where does the physical stop and the virtual start?

So that is me that year. It is fascinating to reflect upon the journey from capacity to communication to intent to flânerie to space. Really appreciate any thoughts or recommendations about resources on the topic.


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