V is for Visuals #EdublogsClub

This is my response to the this week’s prompt as a part of the Edublogs Club challenge: write a post that includes an image.

Picture This
“Picture This” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Robert Schuetz posted about the power of images for blogging. He argued that,

Readers are more likely to view and remember blog posts that include visual content.

Schuetz provides a range of evidence to support this.

I like to include visuals in my posts. They involve a quote from the village, with a corresponding Lego graphic. I often use the pictures created by JustLego101. Although I used to use Google Drawings, more lately I have turned to Google Slides as I can then have a master template and it works on mobile. I have elaborated on this here.

Some might say this is branding, however I prefer to see it as just another form of expression. I don’t think everyone goes to the same length for images, happy enough to post whatever comes up in Compfight or making quick quotes with Quozio. Here then are a collection of bloggers whose visual choices have inspired me over time:

#3ofme via Amy Burvall

Amy Burvall: You know it when you see them, Burvall’s black and pink sketches made with Paper53 are unique. Whether it be a quote or an icon, she uses her distinct style to communicate her thinking.

Image via Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon: Known for blackout poetry and graphical sketches, similar to Burvall Kleon has a carefree style (although I am sure it takes plenty of effort). He often summarises his thinking in a concise manner. Beyond his blog, Kleon’s images usually find their way into his books and weekly newsletter.

Image drawn by Bryan Mathers

Bryan Mathers: Like Kleon and Burvall, Mathers has a distinct style, often representing metaphors visually. Also using a range of apps, including Paper53, he captures ideas in a complex and concise manner. He is also the man behind artistic updates at both Reclaim Hosting and Hack Education.

Sylvia Duckworth: You would be hard pressed to find a teacher who hasn’t been to a professional development session somewhere along the way that has incorporated one of Duckworth’s sketchnotes. These are not only engaging, but always informative. Although there are sketchnotes still available via Flickr, the majority are now available through her book.

Image by Silvia Tolisano and used with permission

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano: In response to Robert Schuetz’ post, Rosenthal Tolisano described how she thinks through her blog posts by creating a visual. Her sketchnotes are a great example of how visuals can unite a range of ideas to support further elaborations.

Image via Jackie Gerstein

Jackie Gerstein: Similar to Tolisano, Gerstein often creates sketches that collect together all her thoughts on an idea. These are often incorporated into her presentations, many of which she shares on SlideShare.

Image via Richard Wells

Richard Wells: Wells has a knack of telling a whole story within an infographic. Although often linked to a post, they can very well act as provocations in themselves. He creates his images using Apple Keynote.

Bill Ferriter: With a mixture of sketches and digital creations, Ferriter has an eye and an ear for  poignant messages. Along with Burvall, Ferriter’s images (and sharing through Flickr) were one of my original inspirations for creating graphics.

Alan Levine: It might seem counterintuitive to include Levine in this list as most of his images are simply photographs, but what stands out are that so many of the images he uses are his own. So often when I read his work I am amazed at the ability to find an image that matches. A great proponent of Creative Commons, because it is not just about digging in, but also sharing back.


So there are people whose choice of images has inspired me. What about you? Who are the visual bloggers that inspire you? As always, comments welcome.


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They Kept on Teaching

I recently took up Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. It was not what I expected. I read a lot of non-fiction and being out of the classroom, this has only increased. So as part of my summer siesta I turned to McCarthy for some relief.

Blood Meridian is one of those books that seems to come up again and again in discussions. I recall it being reviewed on The Book Club, while Jim Groom often mentions it. I imagined it would be an American version of the True History of the Kelly Gang. I was wrong. McCarthy makes Peter Carey look like a children’s author.

The key to Carey’s retelling is that it is done through the perspective of authority. Although he gives accounts of murder and hardship, the description is somewhat subdued. Although Blood Meridian involves power, it is a power that exists beyond the grip of authority. The fact that one of the main characters is The Judge only adds to this irony.

Blood Meridian is instead a book about silence. It attempts to captures a violent world that in Carey’s tale is somewhat left untold. When all is said and done, it feels like there is so much left unsaid. In particular, we are left guessing about the thoughts and intentions of the various characters. All we can do is presume. The only guarantee is that no matter what happens,they kept on riding.

This notion of going on reminds me of education. Often there are stories told, official stories. Ones about timetableedtech platformscurriculumdisciplines. However, beneath these tales are stories that often remain silent. Jagged stories that defy statistics. Stories of actions and interpretation. Amongst all of this there are people who each and every day simply teach on.


I have read many books, but there are only a few that I feel I will never completely forget. Midnight’s Children is one, Blood Meridian is another. So what about you? What are the uncanny books that stay with you after the fact? As always, comments welcome.


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Reading Leadership #EduBlogsClub

So the prompt this week for the #EduBlogsClub is to: 

Write a post that discusses leadership, peer coaching, and/or effecting change.

After some reflection, I thought it might be useful to review some of the books on leadership that have helped guide my thinking …


Compelling Leadership by Paul Browning

“The idea of trust is hard to define but we certainly know when it is missing”

Of all the qualities or attributes, Paul Browning argues that leadership is first and foremost about vision and trust. Importantly though, without trust there is nothing. To support leaders, Browning discusses ten practices designed to help engender trust: admit mistakes, offer trust to staff members, actively listen, provide affirmation, make informed and consultative decisions, be visible around the organization, remain calm and level-headed, mentor and coach staff, care for staff members, and keep confidences. This short book is a useful provocation and provides some useful questions to reflect upon.


Distributed Leadership Matters by Alma Harris

“Distributed leadership is primarily concerned with the interactions and the dynamics of leadership practice rather than a preoccupation with the formal roles and responsibilities traditionally associated with those “who lead.” This book argues that it is the practice of leadership that is most important if the goal, in schools and districts, is to secure better instruction and improved learner outcomes.”

There is potential within every organisations that goes untapped, this is often due to the lack of distributed leadership. For Harris, the level of distribution is a key indicator of high-performing organisations. Distributed leadership can be broken down further into four characteristics: the levels of trust, interdependence, reciprocal accountability and shared purpose. With all this in mind, Harris warns that the idea of distributed leadership can easily be misconstrued and abused. Although not designed as a step-by-step manual, this book is a useful provocation to help improve outcomes and performance in an organisation.


Start With Why by Simon Sinek

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

For lasting change and innovation you need trust, loyalty and inspiration, it is for this reason that Simon Sinek suggests starting with the question of why. At the heart of Sinek’s argument is what he calls the ‘golden circle’. Where most people begin with the what, dictating how we do things and hopefully why we do it. The golden circle is about working in reverse, from the inside out. The challenge is that a why is not something you simply invent, rather it is something discovered through deep reflection and action. In regards to leadership, this notion of why is best led organically and distributed across an organisation.


The Changing Face of Modern Leadership by David Culberhouse

“The rate, velocity, turbulence, and chaos of change is not only affecting our organizations, it is affecting our leadership. Today’s leaders can no longer, afford to just implement mandates and initiatives. They have to engage in ideas and thinking that not only re-imagine the very structures and processes of our organizations, but of our leadership and how that looks in today’s modern world.”

Beyond lists and frameworks of what works and is already known, David Culberhouse makes the case that the future will be different and that we need to start adjusting. In response to this challenge, leaders of tomorrow will be required to be more agile, engage with the question, recognise the fluidity of the systems we work in, provide balance between thoughts and action, and be comfortable with uncomfortableness. For Culberhouse there are four mindsets that are integral to this shift: learner, pioneer, innovative and servant. Although case studies are sparse in this book, this space forces you as a reader to make your own connections and dig deeper into your own context.


Renegade Leadership by Brad Gustafson

“The most distinguishing feature of Renegade Leadership is a blatant disregard for the impossible in pursuit of fulfilling our responsibility to prepare all students for their future.”

Going against the usual calls for revolution and revolt, Brad Gustafson describes how to foster a culture of innovation that is at the same time grounded in a belief about best practices. At the heart of this balance is having a clear belief and vision about education. Gustafson’s unpacks a list of traits pertinent to this practice of leadership, including pedagogical precision, transparency, connectedness, innovation, risk-taking, capacity building, child-centred, empowered learner, impact and moral courage. Renegade Leadership provides ammunition to tackle change no matter what context you are starting from.


Student-Centred Leadership by Vivian Robinson

“The more leaders focus their relationships, their work, and their learning on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater will be their influence on student outcomes.”

For Robinson leadership is more than the usual discussion of management, relationships or innovation, the key is the value added to student learning. She identifies three capabilities important to having the greatest impact as being the application of knowledge, solving problems and building trust. These capabilities support responses to what she highlights as the five dimensions of leadership: establishing goals and expectations, resourcing strategically, ensuring quality teaching, leading teacher learning and development, and ensuring an orderly and safe environment. For Robinson, these capabilities and dimensions represent the how and what of student-centred leadership.


Tribes by Seth Godin

Leaders don’t care very much for organizational structure or the official blessing of whatever factory they work for. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them. Leaders must become aware of how the organization works, because this awareness allows them to change it.

According to Godin, tribes involve those who choose to lead, for if you want to you can. The tools of the web make it easier than ever to start a movement. The challenge we are faced with is overcoming our own fear of failure and change in order to be a heretic and develop something remarkable and original. Godin’s thesis can be summed up in five points: everyone is expected to lead, the structure of today allows this change, the market rewards remarkable, it is thrilling to lead and there is always a tribe waiting for you. Not your usual book on leadership, Godin’s intent is as much to guide as it is motivate. It is one of those books that you can easily dip into again and again.


So there are some books that have inspired me, what about you? What books would you recommend? As always, comments welcome.


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More Reflections on the Voices in the Village

Bill Ferriter recently wrote about a return to commenting. I have written a bit about commenting before, both the way the difference nuances, as well as the possibility that not everyone needs to comment. One activity that I have done over the last few years is look back on the year in regards to the comments and the perspectives that is brought to my work. It can be uncanny looking back at the year that was and provides a different form of reflection.

Below then is a summary of the comments that I received in 2016. For those whose words they are, thank you. For those that I may have missed, sorry.


While Reggio helps us to “reimagine questioning, thinking, and learning in the classroom”, it also helps us to reimagine approaches to student assessment, teacher professional learning, and relationships in the classroom. “Listening must be the basis of the learning relationship that teachers seek to form with students” (Ritchhart et al, Making Thinking Visible)

Cameron Paterson in response to Balancing Between Inspiration and Achievement in the Search for New Ideas


I certainly don’t see the “alternative” to inspiration being purposeful. In fact, in being inspired, aren’t we often spurred into purposeful action to achieving a meaningful outcome? Inspiration which is fleeting and withers on the vine perhaps wasn’t inspiration at all.

Ian Guest in response to Balancing Between Inspiration and Achievement in the Search for New Ideas


That constraint — having almost nothing in terms of functional technology at my disposal — has made me MORE careful and selective and reflective about every tool that I embrace and every project that we tackle. That means much of the #edtech work that I’ve done has been quality stuff with a strong instructional purpose. That’s not because I’m a better teacher — it’s because I’m a teacher who HAS to think carefully about what we are doing with digital tools because accessing digital tools has always required a small miracle and tons of advanced planning.

Bill Ferriter in response to Going Beyond 1:1 Devices


If you’re developing your online profile to connect with others than my belief is you should use a photo of yourself rather than an avatar and if possible your name. Your personal learning networks wants to connect with you as a person. The more able they are to easily visualize who you are the easier it is for them to connect.

Sue Waters in response to #WalkMyWorld #LE1 – Where I Begin


Selfishly speaking, I would like to be able to see the “real” you. Conversely, I’m able to spot your avatar quickly and easily. I might skim right past your tweets if they were garnered with something other than the bearded, colorful face.

Robert Schuetz in response to #WalkMyWorld #LE1 – Where I Begin


How does anyone refocus their attention on pedagogy? I’d suggest the best way is just getting in there and doing it. I very much doubt any educator that isn’t trying to bring code to their students will discover (presumably purely intellectually) that pedagogically it is the best thing to do.

Richard Olsen in response to Coding


Maybe the bland overused word ‘effective’ teacher is actually more representative of a ‘great’ teacher. Empathy, connection, acceptance and focus on the individual in a supported community of teachers and learners. A teacher need not to ‘be great’ to recognise and support and inspire ‘greatness’ in others.

Julie Stark in response to Are Great Teachers Bad Teachers?


In our modern, web connected world, teachers with authentic expertise are just a click away. Greatness then, is in the eye of the learner. It is through investigation, and analysis that we identify quality, or greatness. Maybe it’s time to create a new word since “greatness” tends to get thrown around easily these days.

Robert Schuetz in response to Are Great Teachers Bad Teachers?


We ask families to pay a significant amount for devices while there is still considerable debate about whether or not they have any appreciable impact. I believe that we shouldn’t ask students to do meaningful tasks, do good research, high level analysis and accurate simulations without giving them the tools to do this. Imagine trying to analyse the PISA data, for example, without using a computer. However, I also know it’s not enough to just say “I believe”. We need more than that to justify the cost to families of 1:1.

Eric Jensen in response to Know Thy Digital Impact – A Reflection on Digital Research


My processes are far from perfect and always evolving. Transparency is the most important aspect of all this; sharing resources and making my learning visible. People who visit my blog can also follow my digital footprints

Robert Schuetz in response to Three Lessons Learnt from Using Social Bookmarking


You are suggesting a far more edgy approach to education, one which caters for students by listening to them and working with business in a way which prepares our students for the real world which awaits them. It will be great when mainstream schooling value prototyping more than NAPLAN.

Greg Miller in response to A Lean Education


I see comments as a way to show appreciation, to ask questions, and to dive deeper into the topic. In school, I’ve helped students write constructive, contributing comments. An amazing transformation takes place as they become more civil and conscientious with their face-to-face interactions.

Robert Schuetz in response to What Makes a Comment?


I think that I have become pickier with the posts that I read. Some are too long, some are the same old chestnut expressed slightly differently. I like posts that make me think again, learn something new like this one or that help me understand someone else’s world view. There are some blogs that I no longer bother to read right through if the first paragraph doesn’t interest me. Is this laziness or discernment?

Anna Del Conte in response to What Makes a Comment?


I used to try and play around with themes and plugins but seeing most of my very few readers probably get my infrequent posts via RSS, the blog is just an occasional use venue for me. It is still nice to have an online space of one’s own – Twitter is more like going to the pub these days.

Graham Wegner in response to A Guide to Blogging Platforms and their Niches


Tools will come and go, what occupies my thinking is every learner having their own web domain to share learning transparently. Also, how does the audience effect impact our learning? What innovative strategies can be employed on a blogging platform; documenting competencies, reflection journal, professional portfolio?

Robert Schuetz in response to A Guide to Blogging Platforms and their Niches


I used to have a Posterous blog, and it was so easy that i didn’t even realise I was blogging. I really miss that platform and have yet to find anything to replace it.

Eric Jensen in response to A Guide to Blogging Platforms and their Niches


I have bits of me all over the interwebs and, for a while, I tried to keep it all together and was trying to force it to fit in one space. I really don’t need to – the different bits live wherever they do for a reason and can continue to live there quite happily. I also like the fact that, although I have links to my ‘other selves’ on each of the blogs/websites/spaces I have, I still have very different audiences who aren’t really interested in the other bits, just the one they went to originally. I’ve seen some blogs that try to be everything at once and I find they are too much for me to deal with so I try to emulate what I would want to read.

Gill Light in response to A Blog For All Seasons


Don’t be afraid to push against the norm – just because some document says it should be done that way (or always has), it doesn’t mean that is the best way forward and one voice can be enough to start that change. It took me years to learn that – that questioning the status quo and asking ‘why’ doesn’t necessarily mean you’re being difficult but it can start a worthwhile conversation.

Gill Light in response to Letter from the Future


One characteristic of blogging is semi-regular blogging about blogging. One pillar for me that is old but I came across more recently it Dave Winer’s description of blogging as the unedited voice of a person. The other has always been Cory Doctorow’s My Blog My Outboard Brain (2002!). Also from a recent blog conversation with Laura Gogia on the concept of audience, but also, she makes a great case for writing in public.

Alan Levine in response to Developing a Blog


The evolution I have seen in your blogs has prompted my evolution. I try to add substance through quotes and research data. I have become better about applying attribution to media. I have toned down the visual as to not drown out the words. I am writing more, but publishing less, often combining ideas into single posts.

Robert Schuetz in response to Developing a Blog


I hook up pinboard to twitter as a way of harvesting links from my tweets, retweets and likes. Tidy up on pinboard later. Like you I’ve only occasionally dipped into hashtag chats, I am not sure twitter is the best medium for this or long chains, there tends to be a lot of circularity & repetition.

John Johnson in response to A Personal Twitter Tour


Possibly the reason why people do not share is that they are a bit over being used by conferences. They are happy enough to share their work, but hate conferences making money out of their hard work. Then some like Digicon actually charge you to attend when you are presenting. That is a bit harsh. Without the presenters, conference would be boring, but do they get enough in return? They may just feel that they need to keep their material theirs to use in a printed publication where they may pick up $50 or on their own blog where they get a bit of credit for it.

Not Speaking at Digicon in response to Can You Share the Link, Please


So often when we talk about participation, we ARE consumed by tech. We need to make tech invisible.

Simon Keily in response to Read, Think, Participate


My 2 cents re: your questions – the issue of disclosure is that if you feel you “might” need to disclose something, then it’s probably something you should do.

Dan Haesler in response to How Are You Disclosing?


Probably a good idea for every student to get the opportunity to write code, but not sure we need to make it writing. I prefer thinking of it as part of making digital stuff and the main reason to do it could be for fun? I like the idea of ‘just making’ (it certainly give me a lot of fun).

John Johnson in response to Coding, Literacy and the 21st Century


I’d be interested to know if and how the learning design changes as learners transition from linking to lurking to …

Richard Olsen in response to Defining a Community of Practice


In my teaching, one watershed moment was the purchase of a book on BASIC programming by David Lien. It lead me to purchase a TRS-80 computer. That purchase was followed by getting some TRS-80s into my junior high…and eventually I was a computer geek instead of a science teacher. It lead to being secretary of the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators for 20 years. It lead to finding Linux and doing web pages and…watershed, indeed.

Algot Runeman in response to Watershed Moments of Learning


My watershed moment was at a George Couros workshop on learning how to Blog and Tweet. I now follow other educators blogs, and by connecting with them I have connected my students and up-skilled them in creating a positive online presence. This led to my next watershed moment in a collaboration with Ann Michaelsen. I am now in a leadership position and teach my colleagues how to set up their class blogs. An exciting journey that started with learning how to blog.

Ann Rooney in response to Watershed Moments of Learning


It seems to me that building trust depends heavily on the connections we already have and bring to these online learning experiences. Some people act as ‘gatekeepers’ between the conversations on different platforms, and if these ‘gatekeepers’ are not there, people might struggle to make sense of the different aspects of a topic under discussion, and might get lost (i.e. drop out / disconnect) in the end.

Martina Emke in response to Building Trust in Online Communities


  1. The operation of connections is a material as well a social matter – and algorithms may be influencing gatekeeper perceptions and practices.
  2. Gatekeepers can bring people in and (perhaps unknowingly) keep people out. Gatekeepers can be people and tech.

Frances Bell in response to Building Trust in Online Communities


I’ve been thinking a lot about the similarities and differences between these events recently (as Maha, Kevin and I were presenting at ALT-C this week). What stands out for me is how much I trust all of you – and maybe you’re right that it’s because we share so much of ourselves that is personal. Authenticity? Not sure how to characterise all of this but I do know that it’s the richest set of experiences I’ve ever had.

Sarah Honeychurch in response to Building Trust in Online Communities


Rather than designing in trust-building activities, perhaps it’s more appropriate to create an environment within which trust can develop, in whatever ways those who need it might benefit?

Ian Guest in response to Building Trust in Online Communities


Blogging deepens my learning, widens my perspective, and crystallizes my thinking through transparent reflection. Selfishly, blogging helps me be a better learner. Becoming a better learner – that’s why all educators should be connecting and sharing. Blogging is just one, albeit excellent, way of documenting and sharing our learning with others.

Robert Schuetz in response to So Everyone Has a Blog, Now What?


My favourite definition of a servant leader: “It’s not all about me”.

Paul Browning in response to Luke Beveridge and the Decisions of a Servant Leader


I was aware of the different leadership metaphors but hadn’t really engaged with the reality of their application much. My friends and colleagues at GCI have done a fair bit of work with Mark McKergow on Solutions Focus approaches to coaching, and more recently on Host Leadership. I think that this metaphor adds something really interesting and helpful to the conundrum of leadership style.

Chris Munro in response to Luke Beveridge and the Decisions of a Servant Leader


BreakoutEDU appeals to the active, collaborative learning many students, and adults, prefer. I agree that assessing the process through reflection is key to advancing learning. Another aspect of BreakoutEDU that consistently impresses me is escaping, or successfully arriving at a solution, always requires divergent perspectives. Critics can shoot holes in Gardner’s learning styles theory, but successful team members always comment about how different “styles” helped them overcome obstacles. I like to think BreakoutEDU mirrors “real-life” challenges that divergent global perspectives can solve.

Robert Schuetz in response to Breaking Out Collaborative Problem Solving in the Classroom


First step is recognizing the problem and deciding to act, first step in acting as an ally is to listen well.

Maha Bali مها بالي in  response to Is Gender an Elephant in the (Education) Room?


Ancient Elephant but if we keep pointing it out small steps made.

Naomi Barnes in response to Is Gender an Elephant in the (Education) Room?


If all leadership ‘gurus’, keynotes, role models are white males, how does that shape us?

Corinne Campbell in response to Is Gender an Elephant in the (Education) Room?


Education seems to be the opposite to many workplaces. Ive been the only male in a number of schools. All my principals and APs until now have been women. Sexism is rife in the staff room. ‘Oh you’re a male’, ‘Oh you’re guaranteed a job’, ‘We need you to unclog the toilet’,  ‘MC this event’, ‘Move this furniture’…

A Man in response to Is Gender an Elephant in the (Education) Room?


When I am wearing my coaching hat, I typically assist learners with creating a curation system, a processing / reflection plan, and a contribution (sharing) process. Once they have a process, or workflow, in mind, then we start discussing tools / web places that will support their process. I view digital executive functioning (gathering, filtering, and sharing) as a critical piece for the modern learner.

Robert Schuetz in response to Filtering Knowledge and Information Beyond Twitter


It appears that you felt in some ways pulled in different directions; torn between being yourself and fulfilling the needs of the post/role, however they might be interpreted. I wonder if it’s in any way similar to the different obligations one has when moving into school roles which carry additional responsibility?

Ian Guest in response to A #RoCur Reflection


I don’t think of myself as a writer, but a blogger. That means, I think, I don’t worry so much.

John Johnston in response to My Secret Art of Blogging


Our assignments need to provide the opportunity for each learner to determine what the tool can do for them, personally. It isn’t enough to show them the things we know the tool can do. An educator must design (at least some) assignments to let each learner find the unexpected uses of the tool. It is the serendipity arising from the students’ uses which needs to be intentional.

Algot Runeman in response to Breaking the EdTech Machine


I wonder what education will be like in 10 years? Homework, standardised testing, accreditation, university entrance requirements…will we be having the same conversations? Does our collective dedication and passion for learning and education make a difference? Sorry-more questions than answers!

Andrea Stringer in response to Do Great Teachers Make a Great School?


I think as teachers we are accountable for our students being given the greatest chance of falling in love with learning but it doesn’t all come back to us. Sometimes our students are determined to share their anger around and no matter what we try to put in place, it will not stop them from attempting to destroy the learning environment for themselves and others. We don’t stop trying but we mustn’t beat ourselves or others up for often failing either.

Anna Del Conte in response to Do Great Teachers Make a Great School?


In 2017 I have suggested our school explore paradigms and theories of knowledge. Strip back to basics, expose beliefs.

Simon Keily in response to What or How – Which Would You Choose?


We are not necessarily in control of our circumstances but we are in control of how we respond to them. The attitude we carry with us affects all around us. We can’t always avoid negative people but we can do our best not to let them get to us.

Anna Del Conte in response to What or How – Which Would You Choose?


So they were the voices that made a difference to me last year. What about you? Who were the voices in your village that changed the way you thought last year? As always, comments welcome.


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Ten Tricks to Trello

Productivity


“Productivity” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

I have written about Trello before. Regarding supporting an instructional model and my workflow. However, I have written little about how it works or some of the different ways you can use it.

  1. Boards, Lists, Cards: Trello supports project management. It has several layers, starting with teams and collections, then boards. Once inside a Trello board, you can create multiple lists and cards. The proper model used to set up a board is the Kanban method, focusing on three lists: to do, doing and done. However, you can set a board up however you like. Once cards are created, they can easily be moved between different lists and archived when no longer required. Regarding a team situation, Trello allows you to work more transparently.
  2. Making Cards: There are four key elements to a card: description, attachments, checklists and comments. The descriptions and comments allow you to record regular information, and embed links and content. However, one of the most useful elements are checklists. You can either copy the checklist from another card or start your own.
  3. Filters: One thing you notice quickly with Trello is that things can get busy quick. One way of easing this is organising cards around members and tags. When you go to add members, you can add anyone within the team. Regarding tags, these are coloured and can be customised. I have used tags to sort between different focuses, however I also know people you use them to organise cards around priorities. Within the menu there is the means of filtering by both tags and cards.
  4. Collaboration: From a team point of view, Trello supports collaboration in several ways. The obvious way is to add someone as a member to a card. However, another way of connecting with others is by tagging people using their @username. This can be done in both comments and checklists. The other means of collaboration is sharing a link to a public board.
  5. Attachments: Whether it be from Google Drive, Microsoft Office, a PDF or a link from the web, cards provide a useful way of collecting together a range of items around a topic in one space. Attachments can be added directly or via a comment.
  6. Updates: Whether it be the checking off an item in the checklist or a comment being added, Trello provides several ways to update team members. When subscribed to a card, whole board or tagged into something, you are notified when things change. Initially this is through the application, but if unseen this summary is pushed out via email. Although you can not adjust what notifications are shown, there is the option within your personal settings to adjust the frequency to which you receive emails, with one option being never. For a different perspective, you can scroll through the various activities to see what has been happening. There is also the means of integrating updates into Slack, which can also be useful.
  7. Multiple Points of Access: Although the most obvious way of accessing Trello is via the web, there is a mobile application. This means you can add content and information wherever you are. Must of the functionality is the same across both platforms. However, there are elements such as filtering that are only  available on the web.
  8. Markdown: Regarding formatting, Trello allows you to use Markdown to change the text. One catch is that different fields involve different options. You can bold, use italics and add links. While for both comments and descriptions, you can add horizontal lines and block quotes, and regarding the description, there is the means of embedding images and adding headings. For a great introduction to Markdown, John Gruber provides a useful application which allows you to see what the markdown text would look like as HTML.
  9. Shortcut to Creating a Card: Whether it be using a Google Chrome extension or using  the email address associated with each board, there are different ways of adding to Trello. These can be useful when forwarding on various links and resources.
  10. Customisation: There are several ways to go further with Trello. This includes adding various power-ups, which often build on the APIs to help personalise how things work for your team. I must admit that these aspects are nuanced, but they provide other options none the less.

For more information, I recommend the following video to help get your head around everything.

On a side note, Trello was sold to Atlassian. The promise is that this will only make Trello better, but time will tell. It is also important to note the limits of ‘free’. Like with so many different applications, Trello provide access to a certain limit and then push you towards a premium model. The basic difference is that you can add larger file attachments and activate more Power-Ups.

So what about you? Have you used Trello? How? Or maybe you have used something different? As always, comments welcome.


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Getting Work Done

This post is in responses to the Edublogs Club prompt associated with classroom or office spaces. I am not sure I have that much to say in regards to the aesthetics of open planned working environment. However, I do have some thoughts on the digital spaces which I use to ‘get work done’.


As I have discussed elsewhere, my one word this year is communication. This has many facets, such as clarity of meaning, consistently responding, working collaboratively, adjusting to context and being transparent. It is something pertinent to my current job as an integration coach.

One particular challenge that I have found since transferring from the classroom into a more administrative role has been the importance of being organised. Often with the classroom there is a certain structure provided by way of classes, students and timetables. Bianca Hewes provides a useful example of this in her post on staying organised. Although I have had experience outside of the classroom before managing reports, timetables and daily organisation, most of these things had clear and consistent expectations too. I may have had my calendars and spreadsheets. However, the workflow was seemingly pre-defined by the wider organisation.  My new role is different.

Although I am hired as a coach with the focus on supporting schools with the integration of technology, this support takes many forms. So far I have developed material to support the implementation of Digital Learning Technologies, organised material around Communities of Practice, help organise Stories of Practice, as well as created various presentations. What is different about leading various projects is that they each have unique tasks and timelines. The challenge then is managing everything. Two strategies I have used to communicate this work in an open and transparent manner are Kanban and the Priority Matrix.

Kanban

A means of project management, Kanban is an agile way of organising tasks. In its most basic form it involves three columns: to do, doing and done. However, there are many different iterations. Often Kanban is done using sticky notes in a public space. However, Trello provides a useful digital form. I started out using personal boards, but have since moved to progressively involving the wider team. What I like about Trello is the means of bringing together various documents, checklists and notes in the one space. In addition to this, there are options of organising things using categories or allocating people to specific cards or tasks.

Decision Matrix

Also known as the Eisenhower Method, the Decision Matrix is designed to use time on what is important. The matrix is split into four quadrants:

Urgent and important (tasks you will do immediately).
Important, but not urgent (tasks you will schedule to do later).
Urgent, but not important (tasks you will delegate to someone else).
Neither urgent nor important (tasks that you will eliminate).

As a means of organising each week, I usually list the various tasks that are on the go and use the categories to prioritise. While I also add anything else in as the week pans out. I do this using Google Slides as it allows me to link to further information, such as a Doc or a Trello Card. I find this useful for not only planning ahead, but also for being accountable in looking back at what I have done over time.


So that is me. That is how I get work done. So what about you? Do you have any suggestions for me? How do you get work done? As always, comments welcome.


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The Challenges and Tribulations of Being a Connected Educator

Comment More


“Comment More” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

It is that time of year again when everyone starts making promises to be more connected, less connected or just connected differently. What is interesting are all the ideas that get floated around. Here is a collection of some of the new year opportunities:

  • EDUBLOGS CLUB: Edublogs have long supported teachers and students with blogging through their courses, however this year they have started a club involving weekly prompts. These posts are brought together around the hashtag #edublogsclub. I participated in #youredustory in 2015, which was similar, so it will be interesting to see how it goes.
  • 30 DAYS OF BLOGGING CHALLENGE: AJ Juiliani  put together a month long challenge designed to get a jump start into blogging in 2017. What makes this different to past iterations is that it is personal. Whereas challenges, such as #28daysofwriting, focused on time spent writing and posting regularly, Juiliani’s interest is on committing yourself to a set amount of words per day and a number posts per week. This reminds me in part of the #750words challenge.
  • COMMENT MORE AND “LIKE” LESS: Not so much a defined challenge or course, instead something of a personal personal. In response to 2016, Bill Ferriter sets forth the plan to invest more in comments in order to build deeper connections which can helps.us work together bring about change for a better world. This reminds me of a post by Steve Brophy from a few years ago. My only concern is whether such calls limit themselves by deciding what does and does not constitute a comment.
  • THREE STEPS TO IDENTIFY AND DEVELOP YOUR DIGITAL IDENTITY: I get the feeling that this is probably incidental and not necessarily a part of the new year rush, but Ian O’Byrne has developed a guide for those wanting to take more control of their online presence. Along with his post on cyberinfrastructure they provide a good beginning or a useful reminder. I too have written something similar in the past.

Each of these ideas offers something to support educators in developing a more deliberate practice.  However, none of them are necessarily new. More often than not they peter out. The question that we are left with is how might we habit that personal to each and every one of us? A part of me thinks that maybe this involves some sort of coaching, but what does that actually look like? As always, comments welcome.


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REVIEW: The End of Average by Todd Rose

The End of Average

“The End of Average” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

With The End of Average, Todd Rose sets out to reinstate the individual within a crowd of averages. Continuing the conversation started by those like Seth Godin, Yong Zhao and Simon Sinek, it is a book about empowering choice and change from the ground on up. The focus of Rose’s book is on on equal fit, rather than equal opportunity. This all starts with reinstating individuality. To get this message across, the book is split into three parts: the history of the average, the principles of Individuality and individuality in practice.

An Average History

In regards to the history, the story starts with Adolphe Quetelet. Rose discusses how in the 19th century, during the rise of industry and nations, Quetelet set out to develop a science for managing society. Applying the method of averages taken from astronomy, Quetelet worked the vast measurements being gathered by burgeoning nation states to develop a model of the average man. This is where the BMI index stems from. Quetelet’s work inspired many, including Karl Marx work on communism, Florence Nightingale in regards to nursing and Jon Snow in his response to cholera.

Another person inspired by Quetelet was Sir Francis Galton. The difference though was that Galton believed that to be average was far from ideal, instead it was mediocre. His interest was on improving on the idea of average. This involved redefining the notion of error, that is the difference from the mean, as rank. All in all Galton identified fourteen different classes, ranging from imbecile to mediocre to imminent. In addition to rank, Galton argued that the best qualities are correlated. For Rose, Quetelet and Galton represent the foundation for the invention of the average.

Taking the ideas of rank and average further, Frederick Winslow Taylor used them in the development of scientific management. Rather than empower individuals, Taylor was about maintaining efficiency through standardised processes.

In regards to education, Taylor’s ideas were taken up to organise learning through tests, bells, curriculum, textbooks and grading systems. A key figure involved in this movement was Edward Thorndike. A leader in the development of psychometrics, Thorndike saw the ranking of students as a means of measuring innate ability. For to Thorndike, education was about quality over equality. Rose makes the point that this was (and is) not a broken education system, rather a perfected one.

For Rose, the heroic history associated with the average came to halt when Peter Molenaar uncovered a flaw in our understanding of averages. For Molenaar, the issue lies with what is described as the ergodic switch. That is, taking something that is non-ergodic and switching it so it is. Using a process of aggregate then analyse, the switch involves understanding individuals without actually recognising their individuality. The problem with this is that group averages are OK if every member is identical and will remain the same in future. This is clearly not the case, for using a group average to discuss individuals treats humans as clones. The answer for Molenaar is the focus on dynamic systems, which are built upon a process of analyse then aggregate.

Principles of Individuality

According to Rose, the answer to the end of averages is the rise of individuality. Rather than an equal opportunity, where the goal is to provide everyone with access the same standardised experiences, Rose suggests we need equal fit, where we are all afforded the opportunity for our individuality to flourish. A key to all of this are what Rose describes as the the three principles of individuality: jaggedness, context and pathways.

  • JAGGEDNESS: Moving away from Galton’s one-dimensional view of ability involving correlations, Rose argues that our focus should be distinct jaggedness. As he states, “we can not apply one-dimensional thinking to something that is complex.” Jaggedness involves looking at the various attributes and achievements that make up the whole person. Rose states that there are two conditions for jaggedness: multiple dimensions that are weakly related. What is important about jaggedness is that it is not about finding diamonds in the rough, but instead about finding a way of celebrating true talent.
  • CONTEXT: Essentialist thinking would have it that traits and behaviours can be uncovered through the use of set model, such as the Myer Briggs test or concepts such as introverted and extraverted. These approaches are usually seen as helpful predictors of future actions. The problem is that our character traits are not consistent in all situations. For example, we are all a little bit shy sometime. The question then for Rose is within which context are we shy. Wary of opening a pluralistic Pandora’s box, he suggests that, “we are consistent within a given context.” The challenge is to understand these situations. The strategy that Rose proposes is the notion of ‘if then’ signatures. That is, if it is a particular situation, then it will produce these traits. For myself, an if then signature is exams. I struggle to stay focused in such situations, therefore at University I only chose subjects which involved essays. One of the important things to remember with context is that there is often more to someone than the context at hand. To me, this has many connections with strength-based education.
  • PATHWAYS: One of the legacies to standardisation is that everyone must follow the same set of rules and expectations in order to achieve some sort of mastery. This normative thinking often brings with it such standardisation of time and expectations. The problem with this approach is that it does not work for everyone all of the time, instead it works for a few some of the time. The pathways principle goes against this, instead arguing that there are many ways to reaching the outcome at hand and that the best path is a path just for us. As Rose asserts, “we are always creating our own pathway for the first time.” The only way to judge a pathway is how it fits with our jagged profile and if then signatures. One solution that Rose puts for individual pathways is self-determined competency-based credentialing. An example of this is the work around Open Badges. In their ideal form, pathways break with the analogy tgat success is to climb a ladder, instead it is more akin to a constellation of stars providing for numerous connections.

For Rose, the only path to a life of excellence is developing your own individuality, whether it be through your jagged profile, appreciating how you work in different contexts or finding the pathway that is right for you. Maybe it is finding a new solution in business or identifying your own problems to solve, at the heart of the quest for individuality is innovation.

Criticism and Connections

Although The End of Average makes a compelling case for change, this comes with its own set of questions and concerns. As a history, it reads as somewhat convenient. It can be easy to be caught up with the narrative of the heroic individual, however the reality is often much more complicated. For example, it is easy to simply associate scientific management with Frederick Taylor, however not only were there others involved in its conception, but it has long been out of fashion. Audrey Watters captures some of these intricacies in her analysis of the factory model of education.

Another question left somewhat unanswered is the place of the community. In The Good Education in an Age of Measurement, Gert Biesta argues that there are three ingredients to a ‘Good Education’: qualification, socialisation and subjectification. Although credentials and pathways encompass qualifications and subjectification, there is little discussion of socialisation. In a world which focuses on the individual, it remains uncertain as to how systematic change occurs. Maybe it doesn’t or maybe it is simply industries of individuals working together? Whatever the answer, this is not really addressed.

Connected with the question of community, one of the things that stands as a concern for a system built around individuality is that there is a risk that it will only be an equal fit for those with access. Although technology plays a large roll in the form of online learning, it is still dependent on human support. Again such dependency on funding and investment has the risk of reinstating a meritocratic system, especially when the simple answer is to just innovate. Those outside of this opportunity are at then left to the whims of Silicon Valley and the Californian ideology. Relying on such evasive movements as the AltSchool or Bridge International to provide a supposed personalised solution ironically at the expense of our control.

Moving Beyond Average

I remember when I used to live in the Victorian country side being amazed by the amount of Weeping Willows growing along the open channels that carried water between the various properties. An introduced species, they actually sapped up a lot of the water. I once asked the Outdoor Education teacher I was working alongside why they did not just remove them. He explained that to simply remove them actually causes even more damage through erosion. What is needed, he explained, was to plant something next to the tree that would be able to take its place and fill the same purpose. I see the same thing happening with this book.

The End of Average should not be read as a book of answers written to guide teachers and leaders through a new way of being. For that in itself would be the greatest irony, to provide an average answer for a complex problem. Instead, the book starts a conversation. For although Rose identifies the issue at hand, the answers are not necessarily set. Rather it is in part up to us as individuals to work together to move beyond an age of average to something of our own.

Additional Resources


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There Are Many Parts to Redefining Schools

Not About the Tool? @peterskillen

“Not About the Tool? @peterskillen” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

In a recent post, George Couros warned that technology in and of itself will not redefine education. Instead he argued that what really matters is agency. This got me thinking about all the things that get discussed as possible solutions. Maybe it is student action? Maybe relationships? Maybe passion? Maybe pedagogy? Maybe learning? Maybe trust? Maybe empathy? Maybe being a PIRATE? Or a champion? Or REAL? Maybe being based on evidence? Or being evidence-informed? These are just some of the solutions that seem ripe for the picking, but do they each in themselves redefine education?

On the question technology, I wonder if we need to reconsider what it might mean to talk about ‘technology’ and the ‘redefinition’ of education. I don’t think that the SAMR model has necessarily helped this. As Peter Skillen points out, the possibilities provided by technology have the ramification of inadvertently redefining the world that we exist in, whether we realise it or not.

Tools shape cognition. Tools shape societal structures in both intended, and unintended, ways.

The question then becomes about how technology changes things. It becomes a question of edtech ethics and technical democracy. For example, although a device like a Fitbit may provide instant feedback, that feedback in the form of data is a public commodity. Importantly seeing technology this way, it becomes a discussion about impact and influence. More importantly though it becomes a part of a wider conversation about education.

This all has me thinking, rather than worrying about the one thing, what if our focus was what constitutes a ‘good’ education? What if we considered choices more holistically? Although each part may play it’s part, maybe they all have some part to play in redefining schools of the future?

So what do you think in regards to schools of tomorrow? As always, comments welcome.


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