Communities, Networks and Connected Learning with Google

This is based on a presentation at the Melbourne GAFESummit held at Xavier College on September 19th and 20th, 2016.


There have been many changes to learning brought about in the past decade, from MOOCs to social media, often though there are so many options that it can be hard to know where to start and more importantly, why. Technology enables us to easily develop digital communities and networks inside and outside of the classroom. The reality though is that connected learning is as much about creating spaces for learning and building on that, so let us start there.

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Building Trust in Online Communities


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have been doing a lot of thinking of late around building communities of practice. Although there has been a lot of discussion around purpose and intent of the community, the question that I have been wondering is how we build trust in a purely online environment so that people are willing to participate. My own experience of a community of practice with Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century started with a face-to-face session, however not every community of practice is afforded such luxury. This led me to reflect upon my involvement with various cMOOCs over the years and consider how each set out to create an environment which fosters sharing and collaboration. So here are my thoughts and reflections:

Rhizo Learning

I am not sure how to explain #Rhizo14, #Rhizo15 or Rhizo anything. I guess it could be considered as a radical attempt to facilitate a course where the community is the curriculum and being the expert is not necessarily the goal. Although each of the iterations has been facilitated by Dave Cormier, he always seems to make every attempt possible to get out of the way. Other than a weekly provocation and Hangout, there were very few explicit formalities. This worked (and failed?) in part because of the strength of the community. I cannot actually recall any explicit trust building activities and I must admit that it got a little unwieldy at times, which I imagine might have put some off.

#CCourses

Connected Courses was a collaborative community designed to develop networked learning in higher education. Each fortnight had a different focus, supported by a team of facilitate, as well as a range of makes, videos and resources. In the lead up, Howard Rheingold, Alan Levine and Jim Groom supported people in organising a space and connecting it to the syndicated blogs. This was done via social media, as well as through a Hangout. Beyond the act of getting going, the first unit involved responding to the provocation #WhyITeach.

#CLMooc

Connected Learning MOOC is a yearly event designed to help people make sense of learning online through the act of making. In the first week of making, participants are invited to introduce themselves however they like, connect with other learners by commenting and reflect on the connections made. To support this creative process, a range of possibilities are listed in a ‘Make Bank’. Beyond the usual weekly challenges, there also daily connectors which allow people to maintain a sense of connection, even if they may have dropped out of the weekly tasks.

#DigiWriMo

Digital Writing Month is an annual 30-day challenge that has been occurring since 2012. Similar to CLMOOC, it encourages people to be creative by providing a number tasks and challenges. This includes a mixture of daily activities and on-going projects. Each year is facilitated by a different team, adding a different twist. In regards to introductions, the 2015 iteration started with an invitation to create an alternative CV (#altcv).

#walkmyworld

Walk My World is an annual social media project in which people are encouraged to share and connect around a hashtag. The intent is to explore open research and open publishing. The weekly assignments are designed to help tell your story. In 2016, the first challenge involved sharing a selfie and reflecting on the story behind it.


What seems to stand out is the sharing of something personal. In order to make this more possible for people to participate, these activities often emphasis choice and creativity in a lighthearted manner.

What about you though? What experiences have you been a part of? Do you have any thoughts, ideas and experiences? As always, comments welcome.


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Defining a Community of Practice


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I have been spending a bit of time lately with the idea of communities of practice. One of the things that becomes clear quickly is that there are many different definitions and descriptions.

Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner suggest that:

Communities of practice are formed by people who engage in a process of collective learning in a shared domain of human endeavour: a tribe learning to survive, a band of artists seeking new forms of expression, a group of engineers working on similar problems, a clique of pupils defining their identity in the school, a network of surgeons exploring novel techniques, a gathering of first-time managers helping each other cope.

While Lani Ritter Hall and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach describe it as follows:

Communities of practice (or inquiry) are systems of collective critical inquiry and reflection focused on building a shared identity and a collective intelligence garnered over time. Members have a “none of us is as good as all of us” mentality.

Touching on the role of communities, Tony Bates explains that:

The basic premise behind communities of practice is simple: we all learn in everyday life from the communities in which we find ourselves. Communities of practice are everywhere. Nearly everyone belongs to some community of practice, whether it is through our working colleagues or associates, our profession or trade, or our leisure interests, such as a book club.

A report by the US government highlight some of the benefits:

Past research has already suggested that, if designed, implemented, and supported well, online communities of practice can help educators strengthen their performance. Through these online social learning spaces, evidence shows that educators can effectively access, share, and create knowledge, as well as strengthen their commitment to the profession

In there discussion of teaching crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson explain that:

The concept, drawn from anthropological studies, relates to how newcomers to a collection of people, such as a department in a firm, a university, or a group of charity workers, learn the group’s practices and become participants in the community.

One of the problems with each of these definitions and descriptions is that they do not necessarily capture the nuance of each context. Another way of making sense of communities of practice is using the Modern Learning Canvas:

Modern Learning Canvas - CoP

One of the benefits of the canvas is that it provides a structure to talk about learning. Starting with a description of an ideal community, you can then make changes to the canvas based on the needs and purpose of particular situation. For when I think about the communities that I have participated in, whether they be MOOCs (Rhizo14, ccourses, digiwrimo, CLMOOC etc …) or professional learning programs (TL21C), they were all different. They all appraoched things differently, providing for different needs.

So what about you, have you had any experiences with communities of practice? As always, I would love to know.


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Making an Online Learning Hub

Third Space

“Third Space” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

One of my focuses at the moment is around online learning. This has involved investigating different spaces, the idea of Communities of Practice, dynamic content to include and the potential of Open Badges as a means of credentialing. It occurred to me that I had not stopped to properly consider what was already out there.

Having spent considerable time online, I naively felt that I already knew what was available and subsequently what may be needed. While some of the ideas suggested include creating a blog connected to a static homepage, I had not stopped to look at the hubs that I already engage with and how each of them is organised.

Here then is a reflection on some of the tribes and communities I engage with online:

EdTechTeam

A global organisation originally associated with GAFE Summits, EdTechTeam have since diversified to include other products and platforms, including Apple, Adobe and SeeSaw, as well as a burgeoning book publishing arm. The mainstay of communication is through their invite only Google Plus community. They also share news and resources on various social media platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, graphics and pictures of conferences on Instagram, stories and reflections through Blogger, and webinars and keynotes through YouTube. Many of these spaces are brought together through the use of the #EdTechTeam hashtag.

Digital Learning Department

The Victorian State Government’s Digital Learning Department supports the integration of technology across the state. The most popular form of information is through the Global2 newsletter, which provides updates, links and information about various resources and providers, as well as links to professional learning opportunities across the state. This is supported by a Twitter handle, which again shares out various links and resources with a loose connection to the #vicpln hashtag. Neither of these platforms seem to provide very much interaction or dialogue.

Modern Learners

Made up of Will Richardson, Bruce Dixon and Missy Emler, Modern Learners’ mission is to:

To help every school leader become better informed to make better, more relevant decisions for the children they serve in this new, modern world of learning

Originally a paid subscription site, the central space has been a WordPress blog. This has been supported by a regular newsletter sharing links and reflections, a Twitter handle and a Facebook Page used to cross-post, a #modernlearners hashtag, as well as a book series designed to reignite or perhaps even start some important conversations. More recently, they have also started sharing interviews and investigations via a podcast and facilitated a Facebook group with weekly discussions and provocations. Associated with these additions, they published a whitepaper a few months ago, 10 Principles for Schools of Modern Learning, which could only be downloaded by sharing your name and email. This has allows the team to follow up directly, especially in regards to promoting their new change.school course for transformational leaders.

#EduCoachOC

A monthly chat spun off from the #EduCoach chat, #EduCoachOC is designed to support coaches in Oceania through a monthly chat. Along with the hashtag, there is a central WordPress.com blog with a post published prior to each chat providing context and the questions for people to consider. Afterwards, the chats are archived, using Storify.

TeachTechPlay

A professional learning community, TeachTechPlay aim is to inspire learning through empowerment and engagement with technology. The main space used is a WordPress site (moving away from an initial Google Site). This contains links to community, conference and monthly webshow. The webshow is run through YouTube. There are a number of identities linked to the community, including a Twitter handle, Google+ account and Facebook page. Each is used to cross-post and disseminate links and news. There is also a hashtag, #ttplay, which although initially used for the monthly webshow has grown to become a constant feed of information. More recently, a blog has been added to the site, however the purpose and intent is unclear.

Connected Courses

Run in 2014, Connected Courses focus was developing and teaching online courses that value the open web. Supported by the work of DML Research Hub, it was designed and taught by faculty from diverse higher education institutions. The hub was a WordPress site, with links to the syllabus and syndicated blogs. Associated with this, there were regular webinars, both informative and reflective, housed on YouTube. There was also a hashtag #ccourses to collect conversations across various platforms.

Reclaim Hosting

Founded in 2013, Reclaim Hosting provides hosting support for individuals and institutions that want to build out spaces online for personal portfolios, digital projects and more. It builds on the Domain of One’s Own project. The main source of information is via a WordPress.org site, which includes a range of links, blog, resources and sub-domains. The blog is aggregated from the blogs of Groom, Owens and Brumfield, while links and updates are shared out via a Twitter handle. Discourse is used as both a forum for discussion, as well as a knowledge bank for frequently asked questions. Beyond these associations, there are a number of other connections to such things as the Domains Conference. Interestingly, continuing with the POSSE mindset, interviews and content are not always stored centrally through branded accounts, but instead spread across the various identities connected with the company.

TIDE Podcast

A regular podcast from Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw, Today in Digital Education is about education, technology and everything in between. There is a central site, built using Podcast Generator, which houses the notes and audio associated with each podcast. Each episode is also shared out to a number of spaces, including Soudcloud, iTunes and Internet Archive. Links are shared out via the Twitter handle which just posts out new episodes, but there is no interaction with this account. In regards to dialogue, there a Slack Community.

Digital Learning – CEWA

A group in charge of supporting teachers with across the Western Australia Catholic archdiocese with everything digital. This includes leadership, curriculum, tools, spaces and coding. The main space is a Wix site, which includes a number of links presented visually, as well as a team blog. There are also courses run through the online learning and teaching site, Udemy. Socially, there are number of connections, including Twitter, Instagram, Yammar and Facebook Chat, as well as a hashtag, #CathDigLearn.

Digital Technologies Hub

Developed by Education Services Australia, Digital Technologies Hub (DTHub) supports educators with unpacking the Digital Technologies Curriculum. The main site is built with Sitefinity and involves a mixture of links and resources, organised around four key stakeholders: teachers, school leaders, students and families. Although there is no space for interacting, there are a number of social media identities associated with the site, including Twitter, Google+ and Facebook Pages. Associated with all of these, there is a hashtag, #DTHub. There is also a monthly newsletters, providing a regular flow of news and updates.

So what about you? What spaces do you exist in? Maybe there is one that you have designed yourself? What choices did you make? Why? As always, comments welcome.


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New (Zealand) Experiences

Having just returned from the New Zealand, I was left with more questions than answers. Whether it be at Google Teacher Academy, Leading a Digital School conference or simply online, I have engaged with a number of New Zealand educators. I have been an avid reader of blogs from people such as Steve Mouldey, Juliet Revell, Richard Wells and Claire Amos, while Wells’ book provides a fantastic glimpse into some of the transformations that have occurred there. I was therefore intrigued to get a glimpse for myself. Here then are five thoughts I was left with based on my experiences:

  • AUTONOMY: The curriculum is built around a clear set of values, five key competencies and learning eight learning areas. Richard Wells captures this in a graphic. The support documents provide the ingredients, but leave schools to develop their own narrative. This freedom and flexibility provides a sense of autonomy for schools to respond to their own context and community. This means fluid learning communities, co-teaching and various inquiry-based pedagogies. Steve Mouldey provides a great insight into this, while Richard Wells has written a series of posts demonstrating ways of making learning more student centred.
  • COLLABORATION: Alongside choice, there is a focus on fostering the conditions to work collaboratively within clusters. For some this includes meeting between schools to moderate, while others provide connectivity to the community. These approaches are supported by initiatives and organisations such as, Mind Labs. CORE Education and the New Pedagogies for Deep Learning.
  • CULTURE: From the first step into Auckland Airport, the prominence of Maori culture is clear. As an outside, it feels as if Maori culture is at the heart of New Zealand culture. From a dedicated television station, dual signs and descriptions, various forms of customary greetings, and regular reference to art and tradition, the difference to Australian is noticeable. Where it stands out from an education point of view is the use of the Maori language to encapsulate values and attributes. I wonder if one aspect which makes this possible is the presence of a unified living language? Or if it all comes back to the Treaty of Waitangi? Although in Australia there is the Welcome to Country and attempt to recognise the local people of each region, this seems to fall short of the place that Maori culture has in New Zealand.
  • RESOURCES: One argument often made to why Finland is so successful is the amount of time teachers have out of the classroom to plan and prepare. For New Zealand it is the opposite. For example, primary teachers only get ten hours release a term and for some this includes a whole day release which often chews up half of this time. This reminds me of a point that George Couros makes in the Innovator’s Mindset around creative budgeting. Couros talks about the way in which Brad Gustafson makes a line intone budget for innovative projects. A side note to resourcing is the place of community partnerships. I stayed in one town where the local public school had all of the companies that support the school listed on the fence. There seems to be a different relationship between outside organisations and schools, although it was not clear as to how far this went.
  • TRANSFORMATION: It can be easy to read an account or watch a an example from a few years ago and think that is the way it has always been and continues to be. However, what worked yesterday may not be what works today. Some of the New Zealand schools which had been been held up as showcases, demonstrating fluid and visible practices, have continued to evolve and iterate. They take what works and refine what could be better. Interestingly, this is similar to the Finnish story. It can be easy to read Pasi Sahlberg’s account and think that is the way things are. However, even Finland – seemingly at the top of the world – knows that to stand still is to go backwards.

At the start I said I was left with more questions, than answers. Some of the things that I was left wondering was what the future had to offer? The government is looking to increase funding for independent schools. Some schools still choosing to reinstate rather than redefine the status quo. Teachers supported but not necessarily in regards to time. The world is becoming more and more multinational/multicultural. It will be interesting to see where this all goes. For some this makes it an incredibly hard time to be involved with education, but I would argue that it simply makes it even more important to continue to fight for what Gert Biesta describes as a ‘good education’.

Thanks must be given to me wife who supported writing this by adding her thoughts and perspectives. If you have something else to add, as always comments welcome.


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Towards Collective Innovation

As I sat listening to Jamie Casep field questions at Auckland Summit about the Google Certified Innovator program I felt challenged. Here was me, a supposed ‘innovator’, how was I still pushing to the moon? Where was I at?

I received an email a few months ago notifying me that to maintain my status I would need to update a registry about where I was at. As I looked back at my moonshot from GTASYD14, I felt like an abject failure.

How Might We ENGAGE PARENTS in a CULTURAL SHIFT to make RELATIONSHIPS and CONNECTIONS the focus of learning?

I had dreamed of involving parents in learning, yet beyond creating a school blog (eBox) and taking a keen interest in (parent) data, I had not really gotten anywhere. In addition to this, I had since moved positions and felt even further away from success.

I asked a few other GCI’s and they too were a bit stuck about what I might legitimately put down as my current project. One mentioned my newsletter, however I felt that focused too much on the tool and not enough on the change. Another discussed my role in regards to developing communities of practice. Again that was useful, but not necessarily concrete. I was also asked about my latest creation in starting a Wikity site. This led me to wonder what it was that each of these things maybe trying to get at?

My thoughts led me to something that Steve Brophy discussed in our collaboration a few years back, the idea of “being the connection that gives others a voice.” I was also moved by a recent post from Andrea Stringer on developing collective efficacy. With this in mind I revisited my How Might I question.

How Might We

“How Might We” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

I wondered if instead of solely focusing on parents, whether my true intent was about extending ways of giving all involved in education a voice. Whether I already had done so or did it now, I pivoted, looked at my aims and reassessed. Eric Ries might describe it as zooming-out:

Sometimes a single feature is insufficient to support a whole product. In this type of pivot, what was considered the whole product becomes a single feature of a much larger product.

My first step was to list the different projects and activities that I do that came under this banner:

  • Create a monthly newsletter to provide a curated list of resources for educators
  • Lead the learning through my own open actions as a blogger
  • Explore innovative ways of giving voice, whether it be dual-post, engaging with various indie-web ideas, fostering communities of practice or developing an extensive blog roll.
  • Reflect on the features and affordances of various platforms and practices to help others develop a more informed decision around their online presence.
  • Support other ideas and action where applicable by encouraging connections, whether it be listening as a coach, providing a comment to extend a discussion or sharing a resource to generate conversation.

With this done, I set about assessing my statement. Rather than focusing solely on parents, my focus would be on all the voices within education, and rather than a particular focus on bringing teachers into the classroom my focus would be about supporting active voices in education. Maybe it would read like this:

How Might I SUPPORT ALL STAKEHOLDERS IN EDUCATION in HAVING A MORE ACTIVE VOICE with what is HAPPENING TODAY?

Not completely sure that is it, maybe you have a suggestion on the wording or the focus, but rather than sitting on it I am going to ship it, hoping that you might be able to help me by giving your perspective? 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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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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Read Write Review – Voices from the Village (2016)


Just sort of do it flickr photo by mrkrndvs shared under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

This year I tried something different. In addition to my usual practice of blogging, I decided to curate a monthly newsletter. In part, this stemmed from a review that I wrote at the end of last year, collecting together all the posts that I had read that stood out to me in 2015. Going back through a year’s worth of posts collected in Diigo was an arduous task. It occurred to me that this might be more manageable if it were more regular. Although many others maintain weekly instalments, I decided that would be too regular. Instead I chose a monthly reflection. For me, this provides a little bit more flexibility.

To organise my thinking, I separated the curated posts into three categories: teaching resources, educational technology and reflections. In addition to this, I included a monthly focus either in response to a topical matter or derived from my own work.   Topics have included: mindsets, measuring the success of technology, GIFs, SAMR, getting connected, designing a technology rich environment, Seymour Papert, Nathan Jones, Creative Commons, responses to the US election and PISA.

So here then are some of the thoughts that have left me thinking this year …

Learning and Teaching

The Three Stages of Documentation Of/For/As Learning – Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano regularly explores the different stages of documentation. She splits it up into before where teachers decide focus, during where the work is documented and after where you act on the work captured. More recently, she has turned her attention to the connections between different literacies and documentation.

My work is concentrating on making pedagogical documentation visible and shareable to amplify teaching and learning. I believe that using technology, as a tool, to be able to share best practices, to make thinking and learning visible to ourselves and others, is the key to transform teaching and learning!

Ways to Use Lego in the Classroom – Mark Warner provides a range of examples about how to use Lego in the classroom. In some ways it reminds me of Lee Hewes’ post exploring the potential of Minecraft, its strength is its breadth of ideas.

When I’m not busy working on our teaching websites, I can usually be found playing Lego with our children! It’s an incredibly creative toy, but it can also be used to support work in a number of different curriculum areas. Here is our HUGE list of ways to use Lego in the classroom

Learner Agency – More than just a buzzword – Claire Amos lists 10 ways you might provide Learner Agency in your classroom or school.

If the world around us wasn’t changing so rapidly, we might have got away with sticking our heads in the sand and believing (like certain schools still do) that effective education means little, if any, learner agency and whole lot of control and teacher centred pedagogy.  Don’t get me wrong, there is still a place for direct instruction and even rote learning, but if you are limiting yourself to such practice, no matter how awesomely charismatic you might be, you are doing your students a massive disservice.

Reading Conferences with Students – Pernille Ripp discusses the challenges of reading conferences within a limited amount of time and provides some thoughts and suggestions.

While the 45 minutes of English class will never be ideal, it will never be enough, it will never feel like I can provide each child with the type of learning experience they deserve, it cannot hold us back.  It cannot hold me back.  And I cannot be the only one that is trying to do this.

7 ways to assess without testing – In light of the frenzy of testing that is going on at the moment all around the world, Steve Wheeler provides some alternative forms of assessment that do not involve testing. Along with Rachel Wilson’s piece on alternatives to NAPLAN, both posts add to the counter-narrative to the culture of standardised testing.

Children don’t learn any more or any better because of standardised testing, unless there is feedback on how they can improve. But SATs seem to be the weapon of choice for many governments across the globe. It seems that little else matters but the metrics by which our political masters judge our schools.

Starting a Patch from Scratch – The team behind the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program reflect on a collection of stories associated with getting started in regards to creating your own garden. To support this process, they have provided a resource with a range of tips and tricks to getting going with kitchen gardening in and out of school. You can read my reflection on SAKG here.

We’ve also put together some free gardening resources to help you start your own patch from scratch. The pack includes tips on how to plan your garden, making a no-dig garden bed, how to plant seeds and seedlings, mulching,  planting charts and recipes for homemade pasta, pesto and a Salad of the Imagination.

ScratchMath – One of the challenges with any platform is finding the edge. Jeffrey Gordon provides a range of possibilities which help highlight what is possible.

Teaching computer programming is not like teaching reading or math. Programmers rely on libraries of code they can’t understand, coworkers to write functions they don’t read, and finally a structure that doesn’t always require comprehending the whole, but rather understanding of a set of individual parts and their relationships.

7 mental models you should know for smarter decision making – Sean Kim provides a series of mental models to help with the process of making important decisions.

Whether it’s trying to figure out which job you should take, deciding to quit your job to start a business,move to a new city — these decisions are never easy. Yet there are people who we can learn from who make highly impactful decisions on a regular basis, and they’ve developed mental models to help them make smarter decisions.

Four Fantastic Feedback Tools for Google Docs – Eric Curts outlines four different ways of giving feedback using Google Docs.

Now with tools such as Google Docs and Classroom, it is easy for students to create and submit their work digitally. So how does a teacher leave feedback on an electronic document? As we move from paper and pencil to Docs and digital, we need options for providing feedback that is valuable to the student, but not cumbersome and unnatural for the teacher to create.

Moving from digital portfolios to a domain of one’s own – Ian O’Byrne discusses the history associated with portfolios and outlines some benefits of students going a step further and having a domain of their own

In the development of digital portfolios, I see opportunities for students to engage with digital tools in online spaces across their academic careers. I believe there is a need for students to develop and maintain a domain of one’s own, one canonical address online that students build up from Pre-K through higher ed that archives and documents learning over time. This space can be used to read, write, and participate, as learners build, edit, revise, and iterate as if it were a digital portfolio. As we move from digital portfolios to providing students with a domain of their own we help them connect their literacy practices with the identity development skills they’ll need now and in the future.

Creating Virtual Reality Content in Minecraft with Year 4 – Lee Hewes shares some of his learning associated with a recent project involving the use of Minecraft to create 360 degree videos.

My latest class project, which we have just finished and I am about to describe, is perhaps the project that has challenged me the most, both as a player of Minecraft, and from a classroom perspective. It was also, however, way cool! The project, which was guided by the driving question, “How can we use Minecraft to help endangered animals?” was focussed on having kids learn about human impact on the environment, sustainable living practices and animal conservation.

The Power Of Spreadsheets – Chris Betcher shares an example of how he used Sheets to compare the offerings from various energy companies. This is a useful resource in regards to working with various formulas to compare and critique data.

What if you gave your students the basic skills of calculating numbers with a spreadsheet, and then a bunch of different rates from different competing companies and simply asked “Who is offering the best deal?”  This process usually raises lots and lots of questions, and will certainly make them better consumers, better at understanding data, and better users of spreadsheets.

Edtech

Coalescent Spaces – A post from David White investigating presence in regards to physical and digital learning spaces.

My response to this in teaching and learning terms is to design pedagogy which coalesces physical and digital spaces. Accept that students can, and will, be present in multiple spaces if they have a screen with them and find ways to create presence overlaps. This is different from simply attempting to manage their attention between room to screen

President Obama Discovers Coding – Gary Stager pushes back on the latest hype around coding and technology, identifying some of the historical roadblocks as he sees it.

Computer literacy must mean the ability to do something constructive with a computer, and not merely a gen eral awareness of acts one is told about computers. A computer literate person can read and write a computer program, can select and operate software written by others, and knows from personal experience the possibilities and limitations of the computer

‘I Love My Label’: Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech – Continuing to unpack a more personal experience of edtech, Audrey Watters builds on the punk metaphor outlined by Jim Groom and Adam Croom to put forward a vision of the future less dictated by commercial algorithms and more curated by human communities. Jim Groom also provided a thorough summary of his experience at Indie Ed Tech Conference. This is fantastic post not only for Groom’s insights, but the breadth of links attached.

Indie means we don’t need millions of dollars, but it does mean we need community. We need a space to be unpredictable, for knowledge to be emergent not algorithmically fed to us. We need intellectual curiosity and serendipity – we need it from scholars and from students.

Beyond Coding – Going beyond coding and algorithms, Steve Collis discusses the future of neural networks and artificial intelligence. Along with Jason Tanz post on the end of code, these two pieces provide an interesting insight into where the future maybe headed.

Insight into the power of repeated and branching algorithms doesn’t begin to prepare us for what is essentially distributed extended cognition. Incredibly sophisticated artificial intelligence, including neural network computing, is embedded in our lives and progressing in rapid cascades.

I know how to program, but I don’t know what to program – Nano Dano critiques the common approach when addressing programming that we need to start from scratch, instead it is suggested that we start by tinkering with something that already exists. I think that this is the strength of sites such as Scratch and Github which allow you to easily fork ideas. Dave Winer talks about building on prior art.

In the software community the general attitude is “don’t reinvent the wheel.” It’s almost frowned upon if you rewrite a library when a mature and stable option exists. While it is a good rule in general, novices should not be afraid to reinvent the wheel. When it is done for learning or practice, it’s totally OK to make a wheel! It is an important part of learning

Be Careful What You Code For – danah boyd provides a different perspective on coding. Like Quinn Norton, she addresses the problem of poor code, suggesting that moving forward we need more checks and balances.

Technology can be amazingly empowering. But only when it is implemented in a responsible manner. Code doesn’t create magic. Without the right checks and balances, it can easily be misused.

What is an API? – Ben Werdmuller unpacks the world of APIs. He touches on their purpose and what they mean for the personal user. This conversation is continued in a post on Open Source.

APIs present a pragmatic solution that allows us to build on other software while saving on short-term costs. They’re not a magic wand, but used wisely, they allow us to build entirely new products and services. And maybe — just maybe — they will allow us to take control of our digital lives and build a new kind of internet.

A Domain of One’s Own in a Post-Ownership Society – Audrey Watters responds to Maha Bali’s wonderings about ownership in relationship to a Domain of One’s Own. Kate Bowles also wrote an interesting response too.

To own is to possess. To own is to have authority and control. To own is to acknowledge. It implies a responsibility. Ownership is a legal designation; but it’s something more than that too. It’s something more and then, without legal protection, the word also means something less.

Assembling ClassDojo: A sociotechnical survey of a public sphere platform – Ben Williamson provides a thorough introduction to ClassDojo. This is not necessarily a ‘HowTo’ guide, but rather what using ClassDojo actually means. From origins, to privacy, to investment, this is something of a working paper, which considers the assemblages which combine to make ClassDojo what it is. Along with Salvador Rodriguez’ post on Inc., they provide a glimpse of where the application is heading.

ClassDojo is prototypical of how education is being reshaped in a ‘platform society.’ This sociotechnical survey of the ClassDojo assemblage provides some sense of its messy complexity as an emerging public sphere platform that has attained substantial success and popularity in education. Approached as a sociotechnical assemblage, ClassDojo is simultaneously a technical platform that serves a variety of practical, pedagogical and social functions; an organizational mosaic of engineers, marketers, product managers and other third party providers and partners; the subject of a wider regulatory environment and also a bit-part actor in new policy networks; the serious object for financial investment in the ed-tech marketplace; and a mediator of diverse expert psychological, neuroscientific and behavioural scientific knowledges and discourses pertaining to contemporary schooling and learning.

Hal, is in the House – John Mikton wonders what happens in a world where a kindergarteners answer to inquiry questions is to simply ask Siri. It also makes me wonder about the voice of students and what say they are able to have in this future. Greg Thompson also touched upon the place of digital education in his discussion of the various structural issues.

Coming to terms with these exponential changes takes time to digest. As educators, we need to understand that engagement and critical thinking are vital components of education, especially as AI shifts the classroom narrative. The ethical issues which surround these exponential changes are here now. The complacency that schools engage with in the discourse of what it means to be in a world dominated by AI is a tension we cannot ignore.

Sharing/Ownership ≠ Empowerment – It can be easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding connected learning, however as Maha Bali highlights, things are often far more complicated than we like to recognise. To ignore this often suppresses a whole community of voices. This reminds me of Chris Wejr’s post on sharing in online spaces.

Our discourses often don’t reflect the complexity of this and we cheer and celebrate when we use terms like ownership, sharing, participation, agency. No. Adding one student to a committee with 5 faculty and 2 administrators isn’t empowering. Creating a committee of 6 students isn’t empowering. Emancipation is much harder work and it’s a long process that will always need to be reevaluated.

Digital literacy can be an insurgency – Bryan Alexander discusses the active nature of digital literacies, highlighting the problems with the idea of digital citizenship. Alexander suggests that  digital often counters our usual notion of democracy and civility, instead providing the tools to speak out. It is this lack of control that often puts people off. Interestingly, this proactive citizen is at the heart of what Gert Biesta describes as the democratic citizen. It is also represented in the documentary on Aaron Swartz.

This is one reason digital literacy has a hard time growing.  It represents the potential to empower students to challenge each other and instructors, as well as become insurgent outside of class, as with my student’s homoerotic paper.  Not all faculty find this a desirable or even tolerable thing.  How many teachers and professors spend time trying to maintain or expand their authority?  Conversely, how many were trained on how to teach an actually interactive class?  How many of are thrilled when students grow into their agency and act upon it?

Storytelling and Reflection

On Ideology – Greg Thompson explores the topic of ideology and explains how we are all ideological.

As I read it, everything we believe is already ideological because we are necessarily social (for example, through language). Saying this, however, does not  imply that any position held is necessarily right or wrong, rather that within the ontological and epistemological assumptions of any belief system ideology invariable precedes consciousness. For this reason, I don’t mind being called ideological (of course I am) or suggesting that others are ideological (of course they are).

A Minimum Viable Product Is Not a Product, It’s a Process – Yevgeniy (Jim) Brikman provides a different take on the usual perspective of the minimum viable product as being on a single trajectory. I elaborated on what the Lean Methodology might offer education here.

This, in a nutshell, is the MVP process. Whether you’re developing a product design, marketing plan, or writing code, always ask: What is my riskiest assumption? What is the smallest experiment I can do to test this assumption.

Trouble Brewing at Snake Mountain High – Jon Andrews provides a satire reflecting on the current state of education, with the battle between autonomy and edu-businesses. This was also the seed for a whole collection of posts, including The index-cardification of education, A pedagogy of Astro Boy: education and social justice, The Missing Superheroes and Skeletor Loves it When Planning Comes Together.

I’m not paying you to think. I’m paying you to do. We don’t have time for all this PD guff, collaboration, staff voice and the like. Look, I’ve seen enough. You have your work cut out turning this place around. I want no excuses – from you or the students. I want a return on investment.

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems – George Monbiot gives an explanation to Donald Trump, the Panama Papers and the stock exchange. For a focus on neoliberalism and education, see David Price’s post on forced freedom. While Will Davies also provides a useful post exploring some of the complexities associated with neoliberalism.

Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

50 Shades of Open – Jeffrey Pomerantz and Robin Peek investigate what exactly is meant by the notion of ‘open’. They unpack ideas around open source, open access, open society, open knowledge, open government and open washing. A journal entry published at First Monday, this is one of those pieces that you can come back again and again.

This essay is probably only the opening gambit in attempts to disambiguate this term. We have merely opened the door on the many uses of the word ”open;“ as the use of the word grows, others must opine.

The Revolution Won’t Necessarily Be Televised – Dan Haesler reviews ABC’s documentary Revolution School. Personally, I think that it may be better considered Renaissance School, a rebirthing of the past, rather than anything truly revolutionary.

I was left underwhelmed because there was very little in the show that could be seen as being revolutionary. Whilst it might have documented a wide-reaching change in conditions, attitudes or operations at Kambrya, the claim that Revolution School would “serve as a lesson for all schools in Australia,” might be seen as a tad patronising.

#WalkOn – Along with The Beauty of Dreams, Steve Brophy’s provocation is a challenge for everyone to take up. This is linked with CoLearn MeetUp, an exploration of educational alternatives.

‘Walk on’ was the real message for delegates.  In education, we need more educators to ‘walk on’ and take on new challenges, to rethink pedagogy, reimagine school and to grow our collective voice.  We all battle our inner self when it comes to new opportunities.  Talk ourselves out of going for something, self defeat with our own negative self-talk but why?  Why do we do that to ourselves?  Your value is needed, your voice counts and we need all educators to #WalkOn.

Dear Kathy … – Bec Spink finds cause for celebration in a educational dialogue that is often filled with cynicism and pessimism. This in part reminds me of the debate that brewed up around Will Richardson’s post about revolution verses reformation.

There are schools and educators out there that are pushing the boundaries of the traditional system, that are asking questions, that are making change. Let’s share and celebrate those stories. The more we can do of that, the more others will notice, perceptions will change. If you disagree with the last sentence, then I am so happy you have chosen a different career pathway. The minute I become cynical or pessimistic about the work I do is the minute I will know it is time to move on. I hope it never happens.

Leading for Inquiry Learning – Kath Murdoch collects together her thoughts on leading inquiry.

They are in no particular order, but are an attempt to capture the essence of what this kind of leadership is all about….

  • Relationships are at the heart of all we do.
  • Questions are the inquiry leader’s most powerful tool.
  • Inquiry leaders need to be inquirers- they need to be willing to learn, they are people with a growth mindset – they view learners ( children and adults) as potentially capable, curious and creative!
  • Wonder, joy and passion are contagious.Passionate leaders inspire passionate staff.Pedagogy – not programs – help learners develop as inquirers. Programs can support the pedagogy but attention to pedagogy comes first.
  • Nurturing all teachers as inquirers builds a strong, whole school inquiry culture.
  • Cultivating curiosity in our teachers – about the world, about their kids, about themselves and about learning is critical to the success of an inquiry school.
  • When we see teaching itself AS inquiry – we change the way we think about our work and the way we view ourselves in the classroom
  • Collaborative planning is all about inquiring into the needs and interests of our learners  – and responding accordingly
  • The principles that underpin inquiry in the classroom apply equally to teacher learning.
  • When schools see themselves as ‘communities of inquiry’ everyone is a teacher, everyone is a learner.
  • Nurturing the ‘whole teacher’  means we balance personal and professional care and build stronger, more trusting teams.
  • True collaboration requires time.  When we consciously build our skill set for effective collaboration – our planning and teaching is strengthened.
  • Effective planning for inquiry takes time – people need space and time for the kind of deeper conversations from which powerful teaching is born
  • Standards/outcomes should inform our planning rather than drive it. Our students’ needs are the driver
  • It is not the leader’s role to make the plans.  Plans are powerful when they are co-constructed rather than imposed.

The ‘Non-Negotiables’ of Next Generation Learning – Greg Miller reflects on his recent visits to various schools and wonders when we will reach a time when students will be able to identify their development in regards collaboration and creativity. Along with Robert Schuetz wondering whether we should teach students email, Dan Haesler’s question as to whether schools kill learning, Dave Cormier’s challenge as to what sort of learning are we educating for and Corrie Barclay’s discussion of deep learning, they offer an interesting provocation about what matters in schools today and tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong, as I have already stated, I am impressed with how students articulate their learning. I am also encouraged by leaders in schools who ensure there are references to skills such as creativity, collaboration, communication and team work as a part of their formal assessment and reporting. However, it is not yet mainstream for schools to assess and report (I would rather the words “observe and feedback”) to parents about the ‘non-negotiables’.

No Excuses and the Pinball Kids – Tom Sherrington adds his voice to the debate around ‘no excuses’ in regards to behaviour management. It is a useful post in that Sherrington touches on the nuances of something too often painted black and white.

Within the 10% there is a small % – maybe up to 30 students out of 1000 – who simply hit the boundaries all week long.  They get knocked from sanction to sanction, from meeting to meeting, from intervention to intervention, without their behaviours changing. They’re trying, we’re all trying but there are only so many detentions you can sit. We’re way beyond excuses here…these are not bad people; they just find life difficult and need a lot of support to manage time, relationships, learning, concentration. The weekly Support Planning Meeting between our SEN team, Behaviour team and Heads of School is one part of a matrix of provision planning that looks to support these students. ‘No excuses’ is way off the map in terms of being relevant here. Nobody is making excuses; they’re too busy trying to find solutions.

Hypothetical learning styles (modalities) – There has been a lot written about the problems associated with learning styles lately. See for example Mark Johnson’s satirical post or Stephen Dinham’s critique. This post from Charlotte Pezaro reframes the discussion around learning opportunities and asks us to instead consider the possibilities.

My argument against learning styles is an argument against limiting the learning experiences of our students. It does not mean that I expect that all students learn the same information in the same way all the time, and I definitely do not see this as a reason to move toward didactic pedagogies in which we expect that learners can just be told what they need to learn. I very much believe that no teaching or learning strategy has a guaranteed outcome in all cases all of the time (or even most cases, most of the time). Teachers must be experts in pedagogy, and know, understand, and be practised at a wide range of strategies and approaches to teaching and learning. A teacher is in the best position to decide, in negotiation with students and their families where appropriate and possible, what approaches and strategies will be best for any given learning objective.

FOCUS ON … Reading

As a final focus for the year, here is summary of the books that I have read this year:

  • The Thinking Teacher by Oliver Quinlan – A book of questions and beginnings, it touches on a range of educational topics, such as the lenses we apply, the purpose to learning, planning for learning and what might constitute success.
  • Counting What Counts – This collection of essays offers many different means of measuring attributes, such as diversity, personality traits, motivation, creativity, entrepreneurship, global competences and social networks, with each critiqued in regards to their strengths and weaknesses as to what they offer.
  • Now You See It by Cathy Davidson – Going against the grain that technology is somehow hampering culture and society, Davidson asserts that the brain is constantly evolving and always has. The challenge is recognising the brain’s patterns and breaking with those that are no longer of use.
  • Learning with e’s by Steve Wheeler – A book about learning, told through the lens of technology and transformation.
  • The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller – Focusing on independence, this book provides an outline for how to empower students to lead their own reading.
  • Flourish by Martin Seligman – Breaking the myth that positive psychology is simply about happiness, this book unpacks the five key elements associated with well-being – positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and achievement.
  • Mindstorms by Seymour Papert – More than a book about coding, this book challenges you to completely reimagine the how we learn and why we do it.
  • The Changing Face of Modern Leadership by David Culberhouse – With no promises of off-the-shelf answers or solutions, this book is a guide into the unknown world of change and transformation, crammed full of questions to consider when taking that next step.
  • Punished by Rewards by Alfie Kohn – Going beyond carrots and punishment, this book argues that our focus should be about setting up the conditions for learning, which needs to address three questions – content, collaboration and choice.
  • The Lean Startup by Eric Ries – A guide for going lean and thinking like an entrepreneur, it provides a number of processes to support the change process and scale innovation.
  • Building Background Knowledge for Academic Achievement by Robert Marzano – Going beyond the ideal of providing regular field trips and mentors within the community, this book outlines two indirect approaches for supporting student learning: virtual experiences and direct instruction.
  • Information Doesn’t Want to Be Free by Cory Doctorow – Focusing on the choices that are so often dictated onto society by governments and large corporations, this book captures a dystopian side of technology too often overlooked in the mainstream media.
  • #SchoolOfThought by Dan Haesler – Touching on topics ranging from mindsets, youth suicide, educational technology, digital footprints, future employment, engagement and positive psychology, this book captures well-being in and out of the school.
  • Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus by Douglas Rushkoff – This book provides a vision for a future built around the exchange of value, rather than the extraction of capital.
  • Program or be Programmed by Douglas Rushkoff – More than the engineering that goes into our day to day existence, this book is about the operating system of the world we live in and the inherent biases that are built into the platforms and devices we use each and every day.
  • Claim Your Domain by Audrey Watters – More than the mechanics of a domain of one’s own, the focus of this book is on what it actually means to exist in a digital world and why we need to take more control of our presence.
  • Anywhere Anytime Learning by Bruce Dixon and Susan Einhorn – Split into three sections – planning, implementation and resources – this book is a compilation of material designed to support schools with the integration of technology to aid learning.
  • Participatory Culture in a Networked Era by Henry Jenkins, Mimi Ito and danah boyd – A unique book in that it was compiled from a series of conversations, this book is best considered as a collection of thoughts that you could easily pick up in pieces or come back to again and again.
  • The Lights in the Tunnel by Martin Ford – Using the metaphor of lights in a tunnel to represent economic interrelations, this book draws a picture of an automated future where demand for good is considerably curtailed.
  • The Rise of the Robots by Martin Ford – Detailing the rise of automation over time, this book outlines a number of possible futures and the choices that we have.
  • The Connected Educator by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall – Through a mixture of anecdotes, elaborations and questions, this book provides a thorough introduction to becoming more connected.
  • The Differentiated Classroom by Carol Ann Tomlinson – Going beyond the usual what, how and why, this book explores the culture, environment and curriculum required to truly differentiate in the classroom.
  • Renegade Leadership by Brad Gustafson – More than just a guide to innovative edtech leadership, this book is first and foremostly about values and the importance of starting with why.
  • Teaching Crowds by Jon Dron and Terry Anderson – Focusing on three key modes of learning – sets, nets and groups – this book unpacks some of the different ways that people gather within online spaces.
  • A Learner’s Paradise: A Learner’s Paradise: How New Zealand Is Reimagining Education by Richard Wells – A celebration of New Zealand education system, this book recounts the trust invested in teachers, the power of connections, the celebration of culture and the level of support provided via various government and nonprofit agencies.
  • Makers by Cory Doctorow – Mashing together 3D printing and startup culture, this novel never stays the same for very long as it captures many of the absurdities of today’s society.
  • Good Education in an Age of Measurement by Gert Biesta – Moving beyond the individualistic process of learning, this book is about the three contrasting purposes of education – qualification, socialisation and subjectification.
  • The End of Average by Todd Rose – Describing the invention and progressive adoption of the average over time, this book makes the case Individuality by focusing on three elements: jaggedness, context and pathways.

So what about you? What have you read this year? Are there any posts that you would add to the list? Or maybe there is a book that really changed your thinking? As always, comments welcome.


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REVIEW: The Connected Educator

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

The Connected Educator, by Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach and Lani Ritter Hall, provides a thorough introduction to becoming more connected. Through a mixture of anecdotes, elaborations and questions, the authors invite those wishing to adapt their practice for a participatory culture made possible by Web 2.0. Although technology plays its part throughout, this book is about the educator as learner first and in the process taking control of their own professional development.

At the heart of this change are three layers integral to the connected learning communities:

Although it can be easy to treat these layers in isolation, the reality is that each influences the other in their own way. For example, deep inquiry fostered within a community of practice is often fed by the breadth of sources and connections derived from the personalised learning network, while professional learning communities often add context and purpose to the process.

A different way of appreciating these connections and  communities is that each support the construction of knowledge. As Nussbaum-Beach and Ritter Hall explain,

Connected learning allows the learner to construct knowledge through passive (knowledge for), active (knowledge in), and reflective (knowledge of) strategies.

This is a significant change from the consumption of knowledge perpetuated through the implementation of off-the-shelf instruction models and pre-conceived curriculum.

The adjustment from top-down reform to more organic and agile learning environments brings a set of challenges, particularly in regards to leadership and the building of trust. According to Nussbaum-Beach and Ritter Hall, this comes back to the question of collegiality. Whether it be the development of relationships or a willingness to share openly, much of this is not possible without a sense of community and a belief in distributed leadership.

Having said all of this, I had a few frustrations with the book. Firstly, such a heavy focus on applications is always going to risk dating quickly. Although most of the applications discussed are still active, there were quite a few missing, such as Voxer, news aggregation and newsletters. In addition to this, there were few alternatives provided, especially in regards to open source options. The second concern I had was the lack of critical discourse around the use of various applications and the scraping of data. I am not sure if this is a consequence of being written in a pre-Snowden era or whether it simply did not fit the scope of the book.

In the end, I felt that The Connected Educator is one of those books I wished I had discovered earlier, especially in regards to my work around communities of practice. Yet in some ways I feel that although I may not have read the book until now, I had experienced its message through some sort of digital osmosis, often via other people’s support and writing.

Like Will Richardson’s Master Teacher to Master Learner and Steve Wheeler’s Learning with E’s, The Connected Educator offers a useful starting point for those wishing to take a stand for the children we serve and choose to be powerful.

DISCLOSURE: I read this book as a precursor to working with Sheryl Nausbaum-Beach. Apparently everyone has read it and therefore I felt compelled.


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