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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Googling Libraries

The future of libraries is in research

A collection of ways Google G Suite for Education can be used in the library, including the creation of digital spaces, supporting research, organising thinking and making connections beyond the classroom.


One of the areas that the team that I work in supports is GSuite. This year we have looked to provide for some different stakeholders within school, one of which are librarians. I have written before about the future of libraries, touching on ideas of a hybrid learning space always open. Here then are some further thoughts on the ways that GSuite can support these changes:

Spaces

A significant change in recent times has been the development of virtual spaces. David White describes this intersection between the physical and digital as a coalescent space. Google provides a number of options including: Sites, Plus, Classroom and Blogger. Each application has its own set of features and affordances.

(New) Google Sites is a static website builder that allows a lot of drop and drag. It offers a number of possibilities. It is also now found within Google Drive and allows users to embed a wide range of content. One of the limitations is the ability to converse and the use of mobile platforms to create and update.

Another option is Google Plus. Like Facebook and Facebook Pages, Plus provides the means to create communities where people can meet and share. These can be both public and private. Additionally, Plus allows users to organise resources in collections.

A development over recent years has been Google Classroom. This space allows many of the features of Plus communities, but in a closed environment. A recent addition to classroom has been the ability to engage across domains.

The original Google space is Blogger. One of the original blogging platforms, Blogger allows for an open and dynamic presentation of content. This could be a shared space for different writers, a place to collect links or a space to document news and updates.

There are so many options for spaces. However, rather than choosing one or the other, sometimes the best option is combining different solutions, whether it be a Site and a G+ community or a blog and a Classroom space.

Further Reading

Research.

In an age of abundance, customised content and fake news, one of the more important roles for a library is to develop digital citizenship. For David White, this is about being an “expert at navigating content, not owning it.” A common use of libraries then is to support research and investigation. Google provides a number of tools to support this, such as:

Google has also created a range of material to support the development of research skills. This includes a Power Searching Course, Search Literacy Lesson Plans and the game-based A Google A Day

Another collection of strategies comes via Mike Caulfield and his work around fact checking. In his book Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers, Caulfield outlines four key strategies:

  • Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  • Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.

  • Read laterally: Read laterally.[1] Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.

  • Circle back: If you get lost, or hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

This book also explains how to use Google Books to track down quotes and use reverse image search to find the origin of an image.

To support these strategies, Caulfield also started a new site, Four Moves. This has been designed to provide prompts and practice to support students with the act of fact checking.

It is often stated that the best firewall is the human sitting using the computer. That is part of the reason Google developed Be Internet Awesome, a program designed to support students to be better online citizens. It is organised around five fundamentals – being smart, alert, strong, kind and brave – and mixes together a curriculum with a series of game-based activities.

It is important to note that Digital citizenship can mean many things to many people. Sometimes the best thing to do is start by defining what it means within your own content.

Further Reading

  • Google Search Presentation – Anthony Speranza provides some tricks to making the most of searching with Google.
  • Be Internet Awesome – A range of resources developed by Google to help kids be safe, confident explorers of the online world.
  • Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers – Mike Caulfield provides a range of strategies, tactics and tools, which, properly used, can get students closer to the truth of a statement or image.
  • Four Moves – A collection of activities to support Caulfield’s work with fact checking and digital citizenship.

Beyond Book Reports

The traditional perception of the library are rows and rows of books and with this the age old practice of standard book reports. It would be therefore easy to use technology to just reproduce this. The problem though is it fails to recognise new possibilities associted with the various features and affordances.

One possibility is to explore place using the range of geo tools. Whether it be plotting a narrative with Google Tour Builder, going on a Lit Trip with Google Earth, collating books from around the world with My Maps, exploring places with Google Cardboard or testing your knowledge with Smarty Pins.

Another potential is to use Google Forms to gather student reviews and then publish these with Awesome Tables. These reviews could even be audio or video recordings, collected using the file upload question format. Videos could even be played within a Google Slide, therefore avoiding the need to upload to YouTube.

HyperDocs provide another way of rethinking how students respond to books. They are documents which incorporate different interactive activities, usually involving a range of choice. They help provide the structure for self-determined learners. A creative activity involving hyperlinks is the making of a ‘choose your own adventure’ story. Another format to support thinking and research is the Iron Chef Lesson Plan, which involves working collaboratively to develop ideas and understanding.

Further Reading

Thinking

Libraries are often the space within a school which provides the possibility to go beyond the subject silos. In regards to curriculum, this provides the opportunity to explore other areas, such as the critical and creative thinking curriculum.

Google provides a number of ways to make our critical thinking visible. This can come in many formats, whether it be conducting brainstorms, organising ideas using graphic templates or representing understanding using infographics. For creative responses, you can make poems or digital comics. Two tools useful for working collaboratively with text and visuals are Drawings and Slides.

Gone are the days of libraries being silent spaces dedicated to independent reading and reaearch. Now they are spaces design to spark conversation and creativity. A part of this is the inclusion of makerspaces, but another change is the addition of games and a focus on collaborative problem solving. One possibility in this area is BreakoutEDU. Based on the escape room, BreakoutEDU provides a way of engaging with the wider space, but they can also be a way of developing critical thinking. An extension of this are digital BreakoutEDU experiences.

Further Reading

Connected Classroom

The move of libraries into the digital realm not only opens learning up into different spaces, but it also provides different connected opportunities outside of the school.

Hangouts Meet allows for synchronous video connections beyond the four walls of the classroom. This could include sending out an impromptu invite or scheduling an event beforehand. Whereas previously recordings had to be done using YouTube Live, users can now record with Meet and save to Drive. Virtual connections can be used to connect different classrooms, conduct virtual debates or provide an alternative point of access to classroom material.

Google provides a number ways for sharing video for asyncronius connections. This could be as simple as a presentation with Slides or content added to a blog. Another possibility often overlook is the ability to create a shared channel in YouTube. This allows multiple people to manage things and passing on content if they leave. In addition to uploading video, a channel can be used to share curated playlists of appropriate content. An important topic with the increasing influence of algorithms on what is shown on YouTube.

Further Reading


So there it is, a breakdown of some ways that Google can be incorporated into the library. One thing to be mindful of is not every application is covered by the standard collection notice. I have also excluded some that I am unsure about from educational sense, such as Google Books, as they do not seem to be available in Australia.

So what about you? Would you have structured things differently? Or maybe you have an activity that could be added? Or even a resource? As always, comments welcome or you could even write your own post and send me a webmention.


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Blogging

A collection of resources associated with blogging


Why Blog?

Back to (Blogging) Basics

Eight aspects to consider when starting out in the blogosphere, including why, what, how, portability, added content, community connections and workflow.

I Blog Therefore I Am

A collection of thoughts regards the benefits of blogging.

Blogging Starts with Why

There is so much written about why to blog, this post starts with finding your reason.

Developing a Blog

Often blogs are spoken about as some sort of fixed entity. Sadly, this focuses on the what overlooks how and why we blog in the first place.

Why Blogging Still Matters

With the rise of various social media spaces in education, such as Facebook and Google+, blogs matter more than ever for they offer control and privacy that other spaces do not provide.

The Many Faces of Blogging

Some break blogging down into tasks or unpacking the response. However, we often overlook the purpose and intent behind them.

5 Ways to Change the World Yesterday

Why associated with blogging starts with me, but it is through sharing that ideas and thinking are given the possibility to grown and develop,

Blogging in the Classroom

A reflection on my experiences of blogging in the classroom.

There is More Than One Way to Write a Blog

Often it is presumed that there is only one way to write a blog, this post unpacks some other possibilities, including as a means of collecting links and resources.

Sharing the Load of Blogging In and Out of the Classroom

Exploring the different possibilities and potentials of collaborative blogging beyond the classroom.

Sharing the Load of Blogging

A reflection on the idea of a collaborative school blog to share practice.

So Everyone Has a Blog, Now What?

This is a short post on the importance of having a reason to blog, not just focusing on the platform.

Read Write Wikity

Continuing to explore different ideas and opportunities associated with blogging, I collected together some reflections on setting up my own instance of Wikity.


Which Platform?

A Guide to Blogging Platforms and their Niches

A summary of some of the different blogging services available, what they enable and where their biases lie. Included are an array of resources to support.

Creating a Deliberate Social Media Space for Students in School

To support students in regards to digital citizenship, use WordPress to create a social space, therefore gaining more control over online presence

Picking a Portfolio Platform

A summary of some potential platforms for student portfolios.

Starting with Edublogs from Scratch

I have discussed the benefits of blogging with Global2, as well as some of the intricacies, however, I have not unpacked how to get started.

Introduction to Blogging with Global2

Some of the possibilities for blogging with Global2/Edublogs, as well as a list of resources to with getting going.

A Global2 Guide

Global2 provides the usual functionality of WP, with the added benefits of moderation, filtering, class management and network admin. This is my guide to getting going.


How To Engage?

To Comment or Not To Comment? Is that the Question

There are many out there who say blogging is dead and that this is best epitomised in lack of dialogue and conversation. This post provides a different perspective by reframing the question.

What Makes a Comment?

A question that does not get asked often enough is what it actually means to comment and what might it mean to bring the comment back?

Reading Texts is Easy, especially When You Listen to Them

Although not directly on blogging, it captures some different ways to listen to blogs, rather than read them.

Ten Step Guide to Being Connected

An attempt at a guide to getting connected. Having a blog as a place for people to hear your story is an essential part of it.

A Guide to Following Blogs

A post that explains some different ways to follow a blog, including subscribing, via an RSS Reader or an automated recipe using a platform like IFTTT.

Are You Really Connected If You Are Not Giving Back

One of the challenges with a participatory environment is that without contributions there is no network. So it begs the question, are you really connected if you are not giving back?


Reflection

Read, Write, Respond

A reflection on the decisions associated with beginning a blog.

A Blog for All Seasons

Different blogging platforms enable different possibilities. Here is an account of some examples that I have created over time.

Uncanny Reflections on a Year Blogging

Memories forgotten can often haunt us when later uncovered. This post is about three posts that had this effect.

My Secret Art of Blogging

An extended response to Naomi Barnes’ post exploring the act of writing. It is an insight into the process of writing, not the usual why.

Reflecting on the Voices in the Village

Rather than look back at the number of hits to measure the impact, here is a collection of comments from readers collected across the year.


#IndieWeb

My #IndieWeb Reflections

My initial notes and reflections associated with the IndieWeb

Co-claiming and Gathering Together – Developing Read Write Collect

A reflection on developing a site building upon the ideas of the #IndieWeb to bring together all my disparate pieces around the web in one place.

Zen and the Art of Blog Maintenance

A reflection on my recent challenges associated with maintaining a blog and an explanation of why I persist in doing it.

Managing Content Through Canonical Links

One of the challenges with the web can be managing content across multiple sites, one answer, create canonical links and share from there.

Hidden in the Code

A collection of code that I often turn to when working with WordPress and the IndieWeb

Laying the Standards for a Blogging Renaissance

With the potential demise of social media, does this offer a possible rebirth of blogging communities and the standards they are built upon?

A Kind of Emoji

A reflection on using emojis as a way to provide visual information about blog posts and post kinds.

Reclaiming My Bookmarks

A reflection on using my own blog to reclaim my bookmarks and then syndicate them to other sites, such as Twitter and Diigo.


Creating Content

Creating Images for Blogs

A list of programs with their positives and negatives for making visual quotes to add to blogs and other social media platforms.

Who’s Telling Your Story

An introduction to Storify, a platform that allows you to curate tge content a number of social media platforms and then embed it within a blog.

Powering Up Your Blog by Adding Content

Incorporate different content, such as video, GIFs and audio, in order to improve engagement and communicate using a different voice.

A Guide to Visualisations

There are so many different forms of visuals that you can add to a blog, from a mind map to a sketchnote, each adding to the mental image of the reader.

Making My Own Maps with Google Apps

Another point of contact to embed in a blog.

An Introduction to GIFs

A guide to creating and sharing GIFs.

My Awesome Reading List

Using Awesome Tables to create a more dynamic organisation of content for blogs.

Creating Video Content

Some applications for creating video content, with examples to support.


Reviews

Claim Your Domain

A review of Audrey Watters book on why it is important to claim our presence online and some steps to going about it.

School of Thought

A review of Dan Haesler ‘s book. Although not solely about blogging, he touches on it throughout.

Master Teacher to Master Learner

A review of Will Richardson’s book unpacking connected learning. Blogging is an important part of this.

Things Are Not Always As They Seem

A collection of short reviews, including a comment on Clive Thompson’s Smarter Than You Think and David Weinberger’s To Big to Know

(Re)Claiming My Space on the Web

A reflection on my experience of blogging with Reclaim Hosting so far.

Looking for a Local Perspective on Blogging

In response to AITSL’s dismal attempt to provide a list of bloggers for educators to read, this is my attempt to capture a local perspective.


Other Resources

Diigo Library

Blogs to FollowSheet to work with


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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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