Know Thy Limit – A Reflection on Myths and Solutions

Quote about Mythologies

This post is a reflection on the wolves introduced into Yellowstone National Park and the problems associated with focusing on supposed simple solutions

I recently came across this post from Aaron Hogan reflecting upon the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. I too have written about the connections between rewilding and education, discussing the possibilities of removing barriers designed to limit top-level predators. Hogan three points about the impact the wolves are:

A pack had an unmistakable impact on the park.

These wolves had no idea about the scale of their impact.

The wolves can’t not have an impact on the park.

Basically, it seems that the wolves worked collaboratively to make a difference. That seems pretty fair. The only problem is that, as with most things, the reality of the wolves is so much more complicated.

In an article in the New York Times, Arthur Middleton unpacks the great American myth surrounding the wolves in Yellowstone. He believes far too much has been invested in the role the wolves have had.

We now know that elk are tougher, and Yellowstone more complex, than we gave them credit for. By retelling the same old story about Yellowstone wolves, we distract attention from bigger problems, mislead ourselves about the true challenges of managing ecosystems, and add to the mythology surrounding wolves at the expense of scientific understanding.

Middleton instead seeks to paint a more complicated picture:

A few small patches of Yellowstone’s trees do appear to have benefited from elk declines, but wolves are not the only cause of those declines. Human hunting, growing bear numbers and severe drought have also reduced elk populations. It even appears that the loss of cutthroat trout as a food source has driven grizzly bears to kill more elk calves. Amid this clutter of ecology, there is not a clear link from wolves to plants, songbirds and beavers.

I think that this same concerns could also be raised in regards to education.

Hogan makes the point that:

A pack had an unmistakable impact on the park.

It is often assumed that doing things together makes a difference. The problem with this is that it is not the doing things together which makes the difference, rather it is what is done and how. As Alma Harris states in Distributed Leadership Matters:

Too much of what passes for professional collaboration equates with loose or unfocused professional groupings, partnerships, or networks.

Take a simple example, holding a meeting with two or twenty will make no difference if those in the group are not adequately given the opportunity to add their voice, where instead only one person speaks the whole time. In some ways this touches on John Hattie’s argument that class size has little impact if it is not also attached with a change in pedagogy.

This then leads to a second point, that Of change. Hogan states that:

The wolves can’t not have an impact on the park.

However, what is overlooked is everything else that can have an impact as well. Here I am reminded of Pernille Ripp’s recent reflection on reading programs. Too often, like the wolves, they are seen as the solution, a point made all too clear in a recent EdTech survey. However, as Ripp highlights, they are only one part of a bigger puzzle. This is something made clearer using the Modern Learning Canvas:

Using this sort of framework means that there is nothing outside of context. Everything is a part of the assemblage, as Ian Guest recently highlighted:

Bringing a sociomaterial sensibility built on actor-network theory to this study positions me in a particular way. This eschews the notion of a pre-existent reality ‘out-there’ waiting for the knowing subject to discover and explain it. Nor is reality constructed by the distant researcher through a set of discursive practices. Instead, reality is performative, brought into being as a result of the relationships which form and reform when actors, both human and nonhuman, intra-act. As a researcher of and with teachers using Twitter then, I am entangled with a heterogenous mix of educators, software platforms, digital devices, terms of service, time zones, screens, hashtags and notifications. What emerges from the study depends on the knowledge practices which are brought to bear, but these do not solely involve a researcher, research participants and standard qualitative methods, but also an eclectic mix of other nonhuman actors. Together their relational performances constitute ‘methods assemblage’ (Law, 2004), where different realities become enacted depending on the actors which participate. One implication might be that this should not be statement of my positionality, but of ours.

This sphere of influence includes both humans and non-humans in an interconnected web of influence. Therefore, everything has an influence and to isolate one part will always be problematic.

Reading the work of people like Benjamin Doxtdator, Naomi Barnes, Ben Williamson, Jon Andrews, Audrey Watters and Maha Bali has taught me the importance of being critical. I am not saying that teachers do not have an impact or that collaboration does not have the potential of being positive, but it is difficult to separate these things from the wider context. In some respects, Middleton’s post left me wondering what impact Yellowstone itself has had on the wolves? As Yellowstone can’t not have an impact, right?

As always, comments welcome and webmentions too.

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Reflecting on the Voices in the Village 2017

Comments are the power of the village

A reflection on the comments on my blog(s) that have pushed my thinking this year

So often at this time of year people publish lists of posts that received the most views, what interests me though is not the number of hits on my site, but the comments that have pushed my thinking. As Robert Schuetz explains,

Comments are like the marshmallows in Lucky Charms, the sugary goodness that adds flavor to our day. Comments turn posts into conversations.

For the last two years (2015 and 2016) I have looked back at this sugary goodness. Below then is a summary of the comments that I received in 2017. For those whose words they are, thank you. For those that I may have missed, sorry.

Context is crucial in shaping everything we do.

George Gilchrist in response to There Are Many Parts to Redefining Schools

Idt’s complicated. A topic in isolation can provide focus, yet only in isolation is artificial. Focus should maximise learning.

John Casanova in response to There Are Many Parts to Redefining Schools

I hadn’t really noticed it until now but I do use the Eisenhower Method. In my early career I worked as a clerk in an investment and I kinda flipped this idea around and called it “prioritising based on what tasks have the capacity to cause us the most amount of pain” (but in more colourful language).

Response to Getting Work Done

Glad you like Blood Meridian, and I second the idea that this one will remain indelibly burnt on my imagination. The passage of the horribles is enough to make the hair on my neck stand at attention.

Jim Groom in response to They Kept on Teaching

Switch by Dan & Chip Heath is a great choice, in my opinion. The section on motivate the elephant connects with your quote from S. Sinek above. Take a look at my ThingLink I made after reading Switch.

Dan Gallagher in response to Reading Leadership

Every conference and workshop these days seems to include, and rightfully so, discussions of flexible, engaging, physical learning spaces. We also need to spend time learning more about digital learning spaces. What makes them interactive, engaging, and impactful? You’ve introduced key elements of a new area of study, “modern geography” perhaps?

Robert Schuetz in response to V is for Visuals

Images are a part of today’s culture — so finding ways to create a visual style that resonates with people is a quick and easy way to communicate messages that resonate. In fact, without visuals, I’m not sure that you can really communicate effectively in today’s world. That raises a huge question: What are we doing to teach kids to create provocative visuals?

Bill Ferriter in response to V is for Visuals

I remember Bob Sutton’s books really impacted my work as a principal, most notably Scaling Up Excellence and Good Boss, Bad Boss… along with his other NSF edu-titled book

Lyn Hilt in response to Reading Leadership

I appreciate your response to Couros, whose original post seemed to focused on ’personal branding’ as a way of marketing the self which can close off possibilities for being an active citizen online. The idea that we should have our ’professional purposes’ first in mind when we are online leads to the relative silence of many edtech / innovation gurus on political issues (Audrey Watters has written about this), which is an ironically inauthentic use of social media.

Benjamin Doxtdator in response to Supporting Digital Identities in School

The #edublogsclub series has me wrestling with a deeper question, “do we manipulate our digital learning spaces, or do they manipulate us?” My original intent with digital V/R mapping, thank you Dave White, was to invite social interaction in the pathways of my digital footprints. What it has become is a reflection activity. Where is my education occurring? Why is it in these spaces? How is my map changing over time? Am I driving this, or is it driving me? To what degree are we responsible for our templates? The fact that I don’t know will fuel my next blog post.

Robert Schuetz in response to Supporting Digital Identities in School

The page is static, and in this fast changing environment it might be more useful to consider the role of the online identity for personal and professional purposes. Many young people can not separate what happens online and the reflection of negativity or positivity on their actual identity. We see this though tragedies caused by online bullying. Perhaps the skill of discerning online content about the self is invaluable.

Raegina Taylor in response to Supporting Digital Identities in School

Your post reminded me of a challenge I see every time Couros posts about students having those three aspects of a digital identity: no matter how much we as educators may encourage this, ultimately it is up to the students to make it part of their lives. I have been blogging with my students for some years now, and when it is not a class requirement, they stop posting. I think part of this digital presence that we want students to establish – the ”residency,” as Robert Schuetz said in the recent blog post that led me here – is not always happening where we suggest. I know my students have an online presence – but it\’s on Instagram and Snapchat, not the blogsphere. Perhaps instead of dragging kids on vacation to where we think they should set up shop, we need to start following them to their preferred residences and help them turn those into sturdy, worthy places from which to venture out into the world.

Christina Smith in response to Supporting Digital Identities in School

I think transformation means a transition from one form to another, not a complete exchange. Often I see new ideas and methods taken up with little regard for what went before. That is doomed for failure. As you say, change takes time and commitment, and definitely balance. But schools need to step us into the future, not tie us to the past. Balance with one foot on the past as we stretch forward into the future.

Norah Colvin in response to Generous Orthodoxy and Educational Change

Being mindful of the consequences is so important – and I think that’s a shortcoming of Edtech generally.

Benjamin Doxtdator in response to Breaking the EdTech Machince

Google Sheets has always been an amazingly powerful tool for me but a difficult one to get lots of people to think about outside of simple number operations.

Tom Woodward in response to Tips, Tricks and Sheets

Last year I used forms embedded in a site to have staff sign up for PD sessions, then had a master sheet that pulled in data from the sheets connected to the forms. The master sheet was then embedded on the site along with the sign-up forms, so that people could refer back to see what they’d signed up for and see what others were doing. I’m not sure that anyone used it (they still just rang me to ask. Isn’t it always the way?), but I was very pleased with the elegance of the whole setup.

Eric Jensen in response to Tips, Tricks and Sheets

You have given voice to so many through your blog. So much research and insight goes into each one and the edu community is the beneficiary!

Steve Brophy in response to Towards Collective Innovation

I think as more individuals advance their learning, while sharing and connecting with other learners, the education institution must move forward.

Robert Schuetz in response to Towards Collective Innovation

You mention the use of hashtags in the context of emotions; I never thought about that! Are you saying the hashtags are used here in a similar way to emoticons? To imbue a tweet with a sense of emotion … but perhaps with more subtlety than an emoticon might? If that is the case, why do people feel the need to do that; what’s the gain or payback? And for whom?

Ian Guest in response to Did Someone Say … Hashtags

There is no doubt that I use hashtags for the “tribes” or community purpose. Your post made me think a bit about that, and I came to the realization that that’s almost the only time I use a hashtag. Thank you for your useful analysis. Now I will need to further analyze my own use. Your post makes me think I may be avoiding hashtags.

Algot Runeman in response to Did Someone Say … Hashtags

Portfolios are a cornerstone of authentic assessment. The opportunity for reflection and longitudinal tracking drives personally impactful, transferrable learning; good for students and teachers alike.

Robert Schuetz in response to Picking a Portfolio Platform

This is a helpful typology. The enabler abdicates responsibility while authoritarian limiter allows no freedom. Mentor implies cooperation.

Benjamin Doxtdator in response to What Sort of Teacher Are You?

Is there a missing dimension? Two dimensional interpretations may prove inadequate when describing our learning networks.

Robert Schuetz in response to Making an Online Learning Hub

digciz as hospitality: one with choice: one among many; one with many; one beside many; one from many; one without many. What will I choose as the “one”?

Sheri Edwards in response to Risk of Hospitality

A balance, though, might be worth considering. Use the comments you see and hear to spur your own thoughts. Take a walk while disconnected and mix the sights and sounds of nature around you with those gleaned thoughts of others. Make something new as a result.

Algot Runeman in response to Questions for Cal

I try to notice when I am told something (or read something) I don’t fully understand, and ask questions for clarification or more information. With the world now at our fingertips there is no reason to not know what we want to know.

Norah Colvin in response to Daily Habits

Do the words of Alex Pentland help to explain why collaboration is scant in education?  The ideas of natural law that teach us that humans are basically competing all the time?

Simon Kiely in response to

I would also argue that sometimes teachers who see blogging as ‘another thing’ could do away with some old habits or practices they don’t need anymore.

Kathleen Morris in response to Obstacles Associated with Blogging

Why must it be a choice? I use both for consuming information, the mobile often for acquiring media (images, video, audio). I find most writing cumbersome (sloppy on the tiny keys, and the sheer challenges of copy/paste). One tendency is to make a line between a platform for consumption (mobile) vs creation (a “real” computer), yet that’s suspect. You can certainly create a fair amount of things on a mobile device. To a point.

Alan Levine in response to Death of the Desktop Computer?

I firmly believe that no individual device is the answer for all needs – choosing the right tool for the job, that’s the key.

Heather Bailie in response to Death of the Desktop Computer?

Bosses need to understand there is greater access to information and expertise than ever before. This makes it easier to challenge the voice of authority. Today, meaningful change occurs through crowd-sourcing.

Robert Schuetz in response to My Way or the Highway?

Personal beliefs about leadership are that they are meant to inspire and empower, not be about control and power. Sadly that is not the case in every school.

Steve Brophy in response to My Way or the Highway?

Sometimes the compromise is worth it, other times it’s better to leave and see what new opportunities arise.

Sue O’Connell in response to My Way or the Highway?

Starting PD by immediate upskilling is always my preferred plan. It’s so tempting to just grab the mic though.

Jon Corippo in response to Professional Development, Awesome or Awful?

Often those presenting (like teachers who are being ‘inspected’ as they teach) feel that they need to perform & be visible.

Dr Deborah Netolicky in response to Professional Development, Awesome or Awful?

Not sure I want awe about me or the content (but this needs to be compelling) – I want awe at their own insights through workshop experiences.

Chris Munro in response to Professional Development, Awesome or Awful?

I wonder what the effect would be if PL providers/deliverers (incl academics) would be paid only after the impact of their work is seen?

Matt Esterman in response to Professional Development, Awesome or Awful?

I think there’s a fine line between inspiring an audience, sharing moonshot ideas but not making Ts feel as though those ideas are out of reach for them and their organization. Show what’s possible without frustrating.

Lyn Hilt in response to Professional Development, Awesome or Awful?

The way sheets can pull in and parse info from the web is pretty exciting as is the way the spreadsheet can be made accessible online to other web things.

John Johnston in response to Organising Data with Forms and Sheets

Although I like tinkering and making stuff I also like things that last a long time, a bit of a tug of war in my head.

John Johnston in response to Developing a Writing Workflow

I spent many years advocating blogging in schools – espoused a variety of purposes and clear outcomes. I still advocate for them but I am met with resistance from so many. An opportunity lost in my humble opinion.

Celia Coffa in response to Blogging the Digital Technologies Curriculum

Another path would be to be fancier in Google sheets and write a formula that grabs all the month’s elements with whatever HTML/markdown wrappers you want and then make that sub-page public on the web and set a cron task and php page to grab it every month and create a post.

Robert Schuetz in response to Laying the Standards for a Blogging Renaissance

A big issue is even if we wanted to train entrepreneurs the skill set is not there for teachers to direct 100+ small enterprises.

Lucas Garth in response to Learnification and the Purpose of Education

I feel (and fear) that the silos have answered the “how do I publish this on the internet?” question so effectively, for so many people, that the impetus to learn and make things — as I learned NucleusCMS — almost two decades ago, is all but gone. Discovering content management systems and weblogging, after hand coding a clunky monthly newsletter, was almost magical. I doubt that today’s “publishers” feel anything like the same satisfaction, but I get it again from the IndieWeb.

Jeremy Cherfas in response to My #IndieWeb Reflections

You’re right that the concepts used in the IndieWeb haven’t yet solidified into something that less technical users can grasp. I guess that’s what makes it fun for more technical people to play with, and yet is a frustration for those just looking for something that works.

Malcolm Blaney in response to My #IndieWeb Reflections

Today, the easier pared-down standards that are better and simpler than either of these old and and difficult specs is simply adding Microformat classes to HTML (aka P.O.S.H) to create feeds. Unless one is relying on pre-existing infrastructure like WordPress, building and maintaining RSS feed infrastructure can be difficult at best, and updates almost never occur, particularly for specifications that support new social media related feeds including replies, likes, favorites, reposts, etc. The nice part is that if one knows how to write basic html, then one can create a simple feed by hand without having to learn the mark up or specifics of RSS.

Chris Aldrich in response to Laying the Standards for a Blogging Renaissance

I wouldn’t call it “an alternative way of working on the web”, but as the original way of working on the web. True to the methods of the original web that made all this possible.

Christopher Küttner in response to My #IndieWeb Reflections

The Thermomix as ‘all-in-one’ cooking machine strikes me as an excellent example of assemblage Aaron, perhaps even a learning assemblage. It (and the various configurations), the instructions, the ingredients which go in, the food which comes out, recipes, you, your family, are completely entangled together and assemble differently when one of these actors changes … or a new one becomes involved. An allergy that emerges in a family member would change the assemblage completely. One might argue, well OK, that doesn’t change the Thermomix, but in assemblage thinking, that wouldn’t be the point. The Thermomix is not an isolated performer in the Davis household food prep, it is part of the assemblage. If wheat or dairy products had to be excluded, then the assemblage would shift to accommodate it. One might even say it learned.

Ian Guest in response to Learning Technologies

I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Although our musical tastes differ, like you, I crave the stimulation music provides. I appreciate the algorithms Google music crunches because, with Google’s help, I am constantly expanding and diversifying my playlists. Whether it’s at the gym, in my truck, or in my office, music is part of my divided attention routines. Within the last month, I have made a daily, hour-long commitment to learning how to play guitar, fingerstyle. As a result, my listening focus has shifted to pickers like Mark Knopfler, Lindsey Buckingham, Jerry Reed, and of course, Chet Atkins. I guess I am on a quest to show old dogs can learn new tricks. Thanks for the song suggestions – I’m searching Google Music now!

Robert Schuetz in response The Music of 2017 in Review, or The Year I Discovered Jack Antonoff

I think the line about bending history into a linear narrative is very apt. I always think of Ian Hunter’s work here – the school exists as it does because it is adequate to society’s ed needs.

Greg Thompson in response to Is This the End of School as we Know It?

There is plenty of invented history in education to justify arguments for apparent new-ness, to perpetuate polarisations in debates, and to sell a ‘better way’.

Deb Netolicky in response to Is This the End of School as we Know It?

Of course, technology impacts schools, but much of what schools need to be for kids is irrespective of technology. I favor a 4th option: schools adapt to new circumstances as we find out what works and what does not.

I’m not a big believer in deliberate disruption for the sake of disruption. Schools can be improved, but it’s a mistake to think that every change is evolution. We need to take care if we care about what we end up with.

Audhilly in response to Is This the End of School as we Know It?

it’s important for us to have conversations about our values and beliefs regarding school and learning. If nothing else, it helps establish some common vocabulary in the spirit of change.

Robert Schuetz in response to Why Would You? – Using Questions to Extend Understanding

So they were some of the voices that made a difference to me last year. I must admit that I did not know where to start with my other blog, particularly my conversations with Chris Aldrich. So 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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My One Word for 2018 is Intent

Maybe goals are about intent, rather than measurable outcomes

For a couple of years now, i have been moving away from the idea of listing a whole heap of goals and new year resolutions to instead focus on one word. Goals and yearly reviews are still a practice in my workplace, but I find the structure slow and somewhat stifling.

In 2016, my word was capacity. Stemming from my experience of supporting teachers, I realised that it was no good having a whole heap of ideas and ideals if those I was working with were not in a position to take them anywhere.

Developing on this, my word in 2017 was communication. I felt that one of the challenges associated with building capacity was how to actually communicate this change. This was a message that had been made clear on a number of fronts so was therefore an obvious focus.

Ever since I wrote my reflection on communication I have been struggling to think of a word for 2018. Unlike previous years, there has not been anything that stands out. This is not to say that I do not have areas to develop, but to collect these into one word is hard.

Then I read this by Seth Godin:

You can live on old habits for a while, but the future depends on investing in finding and building some new ones with (and for) your customers. Or your family. Or yourself.

The most powerful insight is that you can do it with intent. You can decide that you want some new habits, and then go get them.

I realised that my word for 2018 is intent. For me, this is about many things, including:

  • The stories I am adding to through my actions and the choices I make or are made for me. This includes the projects and ventures I participate in.
  • Outcomes being worked towards, whether it be a better web or supporting schools with technical efficiency.
  • How I reflection upon my learning. Although this blog is a part of that process, I still need to work on being more structured.

So what about you? What is your word for 2018? Are there any books or resources that you would recommend to support mine? As always, comments welcome.

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Read Write Review – Voices from the Village in 2017

Read Write Respond

Maybe there were some things that I would have changed, however considering the current state of things, I was again pretty lucky this year.

Personally, our children have continued to grow up. The youngest has progressed from learning how to climb the ladder to get on the trampoline to now utilising a range of objects to seemingly climb anything. Nothing is out reach as I learnt when she poured my coffee all over her resulting in an ambulance trip. Our eldest also had a trip to the emergency after standing on glass. It is moments like this that I am reminded how lucky I am living in Australia to have access to a quality public health system (although we do have private cover as well.) We also went on a couple of trips, including a couple of weeks in New Zealand and a weekend in Warrnambool.

At work, I saw my role change from that of a technology coach to becoming a ‘subject matter expert’. I think when you are working within an agile project you do what needs to get done. This has included:

  • Working collaboratively in the creation of a series of online modules
  • Exploring ways to automate the creation of school timetables
  • Leading the deverlopment of a biannual reporting solution with the help of Tom Halbert
  • Comparing different models for online learning hubs
  • Increase understanding data literacy

I have enjoyed the challenges associated with my job this year, however I must say that I miss working with students and teachers. Being removed from the school environment, it can be strange telling people that I am an educator.

With my learning, I presented at two EdTechTeam Summits, the National Coaching Conference and EduChange17. I was lucky enough to be invited to present on flipped learning.I also met a few more connected educators in real life, such as Darrel Branson, Alan Levine, Richard Wells and Andrea Stringer.

In regards to my writing and thinking, I would saying that there are three themes that have existed across my posts this year:


I have wondered a lot about the complexities and parts associated with change and transformation in Education. Whether it be the conditions that are created or the questions we ask.


I have explored different ways of working and improving digital workflows, whether it be automating the creation of timetables and the summary of data. smartphone. I have tinkered with a better web. This included spending a month in Google+, participating in #DigCiz and exploring some of the obstacles associated with blogging. I have also developed new spaces, such as Wikity and a site for re-claiming my online presence.


I continued to reflect on the feautres and affordances of various applications, such as Google Drawings, Google Sheets, Facebook Pages, Google’s Explore Tool, YouTube and Global2 . I also wrote some curated posts on portfolio platforms and ongoing reporting.

In regards to my newsletter, here are some of the posts that left me thinking this year:

Learning and Teaching

Establishing a culture of inquiry through inquiry – Kath Murdoch encourages teachers to begin the year with questions that can then be the start of a short inquiry, rather than the usual regimented style. For Edna Sackson this involves starting with the child. Sometimes the challenge with inquiry, as Sam Sherratt points out, is having permission.

Inquiry into Inquiry by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Why I Hate Classroom Themes – Emily Fintelman reflects on classroom themes and wonders what impact they are really having on learning. She suggests that our focus should be on how spaces are structured and strategies that can be used to give students more voice.

Classroom Themes by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

The skill, will, and thrill of Project Based Learning – Bianca Hewes reflects on here experiences with Visible Learning and Project Based Learning. She highlights the similarities, such as a focus on stages and structure. The post finishes with a call to work together to strive for a better education for all. It is interesting reading this alongside the David Price’s analyses and a useful introduction to Project Based Learning.

PBL vs VL by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Why Journalism Might Actually Be the Class of the Future – John Spencer suggests that the true makerspaces are found in creating texts, an activity best captured by journalism. To support this, Spencer provides a range of practical suggestions to turn every student into a budding journalist. This reminds me of Michael Caulfield’s writing about creating the web and connecting ideas. I wonder how it fits with the Digipo project and whether domain of one’s own is the greatest form of journalism?

Journalism by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

This free course can teach you music programming basics in less than an hour – Quincy Larson discusses Ableton’s free interactive music course that runs right in your browser. Having taught music a few years ago, I found this as a much more engaging method of grappling with the different principles of music in an interactive way.

If you enjoy listening to music, but don’t know much about how it all works on a structural level, this course is for you. It will teach you some of the principles at work in popular songs like Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Björk’s “Army of Me”.

Catch the Flipgrid fever! 15+ ways to use Flipgrid in your class – Kayla Moura provides an introduction to Flipgrid, an application for visual feedback. To support this, she lists some potential uses, such as a debate, an exit ticket or a book report. In some ways it reminds me of Verso and the way that users can share and respond in a centrally managed space. The main difference is that Flipgrid is built around video.

Catch the Flipgrid Fever by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book – Ryan Holiday unpacks the process involved in developing a book, from the initial proposal to the published copy. This lengthy reflection is a great example of ‘showing your work’. Holiday shares a number of tips, such as recording quotes and ideas on notecards, as well as breaking the book into smaller chunks. It is a reminder of the time and effort involved in developing quality writing, something Mike Caulfield touched on.

Ryan Holiday ‘Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Using ‘Visitors and Residents’ to visualise digital practices – David White and Alison Le Cornu have published a paper continuing their exploration of digital belonging and the problems with age-based categorisations. One interesting point made was the blur that has come to the fore between organisations and individuals. It is interesting to consider this model next to White’s work in regards to lurkers, as well as the ability to ‘return the tools’ without inadvertently leaving some sort of trace.

‘Using Visitors and Residents to visualise digital practices’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Asking the right questions – Alice Leung unpacks a range of question types and their place in the classroom, including no hands up and higher order. I have written about questions in the past, while Warren Berger’s book A More Beautiful Question is also an interesting provocation.

Asking the Right Question by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Twist Fate – The Connected Learning Alliance challenged teens to pick a classic story and create an alternate scenario through art or story where a famous hero is the villain or an infamous villain, the hero, with the finalists collated in a book. For further insight into the project, Sara Ryan and Antero Garcia provide a reflection on the some of the stories and the project.

Twist Fate @mizuko ‏ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

How colonial violence came home: the ugly truth of the first world war – Pankaj Mishra pushes back on the myth that World War I was largely a white European affair, instead suggesting that it was the moment when violent imperial legacies returned home. Along with Nafeez Ahmed’s reflection on Thanksgiving, these critiques remind us of the many forgotten voices during memorial days and national celebrations. Interestingly, TripleJ have decided to move the Hottest 100 Count from Australia Day, ‘a very apprehensive day’ for the Indigenous people of Australia. This is all a part of what Quinn Norton describes as ‘speaking truth’ against racism.

How colonial violence came home: the ugly truth of the first world war by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Use Maps & Mapmaking in Your ELA Classroom – Kevin Hodgson discusses the power and potential of maps in extending comprehension and representing understanding. I have written before about visualisation before, however Hodgson’s post provides a range of ideas I had not considered.

@Dogtrax on Maps by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA


Don’t Blame the Tools – Jose Picardo points out that blaming technology overlooks that the tool is only one part of the pedagogical canvas. I think things like SAMR can confuse the conversation. Instead, we need to start with a wider discussion of education.

‘Don’t Blame the Tools by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Against Expressive Social Media – Mike Caulfield makes the case to break with our dependence on the social media generated dopamine hits to develop the type of critical collaboration needed for the future. Reflecting on his own history of the web, Caulfield suggests that we need new ways of working that challenge our collective thinking, not just confirm our biases. Along with Audrey Watters’ post on edtech in the time of Trump, these posts ask many questions to address for a different imagining of educational technology and a democratic society. It also provides a useful background to the intent beyond such tools and technology as, Wikity and Smallest Federated Wiki.

Against Expressive Social Media by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Dear Twitter. It’s not me, it’s you – David Hopkins reflects on some of the changes that have occurred lately within Twitter, both socially and technically. There seems to be a lot of talk around Twitter of late, whether it be around alternatives, possible changes or how it is being unbundled.

On Twitter by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Reconceptualising Online Spaces To Build Digital Capacity – In notes from a webinar Naomi Barnes presented, she explores the question of integrating digital technologies. Building on the work of Marshall McLuhan, she discusses the idea of dialectics. This reminds me of Belshaw’s eight elements of digital literacies. Along with Jonathan Wylie’s presentation on good technology integration, these posts offer some alternatives to the usual reference to the SAMR model as the solution to talking about technology.

Technology by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

What should teachers understand about the snapchat back-channel? – Benjamin Doxtdater questions the place of Snapchat and other such backchannels in the classroom. Sachin Maharaj goes a step further to calling for it to be actively banned. For Steve Brophy, this is about waterholes. This takes me back to the question about what sort of teacher you are: limiters, enablers and mentors. However, as Bill Fitzgerald’s investigation into Edmodo demonstrates, there is also an ethical side to be considered. This was also highlighted by Twitter’s changes to privacy.

Benjamin Doxtdater ‘What should teachers understand about the snapchat back-channel?’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

A Sociology of the Smartphone – Adam Greenfield shares a portion of his new book, Radical Technologies, unpacking smartphones. In this assemblage of parts he looks at what actually makes smartphones work, the changes they have brought to our habits and the impact on our environment. On this matter, Kin Lane documents the valuable bits in a smartphone that everyone wants, Doug Belshaw discusses email and notification literacy, Aral Balkan asks who owns the data, while Mike Caulfield rues the impact smartphones have had on research. Greenfield’s essay also serves as an example of how technology can construct a ‘templated self’. This is timely with the tenth anniversary of the iPhone. In another extract from Greenfield’s book, he reflects on the internet of things.

A Sociology of the Smartphone by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

I Deleted All But The Last Six Months Of My Gmail – Kin Lane describes his process of taking back control of his digital bits from the algorithms. He is doing this by deleting archived data often used to develop marketing profiles. In addition to Gmail, he has documented cleaning up Facebook and Twitter. Lane and Audrey Watters also discuss this further on Episode 62 of the Contrafabulists podcast. Coming at the problem from a different perspective, the Guardian Tech Podcast discussed the new movement of platforms designed to support people in archiving their digital memories and moments.

Kin Lane ‘I Deleted All But The Last Six Months Of My Gmail’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

What Do You Want to Know about Blogging? – Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano responds to number of questions about blogging, such as how to start out in the classroom, setup precautions, develop a habit and extend your thinking beyond the simple view of blogging. Kathleen Morris’ post on why every educator should blog, Marina Rodriguez’ tips for student blogging and Doug Belshaw’s guide how to write a blog post add to this discussion.

What Do You Want to Know about Blogging? by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Why RSS Still Beats Facebook and Twitter for Tracking News – David Nield provides an introduction to RSS and why it can be better than social media for consuming content. One of biggest benefits is that it is unfiltered by the stacks. Nield provides some strategies for working with RSS, such as IFTTT and feed readers. Alan Levine lifts the hood on RSS, explaining how it works and what OPML is, while Bryan Alexander states why he decided to rededicate himself to RSS reading. In the end, it comes back to Doug Belshaw’s question of curating or being curated?

RSS Still Beats FB by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

We Are All Using APIs – Kin Lane explains how APIs are a part of our daily existence. Although we may not be able to do APIs, we need to be aware that they are there and what that might mean. This focus on the ethical as much as the technical relates to Maha Bali’s post about adding humanity back to computer science and Ben Williamson’s call to explore the social consequences associated with coding. Providing a different take on the ‘Hour of Code’, Gary Stager explains that the epistemological benefit of programming comes over time as we build fluency.

We Are All Using APIs @APIEvangelist by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Learning Machines – Ben Williamson takes a dive into machine learning. He breaks his discussion down into three key areas: algorithms, hypernudges and personalised learning. Associated with this, Williamson also wrote about wearable brainwave training. Approaching this from the perspective of automating education, Naomi Barnes provides her own thoughts and reflections.

Learning Machines by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Storify Bites the Dust. If You Have WordPress, You Don’t Need Another Third Party Clown Service – Alan Levine reflects on Storify’s announcement that it will be shutting down. He provides a number of options of what to do, including downloading the HTML content and stripping the links from it. This is a reminder why #IndieWeb and owning your content is so important

Storifried by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Storytelling and Reflection

Media, Technology, Politics – Data & Society: Points – In light of technology, fake news and democracy, a group of researchers led by danah boyd have applied their thinking to a range of issues with some attempt to make sense of the current state of being in the US (and the world at large).

‘Did Media Literacy Backfire? by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Will the AFLW herald changing times for gay players in the men’s game? – Kate O’Halloran reflects on first openly gay AFL players and wonders whether this will bring about a change in the men’s game. I have been left wondering what other impacts that the women’s competition might have on AFL and women’s sport in Australia in general. All of the sudden women are not only playing prime time, but also getting involved off the field in areas such as commentary as experts. In a sport that has seemingly pushed women to the margins, I am left wondering what impact AFLW will have on such jocular institutions as The Footy Show? As a father of two daughters it leaves me with hope.

Changing Times by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Clash Of Ideas: The Tension Of Innovation – David Culberhouse outlines the importance of tension to foster innovation. Coming back to the ‘learning well’, he highlights the importance of difference and the way in which heavily managed environments undermine this.

Clash of Ideas @dculberhouse by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Collaboration – Gary Stager considers all the hype surrounding Google Docs and it’s collaborative edge. In discussing his decades of experience, he suggests that writing is selfish and collaboration should not be forced, rather it needs to be natural. Along with Peter Skillen’s reflections on technology, these posts offer a useful provocation in thinking about modern learning.

Collaboration by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

No Me Without Us: Reflections After the UNIR #SelfOER #OpenTuesday Webinar – Reflecting on the call in regards to OER, Maha Bali discusses some of the challenges associated with the privilege around sharing. This is a continuation of a discussion around OER as a way of being.

@BaliMaha ‘No Me Without Us’ by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Tweeting and blogging: Selfish, self-serving indulgences? – Responding to Clare Narayanan and her critique of the guru teachers who spend their time at Teachmeets and on Twitter, Deb Netolicky discusses finding balance between self care, family time and service to the profession. This is a reminder that being online is a choice with consequences. Something Claire Amos touches upon. Benjamin Doxtdater also suggests, maybe our primary focus should be on self-care and private journals.

Tweeting and blogging: Selfish, self-serving indulgences? by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Competition – Dale Pearce highlights three key factors involved in creating a culture of competition in Australian schools: increased funding to non-government schools, public reporting to celebrate ‘winners’ and residualisation of public education. None of these aspects have been addressed with Gonski 2.0, (although Gonski has been brought on to help identify what practice works best.) To me, this is a part of a wider conversation about education, involving issues such as managing stress, providing the appropriate support, dealing with the rise of digital abuse, working together as a system and engaging with what it actually means to be a teacher.

Competition in Education by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

#rawthought: On Ditching the (Dangerous) Dichotomy Between Content Knowledge and Creativity – Amy Burvall explains that the key to joining the dots is having dots to join in the first place. Reflecting on the dichotomy between creativity and critical thinking, Burvall illustrates arts dependency on knowledge and skills. The challenge is supporting students in making this learning experience stick. Deb Netolicky also discusses some of these points in here discussion of ‘21st Century Learning’, while Bill Ferriter questions what comes first.

On Ditching the (Dangerous) Dichotomy Between Content Knowledge and Creativity @amyburvall by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Tackle Workload. This bandwagon actually matters – Tom Sherrington discusses the problem of workload piled on the modern teacher. He highlights a number of elements to reconsider, such as report comments and pointless assessment. Considering the problem from the perspective of the teacher, Jamie Thom advocates becoming a minimalist and cutting back. Steve Brophy suggests looking after our own wellbeing by putting on your oxygen mask first. One thing that matters is our own development.

Tackle Workload by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Should men or society stop the Harvey Weinstein’s of this world – Marten Koomen explores where to now with Harvey Weinstein and the way women are treated in society. He suggests that we need a collective effort by government to develop legislation and policy. Along with Rebecca Solnit’s post on blaming women for men’s actions and Julian Stodd’s investigation of the wider cultural problem brought out in the #MeToo movement, they touch on a wider problem around gender and inequality. On the Gist podcast, Mike Pesca discusses the challenges associated with reporting such topics. Jenny Listman adds a reminder that such power is abused by regular people too.

Should men or society stop the Harvey Weinstein’s of this world @Tulip_education by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Bias Thwarts Innovation – Harold Jarsche explains why gender equity is so important when fostering a culture of innovation as it provides more dots to connect. This is a clarification of an initial post Jarsche wrote about our networked future. I have touched on the importance of gender equity before. Julian Stodd also wrote a useful post that breaks innovation down into six ‘thoughts’.

Bias Thwarts Innovation by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Excuse Me While I “Just” Go Innovate – Pernille Ripp pushes back on continual call to just innovate, arguing that she innovates every day when she teachers, plans and contacts home. The problem is that these things do not count as innovative in many experts eyes. Bill Ferriter adds his own take on the reality of the classroom teacher, explaining that he does not check his emails during the day, that he is responsible for a range of people and that working with children is his number one priority. It is interesting to compare this with the discussion between Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon on the Modern Learners podcast in regards to the failure of teachers to engage with learning how to learn, as well as Richardson’s call from a few years back that the system is broken. For more on Ripp’s work, read Jennifer Gonzalez’s profile.

Just Innovate by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

FOCUS ON … Books

I did not read as many books this year, but here those that I did:

So that was 2017 for me, what about you? Who have been the voices that have stood out for you this year? As always, comments welcome.

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Why Would You? – Using Questions to Extend Understanding

Quote from a post by David Culberhouse exploring a series of ‘what if’ questions

If we are to have an influence upon the education of tomorrow, then we need to better understand today. This post explores strategies for getting to the heart of the matter.

Why would you? It is such an interesting question. I was asked this recently and it really left me thinking. More often than not, it calls upon the anxiety about making the right choice and implies that there is always one to be made. I feel that thinking about those things that such a question provokes can provide a useful insight into our beliefs and bias.

For example, why would you set homework? Why would you post work on a blog? Why would you deliver professional development collaboratively? Why would you do group work during a professional development session? Why would you open a school in the middle of business hub? Although for some such questions are clear, this is not the case for all.

Thinking about the Modern Learning Canvas, ‘why would you’ questions capture the pedagogical beliefs that are the foundation for understanding the intent and purpose of school. They also help illuminate the roles and strategies used in the classroom. This is all useful in helping to design education for tomorrow.

So what about you? What questions help you reflect upon your values and beliefs? As always, comments welcome.

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Communication Takes Two – 2017 in Review

Communication takes two, a reflection on my goals

A reflection on my inquiry into communication this year and all of the lessons learnt along the way.

It is again that time of year when we stop and reflect. This year I chose ‘communication’ as my one word to focus on throughout. It was a word that stemmed in part from a review in my workplace, with our focus being on working with a wide range of stakeholders to support transformation and change. I therefore identified the following possibilities:

  • Clarity – sometimes messages and meaning can get lost in their delivery, the challenge is when to add more or keep it short.
  • Consistency – whether responding via email or working with someone in person, it is important to be consistent in regards to the way things are done.
  • Collaboration – it can be easy to focus on the job at hand and the person that you maybe working with, however it is important to remember that it often takes a team and think about ways to keep everyone abreast.
  • Context – so much of communication is about adjusting to the moment, it is important to change pitch or approach depending on the circumstance.
  • Transparency – sometimes the key to communication is the culture that it is built upon, this though is often built upon other actions and activities.

My first approach was to focus on the technical side of things. This involved:

What I learnt with each of these initiatives is that even when you work collaboratively in developing and refining a particular approach, if other stakeholders do not feel there is a problem or that there is benefit to be gained then it can all be to no avail. Unlike Mark Zuckerburg, I feel that technology alone will not solve all of our ills. Change involves people

This focus on human element relates to the question of why communicate in the first place. One of the things that became more and more apparent as the year has passed is that it is not necessarily the technology that is lacking, but the intent and understanding behind what is actually being communicated. These dialogues discussions often involves multiple parties. Seth Godin captures this succinctly, explaining that:

It takes two to be understood. Not just speaking clearly, but speaking in a way that you can be understood.

What then is important in regards to support and change is creating the conditions within which people can be heard. Dave Cormier recently reflected on grappling with this situation too:

Technology projects everywhere tend to cross over different departments and responsibilities. Lawrie Phipps told me that this is called “matrix decision making”. Where a project reports up through multiple decision makers who may or may not have similar ideas of how to get a particular problem solved. Imagine 6 people sitting around a table all reporting to six different directors. It’s a common problem, and we had it.

I really related to this. The challenge of being understood is identifying the context at hand and starting there. Something I picked up from coaching. Although the message shared maybe the same in shape and content, the story used to convey it always changes. Everyone and every school has something important to them and I have found it important to tie conversations to that. Although this is not always easy, i guess this is the art of education.

I must admit that when I started in my current position I was frustrated by the processes associated with getting everything checked and signed off. Yet as time has gone by, I recognise how important this is with the complexities associated with stakeholders and communication. Although I still believe in the importance of autonomy and agency, I think that in a large organisation this involves taking initiative to instigate various actions, not in making rash decisions.

So what about you? How have you gone this year? Have you any tips associated with transformation and change? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.

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Is This the End of School as we Know It?

Are schools on the cusp of change? Will all jobs be transformed by 2030? And what is change anyway?

In the recent Google Education on Air conference, Jan Owens discovered that the biggest lesson learnt looking ahead to 2030 is that every job will be transformed. It would be easy to just add this as another Countrafabulist predictions. However, it raises wider questions associated with transformation and our role within it all.

During a discussion on the Modern Learners podcast, Bruce Dixon discussed the notion of ‘the end of school as we know it’. He shared an exercise where teachers are given three options to choose from in regards to the current state of education:

  • We are seeing the end of school as we know it
  • We are not seeing the end of school as we know it
  • We should be seeing the end of school as we know it

To me this touches on Audrey Watters’ discussion of the invented history associated with the Prussian origins of (American) education. In time we manage to bend the past into a linear narrative. One where all roads lead to innovation.

And so too we’ve invented a history of “the factory model of education” in order to justify an “upgrade” – to new software and hardware that will do much of the same thing schools have done for generations now, just (supposedly) more efficiently, with control moved out of the hands of labor (teachers) and into the hands of a new class of engineers, out of the realm of the government and into the realm of the market.
The Invented History of ‘The Factory Model of Education’

If I had to choose one response it would be that we are seeing the end of school as we know it. However, I also feel that this is that wrong question. Whether we like it or not, the world changes each and every day. For example, smartphones have had an impact on schools whether we allow them in the classroom or not.

Another way of looking at change is using Raymond Williams’ historical model where he differentiates between emergence, dominant, residual.

We can find terms which recognize not only ‘stages’ and ‘variations’ but the internal dynamic relations of any actual process. We have certainly still to speak of the ‘dominant’ and the ‘effective’, and in these senses of the hegemonic. But we find that we have also to speak, and indeed with further differentiation of each, of the ‘residual’ and the ’emergent’, which in any real process, and at any moment in the process, are significant both in themselves and in what they reveal of the characteristics of the ‘dominant’.

There is a constant flow of meanings, values, practices and relationships, where even if a certain aspect were to remain ‘dominant’, it cannot inoculate itself from new influences.

As I discussed previously, much is learnt as things are pushed to breaking point. The question is not whether we are seeing the end of school as we know it, but how do we want school (and society) to change for tomorrow? Gert Biesta uses a quote from Jacques Derrida which makes this point clear,

To live, by definition, is not something one learns.

Our focus therefore should be what education do we want and collectively work towards that.

So what about you? What is your choice? Is this the end of school as we know it? As always comments welcome, even better when they are from your own space.

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The Music of 2017 in Review, or The Year I Discovered Jack Antonoff

A reflection on the artists and albums that represented the soundtrack of 2017.

Music is important to who I am. Although I listen to a lot of podcasts, books and converse with people via Voxer, it is still music that I fall back on. Here then are some of the albums and artists that have caught my attention this year:

LCD Soundsystem

But out of the little rooms and onto the streets
> You’ve lost your internet and we’ve lost our memory
> We had a paper trail that led to our secrets
> But embarrassing pictures have now all been deleted
> By versions of selves that we thought were the best ones
> ‘Till versions of versions of others repeating
> Come laughing at everything we thought was important
> While still making mistakes that you thought you had learned


I have a habit of hearing a particular song and writing off an artist’s oeuvre based on it. I did it with ‘Over and Over’ by Hot Chip until I discovered Grizzly Bear’s cover of Boy from School, I also did it with ‘Daft Punk Are Playing at My House’ by LCD Soundsystem. It was only after a different me returned to the music with new ears that I realised what I had been missing. With LCD Soundsystem, it was James Murphy’s production of Arcade Fire’s Reflector that had me reviewing my assumptions. However, it was not until american dream that I finally dived in.

I came upon american dreams via Austin Kleon’s newsletter. My first impression was that the long flowing bleeps and beats seem to float on by. However, on repeated listens the seemingly careless tweaks seem to take on shape. You started to realise that what felt like a jam was very purposeful, especially in regards to the lyrical content. I had a similar experience with Radiohead, in particular, Kid A. Some music takes time.


In my head, I play a supercut of us
All the magic we gave off
All the love we had and lost
And in my head
The visions never stop
These ribbons wrap me up
But when I reach for you
There’s just a supercut


Earlier this year, my family and I spent two weeks in New Zealand. During that time, ‘Green Light’ had just been released and was on high rotation. The song and subsequent album are intriguing. I feel that it is ironic pop – if that is even a genre – in that it has many of the ingredients of popular music, whether it be four to the floor beats or lush layers, juxtaposed with unapologetic angst and honesty of someone reflecting on life at 19. This comes out in Lorde’s dissection of ‘Sober’ on the Song Exploder podcast.

The more I listen to the album the more I am baffled about what exactly draws me in. 19 year old me has long gone, yet there is still something that hooks me. I wonder if it is Jack Antonoff’s production, but I also think that it is rawness of the lyrics as well. In an interview, Antonoff describes Lorde as the Bjork and Kate Bush of our time. I guess we will see.

Arcade Fire

Well you’ve got one choice, maybe two
You can leave with me or I’ll go with you
I know you haven’t even met me yet
But you’re gonna love me baby when you get to know me


Another ironic album is Arcade Fire’s Everything Now. A fist pumping critique of fist pumping. It is one of those albums that has all the lyricals hooks and riffs to mindlessly sing and dance along too at an outdoor festival only, yet when you stop and look and listen, the music feels like a critique of that, instead calling for some kind of awakening and realisation of the world that we are creating.

Along with The National’s dark Sleep Well Beast and LCD Soundsystem’s american dream, if feels like these albums offer an intentional comment on the current climate. Having said this, I also find it interesting to listen to something like The Bleachers’ Gone Now from a political perspective. For at the end of the day, everything is ideological, or as Jack Antonoff suggests “music is a mini documentary of that moment“.

Ryan Adams

Ten months sober, I must admit
Just because you’re clean don’t mean you don’t miss it


I am always intrigued by automation. Earlier this year I was driving back home across town and decided to put on some random driving playlist that Google made me. A few songs in this track started playing. It felt familiar, yet I had never heard it. The song was Ryan Adam’s cover of Wildest Dreams. I can only assume that Google thought I would like it based on both of my daughter’s obsession with Shake It Off. Well Google was right, I loved the whole album.

I remember watching an interview in which Adams explains how he chose to cover Wonderwall to annoy an ex. This album though seems more purposeful. A case of Bruce Springsteen meets The Smiths, Adams brings something different out with his reimagining of the songs. It was also fascinating a few months later, listening to Taylor Swift’s original album and comparing the two. Felt like comparing a book and movie adaptation, where you feel as if they are both capturing a particular tangent, yet neither quite captures the full circle.

Reuben Stone

Another plane, another train
I’m checking in and checking out again

Push to the Limit

This year, my daughters and I have regularly ventured into the city on the weekend in an effort to get out and about. This usually involves visiting one of the many parks or buying dumplings and donuts at the market, but it has also come to include listening to the many buskers that fill the streets. Some artists that come to mind are Amber Isles and their ability to fill.the sound of a full band even with the makeshift drum kit, as well as Gareth Wiecko and his layered piano concertos. However, the major highlight was Reuban Stone.

A self proclaimed samplologist, Stone builds songs from scratch, beginning with the beats, then layering this with various instruments, including vocals. Although his recorded material is good, his performances are something to be experienced. He manages to adjust to drag out tracks without feeling at all tedious or repetative. It seems mandatory to have a looper when busking these days, however Stone takes it to a new level.

So what about you? What music has caught your attention this year? What albums and artists have you had on high rotation? Like my discovery of all things Jack Antonoff, is there something that seems to tie your year together? As always, comments welcome.

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Building Solutions Beyond the Code

Solutions involve connections and interconnections, not just code

A reflection on going beyond coding when thinking solutions and the Digital Technologies curriculum.

I attended an eLearning session recently where the participants were asked to place ourselves along a continuum in regards to their confidence in regards to the Digital Technologies curriculum. At the far end of the continuum was the idea of ‘coding your own reporting program’. The conversation the ensued was intriguing. “That is not me … I could never do that … You need to know a lot of Excel for that.” To me this only tells part of the story associated with digital technologies.

When you look at something like a reporting solution, we need to start by addressing the problem being addressed? This is why there is a focus on design thinking in the curriculum. A part of this process can be identifying what other solutions already exist. If there is already an application that addresses the problem you are trying to solve, why would you start again?

Alternatively, it is important to work out if there is something you can start with and build upon. Maybe a solution that you have found only addresses a part of your problem, but offers a starting point. This may include some pre-existing code that can be adapted. That is the power of a open platforms like GitHub and Scratch, where you can not only access other people’s code, but share your own iterations.

Another twist is where you might develop a first iteration and then bring others on-board. At some point a solution may benefit from incorporating other skill-sets, perspectives and resources. For example, at some point Gmail went from being somebody’s 20% project to something being developed by a team. In an interview with EdTechCrew, Adam Bellow reflected on the development of eduClipper. After some initial work, he outsourced the creation of a new platform to an outside provider. He then took this iteration and refined it further. This is not to say Bellow could not code it himself, but when we get to systems thinking, there is sometimes more efficient and effective ways of working.

So when we ask the question, can you create a reporting solution, maybe we should ask why are we doing it and has someone else already laid the groundwork? This is something that comes through in Doug Belshaw’s work around digital literacies, such an activity is bigger than whether or not you can code.

So what about you? What has been your experience of coding? Comments welcome.

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Laying the Standards for a Blogging Renaissance

RSS Standard and the Foundations of Blogging

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

There is something wrong with social media. Responding to John Lancester’s article in the London Review of Books, Alan Levine suggests that the only response is to exit Facebook. For Duckduckgo, the issue is the 75% of the top sites incorporate Google trackers. Nicholas Carr heralds a new era where we will depend on third-party security support, an era where even thinking is automated. Writing about the disempowering nature of Twitter, Kris Shaffer argues that the answer is not simply moving to Mastadon.

For some the answer is about going ‘old school’, a blogging Renaissance. Oddly, there seems to be a push in some communities for subscribers and email newsletters. This is done by adding sign ups that pop out of posts (even if you have already signed up). If we are to truly have a rebirth though then the technology that I think we need to reinvest in is RSS.

Short for Really Simple Syndication or Rich Site Summary, RSS is a standard that allows users to receive updates to content without the need to manually check or be in fear of missing something due to an inconspicuous algorithm working in the background. As David Nield explains,

One of the main reasons RSS is so beloved of news gatherers is that it catches everything a site publishes — not just the articles that have proved popular with other users, not just the articles from today, not just the articles that happened to be tweeted out while you were actually staring at Twitter. Everything.

Usually this feed is built from the web address. If not shown on the site, tools like the Connected Courses Magic Box can be used to capture it. Some platforms, such as WordPress, also allow you to create a custom feed based on a particular tag or category. You do this by selecting the particular tag or category and adding ‘/feed’ to the end of the URL. Useful if wanting to follow just a particular topic. Although feeds themeselves can be adjusted, this is done in the backend.

To sort through ‘everything’, you use a news aggregator, such as Feedly, Digg Reader or Tiny Tiny RSS. These applications allow you to collect a number of feeds in the one place. These feeds are stored as an OPML file, a format designed to exchange outline-structured information.

As a side note, these applications each have their own features and affordances. For example, Feedly now restricts new users to 50 feeds before asking for payment.

There are a number of ways to develop and edit an OPML file. You can use an OPML generator to build an outline or use an editor to refine a pre-existing list shared by somebody else. Something useful when downloading the public links from a WordPress site. You do this by adding ‘/wp-links-opml.php’ to the end of the URL.

I am not sure whether social media will go away, but with the questions being asked of it at the moment, maybe it is time for a second coming of blogs, a possible rewilding of edtech. The reality is that technology is always changing and blogging is no different. Whatever the future is, standards such as RSS and OPML will surely play there part. So what about you? Do you have any other alternatives to social media and the challenges of our time? As always, comments welcome.

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