A #RoCur Reflection


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Looking Back on a Week as @EduTweetOz

This week, I took control of the EduTweetOz rotation curation account. Like many, @edutweetoz provided some of my first education connections with those like Jason Borton (the first week I ever followed) and TER Podcast. For so long I had thought that it was for somebody else, those in positions of responsibility, those with something important to say. Of course, this was my own misgiving. However, I always found a reason why now was not the right time.

So even though many encouraged me, it was only this year that I finally got around to putting my hat in the ring. It really hit home when more and more people were curating for the second time. So I signed up.

I must admit that the experience was not what I necessarily expected. In part I think because I did not know what to expect, but really because it is something rather unique. I once had a run at curating the short-lived @vicpln account, but it was something of a non-event as it did not have much of following and the account never really got beyond infancy.

So here are my three takeaways from the week that was:

Finding Your Voice: Some people seem to come into the week with a real agenda. They treat it like some sort of perpetual edchat, posting nightly questions around specific themes. Others approach the week as a means of telling a particular story linked with an association or edu-organisation. This methodical manner is not mine. My intent was simply to continue the conversation. After running through various approaches, such as providing some sort of quasi-episode of This is Your Life, I decided to simply do what I usually do within my own account and respond accordingly. I was mindful of sharing too many of my own posts, I, therefore, made a concerted effort to highlight other voices in the village.

Other People’s ideas and Arguments: An odd thing that I had to deal with early on was responding to replies to past posts. This was brought to the fore when one of the account administrators posted a piece on low literacy and forgot to include [admin] in the tweet. This did not really worry me until it escalated into something akin to a tribal dance with both sides applying war paint and sharpening their spears. I am all for debates and discussions, but usually when they are mine to have and to own. I neither felt compelled or comfortable, so I just killed the conversation, quietly.

Public Notice Board: Just as it is confusing as to what voice to use with the account, I was intrigued with the number of tweets shared with the account for no clear reason. I got the impression after a few days that there are some  who use the account as something of a public noticeboard to amplify their own voice. Fine, I had the choice to retweet, but it just seems to me like bad faith. This reminds me of the lesson I learned from Alec Couros in regards to Twitter and spamming.


So what about you? Have you ever taken control of a rotation curation account? What was your experience? Did you find any challenges? As always, comments welcome.


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Filtering Knowledge and Information Beyond Twitter

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Jon Andrews recently tweeted out the following comment:

Now I know where he is coming from. You only need to look at Graham Martin-Brown’s recent reflection for an understanding of some of the less savory chatter that can fill social media feeds. However, I feel like we are back at the age-old debate as to whether every teacher should be on Twitter?

Don’t get me wrong, I love Twitter, but both my appreciation and use of the platform has developed over time. I once went to Twitter as my first port of call. However, now I use it more as a learning well, a meeting place. Although I go there to learn from others, I am less worried about missing out and instead entertain the serendipitous nature of dropping in every now and then.

Here then are some spaces I go to for critical and quality engagement:

  • RSS Feed: This is usually my starting place. I have over 200 blogs in my feed. The way it works is that if I find someone who posts interesting content on Twitter or any other space, I will then add them to the list. In addition to sharing  interesting posts out, I also bookmark ideas with Diigo.
  • Newsletters: Different to the average blog, email newsletters are the new zines. I am currently subscribed to the following: Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel, Tom Barrett’s Dialogic Learning, Graham Martin-Brown’s Revolution, Laura Hilliger’s Freshly Brewed Thoughts, Austin Kleon’s Weekly Newsletter, Ian O’Byrne’s TLDR, Bryan Mathers’ Visual Thinkery, Dan Haesler’s newsletter and Audrey Watters’ Hack Education Weekly Newsletter (HEWN). Some are not much more than a list of links, others provide a rich commentary. What stands out is that they all provide curated content to scour.
  • Nuzzel: A social aggregation application, Nuzzel searches through your Twitter feed for posts that have been by a number of people. Although you can access the site for a constant feed, I depend on the daily email for a summary of links.
  • Email Subscriptions: I get emails summarising content from a range of sites, including Diigo, YouTube and Pocket. These can be good to flick through and often provide ideas and resources that are outside of my usual connections.

So there are some of the ways that I filter content. Although Twitter can be fantastic, there are also other means. What about you? What strategies do you use? As always, comments welcome.


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Is Gender an Elephant in the (Education) Room?


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In a post titled ‘Men Explain Technology To Me’, Audrey Watters unpacks the statistics and challenges that face women working in edtech. Whether it be the predominance of white males running the internet, an inherent culture of ‘mansplaining’, the culture of violence and abuse or the sheer numbers of women actually not working within the big edtech companies, Watter’s paints a picture of oppression.

Although gender and oppression is nothing new, it is the extremities of Watter’s account which brings the issue to the fore. In addition, Watter’s emphasises that these challenges are in no ways just an ‘edtech’ issue. Here is a few examples which help elaborate this:

The question I was left with was how do I respond? In particular to the wider inequities at play within education. Too often we read things online or hear things at a conference and, for whatever reason, fail to properly follow up.

My initial step was to reflect on my own habits. I started with my 200 odd blogs in my RSS Feed. After downloading the OPML file, I put them into a spreadsheet and proceeded to categorise them.


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In addition, Tom Woodward pointed me to an app that analyses your Twitter:


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The story told by both is that I am as much a part of the problem. However, it also made me wonder about the biases that were within such applications. I then started exploring what could be done to change this situation. Some possibilities include:  

  • Supporting Female Educators: The first idea I thought of doing was calling out the great work done by women. Whether it be follow Friday (#FF) or any other means of sharing. This is an area that I have been called out on before for not doing enough. There are plenty of examples listicles, such as Peter DeWitt’s 18 Women All K-12 Educators Should Know, Naomi Barnes’ Women in Science, Sue Crowley’s 100 Female Education Authors or David Wees’ Female Educational Theorists. Problem I have with this approach is that lists quickly become about who is not included as much as who is.
  • Developing Safer Technology: One of the issues that Watters raises in her post is the structure of the technology and its influence on our interactions. One suggestion she makes is reimagining commenting. Building on the IndieWeb movement, Watters suggests that comments should be housed on a ‘domain of our own’ and then linked to the source post. Another technical solution is the blocking of known serial harassers on platforms such as Twitter using something like the BlockBot.
  • Equitable Diet: What is shared online is not always equal. An answer to rebalancing my biases when it comes to blogs, articles and books is to more actively read female writers. This has included putting out the call on Twitter for new blogs to add to Feedly. I also consciously seek out female authors, especially when I do not have a particular focus.
  • Equitable Representation: Inequity is often perpetuated at conferences and professional development sessions when one male after another gets up to present. It is therefore heartening to attend conferences like Digicon where it would seem that there is a conscious decision to have an equal amount of men and women when it comes to keynotes. Beyond this, I think that it is important to encourage women to present when and where applicable, especially when it is only confidence holding them back.
  • Be More Mindful: The most important thing though is actually being aware that there is an imbalance at all. This is as much to recognise the bias at play, not to somehow magically stand outside of it. A part of this is being informed where possible.

With this all said and done, it feels naive to talk about solutions as if it is so clear cut. I fear being tokenistic, something Maha Bali makes point of in her post on marginality. I also worry about only focusing on one form of inequality, when as Watters points out, there are many, especially when it comes to edtech. I wonder if the real solution is actually being silent? Or in our lives actions and experiences? Maybe this post is simply adding to the problem and is itself a case of mansplaining? It is for this reason that this post has taken considerable time to write.

Coming back to technology, Greg Thompson talks about how technology has the power to make us. The question that I wonder is what sort of ‘us’ is it making. As always, comments welcome.


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Breaking Out Collaborative Problem Solving in the Classroom


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One of my goals at the recent GAFE Summit in Melbourne was to delve into BreakoutEDU. I had long wondered about the concept, having read various reflections. However, it is one of those things that can be hard to make sense of without actually experiencing it. Basically, the session has a central narrative which drives the problem

The first thing that stood out in the session was the place of the teacher in the room. Although it can be easy in the traditional classroom to fall back into the default role of the ‘sage on the stage’, BreakoutEDU simply does not allow for this. With the focus on participants working collaboratively to solve a series of problems in order to unlock a collection of locks attached to a box located in the room, the learning is centred on the learner.

The role of the teacher in this environment is in creating a learning sequence that includes tasks and challenges that are neither too easy nor too hard. One of the suggestions given is to start out small, maybe just a couple of problems over a short amount of time, and as students develop stamina and resilience increase the length of time. There is also the opportunity for documentation, whether this is taking notes or recording video.

The problems themselves involve a range of resources and stimuli to support the learning, ranging from decks of cards, computer, infrared torch, USB disks with information, coloured paperclips, QR codes and Google Docs. The limit is dependent on your imagination. For example, one case study provided was of a teacher who incorporated Google Cardboard into the activity. While in regards to the locks, there are a number of options, including those controlled by directions, traditional key locks, number and letter codes, as well as a iOS app for something different. Each allows for the creation of different problems to work through.

The reality is that the whole classroom truly becomes a learning environment, both virtually and physically. Anything and everything can be incorporated as a part of the process. With this in mind, it often needs to be specified what maybe out of bounds, such as a permanent screen or teacher’s computer.

In regards to the learning sequences, there are already a range of ready made puzzles which you can use or repurpose based on your context. However, I see the real potential in making your own story to fit your needs. Maybe it is:

  • Reimagining the immersion process to a unit.
  • Exploring computational thinking without a computer.
  • Revising a semester of work.
  • Developing congeniality amongst staff.
  • Focusing on general capabilities, such as thinking skills and teamwork.

What needs to be remembered is that it is actually the process and reflection which is most important. Although there maybe some sort of reward within the box, this is not the focus. (Nick Brierley shared how his students have gotten to the point where they no longer need or expect to find anything with the box.)

Personally, I was left thinking about my experience of teaching biomes. Although students engaged with their ecological projects, the immersion process did not carry with it the same enthusiasm. I had attempted to develop a series of flipped videos exploring Brazil. However, students were still left consuming content, making sense of the different biomes. In teaching the unit again, I wonder if it could begin with an activity where together they need to ask and answer a series of puzzles and problems in order to unlock the box. To me this takes some of elements of hyperdocs and combines them with the detective elements of Carmen Santiago. At the very least, students could work together through a digital version, as demonstrated within this example. While Tom Mullaney has also written about how to use both old and new Google Sites.

Although creating a scenario from scratch has its challenges in regards to developing a compelling narrative, teachers already have much of the content from the planning documents that they use. For example, when preparing using Understanding By Design teachers identify the intended understandings, questions, content and skills in a process of working backwards. I also wonder if there is potential of students actually developing their own scenario?

For some more ideas and inspirations around BreakOutEdu, checkout this video and website:


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REVIEW: A Learner’s Paradise by @Eduwells

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It is easy to become disheartened when it comes to the challenges associated with change and reform in education. However, Richard Wells’ book A Learner’s Paradise: A Learner’s Paradise: How New Zealand Is Reimagining Education provides hope. Throughout the book, Wells recounts his experiences teaching in New Zealand. Throughout he describes the trust invested in teachers, power of connections, celebration of culture and level of support provided via various government and nonprofit agencies.

To support Wells’ description of reform, he provides case studies of the following schools: Kid’s Domain, Taupaki Primary School, Breens Intermediate School and Hobsonville Point School. Whether it be student agency, use of space or fluid nature of the timetable, each school is going through a process of rethinking education in their own way. Interestingly, this is something called out in the recent Horizon Report.

One of the things that stood out in Wells’ reflection is that it was not something that happened over night. The changes to curriculum and assessment in New Zealand have developed over fifteen years and involved many adjustments along the way. This reminded me in part of the story Pasi Salberg details in his book Finnish Lessons. Salberg describes how it took Finland over fifty years to get to the point where they are at today.

In the end, A Learner’s Paradise provides a snapshot of what is possible. However, it is best seen as a conversation starter. Although Wells shares some advice, including questions to eradicate and actions to consider, it is not necessarily a step-by-step guide. I must admit I was left wondering about some of the intracies, in particular, the process surrounding the practicing certificate in New Zealand. The reality though is that this simply does not within scope of this book. A Learner’s Paradise is a book for all educators, not for its solutions, but as a provocation as to what change might mean within any context.

For a different introduction, I recommend Well’s book trailer:

DISCLOSURE: I was not paid for this review, while I purchased the book myself.


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My Comprehension Journey … A Response to @rosscoops31


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In a recent post, Ross Cooper reflected on his journey in regards to reading comprehension. He shared the phases that he has gone through and the texts that have supported these changes. At the end of the post, he posed the challenge to share your own journey. So here is my attempt to represent my somewhat fractured journey that I have followed:

Honours and Post-Structuralism: If my journey is to have a beginning, it is in my Honours year at University. I started out writing about the historical connections between Virginia Woolf and psychoanalysis, but ended up down a rabbit hole exploring what it means when we talk about psychoanalysis. Building on the ideas of Stanley Fish and J. Hillis Miller, I explored the influence of personal and collective context associated with interpretation. I am not sure how many ‘strategies’ I take from this time, but it did leave me with a deep appreciation for the subjective nature of reading and perspective.

CAFE Menu and Comprehension Strategies: I spent my formative years facilitating the teaching of novels, films and media texts by providing students with long lists of questions. I would work for hours scrolling over texts to come up with the best questions. This changed when Di Snowball was hired by the region to improve literacy results. A part of this change was the explicit teaching of comprehension strategies via the work of Stephanie Harvey and Harvey Daniels, as well as the introduction of the CAFE Menu to support reading conferences.

Reading Textbooks: Along with the introduction of various strategies, one text that had a considerable impact was The Comprehension Toolkit. The particular book that stood out was the one on reading textbooks. What was significant about it was the change in how I saw textbooks. Rather than depending on predefined tasks and questions, I started using chapters as provocations for student-led questioning and inquiry. The book provided a range of simple strategies to support this process.

Digital Literacies: The integrated approach of incorporating instruction and use of comprehension strategies into every subject within a secondary setting helped develop the capacity in a more consistent manner. The problem that I found was that strategies and supports were primarily focused on the printed text. This bias become obvious when I started teaching ICT and Digital Publishing. Spaces such as the Ultranet, Edmodo, Google Apps (G Suite) and other social media forms provided different ways of working and demonstrating understanding. For example, one of my initial questions when starting out on Twitter was how this could be used to share key ideas and quotes. The reality is that digital learning technologies allows a level of social interaction and sharing that just is not possible in person. The text that brought this all this to the fore was Doug Belshaw’s The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, in which he identified eight elements which work together to inform our (digital) literacy practice.

Disciplined Collaboration: Another change which had a considerable impact on my teaching of comprehension was Disciplined Collaboration. The basic premise behind Disciplined Collaboration is a cycle involving the identification of a problem, initiating some form of intervention and then measure the impact of the various actions. For some this is no different to a PLC. However, Alma Harris states that where it is different is that it is disciplined. In regards to comprehension, this is a more responsive approach. It provides a means of developing of specific response to the problem at hand.

Visible Thinking: The latest step in my comprehension journey was reading Making Thinking VisibleBuilding on the learning started in regards to making sense of textbooks, this book simply focuses on making sense. Unlike the comprehension strategies, the thinking protocols provide the means for developing understanding. I think that it is only now that I have truly linked my theoretical thoughts captured within my Honours work, as well as my actual practice.


So there is my journey, what about you? What have been your influences in regards to your understanding of comprehension? As always, comments welcome.


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Luke Beveridge and the Decisions of a Servant Leader


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In a recent post, Paul Browning reflected on leadership and the act of decision making. He outlines four categories:

  • The controller
  • The pleaser
  • The procrastinator
  • The consultor

Thinking about his own practice, Browning suggests that too often he is a pleaser. Although this may keep people happy, Browning points out that it does not necessarily build trust in the same way as when someone consults. However, on the weekend this was somewhat challenged with Luke Beveridge’s decision to handover his medal during the AFL Grand Final.

via GIPHY

There has been a lot said about Luke Beveridge over the last few days. He surfs, cuts his own hair, sings his own songs, even occasionally gets around on a skateboard. However, the moment that will forever be marked on my memory will be when he took off the Jock McHale Medal, a reward given to the winning coach, and gave it to Robert Murphy. This was a symbolic gesture, to give the medal to a player at heart and soul of the club, who after years of tireless service was struck down earlier this year with a knee injury. Stuck on the sidelines, he has been a visible presence in the coaches box each game. Although it was Beveridge’s medal and no one would question that he earnt it, in the spur of a moment he made the decision to be selfless, another member of the club, so as to please the masses.

To me, this is epitomises the notion of servant leadership. Although some talk about servant leadership as taking responsibility for the worst jobs, to me it is also about using any and every opportunity give back so as to build up the whole. The Mind Tools site describes it as follows:

As a servant leader, you’re a “servant first” – you focus on the needs of others, especially team members, before you consider your own. You acknowledge other people’s perspectives, give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions where appropriate, and build a sense of community within your team. This leads to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders.

This was summed up in an interview with one of the teams veterans who when asked whether it was the coach that the team played for he responded saying that it was actually for each other.

This ‘team first’ mindset was also demonstrated when after the game Marcus Bontempillis poured a container of sports drink over the coach in the midst of an interview. It could be easy to perceive such an act as arrogance or immaturity, or maybe a homage to NFL. Yet what it said to me was that from the coach down everyone was in it together.

We talk about flat and agile structures, yet sometimes leaders are unwilling to relinquish the power and control. Although consulting others when making decisions can help build trust across the board, there are times when decisions need to be made and it is often these moments that leave the greatest mark. For in the end, action creates culture one choice at a time.


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