Four Things Your Smart Phone Says About You

In a recent episode of the Contrafabulists podcast, Audrey Watters explored the question, what does your smart phone say about you? She then proceeded to unpack the data and describe four things that your phone is probably saying about you:

  • Your Thoughts and Perspective: Maybe it is posts in your social media feeds or texts that you have highlighted in an eBook or via social bookmarking.
  • Networks You Are Link To: The obvious connections associated with a phone are through the contacts. However, further connections also come through various social media accounts we often have attached.
  • Your Purchases: This could come in the form of an eBay and Amazon account or via receipts sent to your email.
  • Where You Have Been: Whether it be via the various mapping and transport applications or via the meta-data attached to things such as photographs.

Watters’ purpose is to highlight the potential of one device and what impact it might have on privacy and data when handed over to the wrong people or organisation.

I wonder if we get lulled into thinking that we have nothing to hide? There are two issues with this. One that in an environment of identity pseudo-science you do not always know how data will be interpreted. This is something that Watters and Kin Lane discuss in some detail. The second concern is that we rarely remember or are aware of everything stored or captured in our phone. Clive Thompson captures this in his book Smarter Than You Think when he demonstrates that our memory cannot always be trusted.

The other argument made is around phone security. The problem with thinking that your phone is secure is that, with so much data held in the cloud, you are only as secure as the network which you are connected with. With this in mind, Watters suggests thinking about security is actually about supporting the wider community and protecting those who may be vulnerable. For although you can protect your own devices, you often have little control over everyone else’s or which country decides to challenge questions around jurisdiction or change the law.

Too often such discussions become questions of what we have to hide. Doug Belshaw says that privacy is why we put curtains on our windows. While Edward Snowden suggests that,

Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.

In the end, it becomes about personal choice and control, reclaiming your web presence is a part of this. I may choose to be open, but that is in fact a privileged choice that I am able to make. Not everyone is in the same situation.

For further ideas, Andy Greensberg shares some ideas about protecting your digital privacy, locking down your device and keeping passwords secret. While Doug Belshaw and Dai Barnes discuss the topic in Episode 75 of the TIDE Podcast. Watters also unpacks many of these ideas further in her presentation on EdTech in the Time of Trump.

So what about you? What strategies do you use to manage your smart phone and mobile data? As always, comments welcome. It takes a village.


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REVIEW: Any Given Team

Any Given Team documents Ray McLean’s journey from teacher, to air force instructor, to leadership consultant. Rather than provide an instruction manual, unpacking the art of leading a team step-by-step, McLean uses various stories to explain the origins and elaborations associated with Leading Teams. Besides being a more compelling means of capturing the full picture, it is also at the heart of the move from instruction to facilitation is at the heart of McLean’s work.

With origins in developing a team of leaders within an elite group in the air force to resurrecting a failing football club, McLean’s initial focus was on supporting teams to develop a trademark to stand by, what he labelled as the ‘Performance Improvement Program’. From these core values, behaviours are identified to drive development and regular group feedback is used to guide this. As he explains,

Take any given team, find out what kind of team it really wants to be, give them some work to do and then afterwards help them talk honestly in their own language about how one another’s behaviour matched up with that team they said they wanted to be; repeat the process, each time trying to do a little better than the last.

Although Leading Teams has become synonymous for its peer review sessions where the team members openly question each other, what is often overlooked is the dependence on an agreed sense of purpose. This focus on values soon expanded to supporting individual athletes in the personal art of leadership. This involved developing their communication skills and connecting them with various community programs to support their place as role models. In addition to this, PIP expanded into business and education.

An idea that comes up again and again is the importance of trust. Although setting rules may seem like an answer, it does not help for transforming actions and behaviours. A point made time and again by Alfie Kohn. This reminded me of Paul Browning’s work on trust and leadership. For McLean, the initial changes to any team is trust, honesty and accountability. The problem is that without this starting point, you only ever have a group of individuals. A key to this change is developing as many leaders across the team as possible, something that Alma Harris discusses in her own work on distributed leadership.

Another point pertinent to the whole program is the place of behaviours. For McLean, performance is a combination of attitudes, habits, beliefs and expectations. So often though the only measurement to go by are our actions. Whether it be our preparation, getting a task down or supporting a colleague, each of these actions are a measurement to a commitment to the agreed trademark and the team.

One of the odd things about the book is the seemingly inadvertent focus on men. Whether it be the air force, numerous sporting clubs or business, it always seems to involve men. This is interesting because my personal experience of Leading Teams was facilitated by a female consultant. I wonder if this is merely a reflection of society and the wider gender divide?

Another question I was left with is where culture starts and stops? Reading the discussions about the St. Kilda Football Club I was reminded of the incident a few years back involving Stephen Milne and Leigh Montagna. It leaves me wondering where that sat with the club trademark and culture. Would this happen at a club like Sydney where ‘the bloods’ permeates all aspects of the team, on and off the field? Is there a line you step over which belongs outside of the club? How much should individuals be expected to adapt their lives to fit the team? Milne and Montagna’s actions would have impacted the culture of the club at the time?

My two personal takeaways from the book are: leaderships begins with knowing yourself and having some agreed ‘trademark’ is essential for any team to work together. McLean suggests that, “the best that we can do is manage ourselves properly”. This reminds me of a comment by Voltaire that “common sense is not common.” Managing ourselves ‘properly’ then is something that takes considerable time and effort. Curt Rees’ starting point is auto-ethnography and knowing who we are. While the idea of a trademark reminds me of Simon Sinek’s argument to always ‘Start with Why’. For Sinek, the why always influences what you do and how you go about it. It is for this reason that McLean asserts,

If we can develop an environment where each player has a vested interest in the development of his teammates, and people are driving themselves individually and collectively towards the team they want to be, the team’s performance will improve and continue to improve.

Brad Gustafson also discusses the importance of values and having a trademark in his book Renegade Leadership. His strategy is to pin his school’s transformational tenets near his phone and workstation so that any time he is on the phone to somebody or writing an email he is reminded of these values.

So what about you? What experiences have you had regarding leadership within team situations? As always, comments welcome.


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Making Comics with Google Drawings

Some consider Google Drawings little more than a mimic of Microsoft Paint. On the surface this would seem true. However, this seeming simplicity is often also its strength. I would sum Google Drawings up as an application that allows you to format and arrange various objects on a flexible canvas. Nothing more and nothing less. Once you see the pieces, then the various possibilities open up, whether they be:

Sometimes the challenge with an application like Drawings is finding an idea that allows you to explore the various possibilities. In the past I used a task involving the creation of a visual quote. Although this ideas is both simple and creative, I felt that it does not capture all of the nuances. One activity that I have been working on lately that does capture many of possibilities of Google Drawings is the idea of creating a comic. Continue reading


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Supporting Digital Identities in School

The #edublogsclub prompt this week is to reflect on a challenge in education.


In a recent post on personal identity, George Couros made the following comment:

We can no longer say we are preparing students for “the real world”, when what mean is ”the real world” that we grew up in, not recognizing current needs of today.

For Couros students should leave high school with:

  • A PLN
  • A digital portfolio
  • An About.me page

This left me thinking about the challenge of digital identify in school. For many this debate quickly deteriorates into a battle between supposed traditional literacy and the more modern digital literacies. In this context, students having a blog and a member of a Facebook group is seen as a win. This problem is not discussed enough, especially what we mean by ‘real world’ and what we even mean by digital literacies? This includes where students set up their presence and the templated identities that are permitted in such spaces as Twitter and Facebook. Here then is my thinking on Couros’ leaving list.

Continue reading


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Five Alternatives to Google Drawings

The prompt for the EdublogsClub is associated with technology: Write a post about free web tools.


Every application has its limits. Although Google Drawings offers many possibilities, you are unable to work with different layers or build upon complex templates. Some other applications that can be connected to your Drive or added to the Chrome browser as an extension include:

  • Pixlr – Pixlr allows you to edit images found within your Drive folder. You can use layers, transform objects and apply a wide range of filters and effects.
  • Lucidpress – With a thorough collection of templates to support desktop publishing, Lucidpress serves as a possible replacement for Microsoft Publisher. Along with adding the application to your Drive, to get it properly working you need to link the Google Account within the User Settings. While from an educational point of view, there is also a link to apply for free school licenses.
  • draw.io Diagrams – Designed to support the creation of diagrams and mock-ups within Google Drive, one of the best features of draw.io is that ability to quickly and easily collaborate via the share button. Another similar program is Lucidchart.
  • Sketchboard.io – The purpose of this application is to collaboratively sketch diagrams. This is useful when building ideas, compared with the fluent flowcharts made with draw.io. The only thing to be mindful of is the free account only allows five collaborators at once.
  • Web Paint – Similar to applications like Snag It!, Web Paint is a Chrome extension which allows you to annotate the screen. You can then take a screenshot of the finished product to use in a presentation.
  • Google AutoDraw – An artificial intelligence experiment, which allows users to draw on preexisting images that are suggested based on initial sketches.
  • iPaint – As a bonus, iPaint provides an online version of MS Paint. Although this does not link with Google Drive and may not be the most sophisticated application, it is a useful for those wanting something simpler.

In the end, there are so many free options on the web, whether it be PicMonkey, Method Draw, BeFunkyVectrPhotoFunia, Pizap, Poster My Wall and Canva. Although most of these applications are free to use, they are not “free as in beer“. Maybe it is limitations, maybe adverts, whatever it is there is usually a cost somewhere. With this in mind, It needs to be noted that with many of web apps, you do not always have control over your content. Although you can save copies of images and objects, the originals are often stored somewhere else.

So what about you? What applications have you used in regards to editing images online? As always, comments welcome.


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