“Hashtags” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

I was recently asked about my take on hashtags. I have written about hashtags before, whether it be their role within Twitter, the way in which they help foster sets and a reflection on what they mean to my own workflow. While I have been influenced by Jon Dron, Terry Anderson, Clive Thompson, Ian Guest and Kevin Hodgson. Here then is a summary of the different uses that have meaning to me.

  • CHATS: The obvious use of hashtags, especially when it comes to education, is as a means of facilitating a chat. This is personified by Tom Whitby and #edchat. These are used at specific times designated by organisers and archived using applications such as Storify.
  • TRIBES: Extending from the chat is the use of hashtags to collect together tribes. In Teaching Crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson describe tribes as communities bringing people together around complex ideas and interests, tied together by certain rules and expectations. Jerry Blumengarten is oftwn quoted as the definitive source for hashtags. However, more recently Kasey Bell has attempted to update this. Although many of these hashtags are associated with chats, they are not confined to that and often take on a life of their own outside of them. Sometimes the challenge with using what seems like the ‘right’ hashtag is that it is difficult to remember every common hashtag, while it seems tedious to go check lists all of the time.
  • RANDOM TEMPORAL CONNECTIONS: Similar to the idea of an in joke, where what is being said only makes sense when privy to the context behind it. Two that come to mind are #whereisHa and #TwodayswithElton. Based on the idea of Where’s Wally, #WhereisHa was started by a group of participants at DLTV14 when Michael Ha was running late having just flown back into Australia from USA. #twodayswithelton was a tag between Ross Halliday and I leading up to Google Teachers Academy a few years ago. It started when Ross said that I looked like  Elton John. We then started a swapping lyrics that acted as something of a sidechat to the official #GTASyd14 hashtag. This informal ad-hoc use is captured by Dean Shareski in his discussion of a more playful Twitter. Another temporal use is also a hashtag around a particular event, whether this be a conference or a camp.
  • EMOTIONS: A different take on the informal is the use of hashtags to capture emotions or responses. This is best demonstrated in Instagram, where everything seems to be interconnected through hashtags. However, it is used on Twitter to highlight various attributes, such as #longread, #trust and #leadership.

Personally, I don’t really think that I use hashtags that effectively. Fine I have a few ‘go tos’, such as vicpln, digilit, edchat, leadwild, edtechteam, disruptedu and gsuiteedu. However, beyond that I don’t really actively use them unless i have clear reason. There are some that seem to methodically share their posts across a range of tribes by including five tags in Tweet. I also tried to game Feedly by placing blogs into categories that would automatically be turned into a tag. There are some that I used to use quite a bit, such as #rhizo14, #TL21c and #ccourses. However, over time these tribes have seemingly moved away. Interestingly, these tags were associated with courses. This in itself may say something.

So what about you? What do hashtags mean to you? As always, comments welcome.

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Creative Innovation

“Creative Innovation” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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

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

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

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

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Be the Connection
“Be the Connection” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Not completely sure that is it, maybe you have a suggestion on the wording or the focus, but rather than sitting on it I am going to ship it, hoping that you might be able to help me by giving your perspective? As always, comments welcome.

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Who You Are @jimgroom

“Who You Are @jimgroom” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

This post is intended to document my Wikity journey. I had been meaning to investigate the idea further after reading Michael Caulfield’s reflections on the project at the end of the year. However, it got put on the backburner for a number of reasons, one of which was my concern about the time and effort that it would require. I thought about it again while listening to Martha Burtis talk about Domain of One’s Own. One of the questions Burtis asks is how aware we were about dealing with digital problems. It occurred to me that although I was confident in setting up an instance of WordPress or creating a sub-domain, I was inadvertently avoiding going any further. So I dived back in, created a new sub-domain (wikity.readwriterespond.com) and loaded up a new instance of WordPress.

So what is a Wikity anyway? Caulfield explains,

The idea is other people’s investigations or explanations of things feed into what you are exploring; you add your bit to that and feed it forward for others to use. At the same time, since people work in their own space, everybody gets to keep control of their own process, built to achieve their own ends.

Structurally, it is a theme built upon WordPress and involves writing short ‘posts’ collecting chunks of text and providing elaborations and tags. These may be your own or they could be forked from other Wikity instances. Originally, you could set up an account at Wikity.cc, but now need to run your own instance using the code made available via GitHub.

Although it could be construed as a form of social bookmarking, it is different to something like Diigo in that it is designed to fork, revise and link between cards. It is also not designed as a centralised hub, as the focus is on the divergent collection of ideas and sharing them on a peer-to-peer basis.

For example, maybe you are reading an essay on listening and in the process it talks about the difference between talking and listening:

Wikity Understanding

“Wikity Understanding” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

As well as the idea of editing being an act of listening:

Wikity Writing and Listening

“Wikity Writing and Listening” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Although these posts are similar, they represent different ideas.

In regards to content and workflow, there are many similarities with the way I create my newsletters. Once I have found something interesting, I write a short summary and then add a quote. The differences with a Wikity is the continual development of cards over time and the focus and themes and ideas.

I wonder if Wikity is best conceived as a footnote for the web? With this in mind, I am left thinking about how this might be different to Hypothesis? Maybe there is a potential when converging my thoughts to reference the various cards, rather than the original posts? With all this said, there is one wicked question posed by Jim Groom that lingers in particular, “Is thinking like the web also a suppression of who you are?” I fear that I have actually yet to suppress my writerly identity?

So that is my take on Wikity? What about you? Do you do anything similar? As always, comments welcome.

If you enjoy what you read here, feel free to sign up for my monthly newsletter to catch up on all things learning, edtech and storytelling.