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

tonite

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.

Lorde

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

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

Chemistry

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

Clean

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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Art and Science of Teaching and Music

With the recent death of Chris Cornell, lead singer of Soundgarden, I was left remembering of my youth. Whether it be buying the cassingle of My Wave or purchasing the music book for Down on the Upside at a Brashs closing down sale. However, the memory that stands out the most was playing Spoonman as a part of my Year 12 music examination.

One of the suggestions in developing the short set was to include a breadth of genres, as well as incorporate different time signatures. Once you dig down, there is little that is uniform about Soundgarden’s music. Whether it be open tunings or odd time signatures, there is always something going on. So I chose Spoonman after initially toying with Go by Pearl Jam.

It was a real chore, although we had a front man who successfully mixed his time screaming metal tracks and singing musical theatre, there was a complexity that I just struggled to get my head (and fingers) around. The problem in hindsight was that I was trying to replicate the lead guitarist Kim Thayil. In particular, I had tried to play note-for-note his wild solos. My guitar teacher tried all he could to get me to simply play around with the scale, but it never felt right. I felt I had to play it how it was on the CD. This no doubt says as much about me as anything. Times have changed.

Nowadays, I rarely play other people’s songs and If I do it is to add my own bent. Over time I have become fascinated in the idea of the cover. I think that in part this is a consequence of my interest in the deconstructionists and reader response theory. Some examples include Johnny Cash’s American series and Triple J’s Like a Version series.

Another example that I came upon recently was Ryan Adams cover of Taylor Swift’s whole album. I had never actually heard the original, other than the singles. What was interesting was that when I finally heard the original in full recently, I was actually disappointed. Not because I thought that Adams was a better artist, but I because I felt that I would have made different choices with the songs. Plucked out different sounds. Emphasised different elements. Here I was reminded of Brian Eno who when interviewed about U2’s the Joshua Tree explained how with a few tweeks that it could have been a Depeche Mode album. Just as Adams was inspired by a mixture of Bruce Springsteen and The Smiths, I was fed by my own experiences and imagined my own song.

It can be easy to get caught up in the creation of the perfect representation. Copying originals. Taking away all context and purpose. It feels like this is what happens in education. Teachers come in with the hope of making everything sound like the latest hit, with their long list of effect sizes. The problem is that this denies the context, the choices and the nuance. It feels like trying to copy Kim Thyall when he himself plays it differently each and every time anyway. We are then faced with the question, how might we let go and become attuned to the moment at hand? Maybe I am wrong, but feelings and emotion come through interpretation, not mindless reproduction?


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Memories Through Music

creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/16006575977

There is something about the Christmas / New Year break and reminiscing. It seems to be a time of year when everyone stops and takes stock. This year has had its moments. It is my first Christmas since my mother passed away. Although sad, I have found solace in reminiscing the memories I am left with.

Memories are a funny thing, not only can they play tricks on you. Deceive you. Manipulate the past to be as you think it is. There are also many different ways that they can be activated. More often than not, it is things that have become attached with the past. Beyond events like birthdays and Christmas, the obvious to me are people. This is particularly true when I get together with my siblings. Our shared history forces memories out of us. Another is places. In the last few months of my mother’s life, we would meet at a park near the city with my daughter. I can’t help but remember each time I drive past. A colleague told me that he still has the same feeling ten years on when he goes past his local oval where his father watched him play football, week in, week out. A different sort of memory is associated with objects. This maybe a range of different things, from a gift to a letter. One particular item which holds a lot of meaning for me in all facets of life is music. There are certain moments in life which I feel are best encapsulated by music. Here are the songs that remind me of my mum …


We Built This City On Rock and Roll (Starship)

This was the first song that I remember my mum ever playing for me. Who knows how old I must have been. Three maybe? Growing up, she did not have many records and by the mid-80’s they were replaced by compact discs, but I know she had this one and it is what I will always remember. I am sure it wasn’t the first song she played me, but over time it became a point of personal folklore.

Gimme Shelter (Holy Soldier)

Something odd happened when I hit my teens. I am not sure if it was just chance or not, but my mum stopped buying me country music and instead started purchasing metal albums. She would get music from the local Christian bookstore based on what was in the reduced bin near the door. One of my favourite purchases was Holy Soldier’s Last Train. I had never really listened to much heavy metal growing up and loved the melodrama. Ironically though, the track that I went back to again and again was a cover of the Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’. I had no idea that it was a cover and I don’t think mum had any idea that I was listening to the Rolling Stones.

I Do It For You (Bryan Adams)

At the same time as mum was purchasing me Christian metal, she was staving off the attack from popular culture. Saved by the ever nostalgic Gold 104.3 in the car, a station that played the best of the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, she took to school to complain about the music that was being forced on me. In Year 7 every class sang a song as a group. The song Mr. Fitz had us singing was Bryan Adams ‘I Do It For You’ from Robin Hood – Prince of Thieves. Mum was furious about this choice and stormed up to the school. Sadly, not because she actually had taste and didn’t feel that it was respectable for anyone to be singing Bryan Adams, but because it was a song about love and in her eyes we were far too young for such things. (The irony of the situation was that Mr. Fitz was actually a writer for the band TISM, while Damien Cowell, aka Humprey B Flaubert, also taught music at the school at the time. I would hate to have know what they thought of the complaint.) To appease her, the song was actually changed to REM’s ‘Everybody Hurts’. Pain and suffering was acceptable.

Only You – Live at Roseland NYC (Portishead)

I am not sure if mum stopped buying or I stopped accepting, but as I grew older, started playing guitar, my tastes matured. I am not sure that there were too many fans in the house of my love of alternative rock, especially the more distorted music. Therefore, when I started driving I would have a bit of a selection in the car. Due to my grandparents purchasing a new car, I bought my car long before I could actually drive it. My rule was, you drive my car, you listen to my music. My CD of choice for mum was Portishead’s live album. Although not pop, I thought that mum would at least appreciate the vibe of it. Being who she was, mum didn’t say a word for near on six months until one day she cracked. She could not stand DJ Andy Smith’s incessant scratching throughout. It was just too much, she couldn’t stand it. I stopped playing her Portishead.

The Climb (Miley Cyrus)

I spent the last hours before my mum passed with my sister. To try and liven up her room we mused about what music we could play. My sister told me that they had watched Hannah Montana together and that mum really like the Miley Cyrus song from it. So I jumped on my phone and downloaded it. We left it on repeat next to her bed. I must admit that it was a weird moment when, after clicking to play something else, it randomly started playing in class on iPad a few months later.


A Personal Postscript

I remember when I started blogging, I thought of it as being something professional to capture my thinking and practise. Fine, the act of reflection might be subjective, but I never envisaged it as being personal. However, the more I read of others and wrote myself, the more I realised that there is something missed in being ‘too professional’ and not personal. I was particularly taken by the open sharing from people like Alan Levine, Dean Shareski, Doug Belshaw, Pernille Ripp, John Spencer, Amy Burvall, Jon Harper, Anne Mirtchen, David Truss and George Couros, just to name a few. Whether it be happenings with the family, personal illness or the passing of a pet, each provided some perspective beyond the classroom. David Truss summed this dilemma up best when he stated that, “connected learning is as much about relationships as it is about learning.” This can have its challenges for as Chris Wejr points out, in a important post, not everyone is able to tweet and post who they are. However, I feel that as I have progressively given more to fostering relationships, the more I have gotten back.

So what about you, how are you giving back? I would love to hear.


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Ongoing Reporting with GSuite

A part of the focus on deep learning is the realisation that reporting needs to be ongoing.

It can be easy to look at an application and provide one answer, the problem with this is that it does not cover all contexts. Here is a collection of ideas associated with GSuite and ongoing reporting and assessment.


I recently attended a professional learning day investigating ongoing reporting. As opposed to mandated biannual reporting, the interest was the different ways in which students engage with their learning. During the initial discussions, the following ideas were identified when developing any sort of solution:

  • Consistency
  • Timeliness
  • Clarity
  • Logistics
  • Stakeholders
  • Customisation

During a conversation during a break, I was asked about some ways which GSuite can be used to support ideas. Teachers may know about the different applications, however it is not always clear how these may support ongoing learning. Here then are some thoughts:

Docs

One of the benefits to Google Docs is the ability to work collaboratively within a digital environment. This can incorporate a range of formats, whether it be texts, tables, hyperlinks, images, charts, drawings and gifs. In terms of ongoing learning, Docs allows for feedback at any point, whether in the form of a suggestion or as a comment. Add-ons, such as CheckMark or JoeZoo further extend these possibilities by providing additional functionality, while there are also various options for inserting voice comments.

Slides

Similar to Docs, Google Slides offers a number of ways to collect, collaborate and communicate. Where it differs is the ability to engage with desktop publishing. At a simple level, you can add video, texts and images, as well as use the Explore Tool to automagically organise this content. Alternatively, it is possible to build upon a preexisting template, such as Jennifer Scott’s Slides Yearbook. Matt Miller and Alice Keeler have also created an add-on that allows users to produce a presentation from a collection of images in Slides.

Sheets

For some all solutions begin with Google Sheets. With the ability to protect access, hide cells and sheets, as well as link to a particular cell, Sheets provides a number of ways to organise data and information. One idea is to use Sheets as a central space for writing comments, linking to work and recording reflections. This could include sharing results with students from a mastersheet via IMPORTRANGE or providing an open space for students to support each other as Bianca Hewes’ has done with her work on medals and missions. Another approach to using Sheets is using scripts to automate some of the process. For example, Alice Keeler has created a template for making and communicating rubrics to students.

Forms

Building on the potential of Sheets, Google Forms provides a number of ways to collect and co-ordinate ongoing learning. One way is through the use of pre and post tests to drive differentiated instruction. Although in the past you had to use Flubaroo to automate this, with the addition of quizzes you are now able to do a lot more without the support of add-ons. Another use of Forms is as a way to efficiently record data. For example, you maybe conducting a reading conference, a Form can automate this process and send a summary to the student. Going a step further, it is also possible to create a unique link with pre-filled in content, such as name and class. This could even include attaching evidence using the ‘Upload a File’ function. This might be a short video or some work that has been annotated. This workflow is particularly useful when saving work on a mobile device.

Classroom

One of the challenges with ongoing reporting can be coordinating everything. Google Classroom allows you to create and communicate various resources and templates. This can include sending out individual files or sharing a collaborative document. In addition to giving feedback, Classroom provides a space for teachers to coordinate an ongoing conversation using private comments. Those using the mobile application are also able to annotate submitted artefacts. Classroom provides a way of communicating with parents. This involves sending regular summaries of missing work, upcoming dates and class acivities, such as questions, announcements and assignments. Although this could be done using Gmail, which would in fact allow dialogue, the benefit of Classroom is that it automates the process and allows parents to moderate how the communication works.

Google Drive

Although Google has added the ability to insert video from Drive into a presentation, it is possible to take this a step further and embed content from Drive in other spaces. This might include audio files, PDF documents or images. The benefit of embedding with Drive is that you are able to manage who has access to various content, whether it be only people within an instance or even just particular users. This can be useful when developing something like a closed portfolio. Another use of Drive is to capture and organise learning. As discussed, Forms now provides the ability to upload files. These items are then placed in one folder associated with the responses.

Keep

An alternative to using Drive and Classroom to collect content with Keep. There are a number of ways to organise and annotate evidence within Keep. For example, it can be useful when working with photos on moboile devices, as it allows you to avoid adding images to the camera roll. Notes can also be organised using labels and collaborated upon. This content can then be curated in Docs and Slides via the ‘Keep Notepad’.

Sites

A common application used to share and publish ongoing learning is Google Sites. The new Sites allows users to quickly and easily collect and collate work. One of the challenges though when sharing using Sites is that the setting associated with the various files allow access. If creating a public showcase it can be useful to add all the files into a folder with the desired sharing settings, which then overwrites the original settings. Another option is to use Alice Keeler’s AnyoneCanView Add-on, which changes the default settings associated with the document. For those wanting to embed more than just documents and images, Martin Hawksey has demonstrated how to embed any iFrame application using via Google Apps Scripts.


Many of these aspects cross-over to posts that I have written before involving portfolios and documentation, however where this differs is the attempt to capture many of the parts and how they might interconnect. As always, I am interested in your views. Is there something I have missed or maybe something you disagree with? Comments welcome for this is all ongoing learning, right?


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Daily Habits

Steve Brophy has been digging into the art of deliberate habits lately, whether it be having a clear morning routine, 750 word and setting up his workspace to nullify distraction. During the recent episode of Design and Play he posed the question:

What are the daily habits that you do as a learner?

This got me thinking. I have spoken about the process involved in learning and the tools I depend upon, but never thought about the daily activities which help me as a learner.

Combing the Curation

A few years ago, Doug Belshaw wrote a post, ‘Curate or be Curated‘. In it he reflected on the rise of algorithms in curtailing and constraining the content that we consume. Although I do not subscribe to several newspaper subscriptions, I use Feedly which captures posts from over two hundred blogs (see my list here). I will be honest, I used to read everything, now I skim first then check out those pieces that catch my interest – I am human. If the posts are too long I send them to Pocket. I then either save them to Diigo or capture specific aspects in a Wikity card. In addition to this, I have a number of newsletters and summaries that are sent to me via email (this is something I have reflected on elsewhere).

Lurking and Listening

Another habit that I do every day is be actively open to interesting ideas. Curiosity breeds curiosity. In part I pick up some of this perspective from the blogs I read, but I think that it also comes from engaging in the world around. David Culberhouse describes this as spending time at the idea well. This might involve chatting with people at lunch or asking clarifying questions of others. I think that this is why I love professional development sessions and conferences so much. It isn’t always the intended learning opportunities, but the often ‘hidden’ incidental learning at the periphery.

Thoughtfully Thinking

Michael Harris talks about the theory of loose parts, which focuses on the importance of changing environment to foster independent thinking.

Nature is an infinite source of loose parts, whereas the office or the living room, being made by people, is limited.

Where possible I try and to make sure that I get some sort of thinking time each day. A few moments where I stop doing what I am doing and do something different. This might involve going for a walk or listening to music. Warren Berger describes this as ‘Time Out’ in his book A More Beautiful Question. This is something that Pearman and Brophy also touch upon in the podcast. What is important is disrupting the flow of things.


So they are some of habits that I keep. I am not sure that I am as deliberate as Brophy, however they work for me. What it does leave me thinking is how this compares with the learning environment in school? So what about you? What are your habits? As always, comments welcome.


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The Risk of Hospitality

Digciz is a conversation centered around ideas of Digital Citizenship. The focus this week is on hospitality, in particular, the openness, risk and vulnerability relating to existing in online spaces. My response involves a series of short reflections:

Context First

Peter Skillen recently reflected on a situation where he corrected someone. He was sorry for the way it went about. This had me thinking about my own conversations with Skillen, especially around computational thinking and Twitter. One of the things that I have taken away is the place of technology to change the way we think and act. The problem is there are contexts where the conversations move away from the ideals. Although I agree with Skillen (and Papert) about the power of Logo and Turtle to explore mental models, especially after reading Mindstorm, sometimes when you are asked for simple material you put aside your bias to share a range of visual resources. In this situation, technology is only one part of the equation. First and foremost is pedagogy and the place of coding as a lunchtime club. The focus then becomes about entertainment, engagement and ease of instruction. The ripe conditions for initiatives such as CS First and Code.org.

Crossing Imaginary Lines

There are some learning experiences which seem to stay with us long after the lights have been turned off. In regards to online learning, my participation with Rhizo14 was one such experience. I neither knew exactly why I was there or what the protocols were. Stepping out into the unknown, my focus was to hold my judgements for as long as possible. Sadly, I think that I went a little too hard. Caught up in the flow, I critiqued everything a bit too much. (If you read any of Jenny Mackness’ research, apparently there were some heated conversations on Facebook which I was not a part of.) This questioning even included Dave Cormier and his assessment methods. Although this was a risk he fostered, it felt as if you knew you had crossed the line even if there were none. Maybe this is the reality online, the challenge I guess is knowing when to take your shoes off at the door and apologising if you happen to forget.

Tribes and Tribulations

In the book Teaching Crowds, Jon Dron and Terry Anderson unpack the different ways that people gather within online spaces. One way that really stands out to me in regards to open online spaces is the idea of tribes. At the intersection between groups and sets, tribes involve bringing people together around complex ideas and interests, tied together by certain rules and expectations. When I think about my participation online, I would say that I am a part of many tribes, some of which I collected here. The challenge with tribes is that they do not always talk to each other, sometimes even working against each other. Indirectly though they influence each other in a number of ways. For example, when communication is shared openly, it carries the risk of being appropriated by other communities. This bleeding and breaking can be construed as negative, but it also has a positive outcome of extending our thinking.

Mapping Our Digital Bits

David White and Alison Le Cornu offer a more fluid typology with their notion of digital visitor and resident. White and Le Cornu suggest that our use of different spaces on the web fluctuates between two states: that of the visitor whose use is often short term and task orientated compared with the resident who sees their participation as being an important part of their lived experience. Amy Collier goes beyond the notion of residency to describe the web and instead suggests the ideas of kindred spirits and belonging. I wonder if a different way of seeing the divide is from the perspective of APIs and the little bits of ourselves that exist around the web. In discussing the notion of personal APIs, Kin Lane provides the following breakdown:

  • Profiles – The account and profile data for users.

  • People – The individual friends and acquaintances.

  • Companies – Organizational contacts, and relationships.

  • Photos – Images, photos, and other media objects.

  • Videos – Local, and online video objects.

  • Music – Purchased, and subscription music.

  • Documents – PDFs, Word, and other documents.

  • Status – Quick, short, updates on current situation or thoughts.

  • Posts – Wall, blog, forum, and other types of posts.

  • Messages – Email, SMS, chat, and other messages.

  • Payments – Credit card, banking, and other payments.

  • Events – Calendar, and other types of events.

  • Location – Places we are, have been, and want to go.

  • Links – Bookmarks and links of where we’ve been and going.

As with White and Le Cornu’s mapping, Lane’s emphasis is on the journey, rather than a destination. Mapping our APIs provides the potential to dig down into our particular uses. The problem is, I am still trying to work out exactly how to go about this.


So they are some of my thoughts on the risks and vulnerabilities associated with belonging in open online spaces. What about you? What do you have to add to the conversation? As always, comments welcome.


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Developing Safer (Digital) Schools

I was lucky enough to recently attend a session run by Claire Sutherland for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation around the topic of ‘safe schools‘. I have worked with AMF before in regards to eSmart. Today’s focus was on the trends, policies and resources to support schools around cybersafety. Personally, I have mixed feelings about cybersafety as a topic, as there are some who approach it from the perspective of fear. So here are some of my notes and observations on the presentation …

Issues

When it comes to children and technology, there are a number of issues to consider:

In regards to schools and liability, It is important to understand that if you are aware of an issue, you are responsible. In Victoria, this is covered in the PROTECT Guidelines.

3Cs

For the Alannah and Madeline Foundation cybersafety can be broken down into three aspects:

  • Contact: Do you appreciate who you are sharing with? There is a difference between a ‘friend’ and a ‘follower’, while many of our connections come via acquaintances. We may think that we are not providing much information online, however once we work across multiple platforms, people (and computers) can easily join the dots and develop quite an extensive profile.
  • Conduct: How do you act when you are online? Do you THINK before you post, that is do you consider if what you are sharing is ‘True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind’. Research says that 1:5 students have been involved in cyberbullying online. The challenge is to look out for one another, respecting the rights of others. One suggestion is to ask before tagging, especially in regards to changes in regards to auto-tagging within Google Photos.
  • Content: What information do you share online? Is it personal or private? How authentic is it? How positive is your digital footprint? What is your response to fake news and surreptitious advertising? To plagarism, is it constructive? This can all be challenging as we move into a world that no longer forgets. Something captured by Black Mirror where everyone’s experiences are captured all of the time or we are continually judged by everything that happens in our life.

Associated with the 3C’s, there are four different types of spaces: messaging app, social media, games and dating apps. What entices students is whether they are free, accessible, social and allow experimentation. Constantly changing, these spaces are a part of the yo-yo craze where students move when adults move in.

Challenges

Some of the challenges associated with cybersafety include: raising awareness with parents, teachers and students, monitor the use of technology, building online resilience and empathy, celebrating the positive, as well as empowering bystanders to stand up by providing anonymous reporting systems. To be proactive, schools need to be as explicit as possible when it comes to policy. This means it does not matter which teacher is consulted. Associated with all this, it is important to document issues when they arise.

Resources

Here are a collection of resources – both from the session and some links of my own – to go further in regards to cyber safety and digital citizenship:


So what about you? What are you doing to make school safer? Are there any tips, tricks or resources that you would share? As always, comments welcome.


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A Comprehensive Guide to YouTube

Introduction

YouTube is a video sharing platform. Started by a few employees of PayPal in 2005, Google purchased the site in 2006 for US$1.65 billion. For a complete history, watch this video documenting the impact that platform has had:

The sort of content that can be found on YouTube includes TV shows clips, music videos, documentaries, audio recordings, trailers and vlogging. With a blur between amateur and professional content, the quality can differ drastically from one video to the next.

Searching YouTube

The most common use of YouTube is watching content. This is recognised by the site, for when users first enter, they are greeted with an array of recommendations. If there is no history to base suggestions upon or account signed in, then the summary provided is of generic trending content and live recommendations.

To find specific content, there is a search bar at the top of the screen. The usual search terms associated with Chrome apply. After an initial search, there is a filter button which allows users to drill down further. This includes such parameters as date, type, duration, features and means of sorting. Filtering provides a way of search content via types, such as channels and playlists.

Beyond this, users can search via Google and click on the video tab. This will provide content across the web. To restrict this to YouTube, preface the search with “site:youtube.com”. For further insight into discovering content, YouTube has a channel collecting together various search stories.

Playing Video

Once users have found content, there are a number of ways to playback video. The obvious answer is within the browser. One catch with the browser is the distraction littered around the video, whether it be comments, information and related content. An answer to this is to play in fullscreen. This can be done by clicking the button at the bottom right of the viewing screen. Another way of doing this is to replace the ‘watch?v=’ in the URL with ‘embed’. Just as replacing ‘/edit’ with ‘/present’ in Slides will open the presentation in full screen mode, so to will adding embed to the URL in YouTube. This approach can be useful when sharing links with students.

There are a number of other third party applications which do similar things too. They often remove distractions on the screen while viewing, including Watchkins, View Pure and Quitetube. Richard Byrne has unpacked these in more detail. If viewing through the Chrome Browser, there are also a number of extensions to support viewing. These include Distraction Free YouTube and Turn Off the Lights.

In addition to avoiding the distractions, there are a number of other options to support viewing, including subtitles, video quality and playback speed. These options can be useful for supporting students who may struggle to understand the speaker or when reviewing a lengthy instructional video.

Sharing Video

After watching, there are a number of ways to share videos with others. Underneath the title and publisher is a share button which, when clicked, reveals a series of options. The first thing to note is that there is the means to share from a particular point. Clicking the checkbox next to the specific time will add a small bit of code to the end of the URL.

Once the choice about the URL is decided, there are three options provided around sharing, the first is via social media. There are a number of platforms provided to share with. Once clicked, they will open a separate pop-up box. An account with each is needed to post.

The second option is to embed content into a blog post or a website. To do this, click the embed button and choose from the settings provided as to the size of the video, whether suggested videos are shown and the title and actions are included. There is also a privacy-enhanced option which prevents information being captured associated with viewers unless the video is played. Once these decisions have been made, copy the code for the iframe and insert the HTML where applicable. There are a few other changes that can be made directly to the code, such as automatically playing or turning on captions. Playing an iframe will work on most sites, however applications like GSuite and Facebook often skip this process by providing their own process of searching for content and then embedding it.

Personalising

YouTube provides a number of ways to personalise your experience. The first step involves signing into YouTube with a Google account. This allows some basic ways to engage with content, including the ability to like and dislike each video, as well as subscribe to channels.

“YouTube Viewing and Sharing Permissions” by sylviaduckworth is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND

These options help YouTube build a basic profile to cater content for different tastes and interests. For users to take this a step further, there is a need to not only sign in, but create a channel in the Creator Studio.

Creating a Channel

Channels are at the core of the way YouTube works. Some assume that ‘Channel’ insinuates publishing content, but it means much more than that. Importantly, it provides a means of curating content and adjusting the way YouTube works for you. There are a number of ways to start this process, but the most obvious way is to click on user button in the top right and choose Creator Studio.

Choosing to create an account asks users to agree to separate terms and conditions. There is also the option to create a branded channel, such as a school or a project. Whatever the choice, you will be required to enter in a mobile phone number to verify the account.

Once the channel has been created, users are able to personalise their experience associated with with the Creator Studio. The first changes relate to the dashboard. This is the noticeboard of the channel and can be changed to show what is relevant and interesting. This is done by adding, deleting and modifying the various widgets.

 

The next point of personalisation is the channel itself. To find this, users click on the View Channel button below the channel name. Here a description and channel art can be added. Descriptions can be one thousand characters in length, while the recommended size for the channel art is 2560 x 1440.

A quick and easy application for creating this art is Google Drawings. One of the things to be mindful of is the dimensions of the different screens. Text, therefore, needs to be added to the centre. A template can be found here.

Another point of personalisation are the Channel Settings. This is where the choice whether the likes, subscriptions and playlists are either kept private or made visible on the channel page. Clicking on the cog next to the subscribe button will open up this menu.

The option is also given to customise the layout of the channel. Clicking yes will provide the ability to add different sections, provide a list of featured channels and add a discussion tab for general comments. The sections include a range of options associated with videos, channels and playlists.

When users visit a channel, there are two views: returning subscribers and new visitors. The difference between the two views is that the first thing that new visitors are shown is a trailer. This is designed to provide a visual introduction to the channel. The trailer can either be specific video or the latest upload.

Playlists

Beyond the channel page, playlists provide users a number of ways to personalise their experience. There are a number of ways they are created. The most obvious is pressing the ‘Add To’ button next to Share beneath a video. This opens a box allowing users to either add the video to a preexisting playlist or to start a new one.

Another option is to automate the creation of playlists. To do this, users click on a playlist they own and open the Playlist Settings. Beyond the basic settings, which allows users to adjust privacy and ordering, there is a tab labeled Auto Add. Here there are options for setting multiple rules focusing on description, title and tags, so that new videos fitting any of these rules will automatically be added. An example of such automation is YouTube’s EDU channel. This is generated from various channels that are generated around different year levels and subject areas.

In addition to automated playlists, there is the option to build on and adjust public playlists. This can be useful when wanting to add to somebody else’s playlist or refine a list to keep it more focused. To copy, click on the title of the playlist so that it opens as the whole page. Then click on the three dots in the top right-hand corner. There, you are given the option to ‘Add All To’. Once clicked, you are able to add the videos to a new playlist. This could be used to create a refined list for students.

Playlists are offer a useful to collect together a number of videos. So it needs to be noted that just as a single video can be embedded in a website, so to can a playlist. To do this, click on the playlist title so that it opens in a list view. Then click on the share button and copy the embed code.

Customising YouTube

YouTube Editor

The most obvious space to customise YouTube is in the creation of content. This is done within the Creator Studio. The easiest way to add content is via the upload button at the top of the screen. Otherwise, videos can be created from photos with the creation of slideshows or as a project which involves combining different content together.

Next, add information about the content, including title, description, tags, privacy settings and sharing. The advanced settings tab allows users to adjust a number of settings, such as showing comments, ability to embed and the category associated with the video. The defaults for these settings can also be adjusted in the channel settings.

Once uploaded, there is the option to edit content within YouTube. This includes the ability to adjust colour, stabilise jerky camera motion, change speed, trim length, apply filters and blur out particular content.

In addition to video, users can add a soundtrack with content provided from an extensive audio library. There is a slider to balance between original audio and the added music. The video editor allows for more nuances in regards to audio and sound effects.

Another option possible with YouTube is the ability to add clickable content to videos. This includes providing links to other content and users, as well as engaging the viewer with polls. This can occur during videos and at the end.

The last option in regards to editing video is the ability to add subtitles and closed captions. This then then leads into the various options associated with the videos

There is a Creator Studio app for mobile devices, which allows users to check out statistics, respond to comments and get customised notifications, while the core mobile YouTube app allows you to upload video, apply simply filters and add a soundtrack. Neither provides the options made available through the web.

YouTube Live Stream

Live streaming was added to YouTube in 2011 as a way of recording events in real time. This was designed in part for such things as gaming and concerts. Although the video can be trimmed later on, there is no post-production added, the video goes out as is. Recently, Hangouts on Air was also added as another means of sharing. Although Hangouts can still be used for conducting video conferences and chat, the recording aspect is now done through YouTube. At the recent I/O announcements, 360 streaming was also announced.

To create a stream, users go to the Creator Studio > Live Streaming > Event. If this is the first time then YouTube requires the completion of a verification process. A once off, this is done by telephone, either by sending a text or via an automated voice call. When complete, an event can then be scheduled.

Once a new event is created, there is a range of basic information and settings that can be adjusted, including the title, title, tags, privacy and description. In regards to types of video, users can choose between Hangouts on Air, which utilises the webcam, or custom encoding options, which allows for high quality experience by bringing together a number of audio visual sources.

There are a range of advanced settings that can also be adjusted, many which flow through from the channel upload defaults. These options include category, comments and licensing.

Stream Now provides more options around production, third-party encoders, analytics and engagement. This includes the ability to add cards to the video with further content, live chat to interact with viewers, as well as adjusting the workspace associated with streaming by moving around the various elements on the streaming page.

Although it is possible to stream via mobile devices, the options differ depending on what platform users are working from.

Collaborating in YouTube

In addition to being able to create content, YouTube offers a range of ways to collaborate, whether it be in the creation of playlists, sharing private videos and adding videos to a communal channel.

Playlist

In the settings there is the option to add collaborators to a playlist. This either involves directly adding the accounts for the various users or sharing a link which people can access. Larry Goble has shared how collaborative playlists can be used to provide feedback to student videos shared via YouTube.

Sharing Videos

Another means of collaborating is by uploading a private video and sharing it with various users. There are two options provided, one to share directly with users or to share with anyone within an organisation if the account is in a domain. This can be a useful function when sharing videos just within a school.

Collaborative Channels

Although individuals can have a channel content is posted, another way of collaborating is through a shared channel. This is Brand Account. It is attached to a user’s primary channel. With multiple owners, there is no need for a separate username or password. The most obvious use of this is a school account.

The first step is creating this is going to YouTube Settings > Overview > Create a New ChannelAs with any channel, there is a requirement to verify the account. This channel can then be set up like any other channel, with the difference being multiple users can be added. To add users, go to YouTube Settings > Overview > Add and Remove Managers.

Here users are taken to the myaccounts.google.com page where they are able to adjust the information attached to the account. This includes the adding roles and managing permissions.

There are three roles associated with users attached. Owners control all aspects of the channel, while managers can add videos. Communication managers have no privileges associated with YouTube and is a role associated with other platforms, such as Google Photos and Google+.

Transferring Ownership

The other way of setting up a Brand Account is by transferring the content an existing Google Account. To do this, go to YouTube Settings > Advanced > Move channel to Brand Account. Users are then required to select the Brand Account they would like the content transferred to. This can be useful if starting from scratch or wanting to transfer ownership.

Admin Settings

Another way in which YouTube can be customised is through the Admin Console. This allows schools and businesses to adjust content based on those users who are signed in.

There are three forms of restrictions that can be applied in regards to what content can be searched, as well as what might show up in the recommendations.  This includes restricted where content is blocked, moderate where users can only watch approved videos and unrestricted where users can browse all of YouTube when signed-in. Beyond this, there is a setting to moderate and approve content for users.

These restrictions can be applied to the whole organisation or just for particular groups. In addition to this, there is the option to turn Hangouts on Air / YouTube Live on or off.

There are also settings in User Contents where search settings can be adjusted, whether it be restricting searches to Safe Search or applying certificates to particular sites.

Although all these various settings are within GSuite, YouTube is not a part of the core services and has its own terms of service. Therefore, further permissions from parents about posting content is needed.

Other Links

A more automated way of sharing content is using a service such as IFTTT and Buffer, which allows users to create recipes which are run via all sorts of triggers, such as videos liked or new content posted.

Creator Academy – Learn tips from savvy creators as they showcase their secrets and level up your YouTube skills with Creator Academy lessons

Creating Video Content – A post unpacking some alternatives to creating video outside of YouTube.

Nat and Friends explains what happens to a video after you upload it and when you watch something.

197 Educational YouTube Channels You Should Know About – A collection of channels organised into subject areas.


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Creating Video Content

I have been doing a bit of work lately with YouTube. One of the challenges is adding content. Although there is the option to live stream or create videos from still images, both of these approaches have their limits. Here then is a list of other options:

Touchcast

An iOS application, Touchcast allows you to not only easily record, but through the use of a green screen, add your own settings and backgrounds. In addition to this, it has a great teleprompter which helps alleviate the problem of not quite looking at the camera, as well as helping with pace and fluency. For more information, read my post here.

Adobe Spark Video

Originally Adobe Voice, Adobe Spark Video is a multi-platform application which allows users to easily present ideas and information in an engaging manner. It provides connections to range of content to create slick and stylish presentations in minutes. Once finished, users can  download videos to publish elsewhere. For more information, read my introduction or watch my video.

Powtoon

An animation program, Powtoon allows users to build on the idea of a PowerPoint presentation in the creation of a engaging video. With a range of templates to work with, there are many options for what is available. However, projects do have the potential of becoming complicated quickly.

Lumen5

A new application, Lumen5 has been designed to quickly and easily visualise the web by identifying the key elements of a post or a page. Similar to Adobe Spark Video, it provides access to a range of Creative Commons images and music to create posts. The goal is to automate the creation of content through the use of artificial intelligence. For more information, see Kevin Hodgsen’s post.


So what about you? What applications do you use to create visual content? As always, comments welcome.


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My #EdTechRations

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

 

I came upon David Hopkins’ curation Emergency Rations via a image on Instagram from Amy Burvall. I think that this is important. Although it was on social media where I discovered it – a regular ration throughout the book – it was my connection with and trust in Burvall’s judgment that lead me to read it.

The basic premise of the book is a collection of posts, thousand words each, on what it is you would not leave home without. There are a range of responses. Some familiar faces, others new to me, each adding their own twist on the question. For some their response bordered on a listical, while others were more circumspect, using it as a reflective opportunity to stop and assess.

What is important is that it is a technology book about people. Whether it be Maha Bali’s use of her smartphone to study while raising a child, Amy Burvall’s advice that if you are to apply one piece of makeup that it should be lipstick, Joyce Seitzinger’s warning that she does not like to receive random voice calls or Steve Collis’ revelation that he only has one pair of shoes, each decision provides a glimpse into another world.

So to continue the conversation, here is my contribution:


There are a number of devices which make up my setup. Whether it be my Chromebook, iPad Mini, Dell (work) laptop and an inherited old MacBook. However, the one device that I would not leave home without is my smartphone. A part of me wished this wasn’t the case, but while I live with my iPhone 4s while my Nexus 6P is being fixed, I am realising how much I have come to depend on my phone for so much of what I do.

I am not necessarily interested in the latest and greatest, nor wedded to a particular digital ecosystem. I am more content to bide my time in order to spend my money on other things, such as books and holidays. Instead, what interests me is the potential and possibility of the technology I have, that is, finding the edge of the page. Rather than being constricted and cajoled into a particular way of working, I would like to thing that I find a balance betweening programming and being programmed.

When I think about what I use my smartphone for, I think that it comes down to three aspects: reading, writing and responding.

READ

There are so many different forms of media which I regularly engage with on my phone, spread across a number of applications. The most important one though would have to be following posts via Feedly. Subscribed to over two hundred blogs, this is usually my first port of call. From there I share out to various social media and bookmarking sites, such as Twitter and Diigo. Sometimes with longer reads I will save them to Pocket, particularly as there is the option on Android for the app to read these out loud to you. (Note: you need to use a third party app on iOS). In regards to other texts, I use Kindle for digital books and ezPDF Reader for PDFs. With the Kindle, I often use my old iPhone or iPad to read them aloud to me via the accessibility settings (the Android experience is frustrating). I like digital texts as I can often quickly and easily come back to my highlights and annotations. In regards to podcasts, I use Podcast Addict. It is adequate, but does have nuances that can be frustrating. To be honest, I do not really watch a lot of video as it is hard to drive while watching, while if I do listen to music it is usually via Google Music as I am never organised enough to connect with my computer to update my playlists.

WRITE

Gone are the days when using a phone meant depending on text messaging and making calls. Instead, communication is spread across a range of applications. David White and Alison Le Cornu talk about the difference between personal and institution when mapping out digital presence, however just as our identities are complex, so to are the ways we digitally connect. My dominant form of communication with work is still email. Personally, email brings in a range of updates and newsletters. Whether it be sharing a post or engaging in discussion, my most frequented application is Twitter. I do not pretend to keep up with the noise and instead focus on serendipitous side of things. Some other spaces where I connect include Voxer. Google+, Google Hangouts. Slack and Instagram. I must admit that my participation in these spaces can be a bit more ad hoc.

RESPOND

One of the biggest changes that the smartphone has made in my life is the ease to which I can create and respond. Although I could keep a physical journal or record ideas on scrap paper, using the phone not only allows me to jot down ideas at any moment, but also easily edit pre-existing ones. This allows me to work on the train or while cradling my child. Although I have used both Evernote and Google Keep in the past, the improvement in Google Docs to work offline means that, whether it is developing a presentation or writing a post, I do most of my work there. I am interested in moving to a markdown editor, especially in light of my experience with Wikity, but for now my Docs workflow works. In regards to video and photography, I do enjoy using Instagram. Although it is private account as I am mindful of making the open decision for others. I have dabbled with recording the audio associated with presentations using my phone. However, I have yet to get this workflow down pat.


As I reflect on my experiences with mobile, I am reminded again and again that mobile devices have their limits. For example, I still finish my blog posts on a computer, relying on Flickr for images and Alan Levine’s Attribution Helper to embed them. I am also left considering the temporal nature of these conversations. Five years ago my rations would have been completely different based on how I work and what was available. I am therefore left with the knowledge that this description has a used by date. Maybe it will involve a move away from mobile? Considering the environment and sticking with devices and relying less on the cloud? The technology we wear? Or more control over our mobile experience? Whether it be the content we consume? Whatever it is, it will be interesting to note how it all unfolds.

Inspired by Kevin Hodgson, I created a summary with Lumins5


So what about you? What are your edtech survival rations? As always, comments welcome.


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