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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Toca Boca and Digital Toys

Toca Boca and the importance of play

Toca Boca is a suite of applications that provides spaces within which to explore and play.


I often hear teachers complain that all students do on tablets is play games. This is supposedly in lieu of supposed ‘real work’. Although I would not consider myself as being a part of the anti-gamer community, I think that there are some which are more prone to consuming our attention, rather than creativity and critical thinking. (See the recent discussion associated with Coolmaths and Chromebooks) A company trying to counter this focus on consumption is Toca Boca. Started in 2010 in Sweden, Toca Boca create digital environments. The purpose is not to complete games or progress through levels, but instead work within the parameters set to participate in imaginative, open-ended play. As the Björn Jeffery explains:

I don’t think we are going to digitize all play, and it wasn’t our goal, either. It’s just a new way to play, so it has its benefits and its drawbacks. Obvious benefits are that it’s portable, so we do very well on airplanes or dinners, for that matter — situations where parents need to occupy their children. Kids get super-bored after fifteen minutes at a restaurant, whereas parents want to sit for another two hours. Bringing your Lego kit to the restaurant is a little tricky, and so maybe an iPad is more convenient. But, of course, there is also a time and a place.

Some of the different applications that I have explored with my daughters include:

  • House: Users move around a house to complete numerous chores and activities,
  • Town: Users move between a shop, police station, a house and a park. Each space includes different characters and objects to engage with.
  • Kitchen: Working between the fridge, a bench space and a cooking area, users prepare various meals. Through this process they are able to learn about how different produce changes when it is cooked, chopped and blended.
  • Car: Given a small car, users drive around within an environment that has various objects and obstacles jump over or avoid.
  • Band: There is a stage with three tiers, each with their own intensity. Each character plays a different instrument, which users can drag around the stage or they can placed on the top pedestal which allows users to control the particular instrument.
  • Hair Salon: Using a range of tools and products, including scissors, dryer, coloured spray and magic liquid which makes hair grow, users are able to create their own hair styles. Once complete, they can then create their own hairdos.
  • Fairy Tales and Tailor: Users choose clothes, apply various patterns and then accessories in the development of their own characters. They can also capture a snapshot of their finished creation.
  • Lab: Users are provided with a virtual laboratory within which to explore the elements of nature in a fun and playful way. Through a range of virtual experiments, users heat, boil, spin and cool various objects to see what happens.
  • Birthday Party & Tea Party: These apps allow users to lay out a table cloth for a party involving cake and drinks. This can be either played collaboratively or individually. Once someone has eaten or drank what have, you can then give them more. In addition to this, every so often something will spill which you need to clean up before doing anything else.
  • Builders Lab: Something of a take on Minecraft, users are given a blank space on which to build upon. There are a range of robots to help you, each offering a particular skill, whether it be creating a block, moving a block or painting the space.
  • Nature: Similar to Sim City, you are given a plot of land which you can add vegetation too, create mountains and dig out waterways. Once this is done, you can zoom in and go in search of the various flora and fauna that inhabits this created space. There is a range of objects you can collect and then feed the various animals. When you find something there is the option then to take a picture of your discovery.

In many respects these apps are about learning, they have been described as ‘digital toys for children’. This is not learning in the way that Mathletics helps with Maths, but rather applications capturing the different forms of play:

  • Active play, which is like chasing each other, playing sport, running around.
  • Make-believe play, which is imagination and role play.
  • Manipulative play, which is puzzles, construction, building, Lego, making, creating.
  • Creative play, which is arts, crafts, drawing, music.
  • Learning play, which is games and books — they are defined as learning because they are linear. They have a beginning, a middle, and an end.

This collection is continuing to grow and evolve. So what about you? Are there any open-ended applications that you or your students use? As always, comments welcome.


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Googling Libraries

The future of libraries is in research

A collection of ways Google G Suite for Education can be used in the library, including the creation of digital spaces, supporting research, organising thinking and making connections beyond the classroom.


One of the areas that the team that I work in supports is GSuite. This year we have looked to provide for some different stakeholders within school, one of which are librarians. I have written before about the future of libraries, touching on ideas of a hybrid learning space always open. Here then are some further thoughts on the ways that GSuite can support these changes:

Spaces

A significant change in recent times has been the development of virtual spaces. David White describes this intersection between the physical and digital as a coalescent space. Google provides a number of options including: Sites, Plus, Classroom and Blogger. Each application has its own set of features and affordances.

(New) Google Sites is a static website builder that allows a lot of drop and drag. It offers a number of possibilities. It is also now found within Google Drive and allows users to embed a wide range of content. One of the limitations is the ability to converse and the use of mobile platforms to create and update.

Another option is Google Plus. Like Facebook and Facebook Pages, Plus provides the means to create communities where people can meet and share. These can be both public and private. Additionally, Plus allows users to organise resources in collections.

A development over recent years has been Google Classroom. This space allows many of the features of Plus communities, but in a closed environment. A recent addition to classroom has been the ability to engage across domains.

The original Google space is Blogger. One of the original blogging platforms, Blogger allows for an open and dynamic presentation of content. This could be a shared space for different writers, a place to collect links or a space to document news and updates.

There are so many options for spaces. However, rather than choosing one or the other, sometimes the best option is combining different solutions, whether it be a Site and a G+ community or a blog and a Classroom space.

Further Reading

Research.

In an age of abundance, customised content and fake news, one of the more important roles for a library is to develop digital citizenship. For David White, this is about being an “expert at navigating content, not owning it.” A common use of libraries then is to support research and investigation. Google provides a number of tools to support this, such as:

Google has also created a range of material to support the development of research skills. This includes a Power Searching Course, Search Literacy Lesson Plans and the game-based A Google A Day

Another collection of strategies comes via Mike Caulfield and his work around fact checking. In his book Web Literacy for Student Fact Checkers, Caulfield outlines four key strategies:

  • Check for previous work: Look around to see if someone else has already fact-checked the claim or provided a synthesis of research.
  • Go upstream to the source: Go “upstream” to the source of the claim. Most web content is not original. Get to the original source to understand the trustworthiness of the information.

  • Read laterally: Read laterally.[1] Once you get to the source of a claim, read what other people say about the source (publication, author, etc.). The truth is in the network.

  • Circle back: If you get lost, or hit dead ends, or find yourself going down an increasingly confusing rabbit hole, back up and start over knowing what you know now. You’re likely to take a more informed path with different search terms and better decisions.

This book also explains how to use Google Books to track down quotes and use reverse image search to find the origin of an image.

To support these strategies, Caulfield also started a new site, Four Moves. This has been designed to provide prompts and practice to support students with the act of fact checking.

It is often stated that the best firewall is the human sitting using the computer. That is part of the reason Google developed Be Internet Awesome, a program designed to support students to be better online citizens. It is organised around five fundamentals – being smart, alert, strong, kind and brave – and mixes together a curriculum with a series of game-based activities.

It is important to note that Digital citizenship can mean many things to many people. Sometimes the best thing to do is start by defining what it means within your own content.

Further Reading

  • Google Search Presentation – Anthony Speranza provides some tricks to making the most of searching with Google.
  • Be Internet Awesome – A range of resources developed by Google to help kids be safe, confident explorers of the online world.
  • Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers – Mike Caulfield provides a range of strategies, tactics and tools, which, properly used, can get students closer to the truth of a statement or image.
  • Four Moves – A collection of activities to support Caulfield’s work with fact checking and digital citizenship.

Beyond Book Reports

The traditional perception of the library are rows and rows of books and with this the age old practice of standard book reports. It would be therefore easy to use technology to just reproduce this. The problem though is it fails to recognise new possibilities associted with the various features and affordances.

One possibility is to explore place using the range of geo tools. Whether it be plotting a narrative with Google Tour Builder, going on a Lit Trip with Google Earth, collating books from around the world with My Maps, exploring places with Google Cardboard or testing your knowledge with Smarty Pins.

Another potential is to use Google Forms to gather student reviews and then publish these with Awesome Tables. These reviews could even be audio or video recordings, collected using the file upload question format. Videos could even be played within a Google Slide, therefore avoiding the need to upload to YouTube.

HyperDocs provide another way of rethinking how students respond to books. They are documents which incorporate different interactive activities, usually involving a range of choice. They help provide the structure for self-determined learners. A creative activity involving hyperlinks is the making of a ‘choose your own adventure’ story. Another format to support thinking and research is the Iron Chef Lesson Plan, which involves working collaboratively to develop ideas and understanding.

Further Reading

Thinking

Libraries are often the space within a school which provides the possibility to go beyond the subject silos. In regards to curriculum, this provides the opportunity to explore other areas, such as the critical and creative thinking curriculum.

Google provides a number of ways to make our critical thinking visible. This can come in many formats, whether it be conducting brainstorms, organising ideas using graphic templates or representing understanding using infographics. For creative responses, you can make poems or digital comics. Two tools useful for working collaboratively with text and visuals are Drawings and Slides.

Gone are the days of libraries being silent spaces dedicated to independent reading and reaearch. Now they are spaces design to spark conversation and creativity. A part of this is the inclusion of makerspaces, but another change is the addition of games and a focus on collaborative problem solving. One possibility in this area is BreakoutEDU. Based on the escape room, BreakoutEDU provides a way of engaging with the wider space, but they can also be a way of developing critical thinking. An extension of this are digital BreakoutEDU experiences.

Further Reading

Connected Classroom

The move of libraries into the digital realm not only opens learning up into different spaces, but it also provides different connected opportunities outside of the school.

Hangouts Meet allows for synchronous video connections beyond the four walls of the classroom. This could include sending out an impromptu invite or scheduling an event beforehand. Whereas previously recordings had to be done using YouTube Live, users can now record with Meet and save to Drive. Virtual connections can be used to connect different classrooms, conduct virtual debates or provide an alternative point of access to classroom material.

Google provides a number ways for sharing video for asyncronius connections. This could be as simple as a presentation with Slides or content added to a blog. Another possibility often overlook is the ability to create a shared channel in YouTube. This allows multiple people to manage things and passing on content if they leave. In addition to uploading video, a channel can be used to share curated playlists of appropriate content. An important topic with the increasing influence of algorithms on what is shown on YouTube.

Further Reading


So there it is, a breakdown of some ways that Google can be incorporated into the library. One thing to be mindful of is not every application is covered by the standard collection notice. I have also excluded some that I am unsure about from educational sense, such as Google Books, as they do not seem to be available in Australia.

So what about you? Would you have structured things differently? Or maybe you have an activity that could be added? Or even a resource? As always, comments welcome or you could even write your own post and send me a webmention.


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Reflecting on the Voices in the Village 2017

Comments are the power of the village

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


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

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

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


Context is crucial in shaping everything we do.

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


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

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


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

Response to Getting Work Done


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

Jim Groom in response to They Kept on Teaching


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

Dan Gallagher in response to Reading Leadership


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

Robert Schuetz in response to V is for Visuals


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

Bill Ferriter in response to V is for Visuals


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

Lyn Hilt in response to Reading Leadership


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

Benjamin Doxtdator in response to Supporting Digital Identities in School


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

Robert Schuetz in response to Supporting Digital Identities in School


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

Raegina Taylor in response to Supporting Digital Identities in School


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

Christina Smith in response to Supporting Digital Identities in School


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

Norah Colvin in response to Generous Orthodoxy and Educational Change


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

Benjamin Doxtdator in response to Breaking the EdTech Machince


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

Tom Woodward in response to Tips, Tricks and Sheets


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

Eric Jensen in response to Tips, Tricks and Sheets


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

Steve Brophy in response to Towards Collective Innovation


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

Robert Schuetz in response to Towards Collective Innovation


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

Ian Guest in response to Did Someone Say … Hashtags


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

Algot Runeman in response to Did Someone Say … Hashtags


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

Robert Schuetz in response to Picking a Portfolio Platform


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

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


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

Robert Schuetz in response to Making an Online Learning Hub


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

Sheri Edwards in response to Risk of Hospitality


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

Algot Runeman in response to Questions for Cal


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

Norah Colvin in response to Daily Habits


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

Simon Kiely in response to


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

Kathleen Morris in response to Obstacles Associated with Blogging


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

Alan Levine in response to Death of the Desktop Computer?


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

Heather Bailie in response to Death of the Desktop Computer?


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

Robert Schuetz in response to My Way or the Highway?


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

Steve Brophy in response to My Way or the Highway?


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

John Johnston in response to Organising Data with Forms and Sheets


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

John Johnston in response to Developing a Writing Workflow


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

Celia Coffa in response to Blogging the Digital Technologies Curriculum


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

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


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

Lucas Garth in response to Learnification and the Purpose of Education


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

Jeremy Cherfas in response to My #IndieWeb Reflections


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

Malcolm Blaney in response to My #IndieWeb Reflections


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

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


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

Christopher Küttner in response to My #IndieWeb Reflections


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

Ian Guest in response to Learning Technologies


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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


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

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


So they were some of the voices that made a difference to me last year. I must admit that I did not know where to start with my other blog, particularly my conversations with Chris Aldrich. So what about you? Who were the voices in your village that changed the way you thought last year? As always, comments welcome.


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.

Read Write Review – Voices from the Village in 2017

Read Write Respond

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TRANSFORMATION

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

WORKFLOWS

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

APPLICATIONS

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


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

Learning and Teaching

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


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

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


Classroom Themes by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


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

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


Journalism by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

Edtech

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


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

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


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

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


On Twitter by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


Technology by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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


Learning Machines by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


Storifried by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Storytelling and Reflection

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


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

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


Changing Times by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


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

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


Collaboration by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Tackle Workload by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


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

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


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

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


Just Innovate by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

FOCUS ON … Books

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


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


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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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