V is for Visuals #EdublogsClub

This is my response to the this week’s prompt as a part of the Edublogs Club challenge: write a post that includes an image.

Picture This
“Picture This” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Robert Schuetz posted about the power of images for blogging. He argued that,

Readers are more likely to view and remember blog posts that include visual content.

Schuetz provides a range of evidence to support this.

I like to include visuals in my posts. They involve a quote from the village, with a corresponding Lego graphic. I often use the pictures created by JustLego101. Although I used to use Google Drawings, more lately I have turned to Google Slides as I can then have a master template and it works on mobile. I have elaborated on this here.

Some might say this is branding, however I prefer to see it as just another form of expression. I don’t think everyone goes to the same length for images, happy enough to post whatever comes up in Compfight or making quick quotes with Quozio. Here then are a collection of bloggers whose visual choices have inspired me over time:

#3ofme via Amy Burvall

Amy Burvall: You know it when you see them, Burvall’s black and pink sketches made with Paper53 are unique. Whether it be a quote or an icon, she uses her distinct style to communicate her thinking.

Image via Austin Kleon

Austin Kleon: Known for blackout poetry and graphical sketches, similar to Burvall Kleon has a carefree style (although I am sure it takes plenty of effort). He often summarises his thinking in a concise manner. Beyond his blog, Kleon’s images usually find their way into his books and weekly newsletter.

Image drawn by Bryan Mathers

Bryan Mathers: Like Kleon and Burvall, Mathers has a distinct style, often representing metaphors visually. Also using a range of apps, including Paper53, he captures ideas in a complex and concise manner. He is also the man behind artistic updates at both Reclaim Hosting and Hack Education.

Sylvia Duckworth: You would be hard pressed to find a teacher who hasn’t been to a professional development session somewhere along the way that has incorporated one of Duckworth’s sketchnotes. These are not only engaging, but always informative. Although there are sketchnotes still available via Flickr, the majority are now available through her book.

Image by Silvia Tolisano and used with permission

Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano: In response to Robert Schuetz’ post, Rosenthal Tolisano described how she thinks through her blog posts by creating a visual. Her sketchnotes are a great example of how visuals can unite a range of ideas to support further elaborations.

Image via Jackie Gerstein

Jackie Gerstein: Similar to Tolisano, Gerstein often creates sketches that collect together all her thoughts on an idea. These are often incorporated into her presentations, many of which she shares on SlideShare.

Image via Richard Wells

Richard Wells: Wells has a knack of telling a whole story within an infographic. Although often linked to a post, they can very well act as provocations in themselves. He creates his images using Apple Keynote.

Bill Ferriter: With a mixture of sketches and digital creations, Ferriter has an eye and an ear for  poignant messages. Along with Burvall, Ferriter’s images (and sharing through Flickr) were one of my original inspirations for creating graphics.

Alan Levine: It might seem counterintuitive to include Levine in this list as most of his images are simply photographs, but what stands out are that so many of the images he uses are his own. So often when I read his work I am amazed at the ability to find an image that matches. A great proponent of Creative Commons, because it is not just about digging in, but also sharing back.


So there are people whose choice of images has inspired me. What about you? Who are the visual bloggers that inspire you? As always, comments welcome.


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Creative Commons Starts with Making – A Reflection on Creating and Sharing


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I was reminded again this week about the importance of Creative Commons. Firstly, my students got a bit stuck getting their heads around what was right for use while creating presentations, while secondly, Mark Anderson wrote a post sharing why he worries about teachers blogging. Beyond the initial frustration about the lack of foresight in regards to the wider audience and subsequent poor judgement, Anderson discusses his concern over the use and reference to content. From copying someone else’s image to sharing student images, he provides three suggestions:

  • Use CC Search if you are trying to find appropriate content
  • Reference ideas and content when you are borrowing
  • Always err on the side of caution when sharing student content online

Although each idea is helpful, what is seemingly left out is any discussion of how teachers can go what David Price has described as ‘SOFT‘ by openly giving back and putting back into the community?

I have written about creative commons and where to find content before. However, I have never really unpacked my steps in regards to how I create and share. Basically, unless an image has a Creative Commons license giving permission, permission isn’t given. The challenge then in not only sharing is doing so in a way that others can benefit from. Although I share different content online, here is a summary of my workflow in regards to creating visual quote from the discovery of the idea to publishing it online.

Ideas

The first step in creating a visual quote is coming upon a quote. More often than not, quotes create themselves and often come from the plethora of blogs I read via Feedly. I also use the annotation tool in Diigo to keep ideas for a later date. In addition to this, I have started reading more books via Kindle as it provides an easy way to keep notes. Tom Barrett describes this act of curation as ‘mining knowledge’, the purpose of which is to create a collection to dig through at a later time. There are many different social bookmarking tools, such as Delicious and Evernote web clipper, the challenge though is finding the right tool and method for you.

Content

In addition to finding a quote, the challenge is to match this with an image. For those like Jackie Gerstein, Dan Haesler, Sylvia Duckworth and Amy Burvall, the answer is to draw from scratch. Although I have experimented a bit with sketchnoting and doodling, I prefer to connect with pre-existing visual images. This search often begins with Flickr. I like the fact that you can trawl images based on licenses. Sometimes I favourite images which I come back to, but more often than not I simply search from scratch. This can be challenging as I often have an idea what sort of image I am after. Lately, I have also started incorporating Lego within my makes to add another layer of meaning. After working with my younger brother, I saw the potential to use Lego to portray anything. I also feel that it is one of those things that, although usually designed for children, is somewhat ageless.

Creating

There are so many different applications on the web that make the creation of images quick and easy. However, I still prefer to make from scratch. Although I sometimes use applications like Quozio, Phoster and Canva, I prefer to use Google Draw. Bill Ferriter once explained to me how he uses PowerPoint to create some of his images. After tinkering myself with this idea, I turned to Google Draw, both for its ease of use, but also the ability to share and remix.In regards to themes, I try and stick to set group of fonts:

  • Architects Daughter for thin main body text
  • Paytone One for thick key words or phrases
  • Permanent Marker for the author and title

While inspired by Amy Burvall, I have also taken to using a mixture of bold colours taken from my avatar image, as well as white for the main text. To make sure that the text stands out from the image, I often make the base image behind the image black and then move the transparency slider attached to the image to 50%.  This helps the text to stand out.

Sharing

There are so many different methods and modes to share these days. The issue though is that unless you explicitly state it, copyright is still held by the creator. Although people may consume such content, they cannot use it in a presentation or modify it. The problem is that, as Doug Belshaw asserts, “remixing, re-appropriation and riffing off other people’s work just seems to be part of what we do as human beings.” With this being the case, it is important to provide some sort of licensing to help people to share openly and freely. The most obvious method seems to be via Flickr.

When you upload to Flickr, it provides the means to easily select a license. If this seems to laborious, you can actually set a default license in settings. Another benefit of Flickr is that when I use images in blog posts I can easily attribute using Alan Levine’s Flickr Attribution Helper. An alternative to Flickr though is attributing within the image.

Like artists of old, many people have taken to signing their images as a way of resolving the attribution issue. Taking this a step further, there are those like Gerstein who not only sign their work, but also place a license created via the Creative Commons website within the image to make it as clear as possible. Doing this allows you to avoid having to share through third party sites.


So there you have it, my workflow in creating and publishing visual quotes. What about you? What content do you create? How do you share it? What steps do you take to make sure others can make use of it? As always, comments welcome.


Update

At a recent GAFESummit, I did a Demo Slam where I shared making a quote. In it I demonstrated how I have moved away from using Google Drawings and instead building with Google Slides. One of the reasons for this is that I am able to edit the master slides meaning that I do not have to adjust the fonts and colours each time. I am also able to add a small mark to the bottom of the image as something of an identifier, something someone else actually asked me to do. Beyond this, the process of adding an image, making it transparent on top of a black background and predominantly using white text remains the same.


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Should Big Brother Always Be Watching?

creative commons licensed (BY) flickr photo by ell brown: http://flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/4421119738
 
Obviously I am just too nice, because Derrick rang back on Friday. I brushed him off last week, telling him I was too busy, but clearly he wasn’t going to accept the same excuse twice. So today I decided to listen. Basically, he was trying to sell me an audio visual set-up where two cameras and a microphone would be installed in a classroom. The premise behind this was that it would take out the requirement for another teacher to sit in and interrupt the learning experience by physically recording the lesson. This would also transfer the ownership of the experience to the teacher, rather than the responsibility of a coach, to support the improvement of teaching and instruction. We all have ideals, but in my opinion they are always something different in reality.
 
My first concern is with the notion that installing cameras gives some sort of objectivity. Here I am reminded of Clifford Geertz’ work in regards to anthropology and the notion of ‘thick description‘. His premise was that no matter how hard you try to remove yourself from the situation you are trying to observe, you are always a part of it. Therefore, all that we can ever hope for is a thick description, which tries to account for as many  variables and differences as possible, where there is never the promise of completeness. Coming back to Derrick’s AV equipment, not only would you always be conscious of its presence, but it is only ever one part of the puzzle associated with reflection and improvement.
 
To me, there is little point recording and reviewing a lesson if a culture of reflection does not already exist. I was really taken by a recent post from +Dean Shareski where he states, “Being a connected educator is important but I think being a reflective educator trumps that.” More so than purchasing permanant AV equipment, we need to foster reflection as a habit, both in and outside the classroom. Instead of wondering where people get the time to go back over a lesson or write a reflective blogpost, these habits need to become a part of our practise. For as Seth Godin suggests, “I didn’t have time, actually means, it wasn’t important enough.” We therefore need to make reflection important. Just as it is unfair to expect the introduction of 1:1 devices into the classroom to magically make students collaborative, the same thing can be said about videoing lessons. It all needs to start with reflection.
 
A part of the problem with creating a reflective mindset though is how success is often measured in schools. With the Global Educational Reform Movement influencing many policies and decisions in education at the moment the focus of processes such as the annual Performance and Development review become about supporting a fixed mindset, where there is a supposed magic bullet for success and all else is failure. Although the intention of the AV equipment maybe to improve the standards of all teachers and create a repository of best practise, placed in the wrong hands I can imagine it becoming a vehicle for pushing an agenda of pay performance. In this environment, all that ever gets celebrated is the status quo, but is it the status quo that brings about change and improvement?
 
One reason I could see a benefit in such a setup is where, instead of being focused on reflection, the purpose is to share the learning on. That is, make instruction available for all to access at a later date. A great exponent of this is +Eddie Woo. Unlike the idea of the flipped classroom, where students gain access to information before the lesson, Woo records his instruction as he teaches and posts them on Youtube. He describes this practise as the ‘not quite flipped classroom‘. In addition to posting later, there are also many smaller rural schools who stream lessons to provide students with a wider variety of subjects to choose from, particularly in the senior years. Although most schools seem to use Polycom devices for this.
 

 
At the end of the day, my biggest concern is the belief that the best form of reflection can occur in isolation. That is, one teacher sitting at a computer watching their own learning. The best form of reflection, in my view, occurs where there is a dialogue. Two examples of such a practise are Jason Borton’s learning walk or +Amy Burvall‘s PD Walkabouts. Another great tool for reflection is the Modern Learning Canvas. What is interesting about the Canvas is that it provides a platform for teachers to collaboratively reflect upon their learning and together identify possible areas for innovation.
 
Maybe I am wrong. Maybe there is a benefit to installing AV equipment. Maybe it could act as a repository of best practise. However, maybe it could be used as a way of monitoring teachers, making sure that they are sticking to the script. I can imagine both possibilities, what about you?

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Leveraging Twitter – My Thoughts on How To Make the Most of Every Situation

Image by Amy Burvall http://tmblr.co/Zb8aBo19NdENy
 
I recently got involved in a conversation about the best use of social media, in particular Twitter, to engage and gain traction with a wider audience. Often people are simply told to collectively tweet at a certain time and that will be enough to get something to trend, but really is that enough? For it is one thing to sign up to Twitter and put out a few tweets, but it is another thing to gain interest in your cause online. Fine you could simply write the same tweet hundreds of times and you might get something literally trending, however traction in my view is much more complicated than simply getting something trending. For who is watching? How are they actually responding? And most importantly, how will they respond if you use the same strategy again and again?
 
The reality is that there is a fine line between engaging and disengaging someone online (and offline for that matter too). Many people seem to think that traction is simply a numbers game, but this is naive and far too simplistic. For example, if your strategy is to repetitively send out the same tweet and simply tag different people in each post, you need to be mindful that those people may not feel significant if they discover this. Instead of spreading your message, those who you include may consider you as spamming, as +Alec Couros did when he was tagged in a tweet by Biosgraphy. So instead of spreading your message by retweeting it or engaging in some sort of dialogue, such actions often risk developing a negative view. Even worse than this is actually asking people to retweet, as pointed out by +Dan Donahoo recently. To me this is saying that your message isn’t strong enough to gain interest and attention, are a few retweets going to solve this? 
 
Maybe I have misunderstood the medium, but to me Twitter is heavily based on branding and association. Whether it be personal or associated with a topic embodied within a hashtag. This notion of ‘branding’ is difficult to develop and is unique to each situation. What needs to be considered is how would you respond if you were on the other side? Would you follow? Would you connect? Or would you be put off? Disconnect or even worse, unfollow if you were following in the first place?
 
The first step in my view when it comes to branding revolves around what +Anne Mirtschin describes as our ‘digital badge’. This includes:
  1. consistent image
  2. clear username
  3. detailed profile. 
Mirtschin argues that unless we create some sort of identity then often people will be unwilling to connect with us and subsequently our ideas. Using the example of Ning’s, she explains that moderators of such sites will not allow people in if they don’t give anything of themselves. The same though can be said about all forms of connections. Unless you provide some sort of background, then people don’t really know who they are connecting with and are often unwilling to engage.
 
After addressing identity, the next area of concern is the content which you share with the communities you connect with. Some feel comfortable using social media to simply lurk, while others feel it is enough to simply retweet. I would argue though to get the most out of any social media platform you have to get involved and give back. However, this is easier said than done. 
 
The task associated with what to ‘give back’ and what to post is often twofold. Firstly, I would argue, giving back and adding to the conversation is about constantly evolving the story as to who you are, whilst at the same time inadvertently connecting with others with similar concerns and beliefs. For the real challenge online is getting others to join the cause. It is easy enough for a person to compose one hundred posts. However, it is a much harder to coordinate an effort where one post is shared by one hundred different people. (That is unless you are ISIS and take over the accounts of all your followers, listen to the Guardian Tech Weekly Podcast.) In this respect, sharing with who you are helps to identify your tribe of believers.
 
The next step is what we post when it comes to trying to gain traction and airspace. Some get straight the point. Stating the message in a simple fashion with little scope left for continuing the conversation. Sadly, this misses the point of the medium. In my view, there are many ways to carry a conversation, they include providing clear statements, pose questions, using #hashtags, connecting with other users, link to information, using images not just words and responding to others.
 
Take for example the ongoing campaign around the Gonski Education Reforms. One could compose the tweet:

Gonski is a change needed by all for all.
Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs)

This is a fine sentiment and there is nothing actually wrong with the statement. The problem is that the actual message lacks clarity. Some of the issues include clarifying what the actual ‘change’ is and why is it needed for all. An alternate statement could be:
Equitable funding provided through #Gonski reforms is a change needed for all students 2 provide the opportunity for success in life and edu
Although most ideas and argument cannot be deduced to 140 very well, such a statement still needs to have some semblance of clarity. Where possible, it needs to capture not only the what, but more importantly the why.
 
Another way of getting a message out is by posing a question. So instead of making a statement, you turn the problem into a question:
How can we say we are giving every student an opportunity to succeed in life & education when the funding scheme is not equitable? #Gonski
Although using the same ingredients as the statement, by putting it as a rhetorical question encourages the reader to consider their own perspective on the matter.
 
Associated with producing a message or question is linking in other users and/or ideas. This is done by making reference to various handles (the name given to an identity on Twitter) and hashtags (a form of digital categorisation that aggregates across platforms). In the case of Gonski, an obvious handle to attach would be @igiveagonski, while in regards to hashtags, some possibilities include #gonski, #auspol and #springst. An example then might be:
Equitable funding provided thru @igiveagonski is a change needed 4 all sts 2 provide the opportunity for success in life & education #auspol
It needs to be noted that handles do not always read well, as they are about branding more than readability, while words are often abbreviated or substituted in order to fit more information.
 
In addition to content and connections, the other thing to consider is linking to other details and information. The most obvious example is quoting a source. For example:
“The highest-performing education systems across the OECD countries r those that combine quality with equity” http://t.co/mYKxG4njUk #gonski
The purpose of this is to use evidence and statistics to bring credability to the argument. 
 
The problem with quotes though is the problem with Twitter, sometimes 140 characters just isn’t enough. In this case, the alternative is to capture the quote in an image. @igiveagonski have been producing a series of graphics linking quotes from key academics with the call to sign up to the campaign:

@pasi_sahlberg on why #Gonski is critical to closing the achievement gaps in Australian schools pic.twitter.com/OKDnJP0XxG
— I give a Gonski (@igiveagonski) August 7, 2014

The only issue is that not everyone has the time and nous to create such slick graphics (although, as +Bill Ferriter points out, with programs like Canva, it can actually be quite easy). A simple alternative is using a program like Quozio to quickly turn a quote into an image:

New image: Australia has its own education solution: #Gonski added to Flickr pic.twitter.com/brope0cfdz
— Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs) August 9, 2014

This allows you to fit more in and then provide other details in the actual tweet.

 
Moving away from quotes, the other alternative to adding your own ideas is adding various links, images and videos. Coupled with quotes, it can be good to add links to other sources in order to provide people with more information or a space to continue to engage with topics in question. The obvious link associated with the Gonski campaign is the www.igiveagonski.com.au site. However, the other option is the multitude of commentary out there attached to the topic. Take for example tweet referencing a piece from Pasi Sahlberg:
#Gonski education funding model draws praise from Finland http://t.co/80VWeVYlDv via @smh –> Good for @pasi_sahlberg why not us @cpyne ?
Not only does this add some substance to the discussion, but it also brings others into the fray. 

In regards to images, the other common alternative to quotes or photographs are creative responses. This can come in any shape and form, but the most common is through the use of various meme generator websites and applications:

We need an equitably funded education system #gonski @igiveagonski @PutEducation1st pic.twitter.com/DRCh3ZjWj3
— Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs) August 2, 2014

It needs to be noted that a ‘meme’ is not in itself an image, but rather a an artefact shared within a culture. The term was actually coined by Richard Dawkins to refer to the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena, including melodies, fashion and technology. In this sense, this blog post is actually a meme itself.
 
The other option is to create an image by hand, either digitally or by taking a photograph of a sketchbook.

In democracy, equity should be at the heart @cpyne is it? #gonski @igiveagonski pic.twitter.com/mhp8dJYG7T
— Aaron Davis (@mrkrndvs) August 2, 2014

It is often stated that sketching ideas engages both sides if the brain, I would also argue that the originality inherent in a sketch often increases the engagement with the idea. A great proponent of sketching is +Amy Burvall. See for example her magnificent collection at her my-conography site.
 
The other option is to link to a video from a site such as YouTube. One that did the rounds a few months ago was this short video explaining the Gonski model:

What is Gonski? http://t.co/oxvKeBHHv3 via @7mrsjames
— Matt Esterman (@mesterman) May 21, 2014

Like quotes and images, videos can allow you to include a range of ideas in the one tweet.

 
These then are some of the possibilities for getting an idea across. Whether it be connecting to others or linking to additional material, the most important thing to consider is your purpose and which means is going to best communicate this. So if your purpose is to engage the media, then quotes and links to evidence and research would probably make sense, while if your purpose is to engage the wider community then humour that does not exclude anyone is probably your best bet.
 
Coming up with a clear message is often the easy bit when it comes to Twitter, it is how we make sense of such an over abundance of information that is the real challenge. For some Twitter can simply be a whole lot of noise and lack much meaning at all. There are however some tricks that can help.
 
Clearly, I don’t want to replicate what has already been discussed elsewhere in regards to understanding how to actually use Twitter (see for example +David Truss‘ excellent introduction). My interest is in the additional applications and add-ons that can make things easier.
 
The biggest challenge that many face is how to keep track of all the different followers. For some, the answer is to limit the people who they follow to 150 in the belief that 150 is the maximum number who we can meaningfully engage with. However, the other option is to use lists to organise people into different categories. Like the idea of circles in Google+, lists allows you to add different users so that instead of scrawling through the endless stream, you can then isolate the conversation more easily. Another good feature of lists is that if you make them public then others can simply subscribe to them, rather than go through all the rigmarole of creating their own.
 
One of the other challenges is consistently posting. You see some people who tweet sporadically because they don’t know what to post. Not only does this say something about how they see the medium, but coming back to Mirtchen’s point about digital badge, it does not really provide much of a feel as to who you are and what you believe in. If you are to gain any sort of traction on Twitter then you need followers, but to get followers you really need to be someone worth following. One answer to this is the the use of such services as IFTTT to post on your behalf. There are a range of ‘recipes’ which once setup automatically run in the background. In regards to Twitter, the most obvious use of IFTTT is the cross-posting from sites such as Google+, Facebook, Instagram and Flickr. However, you can also use it to automatically post any new RSS news feed items or send a tweet to new followers.
 
Another great program that allows you to manage the abundance of information is Tweetdeck+Sue Waters has created a fantastic resource which is a must for anyone trying to get there head around it. However, in summary some of the benefits include the ability to schedule tweets, important if you are trying to engage with people all around the world, as well as add different columns. Clearly this is useful for monitoring both your own feed, but also any notifications without changing screens. (Hootsuite also offers much of the same functionality.) What is awesome is that you can add custom columns. These can be hashtags, lists or even handles. This can be useful in monitoring a particular hashtag and engaging in a particular conversation.
 
There are also some other programs which can be useful for monitoring a hashtag. The best is Tagboard, a site that will collect all the different posts associated with a particular hashtag from sites such as Google+, Instagram, Twitter, Vine and Tumblr. Another useful site is Storify. This site allows you to curate information surrounding a hashtag and add a narrative to it in order to fill in all the gaps. While the last site is Trendsmap. This site aggregates what is trending. If the goal is leverage, this can be a useful barometer. Although it must be noted that just because something is trending, it does not allows guarantee traction. That is forever left to a certain degree to chance.
 
 
So there are my thoughts on Twitter and how to make the most of it. What are your thoughts? Do you agree? Have I missed something? I would love to know. Feel free to leave a comment below.

POSTSCRIPT

Here is a presentation that I created associated with the post:

Advocating with Social Media – Created with Haiku Deck, presentation software that inspires


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Creative Expression as a Form of #EduVoice – More Reflections from #DLTV2014

 

I took to the recent #DLTV2014 Conference with a renewed sense of creative vigour. Instead of simply recalling information and posting titbits here and there (which I did as well), inspired by the likes of +Amy Burvall, I set myself the challenge of being more visual and more imaginative in my postings. Using creativity as a medium to express my voice. So here then are some of my ventures:

#DLTV2014

Leading up to the event, I created a couple of memes to stir up the conversation around DLTV2014.



#EduVoice

I created a couple of images in the build up to +Steve Brophy and I’s session ‘Listening to the Voices in and out of the Classroom’.

Sketch made using Paper 53 app on the iPad 

 

Original image via creative commons licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by hackNY: http://flickr.com/photos/hackny/5685391557
Edited using Phoster on iPad

 

 

I think that maybe this one has mixed messages

 

Made using Trading Cards app on iPad via +Corrie Barclay post ‘1 iPad, 1 Task, 15 Ways’


#WhereisHa

Armed with +Dean Shareski‘s recent suggestion that Twitter can be a creative medium, +Corey Aylen, +Eleni Kyritsis, +Bec Spink, +Mel Cashen and I started a hashtag #whereisHa (link to Tagboard) in response to +Michael Ha‘s absence from the keynote on the second morning. As a part of this playful folly, I created the following memes to add to the Tweets:

Playing on the hysteria around the Beatles, I thought that I would extend the mania.

 

This was in reference to the fact the +Michael Ha was meant to present during the first session, yet he hadn’t even arrived yet. Interestingly, +Samantha Bates jumped on the comment, even though she wasn’t at the conference, and argued that he could via a Hangout etc …


#LegoPoetry

This was created in the ‘Games in Education’ space under the guidance of +Dan Donahoo. Really we just chatted while discuss the myriad of potentials associated with the idea of Lego poetry.

This Lego poetry is clearly in jest, because I clearly value my Twitter connections and the awesome work of +Alec Couros


+Riss Leung‘s Keynote

 

My take-away from +Riss Leung‘s keynote, ‘be the change’. Was a common them throughout the conference. 


ABC Splash

My summary of some of the great things on offer through the ABC Splash website

 

This is my sketch of a Splash live event coming up on the 10th September

Accelerating Innovation In Your School w/ +Richard Olsen

This was my initial sketch based on Olsen’s key questions as well as the Modern Learning Canvas
In Olsen’s overview as to way our current attempts to bring change, reform and innovation into the classroom, he made the statement that “Heroic teachers have little impact on schools”


Best Conference Ever

While a few days afterwards, I created this to sum up my experience at #DLTV2014. I agree with +Rick Kayler-Thomson on the Two Regular Teachers podcast that it was the best conference that I have been to. However, I think that in some part that this was because I was willing to let it be. Whether it be taking a risk in collaborating with +Steve Brophy for our presentation or going outside my comfort zone in embracing the games in education space. Instead of entering as a teacher, I feel I entered as a learner.
 
This is a play on Juan Antonio Samaranch’s statement after each Olympics that ‘I declare this the best olympics ever’ or something like that.

 

In many respects I think that professional learning as a whole needs a shake-up and DLTV took a step in that direction with this years conference. Although the spaces could have been more flexible and conducive to participant driven learning, for what do you do in a lecture theatre? Lecture? I still feel that the push to collaborate and communicate within streams, as explained by +Kynan Robinson in his fantastic post, was an excellent idea. For as I have stated elsewhere, the smartest person at the conference is the conference. 
 
I would love to know your thoughts and experiences of the DLTV2014 Conference or any other conference for that matter. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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Influences and Inspiration – A Reflection on a Year of Blogging

creative commons licensed (BY-NC) flickr photo by mrkrndvs: http://flickr.com/photos/aaron_davis/14606572678
 
I have spoken elsewhere about how I have become a connected educator. However, I have not necessarily spoken about those who have had an ongoing influence on me. +Cameron Paterson talks about finding someone who scares you to drive you, but I feel that it is more important to find some who inspires you and drives you forward. Sometimes such moments can be intimidating or awe inspiring. They provide us with a choice, we can either say that is too hard and baulk at the challenge or say that although it is a lot of work, with a bit more effort and endeavour I could achieve that too.
 
Although ‘influence and inspiration’ exists outside of gender, I am inspired by a tweet from +Julie Bytheway to be more equitable. So I have decided to split my list between two five men and five women. So in no particular order, here are ten people who have made an impact on my journey and my first year of blogging …

+danah boyd

I can’t remember the list I found, but Boyd was one of the first people I started following when I got on Twitter. I would read her posts and relish the different perspectives which she provided. Boyd’s work has helped me realise that there are different ways of seeing teens and internet, as was documented in her fantastic book It’s Complicated, which I reviewed here.

+Peter DeWitt

DeWitt completely changed the way I saw Twitter and being a connected educator. Although I had connected with many other teachers, DeWitt was the first leader who I connected with. I had grown up surrounded by some great leaders, however they did not always share so openly and honestly. I can’t even remember how I came upon DeWitt’s blog, but it soon became a staple of my digital diet. Even when talking about tales and topics with little direct influence on my own day to day happenings, it is his endeavour to always keep the conversation going is what I aspire to the most and keeps me coming back.

Jason Borton

Although I had engaged with various school leaders from abroad both directly, as in the case with +Peter DeWitt, but also through such spaces as Connected Principals, Borton was the first ‘local’ principal who really changed the way I saw things at home. (Bit ironic how in a global world Canberra and Melbourne become local.) Whether it be questioning homework, reporting and whole school enabling, he has engaged with all those big topics on both Twitter and through his blog that from my experience many leaders baulk at. It was actually through Borton that I came upon Edutweetoz and the +TER Podcast, two other priceless points of perspective and great ambassadors for more empowered voices in education.

+Jenny Ashby

As I have discussed elsewhere, Jenny was very much the start of my connected journey. I am always inspired by how much she manages to achieve. Whether this be her podcasts (RU Connected or AU2AZ) or here involvement in such projects as Skype Around the World in 24 Hours and Slide2Learn. What amazes me the most about Jenny is that it would be so easy for her not to be involved in many of these things, distance to travel or quality of internet connection. However, from my experiences with Ashby, she often seems to find some reason to be involved, rather than an excuse not to be. Great mindset.

+Doug Belshaw

I came upon Belshaw via his phenomenal work around digital literacies. However, what stands out the most to me is his sharing and giving back. People tell me that I write a lot, then I ask them if they follow Doug’s work. In addition to this, he is always pushing the envelope, question and critiquing, innovating for tomorrow, rather than living for today. Take for example his recent push to take back ownership of his data by self-hosting his own email. Although this may seem an impossible task, many great changes in history have been started by a lone nut who takes a stand.

+Richard Olsen

If ever I want a different perspective on something, I often go to Olsen. He always finds something that I have missed or puts a different spin on things. As I have stated elsewhere, a part of me lives for such critical engagement. Really though, what I respect most about Olsen is that instead of simply writing things off, ignoring them, carrying his own conversation, he puts in the time and effort to fuel the wildfire of learning and keep the conversation going.

+Pernille Ripp

Ripp has been a constant inspiration ever since i got online. Unlike many who perpetuate change from the top down, Ripp is a great example of what is possible from the bottom up. One of her greatest attributes is her openness and honesty. Although it can be easy to consider Ripp as taking ‘risks’ and going beyond the perceived status quo, what she has taught me is that in some respect we are all risk takers, whether we like it or not. That we are all making a choice. I think that what makes some people like Ripp empowering and important is that they own the choices and decisions. I must admit that I spent the first few years as a teacher thinking that it wasn’t my roll or right to make big decisions, I thought that was the role of those above to feed down ‘best practise’. However, when those answers never arrived I realised that change starts with me today in my classroom and that there is no time to wait.

+Amy Burvall 

Like Belshaw, Burvall’s ability to seemingly achieve so much is a constant reminder that there is always something more I could be doing. In addition to her awesome amount of sharing online, she has also influenced the way I consider the assessment of art and creativity. She has also introduced me to the potential of some amazing applications, such as Mozilla Popcorn and Paper53. To me, Burvall demonstrates that there is no limit to engagement with and through digital literacies, instead the only limit is ourselves.

Inquire Within

I am not sure exactly when I came upon +Edna Sackson‘s group blog, Inquire Within, however it has become an important part of my growth in regards to teaching and learning. Having had a mixed past when it comes to inquiry, something I have discussed elsewhere, Inquire Within has brushed away so many misconceptions. I think that my greatest fault was to think that inquiry could actually be defined, rather than be what it actually is, a myriad of combinations which form to make different pedagogical cocktails. During my time following the site, I have come upon so many great posts and awesome ideas there, such as +Bianca Hewes ‘Managing the Mushy Middle’ and Kath Murdoch’s ‘How do Inquiry Teachers Teach?’ Along with Ripp’s blog, Inquire Within is often one of the first sites that I recommend to other teachers in regards to teaching and learning.

+Ed Tech Crew

When I think of influences, I find it hard to go beyond the +Ed Tech Crew. Whether it be guests on the program, such as +Ian Guest and +Alec Couros, the community curation in the Diigo group or the dialogue and discussion between +Darrel Branson and +Tony Richards, there is so much sharing that occurs. I have lost count of the thoughts and ideas that have taken seed via the +Ed Tech Crew. In addition to this, I have also been lucky enough to share my thoughts of Melbourne Google in Education Summit 2013, as well as my thoughts on leading ICT and where we have come in regards to technology in education. It was sad to hear that the +Ed Tech Crew would actually be going into hiatus. However, it is also a recognition that it takes a village.

The Word ‘I’ Refers To …

It is good to recognise our influences in life. However, one of the problems with such a practise is that there will always be someone missed or overlooked. I was really taken by Jack Welch’s statement that “nearly everything I have done has been accomplished with other people” as quoted in Carol Dweck’s book Mindset. In some vague attempt to recongise some of these ‘other people’ I have listed all the people who I have mentioned through my many blogs over the last year: +John Moravec +Kevin Miklasz +Troy MONCUR +Tom Whitby +Andrew Williamson +Joe Mazza +Peter Kent +Rich Lambert +Corrie Barclay +John Pearce +Deb Hicks +Seth Godin +Ian Guest +Suan Yeo +Jim Sill +Chris Betcher +Anthony Speranza +Mike Reading +Jason Markey +George Couros +David Truss +Tom March +Vicki Davis +Ben Gallagher +Rebecca Davies +Anne Mirtschin +Adam Bellow +stephen heppell +David Tuffley +Tony Sinanis +Dan Rockwell +Alf Galea +Mel Cashen +Matt Esterman +Darrel Branson +Ashley Proud +Ryan Tate +Roland Gesthuizen +Aubrey Daniels International +Catherine Gatt +Celia Coffa +Kynan Robinson +Mark O’Meara +Lois Smethurst +Darren Murphy +Mark Barnes +Chris Wejr +Doug Belshaw +Miguel Guhlin +TER Podcast +Bianca Hewes +Luis López-Cano +John Spencer +Tom Panarese +Edna Sackson +David Zyngier +Cameron Malcher +Mariana Funes +dave cormier +Dick Faber +Ewan McIntosh +Darryn Swaby +David Price +Alan Thwaites +Stephen Harris +Corey Aylen +Simon Crook +Nick Jackson +Simon Ensor +maureen maher +Keith Hamon +John Thomas +Margo Edgar +Jan Molloy +Kim Yeomans +John Bennett +Will Richardson +Bec Spink +Sam Irwin +Corinne Campbell +Rick Kayler-Thomson +Adam Lavars +Heather Bailie +Dean Shareski +Stephen Collis +Michelle Hostrup +Starr Sackstein +Charles Arthur +Craig Kemp +David Weinberger +Eric Jensen and +Katelyn Fraser. Although extensive, these are simply people whose thoughts and ideas I have been conscious of, emerged from the noise. For as +Keith Hamon recently suggested in an interesting post on authorship, “while I can find sources for all of my ideas, I’m not sure that they are my sources, but I am sure that it doesn’t matter.”

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Are You Really Connecting If You Are Not Giving Back?

cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by mrkrndvs:
http://flickr.com/photos/113562593@N07/13713874174
 
Alan Thwaites posted the following tweet and it got me thinking.
Not just what you Tweet Aaron, but watching how you use Twitter has been very clarifying for me. I appreciate it mate.
— Alan Thwaites (@athwaites) April 6, 2014
How is it that I use social media anyway and more importantly, what does it mean to be a connected educator anyway?
 
In a recent post about the benefits of blogging and being a connected educator, +Tom Whitby outlines some of the many benefits associated with sharing online. He states:

The difference between writing a blog post and writing a magazine or journal article is the immediate feedback in the form of comments or responses. Before a blogger puts words to the computer screen the audience and its reaction are a consideration. The blogger will strive for clarity in thought. The blogger will strive for clarity in the writing. The blogger will attempt to anticipate objections.

What stands out to me in Whitby’s post is that the whole process revolves around its reciprocal nature, that is, as a reader you not only take in various ideas, but also respond and add back. One of the big problems though with being ‘connected’ is that for some it simply means lurking in the background. Although they may draw on the dearth of ideas and information out there, there is no impetus to give back in anyway, shape or form. My question then is whether this is really connecting at all?
 
Whilst perusing the net a few weeks back, I got involved in a twitter chat with +Bianca Hewes about the matter of sharing. Hewes was ruminating about the one way flow of information that too often occurs online. Those situations where others ask for resources, but fail to offer anything in return. She tweeted:
It kinda irritates me when I’m a member of a fb group for teachers and people only ever post to ask for stuff… rarely offering stuff 🙁
— Bianca ‘Jim’ Hewes (@BiancaH80) March 12, 2014
If you read the ensuing chat involving Hewes, myself, Dick Faber, Audrey Nay, Teacher from Mars and Katelyn Fraser, there were a breadth of responses provided. Some of the concerns raised included the apprehension associated with looking like a dill and some people’s fear of sharing. A topic that +Chris Wejr has elaborated on elsewhere in his post ‘Not Everyone is Able to Tweet and Post Who They Are‘. On the flip side though, there were some really good suggestions provided, such as lurking for a time until comfortable, sharing something small or even simply re-tweeting something to add to the flow of information.
 
Thinking about all of the these great responses, I feel that there are three clear ways that we can respond and give back. They include the ability to share links and ideas, adding to a conversation by writing a response or remixing an idea creating something new in the process.
 

Sharing Ideas

There are many ways to share, whether it be using social bookmarking, such as Diigo, where you might share with a particular community, or using social media, such as Google+, where you might share out into the world. This is something that I have elaborated on elsewhere. One of the easiest ways I find to share ideas though is on Twitter. Most applications offer the potential to post to Twitter with a click of a button, making it quick and easy to read a piece on Zite, Pocket or Feedly and then share it with the others.
 
There are many different perspectives associated with Twitter. For some, it is too much. How could you possibly keep up with each and every tweet posted by those that you follow? However, +Darrel Branson put a different spin on it in Episode 238 of the +Ed Tech Crew Podcast, where he suggested that mediums like Twitter are great to just dip into whenever you have the chance, not necessarily something to be hawked over 24/7. Branson suggested that if an idea is significant enough it will be shared around, re-tweeted and reposted enough that you will pick up on it in the end. What is important then is actually sharing good ideas and keeping the river flowing.
 
In addition to sharing, Bill Ferriter wrote an interesting piece on the importance of not only sharing, but also recognising whose content it is that you are sharing. One of the problems with many applications is that they allow you to quickly share the title and web link. However, they fail to provide any form of attribution to the actual creator. Therefore, I always endeavour to make the effort to give credit whenever I can. This has led me to use applications like Quozio in order to turn quotable pieces of text into an image in order to fit more into a tweet. To me, this means that while perusing something like Twitter, you are able to continue the conversation with creator, not just the curator.
 

Commenting and Continuing the Conversation

In addition to sharing ideas, another great way to give back is add a comment. Whether it be a video, an image, a blog, a post on Google+ or a tweet, writing a response is a really good way to continue the conversation. Too often when we think about commenting, there is an impression that it needs to be well crafted thesis, however it can be as simple as a confirmation thanking someone for what they have shared. Some other possibilities for comments include posing a question about something that you were unsure about, sharing a link that you think made add to the dialogue or providing your own perspective on the topic. The reality is, we often learn best through interaction and dialogue with others, a point clearly made in Whitby’s post.
 

Remix and Creating New Beginnings

A step beyond sharing and commenting on the ideas of others, is the act of remixing. Using someone else’s idea as a starting point, remixing involves adding something and turning it into something new, an idea in its own right. This blog itself can be considered as a remix, bringing together a range of different ideas in the creation of a new beginning. A great exponent of the remix is +Amy Burvall, whether it be using Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker to mash-up text and videos or using the paper app by Fifty-Three to create images to capture her ideas. Remixing ideas not only allows you to continue the conversation, but also start a new one as well.
 
 
Now I know that everyone comes from a different perspective and have their own view of what it is meant by digital literacy. A topic that I have explored elsewhere in my post ‘What’s So Digital About Literacy Anyway?‘ However, I find it hard to believe that there can be any example of being connected that does not include getting involved and giving back. A point clearly reiterated in Mozilla’s Web Literacy Map. The question then is how are you giving back? Is there something that you do that I have missed? What are the problems that you have faced along the way? I would love to continue the conversation, so feel free to leave a comment below.

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Minor Education, Towards a More Independent Learning

There has been a lot of debate in Week Two of Rhizomatic Learning revolving around ‘enforcing independence’. Although some of the debate has been about the choice of words and other such technicalities, a lot of the discussion has emanated from the contradictory nature of forcing something that focuses on freedom and choice. I myself have already posted about the matter, in which I suggested that the only way that this could be possible is within a situation where the learning is their own servant and master. After some great feedback from those in the course, it was pointed out to me that education is full of impossible ideals that we never quite meet. Something I myself have posted about elsewhere. What our focus should really be is about using such prompts as the mantra that guides us, rather than the hard and fast rule that drives us. So instead I have changed tack. Here then are a list of thoughts and ideas that may not achieve ‘enforced independence’, but definitely work towards that goal:
 
  • Students must make a choice and live with the consequences, with ambivalence not an option. I have written a bit about choice. I think that instead of being forced towards a particular style or method, it is better to look at each option and make the best choice that we can, aware of the consequences of such decisions.
  • Everyone is learning something. Joe Mazza uses the term ‘Lead Learner’ to replace teacher and although there is a bit of conjecture about whether that means principal or all staff, I think that it is important to get rid of the term ‘teacher’, as in my eyes, it rarely achieves much good.
  • Students and learning are at the centre, not the teacher and instruction. In a fantastic little book by +Mark Barnes called ‘5-minute Teacher‘. He suggests in his closing remarks that if you simply start seeing students at the centre then you are already on the right track.
  • Creativity must not be assessed, rather it is should be reflected upon. In a fantastic post by +Amy Burvall, she outlines how we should approach creativitiy. Rather than assessing it with a rubric and putting constraints on the task, Burvall asks for five ‘tions’ from her students: attribtion, explanation, reflection, no hesitation and no self-deprecation.
  • Rubrics are best co-created. This is a fantastic task for getting student emmersed in a task and taking more ownership over their learning. A fantastic resource that I have found to support this is BIE’s ‘Rubric for Rubrics‘.
  • Feedback should be a two way process. Too often when we talk about feedback, it is about what feedback is being provided a the students. However, if everyone is seen as a learner, than feedback from the students is just as, if not more, important. Feedback, then, should always be an open dialogue.
  • Subjects should be the mediator, not the motivator, of learning. Although many schools are structured around ‘subjects’ and pushing thought a certain content, we should always have an eye on how each skill or tool may be utilised across the board and even more importantly, the world outside of the school.
  • Be open to change. The worst classes I have administered have been when I have decided prior to learning what we will do and being unwilling to adjust to each and every situation. It is so important to adjust to the needs of each and every learner, whether this be in the form of instruction, support or simply what is offered. Although you may have a plan attached to an intention, it is also just as important to go with the flow and respond to the moment, for that is what you are in.
  • Start with a space. In a great post from +Luis López-Cano, he outlines the importance of space on controlling the learning that is even possible. Just as it is important to recognise the choices that we make, it is also just as important to recognise the constraints that may restrict us. In recognising such things, we are better able to stretch them to get the most out of them or even break them.
 
It is important to remember that these are guides not rules – suggestions, thoughts, beginnings, a starting point to a more independent form of learning. To treat such ideas as rules can miss the point and as John Spencer and Tom Panarese pointed out in their post ‘12 Half-Truths Pundits Say to Teachers‘, it is easy to get caught up in the fervour of change and the realities and restraints of the everyday classroom. 
 
In the end, this list is best understood as a list of ideals to spur me forward, each and every day, to be the best that I can be and support those under my care. Do I embody them each of them everyday, no. Not because I don’t want to, but rather because life has its own way of things at times. However, such ideals are what help me continually break free from what John Goh describes, as our ‘default value’. That idea laid as a foundation during our formative years.
 
Are there any suggestions that you would add to my list? Any tools and strategies to add to a learner’s toolbox? Would love your thoughts and ideas.

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