The #edublogsclub challenge this week relates to books. I am always reading. However, instead of writing another review, I thought that it might be more pertinent to review a review of my reviews I made with Awesome Tables.

Awesome Table allows you to take data recorded in a Sheet and use App Scripts to create dynamic visualisations. As the website explains:

Awesome Table lets you display the content of a Google Sheet into various types of views: From a simple table to people directories, Gantt chart views, Google Maps, card views… There are many possibilities to suit your personal and professional needs. With it, data in Sheets are shown in a more functional way and can be shared with viewers.

I had started exploring options for dynamic displays with the help and guidance of Tom Woodward, who shared a template for my blog roll with me. However, he also directed me to Awesome Tables as another possibility.

Even with tags and categories, one of the challenges of having a blog with hundreds of posts is how to make it easier to find what you might be looking for. One example is finding my reviews of books and podcasts. I am often asked for suggestions and short of giving people a long list, wondered if there was a way of refining this process. This led me to Awesome Tables.

 


For those interested in making your own Awesome Table, I have created a basic guide:

1. Go to Awesome-tables.com and sign in with your Google account. This will then link with Google Sheets.

2. Choose a template from those provided. Preview it and once happy, click Use Template to create a copy.

3. Open the Spreadsheet attached to the template. There are two tabs: data and template. To use the basic template as is, delete the dummy data and add your own.

4. If there are fields that you do not want built into the template, then you can change the headings in the Data sheet. However, make sure that you do the same within the Template sheet.

It is possible really customise an Awesome Table or even start from scratch. However, it can get rather fiddly and involve a lot of abstraction. For those wanting to go down this path, there is a support site with a range of documentation.


So what about you? What strategies do you use to track the books you read? Have you used Awesome Tables in any other ways? 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.

About Privacy
“About Privacy” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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.

Templated Self

“Templated Self” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


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

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

For Couros students should leave high school with:

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

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

Continue reading


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.

Free as in Beer
“Free as in Beer” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

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


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

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

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

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


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.

Pushing Boundaries @almaharris1

“Pushing Boundaries @almaharris1” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA

So the prompt this week for the #EduBlogsClub is to: 

Write a post that discusses leadership, peer coaching, and/or effecting change.

After some reflection, I thought it might be useful to review some of the books on leadership that have helped guide my thinking …


Compelling Leadership by Paul Browning

“The idea of trust is hard to define but we certainly know when it is missing”

Of all the qualities or attributes, Paul Browning argues that leadership is first and foremost about vision and trust. Importantly though, without trust there is nothing. To support leaders, Browning discusses ten practices designed to help engender trust: admit mistakes, offer trust to staff members, actively listen, provide affirmation, make informed and consultative decisions, be visible around the organization, remain calm and level-headed, mentor and coach staff, care for staff members, and keep confidences. This short book is a useful provocation and provides some useful questions to reflect upon.


Distributed Leadership Matters by Alma Harris

“Distributed leadership is primarily concerned with the interactions and the dynamics of leadership practice rather than a preoccupation with the formal roles and responsibilities traditionally associated with those “who lead.” This book argues that it is the practice of leadership that is most important if the goal, in schools and districts, is to secure better instruction and improved learner outcomes.”

There is potential within every organisations that goes untapped, this is often due to the lack of distributed leadership. For Harris, the level of distribution is a key indicator of high-performing organisations. Distributed leadership can be broken down further into four characteristics: the levels of trust, interdependence, reciprocal accountability and shared purpose. With all this in mind, Harris warns that the idea of distributed leadership can easily be misconstrued and abused. Although not designed as a step-by-step manual, this book is a useful provocation to help improve outcomes and performance in an organisation.


Start With Why by Simon Sinek

“There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it.”

For lasting change and innovation you need trust, loyalty and inspiration, it is for this reason that Simon Sinek suggests starting with the question of why. At the heart of Sinek’s argument is what he calls the ‘golden circle’. Where most people begin with the what, dictating how we do things and hopefully why we do it. The golden circle is about working in reverse, from the inside out. The challenge is that a why is not something you simply invent, rather it is something discovered through deep reflection and action. In regards to leadership, this notion of why is best led organically and distributed across an organisation.


The Changing Face of Modern Leadership by David Culberhouse

“The rate, velocity, turbulence, and chaos of change is not only affecting our organizations, it is affecting our leadership. Today’s leaders can no longer, afford to just implement mandates and initiatives. They have to engage in ideas and thinking that not only re-imagine the very structures and processes of our organizations, but of our leadership and how that looks in today’s modern world.”

Beyond lists and frameworks of what works and is already known, David Culberhouse makes the case that the future will be different and that we need to start adjusting. In response to this challenge, leaders of tomorrow will be required to be more agile, engage with the question, recognise the fluidity of the systems we work in, provide balance between thoughts and action, and be comfortable with uncomfortableness. For Culberhouse there are four mindsets that are integral to this shift: learner, pioneer, innovative and servant. Although case studies are sparse in this book, this space forces you as a reader to make your own connections and dig deeper into your own context.


Renegade Leadership by Brad Gustafson

“The most distinguishing feature of Renegade Leadership is a blatant disregard for the impossible in pursuit of fulfilling our responsibility to prepare all students for their future.”

Going against the usual calls for revolution and revolt, Brad Gustafson describes how to foster a culture of innovation that is at the same time grounded in a belief about best practices. At the heart of this balance is having a clear belief and vision about education. Gustafson’s unpacks a list of traits pertinent to this practice of leadership, including pedagogical precision, transparency, connectedness, innovation, risk-taking, capacity building, child-centred, empowered learner, impact and moral courage. Renegade Leadership provides ammunition to tackle change no matter what context you are starting from.


Student-Centred Leadership by Vivian Robinson

“The more leaders focus their relationships, their work, and their learning on the core business of teaching and learning, the greater will be their influence on student outcomes.”

For Robinson leadership is more than the usual discussion of management, relationships or innovation, the key is the value added to student learning. She identifies three capabilities important to having the greatest impact as being the application of knowledge, solving problems and building trust. These capabilities support responses to what she highlights as the five dimensions of leadership: establishing goals and expectations, resourcing strategically, ensuring quality teaching, leading teacher learning and development, and ensuring an orderly and safe environment. For Robinson, these capabilities and dimensions represent the how and what of student-centred leadership.


Tribes by Seth Godin

Leaders don’t care very much for organizational structure or the official blessing of whatever factory they work for. They use passion and ideas to lead people, as opposed to using threats and bureaucracy to manage them. Leaders must become aware of how the organization works, because this awareness allows them to change it.

According to Godin, tribes involve those who choose to lead, for if you want to you can. The tools of the web make it easier than ever to start a movement. The challenge we are faced with is overcoming our own fear of failure and change in order to be a heretic and develop something remarkable and original. Godin’s thesis can be summed up in five points: everyone is expected to lead, the structure of today allows this change, the market rewards remarkable, it is thrilling to lead and there is always a tribe waiting for you. Not your usual book on leadership, Godin’s intent is as much to guide as it is motivate. It is one of those books that you can easily dip into again and again.


So there are some books that have inspired me, what about you? What books would you recommend? 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.