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.


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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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Communication Takes Two – 2017 in Review

Communication takes two, a reflection on my goals

A reflection on my inquiry into communication this year and all of the lessons learnt along the way.


It is again that time of year when we stop and reflect. This year I chose ‘communication’ as my one word to focus on throughout. It was a word that stemmed in part from a review in my workplace, with our focus being on working with a wide range of stakeholders to support transformation and change. I therefore identified the following possibilities:

  • Clarity – sometimes messages and meaning can get lost in their delivery, the challenge is when to add more or keep it short.
  • Consistency – whether responding via email or working with someone in person, it is important to be consistent in regards to the way things are done.
  • Collaboration – it can be easy to focus on the job at hand and the person that you maybe working with, however it is important to remember that it often takes a team and think about ways to keep everyone abreast.
  • Context – so much of communication is about adjusting to the moment, it is important to change pitch or approach depending on the circumstance.
  • Transparency – sometimes the key to communication is the culture that it is built upon, this though is often built upon other actions and activities.

My first approach was to focus on the technical side of things. This involved:

What I learnt with each of these initiatives is that even when you work collaboratively in developing and refining a particular approach, if other stakeholders do not feel there is a problem or that there is benefit to be gained then it can all be to no avail. Unlike Mark Zuckerburg, I feel that technology alone will not solve all of our ills. Change involves people

This focus on human element relates to the question of why communicate in the first place. One of the things that became more and more apparent as the year has passed is that it is not necessarily the technology that is lacking, but the intent and understanding behind what is actually being communicated. These dialogues discussions often involves multiple parties. Seth Godin captures this succinctly, explaining that:

It takes two to be understood. Not just speaking clearly, but speaking in a way that you can be understood.

What then is important in regards to support and change is creating the conditions within which people can be heard. Dave Cormier recently reflected on grappling with this situation too:

Technology projects everywhere tend to cross over different departments and responsibilities. Lawrie Phipps told me that this is called “matrix decision making”. Where a project reports up through multiple decision makers who may or may not have similar ideas of how to get a particular problem solved. Imagine 6 people sitting around a table all reporting to six different directors. It’s a common problem, and we had it.

I really related to this. The challenge of being understood is identifying the context at hand and starting there. Something I picked up from coaching. Although the message shared maybe the same in shape and content, the story used to convey it always changes. Everyone and every school has something important to them and I have found it important to tie conversations to that. Although this is not always easy, i guess this is the art of education.


I must admit that when I started in my current position I was frustrated by the processes associated with getting everything checked and signed off. Yet as time has gone by, I recognise how important this is with the complexities associated with stakeholders and communication. Although I still believe in the importance of autonomy and agency, I think that in a large organisation this involves taking initiative to instigate various actions, not in making rash decisions.

So what about you? How have you gone this year? Have you any tips associated with transformation and change? As always, comments and webmentions welcome.


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Also on:

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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Zen and the Art of Blog Maintenance

An explanation of why maintaining your own space is so important

This is a reflection on my recent challenges associated with maintaining a blog and an explanation of why I persist in doing it.


I got talking with some of technical designers in my workplace recently. I was inquiring about the plausibility of a few ideas I was thinking about. I did not want to commit myself to something that was doomed from the outset. The question was then asked, “But you’re not a coder, right?” Technically, I guess I am not. I have developed a few solutions, in part based on code appropriated from others, but could I develop something from scratch. I guess not. This for me raises the question, in a world which coding is bandied around as the 21st Century literacy, what does it mean to code and be a coder? Is it about a broad understanding of the mechanics and meaning or is it the ability to make and do? Can these even be separated?

This problem raised its head again this week as I tried to fix a problem occurring with two of my sites. I was not receiving linkbacks from other sites. Although webmentions were coming through, there were mentions within blogs that were not even going through to my spam folder. Of course, this is not going to ‘break the web’, but it means that I am missing some of the conversations from those sending from their site.

I came upon the issue after receiving a few messages from people saying that their messages were being rejected or not flowing through. This was occurring in both directions, with my pings seemingly sending emails, but not properly flowing through to posts and comments. Here then are some of the steps I took to investigate. I share these with the hope that I can learn more about these problems, but also to record the steps for future reflection. They are in no way sequential and have been separated for the sack of representing them in a meaningful manner:


In the end, I decided to turn the Semantic Linkbacks plugin back on and see how it went. To my surprise, things seemed to work. I will continue to tinker and investigate. It is a reminder why I have a Domain of One’s Own. As Martha Burtis points out,

Learning WordPress should not just be about learning WordPress — it should also be about all the tacit lessons that go along with learning how to publish online in an open-source Web application.

I know that at anytime that the Facebooks and Wixs are waiting to greet me with open arms and every day I resist. So what about you? What have been your experiences? As always comments welcome, even more so from your own blog.


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Obstacles Associated with Blogging

Kathleen Morris recently put out a poll investigating the obstacles associated with blogging. Although I added my vote for time, I felt it was worth following up with some of the challenges and the reasons associated with each. To begin with, I will focus on personal blogging.

Personal Obstacles

  • Time and Motivation: I agree with Seth Godin that the question of time is often about priority, but I also think that it can come down to motivation. When I look at twenty plus ideas that I have waiting to be developed. I wonder if what I am saying needs to be.
  • Perception: A part of working out what to say is considering how what I write may be perceived. Some speak of branding, but I think that it is about trust. I remember being told about a teacher who had to have everything that they posted vetted by their organisation. Clearly that is an extreme, but it is something to be mindful of and the ramifications that it may have.
  • What to Say: Some like Godin argue that it is important to ‘just ship‘. However, rich ideas take time and effort. Like Tom Waits, I often prefer to leave my posts ‘in the shed’, starting them and letting them progressively grow and mature. Interestingly, I listened to a podcast recently featuring Clive Thompson where he spoke about taking at least three months to craft a long form essay. I think that there is something worth celebrating with this and it may be better considered as a personal preference, rather than an obstacle.

Obstacles in the Classroom

As I have reflected elsewhere, I think blogging in the classroom provokes a different set of obstacles to personal blogging:

  • Developing a Habit: Many teachers turn to blogs (and other such spaces) expecting instant change. The problem is that there are often habits that need to be developed, such as regular reflection or sharing with a wider audience. For example, it may be useful to start with a physical journal or portfolio before turning to the digital solution.
  • Another Thing: In addition to developing habits, blogs risk being treated as ‘another thing’ to consider within an already crowded curriculum. The challenge is to see blogging as a development on what is often a part of every classroom, that is sharing and critiquing information and ideas. Rather than handing work into a teacher, publishing it on a blogger opens a learner up to the potential of a wider audience.
  • Fear: One of the problems associated with publishing work is the fear that sharing something publicly risks it being misconstrued. Clive Thompson argues that going from an audience of zero to an audience of ten is so big that it’s huger than going from ten to ten million. To alleviate this concern, I recommend starting within a closed community, such as all the students within a class or a year level and building from there.

In the end, when investigating obstacles, each platform will have their own set of solutions, with some being more obvious than others. So what about you? What are your obstacles? As always, comments welcome.


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Back to (Blogging) Basics

Jennifer Hogan recently wrote a post about the 13 things to consider when blogging. Here is a summary of her list:

  1. Every journey is unique
  2. Make time to learn each day
  3. Blog regularly
  4. Forgive yourself when you don’t post
  5. Put your social profile links on your blog
  6. Schedule posts ahead of time
  7. Create graphics for your blog
  8. Actively engage on twitter
  9. Have an About Me page
  10. Include links to previous posts in your blog posts.
  11. Comment and leave comments
  12. Chunk content, use clean fonts and leave blank spaces
  13. Keep a blog idea list.

I started writing a response, then realised that it might be better to just write my own list. So here is my list of the basics that I think every blogger should know:

  1. Why: Everyone can write a post, that is not the point. What matters is why blog. Maybe it is personal? A particular project? Collaborative? A professional portfolio? The investigation of a subject? Curation? There are many faces to blogging and they are developed over time.
  2. Expression: Hogan makes the point, every blog is unique. One of the ways this uniqueness shines through is the voice on the screen. This could be choice of format, the length of posts or the use of tone. The challenge, find the expression that suites you best.
  3. Way of Being: For some blogging is about the daily habit of writing. Others suggest a routine of once a week. What must not be ignored though is the right not-to-blog when needs be. Whatever the frequency, the focus should be on capturing ‘fringe-thoughts’. Blogging to me is better considered as a way of being, of thinking, of seeing.
  4. Portability: There are so many platforms to choose from. Blogger. Edublogs. Medium. WordPress. WP.com. Jekyll. Tumblr. Weebly. Some look good, others are easy to use. What matters the most to me is portability. A few years ago, I moved from Blogger to WordPress, I could not travel in reverse though. Although you may not think that it matters, when it does, you will be happy. Many were burnt by Posterous. Who knows what will happen with Medium?
  5. Look and Feel: With the world of RSS and AMP, It is easy to ignore how posts are presented. This is the allure of Medium, every post looks slick and clean. Although most platforms provide useful defaults which do the job, it is important to clean up any widgets or features that may not be needed. This includes adding an About Me page and links to other sites on the web.
  6. Content: Just as it is important to consider expression, it is important to consider different content that can be embedded to add to posts. This might be creating images, adding a Storify, recording audio or video, visualising data, customising a map, showing it with a GIF or developing a dynamic resource.  Each provides a different way of representing ideas.
  7. Connect: There are many options when it comes to engaging with a blog. This might be writing a formal comment, but it also might be engaging on social media. What matters is connecting with others in the creation of community. This might be remixing an idea or linking to a post. What is important is developing a community.
  8. Workflow: In part, this will be decided by your platform, but think about how you go about writing. Maybe ideas will start with a physical journal? Maybe you might write notes in an app. Whatever it is, make sure that it works for you and works with the devices that you use. Personally, I usually start out with a Google Doc and then transfer to WordPress when I am ready to publish, but there is no right or wrong way.

So they are my blogging basics? What about you? Maybe you prefer Hogan’s list or maybe you have something different altogether. As always, comments welcome.


NOTE: For all of my blogging resources, click here.


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Questions for Cal

Mark Scott, Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, recently closed the National Coaching Conference for Educators with a suggestion to move away from false appeal associated with social media. Instead, he encouraged educators to spend their time focusing on ‘deep work’. To support this, Scott spoke about the work of Cal Newport. Ignoring the segmented nature of schools (see Richard Wells) or what we focus on (see Audrey Watters), the debate around reclaiming our attention is not new. However, Newport’s call to close accounts has been doing the rounds. After watching his TED Talk though, three questions puzzled me: what is social media, what is work and how do I differentiate the changes in my mind?

What is ‘social media’ anyway?

The message is clear, get off social media, your career depends upon it. Newport explains that interesting opportunities are not dependent on being online and in fact social media is harmful (see for example Doug Belshaw’s post on Facebook). Although I did not go and close all my accounts, Newport’s video did lead me to reflect on the place of social media within my life. However, as I watched the TEDTalk I thought that maybe I was misunderstanding his message. With his reference to RSS, it seemed that he was suggesting getting rid of all dynamic content? In many respects, social media is just as ambiguous as digital literacies. Is it how we use it? Is there something baked into applications or inherent in various web formats? Does it depend on if the application calls itself a media company? Are applications like ClassDojo or Seesaw examples of social media too? This was all confounded by the fact that Newport, someone who proudly flaunts the fact that he has never had a social media account, himself has a blog.

Finish at Five

Late in the presentation, Newport shares how he rarely works beyond five. This is such an interesting point, which leaves me wondering when ‘work’ starts and stops? People like David Culberhouse and Steve Brophy get up early in the morning to read, to write, to reflect. If they do not check email, does that mean that it is not ‘work’? What is work? My other concern is with the work that we ask people to do. As an educator, I feel uncomfortable telling an specialist teacher with 400+ that the reason they are working long hours to get reports written is because they are not committing themselves to ‘deep work’. Deep work is often associated with flow, I have never entered such a state while compiling reports. Maybe some work is always shallow?

Minds Changed

One of the concerns that Newport raises is that the instant gratification provided by social media rewires the brain.

The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

Our inability to commit ourselves to concentrating for lengthy periods of time means that we are unable to complete deep work. Maybe it is just me, but being a parent has taught me to seize the minute. If my daughter is asleep on my knee or I am waiting for pick up I often use my phone to dip into some reading. I get moments. I make the most of them to dig down into awesome ideas that I may not get the chance to do at ‘work’. In regards to putting on headphones or going into an office speaks of privilege? Then again, maybe it is just my broken brain.


In the end, I may have been hooked in by the click-bait nature of the New York Times and the TED Talk? Not sure. Maybe at some point I need to stop doing such shallow readings and dive into a deep reading of Newport’s book?


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Starting the Learning Before the Conference

I was recently involved in conversation online in regards to re-imagining the conference experience. There were so many points made, such as:

  • Provide multiple opportunities to practice and experience new skills.
  • Focus on practical techniques and take-aways.
  • Create conditions for collaboration and relationship building.
  • Accelerate ongoing learning and professional dialogue
  • Allow teachers to engage in different elements of choice, action and design.
  • Centre around a transformative statement.

All in all, the focus was on the conference and the time afterwards, yet it left me wondering about the time before and what can be done to start the conversation beforehand?

When I think about sessions I have run, I usually start by doing a temperature check of those in the room. This provides attendees with an opportunity to think about their own context and provides me with an insight.

Even though I consider myself flexible, personalising my presentation dependent on the needs in the room, too often the overall structure is set.

I wonder then if there is a possibility to engage people before the day? Peter DeWitt talks about flipping staff meetings, is there a potential to flip the conference experience? Some conferences encourage presenters to create short videos to fit the constraints of various social media platforms. For example, I made this short video for Digicon last year:

Another alternative to providing people with a taste of what to expect is via a podcast. This is something that both Domains17 and Digicon have done lately. Recording interviews with various keynotes and guest presenters. However, these creations usually focus on promotion. (Although I must say, the interviews for Domains17 were quite informative.)

Based on the fact that conferences usually have a cut-off date to accepting people, what if attendees were sent some sort of correspondence containing some sort of provocation, such as a video or a short podcast, as well as a questionnaire to start the dialogue?

Fine we plan with a problem in mind, but to truly develop any understanding of the ‘archetypal customer’ there needs to be some sort of data and feedback. I recognise that this would be a change from the way things are done now, that not everyone will respond, but wouldn’t a few responses be better than we have now, which is no response at all?

Building on Ewan McIntosh’s idea of a pre-mortem,

A period of safe reflection to consider all the potential causes for the future death of our idea and give us a chance to take some preventative measures to alter our ideas, and make them more likely to thrive in the real world.

Asking questions before the conference allows a kind of pretotyping, where the focus can be on the right ‘it’.

In regards to those conferences where attendees vote with their feet, then this dialogue could simply be around a transformational statement that drives the conference. A summary of this information could then be provided to the presenters.

In Thomas Guskey’s evaluation of professional development, he provides five critical levels:

  1. Participants’ Reaction
  2. Participants’ Learning
  3. Organisation Support and Change
  4. Participants Use of New Knowledge and Skills
  5. Student Learning Outcomes

Starting the conversation earlier provides an opportunity for participants to identify their own desired outcomes beforehand. In many respects, this process can go beyond conferences and has the potential to develop professional development at all levels. See for example the way in which the #educoachOC chat team provide a post before each chat as a means of starting the conversation before the chat.

So what about you? What strategies have you used to engage learners early to help guide the process? Where do you see this process being a problem? As always, comments welcome.


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Reflections from #CoachEd2017

 

I recently attended the 5th National Coaching Conference for Educators held at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. I was not exactly sure what I would get from the conference. Having completed a course with Growth Coach International around leadership coaching a few months ago, I was interested in following up with my development as a coach. I was also interested in exploring strategies to support my work with schools and teachers with implementing technology. What I got was so much more.

There were so many thought provoking presenters, including Simon Breakspear, Rachel Lofthouse, Christian van Nieuwerburgh and Deb Netolicky. However, to riff on Marshall McLuhan, the medium was the message, with coaching being that medium. In regards to coaching and the conference, there were many ideas bandied. For me though three themes stood out: purpose, context and curiosity.

Purpose

So many conversations started with why, such as:

  • Investing in the capacity of people.
  • Improving instructional leadership to lift up schools.
  • Doing less, but doing it better.
  • Creating the conditions for effective learning
  • Focusing on impact, not just activity.
  • Unleashing the human potential.
  • Supporting the implied ‘other’ client, the learner in the classroom.
  • Developing teachers in their own context.

The consensus though was that coming up with a single purpose is as much about the answer, as it is about working through a process co-construction to understand what coaching means within a particular context.

Context

Schools are not simple places, nor are they all the same, each incorporates a range of complexities and influences. This includes the influence of space, such as the doings, sayings and relatings. The nuances associated with context was demonstrated through the case studies presented by Deb Netolicky and Alex Guedes. The challenge outlined when it comes to coaching is clarifying what is wanted and what is currently working.

A part of working out what works is identifying various strategies to support implementation and facilitation. How we talk to each other was pointed out as being central to any organisation, with conversation central to any coaching approach. Other possibilities shared included reflecting on video of teaching, recording audio and creating transcripts of coaching sessions. The reality though is that coaching is just one way of working together.

The message made time and again was that the context that must not be forgotten is that of the coachee. It is important to respect every conversation as it comes from a different perspective. Whatever kind of coaching is occurring, it is important that it is built on a respectful relationship.

Curiousity

No matter the intent or the context, schools need to provide coachee’s with a permission to be curious. Coaching, mentoring and guidance often occurs in the midst of play, sometimes literally in the playground. Some suggestions included supporting vulnerability, inquiry-based conversations, providing a safe place, encouraging dialogue, being non-judgemental and fostering the conditions of permanent beta. One of the challenges that impede much of this are the procedures which schools cannot get out of. Breaking with the culture of judgementoring and cruel optimism, Rachel Lofthouse talked about making practice privileged.


Having long attended various edtech conferences, one of the things that stood out was that I was in unfamiliar surrounds. Although I often participate in the monthly EduCoachOC chat and have acted as a mentor before, I have limited formal experience in regards to coaching.  Yet by its nature as being about coaching, the conference itself created an open environment in which to learn.

 

Some other links worth checking out:


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