Chilly Gonzales on the future of music

A reflection on the music that represented my soundtrack for 2018.


Depth of Field (Sarah Blasko)

Although Blasko’s use of synth bass and programmed beats with this album leads to comparisons with artists like Goldfrapp, Depth of Field never quite reaches the same dancefloor intensity. Instead the mix often creates a feeling of fragility. In listening I was reminded in part of LCD Soundsystem’s american dreams, as the more I listened, the more the choice to hold back on certain elements seemed to make more sense. Overall, I found it one of those albums that never seems settled and subsequently hooks you in because of it.

I would place this album between Goldfrapp and Lamb.

Lilac Everything (Emma Louise)

Lilac Everything is a captivating album. The decision of Emma Louise to definitively augment her voice makes for an intriguing listening experience. Where some may be critical of the artificial nature of pitch correction, the use in this circumstance is novel and critically challenges the notion of identity and belonging. There is just something uncanny about listening to a female artist taking on a male voice.

I would place this album between Father John Misty and Jeff Buckley.

 

Isaac Gracie (Isaac Gracie)

The strength of Isaac Gracie’s self titled album is the rawness of his voice. In a world of lush productions, this album cuts things back to basics. Many of the tracks consist of drums, bass and guitar. This simplicity allows Gracie to stand out. In some ways this reminds me of acts like Beach House and London Grammar, who fill out their sound with less rather than more.

I would place this album between Art of Fighting and London Grammar.

Wildness (Snow Patrol)

It is interesting listening to artists who I grew up with, but have not necessarily listened to lately. They change, the world changes, music changes, I changed. The one thing that remains the same with Snow Patrol is Gary Lightbody’s distinctive voice. There is nuance with this album with a continual battle between acoustic and electric. Although some have argued that Jacknife Lee’s polished production is to the detriment of the album, I found that once I stopped comparing the album with the past it grew on me.

I would place this between Radiohead and Collective Soul

MassEducation (St. Vincent)

I loved last year’s MassEduction, but the rawness of Annie Clark’s voice accompanied by Thomas Bartlett on piano takes the music to a whole new level for me. Even though her music is relatively structured she manages to find creativity within constraint in this reworking. This is epitomised by a track like Slow Disco, which she has played supported by Bartlett’s piano, strings on the album, acoustically for NPR Tiny Desk and electroically in the Taylor Swift inspired reworking as Slow Fast Disco. Other artists to peel the layers back this year were Kimbra and Chilly Gonzales.

I would place this between MTV Unplugged and Chilly Gonzales

BONUS: Beckstrom Holiday Extravaganza Volume X (Chris Beckstrom)

Christmas is always an interesting time of year when it comes to music. There are those like Michael Buble that have carved out a niche. Last year Sia created an interesting album of original music. With all this said there is something truly joyful about Chris Beckstrom’s ‘Holiday Extravaganzas’, where each year he electronically reimagines a collection of Christmas classics. The pictures are also a useful reflection of the effort involved.

I would place this between Daft Punk and Aphex Twin


Some of the artists that stood out for me this year, but did not make the cut include The Presets, Amy Shark, Guy Pearce, The Wombats, Nils Frahm, Missy Higgins, Dreams and Aphex Twin.


Looking back it feels like the year of imagining, whether it be different versions (St Vincent) or new ground (Emma Louise). So what about you? What music has caught your attention this year? What albums and artists have you had on high rotation? Is there something that seems to tie your year together? As always, comments welcome.


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James Bridle’s book shines a light into the New Dark Age


Have you ever been to a movie that surprised you? Having seen the trailer and watched past movies from the same producer, you assumed that you knew what was going to happen. That is the experience I had with James Bridle’s new book New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future
.

When I read the title, I expected a book describing the coming collapse of Western civilisation. The problem is that this crash is already upon us. Whether it be the breakdown of infrastructure, Eroom’s Law, the unreliability of images and the rise of machine learning algorithms, the darkness is already here.

This book is less about the actual technologies at play and more about their impact on society. It is what Ursula Franklin describes as ‘technology as a system.’ Bridle’s focus is on new ways of thinking about, through and with technology.

In light of the recent revelations around Cambridge Analytica and GDPR, I recently reflected upon the importance of informed consent. I argued that we have a responsibility to:

  • Critically reflect and ask questions
  • Learn from and through others
  • Engage in new challenges

Bridle’s book starts this journey by actively informing us. He then puts forward the challenge of what next.

There is a kind of shame in speaking about the exigencies of the present, and a deep vulnerability, but it must not stop us thinking. We cannot fail each other now.

Although the book offers more questions than answers, it does it in a way that left me feeling somehow hopeful. Whether you are coming from the perspective of culture, education or politics, this book is a must read for anyone feeling at all dissatisfied with the current state of the world today.


For a different introduction, listen to an interview with Bridle on The Guardian:


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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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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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I remember when I was studying my Bachelor of Arts I would often start a deep dive into new and unfamiliar subjects with one of Oxford’s A Very Short Introduction books. Short texts, they are often designed to provide a start to much more complicated topics. They offer a foundation for further investigation. This is what is provided by Sam Sellar, Greg Thompson and David Rutkowski in their book, The Global Education Race, Taking the Measure of PISA and International Testing.
Designed to generate a wider conversation around OECD’s , The Global Education Race is about a better tomorrow. Neither an anti-testing manifesto, nor a champion of standardised testing as a solution to all of education’s perceived failure, the authors argue for a critical engagement with testing that aims to:

 (1) help improve the quality of data generated about education systems and
(2) support the use of data in valid ways that may improve educational outcomes for all students.

The book covers the media myth making machine, how rankings work, the way the test is administered, the problems with causation and correlation, the idea of validating claims and the politics of science and data.

The Global Education Race is a book every educator should read. In a time when education funding and support is so hotly debated, the book helps build the capacity for the wider public to engage in one of the most popular data sets used when developing policy. For unless we appreciate the context and intent associated with PISA, we risk being sucked in by the hype and headlines … Or better yet, an invalidated edu-holiday.


David Rutkowski has also been interviewed on the TER Podcast, providing a useful starting point.


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Mark Colvin's Journalistic Credo
“Mark Colvin’s Journalistic Credo” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Light and Shadow by the late Mark Colvin is a memoir about many things. Growing up, adventure, adversity and the art of journalism. More than anything else though, it is a book about life, in particular, a life well lived.

A deeply reflective thinker, Mark Colvin traces his path through life. Whether it is describing life growing up as a spy’s son, the challenges of attending boarding school during a time of sadomasochistic brutality from teachers, managing mixed families, balancing between life being half Australian and half British, and continually adjusting to the new world of media through mediums, such as video, internet and social media.

Neither a revolutionary from the left nor a conservative from the right, Colvin memoir lives out the credo of presenting the facts. In many ways, Light and Shadow reminds me of Christopher Hitchens and Clive James. Although each have their own voice and experiences, they present captivating stories. Adding to this, listening to Colvin read the book provided a further connection.

I will be honest, I always knew of him from his time presenting PM on ABC Radio, but never really knew the man behind the voice.  For a different introduction to the life of Mark Colvin, watch the tribute on Foreign Correspondent or listen to him on the Conversation Hour.


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

 

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

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

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

So to continue the conversation, here is my contribution:


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

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

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

READ

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

WRITE

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

RESPOND

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


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

Inspired by Kevin Hodgson, I created a summary with Lumins5


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


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Any Given Team
“Any Given Team” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Any Given Team documents Ray McLean’s journey from teacher, to air force instructor, to leadership consultant. Rather than provide an instruction manual, unpacking the art of leading a team step-by-step, McLean uses various stories to explain the origins and elaborations associated with Leading Teams. Besides being a more compelling means of capturing the full picture, it is also at the heart of the move from instruction to facilitation is at the heart of McLean’s work.

With origins in developing a team of leaders within an elite group in the air force to resurrecting a failing football club, McLean’s initial focus was on supporting teams to develop a trademark to stand by, what he labelled as the ‘Performance Improvement Program’. From these core values, behaviours are identified to drive development and regular group feedback is used to guide this. As he explains,

Take any given team, find out what kind of team it really wants to be, give them some work to do and then afterwards help them talk honestly in their own language about how one another’s behaviour matched up with that team they said they wanted to be; repeat the process, each time trying to do a little better than the last.

Although Leading Teams has become synonymous for its peer review sessions where the team members openly question each other, what is often overlooked is the dependence on an agreed sense of purpose. This focus on values soon expanded to supporting individual athletes in the personal art of leadership. This involved developing their communication skills and connecting them with various community programs to support their place as role models. In addition to this, PIP expanded into business and education.

An idea that comes up again and again is the importance of trust. Although setting rules may seem like an answer, it does not help for transforming actions and behaviours. A point made time and again by Alfie Kohn. This reminded me of Paul Browning’s work on trust and leadership. For McLean, the initial changes to any team is trust, honesty and accountability. The problem is that without this starting point, you only ever have a group of individuals. A key to this change is developing as many leaders across the team as possible, something that Alma Harris discusses in her own work on distributed leadership.

Another point pertinent to the whole program is the place of behaviours. For McLean, performance is a combination of attitudes, habits, beliefs and expectations. So often though the only measurement to go by are our actions. Whether it be our preparation, getting a task down or supporting a colleague, each of these actions are a measurement to a commitment to the agreed trademark and the team.

One of the odd things about the book is the seemingly inadvertent focus on men. Whether it be the air force, numerous sporting clubs or business, it always seems to involve men. This is interesting because my personal experience of Leading Teams was facilitated by a female consultant. I wonder if this is merely a reflection of society and the wider gender divide?

Another question I was left with is where culture starts and stops? Reading the discussions about the St. Kilda Football Club I was reminded of the incident a few years back involving Stephen Milne and Leigh Montagna. It leaves me wondering where that sat with the club trademark and culture. Would this happen at a club like Sydney where ‘the bloods’ permeates all aspects of the team, on and off the field? Is there a line you step over which belongs outside of the club? How much should individuals be expected to adapt their lives to fit the team? Milne and Montagna’s actions would have impacted the culture of the club at the time?

My two personal takeaways from the book are: leaderships begins with knowing yourself and having some agreed ‘trademark’ is essential for any team to work together. McLean suggests that, “the best that we can do is manage ourselves properly”. This reminds me of a comment by Voltaire that “common sense is not common.” Managing ourselves ‘properly’ then is something that takes considerable time and effort. Curt Rees’ starting point is auto-ethnography and knowing who we are. While the idea of a trademark reminds me of Simon Sinek’s argument to always ‘Start with Why’. For Sinek, the why always influences what you do and how you go about it. It is for this reason that McLean asserts,

If we can develop an environment where each player has a vested interest in the development of his teammates, and people are driving themselves individually and collectively towards the team they want to be, the team’s performance will improve and continue to improve.

Brad Gustafson also discusses the importance of values and having a trademark in his book Renegade Leadership. His strategy is to pin his school’s transformational tenets near his phone and workstation so that any time he is on the phone to somebody or writing an email he is reminded of these values.

So what about you? What experiences have you had regarding leadership within team situations? As always, comments welcome.


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I recently took up Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian. It was not what I expected. I read a lot of non-fiction and being out of the classroom, this has only increased. So as part of my summer siesta I turned to McCarthy for some relief.

Blood Meridian is one of those books that seems to come up again and again in discussions. I recall it being reviewed on The Book Club, while Jim Groom often mentions it. I imagined it would be an American version of the True History of the Kelly Gang. I was wrong. McCarthy makes Peter Carey look like a children’s author.

The key to Carey’s retelling is that it is done through the perspective of authority. Although he gives accounts of murder and hardship, the description is somewhat subdued. Although Blood Meridian involves power, it is a power that exists beyond the grip of authority. The fact that one of the main characters is The Judge only adds to this irony.

Blood Meridian is instead a book about silence. It attempts to captures a violent world that in Carey’s tale is somewhat left untold. When all is said and done, it feels like there is so much left unsaid. In particular, we are left guessing about the thoughts and intentions of the various characters. All we can do is presume. The only guarantee is that no matter what happens,they kept on riding.

This notion of going on reminds me of education. Often there are stories told, official stories. Ones about timetableedtech platformscurriculumdisciplines. However, beneath these tales are stories that often remain silent. Jagged stories that defy statistics. Stories of actions and interpretation. Amongst all of this there are people who each and every day simply teach on.


I have read many books, but there are only a few that I feel I will never completely forget. Midnight’s Children is one, Blood Meridian is another. So what about you? What are the uncanny books that stay with you after the fact? As always, comments welcome.


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The End of Average

“The End of Average” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

With The End of Average, Todd Rose sets out to reinstate the individual within a crowd of averages. Continuing the conversation started by those like Seth Godin, Yong Zhao and Simon Sinek, it is a book about empowering choice and change from the ground on up. The focus of Rose’s book is on on equal fit, rather than equal opportunity. This all starts with reinstating individuality. To get this message across, the book is split into three parts: the history of the average, the principles of Individuality and individuality in practice.

An Average History

In regards to the history, the story starts with Adolphe Quetelet. Rose discusses how in the 19th century, during the rise of industry and nations, Quetelet set out to develop a science for managing society. Applying the method of averages taken from astronomy, Quetelet worked the vast measurements being gathered by burgeoning nation states to develop a model of the average man. This is where the BMI index stems from. Quetelet’s work inspired many, including Karl Marx work on communism, Florence Nightingale in regards to nursing and Jon Snow in his response to cholera.

Another person inspired by Quetelet was Sir Francis Galton. The difference though was that Galton believed that to be average was far from ideal, instead it was mediocre. His interest was on improving on the idea of average. This involved redefining the notion of error, that is the difference from the mean, as rank. All in all Galton identified fourteen different classes, ranging from imbecile to mediocre to imminent. In addition to rank, Galton argued that the best qualities are correlated. For Rose, Quetelet and Galton represent the foundation for the invention of the average.

Taking the ideas of rank and average further, Frederick Winslow Taylor used them in the development of scientific management. Rather than empower individuals, Taylor was about maintaining efficiency through standardised processes.

In regards to education, Taylor’s ideas were taken up to organise learning through tests, bells, curriculum, textbooks and grading systems. A key figure involved in this movement was Edward Thorndike. A leader in the development of psychometrics, Thorndike saw the ranking of students as a means of measuring innate ability. For to Thorndike, education was about quality over equality. Rose makes the point that this was (and is) not a broken education system, rather a perfected one.

For Rose, the heroic history associated with the average came to halt when Peter Molenaar uncovered a flaw in our understanding of averages. For Molenaar, the issue lies with what is described as the ergodic switch. That is, taking something that is non-ergodic and switching it so it is. Using a process of aggregate then analyse, the switch involves understanding individuals without actually recognising their individuality. The problem with this is that group averages are OK if every member is identical and will remain the same in future. This is clearly not the case, for using a group average to discuss individuals treats humans as clones. The answer for Molenaar is the focus on dynamic systems, which are built upon a process of analyse then aggregate.

Principles of Individuality

According to Rose, the answer to the end of averages is the rise of individuality. Rather than an equal opportunity, where the goal is to provide everyone with access the same standardised experiences, Rose suggests we need equal fit, where we are all afforded the opportunity for our individuality to flourish. A key to all of this are what Rose describes as the the three principles of individuality: jaggedness, context and pathways.

  • JAGGEDNESS: Moving away from Galton’s one-dimensional view of ability involving correlations, Rose argues that our focus should be distinct jaggedness. As he states, “we can not apply one-dimensional thinking to something that is complex.” Jaggedness involves looking at the various attributes and achievements that make up the whole person. Rose states that there are two conditions for jaggedness: multiple dimensions that are weakly related. What is important about jaggedness is that it is not about finding diamonds in the rough, but instead about finding a way of celebrating true talent.
  • CONTEXT: Essentialist thinking would have it that traits and behaviours can be uncovered through the use of set model, such as the Myer Briggs test or concepts such as introverted and extraverted. These approaches are usually seen as helpful predictors of future actions. The problem is that our character traits are not consistent in all situations. For example, we are all a little bit shy sometime. The question then for Rose is within which context are we shy. Wary of opening a pluralistic Pandora’s box, he suggests that, “we are consistent within a given context.” The challenge is to understand these situations. The strategy that Rose proposes is the notion of ‘if then’ signatures. That is, if it is a particular situation, then it will produce these traits. For myself, an if then signature is exams. I struggle to stay focused in such situations, therefore at University I only chose subjects which involved essays. One of the important things to remember with context is that there is often more to someone than the context at hand. To me, this has many connections with strength-based education.
  • PATHWAYS: One of the legacies to standardisation is that everyone must follow the same set of rules and expectations in order to achieve some sort of mastery. This normative thinking often brings with it such standardisation of time and expectations. The problem with this approach is that it does not work for everyone all of the time, instead it works for a few some of the time. The pathways principle goes against this, instead arguing that there are many ways to reaching the outcome at hand and that the best path is a path just for us. As Rose asserts, “we are always creating our own pathway for the first time.” The only way to judge a pathway is how it fits with our jagged profile and if then signatures. One solution that Rose puts for individual pathways is self-determined competency-based credentialing. An example of this is the work around Open Badges. In their ideal form, pathways break with the analogy tgat success is to climb a ladder, instead it is more akin to a constellation of stars providing for numerous connections.

For Rose, the only path to a life of excellence is developing your own individuality, whether it be through your jagged profile, appreciating how you work in different contexts or finding the pathway that is right for you. Maybe it is finding a new solution in business or identifying your own problems to solve, at the heart of the quest for individuality is innovation.

Criticism and Connections

Although The End of Average makes a compelling case for change, this comes with its own set of questions and concerns. As a history, it reads as somewhat convenient. It can be easy to be caught up with the narrative of the heroic individual, however the reality is often much more complicated. For example, it is easy to simply associate scientific management with Frederick Taylor, however not only were there others involved in its conception, but it has long been out of fashion. Audrey Watters captures some of these intricacies in her analysis of the factory model of education.

Another question left somewhat unanswered is the place of the community. In The Good Education in an Age of Measurement, Gert Biesta argues that there are three ingredients to a ‘Good Education’: qualification, socialisation and subjectification. Although credentials and pathways encompass qualifications and subjectification, there is little discussion of socialisation. In a world which focuses on the individual, it remains uncertain as to how systematic change occurs. Maybe it doesn’t or maybe it is simply industries of individuals working together? Whatever the answer, this is not really addressed.

Connected with the question of community, one of the things that stands as a concern for a system built around individuality is that there is a risk that it will only be an equal fit for those with access. Although technology plays a large roll in the form of online learning, it is still dependent on human support. Again such dependency on funding and investment has the risk of reinstating a meritocratic system, especially when the simple answer is to just innovate. Those outside of this opportunity are at then left to the whims of Silicon Valley and the Californian ideology. Relying on such evasive movements as the AltSchool or Bridge International to provide a supposed personalised solution ironically at the expense of our control.

Moving Beyond Average

I remember when I used to live in the Victorian country side being amazed by the amount of Weeping Willows growing along the open channels that carried water between the various properties. An introduced species, they actually sapped up a lot of the water. I once asked the Outdoor Education teacher I was working alongside why they did not just remove them. He explained that to simply remove them actually causes even more damage through erosion. What is needed, he explained, was to plant something next to the tree that would be able to take its place and fill the same purpose. I see the same thing happening with this book.

The End of Average should not be read as a book of answers written to guide teachers and leaders through a new way of being. For that in itself would be the greatest irony, to provide an average answer for a complex problem. Instead, the book starts a conversation. For although Rose identifies the issue at hand, the answers are not necessarily set. Rather it is in part up to us as individuals to work together to move beyond an age of average to something of our own.

Additional Resources


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