Automation, Generation

Automation image

Although many talk about the power and potential of automation to aid us, sometimes we need to step back and ask ourselves what this means and where the limits lay.


In a recent episode of Loose Learners, John Johnston and Marianna Funes discussed web generators. These are applications designed to automate a part of the creative process. As I listened I realised how many of these generators I myself either use or have used in the past:

iMovie Movie Trailor – I have used these templates myself and with my students. What is useful about them is they provide a clear structure to riff off.

Lumen5 – I have made a few videos with Lumen5 to summarise longer posts. It reminds me a bit of Haiku Deck.

Adobe Spark – Made up of a suite of apps, Adobe Spark makes it easy to generate quick and easy images, posts and sites. In regards to video, I like that you record the audio for each slide, rather than one file across the whole video.

Each of these application works within a particular set of constraints, that make it simple to just make. In part, this reminds me of Tom Barrett’s point about knowing what is possible to work at the edges:

Not to be confused with restraint which is much more about self-control, constraint is about finding the edges of the page before you begin, it is about knowing what limits you have in terms of resources.

The challenge with all of this is being thoughtful about how these generators are used.

Johnston touches on this in regards to Micro.blog and using his site to syndicate to various social media siloes. He shares how although some tasks take a little bit longer, however he feels that he has inadvertently approached things with more care. I too have taken this approach recently. I have taken to using SNAP to send out links and have them syndicated on my site. This all involves a semi-autonomous setup.

I sometimes wonder if the best generator at times is in fact ourselves? Fine, we might use various tools to offload the physical labour, however they are associated with dynamic choices and actions. This is what I do with the creation of my images. I could probably automate this, especially with the addition of add-ons to Google Slides. This would then involve populating a spreadsheet or even a Google Form and applying this to a template. However, I feel that I have the process downpat that there is something in the generation that I actually like. Therefore, the automation in this situation comes in the form of process.

In a recent article, Antone Martinho-Truswell discusses automation and the way in which it seperates us from other animals. What stood out from his piece though was that automation has two parts: mental and technical.

There are two kinds of automation: those that are energetically independent, requiring human guidance but not much human muscle power (eg, driving a car), and those that are also independent of human mental input (eg, the self-driving car). Both are examples of offloading our labour, physical or mental, and both are far older than one might first suppose.

Too often the focus of automation is on the tool, yet there are infact other components that are overlooked. To me this is the ‘human’ side of things that people like Douglas Rushkoff and Kin Lane touch upon.

Take for example, reading online. There are some who advocate for the Chrome App TLDR as a way of improving comprehension. The problem with this is that it has its limits. Firstly, the tool does not teach you how to summarise, nor does it address every piece of text on the web. Instead, there comes a time when you have to draw on your own questions and protocols to help make sense of things.

Generators are good, but they have their limit. What is important though is that we never let go of the ability to think through things from scratch. This is the key to embrace both sides of automation, the physical and the mental. For sometimes all elements are needed to find the edge of the page and work from there.


So what about you? What are your experiences with automation or online generators? As always, comments welcome and webmentions too.


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Googling Libraries

The future of libraries is in research

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


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

Spaces

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

Research.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

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

Beyond Book Reports

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

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

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

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

Further Reading

Thinking

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

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

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

Further Reading

Connected Classroom

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

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

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

Further Reading


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

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


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Learning Technologies

Focusing on a post-human approach, Ian Guest reflects on the ability for technologies to learn

Often discussions around technologies and transformation focus on tools. Another question to consider is the way technologies entangled with learning.


I met up with Alan Levine recently and we talked about everything from politics to open education to experiences. The thing that came up again and again though was the place of the technology within learning and education. I have explored this before, touching on the place of the tool in making various situations possible. What seemed different is that the stage set by the conversation seemed a lot busier, with many complex intrarelations. What then is the place of technology in relation to learning? Is it learning about technology? Is it technology that aides with the learning process? Or is it technology that through its place learns itself? This all led me to reflect on the recent addition of the Thermomix into our kitchen this year and impact this has had in regards to my own learning about food and technology.


Thermomix by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

The Thermomix is an all-in-one cooking machine combining a number of steps, such as boiling, melting, chopping, weighing, steaming, crushing and blending. (I am sure I have missed a few verbs here.) The machine itself involves focuses on three variables: time, temperature and motion. However, there are a range of add-ons which extend these capabilities, including a whisk as an alternative to the blade, a steaming basket you insert within the cooking jug and a steaming tray you can place on top. The jug that is at the heart of everything also doubles as a scale, converting all measurements into grams.

One of the things that surprised me about the Thermomix was that it did not necessarily do everything for you. When my wife and I spoke about buying one, I had the misconception that it would allow me to set a timer in the morning (like you might with a slow cooker) or quickly throw everything in after work to wiz something up automagically. Not surprisingly, it is not that simple. Although there are recipe chips which step you through recipes, there is also a built in process of what might be called ‘enforced education’. This asks the user to engage after each step. This is important from a safety point of view, but it is also interesting in regards to appreciating how the application works.

One of the biggest ways the Thermomix has redefined our kitchen is our use of individual ingredients over prepackaged jars and sachets. Recipes often involve combining a wide range of ingredients, especially herbs and spices.


Secret Herbs and Spices by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

This has led to a deeper appreciation of the food being cooked and consumed. It means if something is bland or too spicy then you can make our own tweeks next time. Going a step further, there are a range of online communities building on the standardised language provided by the Thermomix to share an array of recipes and creations. Overall, the Thermomix has helped build my knowledge and understanding of food providing me with the means to go beyond the automated processes and complete steps individually.

This whole learning curve also reminds me of the experience provided by Zapier. A ‘translator of APIs’, Zapier provides the means to automate processes by connecting together a range of web apps. It provides the structure of triggers and actions to step through the creation of workflows. Unlike IFTTT, users can then look into their ‘zaps’ and investigate the intracies, such as the data coming in and going out. Although Zapier eliminates the need to code, it also helps to build up an appreciation of what is required if you do want to start developing your own solutions.

When I think about both the applications, I am reminded about learning on multiple levels. Firstly, they put in place support for the development of understanding as to how the application works. They support learning about other things, such as food and APIs. They also learn themselves, being entangled within a feed of information from other applications and communities.

So what about you? What place does technology play within your learning? As always, comments welcome.


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Education’s Digital Futures

Simon Keily recently shared a post with me exploring the question,

What do you think the digital future of education entails?

Here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • What is technology? When comments are made that technology is failing us or even harming us, we need to consider what we actually mean by ‘technology’ and in what contexts.
  • Is anything really new? Bryan Alexander highlights that many of our ‘futures’ and supposed revolutions are simply revisions of the past, a topic that Audrey Watters’ touches on again and again in her writing.
  • Do we shape our tools or do our tools shape us? It can be easy to define technology as being somehow static and outside of our influence, when it is a part of dynamic assemblage, changing and forever influencing. The challenge is balancing influence with impact.
  • How do we balance between cognitive and critical concerns? Thinking about Doug Belshaw’s eight elements of digital literacies, so often the focus is on cognition and how technology works, rather than culture and criticality. For example, WhatApp may allow users to easily connect and communicate, but in process involves handing over your personal contacts to Facebook. What does this mean and is it ok?
  • What if the answer is development, not improvement? Too often answer with edtech is efficiency and maintaining the status quo. Models like SAMR focus on modification and redefining, over understanding the context and responding to the needs of the situation. The focus should be pedagogy and developing from there.

So they are some of my thoughts, what about you? What do you think that the digital futures of education entail? I encourage you to leave your thoughts on Keily’s post and continue the conversation there.


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Developing Safer (Digital) Schools

I was lucky enough to recently attend a session run by Claire Sutherland for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation around the topic of ‘safe schools‘. I have worked with AMF before in regards to eSmart. Today’s focus was on the trends, policies and resources to support schools around cybersafety. Personally, I have mixed feelings about cybersafety as a topic, as there are some who approach it from the perspective of fear. So here are some of my notes and observations on the presentation …

Issues

When it comes to children and technology, there are a number of issues to consider:

In regards to schools and liability, It is important to understand that if you are aware of an issue, you are responsible. In Victoria, this is covered in the PROTECT Guidelines.

3Cs

For the Alannah and Madeline Foundation cybersafety can be broken down into three aspects:

  • Contact: Do you appreciate who you are sharing with? There is a difference between a ‘friend’ and a ‘follower’, while many of our connections come via acquaintances. We may think that we are not providing much information online, however once we work across multiple platforms, people (and computers) can easily join the dots and develop quite an extensive profile.
  • Conduct: How do you act when you are online? Do you THINK before you post, that is do you consider if what you are sharing is ‘True, Helpful, Inspiring, Necessary and Kind’. Research says that 1:5 students have been involved in cyberbullying online. The challenge is to look out for one another, respecting the rights of others. One suggestion is to ask before tagging, especially in regards to changes in regards to auto-tagging within Google Photos.
  • Content: What information do you share online? Is it personal or private? How authentic is it? How positive is your digital footprint? What is your response to fake news and surreptitious advertising? To plagarism, is it constructive? This can all be challenging as we move into a world that no longer forgets. Something captured by Black Mirror where everyone’s experiences are captured all of the time or we are continually judged by everything that happens in our life.

Associated with the 3C’s, there are four different types of spaces: messaging app, social media, games and dating apps. What entices students is whether they are free, accessible, social and allow experimentation. Constantly changing, these spaces are a part of the yo-yo craze where students move when adults move in.

Challenges

Some of the challenges associated with cybersafety include: raising awareness with parents, teachers and students, monitor the use of technology, building online resilience and empathy, celebrating the positive, as well as empowering bystanders to stand up by providing anonymous reporting systems. To be proactive, schools need to be as explicit as possible when it comes to policy. This means it does not matter which teacher is consulted. Associated with all this, it is important to document issues when they arise.

Resources

Here are a collection of resources – both from the session and some links of my own – to go further in regards to cyber safety and digital citizenship:


So what about you? What are you doing to make school safer? Are there any tips, tricks or resources that you would share? As always, comments welcome.


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Taking Tech Beyond the Tool

Often when supporting teachers with the integration of technology, it is easy to start with a notion that people are beginners. This leads to a process of unpacking applications bit by bit. I wonder if rather than knowledge, the challenge associated with so called ‘beginners’ is confidence. This challenge though takes many guises. For some it is the confidence with the mechanics, while for others it comes back to purpose and intent. A useful framework for working through some of these idiosyncrasies is Doug Belshaw’s essential elements of digital literacies.

Rather than one singularly unifying notion of digital literacy, Belshaw argues that there are eight interlinked elements, each informing our understanding and application of digital literacies.

Thinking about an application like Hapara is interesting. It provides an added layer on top of GSuite, which allows teachers to organise and manage learning in the classroom. Using digital literacies as a lens provides an insight into a number of aspects to which a teacher may lack ‘confidence’.

  • From a cultural perspective, Hapara posits that teachers are largely in responsible for creating the conditions for learning. Some teachers may have different pedagogical beliefs.
  • Cognitively, it involves new ways of working. Although it may be more efficient, these are still habits to unlearn and relearn.
  • Constructively, there is a blur between empowering students with the power to participate in actions and the dangers in excessively moderating learning using Highlights. Finding a balance can be challenging.
  • From a communicative point of view, GSuite allows a number of ways to engage, Hapara provides the means to manage and moderate this within different cultural norms.
  • Connecting with GSuite through the use of APIs, Hapara has the ability to both hinder and help the creative process, for on the one hand applications like Workspaces can be used to scaffold learning to support originality or to structure it in such a way that it could  a construed as no more than a digital worksheet.
  • From a critical and civic point of view, it is important to consider the why there is a need to manage learning and the consequences associated with such actions.

There is no one element that captures confidence and confidence in itself does not capture the full picture. Doug Belshaw’s elements provide a means of representing the assemblage of connections associated with technology. Something that Ben Williamson attempts in his own way in his work on Class Dojo. That being said, the answer is not to cover all elements each and every time in a checklist fashion. Instead, they provide useful provocation to go further in defining how we engage with technology.

So what about you? What strategies have you used to take the conversation around tech beyond the tool? As always, comments welcome.


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My #EdTechRations

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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Is Great Teaching Found or Fostered?

There have been a few posts of late highlighting that technology in the classroom can make a positive difference. For example, Simon Crook states:

If teachers and students use technologies to capitalise on the unique opportunities they provide, rather than as a gimmick, it has been demonstrated that teaching and learning will improve.

Jane Hunter explained:

Common to all four of these teachers was a deep fascination with technology. They did not use it for all learning, but most of the time over the school week. Their approaches varied, but they ended up in the same place: engaged classrooms where students are empowered and given a voice to take control of their own learning. Teachers stepped out of the way.

While Jose Picardo explains that,

Using technology well to support teaching and learning is a feature of great teachers, yet there appears to exist the commonly held notion that digital technology and teaching are mutually incompatible.

The challenge seems to be about getting technology in the hands of the right teacher, those ‘great’ teachers who confidently capitalise on the potential of technology. This raises the question, should our focus be on the right teacher or in developing the right teacher?

It can be easy to argue that sometimes a certain teacher is not the right fit for a particular school. Maybe they have pedagogical beliefs that are in competition to the wider organisation or they seen to hold certain values that may not fit the particular status quo. Associated with this perspective, it is often claimed that there is no point ‘watering the rocks’. The solution for such a situation is to get another teacher. This time, the ‘right’ one.

The problem with picking the right teacher is that there is no definitive means of finding such a person. This right teacher implies that we are fixed in everything that we do and think. In addition to this, the ‘right’ teacher for today, may not be the ‘right’ teacher for tomorrow. Another alternative is to provide the conditions for the right teacher to develop and grow.

Focusing on the right conditions has its own challenges, the greatest being time and commitment. See this post from Paul Browning for some insight. The problem with implementing any technology, or pedagogical practice for that matter, is that they cannot simply be taken off the shelf and placed into a school, let alone a classroom. This is my concern about arguments around ‘best practice’. Too often they are picked up and placed in schools as panaceas, yet I have seen schools spend years forcing teachers to fall in line. When it comes to technology, the answer is often SAMR, with the question being why every teacher is not ‘redefining’ their practice, when ironically the idea of redefinition is continually changing.

The challenge seems to be to develop systems that begin with context, starting with the learners in mind. One way to do this is using something like the Modern Learning Canvas to create a picture of practice, which then starts a conversation that provides the means for teachers to take control of their on craft. This captures some of the complexity involved in the educational assemblages, where difference is celebrated and ideas are engaged with to make them better.

Claire Amos recently wondered whether schools have failed to show enough empathy in starting where the learners are. While in a post on innovation, Katie Martin suggests that schools that show the most movement are those that work around common goals and involve sharing strengths and weaknesses. Zachary Herrmann argues that if students are to flourish then it needs to start first with teachers flourishing first. Although this flourishing is often bottom-up, it is often made more possible when given the right conditions, a point made by Cameron Malcher in regards to the often unrecognised acts of leadership.


So what about you? How do you go about developing pedagogical practice? Are there teachers who just have it or are there things done that allow teachers to develop? As always, comments welcome.


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Ten Tricks to Trello

Productivity


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

I have written about Trello before. Regarding supporting an instructional model and my workflow. However, I have written little about how it works or some of the different ways you can use it.

  1. Boards, Lists, Cards: Trello supports project management. It has several layers, starting with teams and collections, then boards. Once inside a Trello board, you can create multiple lists and cards. The proper model used to set up a board is the Kanban method, focusing on three lists: to do, doing and done. However, you can set a board up however you like. Once cards are created, they can easily be moved between different lists and archived when no longer required. Regarding a team situation, Trello allows you to work more transparently.
  2. Making Cards: There are four key elements to a card: description, attachments, checklists and comments. The descriptions and comments allow you to record regular information, and embed links and content. However, one of the most useful elements are checklists. You can either copy the checklist from another card or start your own.
  3. Filters: One thing you notice quickly with Trello is that things can get busy quick. One way of easing this is organising cards around members and tags. When you go to add members, you can add anyone within the team. Regarding tags, these are coloured and can be customised. I have used tags to sort between different focuses, however I also know people you use them to organise cards around priorities. Within the menu there is the means of filtering by both tags and cards.
  4. Collaboration: From a team point of view, Trello supports collaboration in several ways. The obvious way is to add someone as a member to a card. However, another way of connecting with others is by tagging people using their @username. This can be done in both comments and checklists. The other means of collaboration is sharing a link to a public board.
  5. Attachments: Whether it be from Google Drive, Microsoft Office, a PDF or a link from the web, cards provide a useful way of collecting together a range of items around a topic in one space. Attachments can be added directly or via a comment.
  6. Updates: Whether it be the checking off an item in the checklist or a comment being added, Trello provides several ways to update team members. When subscribed to a card, whole board or tagged into something, you are notified when things change. Initially this is through the application, but if unseen this summary is pushed out via email. Although you can not adjust what notifications are shown, there is the option within your personal settings to adjust the frequency to which you receive emails, with one option being never. For a different perspective, you can scroll through the various activities to see what has been happening. There is also the means of integrating updates into Slack, which can also be useful.
  7. Multiple Points of Access: Although the most obvious way of accessing Trello is via the web, there is a mobile application. This means you can add content and information wherever you are. Must of the functionality is the same across both platforms. However, there are elements such as filtering that are only  available on the web.
  8. Markdown: Regarding formatting, Trello allows you to use Markdown to change the text. One catch is that different fields involve different options. You can bold, use italics and add links. While for both comments and descriptions, you can add horizontal lines and block quotes, and regarding the description, there is the means of embedding images and adding headings. For a great introduction to Markdown, John Gruber provides a useful application which allows you to see what the markdown text would look like as HTML.
  9. Shortcut to Creating a Card: Whether it be using a Google Chrome extension or using  the email address associated with each board, there are different ways of adding to Trello. These can be useful when forwarding on various links and resources.
  10. Customisation: There are several ways to go further with Trello. This includes adding various power-ups, which often build on the APIs to help personalise how things work for your team. I must admit that these aspects are nuanced, but they provide other options none the less.

For more information, I recommend the following video to help get your head around everything.

On a side note, Trello was sold to Atlassian. The promise is that this will only make Trello better, but time will tell. It is also important to note the limits of ‘free’. Like with so many different applications, Trello provide access to a certain limit and then push you towards a premium model. The basic difference is that you can add larger file attachments and activate more Power-Ups.

So what about you? Have you used Trello? How? Or maybe you have used something different? As always, comments welcome.


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There Are Many Parts to Redefining Schools

Not About the Tool? @peterskillen

“Not About the Tool? @peterskillen” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

In a recent post, George Couros warned that technology in and of itself will not redefine education. Instead he argued that what really matters is agency. This got me thinking about all the things that get discussed as possible solutions. Maybe it is student action? Maybe relationships? Maybe passion? Maybe pedagogy? Maybe learning? Maybe trust? Maybe empathy? Maybe being a PIRATE? Or a champion? Or REAL? Maybe being based on evidence? Or being evidence-informed? These are just some of the solutions that seem ripe for the picking, but do they each in themselves redefine education?

On the question technology, I wonder if we need to reconsider what it might mean to talk about ‘technology’ and the ‘redefinition’ of education. I don’t think that the SAMR model has necessarily helped this. As Peter Skillen points out, the possibilities provided by technology have the ramification of inadvertently redefining the world that we exist in, whether we realise it or not.

Tools shape cognition. Tools shape societal structures in both intended, and unintended, ways.

The question then becomes about how technology changes things. It becomes a question of edtech ethics and technical democracy. For example, although a device like a Fitbit may provide instant feedback, that feedback in the form of data is a public commodity. Importantly seeing technology this way, it becomes a discussion about impact and influence. More importantly though it becomes a part of a wider conversation about education.

This all has me thinking, rather than worrying about the one thing, what if our focus was what constitutes a ‘good’ education? What if we considered choices more holistically? Although each part may play it’s part, maybe they all have some part to play in redefining schools of the future?

So what do you think in regards to schools of tomorrow? As always, comments welcome.


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