Technology, Transformation and a Complex System

Technology as System

A reflection on changing positions within a complex system.


I have a confession to make. I am not the #EdTech coach who you think I am. Let me rephrase that, I am not the #EdTech coach I imagine others to be. The title associated with my current position was ‘eLearn Implementation Coach’. The job description was littered with mentions of technological change and transformation, I was sold.

As is often the case, the reality on the ground is vastly different to the stories we are told. The transformation I felt I was a part of was that of my role. I went from supporting schools through a change management process to learning a whole new set of applications and becoming a proverbial ‘fixer’.

Things will change again. My work is progressively realigning to being more reactive, but these things take time. The question in this situation is how one responds.

I came into the position believing I would be supporting schools with technological transformation and innovation. Instead, it has become focused on responding to policies and implementing transactional processes associated with as enterprised system. This has me rolling out student reports, booking programs and pastoral applications.

It is a very niche roll in education. Although it is a part of schools, it does not necessarily involve students or teaching. It certainly does not feel what my own education prepared me for. Yet it has highlighted to me how technology is a system with many parts, people and processes at play.

Some days I wish I was still in the classroom, especially when I attend regional meetings. Other days I envy those explicitly leading technological change within schools, especially when I listen to the Design and Play podcast. However, when I stop and consider the worth of the work I am doing I feel it is purposeful and does have an impact.

The further I dive into my current work, the more I appreciate the ground that change is built upon. It would be nicer if it were someone else testing, documenting and working everything out, sadly though I am yet to meet this someone else is. So for now it is me.

It is not the ideal of the #EdTech coach that I had envisioned. However, maybe this is the reality of the #EdTech leader, always doing many things? As always comment and webmentions welcome.


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Being Analogue

Often we talk about ‘being digital’ but what does this imply in reverse? What might it mean in today’s day and age to be analogue?


In a recent post reflecting on Nicholas Negroponte’s book Being Digital, Mal Lee and Roger Broadie discuss what it means to ‘be digital’. The authors reflect on some of the changes, especially in regards to learning. They also explain the fluid nature of ‘being digital’.

As the children within digitally connected families grow, mature, develop their cognitive, inter and intrapersonal abilities, become sexually aware, build relationships, socially network, operate at a higher order of thinking and continually attune their ways to the evolving technology so they will develop their own form of being digital – and will continue doing so, in subtly different ways, at the various stages of life.

This all begs the question, if being digital is such a thing, what does it mean to be analogue in today’s world? Assuming that is the opposite? Is it even possible anymore?


I recently watched the film adaptation of Into the Wild, a story about a student, Christopher McCandless, who goes off the grid after finishing his tertiary studies. In some respects, it reminded me of Jack Kerouac’s novel On the Road, where the main protagonist wanders around search of a sense of self and identity.

What was interesting was comparing it with Dave Eggers novel The Circle. A fictional social media company that makes the argument for radical transparency. As things unfold in the world that Eggers creates, it becomes impossible for anyone to go off the grid, to start again, to forget the past.

SECRETS ARE LIES SHARING IS CARING PRIVACY IS THEFT

Through the power of the crowd, there are no more ‘Alexander Supertramp’s’ (the psuedonym taken by McCandless), there is only truth and power.

The era of false identities, identity theft, multiple user names, complicated passwords and payment systems was over. Anytime you wanted to see anything, use anything, comment on anything or buy anything, it was one button, one account, everything tied together and trackable and simple, all of it operable via mobile or laptop, tablet or retinal. Once you had a single account, it carried you through every corner of the web, every portal, every pay site, everything you wanted to do. TruYou changed the internet, in toto, within a year.

What then does this all mean for being analogue? For identity? For memory?


There are some in Silicon Valley, like Tristan Harris, who talk about ‘aligning technology with humanity’. If only we have a little more humanity in it all then everything will be ok. The problem with this is that this perpetuates the belief that technology and humanity are somehow distinct and can be harmonised.

In a recent interview, George Seimens suggested that our focus should be on ‘being skills’. Jenny Mackness summarises this conversation as follows:

Technology can ‘out know’ us, artificial intelligence is taking over human roles, and that in the future technology will become a co-agent rather than an enabler; you, me, colleagues, algorithms and robots will all work together in a techno-socio distributed learning model. George tells us that learners (humans) need to learn how to participate in this and that this will be through ‘Being skills’ which, as yet, machines can’t succeed at. He says we are necessarily entering a ‘being age’ because the technological systems around us are more intelligent than we are.

What is intriguing about this is that although Seimens tries to focus on what separates us, we are led back to the work of mindsets and behaviourism. Interestingly, Mackness extends her reflection by exploring the notion of living things and machines. Maybe then being analogue is merely living?


Just as Steve Brophy stops and questions 1:1 computing, I think that sometimes it is important to stop and consider the world that we are buying into. Today this meant stopping and wondering about being. As always, questions and webmentions welcome.


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Finding the Tools to Sing – A Reflection on Big B Blogging

Quote on tools from Austin Kleon

I started writing this post a few months ago but did not get around to finishing it, subsequently my initial notes have lay waiting. I was reminded of it by recent posts from Jim Groom and Alan Levine reflecting on the purpose of blogging. Here then is my contribution to the conversation.


In the March edition of the Loose Learners podcast, Mariana Funes and John Johnson discussed the difference between small b and big B blogging. In part, this was a response to a post by Tom Critchlow on ideas and the power of the network.

Small b blogging is learning to write and think with the network. Small b blogging is writing content designed for small deliberate audiences and showing it to them. Small b blogging is deliberately chasing interesting ideas over pageviews and scale.

Although big B blogging maybe associated with link blogging and ‘interesting ideas’, the focus is on broadcasting, rather than connecting and commenting. The notion of big B blogging is usually associated with those like Jason Kottke, John Gruber and Richard Byrne.

In a recent interview, Kottke shared how his blogging has developed over time. He explains in particular how advertising and making money from his site has changed. What is interesting is the connection between big B blogging and making money. Although he shares his workflow and intent, what comes through is that it is still a job. I wonder if there is another possible definition of ‘Big B’ blogging that goes beyond advertising?

When I think about blogging, there is a cross-over between technology and the way it is used. Big B bloggers are those who take each to their extremes. Content is important. But so is process and product. It is something personal, stemming from our changing circumstances and intent.

For me, blogging is about utilising the various features and affordances available, but also trying to push the boundaries in understanding how they work. In Martha Burtis’ keynote for Domains17, she argued that Domain of One’s Own is more than just learning WordPress, rather it is about learning how to “publish online in an open-source Web application”. As she explains,

Every moment in which we walk a student through a fix is a deeply teachable moment — a moment not just to provide step by step instructions but to narrate for them what each step means. When we bring meaning to the breaking and the fixing we are pushing beyond the boundaries of the merely practical.

For some this experience is distributed across several spaces, such as a space to collect ‘breadcrumbs’ and a main space for longer forms. For others, it is about creating spaces specific purposes and then syndicating back to one place.

I think that this is what interests me about the IndieWeb. The focus is not just about content, but how content is presented. This focus on what and how stems from a why of developing a ‘demonstrably better web’.

So big B blogging to me is about allowing growth and development both personally and collectively. Although some spaces may have subscription accounts, this is not necessarily what keeps the lights on.

So what about you? What does blogging mean to you? How do you find balance between creation and construction? As always, comments welcome.


Also posted on IndieNews


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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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