I didn't have time actually means, it wasn't important enough. It wasn't a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list. Seth Godin on Time

I remember reading Seth Godin’s post on time a few years ago:

“I didn’t have time” This actually means, “it wasn’t important enough.” It wasn’t a high priority, fun, distracting, profitable or urgent enough to make it to the top of the list.

This is something that really challenged me. It had me rethink my approach to things, especially social media and notifications.

This quandary came up again recently when in response to an invite from Chris Aldrich to participate in a meetup about Domain of One’s Own. Other than the logistical problem that it would be the middle of the night for me, I stated that was was never very good at such attending synchronous sessions. I explained that I much of my time spent on such tasks as IndieWeb and Domain of One’s Own is stolen. In response to this, Nate Angell asked who the time was actually stolen from?

What i meant by my throw-away comment was that time is always a balance. Whether it be work, family or chores, there is always something to chew up the time. The problem is that each aspect would be enough on its own, let alone find time for the personal stuff.’

Therefore, I have learnt to ‘steal time’ for me. This involves making the most of situations to read and respond. This is often done by doubling up when doing more menial tasks. At the moment, this means listening to podcasts or my Pocket feed in the morning as I do the chores, such as getting everyone’s breakfast ready and tidying up the kitchen. I then curate in the odd moments throughout the day. While in the hour or so when I finally stop at the end of the day I try to carve out time for my thoughts or do a bit of tinkering or creating. I have written about this workflow before and although it continues to evolve, it still remains much the same.

I must admit that although I love many aspects to working from home, one aspect I miss is the way in which my commute seemingly gave permission to stop working or doing chores. I have subsequently found myself working more than I would have if I were in an office setting. I am not implying that I am lazy in an office setting, however it provides certain structures and expectations that do not exist at home. For example, with an hour commute, I was always mindful about leaving on time to pickup my children from childcare. This is no longer an issue.

I remember reading Doug Belshaw talk about breaking up the day into different spaces, although I cannot find the reference, only this. Sadly, that is not necessarily possible where I live or in the job I do. However, it is probably something that I need to be a bit more deliberate about.

Another challenge I have being a connected educator and learner is justifying what I do in regards to my work, whether it is writing my newsletter or writing these reflections. The reality is that blogging and Domain of One’s Own is very much a passion project. Although I used blogs when I was in the classroom, sadly my current work involves supporting schools with learning management software. In saying this, I actually apply a lot of my lessons from blogging and actually cracking open the database in the work that I do. However, not everyone sees professional learning like that.

As always, thoughts and comments welcome.


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

Sometimes it feels like some work is more important than others, but at the end of the day it is all real work.


An old colleague and I were recently discussing work and he shared the joy of doing what he termed ‘real work’ with schools. I stopped him in his tracks and explained that I understood where he was coming from. Working with teachers has always felt more meaningful, that it has more of an impact. However, I pointed out to him that the work that I do is no less real than his work.

Supporting student systems and those in administration, I have come to realise how much we often take for granted in regards to how schools run today. I was speaking to a coordinator at a school the other day about the various services and subscriptions they use. He explained that when there is a new student they need to be loaded into six different services. Technology is more than just a tool it is a complex set of connections that builds up over time.

One of the arguments for ‘real’ work is the ability to impact student outcomes. As Vivianne Robinson argues in her book, Student Centred Leadership,

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

Although it may sometimes seem like a challenge to link some of my work back to the core business of learning and teaching students, I still think it is possible.

For example, one of the elements of the project I am working on is to provide schools a data analytics tool that supports teachers and leaders in making informed decisions. The challenge with this is that there are a lot of dependencies associated with it. For example, there is a dependency on schools having a recorded timetable. Although this is common for secondary schools, it is not so common for primary schools. I have therefore done a significant amount of work to limit how long this exercise takes. In regards to learning and teaching, this has the indirect impact of then allowing schools to spend more time focusing on learning and teaching.

The work that I do has many focuses. Sometimes it is about supporting simple transactions, other times it is about everyday efficiencies. Sometimes it is about helping schools reflect upon particular workflows to ease their workload, other times it is about improving a process, such as the creation of timetables. All of this though is real work that ends up having some sort of impact on student learning in the end.

What do you think? Is there some work that is more real than others? As always, thoughts and comments welcome.


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If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. JD Salinger ‘Catcher in the Rye’

At the start of each team meeting somebody shares a few things to get to know each other a little more. Here are some notes relating to my contribution …


It is easy to get caught up in autobiographical stuff, such as why I am not really Aaron Davis or how I was born behind a bank, but like Holden Caulfield, in A Catcher in the Rye, I don’t feel like going into it. Instead, I would prefer to share ten characteristics and the situations that influenced them.

Service

Although there is no doubt about my mother’s influence on my life, it can be hard to think about what I inherited from her. I think it would probably by her commitment to service. I seem to find myself doing the work that needs to be done, rather than the work that I might want to be doing.

Context

So often we discuss the practicalities of education. It can therefore be easy to question the value of a Bachelor of Arts. However, I think that my study inadvertently influences a lot of what I do. In particular, the power and potential of context. As I continue to collaboratively develop different strategies and solutions, empathising with other situations is so important.

Perseverance

In my first teaching position, I was the fifth teacher in the role and wrote my first set of reports after five weeks of teaching. I could understand why others had left, double Year Nine English to end each Friday never helped. However, sometimes what is most powerful thing is persisting through and looking back at the lessons learned.

Inequality

I spent a year at an indigenous school in country Victoria. The experience gave me insight into the inequality often inherent within systems and an insight into my own privilege.

Difference

Although originally trained as a secondary English and History teacher, I have managed to balance my time between both the primary and secondary classrooms. I was lucky enough to teach at a P-9 school for quite a few years and it really emphasised the difference in practice and thinking. The biggest challenge I found was agreeing on some sort of shared vision of learning and teaching that allowed both sides to have a voice.

Solid Foundation

For quite a few years I balanced life between the classroom and administration. It taught me that successful schools are build upon a solid foundation. Whether it be the way people are made to feel as they enter a school or having clear processes in place. Often it is said that the business manager rules the school. Maybe a different way of putting this is that the administration team often lays the groundwork for success.

Meaning of Success

Ask many about the Ultranet and they will mention dancing girls and the misuse of funds. I was a lead user and am always disappointed when people are unwilling to look beyond the failures. Although the platform itself failed, I feel the Ultranet itself brought about a lot of positives, especially in regards to collection of data and students. What the project therefore taught me was that success is sometimes in how you consider something.

Compromise

I have been married for ten years. In that time I have learnt about the importance of compromise. Sometimes it is for peace, other times it is for sanity. The fact of the matter is that nothing moves forward if there is not a little bit of give and take.

Chaos

There are some who argue that having children has made them a better teacher. I am not sure that this is true, but it has definitely provided perspective and taught me to live with the unexpected. I think Austin Kleon captures this situation best in his discussion of the complexities of families.

Team

My current work has taught me about the importance of team. It is the first place job I have worked in where I am truly dependent on the collaboration with others to solve problems. Although I have always worked in teams, it always felt that if you worked hard then it was possible to get things done. This is not possible when you are part of the complex system.


So what about you? What would you constitute as the ten influences which led to now? As always, comments welcome.


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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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Instead of having a donate now button on my website, I have buy now and hire me buttons.

With the move to platforms like Patreon, it leaves me wondering about the impact on the wider community.


I opened my feed today to find Doug Belshaw has made the move from Gumroad to Patreon. After the recent glitch involving fees, it seems that there is a growing move to the platform within the group of people I engage with online.

Adi Robertson explains how:

Patreon offers individuals the opportunity to provide a more profound level of support: donors aren’t just supporting art; they’re supporting a person, an art style, or an idea.

While Cory Doctorow argues that:

The measure of Patreon’s success isn’t creating an army of full-time creators with middle-class incomes where none existed before: it’s ensuring that the money generated by art goes primarily to artists.

My question is the consequence of depending on patronage. As Seth Godin states in What to do when it’s your turn?:

When you overstate the obligation of the audience, of course they’ll let you down, and when they do, you don’t have to show up again. What a great excuse to stop making art, to hide …

It’s not your turn to win, or your turn to be picked, or even your turn to be guaranteed gratitude … it’s merely your turn to give a gift.

For me, this comes back to Bill Ferriter’s warning about chasing wider audiences. However, it also touches on his idea of ‘bringing your own audience’. For Belshaw, this allows him to provide a more uncensored side to his patrons.

In Show Your Work, Austin Kleon makes the case for giving stuff away and instead focusing on selling art and services:

Instead of having a donate now button on my website, I have buy now and hire me buttons.

A part of this process is the production of a mailing list:

I know people who run multimillion-dollar businesses off of their mailing lists. The model is very simple: They give away great stuff on their sites, they collect emails, and then when they have something remarkable to share or sell, they send an email. You’d be amazed at how well the model works.

Cory Doctorow has reflected on the benefit of giving away his books, discussing how it has led to an increase in readership, people actually buying the books and opportunities:

This “market research” of giving away e-books sells printed books. What’s more, having my books more widely read opens many other opportunities for me to earn a living from activities around my writing, such as the Fulbright Chair I got at USC this year, this high-paying article in Forbes, speaking engagements and other opportunities to teach, write and license my work for translation and adaptation. My fans’ tireless evangelism for my work doesn’t just sell books–it sells me.

Although Doctorow does have a place for ‘donations’, it is so that you can buy a copy for a library.

This approach to giving stuff away is an approach I have taken. I blog, I help out where I can, I share, inspired in part by Kleon and Belshaw.

I started a monthly newsletter. This is as much about connecting ideas within the community as it is about promoting my own work. Maybe one day I will have something else to offer, then I will reach out and share with my supporters. Until then, I will keep on giving stuff away.

I have also taken this mindset to the way that I engage with others. Rather than become a patron, I try and buy what they are selling. For example:

  • Micro.blog: I do not pay for Micro.Blog and did not support the Kickstarter campaign. I neither want my blog hosted on Micro.Blog, that is what I pay Reclaim Hosting for, nor do I want to use Micro.Blog to syndicate, I use SNAP for that. However, I am happy to pay and support Manton Reece’s book once he finishes writing it.
  • Visual Thinkery: I paid for Bryan Mathers stickers. Truth be known, because I love his work. In a strange way, it made me feel a part of the Visual Thinkery tribe. I am yet to use most of them though. However, I use the sketch he made me in my signature, as well as for my newsletter. To me, how I use them is not necessarily the point. It supports Bryan to do more work, that is what matters.
  • Ben Collins: I read Collins’ blog and subscribe to his newsletter/mailing list. He gives away a lot and is always willing to clarify any technical queries. Subsequently, when he announced that he was developing a self-paced course on Pivot Tables, I was there. I started it, but got distracted. I know that I will get back to it eventually, but I also know that I am supporting Collins in a small way to keep on doing his work.

Maybe this is just me? Maybe it merely reflects my privilege of having a contract, rather than living from one gig to the next? Maybe my stuff is not worth selling? Maybe I am just missing something? As always, comments welcome.


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In a recent episode of the Design and Play podcast, Dean Pearman and Steve Brophy spoke about the importance of sticking to their core beliefs and values. This means moving on when conflicted. Although this stance is to be applauded, I was left wondering if it were a luxury to actually be able to move on at will? It also had me wondering if perpetuating such a message is missing a trick?

I remember being told by a boss once ‘if you don’t like it here then you can leave’. I respect that, it was his choice and in the end I did leave. My concern though was not necessarily the location, but rather the leadership, the ‘my way or the highway’ mindset.

Maybe I am idealistic or just naive, but a leader cannot directly do the work of change and learning. Instead, they create the conditions for others to prosper. For some, this is putting ticks and balances in place to make sure that everyone is performing. For others it involves the distribution of leadership, development and collective capacity building.

I am always reminded of the story of Geelong Grammar’s adoption of Positive Psychology. It did not involve a few sessions with staff and students, rather it involved all members of school, including those working in administration and maintenance. This was about creating an environment where everyone can flourish.

Another similar program is Leading Teams. At the heart of this is an organisation leading change from the ground on up. This is not because someone above said so, but rather because it was a trademark agreed upon by the people on the ground. This involves trust. I remember Ray McLean recounting early stories of failure required to achieve collective success. However, too often such goal setting sessions become token, ticked off as something done, with people towing the party line, rather than sharing what they truly believe. Here I am reminded of David Culberhouse’s discussion of ‘positive deviance’, where the focus is on identifying the bright spots within an organisation and using their stories and strategies to help drive change.

Don’t get me wrong, everyone leaves in the end. However, wouldn’t it be better if such decisions happened to further opportunity, rather than fix our values? For in the end, it takes a village and surely that involves compromise. As always, comments welcome.


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

What is ‘social media’ anyway?

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

Finish at Five

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

Minds Changed

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

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

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


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


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