Read The Circle by Dave Eggers
The Circle by Dave Eggers is a novel which tries to encapsulate life inside of a fictional company that is a mixture of Facebook and Google called The Circle. It is very much a novel for the current generation.

The book was recently adapted for film. I am not sure though whether it captures Eggers’ nuances associated with character.

Here are some quotes from the book which stuck out:

Instead, he put all of it, all of every user’s needs and tools, into one pot and invented TruYou—one account, one identity, one password, one payment system, per person. There were no more passwords, no multiple identities. Your devices knew who you were, and your one identity—the TruYou, unbendable and unmaskable—was the person paying, signing up, responding, viewing and reviewing, seeing and being seen. You had to use your real name, and this was tied to your credit cards, your bank, and thus paying for anything was simple. One button for the rest of your life online. To use any of the Circle’s tools, and they were the best tools, the most dominant and ubiquitous and free, you had to do so as yourself, as your actual self, as your TruYou. 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. Though some sites were resistant at first, and free-internet advocates shouted about the right to be anonymous online, the TruYou wave was tidal and crushed all meaningful opposition. It started with the commerce sites. Why would any non-porn site want anonymous users when they could know exactly who had come through the door? Overnight, all comment boards became civil, all posters held accountable. The trolls, who had more or less overtaken the internet, were driven back into the darkness.

Production on the cameras, which were as yet unavailable to consumers, went into overdrive. The manufacturing plant, in China’s Guangdong province, added shifts and began construction on a second factory to quadruple their capacity. Every time a camera was installed and a new leader had gone transparent, there was another announcement from Stenton, another celebration, and the viewership grew. By the end of the fifth week, there were 16,188 elected officials, from Lincoln to Lahore, who had gone completely clear, and the waiting list was growing. The pressure on those who hadn’t gone transparent went from polite to oppressive. The question, from pundits and constituents, was obvious and loud: If you aren’t transparent, what are you hiding? Though some citizens and commentators objected on grounds of privacy, asserting that government, at virtually every level, had always needed to do some things in private for the sake of security and efficiency, the momentum crushed all such arguments and the progression continued. If you weren’t operating in the light of day, what were you doing in the shadows? And there was a wonderful thing that tended to happen, something that felt like poetic justice: every time someone started shouting about the supposed monopoly of the Circle, or the Circle’s unfair monetization of the personal data of its users, or some other paranoid and demonstrably false claim, soon enough it was revealed that that person was a criminal or deviant of the highest order. One was connected to a terror network in Iran. One was a buyer of child porn. Every time, it seemed, they would end up on the news, footage of investigators leaving their homes with computers, on which any number of unspeakable searches had been executed and where reams of illegal and inappropriate materials were stored. And it made sense. Who but a fringe character would try to impede the unimpeachable improvement of the world? Within weeks, the non-transparent officeholders were treated like pariahs. The clear ones wouldn’t meet with them if they wouldn’t go on camera, and thus these leaders were left out. Their constituents wondered what they were hiding, and their electoral doom was all but assured. In any coming election cycle, few would dare to run without declaring their transparency—and, it was assumed, this would immediately and permanently improve the quality of candidates. There would never again be a politician without immediate and thorough accountability, because their words and actions would be known and recorded and beyond debate. There would be no more back rooms, no more murky deal-making. There would be only clarity, only light.

Would you have behaved differently if you’d known about the SeeChange cameras at the marina?” “Yes.” Bailey nodded empathetically. “Okay. How?” “I wouldn’t have done what I did.” “And why not?” “Because I would have been caught.” Bailey tilted his head. “Is that all?” “Well, I wouldn’t want anyone seeing me do that. It wasn’t right. It’s embarrassing.” He put his cup on the table next to him and rested his hands on his lap, his palms in a gentle embrace. “So in general, would you say you behave differently when you know you’re being watched?” “Sure. Of course.”


“That’s the idea,” Jackie said. “Just as within the Circle we know our Participation Rank, for example, soon we’ll be able to know at any given moment where our sons or daughters stand against the rest of American students, and then against the world’s students.” “That sounds very helpful,” Mae said. “And would eliminate a lot of the doubt and stress out there.” “Well, think of what this would do for a parent’s understanding of their child’s chances for college admission. There are about twelve thousand spots for Ivy League freshmen every year. If your child is in the top twelve thousand nationally, then you can imagine they’d have a good chance at one of those spots.” “And it’ll be updated how often?” “Oh, daily. Once we get full participation from all schools and districts, we’ll be able to keep daily rankings, with every test, every pop quiz incorporated instantly. And of course these can be broken up between public and private, regional, and the rankings can be merged, weighted, and analyzed to see trends among various other factors—socioeconomic, race, ethnicity, everything.”

“And as you all know,” he said, turning to Mae, speaking to her watchers, “we here at the Circle have been talking about Completion a lot, and though even us Circlers don’t know yet just what Completion means, I have a feeling it’s something like this. Connecting services and programs that are just inches apart. We track kids for safety, we track kids for educational data. Now we’re just connecting these two threads, and when we do, we can finally know the whole child. It’s simple, and, dare I say, it’s complete.”

“For this experiment, Mae, and the Circle as a whole, to work, it has to be absolute. It has to be pure and complete. And I know this episode will be painful for a few days, but trust me, very soon nothing like this will be the least bit interesting to anyone. When everything is known, everything acceptable will be accepted. So for the time being, we need to be strong. You need to be a role model here. You need to stay the course.”

“You’re completely overthinking it. No one, I mean no one, will look at you funny because some ancient ancestor of yours had slaves from Ireland. I mean, it’s so insane, and so distant, that no one will possibly connect you to it. You know how people are. No one can remember anything like that anyway. And to hold you responsible? No chance.”

By the time you read this, I’ll be off the grid, and I expect that others will join me. In fact, I know others will join me. We’ll be living underground, and in the desert, in the woods. We’ll be like refugees, or hermits, some unfortunate but necessary combination of the two. Because this is what we are.

“The Rights of Humans in a Digital Age.” Mae scanned it, catching passages: “We must all have the right to anonymity.” “Not every human activity can be measured.” “The ceaseless pursuit of data to quantify the value of any endeavor is catastrophic to true understanding.” “The barrier between public and private must remain unbreachable.” At the end she found one line, written in red ink: “We must all have the right to disappear.”

Read ( )
Here is a collection of notes from the book National Testing in Schools, An Australian assessment edited by Bob Lingard, Greg Thompson, Sam Sellar. Approaching the topic of testing from a number of points of view, this is a useful book in making sense of all things associated with NAPLAN. A particular highlight is Margaret Wu’s chapter which unpacks the mechanics associated with the NAPLAN test to show the possibilities and limitations.


Collection deals with NAPLAN in Australia, but our introductory and concluding chapters seek to situate the research reported here in a broader global context, aware of the circulation today of globalised education policy discourses and the significance of international testing as a complement to national testing such as NAPLAN.

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1 National testing from an Australian perspective

Unlike other national testing regimes such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in the US or the Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP), NAPLAN is a census test, not a sample test.

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NAPLAN data are thus used for a variety of purposes, including governing school systems, accountability purposes, managing staff within systems and schools, and making educational decisions regarding curriculum and pedagogy in systems, schools and classrooms.

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Together, NAPLAN, MySchool and the raft of programs and contractual arrangements between governments and schools that reference testing data illustrate the pervasiveness of technocratic rationality in Australian schooling

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NAPLAN was established to improve teaching and learning outcomes, but one significant effect has been that much teaching is now aimed at improving NAPLAN scores.

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NAPLAN data were useful in providing a common language for communication between principals, teachers and parents about student progress and achievement.

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2 What national testing data can tell us

In summary, we would say that a NAPLAN test only provides an indicative level of the performance of a student: whether the student is struggling, on track, or performing above average. The NAPLAN tests do not provide fine grading of students by their performance levels because of the large uncertainties associated with the ability measures.

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If teachers do not change the way they teach, the school mean scores for a year level can vary within a range of 32 NAPLAN points for 90% of the time if we have the opportunity to repeatedly allocate random samples of potential students to this school. Compare this margin of error with the expected annual growth rates of 44 points at Year 3, 28 points at Year 5, and 21 points at Year 7; the fluctuation in school mean scores due to a particular cohort of students has a magnitude close to one year of growth. This means that for many schools with a year level size of 50 or fewer, the average school performance could change significantly from one calendar year to another.

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We need to always remember that using student assessment data to evaluate teachers is making an inference, since we have not directly measured teacher performance. The validity of making this inference needs to be checked in every case.

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One should never jump to conclusions of ineffective schools whenever NAPLAN results are low. NAPLAN results indicate where further investigations are warranted.

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As teacher effect accounts for only a small portion of the student achievement variance, individual teacher effect is likely to be swamped by the large variations in student abilities in a class. This is a reliability issue.

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In conclusion, national testing data can inform us about performances of large groups of students, but not tell us a great deal about individual students or schools. National testing data cannot provide teacher performance measures, so there should not be any link between student test results and teacher appraisal or pay. National testing data have the potential to inform teaching and learning, and to frame education policies. However, we need to ensure that evidence-based decision making is backed by sound data and valid inferences.

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3 The performative politics of NAPLAN and MySchool

Focusing on NAPLAN and MySchool as interesting objects – as actors in their own right, rather than as effects or products of neoliberal governance strategies – provides the opportunity to explore the technologies and mechanisms through which such objects serve to delegate trust, create new intimacies and reorganise relations.

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By providing access to much more detail about each school, it brought parents closer to knowing their child’s school. It also revealed to schools themselves information that they previously did not have about themselves and about other schools.

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Here I take NAPLAN and MySchool to be calculative objects – objects that resulted from policy decisions, to be sure, but which also became participants in the policy arena, actively rearranging the goals of schools, parents, teachers and policy makers and bringing to the forefront new issues and problems. I present four specific features or functions of interesting objects: creating new intimates, translating interests, displacing trust and creating informed publics.

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Not only did MySchool become a technology through which the government entered intimate spaces of schools, schools themselves entered intimate spaces of living rooms and kitchens through discussions between parents

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By involving parents in the job of keeping schools accountable and in continually improving their performance, parents and the government were cast as intimates – partners in the shared enterprise of school improvement.

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By inserting itself between parents and their child’s school, MySchool attempted to enrol parents as canny stakeholders, casting the schools as secretive actors who were reluctantly being forced to reveal information they would rather have kept to themselves

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NAPLAN and MySchool thus changed the original goals, motivations and plans of various actors

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NAPLAN and MySchool thus created relations of distrust and suspicion between schools and the government, as well as schools and the public. They displaced trust from local actors with immediate knowledge and delegated trust instead to distant and impersonal actors.

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NAPLAN and MySchool produce an abstract, impoverished and interested version of the very complex phenomenon of schooling in Australia. However, these interested observations of NAPLAN and MySchool are not merely providing useful, detailed accounts of Australian schooling; rather, they are actually changing the very nature of Australian schooling, so that it is beginning to more closely resemble the abstract version presented on the MySchool website. Rather than NAPLAN and MySchool reflecting an abstract version of Australian schooling, they are perhaps remaking Australian schooling in their image.

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4 Questioning the validity of the multiple uses of NAPLAN data

As Strathern (1997) states: ‘When a measure becomes a target it ceases to be a good measure’ (308).

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In the context of NAPLAN, while the tests may measure attainment in numeracy or literacy, it is questionable whether the information from these tests can be used validly for explaining how well the school has performed. Yet the aggregation of test scores across students to provide composite measures of educational effectiveness for teachers, schools, states or even the nation are commonly used in education for accountability purposes.

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5 Local experiences, global similarities: teacher perceptions of the impacts of national testing

What policymakers intend is always mediated by how policy ‘hits the ground’, or is enacted, by individuals in diverse, complex community and institutional settings.

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It must be stressed that NAPLAN is designed to change practice and behaviour through the emphasis on test-based accountabilities. However, not all change is desirable

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The most dangerous possibility of testing data is that it distorts and corrupts the very processes it intends to measure. As education policy makers seem intent on continuing to use test data to steer practice from a distance, it remains to be seen how this distortion can be prevented.

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6 NAPLAN and student wellbeing: teacher perceptions of the impact of NAPLAN on students

In the case of schools, the use of NAPLAN results as a blunt accountability instrument through their publication on the MySchool website has significantly increased the pressure on schools to treat NAPLAN results as more than just a snapshot of student achievement at a particular point in time

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First, rather than NAPLAN itself being the central issue of concern in this instance, it is the use of NAPLAN results in largely inappropriate ways that is likely to be generating serious negative consequences

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Second, these types of findings, and the likely reasons behind them, suggest a serious lack of knowledge amongst some policy makers, bureaucrats, principals, teachers and parents about the limitations of NAPLAN results (and indeed, any single test score)

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Overall, it seems evident that the NAPLAN program is generating stress-related responses amongst substantial numbers of students across Australia. While there is a need for further research to elucidate the reasons behind this, it is highly likely that the use of NAPLAN results in inappropriate ways is contributing to student stress through the messages sent to students in the words and actions of principals, teachers and parents. Blaming these groups is not the way forward – rather, the time has come to discuss the relevance of NAPLAN, whether the benefits are worth the substantial costs (including psychological), and if NAPLAN is to continue, what the appropriate, statistically defensible and reasonable use of student test results might look like.

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7 Literacy leadership and accountability practices: holding onto ethics in ways that count

The common agreement for literacy is a school-based policy, collaboratively developed between teachers and leaders, that prescribes what should be included in the daily uninterrupted literacy block. The block includes: guided reading, Jolly Phonics (Reception – Year 2), explicit teaching of comprehension strategies, daily reading practice (Choosing to Read), shared reading, handwriting, writing, spelling program, grammar and punctuation, as well as the locally mandated assessments to be undertaken over the year and the SMARTA (Specific/Student focused; Measurable; Achievable; Relevant; Time-lined; Agreed) targets for reading endorsed by the region. All teachers are given copies of the literacy agreement in their induction folders at the beginning of the school year and they were posted prominently on the notice board in the staff room.A locally generated text, the literacy agreement has come into existence as a result of very low NAPLAN results. It not only reflects the programs that teachers considered to be valuable, but the shaping force of NAPLAN. In this way, NAPLAN regulates the school’s common literacy agreement, constitutes the literacy problem and coordinates everyday classroom work in more or less obvious ways. For instance, the literacy component of NAPLAN includes a reading comprehension test, a writing test (genre writing), a spelling test and a grammar and punctuation test

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As we have seen, Sandford has engaged with the unavoidable accountability requirements associated with NAPLAN. We have shown the extent to which NAPLAN has evoked a narrow view of literacy as the practice of content-free skills and how this view is reproduced in the active and occurring text of the literacy agreement that shapes what happens in classrooms. Nevertheless, NAPLAN does not always dominate what can be said. The potential sedimentation of NAPLAN is unraveled and reworked, at least to some degree, in the literacy chats, a product of the school’s recognition of the teachers’ needs for professional mentoring conversations that take account of actual students and their learning trajectories. In these educative and dialogical spaces, the senior leader works with teachers to design pedagogical interventions for students whose progress in school literacy learning is cause for concern. However, it is not only a question of looking at data as an artefact of the student, as the excerpt of Carrie’s literacy chat indicates. In mediating translocal policies that might otherwise close down possibilities for engaging ethically with students, the senior leader offers teachers the possibility of creative and critical literacy pedagogies. Despite their value in turning teachers around to students’ knowledge and practices as resources for school literacy learning, such pedagogies are less and less visible in schools since the advent of NAPLAN.

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8 Contesting and capitalising on NAPLAN

… a warm-up session to ensure students were ready to learn;an ‘I do’ session in which the teacher demonstrated the specific task which was the focus of the lesson;a ‘we do’ session in which teachers worked with students as a whole class to co-construct a model response;a ‘you do’ activity involving students working independently;and a ‘ploughing back’ session in which students revised the lesson objectives and outcomes

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9 Understanding the politics of categories in reporting national test results

Strong average performance in numeracy by some LBOTE students is not simply ascribed to a cultural fixation on academic attainment but may be a reflection of numeracy skills attained through comprehensive educational backgrounds;this strong average performance clouds the heterogeneity of the LBOTE category;LBOTE classification encompasses a broad heterogeneous group of students, which in the absence of a measure of English language proficiency, is most evident when NAPLAN results are disaggregated according to visa status of LBOTE students. Visa, in turn, is informative about disadvantage related to prior educational opportunities because students of refugee background are performing far below those of other migration categories, particularly the skilled visa category;language proficiency levels and years of schooling are associated with NAPLAN outcomes; andstudents who are of refugee background, with reduced years of schooling, and in the early stages of acquiring English are most disadvantaged in NAPLAN test results, but are completely hidden in the LBOTE category.

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NAPLAN data need to be interpreted and understood within the context of language learning, whereas, in its current form, the breadth of LBOTE can only render a shallow interpretation, which dangerously ignores understandings about academic second language development.

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10 Students at risk and NAPLAN: the collateral damage

Evident in the above is how, over the years of NAPLAN administration, support for students with different needs – social and emotional, language background, learning difficulties – to participate in NAPLAN has narrowed to serve the priority of administrative consistency.

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NAPLAN data were reported to have little utility compared to information already obtained: [NAPLAN] does not provide us with any information about students that we don’t already know ourselves. We profile our students. And it just gives us another piece of information that we would otherwise have anyway.(Principal, independent PY–12 school)

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…teachers reported positive value from NAPLAN as confirming their own professional judgements

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16 The life of data: evolving national testing

Following Simons (2014), international and national tests can be seen to function as global/national positioning devices, evidence of a new spatial disposition and, in Australia, evidence of the emergence of a numbers-based national system of schooling. While these developments provide some evidence of a world polity approach that talks about the global diffusion of modernity and also the global dissemination of a particular version of science and social science, they also reflect the global impacts of an Anglo-American model of school reform based very much on test-based, top-down modes of educational accountability.

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There is a common perception that testing data are inert, lifeless objects that provide an unbiased and objective measure of educational process, practices and outcomes.

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However, we must be careful in making this claim that there is a life of data. In its most extreme form, this can lead to positing data as an agentive actor that makes decisions and behaves in certain ways. This is clearly not the case – data are expressions of human subjectivity, an expression of the values, sensibilities, processes that lead to their creation, and then the paths that the data lay down for individuals in terms of their choices, actions and acts of enunciation. Data are thus part of new spaces of subjectivity that are not contained within human bodies, but instead extend into information systems such as testing regimes, but also other data-driven applications such as social media or mobile phone usage. To understand the life of data, then, is to recognise that data produce possibilities and are invoked through the behaviours and values that result from the production of data. We cannot see data as external to the production of subjectivity, rather as Guattari (1992) argues, there is a little piece of human subjectivity in each data point: the technologies that we use to engage with data ‘are nothing more than hyperdeveloped and hyperconcentrated forms of certain aspects of human subjectivity’ (18).

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Data have a life, they are always and everywhere put to work, they are always and everywhere in motion. One demonstration of this principle was highlighted by Nichols and Berliner (2007). Their argument was that the higher the stakes attached to any single measure that is used to make important decisions about students, teachers and schools, the more liable it is that the initial measure becomes corrupted because the processes are distorted by the emphasis. This is called ‘Campbell’s Law’, which stipulates: …the more any quantitative social indicator is used in social decision-making, the more subject it will be to corruption pressures and the more apt it will be to distort and corrupt the social processes it was intended to measure.(Nichols & Berliner 2007: 27)For example, tests like NAPLAN, which are designed to measure student achievement in the constructs of basic literacy and numeracy skills, become corrupted when teachers devote excessive class time to preparing for the tests. In other words, the tests no longer measure constructs regarding literacy and numeracy, rather they begin to measure the construct of how well a teacher can prepare a class. Obviously this is a problem, if important decisions are being made about literacy and numeracy on data that do not measure what they purport to measure, such decisions may not drive the improvements that were intended.

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If data have lives, they are enacted through the space and time of data, and notions like consequential validity advanced by test developers themselves speak to this life

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The critical question then is ‘what ought to be the future orientation to data at all levels of schooling’? This is primarily a political question and it needs to trouble the thinking and work of politicians, policy makers, system leaders, principals, teachers, students, the broader community and also educational researchers. I

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Given this, we are not opposed to national testing, but we do believe that our assessments of national testing clearly point to areas where action must be taken to reduce its negative effects in Australia and elsewhere.

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Replied to Using Android Apps on Chromebooks by Eric Curts (

Many programs have BOTH and Android version and a Chrome Web App version. For example, you can use the Android mobile version of Google Classroom, or you can use the Chrome Web App version which takes you to the Google Classroom website instead.

Although the versions will be similar, there are often differences between the Android version of a program and then web version of that same program. For example, the Android version of Google Classroom allows the user to take pictures and videos with the device camera, whereas the web version of Classroom does not.

I recently purchased an ACER R11. I was intrigued by the ability to use the device as both a laptop and a touchscreen tablet. I was also interested in investigating Android Apps as they were unavailable on my other device. I have been pleasantly surprised.

I like the ability to download videos for offline use, as well as listen to articles using the Pocket app. I am still working out the various affordances and have found that not every app is useful. For example, although the Inoreader app makes it easy to flick through posts, it is much easier to open articles up in the browser.

Complexity and the Collapse of Western Civilisation

Rachel Nuwer makes some predictions about the collapse of Western Civilisation. One of the points that she makes is the challenge of ‘complexity’:

According to Joseph Tainter, a professor of environment and society at Utah State University and author of The Collapse of Complex Societies, one of the most important lessons from Rome’s fall is that complexity has a cost. As stated in the laws of thermodynamics, it takes energy to maintain any system in a complex, ordered state – and human society is no exception. By the 3rd Century, Rome was increasingly adding new things – an army double the size, a cavalry, subdivided provinces that each needed their own bureaucracies, courts and defences – just to maintain its status quo and keep from sliding backwards. Eventually, it could no longer afford to prop up those heightened complexities. It was fiscal weakness, not war, that did the Empire in. source


I do find Twitter and social media and all those communities and tribes that I belong to as really quite interesting because they sort of exist outside of this temporal nature of where I work; where my contract is and so forth. They’re connections that y’know if change five jobs, I’ve still got these connections. And many of the people that I know have changed jobs several times, but it’s the connections that have remained – Aaron Davis

Quoted in Ian Guest’s post​ on Connecting, a part of his research into Professional development in 140 characters​.

Replied to Read Write Collect | Aaron Davis (Chris Aldrich | BoffoSocko)

I’ve been following Aaron Davis for a while at Read Write Respond, but today I noticed a whole new part of his online presence at Read Write Collect that I’ve been missing all along!

Chris, your bookmark encouraged me to clarify my purpose and intent for developing another site. Like Michael Bishop, I think that the answer to my online presence is in having two distinct spaces, one for my long form posts and the other a collection of my presence on the web. I can see the benefit in consolidating everything into one space, as you do or better using a platform like Known, however it is working for now.
Microcast #002 – Taking Pause()

Rather than a write a ‘year in review’, reflecting and gathering what’s already happened, I starting thinking about what kind of ‘productive interruptions’ and pauses might come our way in 2018. I don’t intend this to be a list of predictions, as if we can wrangle education into  knowability though forecasts, but as some thoughts about who and what should give us pause in the coming year. When and why should we take pause?

Benjamin Doxtdator recently wrote a reflection of taking pause. He closed the post with a request for anyone willing to provide an audio contribution for a collective podcast. Although short and maybe a little rough, here are my thoughts. I actually think think that I misread it as taking pause over the break …

Further Reading:

📓 Privacy vs Security

Ian O’Byrne provides a comparison between privacy and security:

Privacy is often defined as the right of an individual to keep his/her individual information from being disclosed. This is typically achieved through policies and procedures. Privacy encompasses controlling who is authorized to access your information; and under what conditions information may be accessed, used and/or disclosed to a third party.Security is defined as the mechanism in place to protect the privacy of information. This includes the ability to control access to information, as well as to safeguard information from unauthorized disclosure, alteration, loss or destruction. Security is typically accomplished through operational and technical controls. source

Doug Belshaw visually represents this to get the point home:

Mike Caulfield discusses the future of privacy and suggests that there is work that needs to be done in regards to participatory culture:

I’m sure that the powers that be in Silicon Valley believe in “the end of privacy”, just like they believe in technocratic meritocracy. The most attractive thing for any programmer to believe is that new technologies will render the messiness of social relations obsolete. But this idea, that privacy is antiquated, will lead to institutional and organizational collapse on a massive scale, which is why a transparency organization like Wikileaks is the favorite tool of dictators.source

Lizzie O’Shea explains how Mark Zuckerberg’s call for increase in privacy fails to capture the agency associated with it all:

A better understanding of privacy will not be limited to design concepts generated by highly profitable social media platforms. It needs to encompass how privacy is an essential component of our agency as human beings. Agency, to be explored and expressed fully, requires that we have space outside the influence of capitalism—to have freedom from market forces seeking to manipulate our unconscious. Privacy demands that human emotions like shame, joy, guilt, and desire be explored without someone seeking to profit from the process without us noticing.source

Replied to Why would you post on a blog? by Ann Rooney (The Possibility Post)

The Possibility Post is a global digital journal and portfolio that demonstrates who I am as a teacher and as a learner.

This is a useful reflection Ann, outlining some of the benefits to keeping a journal, such as organising resources, documenting the learning and reflecting on practice. I think that one of the challenges that I have grappled with are the technical aspects. You talk about collecting resources. I think that the challenge to anyone starting out is thinking about how you structure such a space. Here tags and categories are so important. This I like about the features associated with the indieweb is that it offers more functionality, such as post kinds (a development on the post formats). For example, replies or audio. However, even these have their limits, as each post can only have one format.

Wondering Ann if you have written or reflected anywhere on the technical features and constraints that you work with? I do notice that you mention the standards? I never went down that path.

📓 On WordPress and Webmentions

In a backchannel conversation, I was asked about what is involved in setting up webmentions. I responded there, but thought that I would keep a note of it here:

Hmmm, my suspicions to why my webmentions/linkbacks are not getting through is that they are being flagged as spam by spam filters. On the WordPress Webmention Plugin page, there is some code that you can add to functions.php file to prevent this:

function unspam_webmentions($approved, $commentdata) {
  return $commentdata['comment_type'] == 'webmention' ? 1 : $approved;

add_filter('pre_comment_approved', 'unspam_webmentions', '99', 2);

There is also More on Webmentions on the, but really it is a part of the IndieWeb plugin.

I was never really interested in endless mentions under my posts until facepiles.

In the end, it is a very technical solution at this point in time, but I feel it is worth persevering with. Like Chris Aldrich, I am not sold on Mastodon as the supposed solution to the social media and the web, but feel that there needs to be something better than FB and their shadow profiles.

Here is to hoping.

Replied to Audience Doesn’t Matter by Bill Ferriter (

Audience is a function of the content that you create, the consistency of your creation patterns, the length of time that you’ve been creating, the opportunities that you have to be in front of audiences in the real world, the relationships that you have with people who have audiences larger than you do — and, as frustrating as it may seem, serendipity.

Great reflection Bill. I think that it is easy to be distracted by clicks and likes. I remember when I first started blogging, I thought that I was going to get inundated. The shock was that I almost had to beg for my first comment. I think that in part the Blogger user interface encourages a focus on statistics. I find that the fact you have make a choice to setup Jetpack means that at the very least users are more mindful of the impact and choice. When I moved to WordPress I also made the decision to stop checking the stats. I think that I have only randomly checked Jetpack a handful of time in the last few years.

In regards to “hits’ and ‘likes’, you might enjoy reading this post from danah boyd (although I assume that you have probably stumbled upon it before). She provides a different perspective on data and numbers:

Stats have this terrible way of turning you — or, at least, me — into a zombie. I know that they don’t say anything. I know that huge chunks of my Twitter followers are bots, that I could’ve bought my way to a higher Amazon ranking, that my Medium stats say nothing about the quality of my work, and that I should not treat any number out there as a mechanism for self-evaluation of my worth as a human being.

The only thing that I am unsure about is that by my nature of ‘responding’ I often have someone in mind associated with my writing and reflection, is this though a different sort of ‘audience’?


Replied to Chopping Ancestors from WordPress oEmbedded Tweets by Alan Levine (CogDogBlog)

After a few rounds of swinging the code axe, I am cautiously optimistic I have an answer. Be warned. What follows involves code modifications to your theme’s functions.php and for older posts, some clearing of stuff in your database. Now that there are maybe three readers left (Hi Tom!), here we go.

This is another great deep dive Alan. I have not quite got to the stage of carving things out in the backend, but have started down the road of a Child theme thanks to your help. I am interested in adding your solution at that level. It really bugs me how the default oEmbed bakes in the parent post.

P.S. Am I the third reader or a lucky forth?


Read ( )
Here is a collection of quotes from Margaret Atwood’s novel The Handmaid’s Tale:

Fraternize means to behave like a brother. Luke told me that. He said there was no corresponding word that meant to behave like a sister. Sororize, it would have to be, he said.

The young ones are often the most dangerous, the most fanatical, the jumpiest with their guns. They haven’t yet learned about existence through time. You have to go slowly with them.

There is more than one kind of freedom, said Aunt Lydia. Freedom to and freedom from. In the days of anarchy, it was freedom to. Now you are being given freedom from. Don’t underrate it.

Would like to believe this is a story I’m telling. I need to believe it. I must believe it. Those who can believe that such stories are only stories have a better chance. If it’s a story I’m telling, then I have control over the ending. Then there will be an ending, to the story, and real life will come after it. I can pick up where I left off. It isn’t a story I’m telling. It’s also a story I’m telling, in my head, as I go along. Tell, rather than write, because I have nothing to write with and writing is in any case forbidden. But if it’s a story, even in my head, I must be telling it to someone. You don’t tell a story only to yourself. There’s always someone else. Even when there is no one.

I read about that in Introduction to Psychology; that, and the chapter on caged rats who’d give themselves electric shocks for something to do. And the one on the pigeons, trained to peck a button which made a grain of corn appear. Three groups of them: the first got one grain per peck, the second one grain every other peck, the third was random. When the man in charge cut off the grain, the first group gave up quite soon, the second group a little later. The third group never gave up. They’d peck themselves to death, rather than quit. Who knew what worked?

Why Would You

Image created by Silvia Tolisano‏ in response to my post and shared on Twitter

Replied to Accessibility on the Web (Chris Aldrich | BoffoSocko)

I certainly don’t go out of my way to follow the topic of accessibility, though I do think about it occasionally. It’s apparently bubbling up more frequently as something in need of some dire attention on both the web and in real life.
I ran across three different pleas in less than the span of…

Just to add to the conversation Chris, Tom Woodward has done a bit in regards to investigating WordPress and accessibility that might be worth checking out:
Working on Accessibility
Javascript for Added Accessibility

Technological Trust

Tim Wu reflects on the rise of Bitcoin and wonders about the wider implications for society. He suggests that it may herald a move away from trust in sovereign entities to a trust in code:

Yet as Bitcoin continues to grow, there’s reason to think something deeper and more important is going on. Bitcoin’s rise may reflect, for better or worse, a monumental transfer of social trust: away from human institutions backed by government and to systems reliant on well-tested computer code. It is a trend that transcends finance: In our fear of human error, we are putting an increasingly deep faith in technology. source

The concern that this raises is that it implies that ‘code’ is somehow pure and unbiased. Audrey Watters’ work around the Blockchain paints a different picture, while Cathy O’Neil’s book Weapons of Mass Destruction highlights many concerns too.

[[Silicon Valley Seasteads]]
[[Technology is never neutral]]

Replied to Hard Questions: Is Spending Time on Social Media Bad for Us? | Facebook Newsroom by David Ginsberg and Moira Burke (

In sum, our research and other academic literature suggests that it’s about how you use social media that matters when it comes to your well-being.

I find the answer to improving social media as being how it is used as being problematic. This was a message that was also presented in a recent RN Future Tense podcast. What about the side effects of using such platforms as Facebook? I recognise the improvements in functionality, such as the ability to snooze, take a break from seeing an ex or detecting suicidal posts. However, these only add to the data that I as a user would provide you to develop a richer profile of me. As Ben Williamson reminds in his new book,

Whether you like it or not, a data-based version of yourself exists out there, scattered among different databases as data points in massive torrents of big data. Data mining, algorithms and analytics processes are increasingly being put to work to know and understand you, and also to know and understand the wider populations, communities and societies to which you belong.

If benefits are gained by how we use social media then I would argue that the #IndieWeb has a lot to offer, as well as the movement to claim your own domain. This means that I am more mindful of my space and potentially decide how to share my data and information.

Audrey Watters asks the questions ‘who is telling the stories’ of the future and about research:

Where do these stories about the future come from? Like, how do we know about “what’s happening” and “what’s trending” in education? Who are the people who are telling us what the future of education or technology or education technology is supposed to like? Who tells these stories? Who benefits from these stories? Who funds these stories? Why do we find these stories compelling?

Clearly, in this case it is Facebook and this is a concern.

Replied to Groups, communities, collectives or …? by Ian Guest (Marginal Notes)

Twitter is classified by Stephen Downes as a Group, based on the fact that power is centralised and held by the platform, rather than being in the hands of the participants. Membership is closed by dint of the requirement to create an account and there are rules which members are obliged to follow.
In addition to the criteria he uses to disti…

This is an interesting discussion Ian. I wonder if you have read Teaching Crowds by Jon Dron and Terry Anderson. I have summarised it here. However I think that this graphic captures it:

A representation of the ideas presented in Teaching Crowds
Graphic taken from a presentation at GAFE Summit, 2016

What intrigues me about labeling Twitter as a ‘group’ ignores the many features built into the platform and the affordances they allow. For example, the focus on hashtags allows for the formation of ‘Communities of Interest’, while lists can be used to develop ‘Circles’. Maybe Downes’ reference to ‘sameness’ is assocaited with the idea of ‘templated self’.

A self or identity that is produced through various participation architectures, the act of producing a virtual or digital representation of self by filling out a user interface with personal information.

It has definitely left me wondering.

Replied to Chris Aldrich (Chris Aldrich | BoffoSocko)

I’ve switched over to David Shanske’s IndieWeb-friendly fork of the TwentySixteen Theme tonight. Liking it a lot so far. Can’t wait to see what little surprises I run across under the hood and how we can potentially make it better for the community.

Really interested Chris in what David Shanske’s theme might have to offer. Having spent some time lately trying to get my head around the ‘motor under the hood’, I am wondering about the difference between David’s approach to fork the 2016 theme, compared to your approach of creating a child. Is there simply fors and againsts for both? Or is one more ideal? Just wondering as per usual.
Replied to Storify Bites the Dust. If You Have WordPress, You Don’t Need Another Third Party Clown Service by Alan Levine (CogDogBlog)

There are two kinds of people or organizations that create things for the web. One is looking to make money or fame and cares not what happens once they get either (or none and go back to flipping burgers). The other has an understanding and care for the history and future of the web, and makes every effort to make archived content live on, to not leave trails of dead links. Storify is Type 1. After getting enough of a value based on the free labor of grunts like you and me who built content in it, they got bought by Adobe, and swept up into some enterprise product

Thank you Alan for your investigation into alternatives to Storify. By chance, I had gone down a similar rabbit hole wondering how I could store a set of Tweets. I was under the impression that being embedded if the original tweet were deleted then they would not show up in the blog. It was for this reason that I explored pasting the text. I am assuming from your discussion(s) that this is not the case?

I still like the idea of using TAGS to collect the links, but rather than pasting the text:

The book traces the changing focus of the history of second wave feminism over the 20th/21st centuries. Providing essays situated in each of the three ‘Acts’. I’m live tweeting Fraser’s overview of the history and spirit of the wave
“Second wave feminism came out of the New Left after WW2.

Act1 – Began life as an insurrectionary force that challenged male domination in state organised capitalist societies”

Act2 – the feminist imagination turned from redistribution of power/economy to recognition of difference – identity/cultural politics dominated

Act3 – still unfolding but we are seeing the reinvigoration of feminist and other emancipatory forces to demand that the runaway markets be subjected to democratic control

A user could just paste the URLs:

Will continue to think about this, especially as I do not always want the parent tweet necessarily embedded. I also have to investigate your Storify Embeddable Link Extractor, but it looks to be a great tool for all situations.