Bookmarked Opinion | I Shouldn’t Have to Publish This in The New York Times (nytimes.com)

The way we regulated social media platforms didn’t end harassment, extremism or disinformation. It only gave them more power and made the problem worse.

Cory Doctorow wonders about the future social media and copyright laws.
Bookmarked Continuous Reporting – A summary of the research and a clarification of purposes (Blogger)

Continuous Reporting has the following five goals: 1. Increase formative assessment (Black et al., 2014; Black & Wiliam, 2005; Wiliam, 2011…

Steven Kolber collects together a range of research associated with ongoing reporting.

via TER Podcast

Replied to History Will Not Be Kind to Jony Ive (Vice)

Ive, Apple’s Chief Design Officer, is leaving the company. He leaves a legacy that made its products hard to repair and impossible to upgrade.

I wonder what the outcome would be if the design process started with sustainability and developed from there? I like Jason Kottke’s measured approach to this change.
Bookmarked Banning mobile phones in schools: beneficial or risky? Here’s what the evidence says by an author (The Conversation)

Banning mobile phones in school may seem sensible, but research and similar moves elsewhere suggest a blanket ban may introduce some problems.

Neil Selwyn unpacks the evidence associated with banning mobile phones. He suggests that banning overlooks the immediate measures to deal with cybersafety, ignores the digital distraction associated with all devices, ignores the benefits and misses the opportunity for a conversation. This is in response to the Victorian Government’s announcement that mobile phones will be banned in schools from 2020 in Victoria.

There has been some other interesting responses to this announcement on Twitter, including:

In an extended piece associated with The Project, Jane Caro questions the support that schools will be given and negative culture it creates. She also wonders if staff will also put their devices away too?

Personally, my issues with smartphones is the sustainability of the materials – a point Selwyn touches on elsewhere – and what Kin Lane describes as the ‘sentinelization of APIs‘.

Liked Ensuring the sustainability of Thought Shrapnel by Doug BelshawDoug Belshaw (Doug Belshaw’s Thought Shrapnel)

Going forward, I’m going to try a different approach. For everything I publish:

  • Comments are on
  • Three different types of post each week
  • Everyone gets access at the same time

On Mondays I’ll publish an article-style post. On Wednesdays I’ll publish a post answering any questions that have come in, or a microcast. And then on Fridays I’ll publish a round-up post of interesting links.

Replied to Digital Detox & Summer Fun

With all of these options, the key is to carve out time in your summer to get to know your child, and let them explore their interests. You may choose to share your interests and let them get to know you. This might also be a great time to push pause on your own work and reflect on the experiences your child is having.

I really liked how you reframed the discussion away from pulling the plug, but instead using the holiday season to possibly pause and reflect the place of technology within our lives.
Bookmarked Bring Out Your Blogs by an author (Disquiet)

Technologies, like hemlines, go up and down. It was all about the web, then AOL, then “push,” then Web 2.0, then email was “dead.” Then came social media, then Slacks. Along the way newsletters popped back up, almost as if they were a new thing (my first one, which I founded while an editor at Tower Records, ran for a decade, beginning in 1994), and the podcast has had a second, robust economic and cultural life. Throughout, blogs just worked, even if they’ve seen better days. Self-publishing is at the heart of the healthy internet.

Marc Weidenbaum reflects on the 20th anniversary of blogging. He argues that there have been many technologies that have come and gone, but blogging still persists. The power is the ability to take writing back from the domain of writers.

Blogging is an essential tool toward meditating over an extended period of time on a subject you consider to be important.

Weindenbaum suggests thinking of something important and just blogging about it.

Bookmarked The Sentinelization of APIs | Kin Lane (Kin Lane)

APIs are early sentinels. They are originally built as application development unit, but are quickly being given (cyber)military tasks. They lack dedicated offensive weaponry, but like a Sentinel, or maybe a Bobcat backhoe, they possess a number of potential attachments that can be weaponized pretty effectively.

Kin Lane explains how with a bit of maneuverinh that APIs have the danger of being weaponised. Whether it be notifications, location or storage, Lane argues that we do not really know the consequences for the future.
Replied to An efficient process for giving feedback on extended responses (with pictures!) (Bianca Hewes)

So, by the end of that Friday afternoon, I had 30 comparative paragraphs to mark. Lucky me! Well, it was lucky for me that I had used a bit of a mastery learning process and taught the kids my coding system because it meant giving feedback would be super efficient! Below is a brief summary of my process (as I posted it to Twitter on Sunday).

Bianca, I love your strategies for improving the feedback process. I also like how you involve students with all of this through the Medals and Missions.
Replied to Singapore abolishes school exam rankings, says learning is not competition (Citi Newsroom)

For older students in primary schools and secondary schools, marks for each subject will be rounded off and presented as a whole number, without decimal points – to reduce the focus on academic scores. Parents will continue to receive information about their child’s progress in school during parent-teacher meetings.

Is this that different from Australia? I find that there is a lot of confusion about what schools do and are required to do when it comes to assessment and reporting. This is something discussed in Episode 139 of the TER Podcast.
Clive Thompson discusses the power of big data to support making clearer decisions around climate change. In the New Dark Age, James Bridle argues that there is a certain irony associated with using technology to solve the problems of technology.

Thinking about climate change is degraded by climate change itself, just as communications networks are undermined by the softening ground, just as our ability to debate and act on entangled environmental and technological change is diminished by our inability to conceptualise complex systems. And yet at the heart of our current crisis is the hyperobject of the network: the internet and the modes of life and ways of thinking it weaves together (Page 79)

The other problem is where the data gets manipulated to support vested interests.

Bookmarked Democratizing Education With WordPress (The Edublogger)

This is a companion post to a talk I gave yesterday at WordCamp Europe 2019 – the largest conference of its kind for the web and WordPress community. What follows is somewhere between a transcript of the presentation and a blog post. 

You can see the video of this talk here.

 

Let’s get started by taking a look at a few photographs…

What do we all immediately notice? Besides the interesting clothes and the first two photos being in black and white, all three are very similar. In schools around the world, for as long as we can remember, kids sit at desks in rows and all face a teacher at the front of the room.

A little confession. I ripped off this idea to start this talk with photographs of classrooms over the years from a few different talks that I have seen before. But in those talks, the speakers used these photos as evidence that our education system is stagnant and therefore broken. We have similar views shared by the likes of Sal Kahn, Sir Ken Robinson, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and many more thought leaders in recent years. They suggest that we need a technology revolution to solve all of our problems. Most believe in Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) as a viable vehicle for instruction. And scariest of all, some are claiming that we don’t even need teachers anymore.

Here’s the deal. Traditionally, education has been about how we best take a bunch of facts and download them into someone’s head. Then, we try and prove that those facts actually made it in ok – through assessments, exams, a certification, or a diploma. I call this the ‘Inputs + Outputs’ definition of education. Inputs are the curriculum, concepts, and learning objectives. Outputs are how we assess and show that the inputs were in fact ‘learned’. 

As discussed above, many great minds champion the promise of the web and technology to significantly improve education and learning. But in most cases, folks saying these things do so for the wrong reasons, and to be fair, most have never actually taught in a real classroom before. Sure, some of what they say is true. The web does make it easier and cheaper to make knowledge and information more widely available, and that can make it a great equalizer. 

The problem is, I don’t believe that education is about facts and knowledge. The ‘Inputs’ aren’t as important today because we can just pick up our phones and ask Google or ask Siri anything and everything we ever wanted to know. 

If you take just one thing away from me today, it should be that education is really about the personal and individual experiences, about project-based and service learning, and about the struggles, and the failures – which are all so much more important than any learning outcomes (or ‘outputs’).

In the post-information age, experiences are more important than knowledge.  

A big problem with my ‘experiences’ philosophy (and this may have gotten me in trouble a bit when I was a teacher) is that it is hard to quantify. And our society likes verifiable results. We can’t easily asses experiences on an exam or on a quiz. It can be challenging to assign meaningful grades or marks.

We have investors and billionaires focusing all of this money on new and more efficient ways to make textbooks more interesting and videos more engaging. We have this idea that if we just collect enough data points on students, then Artificial Intelligence can deliver personalized learning wherever and whenever. Again, in this new world, do we really need teachers anymore?

What would happen if we were to focus more on technologies that empower students to do, to build, to collaborate, and to create? This would be more in line with an ‘experiences’ approach to education than one defined by ‘inputs’ and ‘outputs’. 

This is a photo of me on a tour of schools and the education system in Israel a few years ago. We met with these Bedouin students – all girls – that were studying physics at the time. If you aren’t familiar, the Bedouin are Muslim majority communities in the Middle East known historically for being nomadic and though it is slowly changing, the majority live in poverty.

One of the more interesting stories that the students told was about how important the web, mostly accessible only on their phones, was to them in connecting them to the entire world. It wasn’t about better open content, learning games, or ‘flipped’ lectures on videos. These students were actually following famous scientists and chatting with and learning alongside other girls studying the sciences from many different countries. This was powerful stuff.

It wasn´t about how they were using tech for curriculum. Or how video games improved their learning. It was about authentic connections that they were making.

If only there was a web publishing platform that would help facilitate the syntheses of learning by students sharing their work and thoughts. Maybe it was foster collaborations like these students experienced but on properties that the students own and control.

Well, of course, there is! 

WordPress allows for doing – content creation and curation of thoughts, experiences, videos, images, and all sorts of media. This is why WordPress can and should play a central role in education at many levels. It is the glue that holds everything else together. I get even more excited thinking about this with what we know is coming in the next phases of Gutenberg and block editing.

When you compare WordPress to social media platforms or proprietary portfolio solutions, there’s no question that the authentic audience when publishing on the web, coupled with a digital space that they can design and make their own, increases engagement and the quality of work.

And we know that WordPress works because we see it used every single day.

The Edublogs.org platform launched nearly 15 years ago, actually just shortly before WordPress.com itself. Here, there are literally millions of WordPress sites and blogs from students the world over.

WordPress is used for blogging, for ePortfolios, for communication, and collaboration in schools and universities – from kids as young as 4 or 5 years old, through those in Ph.D. programs. All the while, the big money Silicon Valley keeps pushing their solutions, which are slightly flashier, with better marketing, and in line with the large textbook companies schools are used to working with.

WordPress is big, but it can be better and it can do more. To do this, there are three key areas that WordPress developers and those that work on WordPress really need to think about.

The first is data exportability – there are Learning Management (or LMS) plugins that don’t use custom post types and can’t be easily exported. Same with forms plugins, or honestly, page builders are the worst – build content in those, and it is often impossible to get that content out.

One of the reasons that I hear from schools about why they choose WordPress over a proprietary system is that students can take their work with them. And this includes 20-30 years from now, that it will be in a format that is still usable by whatever comes after WordPress if WordPress happens to not still be around. However, this doesn’t work if every plugin or theme being used isn’t following best practices or is not using the default Tools > Export/Import XML format. 

We’ve noticed a trend in recent years of page builders and plugins building their own stand-alone import/export tool. But that really isn’t good enough.

If you think laws like the GDPR for data privacy are confusing and daunting for the general public, it gets even more intense when it comes to laws around data and privacy in education and with kids.

Thanks to the hard work of the WordPress Privacy core team, there are now tools that allow plugin developers to list and make clear any needed data privacy concerns about their plugin. You can also easily make use of the new core functionality so that individual users can request a log of their data or for all of their data to be deleted. It is seriously cool, and also incredibly important for compliance with a growing number of laws and regulations. Sadly, many plugins that we all use every day don’t yet make use of these features.

Let’s change that, please. 

See the privacy section of the core handbook for more information.

And I save the most important for last. Accessibility. We can’t have a quick chat about education without talking about accessibility.

My very first paid job on the web was working for this man here, Dr. John Slatin, at The University of Texas. Dr. Slatin was blind, and he was also one of the leaders in the world around raising awareness of web accessibility. He was instrumental in developing the very web accessibility standards and guidelines that we still follow today. And he’s often credited with the phrase “good design is accessible design” which he signed at the bottom of all of his emails. It is still as true as ever, nearly 20 years later. And though Dr. Slatin has since passed away, this is a fight we are still fighting.  

I’m hopeful that we are all learning together through the Gutenberg development experience that you can’t tack on accessibility to the end of a project, or even start working on it in the middle. It should be considered and addressed from the first wireframe and the very first line of code.

It also keeps me up at night that if we aren’t careful, WordPress may develop a reputation for “not” being accessible – even though evidence suggests that it is among the most accessible platforms around. If this happens, we will quickly see a sharp decline in the use of WordPress in education, enterprise, governments, and more – who may choose something else, even though that platform may be worse for accessibility, just because of the reputation. We walk a difficult fine line as a community of advocating passionately for the much-needed improvements while still making sure we are evangelizing WordPress in a positive way to those that need it.

If you are interested in education and WordPress, here are a few resources that I wanted to share:

WPCampus – with a fantastic and active Slack community, an in-person conference in Portland Oregon next month, and an online conference around the New Year.

PressEdConf – a full day twitter conference that has happened the past few years, organized by universities in the UK, I believe, and the #PressEdConf hashtag can be useful to connect with others.

Student Blogging Challenge – free and held twice a year for 10 weeks, connects students from around the world to work on the same projects and tasks. Open to anyone on any web publishing platform, but organized by us at Edublogs.

So, to wrap up. Please don’t get caught up in the hype about online courses and new fancy ways to replace textbooks or even to replace teachers. Instead, with WordPress, invest in what could and should be the future of education – which is learning experiences that puts the learner in charge of creating content and contributing to the body of knowledge we all share.

Thanks for reading (or watching the video). I look forward to continuing this conversation about how we can truly democratize education with WordPress in the comments below. ,This is a companion post to a talk I gave yesterday at WordCamp Europe 2019 – the largest conference of its kind for the web and WordPress community. What follows is somewhere between a trans…

Ronnie Burt provides a companion post to a talk he gave at WordCamp Europe 2019. He makes the case for WordPress (and Edublogs). One of the points be makes is data exportability and the dangers of using plugins that prevent this. I would argue that this point of view is challenges with incorporating the IndieWeb with Edublogs?
Bookmarked Why Most Marketing Emails Still Use HTML Tables (Tedium: The Dull Side of the Internet.)

How HTML helped, then hindered, the evolution of email, or why all those fancy marketing emails you get in your inbox still rely on HTML tables in 2019.

Ernie Smith discusses the problems with email and the need to move forward. This is another post that highlights the fragility of email as a technology.
Bookmarked Why do men abuse women? The answer’s simpler than you think (ABC News)

We keep asking, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ But for Jess Hill, who spent four years investigating domestic violence, the more confounding question is, ‘Why does he stay?’

Jess Hill’s investigation into male’s and violence is an interesting read alongside Tin Winton’s discussion of masculinity.
Replied to

A great example for the Digital Technologies curriculum.
Bookmarked The biggest lie we tell on the internet is ourselves (Mashable)

It isn’t just our age, height and weight — we also routinely fib about our identity in order to fit in.

Chris Taylor discusses the way we lie about our identity to fit in. This is such an interesting question, especially when read alongside Zeynep Tufekci’s reflection of online trust.
Bookmarked Metafoundry 72: Terraforma Incognita by an author (TinyLetter)

There are an infinite number of dystopian futures that we can fixate on, like rocks in our path. And there’s the lazy nihilism epitomized by ‘LOL we’re fucked’, like taking our bikes and going home. 


Or we can, together, learn to look at the line. Because there absolutely is a path through to a better future for everyone, one that’s sustainable and resilient and equitable. But we have to learn to see it, to stay focused on it, and to follow it down. That’s the work. 

Deb Chachra reflects on the past with an eye towards a more sustainable future. She explains the problems with the spoils of colonialism, especially our institutions.

I’m staking a claim on all UK institutions built with public money between 1670, when the Hudson’s Bay Company was founded and became the de facto government of much of Canada, and 1947, when India and Pakistan became independent.

Especially that it is overlooked and that it itself often overlooked what was already in place in regards to sustainability.

The implicit driver of colonization is always that the residents are using the land ‘incorrectly’, and sustainability always looks like underutilization when compared to resource extraction.

This is something captured by Bruce Pascoe in Dark Emu.

The problem with are facing is that by failing to respond to the problem now we are colonising the future:

We’ve been colonizing the future: extracting resources and degrading our ecosystems, rather than maintaining ‘enough and as good left in common for others’. Its inhabitants, both human and non-human, are on track to face a reduced set of options compared to ours.

via Clive Thompson