Replied to Weeknote 14/2020 (Open Educational Thinkering)

Although I’ve got enough done, I haven’t felt so productive this week. I think that’s because I’ve had to slow my brain down to stop it racing ahead and thinking of possible futures in which everything I’m currently doing fades into insignificance.

I’m taking a lot of solace in long walks with my family, in nursing a single malt and talking to my wife, and in hanging out with my parents on video chat. I even, with the help of our children, painted the garden fence this morning!

I am guessing no alcohol for Lent has long gone Doug?

I really like your point about turning to comedy or tragedy:

The rationale behind this is that, I think that in times of crisis it’s better to go for either end of the spectrum. Either comedy and light-hearted stuff to raise my spirits, or tragedy and dark content to make me realise that things aren’t really so bad after all.

I have been left thinking about some of the stories that Cory Doctorow has been sharing. Trying to find some hope in the tragedy.

This is how Virginia Trioli tried to make sense of things in her newsletter:

But every now and again the mists are clearing. When the household settles into a rhythm of energetic morning work and then quiet family reading; when the daily cycle around the park becomes the highlight of the day.

Not sure what the Stoicism says about hope.

Liked Thoughts on remote learning… (What Ed Said)

The most valuable messages you can take to your current experiments with remote/ distance/ emergency  learning (whatever you choose to call it) are these:

  • Children are capable, competent and creative.
  • Personal connection matters more than content.
  • Focus on relationships rather than curriculum.
  • Don’t try to replicate school.

📰 Read Write Respond #051

Welcome back for another month. Seems kind of wrong to say ‘another’ as March felt like a roller-coaster. The quote doing the rounds at the moment is:

There are decades when nothing happens; and there are weeks when decades happen.

It would seem that this is only the beginning.

On the family front, we have been spending the month trying to find some semblance of balance. Whether it be schools (finally) closing, staying at home to flatten the curve, shopping around for the household staples or my wife’s work in responding to requirements of leadership in a time of such change, it has been a whirlwind. I think that the biggest challenge has been learning to respect and appreciate each other that bit more living all facets of life in the same space.

At work, the month started with an adjustment to a new working space. Personally speaking, I just get on with things wherever I am. However, I am not sure of placing a support team in the middle of a project space was the best move? Like doing a stand-up routine in the middle of a library, the competing expectations are always going to clash. This issue was however put on hold as we moved to an off-site model, which has been refreshing.

Personally, I started reading Paul Browning’s new book Principled. I have enjoyed thinking about the wicked problems so many leaders are currently facing and where Browning’s ideas fit within all of this. In regards to music, I have found solitude and respite in both Four Tet and Brian and Roger Eno. I have also been tinkering with the free Moog Model D app on the iPad. I started writing some notes on online learning and the challenges of supporting schools, but never found the time and space to finish these pieces. I did however manage to write my reflections on space on a more regular basis.

Here then are some of the posts that have had me thinking:


Resources For Teaching Online Due To School Closures

Kathleen Morris provides a number of topics and tools to consider if forced to move learning online. This includes how to structure online learning, what are some options for a learning hub, the different tools available to support learning experiences and some things to consider if moving online. Bianca Hewes also discusses the potential of Project Based Learning in an online environment.

This Is The Time

Dean Shareski suggests that the current crisis provides a time to stop and reflect upon the education. However, Joel Speranza argues that it is time to adapt our pedagogy, rather than rethink it. Robin DeRosa and Sean Michael Morris suggests that the transition to online learning needs to be about care, compassion and community

‘Another stinging insult’: teachers are being used as martyrs in COVID-19 agenda — EducationHQ

Steven Kolber discuses the stress the current situation places on teachers by the coronavirus pandemic. This comes on the back of schools that are already at breaking point. Although the Victorian government finally bit the bullet and closed schools, the focus now turners to childcare and kindergartens.

Seven Reasons to Geek Out on Educational Theory

John Spencer reflects on his work writing a dissertation and the new found appreciation of theory. Some of theory related posts include Jesse Stommel bibliography for ungrading and Lucinda McKnight and Narelle Wood’s discussion of the dangers of descriptive writing structures.

10 Tips For Parents Homeschooling Young Children

With so many parents being forced or deciding to keep their children home from school, Kathleen Morris shares her experiences of homeschooling. A useful post, especially alongside Austin Kleon’s reflections.


Tips and Tools for Improving your Remote Meetings and Presentations on a Budget

There has been a lot written about the various applications that allow you to connect online via video. However, Aaron Parecki addresses the various tools which can help improve the audio and visual quality of recordings.

Technological Revolutions and the Governance Gap

Tim Kastelle discusses the challenges of governance required to keep up with technological change. This touches on Jaron Lanier’s argument that AI (and technology) is more than just a tool, it is an ideology.

Webmentions with WordPress for Open Pedagogy

Chris Aldrich provides a series of posts explaining how the PressEd Conference, which focuses on WordPress, could be run using WordPress. This is also a concise introduction to the IndieWeb.

We Need A Massive Surveillance Program

Maciej Ceglowski puts forward the idea of utilise the surveillance infrastructure developed by platform capitalism to aid in the fight against coronavirus. Mark Andrejevic and Neil Selwyn explore the use of smartphone data and apps that have already been used.

Zoom Calls Aren’t as Private as You May Think. Here’s What You Should Know

With all the hype around Zoom as the solution to productivity in a time of social distancing, Allen St. John discusses some of the features and practices that people may not be fully aware of. For more information on using Zoom, Alex Kutler has created an extensive guide.


Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance

Tomas Pueyo follows on from his post exploring why we need to act now and unpacks what the next 18 months could look like. However, Gideon Lichfield suggests that much of this depends on how we adapt to social distancing and the the new normal.

Coronavirus Is Serious, But Panic Is Optional

Margo Aaron breaks down the way in which the media drives panic and fear around coronavirus. In a separate post, Caroline Chen reflects on the confusion created by through poor reporting.

What Our Contagion Fables Are Really About

From Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year to José Saramago’s Blindness, Jill Lepore traces the portrayal of pandemics in literature through time. For a full list of book, Bryan Alexander has collated a list, while Cory Doctorow has shared a number of his own stories on the topic.

In a climate crisis, Beds Are Burning is making a comeback

Paul Donoughue discusses the legacy of Midnight Oil’s 1986 track, Beds are Burning. This is all part of a longer history of protest songs.

A Collection of Unmitigated Pedantry – A look at the history of battle in popular culture

Bret Devereaux provides a fascinating trip through battles of the past and in fiction. This includes an exploration of Ancient Greece and the Siege of Gondor from Lord of the Rings.


By Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Providing an account of the crisis unfurling around the world, an Italian doctor reflects on the life and death decisions being made, while Craig Spencer provides a day in the life of an ER doctor.  Both highlight why social distancing is so important.

Building on this, Ed Yong explains that there are two groups of people in a pandemic: everyone involved in the medical response and those practicing social distancing. This is a point that Norman Swan elaborates on the Coronacast podcast. Accounts from the Spanish Flu pandemic provide a historical evidence about the benefits. Tomas Pueyo says the challenge is to act now (which is always really yesterday). For Yascha Mounk this means cancelling everything.

Defining what is and is not appropriate when it comes to social distancing, Kaitlyn Tiffany explores a number of questions such as whether you should cancel your dates, dinner parties, and gym sessions. Asaf Bitton explains how the current crisis is different to a ‘snow day’, while David Truss questions whether the idea of social distancing is better understood as ‘physical distancing’. Amy Hoy provides a simulation game to play with some basic rules associated with social distancing.

In regards to visuals, Juan Delcan and Valentina Izaguirre visualise the positive impact of social distancing in an animation of matchsticks catching fire. Gregg Gonsalves the same metaphor in a still image. Siouxsie Wiles and Toby Morris animate the ‘Flatten the Curve‘ graph and represent the spread interupted by social distancing as a tree diagram. Brian Iselin represents the difference between infecting 2.5 people (the average) and 1.25 people.

From a literary perspective, Samuel L Jackson reads a new version of Adam Mansbach’s Go the Fk to Sleep called Stay the FK at Home, while Jessie Gaynor rewrites the opening lines to ten classic novels based on social distancing.

Read Write Respond #051

So that was March for me, how about you? I hope you and your loved ones are safe.
Bryan Mathers' sketch
Cover Image via JustLego101

Bookmarked Coronavirus: The Hammer and the Dance by an author (Medium)

Strong coronavirus measures today should only last a few weeks, there shouldn’t be a big peak of infections afterwards, and it can all be done for a reasonable cost to society, saving millions of lives along the way. If we don’t take these measures, tens of millions will be infected, many will die, along with anybody else that requires intensive care, because the healthcare system will have collapsed.

Tomas Pueyo follows on from his post exploring why we need to act now and unpacks what the next 18 months could look like. As the opportunity for containment has been missed, we are therefore left with mitigation or suppression as our only options.

The Mitigation Strategy doesn’t try to contain the epidemic, just flatten the curve a bit. Meanwhile, the Suppression Strategy tries to apply heavy measures to quickly get the epidemic under control. Specifically:

  • Go hard right now. Order heavy social distancing. Get this thing under control.
  • Then, release the measures, so that people can gradually get back their freedoms and something approaching normal social and economic life can resume.

The benefit of suppression is that it would provide us time to develop new testing methods, build capacity in regards to equipment and get things in order. Overall this would provide a number of benefits, such as:

  • Fewer total cases of Coronavirus
  • Immediate relief for the healthcare system and the humans who run it
  • Reduction in fatality rate
  • Reduction in collateral damage
  • Ability for infected, isolated and quarantined healthcare workers to get better and back to work. In Italy, healthcare workers represent 8% of all contagions.

Pueyo suggests that a suppression strategy can be understood as a hammer and a dance.

During the Hammer period, politicians want to lower R as much as possible, through measures that remain tolerable for the population. In Hubei, they went all the way to 0.32. We might not need that: maybe just to 0.5 or 0.6.

But during the Dance of the R period, they want to hover as close to 1 as possible, while staying below it over the long term term. That prevents a new outbreak, while eliminating the most drastic measures.

What this means is that, whether leaders realize it or not, what they’re doing is:

  • List all the measures they can take to reduce R
  • Get a sense of the benefit of applying them: the reduction in R
  • Get a sense of their cost: the economic, social, and ethical cost.
  • Stack-rank the initiatives based on their cost-benefit
  • Pick the ones that give the biggest R reduction up till 1, for the lowest cost.

A lot of this is elaborated on further in the Imperial College’s report Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID19 mortality and healthcare demand.

We show that in the UK and US context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members. This may need to be supplemented by school and university closures, though it should be recognised that such closures may have negative impacts on health systems due to increased absenteeism. The major challenge of suppression is that this type of intensive intervention package – or something equivalently effective at reducing transmission – will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) – given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed. We show that intermittent social distancing – triggered by trends in disease surveillance – may allow interventions to be relaxed temporarily in relative short time windows, but measures will need to be reintroduced if or when case numbers rebound. Last, while experience in China and now South Korea show that suppression is possible in the short term, it remains to be seen whether it is possible long-term, and whether the social and economic costs of the interventions adopted thus far can be reduced.

Bookmarked Coronavirus: Why You Must Act Now by an author (Medium)
Tomas Pueyo digs into the reported numbers of cases from a number of countries and compares this with the estimated rate of spread. He provides estimates for what the true numbers probably are:

We don’t know the number of true cases, but it’s much higher than the official one. It’s not in the hundreds. It’s in the thousands, maybe more.

Although we may have an idea on the rate of spread, this often depends on variables such as age and weather.

Age distribution in each country will also have an impact: Since mortality is much higher for older people, countries with an aging population like Japan will be harder hit on average than younger countries like Nigeria. There are also weather factors, especially humidity and temperature, but it’s still unclear how this will impact transmission and fatality rates.

The reality is that the best possible response is to act fast and act early:

Countries that act fast can reduce the number of deaths by a factor of ten. And that’s just counting the fatality rate. Acting fast also drastically reduces the cases, making this even more of a no-brainer. Countries that act fast reduce the number of deaths at least by 10x.

The reason for taking action is to reduce the stress on the healthcare so that we are able to better cope with the spread until a time when a vaccine is available.

If we reduce the infections as much as possible, our healthcare system will be able to handle cases much better, driving the fatality rate down. And, if we spread this over time, we will reach a point where the rest of society can be vaccinated, eliminating the risk altogether. So our goal is not to eliminate coronavirus contagions. It’s to postpone them.

Such actions come in may forms, however they depend upon which stage things are at.

There are several stages to control an epidemic, starting with anticipation and ending with eradication. But it’s too late for most options today. With this level of cases, the only options politicians have in front of them are containment, mitigation or suppression.

The problem is that many countries have missed the opportunity to contain the virus and are left with mitigation and supression.

Once there are hundreds or thousands of cases growing in the population, preventing more from coming, tracking the existing ones and isolating their contacts isn’t enough anymore. The next level is mitigation or suppression.

Pueyo warns that one of the biggest challenges with the virus is that those who are contagious are often asymptomatic.

If you’re still hesitating because nobody is showing symptoms, just realize 26% of contagions happen before there are symptoms.

Although many of the statistics Pueyo provides are most likely dated, this post is useful in providing a clarity about why social distancing, working from home and school closures are so important.

Liked Perspective | Simple DIY masks could help flatten the curve. We should all wear them in public. (Washington Post)

Yes, there is a shortage of manufactured masks, and these should go to hospital workers. But anyone can make a mask at home by cutting up a cotton T-shirt, tying it back together and then washing it at the end of the day. Another approach, recommended by the Hong Kong Consumer Council, involves rigging a simple mask with a paper towel and rubber bands that can be thrown in the trash at the end of each day.

Liked Wide Open School (Wide Open School)

We hope that Wide Open School helps make learning from home an experience that inspires kids, supports teachers, relieves families, and restores community.

This site was built in a matter of days on a shared vision. We plan to keep building until things get back to normal. A group of more than 25 organizations came together and raised their hands to help, and many more are joining on a daily basis. Watch for new features and content partners frequently.

Wide Open School is a free collection of the best online learning experiences for kids curated by the editors at Common Sense. There is so much good happening, and we are here to gather great stuff and organize it so teachers and families can easily find it and plan each day.


Kristine Ziwica discuses the move to make childcare free. As Laura Tingle highlights, nothing will be the same again. However, as Lisa Bryant points on:

Every playground in the country has been closed to stop the virus spreading. So why is it OK for hundreds of children to play together at a childcare centre?

Services should be open for essential workers and vulnerable families. But others should consider keeping their children at home where possible.

I’m also sad because not all our education and care services will be protected, not all educators’ and teachers’ jobs will be safe.

This is why I would rather try and continue keeping my child at home. However, I am happier that the government has stepped in to cover the cost, rather than be charged for absence days.

Bookmarked ‘Panic-gogy’: Teaching Online Classes During The Coronavirus Pandemic (

On one level, Panicgogy means understanding students’ limitations. Some only have smartphones. Some have family responsibilities. But ultimately, panicgogy is about applying compassion to learning.

Anya Kamenetz discusses the challenges of transitioning to online learning in the middle of a pandemic, something some have termed ‘panic-gogy’:

Sean Michael Morris and other colleagues have a tongue-in-cheek name for what they’re doing right now: “Panic-gogy” (for panic + pedagogy).

On one level, Panicgogy means understanding students’ practicalities. Some only have smartphones. Some have family responsibilities. Some have been sent home and need to find a new place to live, new job, and new health insurance. Professors may feel that the simplest option would be transitioning to class over video chat, but for all these practical reasons “It’s not really realistic to think that students can just show up and start taking class at the same time every day in an online environment,” says Morris.

Robin DeRosa explains that where an online course can take up to a year to develop, therefore the current transition is about care, compassion and community. Additionally, where possible this work should engage with the current situation:

“Whatever field you teach, I think it’s worth asking how is that field affected by the public health crisis and what contributions could the field be making right now to help people in their communities.”

Bookmarked Online Learning in the time of a pandemic: What it is, What it isn’t. (Joel Speranza)

Because of the Coronavirus, schools across the world are sending students and teachers home and moving towards online learning. Parents and students are being assured that the learning will continu…

Joel Speranza adds some thoughts to the discussion about the transition to online learning. He argues that this needs to be understood as an emergency measure that should focus on self-paced learning. It is not a time for rethink everything, but instead to be kind to yourself and your students.
Liked Finding comfort in the chaos: How Cory Doctorow learned to write from literally anywhere

My writing epiphany — which arrived decades into my writing career — was that even though there were days when the writing felt unbearably awful, and some when it felt like I was mainlining some kind of powdered genius and sweating it out through my fingertips, there was no relation between the way I felt about the words I was writing and their objective quality, assessed in the cold light of day at a safe distance from the day I wrote them. The biggest predictor of how I felt about my writing was how I felt about me. If I was stressed, underslept, insecure, sad, hungry or hungover, my writing felt terrible. If I was brimming over with joy, the writing felt brilliant.

This was the insight that let me write the way I did (and do): it doesn’t matter if the words feel right — just write ’em. You will know if they’re any good later.

Liked Just shifting online or shifting the learning?

To summarize, ask yourself a few questions when you are shifting from regularly meeting students to providing an online/digital program:

  1. What should you do to most effectively utilize synchronous time, when you have it scheduled?
  2. What can you take out of your course so that you are reducing the expectations of students working from home, with less support than they get at school?
  3. How can you make assignments engaging, interactive, and interesting?
  4. What kind of things will you assess and how can you ensure that assessment is something that authentically assesses the students skills and competencies?

How can you shift the learning experience beyond just shifting everything online?

Bookmarked Can livestreaming help music adapt and overcome in the age of coronavirus? (triple j)

“My #1 piece of advice? Artists can’t think of livestreaming as a substitute for live performance,” Dom says. “You can’t just take what you’re doing on stage and put it on screen. That’s not going to work, you need to think of it as a completely new offering, whatever that is.”

“If you’re offering content, an experience, or opportunities online that they cannot get if they came and saw you live — there’s a reason for them to pay money for that.”

Al Newstead discusses the impact of coronavirus on live music and the subsequent rise in livestreaming.
Bookmarked The National are meant to be in Australia — here’s what they’re doing instead (Double J)

“Making a song, or even making a drawing or anything out of some of this anxiety is the only thing that’s ever helped me really. Watching the news, talking about it, speculating and debating with friends, it never really makes me feel any better. It just gets me more riled up.

If you don’t write, Berninger reckons engaging with prose, music and art is a nourishing way to spend these anxious times.

“I have found art, listening to music, or just flipping through a book of paintings or photographs or reading an old book really changes your chemistry and is enlightening in a mental and a spiritual way,” he says.

Matt Berninger talks about art as an antidote for anxious times.📑
Bookmarked What Our Contagion Fables Are Really About (The New Yorker)

In the literature of pestilence, the greatest threat isn’t the loss of human life but the loss of what makes us human.

From Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year to José Saramago’s Blindness, Jill Lepore traces the portrayal of pandemics in literature through time. Again and again, these stories help us address what it means to be human.

Albert Camus once defined the novel as the place where the human being is abandoned to other human beings. The plague novel is the place where all human beings abandon all other human beings. Unlike other species of apocalyptic fiction, where the enemy can be chemicals or volcanoes or earthquakes or alien invaders, the enemy here is other humans: the touch of other humans, the breath of other humans, and, very often—in the competition for diminishing resources—the mere existence of other humans.

An important part of this question of humanness and suffering through each of these stories is the act of reading and books themselves. Lepore suggests that reading itself can sometimes be understood as a contagion infection on minds, while at other times it acts as an antedote.

Reading is an infection, a burrowing into the brain: books contaminate, metaphorically, and even microbiologically. In the eighteenth century, ships’ captains arriving at port pledged that they had disinfected their ships by swearing on Bibles that had been dipped in seawater. During tuberculosis scares, public libraries fumigated books by sealing them in steel vats filled with formaldehyde gas. These days, you can find out how to disinfect books on a librarians’ thread on Reddit. Your best bet appears to be either denatured-alcohol swipes or kitchen disinfectant in a mist-spray bottle, although if you stick books in a little oven and heat them to a hundred and sixty degrees Fahrenheit there’s a bonus: you also kill bedbugs. (“Doesn’t harm the books!”) Or, as has happened during the coronavirus closures, libraries can shut their doors, and bookstores, too.

In a seperate piece, Alain de Botton discusses Camus’ exploration of human suffering captured in his novel The Plague:

“The Plague” isn’t trying to panic us, because panic suggests a response to a dangerous but short-term condition from which we can eventually find safety. But there can never be safety — and that is why, for Camus, we need to love our fellow damned humans and work without hope or despair for the amelioration of suffering. Life is a hospice, never a hospital.

For a full list, Bryan Alexander has collated a list of texts on the plague, while Cory Doctorow has recorded a number of his own stories on the topic.

Bookmarked Kawehi Covers, by Kawehi (Kawehi)

20 track album

I came upon I Am Kawehi via YouTube and her cover of Nirvana’s Heart Shape Box:

I love the way in which she reproduces the various songs, but also provides her own twists. As much of her music is built around loops it also helped appreciate the different parts.

Place between Kimbra and Reuben Stone

I was standing at the bar listening to the ‘Imaginary Place‘ remix of The Slow Rush with headphones on when I felt someone bump me while trying to get past and spill some of their drink on me. We both turned to each other and nodded, then kept on listening.

The album and this remix are great examples of music and the ability to take you to another world.