🤔 #WhatIf schools ran Maker Faires?

What if we replaced static school science fairs where students show their projects with an event where students are involved in activities where people can interact with different things and get hands on? Taking this a step further, what if schools opened their doors after hours to become a community hub for making?

📰 Read Write Respond #005


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

My Month of May

I got news this month that I was successful in my application for a position as a technology coach. As a part of the negotiations, I was able to keep my long service leave, which means that I will start in July. Subsequently, I have spent this month at home with our newborn while my wife returns to work. It has been a fantastic experience, dropping my older daughter off at school each day and seemingly doing endless chores the rest of the time. Here was me thinking that I would get to watch Days of Our Lives each day.

In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:

  • Five Ways to Change the World Yesterday – This was a post I started a year ago and only just rediscovered it. The point was that blogging is not necessarily about my own ideas, but rather about being a conduit spreading ideas like a dandelion.
  • What Makes a Comment? – So often people claim that there has been a death of commenting, but instead I tried to explain that the conversation is no longer centralised as it once was.
  • TeachMeet10 – In lieu of the ten year anniversary of the first TeachMeet, Ewan McIntosh put out a request for stories, so I thought that I would share mine.
  • Data, Parents and Education – Building on a post I wrote about the use of Facebook in schools, I elaborated on some of the implications of edtech for parents.
  • What Type of Relationship Do You Have With Learners? – Inspired by a music documentary, I wondered about the relationship between learner and educator, compared with artist and producer.
  • A Guide to Blogging Platforms and their Niches – A summary of some of the different blogging services available, what they enable and where their biases lie.

Here then are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …

Learning and Teaching

Providing quality feedback in order to move students forward in their learning – Bianca Hewes elaborates on her use of feedback in the classroom focusing on medals and missions. She provides a range of useful examples to support this.

Being at a BYOD school, and being a recent devotee of Google Apps for Education, I have found that there are lots of ways to use technology to make students’ engagement with their Medals and Missions feedback even more effective.

Digital Portfolios: Moving Beyond the Glorified Scrapbook – Kelli Vogstad and Antonio Vendramin share their inquiry into digital portfolios and the lessons learnt. It provides some useful questions for everyone to consider.

Different parents want different things, but we believe all parents want to know if their children are learning and progressing. They want to know if their children are having difficulty and struggling in their learning. They want to know what the teacher is doing and what they as parents can do at home to help their children be more successful. And mostly, parents want to know that their children are cared for, safe and respected, and liked by others. Through thoughtful digital portfolio collections, parents can be reassured that the teacher really understands and knows their child and is helping them learn and succeed.

Learning (and Assessment) First–  Alex Quigley unpacks the question of assessment and what is needed in order to properly support learning.

Curriculum design, target setting, testing, work scrutiny, moderation, feedback, marking – we need to look again at all of these and ask whether they are actually aiding learning

Digital Citizenship: A Community Approach – Christine Haynes unpacks the challenge of digital citizenship, provides a range of resources to support teachers and parents to be safer online.

When technology was limited to computers in labs or family desktops, the urgency to teach digital citizenship wasn’t there. Now with phones in the hands of toddlers, the practice starts young.

7 ways to assess without testing – In light of the frenzy of testing that is going on at the moment all around the world, Steve Wheeler provides some alternative forms of assessment that do not involve testing. Along with Rachel Wilson’s piece on alternatives to NAPLAN, both posts add to the counter-narrative to the culture of standardised testing.

Children don't learn any more or any better because of standardised testing, unless there is feedback on how they can improve. But SATs seem to be the weapon of choice for many governments across the globe. It seems that little else matters but the metrics by which our political masters judge our schools.

10 Questions For Teacher Reflection – Insightful as always, Edna Sackson provides a list of questions to generate reflection.

We’re not even half way through the school year here, but a request from someone important to me on the other side of the world provokes my thinking… ‘Have you ever written a blog post on strategies, tools or frameworks that a teacher can use to reflect on their past year of teaching?’ My immediate response: ‘Reflection has to happen all the way along. It’s too late at the end of the year.’ But here are some questions to ask yourself, as you look back, look within and look forward…

How to Get Started Using Design Thinking in the Classroom – AJ Juliani provides a range of tips for introducing the use of Design Thinking into your classroom. This is a part of his new book LAUNCH which is his own take on the Design Thinking cycle.

The LAUNCH Cycle is not a formula. It is not a step-by-step guide to being creative. However, we’ve used the LAUNCH Cycle framework to make creativity an authentic experience time and time again in our classrooms.

Edtech

Why Aren't Students Allowed to Blog? – Peter DeWitt questions why we do not make better use of blogs to support learning. He provides a number of possibilities, including curation, media literacy, student voice, assessing learning, collaboration and artistic freedom.

If we want students to learn how to use technology effectively, then we should provide multiple avenues to do it.

Who is Investing in Edtech? – Audrey Watters provides a summary of the venture capitalists investing in educational technology. It is interesting to see how they interconnect within the range of products that make up their portfolio, but also how they connects with other investors.

One of the reasons I started my own startup database is that I was interested in questions beyond “who’s making the most investments” or even “who’s making the biggest investments.” Like, who’s invested regularly in companies that have had “successful exits”? Who hasn’t? Who hasn’t made any education investments at all lately? Which trends do investors seem to cluster around? How has that changed over time? Which education CEOs are investors in their own startups or in others?

Apple Stole My Music, No Seriously – James Pinkstone recounts his story of how in signing up to Apple Music his own personal library was transferred to the cloud and deleted from his hard drive. What was most interesting was that this included his own personal creations. Scarily, this is all covered within the terms and conditions.

Audacious. Egregious. Crazy. These are just some of the adjectives I used in my conversation with Amber.  She actually asked me how I wanted to move forward, putting the onus of a solution back on me. I understand why, too: she’s just as powerless as I am. I would love for Apple to face public backlash and financial ramifications for having taken advantage of its customers in such a brazen and unethical way, but Apple seems beyond reproach at this point. It took three representatives before I could even speak to someone who comprehended what I was saying, and even when she admitted to Apple’s shady practice, she was able to offer no solution besides “don’t use the product.” When our data is finally a full-blown utility, however, “just don’t use the product” will cease to be an option. Apple will be in control, bringing their 1984 commercial full circle into a tragic, oppressive iron.

Getting Started with Podcasts – Ian O’Byrne has been compiling a series of posts addressing everything there is to know to create your own podcast. He has addressed subscribing to a podcast, identifying a purpose, finding your voice, recording and editing.

Over the past year, podcasts have been experiencing a renaissance as an increased number of users tune in. Even more people are looking to join the chorus to create and share their own content online.

The End of Code – Jason Tanz explores the future of machine learning where the logic of the enlightenment is replaced with by a world of entanglement. This touches on the ongoing debate around coding. Interestingly it focuses on programming rather than coding.

In the same way that you don’t need to know HTML to build a website these days, you eventually won’t need a PhD to tap into the insane power of deep learning. Programming won’t be the sole domain of trained coders who have learned a series of arcane languages. It’ll be accessible to anyone who has ever taught a dog to roll over

I know how to program, but I don't know what to program – Nano Dano critiques the common approach when addressing programming that we need to start from scratch, instead it is suggested that we start by tinkering with something that already exists. I think that this is the strength of sites such as Scratch and Github which allow you to easily fork ideas. Dave Winer talks about building on prior art.

In the software community the general attitude is "don't reinvent the wheel." It's almost frowned upon if you rewrite a library when a mature and stable option exists. While it is a good rule in general, novices should not be afraid to reinvent the wheel. When it is done for learning or practice, it's totally OK to make a wheel! It is an important part of learning

66 Question Checklist for Rolling Out Google Apps – Eric Curts provides an extensive list of questions to consider why deciding to deploy Google Apps.

So it is easy to see why so many schools are adopting Google Apps for Education. However, what may not be as easy is the process of deploying Google Apps for your district. There are a lot of questions to consider, options to choose, and steps to take to get from start to finish in a complete roll out.

Artificial intelligence, cognitive systems and biosocial spaces of education – Ben Williamson delves into the world of educational AI. In this lengthy post he investigates different iterations from IBM and Pearson. What is interesting is that AI is very much a self-fulfilling prophecy. For another perspective on AI, check out Graham Brown-Martin’s post What does AI mean for Education?, while danah boyd addresses the challenges associated with bias in her argument that Facebook Must Be Accountable to the Public 

In brief, the biosocial process assumed by Pearson and IBM proceeds something like this:
> Neurotechnologies of brain imaging and simulation lead to new models and understandings of brain functioning and learning processes
> Models of brain functions are encoded in neural network algorithms and other cognitive and neurocomputational techniques
> Neurocomputational techniques are built-in to AIEd and cognitive systems applications for education
> AIEd and cognitive systems are embedded into the social environment of education institutions as ‘brain-targeted’ learning applications
> Educational environments are transformed into neuro-inspired, computer-augmented ‘brainy spaces’
> The brainy space of the educational environment interacts with human actors, getting ‘under the skin’ by becoming encoded in the embodied human learning brain
> Human brain functions are augmented, extended and optimized by machine intelligences

Storytelling and Reflection

Performance pay for teachers will create a culture of fear and isolation – Deborah Netolicky outlines the some of the problems associated with the Australian government's renewed call for performance pay. Along with Jon Andrews, Joel Alexander, Cameron Malcher and Corinne Campbell, they provide a thorough discussion of the topic. Sadly, in Victoria such discussions are not new. I have attempted to elaborate my concerns here and had also had a letter published.

The government wants to improve the quality of teachers and teaching in Australia, in order to improve the learning and achievement of Australian students. This is an admirable goal, but negative drivers of change such as performance pay for teachers, are toxic to education. Education reform needs to move away from a focus on performativity and accountability measures such as those outlined in the budget, and instead focus on trusting and supporting teachers.

Learning that Matters – Robert Schuetz explores the question of relevancy focusing on David Perkins notion of learning being lifeworthy.

Reimagining education means making lifeworthy learning a curricular priority. Perkins recommends keeping the dialogue positive and productive by identifying themes that generate great understandings. Start by asking what is important now and likely to be important in the future. No one can accurately predict the future but identifying trends and educating for the unknown moves learning towards greater relevance. In addition to igniting lifelong learning, we are at least better prepared for the unsolicited, “why do we have to learn this?”

Unlearning and Other Jedi Mind Tricks – Finding the (Creative) Force – Amy Burvall uses a series of gifs from Stars Wars to unpack some of the nuances associated with the creative process. If you have never read any of Burvall’s work, this is a great place to start.

Examine things from all angles, if you can. And most importantly, listen. Never stop listening.

The Five-Minute Dance Party – Emilie Garwitz shares how those activities that we can write-off as fun and frivolous are actually at the heart of the most important lessons we can learn.

Ask any successful person in business about their success and they will tell you that being comfortable with risk is one of the keys to unlocking their full potential. So, the earlier you become comfortable with taking risks, the easier it becomes later in life.

50 Shades of Open – Jeffrey Pomerantz and Robin Peek investigate what exactly is meant by the notion of ‘open’. They unpack ideas around open source, open access, open society, open knowledge, open government and open washing. A journal entry published at First Monday, this is one of those pieces that you can come back again and again.

This essay is probably only the opening gambit in attempts to disambiguate this term. We have merely opened the door on the many uses of the word ”open;“ as the use of the word grows, others must opine.

The Future of Work: Trends and Toolsets – Doug Belshaw shares a summary of a report he wrote exploring the future of work. He breaks this investigation down into four sub-themes: the demise of hierarchies, re-thinking the location of work, the rise of workplace chat and mission-based work. In addition to this, he created a document contiaining a plethora of further readings. I always find such conversations intriguing as to implications for education.

The main trends around the future of work seem to be broadly twofold: empowering individuals and teams to make their own decisions around technology; as well as, democratising the process of deciding what kind of work needs to be done

Panel Beaters – Jon Andrews provides a fantastic summary of the power and importance of coaching in his reflection on ResearchEd.

Coaching, for us, is NOT a cure to be administered or a tool to be manipulated. Rather, it is an offer, a partnership that is rooted in trust, respect and objectivity. It is a great privilege to partner with colleagues to drill down and explore the granularity of practice.

Is ‘pedagogical love’ the secret to Finland’s educational success? – Dr Tom Stehlik unpacks the seemingly mystical term of pedagogical love. This is one of those things I have thought about since I first read The Finnish Way. I wonder if in fact with need Heutagogical Love? That is, a love of learning and a passion for that?

Could we become a nation which is child-centred and in which every family respects the child and considers education the foundation to national prosperity, as well as personal wellbeing? Many Australian parents have a view of schools that has been coloured by their own experiences, often negative, so this would require a massive cultural shift in mindset. Could we ask Australian teachers to accept a lower salary and invest the funding balance into subsidised school meals instead? If we want to learn from the Finns, these are some of the questions that would need to be addressed at a macro level.


FOCUS ON … SAMR

In a recent episode of TIDE Podcast, Doug Belshaw and Dai Barnes discussed the use of SAMR. A while back I wrote a post exploring SAMR. As a part of my investigation, I collected together a range of critiques. These are some of them:

I think that Richard Olsen sums the problem up best in a recent post on research when he makes the plea:

I know it is tempting to take notice of bad research and evidence which we agree with, but please don’t do it. We need to throw away all bad research even when we agree with the “evidence.”

READ WRITE RESPOND #005

So that is May for me, how about you? As always, interested to hear.

Also, feel free to forward this on to others if you found anything of interest or maybe you want to subscribe?

🤔 #WhatIf students (and parents) managed their own blogs?

via GIPHY

As I progressively go through and archive a plethora of student blogs I am let wondering if we have gotten it right? Many of these spaces have been abandoned. Hours spent building them up, only for them to be left to silent. It makes me think about why we do it. This led me to wonder what if students and parents were responsible for the online presence? We ask students to do a lot already, why would managing a blog be any different? Also, this seems to be the fix for many schools in regards to iPads in that it puts the control in the hands of the students. This is an idea that Audrey Watters talks about in her book Claim Your Domain.

🤔 #WhatIf students had a hand in how they are taught in the classroom?

Steve Brophy sent the above image to me today with the challenge to identify the biggest problem in my classroom. I was intrigued by who was attached to the message and left thinking that the biggest problem in the classroom is the lack of student action. Too often the conversations that really mater a devoid of those who the decisions actually apply. Therefore I wonder, what if students had a central role in deciding what works in the classroom and what doesn’t? Maybe that itself would be the real learning?

🤔 #WhatIf School Software Was More Respectful?

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I have been doing a bit of reading into different blogging platforms lately, especially as an answer to sharing in schools. I stumbled upon the notion of ‘respectful software‘ today from Ben Werdmuller. It left me thinking, how respectful is the software we use in schools and what if it was more so?

🤔 #WhatIf there were no education unions?

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In a recent interview between Graham Martin-Brown and George Werner regards to Liberia’s new script-based education policy, Werner made the comment that “Bridge doesn’t tolerate teachers unions in the schools it operates.” This got me thinking, what if there were no education unions? How would education be different? Would it allow for more innovation and disruption? Would this always be positive? This is such an interesting question and really makes me think about the world that we maybe moving into in the future.

🤔 #WhatIf Every School Had a Domain of Their Own?

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I recently started reading Audrey Watter’s book Claim Your Domain. One of the things that she touches upon again and again is the question of data. We talk about the idea of a domain of one’s own as a means of reclaiming our presence and identity, collecting together the little bits that are scattered everywhere. It got me thinking, what if schools had a domain of their own? Rather than being dictated by templated self that NAPLAN and other such measurements impose or counting the ‘death rate‘ as John Hattie suggests, schools can take control of their presence and manage their own story of success?Â


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

🤔 #WhatIf we used we instead of I

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Whether it be setting goals, fostering innovation or working with student data, so often the focus is on the individual. I wonder if this is in part a product of the mantra around ‘personalisation’. I am not again ‘personalisation’, but I am again a single person being responsible for this. What about if we work together, spread the load and work as a team. I wonder if such a culture of collaboration would not only reduce the stress, but also increase the possibilities imaginable.

🤔 #WhatIf the school we think we remember was not really how school was?

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In his book Smarter Than You Think, Clive Thompson discusses those who through the use of various applications and devices capture every aspect of their lives. He highlights the impact that such practises have on our social life, as well as the supposed over reliance in technology that this creates, taking over what we would have done for ourselves in the past. However, what really stood out was what was uncovered in regards to memory. Through these various examples of life journals, Thompson is able to show that the way we remember things isn’t necessarily the way things actually were. Clearly, this is a Pandora’s box and in many respects is nothing new, but what it got me wondering was whether the education that we feel we grew up with really was the way we remember it. For example, was Mr Tracey really as harsh as I remember and were lessons really as cumbersome and chaotic as I thought they were. how much of this representation of the past is merely a construct of the present?

📰 Read Write Respond #004

flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

My Month of April

It has been another exciting month. Started off attending the inaugural Melbourne West GAFE Summit at Manor Lakes. I presented sessions on Slides and Drawings, as well as attended a session by Heather Dowd on Presentation Zen and Suan Yeo on Google Expeditions.

At school, I have been working hard to finish up a few things, such as reports, before I go on long service leave for half a Term Two. Really looking forward to spending some quality time with my children doing the daddy daycare thing.

In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:


Here then are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …

Learning and Teaching

The Hyper Island Toolbox – Along with Laura Hilliger’s resources associated with Participatory Learning Materials, this collection from Hyper Island is full of ideas to support collaborative and creative learning in and out of the classroom.

This is a resource for anyone who wants to do things more creatively and collaboratively in their team or organization. It’s a collection of methods and activities, based on Hyper Island’s methodology, that you can start using today.

Coding a LEGO Maze – A different approach to coding where students make a maze using Lego and then develop the physical code required to complete it.

There are so many baby steps involved in learning how to think like a programmer. Throughout the past several years, I’ve programmed in at least 6 different computer languages (C, C++, Java, Fortran, Matlab, and Python). For a beginner, what’s important is not the specifics of a language (called the syntax). Rather it’s better to understand the commonalities between languages which are the building blocks of any programming language. These LEGO mazes, which can be solved with “code” using paper rather than a computer, illustrate 4 levels of difficulty and include a variety of programming concepts.

Student Engagement: Is It Authentic or Compliant? – Peter DeWitt questions whether students are really engaged? To support this, he provides some strategies to help find the right mix between engagement and compliance.

In order to build a growth mindset in our classrooms and schools we need to find a better balance between expecting compliance and engaging in authentic engagement. We set up a dynamic to truly engage students through strategies like flipping our classrooms, metacognitive activities, using engaging short video clips, setting instructional goals with students, providing time to go through questions with a small group of peers, and providing time where students get to ask questions of us as much as we ask questions of them.

Reading Conferences with Students – Pernille Ripp discusses the challenges of reading conferences within a limited amount of time and provides some thoughts and suggestions.

While the 45 minutes of English class will never be ideal, it will never be enough, it will never feel like I can provide each child with the type of learning experience they deserve, it cannot hold us back.  It cannot hold me back.  And I cannot be the only one that is trying to do this.

The Secret of Effective Feedback – Dylan Wiliam summarises what works best when it comes to feedback. He identifies a range of elements, including self-assessment.

Looking at student work is essentially an assessment process. We give our students tasks, and from their responses we draw conclusions about the students and their learning needs. When we realize that most of the time the focus of feedback should be on changing the student rather than changing the work, we can give much more purposeful feedback. If our feedback doesn’t change the student in some way, it has probably been a waste of time.

21 Digital Tools To Build Vocabulary – Kimberly Tyson unpacks a range of tools to support vocabulary. The list is divided into references, word clouds, games and digital word walls.

In today’s 21st century classrooms, digital tools must coexist alongside more traditional tools. Online tools, compared to their more traditional counterparts, provide a broader array of information about words and word meanings. In addition, some tools allow teachers to easily customize words so that students can practice, review, and play games with content or unit-specific words.

The science of revision: nine ways pupils can revise for exams more effectively – Bradley Busch summarises some of the research behind different revision activities. Interestingly, listening to music is considered detrimental. However, I wonder what the impact would be of listening to the same track on repeat, as Matt Mullenweg does when he codes.

As research into psychology continues to develop, we learn more and more about how best to help students learn. Revision time can be challenging as it often requires students to monitor their own behaviour when working independently at home. Hopefully, by teaching them about what helps improve their memory, mood and concentration, we can better equip them to meet the challenges head on.

Edtech

Third Places & Third Spaces – Bon Stewart explores the idea of the third space, a virtual place that carries across time and physical space. An interesting read regards to connected learning.

The Third Space is a potentially transformative space between the roles of student and teacher, a hybrid space where identities and literacies and practices can actually change on both sides.

In Search of a New Resilience for Learning – Dave Cormier reflects on the need to build resilience in online learning spaces, such as Rhizo14.

We need to acknowledge that learning in a network/community/wild space means that sometimes there will be uncontrollable interactions. You will be confronted by what a colleague today referred to as ‘aggressive academic hectoring’. There is privilege always. How do we maintain the advantages of rhizomatic space and still give people the tools to be resilient?

Beyond Coding – Going beyond coding and algorithms, Steve Collis discusses the future of neural networks and artificial intelligence.

Insight into the power of repeated and branching algorithms doesn’t begin to prepare us for what is essentially distributed extended cognition. Incredibly sophisticated artificial intelligence, including neural network computing, is embedded in our lives and progressing in rapid cascades.

The Minecraft Generation – Clive Thompson provides a thorough explanation of Minecraft and its place within the history of technology,

Where companies like Apple and Microsoft and Google want our computers to be easy to manipulate — designing point-and-click interfaces under the assumption that it’s best to conceal from the average user how the computer works — Minecraft encourages kids to get under the hood, break things, fix them and turn mooshrooms into random-­number generators. It invites them to tinker.

Educators, GitHub and the Future of Open Ed – Greg McVerry ponders on the place of GitHub in education as a space to share and build ideas. Alan Levine also wrote a good post on the subject too. I must admit I have barely touched the surface when it comes to GitHub.

Educators live in easy to use silos. I can not blame them. First and foremost the tools teachers use have to work easily. Yet when they share resources educators are often using proprietary tools and signing away copyrights to their district. Our ideas have value. We should get to decide how these ideas are owned and shared.

Can MakerSpaces Invent the Future? – Brad Gustafson shares a fantastic makerspace project where students have to design a case for a Sphero using a 3d printer.

It is incredible what kids can do when we believe in them, coach them, and get out of their way! Our students recently participated in a robotics competition that was invented from the ground up by staff and students.  We designed and printed 3D “exoskeletons” that fit over our Sphero robotic droids…and SpheroExo was born.  The rest is history.

What If Social Media Becomes 16-Plus? New battles concerning age of consent emerge in Europe – danah boyd discusses the law being proposed by the EU to restrict the internet to 16. This is not only important in regards to understanding the impact of the COPPA laws in the US, but also the ramifications for data and privacy of placing more restrictions on the use of the Internet.

What really bothers me are the consequences to the least-empowered youth. While the EU at least made a carve-out for kids who are accessing counseling services, there’s no consideration of how many LGBTQ kids are accessing sites that might put them in danger if their parents knew. There’s no consideration for kids who are regularly abused and using technology and peer relations to get support. There’s no consideration for kids who are trying to get health information, privately. And so on. The UN Rights of the Child puts vulnerable youth front and center in protections. But somehow they’ve been forgotten by EU policymakers.

The dark side of Guardian comments – Looking back on ten years on comments, a group of writers from the Guardian analyse the data.

Even five years ago, online abuse and harassment were dismissed as no big deal. That is not true now. There is widespread public concern, and more support for anti-harassment proposals. But no one is pretending that this is an easy problem to fix.

The Rise of the Chromebook – Originally published in Educational Technology Solutions magazine, Anthony Speranza provides a clear introduction to Chromebooks and their place in schools.

With reduced overhead costs, Chromebooks are a cost-effective option to deploy technology at scale. Many schools are releasing this as an affordable option for closing the technology-equity gap whilst promoting the kind of rich digital learning that we all believe in.

Terrifyingly Convenient – In a lengthy piece, Will Oremus unpacks the rise of virtual assistants and bots. This is a topic that touches on the topics of trust and convenience, and wonders at what cost.

Like card catalogs and AOL-style portals before it, Web search will begin to fade from prominence, and with it the dominance of browsers and search engines. Mobile apps as we know them—icons on a home screen that you tap to open—will start to do the same. In their place will rise an array of virtual assistants, bots, and software agents that act more and more like people: not only answering our queries, but acting as our proxies, accomplishing tasks for us, and asking questions of us in return. This is already beginning to happen—and it isn’t just Siri or Alexa. As of April, all five of the world’s dominant technology companies are vying to be the Google of the conversation age. Whoever wins has a chance to get to know us more intimately than any company or machine has before—and to exert even more influence over our choices, purchases, and reading habits than they already do.Indie Ed-Tech: Review the Revue – Audrey Watters explores many important points relating to ed-tech in her review of Indie Ed-Tech Data Summit. In particular, she touches on the question of funding and venture capital.

Ed-tech need not be exploitative. Ed-tech need not be extractive. Ed-tech need not be punitive. Ed-tech need not be surveillance. Ed-tech need not assume that the student is a cheat. Ed-tech need not assume that the student has a deficit. Ed-tech need not assume that learning can be measured or managed. Ed-tech need not scale.

Technology is Not Neutral – Counter the usual argument that technology merely amplifies what is already in play. Gary Stager points out that platforms have biases that impact users.

Used well, the computer extends the breadth, depth and complexity of potential projects. This in turn affords kids with the opportunity to, in the words of David Perkins, “play the whole game.” Thanks to the computer, children today have the opportunity to be mathematicians, novelists, engineers, composers, geneticists, composers, filmmakers, etc… But, only if our vision of computing is sufficiently imaginative.

3 Types of EdTech Baggage: Toolsets, Mindsets, Skillsets – Talking about the diffusion of innovation curve, Doug Belshaw goes beyond the usual discussion about laggards and examines some of the baggage that can get in the way of change.

Many of us are acquainted with people for whom the answer to every technology-related question seems to be a Google, a Microsoft, or an Apple tool. I would suggest that these people have as much of a ‘toolset’ problem as the ‘laggard’ on the diffusion of innovation curve. I’d contend that it’s as dangerous and damaging to have baggage that says one vendor’s products are always the best solution as it is to say that no technological solution is best.

Storytelling and Reflection

Neoliberalism – the ideology at the root of all our problems – George Monbiot gives an explanation to Donald Trump, the Panama Papers and the stock exchange. For a focus on neolibrarlism and education, see David Price’s post on forced freedom. While Will Davies also provides a useful post exploring some of the complexities associated with neoliberalism.

Like communism, neoliberalism is the God that failed. But the zombie doctrine staggers on, and one of the reasons is its anonymity. Or rather, a cluster of anonymities.

Liberia outsources its education system – Graham Martin-Brown responds to the news that Liberia has decided to outsource its education system. Along with a few follow ups, Martin-Brown provides a wide perspective on the topic.

Bridge International’s investors from Bill Gates to Mark Zuckerberg reads like the Knights of Ayn Rand but even the UK’s DFID have made an investment in what would be illegal in the UK

Pathways for Creative Leadership – A reflection from Laura Hilliger on the challenges of being creative and the emotions that this sometimes produces.

Who are creative leaders? They’re the people who have ideas to solve problems. Many times they’re the Consiglieri to a manager. They don’t coordinate people, they coordinate ideas. They’re the people who gain merit inside of an organization, but do not “climb the ladder” in a traditional sense – e.g. they don’t move up the hierarchy.

Better Teachers? Better at what Exactly? – Ned Manning questions the mantra around quality teaching and makes the comparison with Finland in an Op-Ed piece for The Age.

Until we are capable of putting our children’s needs in front of anything else, we will continue to slip down the educational league table. It has nothing to do with better teachers. It’s got everything to do with protecting our children from politicians.

Fighting Student Anxiety and Lack of Engagement with Free Play and Inquiry-Based Learning – AJ Juliani unpacks the connections between anxiety, engagement and inquiry, providing different research to paint a clear picture, as well as solutions as to what we can do to fix some of the problems.

What are we doing to add play back into our schools, and back into our children’s lives as parents, teachers, and leaders? When we look at the research, the studies, the medical community’s recommendation, and the real life stories of schools in the US and abroad–it all shows the importance of free play. Let’s go beyond recognizing the need, and start intentionally providing time and space for play.

The Double-Edged Sword of Reflection / Reflections of a Reluctant Writer – Jon Andrews responds to Naomi Barnes post on caring arguing that reflection is essential, but not always obvious.

Reflection is, in my opinion, a double-edged sword. The process of reflecting is a worthwhile one, but it can bring illumination and affirmation in one breath, disappointment and frustration in another. Either way, our work demands reflection of us. Question is, how best to do it, when do we do it and how do we get the most out of it so all benefit?

FOCUS ON … GIFS

With the recent addition of GIFs to a range of applications, here are a few resources to help make more sense of what all the fuss is about:


READ WRITE RESPOND #004

So that is April for me, how about you? As always, interested to hear. Feel free to respond and let me know if you have any thoughts and/or feedforward for the newsletter.

Also, feel free to forward this on to others if you found anything of interest or maybe you want to subscribe?

As always, stay well.

Aaron Davis

@mrkrndvs

🤔 #WhatIf every teacher was a DJ?

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A link was shared with me today to a new course around a course in clinical teaching. There is something that does not sit right about the idea of being clinical. I reckon that it represents an emotional detachment. To me, a marksman is clinical. A surgeon is clinical. I am not sure if a teacher should necessarily be ‘clinical’? This got me thinking then what a teacher should be?

In my thinking, I was surfing Youtube and came across an interview with Mark Ronson unpacking his record collection. He provided a breadth, appreciation and understanding that really blew me away. In one story, he shared a time when Prince came into a club where he was performing. After racking his mind as to how to get his attention, he dropped an obscure 70’s beat into the middle of his set. Low and behold, Prince made his way up to the stage to find out more about the track.

This made me wonder what it might mean for every teacher to be a DJ. That is, to have a knowledge and connection with their audience (staff and students) to go far beyond progression points. This as a metaphor might better capture the science and art of teaching.Â

📰 Read Write Respond #003


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) licenseMy Month of March

March has been a weird month. Everything just seems to have flown on by at school. We unpacked mindsets as a part of the instructional model. Intervention kept on intervening, with the highlight being the use of TouchCast and the green screen to support recordings. I also had the opportunity to pitch an idea as a part of an (unsuccessful) job application which was interesting. Wonder why more processes aren't like that?

At home, I am learning first hand just how much students in Foundation grow and learn, with my daughter coming on leaps and bounds. Actually both are flying with the youngest considering taking up the act of crawling.

In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:


Here then are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …

Learning and Teaching

10 Practical Ways to Innovate in Your Classroom – AJ Juliani provides a range of ways to innovate your classroom, including everything from Genius Hour to sharing tutorials online.

I’m calling these 10 examples practical because I believe they are doable. They work in most grade levels, in most schools, in most situations. However, as we talked about in a previous post, you and your students are going to have to be the ultimate decision makers on whether or not any of these ideas would work. 

Learner Agency – More than just a buzzword – Claire Amos provides 10 ways you might provide Learner Agency in your classroom or school.

If the world around us wasn't changing so rapidly, we might have got away with sticking our heads in the sand and believing (like certain schools still do) that effective education means little, if any, learner agency and whole lot of control and teacher centred pedagogy.  Don't get me wrong, there is still a place for direct instruction and even rote learning, but if you are limiting yourself to such practice, no matter how awesomely charismatic you might be, you are doing your students a massive disservice.

‘I Don’t Know What To Do With This Child … They Can’t Speak English!’ – Anne Del Conte draws on her experiences working with EAL/D students to provide a collection of classroom strategies.

My plea is that our new language learners are not given ‘busy work’; like colouring-in, or childish toys to play with or books to read that are not age appropriate. Please don’t leave them in a corner to fend for themselves and grow bored while both of you wait until the EAL/D teacher comes to withdraw them for their special lessons. If you need help, just ask someone.

Explainer: how is literacy taught in schools? – Stewart Riddle and Eileen Honan provide an explanation as to how literacy is taught in Australia. 

There is no doubt that Australia is a literacy-dependent society. The demand on young people is growing within the context of international test rankings and competition, an increasingly globalised workforce and a transitioning economy that requires highly sophisticated literacy skills. As such, it is important that literacy teaching in classrooms reflects the very best approaches that research, policy and curriculum design can provide.

Best Way To Learn Any Subject: Curation – Robin Good not only provides a clear explanation of curation, but a grounding for its place within education.

Rather than diligently memorizing the notions written by others inside his textbooks or the theorems presented to him in class lectures, the learner who curates the subject he wants to learn, develops a true understanding of the subject and a personal opinion about it. I would venture to say that he now “owns” the subject, rather than simply “knowing” about it. 

6 Keys to Connecting With the Disconnected – Chris Wejr unpacks a range of solutions for supporting students who have become disconnected. 

Connecting is more important now than ever. According to a 2011 study of youth done by the Public Health Agency of Canada, just over half of our grade 10 students feel that they belong and have a teacher that cares about them in school. It is difficult for me to hear this as I know how hard we work in education. How can almost half of our students not feel cared for and a sense of belonging? The question must me asked… knowing this, now what? We know the links between positive school environment and mental health and we know the impact we CAN have on our students so what are we doing about this as educators, schools and as a society? 

The Day Began Gently – Jon Harper shares a range of ideas as to how we can better start the day off with ourselves, our students and our colleagues.

Tomorrow morning starts tonight. Plan right now how you are going to make it go well for your students, your staff and yourself. I may not get to lie next to my son as he gradually awakes. But I will hug him and kiss him the first chance I get. He may not run to greet me when I am pulling in the driveway. But I can run to him once I open the front door. And he might not tell me over and over again how much he missed me. But I can tell him.

Edtech

The Problem with #edtech Debates – Jose Picardo provides a great post adding to the debate over the importance of edtech and place within education (see postergate). It is an important post for the points made, as well as the links to other posts, including his case study of success. 

Technology isn’t always the solution, but isn’t the problem either. Let’s have an informed debate. Over to you.

Position on Digital Evolutionary Continuum – Mal Lee and Roger Broadie provide a continuum to help with plotting a school's journey to normalisation. 

Before embarking on your school’s digital evolutionary journey you need to know where you are and the likely path ahead.

'I Love My Label': Resisting the Pre-Packaged Sound in Ed-Tech – Continuing to unpack a more personal experience of edtech, Audrey Watters builds on the punk metaphor outlined by Jim Groom and Adam Croom to put forward a vision of the future less dictated by commercial algorithms and more curated by human communities. Jim Groom also provided a thorough summary of his experience at Indie Ed Tech Conference. This is fantastic post not only for Groom’s insights, but the breadth of links attached. 

Indie means we don’t need millions of dollars, but it does mean we need community. We need a space to be unpredictable, for knowledge to be emergent not algorithmically fed to us. We need intellectual curiosity and serendipity – we need it from scholars and from students.

Welcome to the Paradox (and Myth) of “Best Tool for X” – In the search for the best collaborative platform, Alan Levine touches on the paradox of deciding on the best tool for a task. The reality is that we only have a limited time to test and therefore often come to depend on others and our own intuition. 

This, welcome to Paradox. To really compare them, even a demo session won’t cut it. I won’t really know without putting it to use in a real situation, with real people. The time it would take to do this? And so I have to thus make some hunch guesses based on limited skim by, reviews, and what people I might know who have more experience. And while I understand why people want to know when they ask, and despite the endless flow of listicles that people publish, there can never be a simple answer to “What is the best tool for X?” There are a lot of importance differences between X for me and X for you.

The Overselling of Ed Tech – Alfie Kohn adds his thoughts to the debate on edtech, touching on the various promises made and the true impact of technology, to amplify what is already in place.

We can’t answer the question “Is tech useful in schools?” until we’ve grappled with a deeper question: “What kinds of learning should be taking place in those schools?” If we favor an approach by which students actively construct meaning, an interactive process that involves a deep understanding of ideas and emerges from the interests and questions of the learners themselves, well, then we’d be open to the kinds of technology that truly support this kind of inquiry. Show me something that helps kids create, design, produce, construct — and I’m on board. Show me something that helps them make things collaboratively (rather than just on their own), and I’m even more interested — although it’s important to keep in mind that meaningful learning never requires technology, so even here we should object whenever we’re told that software (or a device with a screen) is essential.

The New Digital Divide – Cortney Harding examines the digital divide that is occurring between those who have and those who have not. This is not simply access to technology, but access to resources required to protect themselves and their digital presence.

The great promise of the Internet and the new digital world was that it would create a level playing field and allow everyone to access the same information. Unfortunately, it has also created a world where accessing that information has very different costs depending on how much money you make or the color of your skin.

ClassDojo and the Measurement, Management of Growth Mindsets – Ben Williamson provides a thorough discussion of the connection between growth mindset and Class Dojo. In the same vein as Audrey Watters, Williamson makes the link with fixing the individual and the Silicon Valley ideology.

The emphasis of both is on fixing people, rather than fixing social structures. It prioritizes the design of interventions that seek to modify behaviours to make people perform as optimally as possible according to new behavioural and psychological norms. Within this mix, new technologies of psychological measurement and behaviour management such as ClassDojo have a significant role to play in schools that are under pressure to demonstrate their performance according to such norms.

I’ve Seen the Greatest A.I. Minds of My Generation Destroyed by Twitter – The New Yorker provides a great summary of Microsoft's failed Twitter bot.

Why didn’t Microsoft know better? Plop a consciousness with the verbal ability of a tween and the mental age of a blastocyst into a toxic, troll-rich environment like Twitter and she’s bound to go Nazi.

Storytelling and Reflection

Publishing is dead. This is why – Jon Westerberg provides a summary of the state of newspapers, media and publishing. He questions the institutions that still push students through journalism degrees into professions that no longer exist. 

Will what we see as publishers now — Buzzfeed, Vox — eventually be seen only as advertisers? And will the profession of journalism one day cease to exist?

Why? – Chris Harte reflects on the question why and wonders if reinstating it at the centre of learning may help to develop a deeper inquiry into life's big questions. 

Maybe by engendering a love of the question why? in our children, we can help them to ask the big questions. To disrupt the status quo. To enquire into the depths of the universe and the meaning of life. To question peacefully, truthfully and with the intent of making the world a better place. To stare boldly into the eyes of the heavens and ask why?

#rawthought: What If We…Ditch “Best Practices”? – The ever creative Amy Burvall wonders about the notion of ‘best’ practice and questions whether we instead need to think about what some have termed as next practice. 

What if we… stopped being so sure of ourselves and instead became confident in our uncertainty (like Keats’ “negative capability”?). What if we…felt free to explore a host of options to test what works best in the here and now, and in respect of the context? What if we…embraced the fact that a “best practice” is really flexibility and evolution over time?

True for Us, True for Them – Emily Garwitz reflects on learning and suggests that what works for us as teachers should also apply for the students in our classroom.

Here’s something I know to be true: I learn by trying and failing and then trying again. True for us, true for them. I learn through active, experiential learning rather than passive learning. True for us, true for them. I learn through collaborating with others. True for us, true for them. I learn by moving, thinking out loud, getting personalized feedback…true for us, true for them. 

Trouble Brewing at Snake Mountain High – Jon Andrews provides a satire reflecting on the current state of education, with the battle between autonomy and edu-businesses. This was also the seed for a whole collection of posts, including The index-cardificationof education, A pedagogy of Astro Boy: education and social justice, The Missing Superheroes and Skeletor Loves it When Planning Comes Together. 

I’m not paying you to think. I’m paying you to do. We don’t have time for all this PD guff, collaboration, staff voice and the like. Look, I’ve seen enough. You have your work cut out turning this place around. I want no excuses – from you or the students. I want a return on investment.

How the Tories picked free schools: chaotic, inconsistent and incompetent – It took a three-year legal battle for Laura McInerney to see papers on why some free school applications succeed and others fail. Her story provides an insight into political side of education and the challenges associated with change. 

Scientists have discovered that people make fairer choices when they are being watched, if only by a robot. England needs more schools to cope with increasing pupil numbers and I believe free schools can be a solution, but only if people have faith in the process. To make that happen, someone needs to be the robot. So I will keep on asking for information – even if it lands me in court.

How Does Your School Innovate? – Steve Brophy unpacks change in schools, making the case for the iterative process. 

Traditionally at schools,  the pilot or trial is the go to method to validate the effectiveness of a particular tool, approach or change in practice and I have been a part of many trials and pilots in my career.  Some successful, some total failures.  My issue with the pilot as a methodology is that we determine the course but often we don’t tend to stray from that original determined path.

Stop Innovating in School. Please – Will Richardson makes a plea to focus on what matters most and that is learning not teaching.

To put it simply, innovation in schools today is far too focused on improving teaching, not amplifying learning. The real innovation that we need in schools has little to do with technologies or tools or products designed to improve our teaching. The real innovation, instead, is in relearning why we want kids in schools in the first place. 

Network Leadership – Cameron Paterson investigates leadership in a networked era. He outlines a series of steps needed to move from traditional hierarchical leadership, to one more fluid and agile.

Education is moving from a narrow pipeline metaphor to an incredibly diverse web of outside networks and knowledge is becoming literally inseparable from the network that enables it. Reminiscent of Ivan Illich’s learning webs, knowledge is now distributed across networks of connections, and learning consists of immersing oneself in networks by creating and sharing. The future of learning lies in networks, and networks require a new form of leadership, prioritising peer to peer relationships to build creative capacity.

Playing the Game of School – Edna Sackson shares a great activity to help appreciate what school might mean and how it might feel to be in one.

FOCUS ON … Measuring the Success of Technology


READ WRITE RESPOND #003

So that is March for me, how about you? As always, interested to hear. 

Also, feel free to forward this on to others if you found anything of interest or maybe you want to subscribe?

🤔 #WhatIf we stop measuring everything with an imaginary age?

In a recent report in The Independent, it was highlighted that Donald Trump uses the grammar of an 11. My interest is not necessarily on the quality of Trump’s delivery though, but rather the ’11 Year Old’ who actually represents this standard. Who decided what an 11 year olds langauge was? And worse, how can it not have changed or morphed since Abraham Lincoln? I am left wondering what the langauge of a 35 year old is? Or have I stopped growing?

🤔 What if as life-long learners we were taught our whole life?

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There is a place for the teacher to support the learner in regards to how to learn, but imagine if we were supported by a teacher ALL of our life, what would that look like? Does it happen now and we don’t even know it? What curriculum would you use at lets say 36? What would it mean to differentiate learning in this environment? Would our approaches be different? Why or why not? As usual, I hold on loosely to this idea. Really not sure.

🤔 What if we had ATR that allowed you to quickly scan music and split it into its parts?

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Often when asked about predictions for the future, I wonder if there will come a time when we can quickly and easily remix music, leaving our own mark. To me, this would need some sort of Audio Track Recognition. I wonder though whether at the same time that such technology becomes available, whether copyright will simply hold us back. This is something Steven Johnson reflects on in his presetnation at Google, it is well worth a watch:Â

🤔 What if Taylor Swift’s Out of the Woods was mashed up with Nine Inch Nails’ Perfect Drug?

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Often when I listen to music I wonder what if would sound like if it were mashed with something else? A recent example was listening to Taylor Swift’s Out of the Woods:

I was left thinking what it might sound like if it were mashed up with Nine Inch Nail’s Perfect Drug

I will continue to imagine

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🤔 What if realist fiction included real characters too?

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I can still remember the day. An overcast Saturday morning in March at Longfellow Reserve. A small oval at the back of Mooroolbark. It was day two of the last game of the season and for many of us the last game of our junior careers. I had been brought up from the seconds for the game. Gone from opening to batting no. 11. It did not matter as we were bowled out in 20 overs, leaving a pointless 20 overs to bowl again. It was decided that everyone would get two overs a piece. So here I was, having barely bowled all year, lumbering up with my leggies (my answer to being a chucker.) I had no idea who I was bowling to, let alone what I was trying to do. Really, I just wanted to let ’em rip. The eyes of the batsman lit up. Easy pickings. Sadly not. The batsman tried to slog me for six and instead of caught off a top edge. He trudged off as I celebrated. The batsman was Sam Mitchell, the four time Hawthorn premiership player. This is me, my story. Slightly desperate and somewhat pathetic. Sadly, this is a story that seems to be silenced too often in young adult fiction.vvvvvvv