Replied to Slice of Life: The Ethical Questions of Ease (Who Pays the Price?) by dogtrax (
Dang it. I’m sipping the tasty Google juice, and sharing it with my students. But ...I am also regularly talking about tech company’s intentions for gathering data and information about us, as means for making money from advertising and more. I hope that all balances out, and that in my attempt to make my life easier as a teacher I am not putting my students in the crosshairs of a technology behemoth.
Interesting post Kevin. I am particularly intrigued by the question of data. You look at something like Draftback, which plays back a Doc’s revision history. It can be easy to be enamoured by such functionality. What is intriguing is that Google keeps all this data, that is just accessed via API’s to produce the playback. Why?

Another interesting example of the potential is the Classroom Extension. Not only does it allow you to easily set assignments, but when installed by staff and students, it provides the means to send a sight to students. This though is taken to a whole new level by Hapara, which allows teachers to lock a student’s screen. It can be easy to view Hapara poorly, but it only builds on what Google makes possible. This is taken to its zenith with Hapara Analytics.

I will not deny, I have drank the KoolAid (and probably still do). I think though that like with all technology, I am somewhat in awe of the affordances, but also critical of the consequences. I wonder about Martin Weller’s call to ‘rewild edtech’. For me one thing that needs to change is data, as Caulfield suggests, at the least that would be a start.

Replied to Engaging Students’ Parents in a Collaborative Digital Place (
As Karen Mapp says, involvement tends to be passive, falling short of real effectiveness. With digital places like Schoology, we can positively influence students, as Matthew Kraft says, “by engaging parents as partners in the education process.” The research on the benefits of parent engagement and school achievement are indisputable. Our infrastructure is in place, now it’s a matter of creating the expectations and dedicating the time necessary for teachers and parents to collaboratively advance student learning for all.
This is a great post Bob. Engaging with parents is such a wicked educational problem. I remember developing a focus a few years ago as a part of my Google Certified Educator experience:

How Might We ENGAGE PARENTS in a CULTURAL SHIFT to make RELATIONSHIPS and CONNECTIONS the focus of learning?

What I learnt from the experience is that it is not as simple as just inviting parents in.  I developed the eBox blog as a way of engaging, however it never really took. Since then applications like Seesaw have really opened up this space.


Replied to 4 Ways that Google Might be Hurting Education
This is such an interesting post Bernard. In regards to the ‘commercialisation of educators’, I am a Google Certified Innovator and enjoyed my experience at Google. However, it was the opportunity to work with other passionate educators which was the boon, not the focus on tools.

I was a Google Educator before they changed the program, but my credentials have since lapsed. I could justify completing the credentials as it is a core part of my current work. However, I have concerns about ticking a box. I prefer to use my time to develop my own capacity myself, documented in my monthly newsletter. I think that Rafranz Davis captures some of the issues too.

In regards to the influence of Google, I am more concerned about the influence of GAFA, FANGS or whatever acronym you choose to use. I am happy to support teachers where they are at. I have written about Apple, Adobe and Microsoft. I have also written about open software and managing my own domain. In regards to disclosure, I would like to think that I am transparent, but I guess I could always do better.

Replied to Pickles and Shoe Tying
I love this comment Alan:

What I think is worth writing about are things in your day that nibble at your attention. That make you pause, ever so briefly.

I think sometimes I forget this. Interestingly, Kin Lane shared something similar lately to:

It would KILL ME to not be able to tell stories. I need storytelling to do what I do. To work through ideas. It is how I learn from others.

You have both reinvigorated me to stop worrying and just get back to sharing and storytelling.

Silicon Valley Futures

American libertarian activist Patri Friedman thinks that the future of the city-state are ‘seasteads’:

Patri is taking the Silicon Valley mindset and applying it to the nation-state. There are all these things you could now do that didn’t exist when our current system of government was invented, he told me. Constant online direct-democracy voting, building smart-cities, using crypto-currencies. And yet we still use a 19th-century model. source

Although not if French Polynesia has anything to do with it.

An alternative to the floating city maybe reclaiming reefs, such as that which is happening in the South China Sea

Building on the concept of driverless cars is the notion of driverless hotels:

In a Tesla Model S there are only 18 moving parts compared to the 1500 in an average internal combustion engine vehicle. As such it’s predicted that by 2025 all new vehicles produced will be 100% electric and cost much less than the cheapest combustion engine vehicles sold today. This opens endless possibilities to re-imagine vehicles as moving rooms able to cater to a vast array of human experiences and activities: the driverless office, the driverless boardroom, the driverless gym, the driverless bedroom, the driverless bathroom, the driverless cafe, the driverless cinema and the driverless shop. These rooms need not be used in isolation either. They can be dynamic, modular and interconnected with other driverless rooms via an ondemand request. Tap a button or speak a request, and moments later you can have a bathroom or gym module drive itself to your location and autonomously connect to the office module you’re currently working from.

Immense vertical skyscrapers can autonomously lift these driverless rooms and their passengers hundreds of meters up, where they’re slotted into position before the wall panels open to reveal other connected room modules.source

The question that such ideas pose is:

What if Silicon Valley’s core beliefs — even the benign ones — are wrong?source

The Myth of the Nation-State

In his reflections on the city-state, Jamie Barlett explains that:

nation-states are nothing but agreed-upon myths: we give up certain freedoms in order to secure others. But if that transaction no longer works, and we stop agreeing on the myth, it ceases to have power over us. source

This is similar to the ideas of Benedict Anderson and the notion of ‘imagined communities’. It is also interesting to consider this idea in regards to Edward Said’s discussion of ‘coexistence with the preservation of difference’.

Read Write Respond #020

My Month of August

Another month has flown on by. In regards to work, I have continued to explore reporting, this included being lucky enough to attend a collective looking at ongoing reporting. Biannual reporting is such an intriguing area and seems to be a barometer of innovation and change. I was also lucky enough to run a session on flipped learning using flipped learning focusing on Global2. It seems that creating an environment that provides time, support and autonomy can work.

On the family front, the coughs and sneezes associated with the long winter have continued on. Apparently warnings have also gone out that this Spring will be bad for hay fever …

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

Here are some of the ideas that have left me thinking …

Learning and Teaching

“‘Using Visitors and Residents to visualise digital practices’” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Using ‘Visitors and Residents’ to visualise digital practices – David White and Alison Le Cornu have published a paper continuing their exploration of digital belonging and the problems with age-based categorisations. One interesting point made was the blur that has come to the fore between organisations and individuals. It is interesting to consider this model next to White’s work in regards to lurkers, as well as the ability to ‘return the tools’ without inadvertently leaving some sort of trace.

While it is tempting to work as if we were operating with two dichotomies, Visitor and Resident, and personal and professional, such an approach would overlook the ubiquity of the Web and the fact that many people now do what we have loosely called ‘professional’ activities at home, and indeed, may also do what we have termed ‘personal’ Web-based activities at work or during formal learning sessions. The key point here is that the digital amplifies the ability to shift context beyond the constraints of our immediate, physical architectural environment (Fisher, 2009; Wittkower, 2016). In the same way, people can appear to be operating in one mode of engagement when in reality they’re doing something entirely different. They might appear to be participating in a class activity using a social media app, for example — a typically Resident approach — while in reality they’re filling in a job application online on a secure site: a predominantly Visitor approach. This is significant because it indicates a type of blurring, where the physical architectural environment no longer imposes the same degree of ‘authority’ as it once did in terms of behaviour or modes of engagement. In other words, the Web makes it possible to undertake activities that once could only be done in specific physical places.

Feedback, It’s Emotional – Deborah Netolicky weaves together some insights into the emotional nature of feedback, supporting her thoughts with an array of evidence. I have written about feedback before, however Netolicky’s work highlights the personal nature of it all.

It is through seeing our work through the eyes of others, and by being open to criticism, that we can figure out how to push our work forward, improve it incrementally, take it in a new direction, or defend it more vigorously.

Are We Eager For Change? – Grant Lichtman provides a number of short activities to start the conversation around change. For Matt Esterman, the challenge is setting in place a series of digestible chunks to facilitate rapid evolution. Maybe this is encompassed by the idea of agile sprints?

What if the school leader is alone in understanding the “why”, or if other community stakeholders, particularly large groups of the faculty, do not see the need to change what they have done in the past? How do we get this conversation started in ways that nurture the possibility of change?

Build Labeling Games with Quizlet Diagrams – Tony Vincent unpacks the recent changes to Quizlet which allows users to add interactive diagrams. These can be used as an activity or an interactive resource. This new feature provides an additional interactive layer to an image. Vincent sees potential in students creating their own diagrams to demonstrate knowledge and understanding.

It’s true: with Quizlet Diagrams, a teacher has the ability to create study aids for their students. However, I think students learn better by creating the diagrams themselves.

Young and eSafe – Developed by the eSafety Commision, Young and Safe provides advice by young people, for young people. This includes a five part video series, stories of young people’s experiences and expert advice from people in the know.

Young & eSafe is an initiative of the Office of the eSafety Commissioner. The eSafety Office works to keep Australians safer online by providing resources, programs and services which promote positive online behaviour.


“What Do You Want to Know about Blogging?” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

What Do You Want to Know about Blogging? – Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano responds to number of questions about blogging, such as how to start out in the classroom, setup precautions, develop a habit and extend your thinking beyond the simple view of blogging. Kathleen Morris’ post on why every educator should blog, Marina Rodriguez’ tips for student blogging and Doug Belshaw’s guide how to write a blog post add to this discussion.

I have found that the more pressure I put on myself to blog, the more stressed I get and the less I write. Blogging is a pleasure for me that becomes a burden, when I give myself deadlines. Another technique that seems to work for me is that I create lots and lots of drafts. I start with titles and save them as drafts, then continue to add to these drafts, as I find little time here and a little time there. Then suddenly, I realize that one of the drafts is ready to publish

Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? – Jean Twenge explores some of the statistics around the use of smartphones and social media by teens. It would be easy to say take phones off teens. Joshua Kim suggests that every big technological leap seems to engender a new set of worries and things often work out fine, while Alexander Samuel argues that it is parents, not teens, that we should be worried. Another approach maybe exploring the impact of notifications. Overall, Katie Davis, Emily Weinstein and Howard Gardner warn against simplistic narratives.

Social-networking sites like Facebook promise to connect us to friends. But the portrait of iGen teens emerging from the data is one of a lonely, dislocated generation. Teens who visit social-networking sites every day but see their friends in person less frequently are the most likely to agree with the statements “A lot of times I feel lonely,” “I often feel left out of things,” and “I often wish I had more good friends.” Teens’ feelings of loneliness spiked in 2013 and have remained high since.

How ready is your school for digital age learning? Building School Capacity – Christine Haynes shares D-LIFE, a framework designed to support schools with the implementation of technology. It revolves around ten categories: leadership, infrastructure, services, implementation, policies, quality, resources, environment, learning and community.

D-LIFE provides a framework to evaluate current levels of implementation, and determine areas where school growth is required. D-LIFE can also be used to guide leaders to ask the questions of other stakeholders, like technicians, parents, and faculty to ensure educational goals remain the priority of technical initiatives.

Decentralize It! – Paul Ford discusses the benefits of setting up your own server and the lessons one is able to learn through the process. This is a topic that Dave Winer also touches upon. Coming from the perspective of a domain of one’s own, this feels like a continuation of the narrative. Mike Caulfield adds a word of caution that if such choices are driven by a sense of activism that it is how tools are used, rather than what tools, which matters.

I look at Raspberry Pi Zeros with Wi-Fi built in and I keep thinking, what would it take to just have a little web server that was only for three or four people, at home? Instead of borrowing computer time from other people I could just buy a $10 computer the size of a stick of gum. Which next year could be a $7 computer, and eventually a $1 computer. It could run a Dropbox-alike, something like OwnCloud. It’s easy in theory but kind of a pain in practice.I’d need to know how to open ports on my home router.I’d need to be able to get the headless device onto WiFi.I’d need a place to plug it in, plugs are hard to come by.It needs to physically be somewhere.It would need a case.You need to buy an SD card with Linux on it.And on and on.The world doesn’t want us to run web servers at home. But I do. I really think we should run web servers from gumstick computers at home.

Social Media isn’t for Learning – Benjamin Doxtdator considers a number of challenges and concerns around using social media for learning. Whether it be the extractive nature of platforms or the inherent discrimination built in, Doxtdator questions the use of such platforms as Facebook and Twitter as a means of engaging with the open web. On top of this, he wonders how receptive we are when students do not respond the way we might like or expect, something Bryan Alexander also talks about. Personally, I wonder if an answer is to support through the use of managed spaces that offer a sense of control. I also think that whatever solution is adopted, it is an imperative to apply a critical lense, rather than solely focus on the ease of use.

For social media to make a real difference in schools, rather than end up on the heap of ed tech that has failed to live up to its revolutionary potential, we have to be willing to accept the real risks: that students might challenge us with their voices and say things we disagree with, and that not all students navigate the digital world with the same mix of privileges and vulnerabilities.

Storytelling and Reflection

“On Ditching the (Dangerous) Dichotomy Between Content Knowledge and Creativity @amyburvall” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

#rawthought: On Ditching the (Dangerous) Dichotomy Between Content Knowledge and Creativity – Amy Burvall explains that the key to joining the dots is having dots to join in the first place. Reflecting on the dichotomy between creativity and critical thinking, Burvall illustrates arts dependency on knowledge and skills. The challenge is supporting students in making this learning experience stick. Deb Netolicky also discusses some of these points in here discussion of ‘21st Century Learning’, while Bill Ferriter questions what comes first.

Virtually every piece of media we are confronted with (from pop songs to poetry, from TV shows to classic texts), makes assumptions that the audience knows certain references. It’s our jobs as teachers and parents to help the young people in our care to gather their knowledge “dots”, find a place for them in the recesses of their memory, and grow agile in making connections between them.

Teach History – Audrey Watters argues that instead of teaching love, we need to teach that the past is not past, but rather still very much a part of the present. To understand what happened in Charlottesville you need to know something about the histories and legacies that they are built upon. Associated with this, Grant Lichtman argues that educating students about the situation needs to be a priority in every classroom. Anna Kamenetz collates a number of resources to support people, while Xian Franzinger Barrett outlines seven ways teachers can respond. Sam Dastiyari also warns that this is not just a problem unique to the USA.

We have to fundamentally alter how we teach history – and that means teaching about hate, not just love. It means teaching about American evils, not just American exceptionalism. It means teaching about resistance too, not just oppression. And it means rethinking all the practices tied up in our educational institutions – systemic and interpersonal practices that perpetuate this weekend’s violence.

How thinking of myself as a ‘Human API’ helped me get over my ego – Doug Belshaw uses the idea of an API to appreciate the interactions that are a part of being a consultant. As Belshaw explains, an API does not complain unless provided invalid input, it provides an expected output for a given input, are (usually) well documented, are inclusive and don’t discriminate between users. Not only is this useful in appreciating various choices and decisions, it also provides a concrete way of explaining APIs. I also wonder how such thinking fits with the idea of assemblages?

Thinking about life in Human API terms can be liberating. It forces you to think about what you’re willing to accept as an input, what you’re providing as an output, and what overall puzzle you’re helping solve. I think it’s a great metaphor and it’s one I’ll be using more often.

There Will be Blood – GDPR and EdTech – Eylan Ezekiel discusses the changes to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. This includes the right to access data, to have questions answered, the right to have data erased and the right to object to personal data being used to build a profile. The fear that it is too late, as companies like Amazon and Google explore the potential of automation and the data that comes with that, while John Grubar highlights another example of how our data is surreptitiously siphoned off by websites and applications. From an educational point of view, Ben Williamson demonstrates how platforms, like Class Dojo, influence the way data is collected in the classroom, which has a flow-on effect on the development of policy. Coming from the perspective of practice, Amy Collier provides seven strategies for treating data with more care, while Emily Talmage worries that data is destroying schools.

If Data is the new ‘Oil’ – then the GDPR is an attempt to bring regulation on the wild oil rush that has been going on across many sectors, before those industries take too much control over the geology of our privacy.


“‘What National Testing Data can Tell us’” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

It is that time again, when the NAPLAN results are released and the media goes gaga about the state of education. Here is a collection of some more reasoned responses:

For a further discussion of NAPLAN, I recommend National Testing in Schools, An Australian assessment edited by Bob Lingard, Greg Thompson and Sam Sellar. It provides a historical context, as well as unpacks many of the effects associated with the program, including media responses, pressures on schools, impact on various educators and the experience of students.


So that is August 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?

Cover image via Justlego101

Strategies for Gathering Student Data with more Care

Amy Collier provides seven strategies for taking more care when working with data:

Audit student data repositories and policies associated with third-party providers. Document every “place” that student data goes and what the policies are for handling student data. What third parties have access to student data, why do they have access, and what can they do with the data? Who decides — and how are decisions made — about third-party access to student data? Do students get a say?Have a standard and well-known policy about how to handle external inquiries for student data and information. This is less about staff mishandling student data and more about the coercion and intimidation that could yield problematic results if there are no clear guidelines for staff to follow. Even if designated a digital sanctuary, a campus may be legally bound to release some student data, but it should have clear processes and requirements associated with those situations. Staff should understand how and when they can say no to inquiries about students, and campuses should investigate the legal limits of noncompliance with such inquiries.Provide an audit of data to students who want to know what data is kept on them, how the data is kept, where it is kept, and who else has access. That is, if students want to know about their data, the institution should be able to give them that information. Better yet, students should be allowed to download every bit of their data so that they can parse it themselves. Consider giving students a chance to rap the sanctuary knocker to signal their desire for more data protections.Have clear guidelines and regulations for how data is communicated and transmitted between offices. Campuses can better protect student data transmitted between the people and offices that should have access (e.g., by not transmitting data via e-mail). Campuses should have clear policies and guidelines about the protection of student data on mobile devices.Take seriously the data policies of third-party vendors. Don’t work with vendors whose contracts stipulate that they can use and share student data without the consent of students or the institution.9Closely examine and rethink student-tracking protocols. How necessary are learning dashboards? What are the risks of early-warning systems? How problematic are the acceptable use policies? How long does the institution need to keep data? Does it really need all of the data being collected?Give students technological agency in interacting with the institution. Implementing a Domain of One’s Own initiative, which puts students in the system administrator role for their domain, can be a way to give students more control and protection over their data. This may not be enough, however, since students could easily expose themselves to malicious and dangerous forces (e.g., hackers) through their own domains. A robust educational and mentoring program is also required. As a result, students can learn how to connect their data, via their domains, in ways that are safer and more manageable. source

Decentralised Networks

The web by its nature is decentralised, however platforms often try to centralise it. Paul Ford discusses the benefits of setting up your own server and the lessons one is able to learn through the process.

Then I look at Raspberry Pi Zeros with Wi-Fi built in and I keep thinking, what would it take to just have a little web server that was only for three or four people, at home? Instead of borrowing computer time from other people I could just buy a $10 computer the size of a stick of gum. Which next year could be a $7 computer, and eventually a $1 computer. It could run a Dropbox-alike, something like OwnCloud. It’s easy in theory but kind of a pain in practice.I’d need to know how to open ports on my home router.I’d need to be able to get the headless device onto WiFi.I’d need a place to plug it in, plugs are hard to come by.It needs to physically be somewhere.It would need a case.You need to buy an SD card with Linux on it.And on and on.The world doesn’t want us to run web servers at home. But I do. I really think we should run web servers from gumstick computers at home. source

This is a topic that Dave Winer also touches upon.

Participation within Assemblages

Ian Guest reflects on the nature of participation from the perspective of their place within an assemblage:

What about the epistemological contribution of the nonhumans I wondered? Leaving aside the potentially emotive discussion of animals in research for a moment, I’m not going to claim that nonhumans should be part of our ethical discussions; they’re not likely to care whether we call them subjects or participants. Actor-network theory troubles the dichotomous distinctions of subject and object or researcher and researched. If we think instead of the assemblage of which the research output is part, then the researcher/participant/interviewee, the media through which they interact, the data they generate, the reflections which are made and the texts which emerge, all influence one another. They are all entangled or interwoven, jointly responsible, more or less, in the production of the thesis, book or article. The output is not seen as the culmination of a linear sequence of events in which different actors participated at different times, but as an interwoven, performed assemblage. Named or not, all those who contributed to or collaborated in my research will be present in my thesis assemblage, intimately bound there by virtue of their ontological contribution. source

This reminds me of the research into lurkers and their role online.