Uncoachable?

Peter DeWitt reflects on the question, are some teachers uncoachable?

The truth is that at some point it is no longer the coaches job to work with a teacher if that teacher doesn’t want to work with the coach. At some point it is the job of the administrator to chime in and work with the teacher. Coaches are not supposed to be evaluators. The other day a very astute coach told me they feel like they are the sheriff without a gun.

Are Some Coaches Uncoachable?

What stands out is the difference between having a coach, which is about growth and development, and being a leader, which is making sure due process is followed.

Edtech’s inability to imagine the future

Benjamin Doxtdater reflects on the current state of EdTech and wonders if instead of teachers being scared that technology companies just aren’t ready for the future:

Perhaps it’s Edtech, not teachers, that lags far behind in its narrow discussion of technology. Rather than leading the way forward, Edtech is stuck in the past and irrelevant, especially to those of us who care about the intersection of technology and power.

On Edtech’s inability to imagine the future

Unbundling Education

Like its close cousin Disruption, unbundling has been a favourite philosophy of the silicon valley start up. It has often been applied to education (even, erm, by me). This piece for example boldly states “The bundle of knowledge and certification that have long-defined higher education is coming apart”. The idea has some merit – if education moves online, do we need all the services: content production, examination, accreditation, support, etc to come from one provider?

Martin Weller on Critically examining unbundling

Writing a Newsletter

There are many different presentation platforms. One that has come to the surface of late is the newsletter:

A newsletter can be a powerful tool as you not only make sense of your thinking, but also share this work with others. I believe that the process of reflection is involved as you create and publish a newsletter. I often have colleagues suggest that an RSS or Twitter feed, or subscriptions to their website is the same thing as a regular newsletter. IMHO, it is not the same thing. A good newsletter serves a specific purpose, and includes synthesis and reflection for you or your audience. You are actively curating content online

Ian O’Byrne on Three questions to consider as you develop an awesome newsletter

Trust matters!

Seth Godin highlights what matters most, trust. Too often we try and cheat this or avoid it, but without trust all else fails.

The real asset you’re building is trust.source

Julian Stodd argues that trust is something cultivated like a garden:

You cannot demand trust, but you may be able to create the conditions where it can emerge, and grow. We know from the Landscape of Trust research that ‘trust’ is held in relationships more so than contracts, so it’s perhaps in the way we forge, and validate, and maintain, those relationships that we are best placed to take action.

It is a little like gardening: you tend to the soil, and the seeds germinate. You do not directly make them germinate. If the conditions are right, they will grow.source

Education and Democracy

For him democracy is not a normal situation, i.e., it is not a way in which the police order exists, but rather occurs in the interruption of the order in the name of equality—which is why he says that democracy is sporadic. Furthermore, democratization for Rancière is not something that is done to others; it is something that people can only do themselves. Rancière connects this to the question of emancipation

Gert Biesta Good Education in an Age of Measurement p.125

Twitter as an idea, not just a platform

On one level, big social platforms borrowing features from one another has a long history in software development. Facebook alone took the “like” from Tumblr, the “check in” from Foursquare, “trending” from Twitter, and the “story” from Snapchat. But on another level, the recent moves to integrate real-time public posts show the internet not copying Twitter so much as they are absorbing it. Twitter is being unbundled before our eyes, and the implications are fascinating. source

I Stopped Blogging by Phillip Cooke

Just as there are many reasons why people blog, there are also many reasons why people do not. This is a useful reflection on the challenges with blogging.

So why haven’t I blogged?
 
Possible reasons include:
“I’m always too busy”, but that is just a copout. I was busy when I was blogging previously, but am I underestimating the impact of an increased work stress and absorption
Many of my current ideas and arguments are too new and immature to bring to an audience. But blogging I find helps to fast track these ideas.
I require a high level of energy reserve and confidence to hang an idea out to be critiqued, to take on criticism or just use feedback to modify and adjust my idea or thinking
Writing doesn’t come easily to me. I’ve always had ideas (I’m a good dreamer), but struggle to quickly put these into a clear written argument (I wasn’t an English person). So moving an idea to writing takes me time to both finish the dreaming and then to write, edit and rewrite. source

🤔 What if a computer could sit our test for us?

I was listening to a recent episode of RN Future Tense talk about developing a digital construct of ourselves that would exist long after we die. The idea of this virtual self is so that people could ask our opinion long after we die. This is something captured in a few ways in the Black Mirrors series. However, what I was left wondering is whether such virtual selves, based on understanding of the way we think, could sit a standardised tests, such as NAPLAN etc, for us?

📰 Read Write Respond #014

My Month of February

I thought when I stopped managing reports and timetables a few years ago that it would be a once in a lifetime. However, I have again gone down the rabbit hole this month getting my head around the features and affordances associated with a new administration package. I must admit that I find it interesting to compare different applications and the workflows that they create. Often leaves me wondering about which decisions are intentional and which are incidental.

On the home front, my youngest decided that it was time to start climbing the ladder for the trampoline in the backyard. After a couple of failures, she now flies up. It is fascinating seeing her learn things. It is also interesting to compare with our eldest. A living reminder that we are all different.

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

“Classroom Themes” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Why I Hate Classroom Themes – Emily Fintelman reflects on classroom themes and wonders what impact they are really having on learning. She suggests that our focus should be on how spaces are structured and strategies that can be used to give students more voice.

Take steps in setting up your room that will directly facilitate student learning, for example:

  • ensure there is a mix of individual reflection areas and table banks for group work
  • ensure an attractive, easy-to-access, visible display of a variety of texts for students to browse and choose from
  • put resources and equipment (like stationary or games) within reach of the students that use it, rather than locking it away in a cupboard (to only be bestowed with the teacher’s permission).

My Digital Portfolio Project Planning and More on My Digital Portfolio Project  – Bill Ferriter elaborates on his portfolio pilot that he recently started. Along with Kevin Hodgson’s post from last year, Ferriter’s provides a great resource for anyone wanting a place to start in regards to the how and why.

According to George Couros, Learning Portfolios are all about giving students chances to collect evidence of their own growth and progress as learners over time. They aren’t about spotlighting perfection. They are about promoting reflection. Showcase Portfolios, on the other hand, are designed to give students spaces to spotlight their very best work. Both types of portfolios have value to learners — but both serve very different purposes.

A Socratic Seminar for Elementary Learners – Jackie Gerstein provides an introduction to Socratic Seminar through the use of Dr. Seuss’s Sneetches.

The Benefits of Socratic Seminars are:

  • Offer opportunities for student voice
  • Embrace the power of open-ended questions
  • Often mimic how intellectual discourse occurs in real life
  • Support providing evidence-based arguments
  • Build active listening skills
  • Reinforce close reading
  • Approach real world solutions as having multiple perspectives
  • Hone critical thinking skills
  • Build oral communication skills
  • Emphasize the importance of critical reflection
  • Help to develop conflict resolution skills

The Challenge of Non-Disposable Assignments – Alan Levine discusses the concept of the ‘non-disposable assignments’ and the potential of collaborative collections where anyone can add an idea to the repository. Reflecting on his work with both ds106 and #CCQuests, Levine shares his insights gained along the way, including aspects to consider.

I am not claiming at all I know best how to create non-disposable / renewable assignments. I think I have a good hunch for thinking about them. My thinking includes:

  • Relevance… Are they working with content, ideas in their area of interest or work? Does it fit for them as much as for the assignment?
  • Are they creating, making, constructing something that is public?
  • Does it clearly have potential for helping someone beyond the person making it?
  • Does it not feel like a rote exercise?

Make a Student-Centred Classroom (Part One and Part Two) – In a series of posts, Richard Wells responds to various questions and concerns associated with developing a student-centred classroom. They include providing access to various strategies, knowing what tools are available and remembering the place of the educator to assist not answer.  Along with Tom Whitby’s post on the Ikea effect on education, Jon Andrew’s value of theory and Brad Gustafson’s call to start with students, these posts provide an interesting provocation about what is required in regards to education today.

In 2016, I did a lot of posting and presenting on student-centred learning. I had great feedback and some supportive conversations about the obvious commonsense behind the approach. I’ve posted a number of guides and posters to help people understand the necessary components. But when the conversation on theory finishes, the first two questions are always: “So, what do I actually do?” & “Where do I start?”

Edtech

“Against Expressive Social Media” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Against Expressive Social Media – Mike Caulfield makes the case to break with our dependence on the social media generated dopamine hits to develop the type of critical collaboration needed for the future. Reflecting on his own history of the web, Caulfield suggests that we need new ways of working that challenge our collective thinking, not just confirm our biases. Along with Audrey Watters’ post on edtech in the time of Trump, these posts ask many questions to address for a different imagining of educational technology and a democratic society. It also provides a useful background to the intent beyond such tools and technology as Hypothes.is, Wikity and Smallest Federated Wiki.

In my more pessimistic moments, I come to think that the thing that poor Vannevar Bush didn’t get, and that Doug Engelbart didn’t get, and that Alan Kay didn’t get is people really like the buzz of getting beliefs confirmed. And they like the buzz of getting angry at people that are too stupid to get what they already know. Confirming beliefs makes you feel smart and arguing with people makes you feel smarter than someone else. Both allow you to snack on dopamine throughout the day,  and if you ever need a full meal you can always jump on Reddit.

Rethinking “Edtech” – David Kernohan gives an overview of the history of edtech. This post touches on everything from learning theories, investments and innovation to create a picture of practice for a deeper discussion. It is a useful starting point for those interested in going further in regards to appreciating the place educational technology today.

I was asked to offer some perspective on the wider idea of edtech – what follows covers investment management, theories of learning, education reform politics, innovation theory and around 80 years of history. Some may be surprised at the scope – I would argue that it is not enough to understand how, to truly make an intelligent decision we need to at least consider why.

What’s on the Horizon (Still, Again, Always) for Ed-Tech – With the release of the latest Horizon Report, Audrey Watters continues the conversation she started last year around predicting the future. Looking back over fourteen years of reports, Watters identifies a range of abnormalities, including the ahistorical nature of trends and the failure to address funding and inherent politics embedded within technology.

Education technology in the Horizon Report is almost entirely stripped of politics, a political move in and of itself. No doubt, I am asking the Horizon Report to do something and to be something that it hasn’t done, that it hasn’t been. But at some point (I hope), instead of a fixation on new technologies purportedly “on the horizon,” ed-tech will need to turn to the political reality here and now.

5 Ws: Trajectory of EdTech Love – Amy Burvall unpacks the process associated with integrating technology. She highlights such attributes as starting with why, providing possible workflows, sharing examples of success and exploring different approaches to professional development. This reminds me of a post I wrote a few years back, as well as a podcast during which other ideas were shared.

In discussing how to get teachers (or anyone in any organization for that matter) not only interested in but embracing technology integration it occurred to me there might be a trajectory of sorts. What must you start with to get the “buy-in”? How do you progress from there? How might one show the possibilities so that folks can start thinking in this language rather than merely translating.

Expanding the Conversation About Teachers and Blogging – Benjamin Doxtdator questions George Couros’ call for more people to stop overthinking and ‘just blog’. Doxtdator suggests that maybe our focus should be on self-care and personal journals, rather than blogging. For me blogs are often spoken about as some sort of fixed entity with only one type. It is important to make clear to ourselves why, before we just do it.

Original and critical thought is rarely well-received, and women are harassed in comments sections and on Twitter, especially women of color.

Don’t Get Pwned: A Guide to Safer Logins – Richard Barnes provides a range of strategies to better secure our online information. Along with Royan Lee’s graphics associated with the Privacy Paradox, Doug Belshaw’s battles with hackers and Kevin Mitnick guide to going invisible, these posts remind us of the complexities associated with being online.

tl;dr:
Use random passwords, and use a different password for every site
Use a password manager to make creating and remembering passwords easier
Make your answers to security questions just as strong as your passwords
Use “two-factor authentication” wherever you can
Pay attention to the browser’s security signals, and be suspicious

Google, Lawsuits, and the Importance of Good Documentation – Bill Fitzgerald looks into the terms of service(s) associated with GSuite and makes a range of suggestions on how Google could improve on some of the inherent ambiguity. Along with Jenny Luca’s post on moving to the cloud, this is an important post for all administrators to read to appreciate the nuances connected with rights and permissions.

Google has been working in the educational space for years, and they have put a lot of thought into their products. However, real questions still exist about how these products work, and about how data collected from kids in these products is handled. Google has created copious documentation, but – ironically – that is part of the problem, as the sheer volume of what they have created contains contradictions and repetitions with slight degrees of variance that impede understanding. Based on seeing both Google’s terms evolve over the years and from seeing terms in multiple other products, these issues actually feel pretty normal. This doesn’t mean that they don’t need to be addressed, but I don’t see malice in any of these shortcomings. However, the concern is real, for Google and other EdTech companies: if your product supports learning today, it shouldn’t support redlining and profiling tomorrow.

Beginner guide to APIs with Google Sheets & Apps Script – Ben Collins provides a step-by-step introduction to connecting APIs to Google Sheets. This is a great starting point, including a range of examples to work with. What is particularly useful is that Collins thoroughly describes the thinking behind each step. Martin Hawksey also posted a short introduction to Google Script Apps Smashing.

You’ve probably heard the term API before. Maybe you’ve heard how tech companies use them when they pipe data between their applications. Or how companies build complex systems from many smaller micro-services linked by APIs, rather than as single, monolithic programs nowadays. API stands for “Application Program Interface”, and the term commonly refers to web URLs that can be used to access raw data. Basically, the API is an interface that provides raw data for the public to use (although many require some form of authentication). As third-party software developers, we can access an organization’s API and use their data within our own applications. The good news is that there are plenty of simple APIs out there, which we can cut our teeth on. We can connect a Google Sheet to an API and bring data back from that API (e.g. iTunes) into our Google Sheet. It’s fun and really satisfying if you’re new to this world.

Storytelling and Reflection

“Changing Times” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Will the AFLW herald changing times for gay players in the men’s game? – Kate O’Halloran reflects on first openly gay AFL players and wonders whether this will bring about a change in the men’s game. I have been left wondering what other impacts that the women’s competition might have on AFL and women’s sport in Australia in general. All of the sudden women are not only playing prime time, but also getting involved off the field in areas such as commentary as experts. In a sport that has seemingly pushed women to the margins, I am left wondering what impact AFLW will have on such jocular institutions as The Footy Show? As a father of two daughters it leaves me with hope.

 

Will these AFLW players’ bravery have any impact on the culture of the men’s game? I retain some hope the AFL’s new lovechild will force the hand of the old guard when it comes to the shadow of homophobia that still lingers as a blight on this wonderful game

Against the Clock: How Technology Has Changed Our Experience of Time – In an interview to discuss Alan Burdick’s new book Why Time Flies: A Mostly Scientific Investigation, Burdick and Douglas Rushkoff discuss the different ways in which technology has progressively colonised human time. They talk about the different concepts of time, such as space time, clock time and bodily time. They also reflect on how things were different in the past and some of the particular challenges that we are faced with in order to regain a sense of self from our Google Calendars.

The Greeks have two words for time: “chronos”, which is like time on the clock, and “chiros”, which is more like readiness, human time. You crash the car at 4:27, but when do you tell dad that you crashed the car? I always say, “After he’s had his drink, before he’s opened the bills.” That’s chiros, human time, the way we experience time, versus real time or number time. For me, it became important in the digital age, as our style of clock time changed, what does that do to our understanding of real time? You looked at the same relationship in a different way.

When Good Intentions Backfire – Building off of a series of essays on topics affecting the public sphere, danah boyd responds to some of the criticism she received. Both justifying her intentions and providing the next step, boyd suggests that we need more people with a hacker mindset.

My goal in writing these essays is not because I know the solutions to some of the most complex problems that we face — I don’t — but because I think that we need to start thinking about these puzzles sideways, upside down, and from non-Euclidean spaces. In short, I keep thinking that we need more well-intended folks to start thinking like hackers.

Digital Literacy and Anti-Authoritarian Politics – Bryan Alexander brings together a range of perspectives on the news and media literacies, including various step-by-step guides and supposed algorithmic solutions. Along with Mike Caulfield’s new book on reading the media and Helen Bentham’s reflection on democratic digital literacies, these posts offer some insight about where to next for educators might grapple with the challenges of fake news and digital democracy.

I can see incentives and professional reasons for hewing to either pole. Institutions and professions often function as gatekeepers, after all. At the same time each of these fields also has an ethos of empowering their students/users/patrons. Some of these institutions are closely tied up to authorities, such as active churches or states, while others see themselves as independent spaces. Each has taken up a related range of positions on previous digital issues, such as web sites, open education resources, and social media.

Educating Australia – Why Our Schools Aren’t Improving – Tom Bentley and Glenn Savage reflect on the fact that Australian education has gone backwards in the last ten years. The solution they suggest is working collaboratively with a focus on evidence. This poses so many questions and it is interesting reading it next to Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon’s whitepaper.

We also need to move beyond a fascination with divisions between governments in Australia’s federal system. We must focus instead on harnessing the potential of networks and collaborations across systems. That is why a coherent reform “narrative” that genuinely reflects evidence about the nature of effective learning and teaching matters so much. Ultimately, the future success of Australian school-age education hinges on whether powerful ideas can be realised in practice, across tens of thousands of classrooms and communities. If we want reforms to be effective, their design must be grounded in wide-ranging dialogue about the nature of the problems and evidence about what will help to solve them.

A new phonics test for Australian six year olds is a BAD idea – Robyn Ewing adds her perspective to the debate about a Year 1 mandatory phonics test in Australia. She raises a few concerns, including the connection between poverty and literacy, as well as the impact of sounds on the actual act of reading.

Early childhood contexts and the first years of schooling should be centred on engaging in creative play with language including poetry, songs and rhymes, developing children’s confidence in talking about and responding to story, building a rich vocabulary and developing an understanding and love of literature.

Experts within the Classroom – Andrea Stringer discusses the place and purpose of standards and textbooks in education. Rather than going to the extreme of banning the textbook, she argues that they need to allow for more differentiation, as well as foster teacher autonomy. For in the end, it is teachers empowered to make choices where the magic occurs.

Much magic happens when teachers apply their knowledge and skills in the moment. That moment when students’ curiosity is captured, when they’re eagerly engaged and when their love for learning is evident. Teachers make decisions each day in their classroom but it is time to have more influence and control over decisions made regarding education. We need to recognise and acknowledge that the ‘Experts are within the classroom!”

If You Want to Be Innovative, Innovate – In this short post, Tim Kastelle explains that the magic to being innovative is innovating and scaling up those things that work. My latest minimal viable product is a monthly GSuite newsletter to support teachers within the organisation I work who get lost in the social stream.

Here are some things that don’t work:

  • Buying the magic innovation software.
  • Bringing someone (like me) in to give an “inspirational talk” on innovation (which is why I don’t do these anymore). A one-day workshop doesn’t work either.
  • Buying a smaller, innovative company to kick-start internal innovation.
  • Building a corporate accelerator that brings in startups to do innovative stuff that’s related to your core business.
  • Outsourcing new product development, customer development, or any of the work that connects what you want to sell to the problem that people need solved.
  • Ultimately, all of these end up being innovation theatre.

The Five Stages of Tribal Innovation – Elaborating on the work of Dave Logan, John King, and Halee Fischer-Wright, AJ Juiliani discusses the five levels of tribal leadership. This seems similar to Roger’s Diffusion of Innovation. What is useful about the post is that it provides practical suggestions for all members and how to move up the various stages.

Part of the reason a culture of innovation is so critical in our schools today is that working towards developing new ideas that work brings us back to Stage 5. Innovation doesn’t have a finish line. Neither does culture. Both are organic, fluid, and often unpredictable. Tribes drive the move from pockets to a full culture in ways that one leader cannot.

FOCUS ON … GROUPS

A lot of my current job involves working with groups of teachers. Here then is a collection of resources associated with facilitating sessions:

READ WRITE RESPOND #014

So that is February 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?


📰 Read Write Respond #013

My Month of January

In response to my last newsletter, someone asked me whether my new job has allowed more opportunity to develop this newsletter. Although I spend more time commuting, I think the change has been the opportunity to engage with different elements of education every day. Doug Belshaw might say it has increased my serendipity surface. From my experience, it is not often in schools you grapple with overarching challenges. Instead, you are focused on a particular task and class.

In regards to January, I had time at home which involved fitting five weeks into two, as I only get four weeks a year with my new job. This meant trips to the beach, to the tip, to the cinema, to the zoo. Back at work, we are working on developing online modules to support teachers with technology.


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

"Inquiry into Inquiry" by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

7 Super Screencasting Activities for School – Eric Curts unpacks a range of activities associated with screencasting. Not only does he provide step-by-step instructions, but he also includes actual examples of each.

Screencasting tools are a popular option for use in schools. At their most basic they allow you to record a video of what is on your computer screen, along with your voice, and depending on the program perhaps your webcam as well. Some may go further to provide you with annotation tools to write on or highlight portions of the screen while recording.

What Should I Buy For My New Makerspace? – Laura Fleming describes her five-step framework designed to help with setting up a makerspace. Beyond having a clear vision, Fleming suggests focusing on mobility, exploration, student interests, empowerment and relevance. To document some of these choices, she has reflected on the  choices made within her own context.

Selecting the right products for your makerspace is critical. In addition to my framework, I started a Padlet, in which members of my PLN contributed their thoughts on selecting products for a makerspace. I encourage you to read their thoughts, and contribute your own for us to all learn and grow from.

Desktop Zero: How To Manage Unproductive Digital Clutter – Ben Gremillion provides a range of tips and tricks for decluttering your computer desktop. From my experience, we spend so much time in school organising things like lockers and folders, how often do we support students digitally? Although there is no right way, this post is useful in thinking about this problem.

Turns out it’s more than just finding files. Studies show that people with less cluttered work environments are happier and more productive. Desktop zero helped me in a future job as well, when I’d give frequent presentations to clients. With my desktop picture set to the company’s logo, a clutter-free desktop helped my audiences focus on what I was presenting (and hid my behind-the-scenes work to boot).

Sorry, But Speed Reading Won’t Help You Read More – In an excerpt from Language at the Speed of Sight: How We Read, Why So Many Can’t, and What Can Be Done About It, Mark Seidenberg shares the secret to becoming a better reader and that is … reading. Not an app or speed reading strategy, the key to becoming a better reader is improving our knowledge, language and comprehension. This discussion reminded me in part of Donalyn Miller’s The Book Whisperer.

Reading expands one’s knowledge of language and the world in ways that increase reading skill, making it easier and more enjoyable to read. Increases in reading skill make it easier to consume the texts that feed this learning machinery. It is not the eyes but what we know about language, print, and the world— knowledge that is easy to increase by reading—that determines reading skill. Where this expertise leads, the eyes will follow.

10 Tips For Designing Effective Social Learning – Julian Stodd provides a list of considerations associated with social learning. It is interesting to compare this with discussions around Communities of Practice. What I like about Stodd's elabotations is that he recognises that every context and situation is unique. I think this is sometimes overlooked.

Ultimately, every organisation needs to learn the co-creative behaviours, design methodology, and facilitating roles that will operate best within their own unique culture and technical infrastructure. Above all, focus on design, not technology or assessment. Engagement will come through great design.

Establishing a culture of inquiry through inquiry – Kath Murdoch encourages teachers to begin the year with questions that can then be the start of a short inquiry, rather than the usual regimented style. For Edna Sackson this involves starting with the child. Sometimes the challenge with inquiry, as Sam Sherratt points out, is having permission.

Most of us begin the year by designing tasks/activities that facilitate community building. We want to get to know our kids – and we want them to get to know and relate to each other. Again – rather than over-planning the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of this – try inviting the students to design questions and investigations:

  • How can we build a great community in this classroom?
  • What do we need we find out about each other?  How could we go about this?
  • What do we need to know about each other in order to start to build a great community?
  • How might we design this learning space to help us do the best learning possible?
  • What do you need/want to know about me as your teacher?
  • What would you love to learn about/learn to do this year? How might we make that happen?
  • What should I (as your teacher) learn about you?
  • What are you wondering about yourself as a learner this year?
  • What are you most curious about when you think about the year ahead?

This approach is still highly intentional – our purposes are still to get the year off to a productive and positive start and to build routines. A more inquiry-based approach sees students as collaborators in the design of those routines and, as a result, engages them in a more rigorous, accountable and fascinating process of culture building.


Edtech

"‘Don’t Blame the Tools" by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Driven to Distraction – Emily Hehir highlights some of the challenges associated with technology in the classroom. She compares this situation to war. What stood out in her discussion was the notion that technology can make a difference. Although I recently discussed the impact of technology, I think it is important to highlight that it is always a part of a wider learning canvas.

Problematically, few teachers are trained in how to use technology in a manner that actually improves the outcomes previously achievable. Most schools have one or two "IT gurus" – teachers on staff whose personal interest has led to a process of classroom experiments with various apps and programs. All too often technology is a proxy for actual learning and is used as a reward, to simulate a task that could be done with a pen. At its worst, it just distracts.

Leave Your Laptops at the Door to My Classroom – Darren Rosenblum shares how he bans devices in his class. I feel that I have read this before a few years back via Clay Shirkey. What I think is missing within the conversation is what sort of teaching and learning is occurring? I do not mind the removal of student technology, but wonder if classes could be recorded even? Would this be a win win?

For all these reasons, starting with smaller classes, I banned laptops, and it improved the students’ engagement. With constant eye contact, I could see and feel when they understood me, and when they did not. Energized by the connection, we moved faster, further and deeper into the material. I broadened my rule to include one of my large upper-level courses. The pushback was real: A week before class, I posted the syllabus, which announced my policy. Two students wrote me to ask if I would reconsider, and dropped the class when I refused. But more important, after my class ends, many students continue to take notes by hand even when it’s not required.

The trials and tribulations of being a digital parent – Doug Belshaw shares his journey in choosing a device for his ten year old young son. It is interesting to compare this with Royan Lee's experiences choosing a phone for his teen daughter.

Parenting is hard, especially with your eldest child. You're making it up as you go along, especially in areas that no one has a lot of expertise, like the digital frontier. On the one hand, I don't like censorship and spying — which is why we're switching from BT to A&A for our broadband next week. On the other hand, there's an innocence to childhood that needs to be protected, especially when we're putting such powerful devices into such small hands.

Don’t Blame the Tools – Jose Picardo points out that blaming technology overlooks that the tool is only one part of the pedagogical canvas. I think things like SAMR can confuse the conversation. Instead, we need to start with a wider discussion of education.

What they fail to consider is that if technology is not the solution, it isn’t the problem either. The very word technology means “the science of craft”. Technology is nothing more and nothing less than the application of human knowledge to practical tasks. From this perspective, blaming technology for poor outcomes in schools is like a chef blaming his kitchen knife for having prepared a terrible meal.

If we forget to look out of the window – John Mikton reflects on 2016 and the need for more digital intelligence within the professional development in schools. He points out that the picture currently painted in schools is often in stark contrast to the reality of the world around us. Mikton also provides a number of links and resources for going further.

To be complacent is short-sighted in a school setting.  There is a tendency with school professional development to not explicitly address the digital reality that engulfs our lives as an essential part of our professional learning. Information and Media literacy are what frame our own democratic values: choice, perspective, empathy, resilience, and critical thinking. If we as educators are going to assign students critical thinking tasks and ask them to engage with media and information while juggling screen time in a complex digital landscape, we cannot be passive bystanders.

A lawyer rewrote Instagram’s terms of use ‘in plain English’ so kids would know their privacy rights – Amy Wang reports on the terms of services associated with Instagram. She also includes extracts from a lawyer, Jenny Afia, who rewrote the document in plain English. This reminds me of the site Terms of Service, Didn't Read designed to not only summarise Terms of Services, but also highlight aspects to consider.

You are responsible for any activity that occurs through your account and you agree you will not sell, transfer, license or assign your account, followers, username, or any account rights. With the exception of people or businesses that are expressly authorized to create accounts on behalf of their employers or clients, Instagram prohibits the creation of and you agree that you will not create an account for anyone other than yourself. You also represent that all information you provide or provided to Instagram upon registration and at all other times will be true, accurate, current and complete and you agree to update your information as necessary to maintain its truth and accuracy.

Busy as a … hashtag? – I have read posts about hashtags in the past from people such as Amy Burvall and Clive Thompson, but I have read nothing as thorough as what Ian Guest presents. Not only does he provide a history behind hashtags, but also a thorough list accounting for the different uses.

The hashtags which have drawn my attention during my research and from long before it, and the functions they have performed:

  • Curriculum areas – these hashtags assist those teachers who specialise in teaching particular areas of the curriculum like #asechat (Association for Science Education),  #GeographyTeacher or #engchat
  • Communities – groups of people who share a particular interest like the #mfltwitterati, #EduMatch or NZBTchat (New Zealand Beginning Teachers)
  • Geospatial – hashtags which help those in a particular region find one another and discuss local issues: #edchatie (teachers from Eire), #scotedchat (Scotland) and even individual school districts like #katyisdela (Katy Independent School District English Language Arts) which situates a particular curriculum area within a specific region.
  • Time-limited – these hashtags materialise for a particular time, often for the duration of an activity: #12daystwitter and #WeeklyBlogChallenge17
  • Celebration – hashtags promoting the efforts of others, like  our schools or pupils (#pedagoo), and sometimes the contributions of others (#ff).

Hello World – a new magazine for educators – Phillip Colligan provides the specs on a new magazine with news and tips by Raspberry Pi to be published three times a year. Alongside their Digital Making Curriculum, Raspberry Pi are providing number of resources to help teachers get going with technology in the classroom.

Hello World is available free, forever, for everyone online as a downloadable pdf.  The content is written to be internationally relevant, and includes features on the most interesting developments and best practices from around the world.

Google Sheets, Apps Script and Data Studio Resources: The Ultimate List for 2017 – Ben Collins curates a thorough list of resources associated with Google Sheets and Scripts. For GSuite, I think these are often underutilised.

Want tons of great Google Sheets, Apps Script and Data Studio resources in one place? Then you’ll love this list.  These are my go-to resources when I’m building spreadsheet applications for clients or developing content for this blog. I have hundreds of bookmarks on the subject but here I’ve whittled it down to just the very best.


Storytelling and Reflection

"‘Did Media Literacy Backfire?" by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

Media, Technology, Politics – Data & Society: Points – In light of technology, fake news and democracy, a group of researchers led by danah boyd have applied their thinking to a range of issues with some attempt to make sense of the current state of being in the US (and the world at large).

To document some of our thinking, we are releasing six pieces that look at different issues that we think are important for trying to make sense of the relationship between technology and current political dynamics in the US.

  1. In Hacking the Attention Economy, danah boyd describes some of the tactics and strategies that people have taken to manipulate old and new media for fun, profit, and ideology. This essay explores decentralized coordination efforts, contemporary information campaigns, and cultural logics behind gaming the system.
  2. In What’s Propaganda Got To Do With It? Caroline Jack brings historical context to the use of the term “propaganda,” arguing that the resurgence of this label amid social anxieties over the new media landscape is reflective of deeper cultural and ideological divides.
  3. Did Media Literacy Backfire? by danah boyd examines how media literacy education efforts to encourage the public to be critical consumers of information may have contributed to widespread distrust in information intermediaries, complicating efforts to understand what is real and what is not.
  4. In Are There Limits to Online Free Speech, Alice Marwick explores how the tech industry’s obsession with “free speech” has been repurposed (and newly politicized) by networks whose actions are often seen as supporting of hate speech and harassment.
  5. Why America is Self-Segregating is danah boyd’s attempt to lay out some of the structural shifts that have taken place in the United States in the last twenty years that have magnified polarization and resulted in new types of de-diversification.
  6. In How do you deal with a problem like “fake news,” Robyn Caplan looks directly at the challenges that companies face when they seek to address the inaccurate and often problematic content that is spread widely on social media sites.

Diversity is Hard – Building upon danah boyd's post on Why America is Self-Segregating, Jenny Mackness celebrates the importance of difference and why it is so important in a highly connected world. This reminds me of the ideas presented in Cathy Davidson's book Now You See It and her notion of 'collaboration by difference'

Respect for differences and an understanding of diversity is a key ethical rule for complex systems and no amount of retreating into homogeneous groups will help us cope with living in an increasingly complex world.

The MoonshotEdu Podcast – Bernard Bull has started a new ‘weekly’ podcast with a bang, pushing out ten different episodes in quick succession, covering everything from dreaming big, grades, self-directed learning and credentialing.

The MoonshotEdu show is a weekly podcast dedicated to challenging the status quo in education, exploring educational innovation and entrepreneurship, and getting more deeply informed about the possibilities in education. It is a place to celebrate curiosity, human agency, and a love of learning.

All I Know Is What’s on the Internet – Rollin Moe explains that discussions around fake news overlooks the real problem at hand, the death of subversive responses and the death of democracy. For if there is no voice from the outside then there will be little difference or discussion from within.

For the past 40 years, society has demanded information literacy of students, but effectively extolled the virtues of citizens as mass content consumers. Schools and libraries are not conduits of a knowledge society, but appendages of a knowledge economy. Instead of teaching students critical thinking, they have stoked decontextualized curiosity. Rather than develop students’ wisdom and character, they have focused on making their students’ market value measurable through standardized testing.

In Consideration Of Continuous Improvement: Part I – David Culberhouse discusses how to push forward towards a ‘better’ tomorrow in schools. He suggests considering the AND of 3I’s that can support an environment of ‘continuous improvement’ in our organizations, they are: Innovation AND Improvement Science AND Implementation Science.

First and foremost, this idea of ‘better’ and ‘continuous improvement’ requires a decision, a decision to become uncomfortable, both as individuals and as organizations.  For stretching ourselves towards this concept of ‘continuous improvement’ is not always a comfortable situation, as it requires learning, unlearning, relearning, shifting, adapting, and changing.  A beta mindset.

3 Injustices in Education – David Truss asks three questions we should consider when designing learning opportunities in schools. This discussion is further elaborated within Corey Engstrom’s Teacher Tech Trails podcast.

As educators we too have to ask the right questions, and I hope that the 3 I’ve asked here are helpful to you:

“How can we design our learning opportunities so that at some point during the school day, students get to work on something they are passionate about?”

“What is getting in the way of our student(s) excelling?”

“Are we challenging students enough, so that they are maximizing their learning opportunities?”

Is Goal Setting Pointless? – Bill Ferriter questions the purpose of goals. He suggests that our focus should instead be on systems. This reminds me of a discussion in Vivian Robinson’s book Student-Centred Leadership in which she questions setting goals when the outcome may not be known or defined. This is always an important conversation, but even more so at the beginning of the year.

Goals are destinations. Systems are vehicles that keep you moving forward — and moving forward is essential to winning.  “When you focus on the practice (systems) instead of the performance (goals),” writes Clear,  “You can enjoy the present moment and improve at the same time.”

100 things that made my year – Austin Kleon looks back at the things that made his year. This is fantastic as it captures so many aspects of his life.

Discovering and researching unschooling. Roberto Greco’s fantastic Tumblr and Pinboard archives. The work of John Holt, his books How Children Learn and How Children Fail, his 55-year-old journal entry, his thoughts on the true meaning of intelligence and how babies are scientists. John Taylor Gatto’s Dumbing Us Down. Neil Postman and Charles Weingartner’s Teaching As A Subversive Activity. Lori Pickert’s twitter. DH Lawrence on how to educate a child: “Leave him alone.” Manifesto of the idle parent.

Teaching with, alongside, and for one another – Corrie Barclay reflects on the importance of trust and feedback in developing the capacity of teachers and improving schools. This reminds me of the work of Alma Harris around distributed leadership and disciplined collaboration, as well as the work of Paul Browning on trust.

If each and everyday we have a greater impact on on our students and settings due to the continual improvement we make individually and collectively, we will without a doubt see our students and education systems flourish

The Ugly Unethical Underside of Silicon Valley – Erin Griffith digs beneath the gloss to uncover the unethical side of silicon valley and start-up culture. Whether it be breaking the rules, promoting products that don't even exist or making up growth percentages, there is always a dark side to the hype. For more on Silicon Valley, read this post by Ben Werdmuller, the Anne Wiener’s recount, Cory Doctorow's novel The Makers or listen to this episode of Future Tense.

No industry is immune to fraud, and the hotter the business, the more hucksters flock to it. But Silicon Valley has always seen itself as the virtuous outlier, a place where altruistic nerds tolerate capitalism in order to make the world a better place. Suddenly the Valley looks as crooked and greedy as the rest of the business world. And the growing roster of scandal-tainted startups share a theme. Faking it, from marketing exaggerations to outright fraud, feels more prevalent than ever—so much so that it’s time to ask whether startup culture itself is becoming a problem.

The Setup – Laura Hilliger provides a snapshot of her setup. I was particularly interested in her use of Scrivener, something that Julian Stodd also mentioned recently. The idea of documenting your workflow is associated with a website usethis.com. One thing that stood out for me about the list of other people who have shared on the website is that it is largely a male crowd? Another similar collection can be found at Royan Lee's blog. He often interviews people about their setup.

Well if we’re going to talk about dreams, I’d wish for a new computing platform entirely. No more keyboards and mice. No more monitors and power cables. I don’t know what it is, exactly, but my dream setup transcends modern computing and let’s me use my body more. I’d like to snap my fingers, open a display at eye level and swoop and swipe and stuff. Tony Stark style.


 

FOCUS ON … Medium

I have written about Medium before in comparison to other blogging platforms. One of the things I warn people about is being caught out if the private company decides to pivot and change what it offers. See Posterous. News arrived at the start of January that Medium is in fact looking to make some major changes. Here then is a collection of responses to the news:

  • Venture Capital is Going to Murder Medium – David Heinemeier Hansson explains that the fuse was lit for Medium's demise a long time ago when they accepted large amounts of Venture Capital without any idea how they could repay it.
  • Medium’s Pivot – Dave Winer warns that If Medium were to fail a lot of history will go with it.
  • Online Publishing Should Look At Steem, Not Spotify, For Inspiration – Fred Wilson discusses the possibility of a blockchain-based solution, where people gain tokens for writing depending on the popularity of the piece and purchase credits for reading.
  • Why Medium Failed to Disrupt the Media – Leonid Bershidsky explains that Medium has arrived at the same place as traditional media companies in struggling to find an effective funding model. She suggests that it is another example of Silicon Valley arrogance in thinking those before are always broken and in need of a fix.
  • A New Model for Medium – Fredric Filloux remains confident that quality will monetize at some point and that there is an audience out there who are in favour of good, paid-for, quality contents.
  • We Shouldn’t Wait for Medium – Discussing the positives and negatives to WordPress and Medium, Dave Winer suggests that we need a better designed WordPress or an open source Medium.
  • Medium And The Importance Of Maintaining Your Own Domain – Kin Lane says that, “we should not stop playing with new services, and adopting those that add value to what we are trying to accomplish online, but we should always consider how deeply we want to depend on these companies, and know that their VC-fueled objectives might not always be alignment with our own.”
  • Medium, and The Reason You Can't Stand the News Anymore – Shaun Blanda discusses the contradiction at play in funding digital news agencies with advertising.
  • Is Medium good for us? – Dave Winer discusses the problem of survivability associated with Medium.

READ WRITE RESPOND #013

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

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p dir=”ltr”>Also, feel free to forward this on to others if you found anything of interest or maybe you want to subscribe?

📰 Read Write Respond #012

“Read Write Respond #012” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

December is always a busy time of the year. Let alone that it is Christmas, there are three birthdays in December in our household and with one of them being our one year old. There was bedlam for a while. In addition to this, schools usually wind up with reports, new timetables and everything else that comes with all of that. Having said that, this year has been different not being in a school. However, I still feel that the rush of a deadline has changed the pace of things, especially when you need to have things completed for next year and schools close down over the break.

In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts. Although it is a little bit sparse, I did that thing where I wrote two posts that probably should have been ten:

  • Lessons Learned as a Parent Teacher – Rather than the usual reflection on all the lessons learned throughout the year, I focused on a particular element that stood out for me – the role of parent and teacher.
  • What or How – which would you choose? – A short musing on what matters most in regards to education.
  • Implementing Hapara – For the Hapara Certified Educator course that I have been involved with, participants were asked to develop an implementation plan. Inspired by Ben Williamson’s work on Class Dojo, I tried to provide something of a thick description as to what is possible.
  • A Comprehensive Guide to Open Badges – After being asked to explain Open Badges in a bit more detail, I compiled everything into a post, which outlined what open badges are, how they work and why they are useful in supporting learning and education.
  • Read Write Review – Voices from the Village (2016) – A reflection on a year of maintaining a monthly newsletter, with a collection of the posts that left me thinking and inspired throughout 2016.

During all the hullabaloo, here are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking and inspired …

Learning and Teaching

A problem solving routine for mathematics – Mark Liddell shares the development of the ‘ABCDE’  thinking routine to support problem solving in Mathematics. I find it an interesting exercise to develop a tool to support your own needs and context.

A routine can be thought of as any procedure, process, or pattern of action that is used repeatedly to manage and facilitate the accomplishment of specific goals or tasks.

How to Analyze a News Claim and Publish the Analysis on Digipo.io – Mike Caulfield provides a fact checking guide for countering fake news. It is a part of the Digital Polarization Initiative he has developed. Caulfield’s post is useful in regards to grappling with issues and has a lot to offer senior students. Another similar post is John Spencer’s discussion of what he describes as the five C’s of critical consumption.

On average a claim will take anywhere from an hour to half a day to debunk. In general, the more precise the claim is, the more work it is: e.g. “Trump supporter threatens decorated cop in hijab.” takes longer to research than “Trump supporter threatens cop in hijab”,  and that takes longer than “Person threatens cop in hijab”.  Each adjective and noun is another verification challenge. So when starting out if it feels a bit overwhelming, start with simpler claims.

5-Day Photo Challenge to Improve Your Skills This Winter Break – Maria Cervera offers a five step guide to improving photography skills over the holiday break. Spread across the days between Christmas and the New Year, her focus in on Framing, Rule of Thirds, Perspective, Lighting and Telling a Story. I think that this is a useful introduction into something we often take for granted.

Want to learn how to take better photos? Why wait for the new year to start on your goals? During the last week of December, take a few minutes each day to snap some pictures that will help you bring this production technique into your classroom in 2017!

The Secret Algorithm Behind Learning – Shane Parrish explains that if you truly understand something then you need to be able to explain it to an eight year old. This reminds me of a post from Greg Thompson discussing post-structuralism. Although I think that this is an ideal, I do not always think that it is possible.

The ultimate test of your knowledge is your capacity to convey it to another.

Computational Thinking and Learning for Little Ones – Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano documents her computational experience with her grand-daughter. The two activities that they did were Treasure Hunt in the House and Robot Coding. Although there are endless posts on coding out there, I like the way that this post links in with learning, especially in the Early Years.

Every grandmother dotes on her grandchildren. I am no exception. Over the past four years, I was able to witness my granddaughter Elena’s growth and in particular observe her learning. She has been an integral part of my work around #documenting4learning. There are many things educators can learn from observing learning habits of young children. I even would recommend high school teachers take a moment to visit a pre-school or Kindergarten class to immerse themselves in LOOKING for learning. The environment, the play, the communication will yield a much more visible “laboratory” for educators who are looking to see, hear and document a variety of learning than a traditional high school class, with 25 students sitting at their desks might.

The Power Of Spreadsheets – Chris Betcher shares an example of how he used Sheets to compare the offerings from various energy companies. This is a useful resource in regards to working with various formulas to compare and critique data.

What if you gave your students the basic skills of calculating numbers with a spreadsheet, and then a bunch of different rates from different competing companies and simply asked “Who is offering the best deal?”  This process usually raises lots and lots of questions, and will certainly make them better consumers, better at understanding data, and better users of spreadsheets.

Edtech

Expanding Chromebooks for all learners – As a part of the day long Google Edu on Air Conference which included speakers from around the world, Google announced some new options in regards to signing into a Chromebook. The additions relate to using pictures and smart badges, something that I first noticed with SeeSaw. I think that this will be a positive addition to Early Years.

As more students use Chromebooks, we’ve heard feedback from teachers that a challenge remained: even the mere act of logging in can waste too much precious learning time. So today we’re excited to announce that we’ve expanded Chromebook integrations to allow alternatives for logging in that are simple and fast.

Would You Give Google a Passing Grade on Its AI Project? – Responding to a recent article exploring Google’s role in regards to ‘fake news’, Mike Caulfield argues that maybe Google should invest some of their billions of dollars solving their algorithms.

Maybe Google should be spending less time funding smart thermostats and self-driving cars and launching wi-fi balloons, and more time funding programmers who can write algorithms that can use the massive amount of documentation on the Holocaust to determine that one of the definitive events of the last century did in fact “happen”.

Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2016 – Audrey Watters mammoth review may not be as concise or prophetic as say the Horizon Report, but the lay of the land provided is priceless. Even if it is focused primarily  on the US, many of the discussions have a wide ranging impact. Although a part of me would like to recommend that you dip into her discussion of open-washing or personalisation, I think that if you are going to put your leg in then you may as well get your whole body wet.

2016 is the seventh year in which I’ve reviewed the most important trends in the ed-tech industry from the previous twelve months. (You can look at the trends I identified from previous years here.)

  1. Wishful Thinking
  2. The Politics of Education Technology
  3. The Business of Education Technology
  4. “Free” and “Open”
  5. For-Profit Higher Education
  6. The “New Economy”
  7. Credentialing
  8. Data Insecurity
  9. Personalization
  10. Inequality

Arguing on Education Twitter: BINGO – In response to the rise of derision online, Deb Netolicky shares a bingo card for the coming (un)festive season. When people like Tom Whitby and Will Richardson ask why more people are not connecting online, I think that this is a big part of the challenge.

In anticipation of more enthusiastic debate and derision over the holiday period in the world of education Twitter, I’ve prepared this handy BINGO card for the festive season.

Digital literacy can be an insurgency – Bryan Alexander discusses the active nature of digital literacies, highlighting the problems with the idea of digital citizenship. Alexander suggests that  digital often counters our usual notion of democracy and civility, instead providing the tools to speak out. It is this lack of control that often puts people off. Interestingly, this proactive citizen is at the heart of what Gert Biesta describes as the democratic citizen. It is also represented in the documentary on Aaron Swartz.

This is one reason digital literacy has a hard time growing.  It represents the potential to empower students to challenge each other and instructors, as well as become insurgent outside of class, as with my student’s homoerotic paper.  Not all faculty find this a desirable or even tolerable thing.  How many teachers and professors spend time trying to maintain or expand their authority?  Conversely, how many were trained on how to teach an actually interactive class?  How many of are thrilled when students grow into their agency and act upon it?

Interface Innovation: From MashUps to McLuhan-esque Metacognition – Amy Burvall combines the idea of mashing different inventions together, with Marshall McLuhan’s notion of the tetrad.

I’ve long been fascinated by Marshall McLuhan and in particular his Tetrad of Media Effects from the posthumously published Laws of Media. I’ve sketched out some icons to help visualize the concepts.

Portfolio Work and Interweaving the Personal API – Tom Woodward continues his investigation into the power and potential of personal APIs. I am left wonder the place of APIs within the debate around coding and education.

I’ve been building a new portfolio site and I think some of this is kind of interesting even if it sounds boring. There are a few different goals in play. One challenge is to create a site that stays up to date with minimal work on my end. It’s a parallel of the small-pieces-loosely-joined mentality. I want tiny-actions-over-time (from the aforementioned small pieces) rather than widely-spaced-herculean efforts. I’m also trying to make sure that it fits in well with my current workflow and that I’m capturing the work I do elsewhere in ways that make sense.

Blogs: Do They Serve Any Real Purpose? – Tom Whitby considers the place of blogging today. This seems similar to the endless debate about the death of Twitter. Whitby makes some points about personal and institutional use. However, I think that it comes down to developing your personal purpose. It is also interesting considering in light of Bryan Alexander’s comments on insurgency and digital literacies.

There are many new things that are evolving in our world. We must keep up with the change in order to stay relevant. The best way may be to subscribe to blogs within the areas of our concerns. We can involve ourselves in the conversation by commenting respectfully on blogs for pros or cons. The ultimate mastery is to write a blog to share personal ideas and points of view to gauge how they stand to scrutiny. We can take critical analysis and adjust. We can only do all of this however if we first recognize the role of the blog and teach about it to our kids. Yes, we need the classics, but we also need relevant and real information, as well as the ability to discern it, if we are to survive and thrive.

 

Storytelling and Reflection

Writing and thinking about qualitative research: 2016 reflection – Naomi Barnes provides a reflection on her journey associated with qualitative research this year. I must admit that this is something that I have become far more aware of via the work of Ian Guest in regards to Twitter. Deborah Netolicky also wrote an interesting follow up.

Social Media has been a reductive force on qualitative research because often people only read the headline/tweet, share the link, make a comment on the headline/tweet and don’t read the blog. It is easy to share a table or a diagram, less easy to share a philosophical argument.

Communities: A Story In Social Leadership – In his continued work on Social Leadership, Julian Stodd reflects on the various communities that we are a part of. It is an interesting topic and important as we progressively move into a more connected world.

We belong to many different communities, some of which overlap. Some communities are visible to both us and the organisation that we work for, whilst others are hidden, deep in our social networks, out of sight of the organisation, although still very relevant and connected to us individually in our day-to-day.

#3strengths – Andrea Stringer argues that we need to spend more time on our strengths. I would add to that suggesting we need to change our mindset from improving to developing. I have since added my strengths to my Twitter profile as a step forward.

Education typically focuses on identifying shortcomings and challenges and what is needed to improve (NAPLAN, PISA). I suggest we often forget to balance working on areas for improvement with strengths.

PD is Sinking…Here Are 3 Ways to Save It – Brad Gustafson describes three strategies for further developing professional learning sessions: be responsive, get teachers talking and keep learning connected. Not sure if this is a silver bullet, but it does provide a good conversation starter.

It’s never too late to revive a meeting or PD. The practical tips below may sound surprisingly simple, and that’s because they are. I’m succinctly sharing three PD tid-bits combined with recent research on HOW professional learning works.

Prising Open the Housing of the Pedagogical Clock – Tom Barrett asks the question, is your class timetable the real school wide pedagogical statement? In the process, he unpacks the impact of such things as timetables and why simply changing things is not enough. This in part reminds me of David Zyniger’s findings associated with class sizes.

When we say personalised learning the ideal would be a valid timetable for all learners. In most cases though we attempt to find a balance between reliably moving humans around and offering a valid experience for everyone.

Hypothetical learning styles (modalities) – There has been a lot written about the problems associated with learning styles lately. See for example Mark Johnson’s satirical post or Stephen Dinham’s critique. This post from Charlotte Pezaro reframes the discussion around learning opportunities and asks us to instead consider the possibilities.

My argument against learning styles is an argument against limiting the learning experiences of our students. It does not mean that I expect that all students learn the same information in the same way all the time, and I definitely do not see this as a reason to move toward didactic pedagogies in which we expect that learners can just be told what they need to learn. I very much believe that no teaching or learning strategy has a guaranteed outcome in all cases all of the time (or even most cases, most of the time). Teachers must be experts in pedagogy, and know, understand, and be practised at a wide range of strategies and approaches to teaching and learning. A teacher is in the best position to decide, in negotiation with students and their families where appropriate and possible, what approaches and strategies will be best for any given learning objective.

Creating the time and space for self-directed, personalized, inquiry learning – David Truss provides an elaboration of self-determined learning that goes beyond simply offering students a ‘genius’ hour. It is better read as a  provocation about what if, than a structured guide that explains how to. Truss provides an interesting take on the challenges of timetabling.

Students get course credit for their self-directed inquiries and passion projects. By implementing so much time in a students’ schedule to DCL, teachers must redesign their program to create time and space for students to work independently. When teachers plan their teaching time with students it necessarily needs to shift to include assignments that connect to, facilitate and support learning happening during DCL time. By also explicitly teaching inquiry learning as a course (Foundations of Inquiry), we create space for students to work on projects of their choice, assessing competencies of core skills rather than on content they are learning, which can vary based on their passions and interests.

Time For These Seven Edu Funerals – Michael Niehoff makes the call on seven aspects that he feels needs to change in education moving forward. What I find interesting is that many of the elements seem to be more prominent to me within secondary schools?

Only in education, do we continue to try to breath life into things that may never have been successful – and most certainly are not now. These things are so embedded in the culture, frameworks, policies, practice and mindsets of our schools and educational organizations, that many educators just blindly accept them, implement them and perpetuate them…..all regardless of their lack of success. Indeed, there is often overwhelming data or evidence that these things are not only unsuccessful, but often counterproductive. So, let’s have the funeral. Let’s start the fire. Let’s bury these SEVEN forever.

Trump is a Media Virus – Douglas Rushkoff casts his eye over the recent presidential election explaining how Trump is a media virus. Until we understand this, we will not be able to cure it. Beppe Severgnini made a similar point in his comparison with Silvio Berlusconi. This all reminds me of Roland Barthes work with myths in the 50’s.

Even this article will be understood by many of Trump’s supporters as an attack, and by many detractors as an apologia. Yet understanding our response to Trump is the very best medicine we can take if we want to develop the ability to engage in the conversations his viral spread has proven need to take place.

This Simple Tweak in Goal-Setting Changed My Creative Output – As it comes to the end of the year, John Spencer reflects on his emphasis of process over product. As a caveat, he discusses short verses long term deadlines and how he balances process and product within this.

A year ago, I switched to process-oriented goals. Instead of saying, “I’m going to run 25 miles this week,” I’m said, “I’m setting aside 40 minutes five days a week to go running.” If I run slower, fine. If I run faster, okay. If something comes up and I can’t get it done, that’s fine. It’s not about mileage. It’s about routine. Instead of saying, “I’m going to make two videos per week,” I’m saying, “I want to spend about a half an hour a day working on sketchy videos.” I had almost an entire month where the video I attempted simply bombed. However, because I hadn’t focused on the product, I was able to take risks and learn from the mistakes. The process didn’t feel wasted.

In Which I Teach Like a Dirty Racist – Scott Millman unpacks what it means to ‘teach like a champion’ and questions the inherent inequality that seems to be built into such practices. Although such approaches may have a place in some situations, such as a beginning teacher, they should not be seen as the solution for every context.

If you watch video clips of teachers teaching like a champion, or more recently, of Michaela teachers putting the fun back into drill-and-fun, you’ll notice mostly white faces teaching mostly black and brown faces. It seems like “No Opt Out” and “No Excuses” are something we save for our poor children and our children of colour. I’ll take pains here to establish that I’m not accusing any of these folks (teachers or authors) of racism; I do worry, though, about how our unexamined good intentions might further entrench systemic inequality and racism in our communities.

FOCUS ON … PISA

With the release of the results from the recent PISA and TIMSS tests, there has been so much written about their purpose. It can be easy within such discussions to simply take a side. However, I hope that in collecting together some of the recent posts on the matter might help to form a more reasoned dialogue:

READ WRITE RESPOND #012

So that is December for me, how about you? I hope that you were able to spend some time slowing down and reflecting. 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?

📰 Read Write Respond #011

Someone asked me whether I would miss the classroom in my new position as a coach in a central office. I must admit that it is not necessarily the classroom that I miss the most, but rather connections to schools. I have been lucky enough to visit quite a few schools this month, each with their own story to tell.

In other news, I have been doing a lot of work around the use of G Suite and how it might be used to support the transformation of education.

On the home front, our youngest daughter has teetered on the edge of walking all month, while our eldest continues to develop in regards to playing the keyboard. This even included writing out her first song! Apparently the full stops is where you stop in music too.

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


In regards to my thinking, these are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …

Learning and Teaching

Emoji Writing Prompt Generator with Google Sheets – Eric Curts adds to a twist to his Writing Prompt Generator by adding Emojis into the mix. People often ask about the difference between Sheets and Excel, I never read about this sort of thing happening within Excel?

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that is so, then emojis should be able to bring even more meaning and ideas and inspiration than just words alone. Giving students a random set of emojis could be a great way to help inspire their writing, as the student tries to find a way to work each image into their story or poem.
Thinking Back to Move Our English Language Learners Forward with Writing – Anna Del Conte shares some tips on differentiating learning for refugee students.
As we teach we use what Pauline Gibbons calls interactional scaffolding which is never planned because it depends on the interactions that spontaneously occur in every lesson. In scaffolded reactions, teachers:
  • listen to learners’ intended meanings

  • build on learners’ prior experiences

  • recap what students have said at regular intervals to remind students of key points

  • appropriate student responses and recast them into more technical or academic wording

  • engage in longer exchanges with students …and so provide opportunities for students to say more or rethink how they have expressed something.

  • allow learners more time to respond e.g by asking them for further explanation of their ideas

  • allow adequate wait time in a variety of ways

 

Creating Virtual Reality Content in Minecraft with Year 4 – Lee Hewes shares some of his learning associated with a recent project involving the use of Minecraft to create 360 degree videos.

My latest class project, which we have just finished and I am about to describe, is perhaps the project that has challenged me the most, both as a player of Minecraft, and from a classroom perspective. It was also, however, way cool! The project, which was guided by the driving question, “How can we use Minecraft to help endangered animals?” was focussed on having kids learn about human impact on the environment, sustainable living practices and animal conservation.

 

Edtech

Paper Twitter: Why and How to Teach Digital Technologies with Paper – Royan Lee suggests starting with paper before jumping into the digital when it comes to Twitter. This reminds me of a post from Thomas Martellone about modelling with paper. To support this move to paper, Lee provides a link to folder full of resources to get you going.

Paper Twitter is a process I’ve borrowed, unsurprisingly, from many of my friends on Twitter. I’ve put my own little spin on it to quite a bit of success, so I wanted to put it out in the world. I have shared my Google folder with you (with instructions for facilitation in the notes of the slides) in hopes that it will inspire you to think a little differently about your next Ed-Tech workshop.

Wikity, One Year Later – Mike Caulfield looks back on a year of Wikity. I love that he learnt PHP just for this project. I must admit that it was not until this elaboration that I saw where it could fit. I think that it is something I am going to have to install and tinker with to find out more

What does “wikified social bookmarks” mean? Well, like most social bookmarking tools, we allow for people to host private sites, but encourage people to share their bookmarks and short notes with the world. And while the mechanisms are federated, not centralized, we allow people to copy each other’s bookmarks and notes, just like Delicious or Pinboard
Sharing/Ownership ≠ Empowerment – It can be easy to get caught up in the hype surrounding connected learning, however as Maha Bali highlights, things are often far more complicated than we like to recognise. To ignore this often suppresses a whole community of voices. This reminds me of Chris Wejr’s post on sharing in online spaces.
Our discourses often don’t reflect the complexity of this and we cheer and celebrate when we use terms like ownership, sharing, participation, agency. No. Adding one student to a committee with 5 faculty and 2 administrators isn’t empowering. Creating a committee of 6 students isn’t empowering. Emancipation is much harder work and it’s a long process that will always need to be reevaluated.
Utopia, pedagogy, and G-Suite for Education – Along with a separate post on the integration of technology, Doug Belshaw share his thoughts of implementing G-Suite, particularly through the use of Open Badges. I developed some thoughts on the matter here.
My aim in any badge system is to encourage particular types of knowledge, skills, and behaviours. Whatever system I come up with will be co-designed and go beyond just the use of G-Suite for Education. As the TPACK model emphasises, the system will have a more holistic focus: integrating the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge required for purposeful educational technology integration.
OurChatSpace OR What Mastodon could do for #HigherEd – Daniel Lynds unpacks a relatively new open source platform similar to Twitter. I have discussed the idea of using a WordPress blog for a social media space before. However, this is something different again.
Of the main elements that have and will make up a learning environment, Mastodon (or variant builds thereof) seems well suited for handling cross-community collaboration.
Tech Gypsies – I discovered the podcast on critical edtech featuring Audrey Watters and Kin Lane. I must admit that I did a bit of binge listening, but one thing that came up again and again was the power of simple tools, such as Jekyll, when embracing a domain of one's own.
Welcome to the Tech Gypsies podcast, Kin Lane and Audrey Watters' weekly discussion of the latest technology news.
The Dynamics of Static Sites – Tim Klapdor documents his learning around Jekyll and static sites. Not only does he provide links to a number of examples of sites that he has created, but he also discusses a range of tools and libraries that he has used along the way.
If you’re learning about web development, Jekyll is the equivalent of immersion to learn a foreign language. It can be hard at first, but you’ll see results faster and be practicing with more fluency than in any other way.
 

Storytelling and Reflection

When ‘What Works’ Doesn’t: Comparative Pedagogies and Epistemological Diversity in Education – Frances Vavrus challenges the idea around what works and best practices, suggesting that such stances ignores context. Having recently started reading Gert Biesta’s book on measurement, it is important to note that there is more to education than what can be measured.

The educational landscape today is marked by numerous texts for teachers that identify ‘what works’ in the classroom and ‘best practices’ for bolstering student achievement in different subjects. Although these guides may provide valuable information for educators, they frequently ignore a central imperative of critical studies in education to situate educational knowledge within the contexts in which it is produced.
Getting Schools Ready for the World – A lengthy article from Will Richardson elaborating on what it means to support students with learning how to learn. It is full of examples and elaborations that help paint a clearer picture of the tensions of our time.

Regardless of how we define the skills needed by today's global graduates, however, it's undeniable that these needs will continue to morph as our ability to create and share expands and as we face increasingly complex global challenges—climate change, workforce shifts, changing demographics, the growing global threat of terrorism and violence, and more.

Schools will teach ‘soft skills’ from 2017, but assessing them presents a challenge – Bill Lucas discusses the role-out of soft skills within the Victorian Curriculum in 2017. He shares a range of insights from his experiences in the area and some of the challenges that will need to be grappled with.

Assessing capabilities is harder than assessing subjects – and the evidence base is much less well-formed. Knowing that a student achieved a level 8b in critical and creative thinking is not particularly useful. But from the trial we are finding that students need to become more critically reflective and develop digital portfolios of evidence.

No Excuses and the Pinball Kids – Tom Sherrington adds his voice to the debate around 'no excuses' in regards to behaviour management. It is a useful post in that Sherrington touches on the nuances of something too often painted black and white.

Within the 10% there is a small % – maybe up to 30 students out of 1000 – who simply hit the boundaries all week long.  They get knocked from sanction to sanction, from meeting to meeting, from intervention to intervention, without their behaviours changing. They’re trying, we’re all trying but there are only so many detentions you can sit. We’re way beyond excuses here…these are not bad people; they just find life difficult and need a lot of support to manage time, relationships, learning, concentration. The weekly Support Planning Meeting between our SEN team, Behaviour team and Heads of School is one part of a matrix of provision planning that looks to support these students. ‘No excuses’ is way off the map in terms of being relevant here. Nobody is making excuses; they’re too busy trying to find solutions.

10 Secrets to Raising an Award-Winning Student – Chris Wejr reflects on rewards as a measurement for success and wonders how we can do better to raise the standards of all students.

As a community, we need to help ALL students go over/around these hurdles so we can create the conditions to bring out the best in each of them. Having said this, we need to ask ourselves, as a school community, if traditional awards ceremonies actually promote excellence and bring out the best or if they simply promote achievement using narrow criteria defined by adults within the building. Are awards the best we can do to highlight student learning and growth in our schools?

The Road to Damascus – Jose Picardo reflects on his recent involvement in various Edu debates. In the process he shares his thoughts on the dangers of having a Damascene moment.

There is clearly a tension between the different approaches that may lead to a great education for children, and the ensuing debate can be very healthy, but I think it would be healthier if it were more moderate and balanced. At the minute, it seems as if the tenor of the debate and the policy agenda are being set by those who believe the most and shout the loudest, and I’m not sure that is good for anyone.

The Unconference – David Truss shares his thoughts on unconferences compared to more traditional professional development experiences.

Unconferences are not about adding content to your brain, they are about synthesis of ideas, and about dialogue that challenges you to think about where you stand on a topic. They help you both make and articulate your perspective. They are about listening intently and asking questions. They are about making tangential connections that you might not make without a dialogue on the topic. They are about reflection and learning in a self-directed, empowering way, with a group of people that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

Third Places and School Community – Robert Schuetz unpacks the ideas of Ray Oldenburg in regards to third space. In the process he wonders what all this might mean for online learning? 

Oldenburg's research from 1989 focused on face-to-face interaction, but the internet has become a principle place for social interaction. Can third places be established in social media? Whether it's in-person or virtual, I believe in the power and longevity of informal learning. I am looking forward to raising a coffee mug in the name of our school community.

Learning Ecosystem Participant Model – Dave Cormier offers a model of online participation. To me this is something of a continuation of the work presented by Dron and Anderson within Teaching Crowds, as well as White and Le Cornu’s work around visitors and residents.

Four kinds of participants in a learning ecosystem

  • Consumer (What temperature do i take the turkey out?)

  • Student (How do I prepare a turkey from purchase to eating)

  • Rhizomatic learner (How can I come to my own approach to turkeys?)

  • Mentor (How can i help others with their turkeys?)

Must a classroom be high-tech to make personalized learning work? – This report from the Hechinger Report captures the culture of learning that is required when it comes to setting up a personalised learning environment. It touches on the processes of goal setting and time management, as well as the use of little data to guide all of this.

Big data analysis allows an online bookstore to recommend what a student might like to read next based on previous purchases and downloads she’s made. That suggestion is based on data collected from millions of other consumers and used to spot trends (a reader who likes history books might also be interested in historical fiction). But little data analysis can help the student learn something about her reading habits: Is she more likely to read more pages in the morning? Which words did she highlight to look up in the dictionary? How many times did she re-read the same chapter? A teacher can then use this little data to pinpoint the student’s exact strengths and weaknesses and develop a personalized learning plan to meet her needs. This is what the Dysart school district is hoping to do for every student, from the most high-tech classrooms to the most traditional.

 

FOCUS ON … Trump and the US Election

Here is a collection of thoughts and reflections associated with the recent US Election. I am still trying to make sense of it all and there is so much commentary out there. This then is only just a start to a further conversation:


READ WRITE RESPOND #011

So that is November for me, how about you? Maybe there is something that you have read that stood out to you. As always, interested to hear.

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🤔 #WhatIf quick fix solution of a ‘new school’ is akin to a diet of shakes?

via GIPHY

It seems that from a number examples shared on online that it is a lot easier to bring about change and transformation in a new school without the supposed baggage of embedded behaviours. This makes me wonder though whether a new school with the ‘best’ teachers as the answer for change is akin to those diets which provide initial success, but are more often than not sustainable in the long term? Those sorts of diets that people follow to loose 10kg for a wedding and then put on 20kg after all the gloss has worn off? Not sure, but I think that we need a more nuanced approach to change. One that celebrates, builds and supports what is in place, rather than looks for solutions on the outside. What about you?

🤔 #WhatIf We Implement Tranformational Change Without a Plan or Clear Purpose in Place?

Many make the argument for collaboration, for the development of social capital, for communities of practice, what if this is all in vein because we continue to come back to the same system in place, same purpose for showing up. What if changed started with why, started with not only knowing that there is another way, but being clear about what that might be?

🤔 #WhatIf Essential Books Feed an Essential Curriculum?

I was browsing a bookstore yesterday when I came upon an ‘Essential’ pile of books. One about Economics, another about Physics. Then there was one about remembering all the things that you learned in Geography at school, but have forgotten. This got me wondering about what would and would not be in these books and all of the ones that I had bought over time on philosophy, psychoanalysis, literary theory, religion etc … What if all these books were feeding our desire to be in control and own something that simply cannot be owned? I wonder if NAPLAN preparation books fit this mould as well?

🤔 #WhatIf Disruptive Innovation is Inequitable?

There have been a lot of companies of late that offer fast and efficient delivery of a wide range of things. People seem to be carrying parcels on their back, on bikes, however possible. The problem with this is that such disruption seems to only occur in high-populated inner city spaces? What if such change and disruption was only afforded to a particular class of people? What if innovation was in fact inequitable?

🤔 #WhatIf the focus was on behaviours, rather than applications?

via GIPHY

A dominant model for online learning too often is focused on applications and transactional processes. For example, how to use Google Drawings or manage Google Drive. This is useful in knowing what to do and how to go about it, but it does not necessarily capture why. A different approach to structuring online learning would be through the use of Open Badges.

As I have explained elsewhere:

Open Badges are online representation of a skill you have earnt. … They allow you to verify different information, such as a description, issuer, criteria of achievement and standards met.

One of the challenges is that Open Badges need to be managed as they require a certain level of authentication.

Doug Belshaw outlines this in a post on some work with a school in implementing G Suite, in which he states:

My aim in any badge system is to encourage particular types of knowledge, skills, and behaviours. Whatever system I come up with will be co-designed and go beyond just the use of G-Suite for Education. As the TPACK model emphasises, the system will have a more holistic focus: integrating the technological, pedagogical, and content knowledge required for purposeful educational technology integration.

What such an approach offers is a focus on the pedagogies and behaviours, such as analysing data, identifying trend growth and collaborating in the classroom. This allows technology to be properly integrated. It also allows you to add on any additional badges as they may arise.

🤔 Whatif we are all responsible the situation we are in?


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

In response to Donald Trump’s recent accession to president of USA, danah boyd said that social media is responsible for the creation of this spectacle and it is time for a reality check. This made me wonder, maybe we are all each in our own way responsible for this situation? I am not saying that we are all fueling the fire, but we all make choices about what it is we choose to pay attention to. Sometimes the choice to get involved can in fact be the most profound choice we can make.