Digitizing the School Administration

There is so much written about the digitalisation of education. However, it is often forgotten that much of this relies on an administrative foundation. Mal Lee and Roger Broadie capture this and emphasise the importance of such platforms to continually support the organisational vision.

Do your utmost to take charge of the school’s digitized administration and communication, and adopt solutions that advance the creation of the desired ecosystem and culture, understanding that at times the school will be obliged to use the mandated systems.
Set the goal of providing your staff and clients with a digitized administration at least on par with the best SME offerings, that continually reduces their workload while simultaneously improving the intuitively, efficiency, effectiveness, economies and productivity. source

One of the challenges is that many of these applications bring with them a particular way of working, a certain [[templated self]]. Jim Groom discusses the idea of the next generation LMS, which provides the means for informed digital consent in regards to data surveillance.

Three-Pronged Solution to Education

Michael Niehoff provides an explanation for a three-pronged solution to improving education. This includes a focus on inquiry, career-readiness and the integration of technology.

We need to combine the best of project-based learning, career technical education and career readiness, and the best available digital tools and resources. I should be superintendent of the western world right? OK, until then, can we work towards collaboratively calling out the three areas driving it all. How complicated is this? It’s not. PBL, CTE/Career Readiness and Tech really do cover it all. Let’s do this. source

It is interesting reading this alongside Eric Sheninger’s discussion of capabilities verses skills. This all leaves me wondering about the prospect of [[Open Badges]] to support such changes.

📝 The Garden and the Stream

Michael Caulfield uses the metaphors of the garden and the stream to discuss the web. The garden is rhizomatic in nature without a centralised structure, whereas the stream brings everything together. As Caulfield explains,

The Garden is the web as topology. The web as space. It’s the integrative web, the iterative web, the web as an arrangement and rearrangement of things to one another.

The Stream is a newer metaphor with old roots. We can think of the”event stream” of programming, the “lifestream” proposed by researchers in the 1990s. More recently, the term stream has been applied to the never ending parade of twitter, news alerts, and Facebook feeds.

Audrey Watters builds on this metaphor to compare LMS and Domain of One’s Own.

Discussing the development of Micro.Blog, Manton Reece discusses the idea of open garden as an answer to the walled garden created by platform capitalism:

The answer to a walled garden is not to create a platform without rules. It’s not outsourcing decisions to algorithms, with recommended users and topics that can be gamed or lead new users astray. That’s not enough for the challenges brought to us by massive, ad-based social networks, where fake news and hate can spread quickly.

We need a new approach. Not controlled only by algorithms, but also not a walled garden that limits distribution of content. We need a system that prioritizes curation while preserving the freedom to publish outside of silos, with APIs based on the IndieWeb that are open by default instead of locked down with developer registration.

Tanya Basu discusses the rise of ‘digital gardens’ on the web:

Beneath the umbrella term, however, digital gardens don’t follow rules. They’re not blogs, short for “weblogs,” a term that suggests a time-stamped record of thought. They’re not a social-media platform—connections are made, but often it’s through linking to other digital gardens, or gathering in forums like Reddit and Telegram to nerd out over code.

Naming, Building, Breaking and Knowing the Web

Why ‘A Domain of One’s Own’ Matters

Re-Decentralised Web

Fake news. Algorithmically created content. Siloed hubs. The challenge currently faced is being human. A part of all of this is the need for a decentralised web. As Doug Belshaw explains,

We need to re-decentralise the Web. I wrote a few years ago about the dangers of newsfeeds that are algorithmically-curated by advertising-fuelled multinational tech companies. What we need to do is quickly replace our reliance on the likes of Facebook and Twitter before politicians think that direct digital democracy through these platforms would be a good idea. source

This is something that Michael Caulfield captures in his discussion of [[the garden and the stream]].

Digital Identity vs. Digital Citizenship

Bon Stewart reflects on the contradiction associated with digital identity and citizenship.

Digital identity, as a practice, operates counter to the collaboration and cooperation that need to be part of digital citizenship. source

Although not quite the same, this reminds me of the contradiction that Gert Biesta touches upon in his notion of a good education.

What Does it Mean to be Digital Literate?

Doug Belshaw responds to the question as to the biggest mistake when it comes to digital literacies. After pointing out that they are plural, context-dependent and socially-negotiated, he explains that it is not something that one necessarily becomes.

There is no stance from which you could call someone ‘digitally literate’, because (as Allan Martin has pointed out), it is a condition, not a threshold. There is no test you could devise to say whether someone was ‘digitally literate’, except maybe at a very particular snapshot in time, for a very defined purpose, in a certain context. source

I have elaborated on Belshaw’s book here.

Leadership: Flat-Footed or Future Focused?

David Culberhouse discusses the need to be proactive as a leader or else actions will be pushed on you.

In the end, the worst stance is to be flat-footed and motionless, when change and disruption comes a calling, determined to pull the rug out from under you, to have the future forced upon you.  Rather, we need leaders drenched in awareness, connecting dots, searching for signals, willing to intentionally design our way forward in a much more proactive manner. source

Leadership Like Rock Climbing

Paul Browning discusses the challenges associated with leadership. In particular, he focuses on responding to the unknown.

Leadership is a bit like rock climbing (my son took me indoor climbing over Easter). When you look up the cliff face looks formidable, unachieveable. Half way up your arms begin to shake, particularly if you are using the wrong technique. If you look down your courage can falter and you think you can’t push on any further.But like rock climbing, leadership is a skill, that with practise, can be improved. You only get better at it when you are faced with a new over-hang, new hold, or new rock face.Good leaders will assess each challenge. Have I seen this before? What did I learn last time? Should I tackle this a bit differently? Who can I ask for advice? And if I make a mistake, what is the worst that is going to happen? I’ll have to apologise, adjust my strategy and give it another go.Rock climbers, like leaders never get any better by looking at the cliff. They can learn by watching others, but the real learning happens when you hook on and give it a go. source

This reminds me of the work of David Culberhouse around embracing the VUCA.

Care in Educational Social Spaces

There has been a lot written about the potential of social media. However, there is just as much discussed around the limitations of such spaces and the ease to with which we can confirm our biases. One aspect that has arisen over time is the place and power of tribes and with this some negative attributes, such as trolling. In a recent post, Marten Koomen wonders about the place of care in such spaces.

Many educators approach education from an ethic of care and are particularly prone to bullying. As Noddings (2003) explains, a person who engages others from an ethic of care “is not seeking the answer but the involvement” (p. 176). Care is of primary importance in education. It is through an ethic of care that new insights and understandings become possible. When involvement is inauthentic and hostile, those engaging can experience toxicity and distress. Of course, those who approach life from an ethic of care still need to reason, but this reasoning needs to proceed with an empathy for different perspectives. It requires moral development (Gilligan, 1977; Kohlberg, 1971; Murphy & Gilligan, 1980). source

It is interesting to consider this alongside Michael Caulfield’s discussion of technology designed to meet a demand and whether spaces such as Twitter are designed to support and sabotage a culture of care?

Technology Designed to Meet a Demand

What comes first, the technology or the hoax? Michael Caulfield examines a hoax involving people living on the surface of the moon in the 19th century. He makes the case that this event was not created to promote newspapers, but vice versa. Newspapers and mass print was designed to promote such events:

In other words, you can think of the hoax as meeting a demand technology creates. The hoax is hyperreal, the realer-than-real event custom-built for the technology it will inhabit. It doesn’t subvert the technology as much as exploit it to its full potential. The hoax, not reality, shows the underlying logic of the platform, and lays it bare.
The hoax is the unbridled platform made manifest.Whether we realize it or not, that’s where  we are with social media at this moment. The proliferation of hoaxes have repeatedly shown the moral bankruptcy of our current platforms, and just as early hoaxes of the 1800s started a conversation that would lead to modern journalistic ethics, we are beginning to have that discussion now about our online presses and virtual barking newsboys. And just like then, the question is not primarily about hoaxes, but about what we should be able to expect, in terms of ethics, from the people running and developing our information platforms. source

This relates to the idea that [[technology is never neutral]].

This makes me wonder what the purpose of technology, such as NAPLAN and Google Docs is fufilling?

People Are Always Your Best Resource

In a short post, George Couros argues that people are any organisations most important resource. Although there may be the most outstanding values statements in place, if this does not connect and respect the individuals then it will always be limited.

To do work that matters, people need to know that they are the best resource your organisation will have, and they have to be utilised according to this belief.  If you do not bring out the best in them, nothing you write on any document will matter.  Those visions and mission statements can become important, but only people can bring them to life.Source

Another take on this is Brad Gustafson’s take on Start With Why in that in schools we should start with the students first. While Dean Shareski suggests that people and connections are what matters when leaving a conference.

Open Office Stress

The claim is made that open offices were designed as a part of the third industrial revolution where skilled people could come together and collaborate. Reports since the 70’s have discovered that this is not the case and that such spaces increase stress and reduce productivity.

Another design-based example is open-plan offices. In the push to lower overheads—and under the false assumption that it would encourage better working practices—private rooms were traded for non-divided workspaces. This resulted in environments that increase stress, particularly due to noise. Stress has become the dominant cost to human health at work. A 2016 report found that stress accounted for 37% of all work-related ill-health cases in the UK and 45% of all working days lost due to ill health.Source

In response to Apple’s new open planned architecture, Rima Sabina Aouf summarises some scrutiny:

Open-plan offices have become more common since the 1990s but have come under scrutiny in recent years. A recent Haworth’s white paper said that open-plan offices are “sabotaging” employees’ ability to focus at work, with office workers losing 28 per cent of their productive time due to interruptions and distractions.

Similarly, Gensler’s 2016 UK Workplace Survey found that workers were more likely to innovate if they had access to a range of spaces supporting different working styles – including private, semi-private and open-plan environments.

These discussions remind me of the experience described by Aaron Swartz.

Wired has tried to make the offices look exciting by painting the walls bright pink but the gray office monotony sneaks through all the same. Gray walls, gray desks, gray noise. The first day I showed up here, I simply couldn’t take it. By lunch time I had literally locked myself in a bathroom stall and started crying. I can’t imagine staying sane with someone buzzing in my ear all day, let alone getting any actual work done.

Libby Sandler summarises some recent research into open-planned offices, highlighting that:

In many open-plan offices, the drive for increased interaction and collaboration comes at the expense of the ability to focus and concentrate.

When distraction makes it hard for employees to focus, cognitive and emotional resources are depleted. The result is increasing stress and errors, undermining performance.

When employees can’t concentrate on their work, their desire to interact and collaborate with others is reduced.

In some ways, open spaces kill the very thing it is trying to encourage.

Seth Godin reflects upon the creative and collaborative purpose of the office and wonders if the space has lost its place?

As social creatures, many people very much need a place to go, a community to be part of, a sense of belonging and meaning. But it’s not at all clear that the 1957 office building is the best way to solve those problems.

Collaboration Should Be Natural

Gary Stager wonders about all the hype surrounding Google Docs and it’s collaborative edge. In discussing his decades of experience, he suggests that writing is selfish and that collaboration should not be forced. Instead, he argues that for collaboration to work it needs to be natural.

Cooperation and collaboration are natural processes. Such skills are useful when the creative process benefits from interdependence. The best collaboration mirrors democracy when individual talents, knowledge, or experiences are contributed to produce something larger than the sum of its parts.

Work with your friends. Work with people you trust. Work with people who have different skills or expertise. If that doesn’t produce the result you desire, you will find others to collaborate with. That is how you learn to collaborate. You may teach it, but the students will not stay taught.

Honestly, I could not care less about whom my students (kids or adults) choose to work with. The only reason to assign group size is scarcity of materials (we have to share). Even in those largely avoidable scenarios, it hardly matters if group size varies a bit. The main consideration is inactivity by some members when a group is too large.

Collaboration is both selfish and selfless. You give of yourself by sharing your talent and expertise, but the collaboration should benefit you as well.Source

This is a useful provocation in thinking about technology and 21st century learning.

Collective Network

Andrea Stringer discusses the voices of teachers within education, the power of coaching to develop expertise and the overall potential for collective efficacy. Aspects such as social media provide a way of supporting this.

For expertise in the classroom and in leadership, colleagues, my professional learning network, professional reading and discourse support me. I also tap into the expertise of academics I have connected with via Twitter. With that broad depth of expertise, I learn, explore, implement and reflect. It is about connecting, building relationships, increasing awareness and developing empathy. Social media has provided a platform for this to happen, although some sectors have restrictions. Social media decreases the traditional hierarchy within education and allows more stakeholders the opportunity to connect.Source


Jim Groom reflects on the challenges of data surveillance for open education. The solution that he, and the team that he was collaborating with, came up with was that we need a form of counter-surveillance to take power and ownership back.

The only way to challenge surveillance is through counter-surveillance Source

It is interesting to juxtapose this with a comment that Mark Burden recently made that it is the Internet of Data Collection Instruments.

In terms of the device collectors, in some ways they are delighted about this passivity because it reveals behaviours that we wouldn’t necessarily reveal if we knew data about us was being recorded. So in that sense when you think about what is now called the internet of things, the very label ‘the internet of things’ is a misleading label, in fact it’s a label that I think should be put in a wastepaper basket. What we are really talking about is the internet of data collection instruments. And these instruments rely on our passive behaviours in order to collect the data from the environment and about us in relation to what we do in those environments. And what we are now starting to see is that the smart home, or what is becoming increasingly the smart home, is being packed with these devices.Source

Open as in Apertures 

Alan Levine reflects on the recent discussions of open at OER17 and by Jim Groom. In response he adds a metaphor of his own, aperture, to represent the nuances associated with open and online identity.

Maybe we ought to think about openness as an aperture that is not just fixed at one size, but continually adjusts, as Kate suggests, with appreciation opportunities and risks. There is no single “open” setting applied to pedagogy or people. It’s variable and shifting all the time, like the student in the video suggests, based on context.Source

Teamwork in a Technological Age

Teamwork does not mean constant input from all members or the abuse of productivity and communication tools. Rather, is the collaborative effort that makes complex projects possible after individuals have effectively completed their own part. Teamwork done right requires as much (if not more) individual work, concise feedback, and understanding of the broader purpose and implications.Source

Owning the Learning

Scott Millman reflects on the nature of ownership in regards to learning and education.

what does owning your own learning actually mean? That your assignment is submitted on time? That you decide when the assignment is due? That eventually you don’t need a teacher to learn anything? That you only need five more behaviour points to win a prize? Or that it’s all your own fault when you fail?Source

On Writing

In this article from The Book of Life an example of how the editor acts as a listener. The specific example provided is of the relationship between Raymond Carver and his editor, Gordan Lish.

Lish heavily edited Carver – or, as we might put it, listened to him in a hugely creative and transformative way; a way that can teach us about the art of listening in ordinary life as well.
– Lish hugely boosted Carver’s confidence; he made him feel the world was listening and that it was worth properly unpacking experiences. He did the editorial equivalent of what in conversation we can call looking closely into someone’s eyes with tenderness and sympathy.
– He stopped Carver from descending into local tedium. He took Carver’s experiences in rural America and gave them a universal dimension, ensuring that Carver is now famous from Korea to Germany as well.
– He stopped Carver digressing; he kept him focused on a central theme in each story he wrote. source

Reflecting on the process of writing Beloved, Toni Morrison discusses the ‘act of faith’:

The act of writing is a kind of act of faith.

Sometimes what is there — what is already written — is perfect and imitation is absurd and intolerable. But a perfect thing is not every- thing. Another thing, another different thing is required. Sometimes what is already there is simply not enough; other times it is indistinct, incomplete, even in error or buried. Sometimes, of course, there is nothing. And for a novelist that is the real excitement. Not what there is, but what there is not.source

Tessa Hadley talks about writing that occurs outside of your own invention:

The moment when a story comes together feels like striking into a gush of life that exists outside your invention. As you tug out one tiny detail—the jelly with mandarin oranges, for instance—others come up after it, out of the dark: the telly blanket, “A Man Called Ironside,” eating from the tin of condensed milk with a spoon. You don’t know how you know what you know about your characters and their world.