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My Month of April

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

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

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


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

Learning and Teaching

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edtech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Storytelling and Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

FOCUS ON … GIFS

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


READ WRITE RESPOND #004

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

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

As always, stay well.

Aaron Davis

@mrkrndvs

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