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:
- Five Alternatives to Google Drawings – Responding to some of the limits to using Drawings, here are five alternatives associated with Google Drive.
- Supporting Digital Identities in School – A response to George Couros, this post breaks down ideas around portfolios and PLNs.
- Making Comics with Google Drawings – A guide to making comics with Drawings, an activity which captures just about every feature.
- REVIEW: Any Given Team – A review of Ray McLean’s book documenting the development of Leading Teams.
- Four Things Your Smart Phone Says About You – An elaboration of a discussion on the Contrafabulists podcast around privacy.
Here then are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …
Learning and Teaching
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?”
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.
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
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:
- Gamestorming – A set of co-creation tools used to refine ideas.
- Hyper Island Toolbox – A resource from the Hyper Island Business School for anyone who wants to do things more creatively and collaboratively in their team or organization.
- Let’s Use Participatory Methodologies! – Laura Hilliger repository of workshop and icebreaker activities.
- CC Thinkathon – A reflection on a thinkathon facilitated by We Are Open Co-Op in support of the creation of a Creative Commons Certification.
- “SCRUM-tious” collaboration – Steve Brophy unpacks his use of the scrum technique, a board used to organize a project into it’s component pieces and visually display where tasks are in their development.
- Open Innovation Toolkit – This resource from Mozilla is a community sourced set of best practices and principles to help you incorporate human-centered design into your product development process.
- 27 Creativity and Innovation Tools – in One-Pagers – A collection of divergent and convergent activities from Marc Heleven.
- The ebb and flow between divergent and convergent thinking – Tom Barrett discusses the importance of the ebb and flow between divergent and convergent thinking during the ideation stage.
- The Thinkathon – Doug Belshaw provides an alternative to the usual brainstorming task. Along with Dan Rockwell’s argument that brainstorming needs two sessions, it highlights the importance of time and space when digging deeper
- 3 Activities to Help Your Team: Generate, Develop and Judge Ideas – Tom Barrett shares three activities to support divergent, emergent and convergent thinking.
- Development, Impact and You – Toolkit to trigger and support social innovation.
- Why hackathons are the future of teacher professional learning – Alice Leung shares her experience of a hackathon, an activity involving a group of people, with similar passions, getting together to solve problems.
- Developing the Creative Concept – Laura Hilliger reflects on the move from research to ideation associated with her work with Greenpeace.
- The FabToolkit – A collection of tools for tech capacity building, including stakeholder mapping and workshop design.
- In Search of a More Beautiful Questions – A collection of questioning activities from Warren Berger’s book A More Beautiful Question.
- Iron Chef Style – A lesson plan from Jon Corippo and Iron Ed-tech Chef a great example from Anthony Speranza and Riss Leung.
READ WRITE RESPOND #014
So that is February for me, how about you? As always, interested to hear.
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