My Month of July
Had my first experience of software testing this month, looking for product defects. Working through each step, slowly, helps appreciate the intricacies involved. On a personal level, I was struck down with a virus. Another benefit to open planned office space or maybe just winter. Although I missed the Digicon conference this year, I snuck in for a meet-up after proceedings, where I finally got to meet Darrel Branson (one half of the EdTechCrew) for the first time in real life. In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:
- Education’s Digital Futures – Simon Keily shared a post exploring the question, “what do you think the digital future of education entails?” Here is my contribution to the conversation.
- Back to (Blogging) Basics – In response to Jennifer Hogan, these are my eight aspects to consider when starting out in the blogosphere, including why, what, how, portability, added content, community connections and workflow.
- A Global2 Guide – Global2, an Edublogs campus, provides the usual functionality of WordPress, with the added benefits of moderation, filtering, class management and network admin. A few years ago, I wrote an introduction, this follow-up is a thorough guide.
Here are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …
Learning and Teaching
Here (with 2 Years of Exhausting Photographic Detail) Is How To Write A Book – Ryan Holiday unpacks the process involved in developing a book, from the initial proposal to the published copy. This lengthy reflection is a great example of ‘showing your work’. Holiday shares a number of tips, such as recording quotes and ideas on notecards, as well as breaking the book into smaller chunks. It is a reminder of the time and effort involved in developing quality writing, something Mike Caulfield touched on recently.
To me, writing is a job, a profession, and the best way to be a professional is to set professional hours.
What do maker projects look like in each subject area? – John Spencer’s long list of maker projects is a continuation of his attempt to demystify makerspaces. Associated with the recent release of his book Empower, written with AJ Juliani, Spencer has been writing a number of posts exploring the challenges associated with every class becoming a makerspace. Along with Ian O’Byrne’s post unpacking what to do with children in the summer months, there are plenty of ideas for supporting students in getting more hands on.
Language Arts: For specific projects, you can do documentaries (with the green screen area), podcasts (you could do inquiry-based, curiosity casts or thematic podcasts), blogging, immersive world building (such as Minecraft in storytelling). But you can also align the Common Core ELA standards to design thinking projects. Every time they are doing research, going through ideation, and launching to the world, they are hitting specific standards. You can also integrate informational reading within maker projects by using multimedia informational text to learn how to do a beginner’s level challenge with Raspberry Pi, Arduino, or circuitry. Social Studies: Documentaries, whiteboard videos (similar to RSA Animate or Common Craft), thematic blogs, thematic podcasts, history-themed theater production (using the makerspace to do everything from set design to costume creation to multimedia elements). In economics, you can use the makerspace to do Shark Tank style projects, going through the LAUNCH Cycle to design a full project. Math: Create a board game or arcade game (probability standards), the tiny house project (proportional reasoning, volume, surface area), creating a Scratch game (reinforcing x-y access, learning logic) Science: There are tons of STEM-related ideas, like solar energy designs, engineering projects, building lunar colonies, etc. PE: Design a sport, invent a way to get people to naturally want to exercise (there’s a whole field of design-based methods for inspiring movement) — in other words, develop a partnership between P.E. classes and the design-based activity in a makerspace Art: There’s such a natural connection between what students do in art class and what they do in makerspaces that I can’t even begin to add the ideas. One maker-related thing that our former art teacher did was a steam-punk sculpture project. That could easily have an engineering and robotics element integrated into it Music: Music video projects, multimedia projects, designing an ideal studio Foreign Language: Design-oriented tutorial partnerships (where students work with refugees to create video tutorials for aspects of American life and then learn and practice the language as a result) FACS (Family and Consumer Sciences): I’d argue that FACS classes have been makerspaces before we developed makerspaces. The goal here, though, is to allow students to have more creative control in what they are making. Wood Shop: My friend A.J. helped his school redefine their woodshop to be a makerspace. They kept some of the best elements of the subject but they added additional levels of fabrication and had students use design thinking as an entrepreneurial framework. Computers: Scratch project (designing a video game), multimedia composition projects, circuitry projects, robotics
Colonial Frontier Massacres in Eastern Australia 1788-1872 – A project by Lyndall Ryan and her team at Newcastle University are digitally documenting the frontier massacres that occurred in the settlement of Australia. There have been calls to have these conflicts recognised in the War Memorial in Canberra as an example of frontier warfare. For a history of maps themselves, Clive Thompson’s has written a post for the Smithsonian.
From the moment the British invaded Australia in 1788 they encountered active resistance from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander owners and custodians of the lands. In the frontier wars which continued until the 1960s massacres became a defining strategy to eradicate that resistance. As a result thousands of Aboriginal men women and children were killed. This site presents a map, timelines, and information about massacres in Eastern Australia from 1794 when the first massacre was recorded until 1872. Only events for which sufficient information remains from the past and can be verified are included. The map also includes information about the six known massacres of British colonists in Eastern Australia in the same period. After 1872 the massacres continued but are not included here. Details of incidents of massacres after 1872 will be included in the next stage of the project.
Gaming the future of education: a student project – Bryan Alexander describes a card game designed to help reimagine education. It involves taking cards from each of the categories and using them to design a future classroom. This reminds of Anthony Speranza and Riss Leung’s use of IronChef to constrain thinking and creativity. In some other posts on games, Grant Lichtman suggests they may be the ultimate study tool for learners seeking relevancy and deep interdisciplinary understanding, while Anne Mirtchen provides a long list of games associated with learning.
The Future of Education Card Game is, as you might guess from the title, a tabletop game based on cards. Each card represents a specific development in education’s next years, and are divided into six categories.
Digital Technologies in Agriculture – Britt Gow makes the connection between digital technologies and agriculture. For me, this extends on a discussion of swarming robots discussed on Radio National’s Future Tense a few years ago. It is a great example of the real world challenges associated with STEM. Gow’s site itself is a wealth of resources associated with all things STEM across the whole curriculum.
Government, researchers, industry and many farmers recognize the enormous potential of digital technologies to transform agriculture to improve productivity. In combination with advances in biological technology, materials science and seasonal climate forecasting, the digital revolution provides new opportunities at every stage from production management, harvesting, marketing, delivery and end use.
“Kin Lane ‘I Deleted All But The Last Six Months Of My Gmail’” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA
I Deleted All But The Last Six Months Of My Gmail – Kin Lane describes his process of taking back control of his digital bits from the algorithms. He is doing this by deleting archived data often used to develop marketing profiles. In addition to Gmail, he has documented cleaning up Facebook and Twitter. Lane and Audrey Watters also discuss this further on Episode 62 of the Contrafabulists podcast. Coming at the problem from a different perspective, the Guardian Tech Podcast recently discussed the new movement of platforms designed to support people in archiving their digital memories and moments.
I’m going through each of the other digital services that I use and will be setting up a similar strategy for cleaning up my history and archives on each platform. As I do this work I keep having concerns about the algorithms not treating me the same, my ranking and scoring taking a dive, and other worries. These are all concerns that are made up, and are in place to protect platforms interests, and really have nothing to do with me, except to ensure that I keep giving away my data, and the digital exhaust from my daily work.
Two-factor authentication is a mess – Russell Brandom documents a numbers of problems with two-factor authentication. Whether it be a carrier account, a pre-registered device, or just a customer service department that’s a little too eager to reset the password, hackers are finding ways in. Even though two-factor is still recommended, it is not necessarily enough. However, for those getting started, Chris Betcher has written a useful reflection on getting security sorted, while Doug Belshaw recently reflected on his move to LessPass as a means to manage his passwords.
“Get two-factor” is still good advice, but it’s not enough. Worse, it’s not clear how to fill the gap. What do you tell someone who’s worried about seeing the contents of their inbox published on WikiLeaks? There’s no simple fix for such a threat, no one step that will keep you protected. The surprising thing is that, for a few years, it seemed like there was.
How voice control reduces your stress and procrastination – Richard Wells shares how he uses voice to control more and more of his life, from writing reports to composing quick replies. I have written about the power of voice before in regards to Google Docs. For Clive Thompson, the rise of voice has the potential to replace handwriting. With all of this said, Douglas Rushkoff recently warned that “early adopters are also early adapters”. His point being that we need to be mindful of being programmed by technology. Something that Kin Lane touched on in regards to Amazon Alexa.
In the last six months I have halved the amount of time spent typing and looking at screens. Even the age old problem of walking while texting is no longer an issue now I can speak my text messages into the end of my phone even in noisy surroundings.
Banning Phones in Class Might be the BEST BYOD Policy – Bill Ferriter provides a summary of a new report looking at the impact of mobile phones on learning. The evidence suggests that even when we are not looking at or interacting with our devices that they are pulling on our attention. This is interesting reading next to Steve Wheeler’s argument for access and Robert Schuetz’s call to focus on better use. At the very least, we need to work on understanding how they work. On a similar matter, Mimi Ito discusses the challenges of parents monitoring screen time, while Doug Belshaw wonders as a parent if unlimited screen time is the solution? The problem with all of this is that there is no clear cut answer that covers every context and such problems will only raise new questions, such as the rise in schools tracking mobile devices.
Revise your BYOD policy. Make sure that it explains that smartphones will be allowed in classrooms only on an as-needed basis. Start a conversation about Ward’s research with everyone (parents, students, teachers) in your school community. Emphasize the importance of working memory and fluid intelligence to classroom success. Detail the positive impact that separation from smartphones has on working memory and fluid intelligence — particularly for people who report high levels of dependence on and emotional attachment to their phones (read: students of darn near any age.) Begin recommending to parents interested in providing their children with devices that they invest in Chromebooks and/or tablets instead of smartphones. Remind everyone in your school community that technology isn’t ALWAYS additive and encourage everyone to think more deliberately about the costs of the technology used in your classrooms.
Choosing the (digital) pedagogical tool fit for the learning – Deborah Netolicky continues her exploration of digital pedagogies. She captures a number of definitions and perspectives in a survey of the land. I have researched digital technologies before, as well as explored the different spaces and structures which they help to foster, however Netolicky post is successfully broad, while at the same time succinct. Adding her voice to the conversation, Naomi Barnes argues that digital pedagogies involves intersection of online context, curriculum and quality pedagogy, while reflecting on implementation, Martin Weller provides a range of pragmatic approaches.
Safe, ethical use of technology needs to be guided and explicitly taught, as do skills such as online collaboration and evaluating the quality of available information. Students need the skills and aptitudes to sustain engagement with digital learning, especially if it is self-directed and self-paced.
An Introduction to the IndieWeb – Chris Aldrich provides an overview of the IndieWeb, a means of controlling your content online. Some benefits highlighted include protection against loss and influence over the user experience. Although there is a WordPress plugin you can install, the IndieWeb community provides a number of solutions across a breadth of platforms.
The purpose of the IndieWeb movement is to help put you in control of your web presence, allow you a more true sense of ownership of your content, and to allow you to be better connected to your friends, family, colleagues, and communities.
Storytelling and Reflection
Competition – Dale Pearce highlights three key factors involved in creating a culture of competition in Australian schools: increased funding to non-government schools, public reporting to celebrate ‘winners’ and residualisation of public education. None of these aspects have been addressed with Gonski 2.0, (although Gonski has been brought on to help identify what practice works best.) To me, this is a part of a wider conversation about education, involving issues such as managing stress, providing the appropriate support, dealing with the rise of digital abuse, working together as a system and engaging with what it actually means to be a teacher.
So what do you do as nation? Firstly, you have to recognise that the problem is one of your own making. Secondly, you try to address the huge equity issue you’ve created. In Australia’s case that means throwing billions of dollars at the problem through a needs-based schools funding model. Thirdly, you try to identify methods of improving student learning through improved teaching. We’re madly running around trying to do the last two things. No-one wants to acknowledge that this is a problem created by politicians, not by people in schools; too easy to blame teachers.
Do the “basics” change over time? – George Couros reflects on the idea of ‘back to basics’ and questions whether there is actually anything to go back to. Doug Belshaw’s attempts to define literacy (let alone digital literacies) highlights the difficulty in agreeing on a set of basics. Couros raised the question of critical thinking and problem solving. For Bill Ferriter, we have always done these things, the change has been how we go about it, to which he suggests that technology makes it ‘more doable’. For Harold Jasce, hard skills are temporary, while soft skills are permanent. It is for this reason that Greg Miller and his staff have remodelled learning to focus on capabilities. Maybe these are the true basics?
We need conversations in our communities. As was pointed out to me, the context of your community matters in what is believed is to be essential. Do we have the conversation with our communities though? Perhaps some would argue that the “basics” should be the same in every school as our students will grow up in a much more global community that we did as students, and maybe that would be right. Either way, have the conversation. We need to do that more.
Filter Failure Is Not Acceptable – Harold Jarsche breaks down what is required to make sense of the immense flow of information in today’s society. On thus matter, Bryan Alexander continues to defy the world in staying with RSS, while Doug Belshaw announced his return back to RSS.
Knowledge flow has to continuously become knowledge stock. Individuals practising personal knowledge mastery have to be an intrinsic part of organizational knowledge management. Knowledge comes from and through an organization’s people. It is not some external material distributed through the chain of command.
Stop Using the Excuse “Organizational Change Is Hard” – Nick Tasler reviews the bias towards failure often associated with change management. This toxic self-fulfilling prophecy stems back to a statistic in the 90’s that 70% of change processes fail. The problem though is that there is no empirical data to support this statement. Tasler suggests that our focus should be highlighting improvements and the change that occurs every day. Building on from the idea of improvements, David Culberhouse argues that the key is to identify the bright spots within an organisation and use their stories and strategies to help drive change. Speaking about art, Austin Kleon suggestions the key is something small every day.
Change is hard in the same way that it’s hard to finish a marathon. Yes, it requires significant effort. But the fact that it requires effort doesn’t negate the fact that most people who commit to a change initiative will eventually succeed. This point has gone largely unnoticed by an entire generation of experts and laypeople alike. I am just as guilty of this omission as everyone else. But now that we know the truth, don’t we have a duty to act on it? Isn’t it time to change the way we talk about change?
The LMS is dead, not unlike God: thoughts on the NGDLE – Jim Groom continues his exploration of New Generation Digital Learning Environments (NGDLE) addressing the challenges of data. Adding to the conversation, Brian Lamb provides some possible interventions. Bryan Mather’s has visualised a number of these ideas, including what NGDLE looks like, a personal API and life in a Web 2.0 world. Chris Gillard also reflected on the way that platforms support particular users and not others.
In a worst case scenario, the NGDLE offers a way for institutions to more easily extract and share their learning community’s personal data with a wide range of sources, something that should deeply disturb us in the post-Snowden era. But the real kicker is, how do we get anyone to not only acknowledge this process of extraction and monetization (because I think folks have), but to actually feel empowered enough to even care.
FOCUS ON … Critical Pedagogues
I was recently in a discussion about the need for more critical conversations in education. So often the emphasis is on cognition over the critical or cultural. Alec Couros has collected together some useful resources to start things off, but the focus was on the voices asking the questions and carry the messages. So here is a list of critical educators and examples of their writing that I have come upon:
- Martha Burtis (see Neither Locked Out Nor Locked In)
- Maha Bali (see OER17 Keynote)
- Ben Williamson (see Coding for what? Lessons from computing in the curriculum)
- danah boyd (see Tech Culture Can Change: We need: Recognition, Repentance, Respect, and Reparation)
- Jon Andrews (see Back From The Future: The Optimism Trap)
- Benjamin Doxtdater (see I’m Nowhere In-between: Why we need ‘seriously uncool’ criticism in education)
- Kin Lane (see Indie Ed-Tech, The University And Personal APIs: Drawing Lines In The Sand To Define Our Digital Self)
- Anna Hogan (The creeping commercialisation of public schools)
- Naomi Barnes (see Messy Minds: The Autoethnography Of Learning)
- Ian O’Byrne (see Wakefulness And Digitally Engaged Publics)
- Dean Shareski (see I’m Not an Expert, But Neither are You)
- Rafranz Davis (see My Expertise in Edtech Isn’t Just Diversity and Equity)
- Mike Caulfield (see Against Expressive Social Media)
- Bryan Alexander (see How not to write about reading in 2017)
- Doug Belshaw (see Badges, Proof and Pathways)
READ WRITE RESPOND #019
So that is July for me, how about you? Are there any critical readings that you would add to the list? As always, interested to hear.
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