My Month of December
One of the weird quirks of working in a central role within education is the measurement of time. Here in Australia, this is usually a time in the year when schools wind down and teachers clean up for the year. However, in project land, there is always something happening. Whether it be supporting schools with timetables, developing new modules or sorting out idiosynciouses with solutions, Christmas provided a welcome break.
On the family front, December is always a busy month, with three out of four people having birthdays within three days of each other. Other than that, there is the usual festive activities, such as breakup parties, musical concerts and Christmas lights.
Personally, I have started reading Ben Williamson’s new book Big Data in Education. A fascinating read so far, especially in relation to the Digital Technologies. Other than that, I have been doing a quite a bit of work on my new site collect.readwriterespond.com building on the #indieweb ethos. A reminder of why a domain is more than just purchasing a custom URL.
In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:
- The Music of 2017 in Review, or The Year I Discovered Jack Antonoff – A reflection on the artists and albums that represented the soundtrack of 2017.
- Is This the End of School as we Know It? – Are schools on the cusp of change? Will all jobs be transformed by 2030? And what is chang anyway?
- When Automation Goes Awry – The future may well involve automation, but the path to getting there is not so clear. This is a reflection on my experience communicating with a telecommunications company.
- Communication Takes Two – 2017 in Review – A reflection on my inquiry into communication this year and all of the lessons learnt along the way.
- Why Would You? – Using Questions to Extend Understanding – If we are to have an influence upon the education of tomorrow, then we need to better understand today. This post explores strategies for getting to the heart of the matter.
- Co-claiming and Gathering Together – Developing Read Write Collect – A reflection on developing a site building upon the ideas of the #IndieWeb to bring together all my disparate pieces around the web in one place.
Here then are some of the thoughts that have also left me thinking …
Learning and Teaching
Use Maps & Mapmaking in Your ELA Classroom – Kevin Hodgson discusses the power and potential of maps in extending comprehension and representing understanding. I have written before about visualisation before, however Hodgson’s post provides a range of ideas I had not considered.
What maps can bring to the writing classroom is a visual connector point, and maps provide an easy connector to the learning going on in the Social Studies classroom, too. While our maps are rooted in imagination, as all maps are, the maps they see in other classrooms give students insights into the interpretations of the larger world. Where you pin yourself depends on where you are situated.
10 low impact activities to do less of – or stop altogether – Tom Sherrington outlines a range of activities to reassess, such as subject report comments, detailed lesson plans and original teaching resources. In another post reflecting on moving forward, Eric Sheninger suggests letting go of the status quo, drive-by professional development and avoiding technology. Both of these posts are useful in asking the simple question ‘why would you?’
Teachers and leaders across the country do too many things that have unacceptably high ratios of time and effort relative to their impact and/or they are unjustifiable educationally. Sometimes I think that the debate about workload is tinkering around the edges when actually we need much more fundamental change. I also think that we need to get assessment and accountability machinery back into perspective, making them more organic and more human.
The World War Two Guide to Office Warfare – Bryan Lufkin discusses a guide developed by the CIA. The document is about doing little things that add up, such as discriminate against workers, complete tasks the long way and be non-cooperative. This is a fascinating historical document and makes one wonder what it might look like if it were written today? What would be different? Would there be anything the same?
The US urged citizens to become everyday saboteurs in World War Two – and the same tactics might just be found in your office.
20 ways to take care of yourself over the holidays – Jennifer Hogan provides a list of activities for teachers to take care of their wellbeing during the holiday period. This is something that needs to be considered during the term as well. I also wonder whether some of Hogan’s list might also be useful for students too?
The days leading up to the holiday break can be event-filled and stressful for educators. I want to encourage everyone to make time for self-care during the holiday break. We have to take care of ourselves so that we can take care of others.
Predictions for Journalism 2018 – NiemanLab collects together the thoughts from a number of significant figures in journalism on the future of journalism in 2018. Although we need to be sceptical about predictions, the NiemanLab publication, along with posts from Bryan Alexander and Mike Caulfield, provide an interesting perspective of where things are at and might be going.
The best we can do is to listen to weak signals about emerging technologies in the present, to recognize patterns early, and to build out possible, plausible, and probable scenarios that describe implications. Amy Webb
Storify Bites the Dust. If You Have WordPress, You Don’t Need Another Third Party Clown Service – Alan Levine reflects on Storify’s announcement that it will be shutting down. He provides a number of options of what to do, including downloading the HTML content and stripping the links from it. This is a reminder why #IndieWeb and owning your content is so important
There are two kinds of people or organizations that create things for the web. One is looking to make money or fame and cares not what happens once they get either (or none and go back to flipping burgers). The other has an understanding and care for the history and future of the web, and makes every effort to make archived content live on, to not leave trails of dead links. Storify is Type 1.
Anatomy of Tracking Links in Computer Science PRnewswire – Miguel Guhlin provides a useful explanation for tracking links via email campaigns. After reading Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction, this is a useful post as to how universities and algorithms combine.
Those annoying emails and click-tracking links aside, you may find something of value from online graduate programs that are doing anything they can to get you to visit their site and get you to give them your money.
Fostering Democratic Dialogue with Digital Annotation – Nicole Mirra discusses the hope and potential of sites, such as Hypothes.is, for generating discussion around texts and ideas. Although there are some who mourn the death of the comment, posts like this remind us that maybe comments have just changed. I am intrigued in the possibilities of the #IndieWeb in further organising the disparate parts.
What I found fascinating was the way that those who engaged with our piece grabbed hold of particular ideas and ran with them in ways we did not predict – it reminded me of the incompleteness of any single text and how texts could only reach their full potential as a sources of knowledge production when engagement continues beyond the page. Annotation made ideas that could have simply died in print live on and flourish collectively.
Some Fool Use – Austin Kleon discusses the need to embrace what may seem foolish when working with technology in order to create new possibilities. Talking about the potential of Lego, Tom Barrett discusses the challenge of ‘finding the edge of the page’. This was something that I tried to do with my QuickMakes session a few years ago.
Whether it’s Microsoft Excel or adding tape, pushing against constraints, finding out the limits of the tools, that’s what makes art interesting. It’s not that the tools don’t matter — it’s finding the appropriate tools, or, maybe even better, the inappropriate tools, and finding some fool use for them.
Coding Will Save You Hours Of Your Life – Alice Keeler provides an introduction to Google Apps Script. This is a useful starting point for creating your own solutions. I have collected some more resources on Sheets and Apps Script here.
We are teachers, we need to do repetitive tasks all the time due to the fact that we have more than one student. Knowing some basic coding can help you make light work out of repetitive tasks.
Bounded Systems: Affordances and Breakouts – Naomi Barnes discusses the boundaries and gates developed in online spaces. Associated with Greg Thompson discusses the need for a politics of technics. This is all epitomised by Facebook’s announcement of a messenger app for children. Although these are aspects which we need to support students in developing digital literacies, I think that there are better solutions than adding them to Facebook.
When we make private trouble public on social media, it is still a private space. It is owned by companies who are intent on keeping our political bodies private. For example, the #metoo campaign encourages women to speak out about incidents of sexual harassment as solidarity. However, unless women speak up outside of social media, the circle is still closed. But if they do speak outside social media, they risk losing jobs or initiating precarity and poverty. Social media is run by the same business plan that mobilised the gig economy as a virtue. Flexibility is the new white male. Being on board and in a team that doesn’t complain, is the new glass ceiling. The circle is rapidly closing.
Storytelling and Reflection
Excuse Me While I “Just” Go Innovate – Pernille Ripp pushes back on continual call to just innovate, arguing that she innovates every day when she teachers, plans and contacts home. The problem is that these things do not count as innovative in many experts eyes. Bill Ferriter adds his own take on the reality of the classroom teacher, explaining that he does not check his emails during the day, that he is responsible for a range of people and that working with children is his number one priority. It is interesting to compare this with recent discussion between Will Richardson and Bruce Dixon on the Modern Learners podcast in regards to the failure of teachers to engage with learning how to learn, as well as Richardson’s call from a few years back that the system is broken. For more on Ripp’s work, read Jennifer Gonzalez’s profile.
It has been building for a while. This idea that teachers need to “just” innovate more. That we need to break the system, try a new idea every day. That we need to just do more. Just do it better. Just be more.
Design Thinking is Contagious and Rots Your Brain – Richard Wells highlights a number of problems with schools, such as engaged learners and grades, suggesting that design thinking provides an answer for improving things. Lee Vinsel clearly does not agree, instead suggesting that Design Thinking belongs in a marketing department, rather than a classroom. makes the case for Design Thinking. Harold Jarche thinks we need sense-making. I wonder if the answer is a cocktail of ideas combined in the development of our own solutions?
Moran holds up the Swiffer — the sweeper-mop with disposable covers designed by an IDEO-clone design consultancy, Continuum — as a good example of what Design Thinking is all about. “It’s design as marketing,” he said. “It’s about looking for and exploiting a market niche. It’s not really about a new and better world. It’s about exquisitely calibrating a product to a market niche that is underexploited.” The Swiffer involves a slight change in old technologies, and it is wasteful. Others made this same connection between Design Thinking and marketing. One architect said that Design Thinking “really belongs in business schools, where they teach marketing and other forms of moral depravity.”
Simple strategies to help you transition better between work and home – Steve Brophy discusses developing deliberate habits to support the move from work to home. The key seems to be recognising these changes. Taking a different approach, Maria Popova talks about taking a “telescopic perspective” to identify the work our time asks of us.
If we think a spaceship docking at the International Space Station, there is so much care given to the transition from one to the other. One wrong move could spell death for many so there are no stones left unturned when it comes to safety protocol. Once the spaceship docks, it locks into the ISS and pressurises a compartment between the two. Once pressurised, the hatch at the spaceship will open and the astronauts will move into the transition space. They close the hatch behind them and then open the hatch at the ISS. The process is done with extreme care. Each space is vital and movement between each is careful and considered. What if we transitioned with the same precision?
How Schools Can Contribute to Much Needed Civil Discourse in Society – Bernard Bull discusses the need in education to model civil discourse amid truly diverse beliefs and values. In part, this touches on the challenge of civic reasoning that Mike Caulfield has been unpack. Judith Butler reminds us though of the limits of supposed free speech and knowing what that ‘bargain’ means.
Forget college report cards and standardized tests. How are we doing in helping people learn how to embrace civil discourse, nurturing intellectual virtues, being strong advocates for causes and convictions, but also showing a deep respect for the inherent value in others, as well as their rights? Math and language arts are valuable. STEM education and coding is pretty useful as well. However, if we are really interested in contributing to a better future for young people, we are wise to think about what we will contribute to the future of civil discourse.
The Contradictions of Good Teaching – Matt Barnum looks at the results of a recent study looking at the impact of teachers. Some of the findings were that teachers do have an impact, statistical models of measurement are often bias and there is a negative association between test scores and happiness standards. This takes me back to the question, “do great teachers make great schools?” For Deb Netolicky it is about the good enough teacher.
A new study that tries to quantify this phenomenon finds that on average, teachers who are good at raising test scores are worse at making kids happy in class.
CPD minefield! –The secrets to planning and preparing effective technology CPD – Jose Picardo provides a number of tips to supporting the implementation of professional development, including the suggestion to avoid one-size-fits-all, provide plenty of examples, emphasise the why and make sure you do not forget where the students and parents sit within the wider scheme of things. He also highlights a number of options, such as lunchtime sessions, briefings and teachmeets. I have discussed the idea of starting the learning early, the ingredients that make a good conference and the potential of coaching to support digital pedagogies. I think though that Picardo’s post reminds us is that the best approach is a always a mixed.
How human beings make and justify their decisions is a fascinating area of study. Psychologists have long warned about our proclivity to fall prey to irrational decision-making, logical fallacies, prejudice and bias, which often determine why new ideas are adopted. Psychology has shown that we instinctively place more importance on our own ideas than on those of others. It’s a well-documented psychological phenomenon called the Not Invented Here Bias. This bias suggests that your idea could be rejected by others simply because it is not their idea, and not on its actual merit.
Why Teachers are now Gardeners not Carpenters – Richard Wells provides a comparison between the educator as carpenter verses the educator as a gardener. I have written about trees before and the way in which they each grow in their own way, depending on a multiplicity of reasons. Interestingly, Yong Zhao suggests that gardeners are in fact dictators. In part, this is what Bernard Bull touches on when explaining that how we pick the produce impacts what produce we pick. What I find intriguing about gardens is that they do not stop growing if we stop caring for them, something that I learnt when my mother died.
Carpenters have to work in a controlled environment. Their job is to use their tools to shape each product to a predetermined design and function. The pressure is all on the carpenter to get each product right, money is spent on purchasing quality tools, products are compared to gage quality, and when the wood is not pliable, it is often discarded. Mistakes are to be avoided and taking risks is dangerous to say the least. The finished products are perfected to fulfil a specific job/specialism for life making it obsolete once future requirements change. The carpenter’s workshop is a perfect analogy for the needs of the 20th century and it’s classrooms. The Gardener’s life is messier but just as fulfilling. Compared with other life on earth, humans have a very long childhood. This is because we expect children to learn about and prepare for the world through play and experience. This long childhood lends itself to the gardener’s approach and should lean both parents and teachers to a role of planning and nurturing a nourishing and dynamic space where any number of variables might impact on progress but children learn to adapt and find their space in a ever-changing ecosystem. The gardener is a great analogy for a 21st century teacher.
FOCUS ON EdTech Year in Review
Each year, Audrey Watters’ unpacks the stories we were told about education technology in 2017. In response to her post about robots, John Johnston stated that he did not know where to start quoting. I think that this can be said about all the posts, especially when they are supplemented by additional resources.
- Education Technology and Fake News – Watters highlights how we are all implicated in the messiness of fake news.
- Education Technology, Betsy DeVos, and the Innovation Gospel – Watters intertwines the appointment of Betsy DeVos to US Secutary of Education and the continual rise of innovation in education.
- Education Technology and the Business of Student Debt – Watters explains how student loans are a part of the entrapenerial spirit.
- Education Technology and the Power of Platforms – Watters explores the battle for education’s OS and how they are shaping public education.
- The Weaponization of Education Data – Watters explains how data is being used to support those in power.
- Education’s Online Futures – Watters takes a look at the promises such as access and choice made by online learning.
- Education Technology and the Future of Academic Freedom – Watters investigates the implications of funding on free speech in higher education.
- “Robots Are Coming For Your Jobs” – Watters discusses the myth of robots and impact that such beliefs have on the structure of education, workplace skills, credentials and vocational studies.
- “Robots Are Coming For Your Children” – Watters looks at the ways in which robots are becoming a part of the lives of children.
- Education Technology and the New Behaviorism – Watters connects together personalisation, classroom management and mindsets to demonstrate ways platforms work together to modify and manipulate behaviour.
- The Business of ‘Ed-Tech Trends’ – Watter suggests we face a future in which private donors wield more influence than the elected officials.
- BONUS: The End of NMC (and the Future of the Horizon Report) – Watters reflects on the sudden death of the New Media Consortium.
READ WRITE RESPOND #024
So that is December for me, how about you? As always, interested to hear.
Cover image via JustLego101.