My Month of May
This month I realised the limitations to using a priority matrix to organise my work. It was not capturing the different facets of my work, such as reporting, online portal, attendance and timetable. I am still organising my work around priorities, I have just taken to representing this in a spreadsheet, therefore allowing me to filter it in various ways. I still am not quite settled on this, but it will do for now
In regards to other aspects of work I was lucky enough to attend a presentation by Hilary Hollingsworth on ACER’s work on reporting. I have also been helping some schools with the implementation of various administrative applications focusing on interviews and excursions. The more I do the more I realise how much of what is ‘transformative’ is built upon a raft of invisible parts that build to make the complex systems, which we so easily take for granted.
On the family front, my girls have taken to belting out duets together, even in the middle of the shops. Although the youngest one cannot keep up with every word of every line, she gives it a go. In general, it is fascinating watching them learn together.
Personally, I have found myself spending more time bookmarking and collecting my thoughts, rather than crafting long forms. It was interesting to read Doug Belshaw reflect upon this with his own writing. I think that Ian O’Byrne captures this best when he explains the interrelated nature of the different spaces.
In regards to my writing, here was my month in posts:
- Finding the Tools to Sing – A Reflection on Big B Blogging: I started writing this post a few months ago in response to Tom Critchlow’s post, but did not get around to finishing it, subsequently my initial notes have lay waiting. I was reminded of it by recent posts from Jim Groom and Alan Levine reflecting on the purpose of blogging. Here then is my contribution to the conversation.
Sharing Data is Easy with QUERY: There are many challenges to sharing specific data in Google Sheets, some of these can be overcome using the QUERY formula.
Here then are some of the thoughts and ideas that have also left me thinking:
Learning and Teaching
21 simple design elements that will make any School Assessment Task sheet accessible: Haley Tancredi, Jill Willis, Kelli McGraw and Linda Graham reflect on the assessment task sheet so common in the secondary classroom. Responding to the challenge of accessibility, they collect together a number of elements to support all students. This list is organised around visuals, clarity and directions.
Access can be made easier or more difficult depending on the way the assessment task is presented; both in terms of visual presentation and in terms of the language used. The number and type of procedures required can also differentially affect students’ successful completion of the task. This approach to analysis helped us to produce a list of recommended design elements that will be useful to teachers as they plan and write up their assessment tasks.
Civix Releases New Online Media Literacy Videos: Mike Caulfield shares a series of videos summarising his work on Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers. Although it only touches on the basics, it still provides a useful introduction to the ‘Four Moves’ approach. Caulfield has also started a project associated with local newspapers that is worth checking out.
As I say — it’s the internet — you’re not stuck with that one story that comes to you. By going out and actively choosing a better story you will not only filter out false stories but also see the variety of ways an event is being covered.
When words won’t suffice: behavior as communication: Benjamin Doxtdator unpacks behaviour in the classroom. He touches on knowing your child, student choices and systemic inequalities. This is a useful post to read and critically reflect upon various practices and pedagogies. I think that it all starts with the language that we choose. Chris Friend also considers the influence of language in regards to learning management systems and assessment. In regards to behaviour, Riss Leung compares dog training with her classroom experiences.
Just as I try (and sometimes fail) to de-center myself when addressing student misbehavior, I try to de-center myself when I write. The vast majority of the students that I teach won’t be racially profiled in a behavior policy or by the police and that’s why I think it is especially important for me to seek out literature that reflects on those systemic injustices.
Learning for learning’s sake: Austin Kleon responds to the challenge associated with ‘learning for learning’s sake’. He suggests that we need to invest in hobbies and curiosity, just as much as we focus on ‘return on investment’. This reminds me of Amy Burvall’s point that “in order to connect dots, one must first have the dots”. Thinking about luck, Janice Kaplan discusses the importance of engaging with curiosity. Diane Kashen suggests we need more messy play.
Setting aside the importance of hobbies and the amateur spirit, what worries me the most is this faulty idea that you should only spend time learning about things if they have a definite “ROI.” Creative people are curious people, and part of being a creative person is allowing yourself the freedom to let your curiosity lead you down strange, divergent paths. You just cannot predict how what you learn will end up “paying off” later.Who’s to say what is and what isn’t professional development? (An audited calligraphy class winds up changing the design of computers, etc.)
Forget the checkout: what about the plastic clogging supermarket aisles?: Nicola Heath reports on the current plastic crisis in Australia. Although every state has agreed to ban single use bags, the real problem that needs to be addressed is in the aisles and aisles of pre-packaged food. Although the impact of plastics on our ocean has been well reported, it seems that there is a significant impact on our fresh water lakes too. Studies have found microplastics in drinking water, beer and honey. I wonder if the solution starts with school and education?
Some, like the Greens, argue manufacturers and retailers need to take more responsibility for the lifecycle of their packaging. “Product stewardship” and extended producer responsibility (EPR) requires manufacturers to factor the disposal of packaging into its design and production.
The Brick Wall: When I taught robotics I would show my students a video involving the use of a simple Lego kit in a science laboratory as a point of inspiration. The Brick Wall takes these possibilities to a whole new level, providing a collection of videos useful for thinking about what is possible in regards to programming, Lego and robotics. Some other series and collections that I have stumbled upon lately include the New York Times’ podcast Caliphate, which explores the world of ISIS, as well as Amy Burvall’s creativity vlogs as a part of the #LDvid30 project.
Better visions of ourselves: Human futures, user data, & The Selfish Ledger: Ian O’Byrne reflects on the internal video produced by Google Project X focusing on speculative design the notion of a ledger that does not actually belong to the user, but managed by some grand AI. Although this was designed as a case of ‘what if’, it is a reminder of what could happen. It therefore provides a useful provocation, especially in light of Cambridge Analytica and GDPR. O’Byrne suggests that this is an opportunity to take ownership of our ledger, something in part captured by the #IndieWeb movement. Not sure what this means for our digitally proficient three year olds. Douglas Rushkoff makes the case for including less on the ledger, not more.
I think there is a reasoned response to technopanic. Perhaps a sense of techno agency is necessary. Now more than ever, faster than ever, technology is driving change. The future is an unknown, and that scares us. However, we can overcome these fears and utilize these new technologies to better equip ourselves and steer us in a positive direction.
How an Algorithmic World Can Be Undermined: danah boyd continues her investigation of algorithms and the way in which our data is being manipulated. She did this at re:publica 2018. This is very much a wicked problem with no clear answer. The Data & Society Research Institute have also published a primer on the topic. I wonder if it starts by being aware of the systemic nature of it all? Alternatively, Jamie Williams and Lena Gunn provide five questions to consider when using algorithms. Om Malik highlights the focus of algorithms focus on most over best. Jim Groom also presented at re:publica 2018 on Domain of One’s Own and Edupunk.
It’s not necessarily their [technologies] intentions but the structure and configuration that causes the pain
Truth in an age of truthiness: when bot-fueled PsyOps meet internet spam: Kris Shaffer continues his work in regards to bots, unpacking the way in which our attention is hijacked through attempts to influence and advertise. It is important to appreciate the mechanics behind these things for they are the same mechanics that those on social media engage with each and every day. One of the points that Shaffer (and Mike Caulfield) make is that whether something is true or not, continual viewing will make such ideas more familiar and strangely closer to the truth.
Harald D. Lasswell wrote that the function of propaganda is to reduce the material cost of power. On a social-media platform, that cost-reduction comes in many forms. By their very existence, the platforms already reduce both the labor and the capital required to access both information and an audience. Automated accounts further reduce the cost of power, for those who know how to game the algorithm and evade detection long enough to carry out a campaign.
Email Is Dangerous: Quinn Norton takes a dive into the mechanics of email. She continues to remind us how everything is broken, Norton gives a history of email and many of its inherent flaws. This comes on the back of the latest discovery of bugs associated with supposed encrypted email.
Email has changed since then, but not much. Most of what’s changed in the last 45 years is email clients—the software we use to access email. They’ve clumsily bolted on new functionality onto the old email, without fixing any of the underlying protocols to support that functionality.
Programming with Scratch – An educator guide: Anthony Speranza provides an introduction to Scratch. An often underrated application, Scratch provides an insight into some of the ways that the web works, particularly in regards to ‘blocks’. Sometimes it feels as if you are not really coding unless you are working with some form of language. The problem is that this is not how the world works. More often than not it is about building on the ideas (and snippets) of others. Look at WordPress’ move to Gutenberg. In addition to this, we interact with ‘blocks’ each and everyday in the applications and sites that we use. One only needs to use something like Mozilla’s X-Ray Goggles to start realising that inherent complexity within the web. For more insight into Scratch, listen to Gary Stager on the Modern Learners podcast.
Scratch is a graphical programming language and online community where users can program and share interactive media such as stories, games and animations. Whilst it is targeted at 8 to 16 year olds, anyone of any age can write a program in Scratch.
The platform patrons: How Facebook and Google became two of the biggest funders of journalism in the world: Mathew Ingram reports on the increasing influence of platforms on the news industry. Google has been really pushing into journalism lately, with the further investment of News Lab and the Digital News Initiative, as well as the ability to subscribe using your Google account. This in part seems to be in response to Facebook’s problems. It is interesting considering this alongside discussions of the history of news and the long association with advertising.
Both Google and Facebook may argue—and may even believe—that they simply want to help increase the supply of quality journalism in the world. But the fact remains that they are not just disinterested observers. They are multibillion-dollar entities that compete directly with media companies for the attention of users, and for the wallets of every advertising company that used to help support the business model of journalism. Their funding and assistance can’t be disentangled from their conflicted interests, no matter how much they wish it could.
Storytelling and Reflection
What We Talk About When We Talk About Digital Capabilities: In a keynote at the UCISA Digital Capabilities event at Warwick University, Donna Lanclos unpacks the effect of analytics and the problems of profiling when trying to identify improvements. A skills approach is an issue when decisions get made on your behalf based on the results of a preconceived checklist. Lanclos suggests that we need to go beyond the inherent judgments of contained within metaphors and deficit models, and instead start with context.
The history of Anthropology tells us that categorizing people is lesser than understanding them. Colonial practices were all about the describing and categorizing, and ultimately, controlling and exploiting. It was in service of empire, and anthropology facilitated that work. It shouldn’t any more, and it doesn’t have to now. You don’t need to compile a typology of students or staff. You need to engage with them.
Citizen of Apple, State of Lego: Julian Stodd explores the evolving idea of ‘citizenship’. Whereas it was defined by geography and culture in the past, Stodd wonders if in the future it will be subscription based. Rather than depending on the state and taxes to provide societies infrastructures, we now rely on the various multi-national platforms, such as Microsoft, Amazon, Netflix, Facebook and Google. This reminds me of the conversation that was had recently around being a citizen of the #IndieWeb. If states lose their sway, I wonder if this opens up other alternatives? This is something Aral Balkan touches upon. I wonder what this means for rituals or habits.
Imagine a future state, one of multiple citizenships, so i can be a Citizen of the UK, a Citizen of Apple, and a Citizen of Lego, not traversing physical borders to move from one to the other, but rather conceptual, or internalised ones. Each providing real utility, it’s own type of ‘space’, and each giving us it’s own component of culture. Perhaps in this model, ‘Culture’ becomes a meta entity that we each construct, through a combination of our geolocation within space, and our subscriptions online.
School is One Spoke in the Wheel of Learning & Why This is a Critical Insight for the Future of Education: Bernard Bull reflects on what people need to stay current in a job, shift to a similar job, develop skills that transfer to work environments, move into leadership within one’s field, or make a full career shift. To support this, he provides a series of questions to consider. I wonder where the second wave of MOOCs sits within all of this?
If we are looking at learning across the lifetime today, we need to think beyond the teacher/student and schooling constructs. Education is already larger than that. This is no different from recognizing that health and wellness is about so much more than a patient/doctor interaction. These professionals do and will continue to play a valuable role, but limiting many of our conversations about education to these formal contexts is inadequate for the challenges and opportunities of our age. In fact, it has always been inadequate. Formal education has a role to play today and in the future, but it is one of many spokes in the lifelong learning wheel.
The risks of treating ‘academic innovation’ as a discipline: Rolin Moe argues that we need to recognise the often negative history associated with ‘innovation’ in the way that we use it. If we don’t do this we risk the word being simply an emotive tool. This touches upon Audrey Watters message to respect history, rather than live in the ever present that so many try to perpetuate.
Negotiating the future we want with the history we have is vital in order to determine the best structure to support the development of an inventive network for creating research-backed, criticism-engaged and outside-the-box approaches to the future of education. The energy behind what we today call academic innovation needs to be put toward problematizing and unraveling the causes of the obstacles facing the practice of educating people of competence and character, rather than focusing on the promotion of near-future technologies and their effect on symptomatic issues.
12 tips for great speaking: Steve Wheeler provides some useful tips and reflections on the art of the keynote. They include use humour, minimal text, engage with your audience, don’t speak too quickly, repeat key points and only stick to three of them. In part, this reminds me of Presentation Zen and the idea of a minimalist slidedeck, while Emma Cottier also wrote an interesting post share a range of tips and tricks associated with Google Slides. Although not necessarily about ‘keynotes’, Andrew Denton recently shared some tips for a better conversation that I think relate to this conversation, including be respectful and empathise with the interviewee (or audience).
If you are lucky enough to be invited to address an audience of your peers at a conference, a lot will depend on what you say and the manner in which you say it. You want your speech to be memorable, inspiring and thought provoking. You’ll also need to be convincing if you want to put your arguments across effectively. So I’ll share some of the top tips I recommend for keynote speakers.
Burden of Proof: Malcolm Gladwell wonders how much ‘proof’ we need in order to do something about CTE, a neurodegenerative disease found in people who have had multiple head injuries. Gladwell’s focuses on Owen Thomas and his suicide in 2010. In regards to the question of breaking point, there was no reference of Aaron Hernandez, whose case involves murder and suicide. I wonder how long until this becomes a case in AFL?
Sometimes proof is just another word for letting people suffer.
Gonski review reveals another grand plan to overhaul education: but do we really need it?: Glenn Savage has written, recorded and been interviewed about the new Review to Achieve Educational Excellence in Australian Schools. He raises a number of questions, including whether the new report addresses the question of inequality, is ‘personalised teaching’ worth the money and investment, is the educational sector exhausted by continual reform agendas and do the recommendations really address what is happening in the classroom? In other spaces, both Andrea Stringer and Deborah Netolicky have highlighted the potential in providing more time for teachers to collaborate. Greg Miller argues that we need to wrestle with how to assess the capabilities, rather than continue to work where the next silver bullet for literacy and numeracy is. Peter Hutton shares concerns about testing the capabilities. Gabrielle Stroud sees it as the industrial model of accountability rebadged, where a teacher’s relationship with their students is trumped by a test. Netolicky also raises concern about the lack of trust for teachers. Darcy Moore describes the whole affair as a never-ending rebuilding of The Windmill. Ann Caro rues the missed opportunity associated with equitable funding of education in Australia with this clear change in direction.
We need to (once again) question whether the contemporary reform fever does any more than treat symptoms while deeper structural conditions continue to ensure, as the original Gonski report put it, unacceptable links between young people’s socioeconomic backgrounds and levels of achievement. We need to be careful not to stray too far from where the first Gonski report started out. That is: addressing inequalities in Australian schooling through re-distributive funding.
t’s time to be honest with parents about NAPLAN: your child’s report is misleading, here’s how: It was that time of year again, when the whole nation stops for NAPLAN. There has been a range of posts shared. One that stood out was from Nicole Mockler She summarises Margaret Wu’s work around the limitations to NAPLAN in regards to statistical testing. Moving forward, Mockler suggests that NAPLAN should become a sample based test (like PISA) and is better suited as a tool for system wide analysis. To me, there is a strange balance, for on the one hand many agree that NAPLAN is flawed, yet again and again we return to it as a source of ‘truth’.
At the national level, however, the story is different. What NAPLAN is good for, and indeed what it was originally designed for, is to provide a national snapshot of student ability, and conducting comparisons between different groups (for example, students with a language background other than English and students from English-speaking backgrounds) on a national level.
This is important data to have. It tells us where support and resources are needed in particular. But we could collect the data we need this by using a rigorous sampling method, where a smaller number of children are tested (a sample) rather than having every student in every school sit tests every few years. This a move that would be a lot more cost effective, both financially and in terms of other costs to our education system.
FOCUS ON … GDPR
The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA). Adopted on 14 April 2016, it became enforceable on 25 May 2018. Here then is a collection of posts exploring what it all means. Although not exhaustive, it provides a starting point:
- What is the GDPR Privacy Law and Why Should You Care?: Harry Guinness summarises the eight rules associated with GDPR and what they mean for those outside of the EU.
- LA Times among US-based news sites blocking EU users due to GDPR: Alex Hern on the threat that GDPR could ‘Balkinise’ the web, with a range of sites closing off access to EU visitors.
- Facebook and Google targeted as first GDPR complaints filed: Alex Hern reports on Noyb’s test of the new regulations. The case being tested is whether the processing of data for targeted advertising can be argued to be necessary for the fulfilment of a contract to provide services such as social networking or instant messaging.
- The Ultimate Guide to WordPress and GDPR Compliance – Everything You Need to Know – The team at WPBeginner provide a guide for making WordPress compliant, including plugins that store or process data like contact forms, analytics, email marketing, online store and membership sites.
- No one’s ready for GDPR: Sarah Jeong explains why nobody is actually ready. Part of the problem is how companies are set up, and part of it is that “personal information” is a wishy-washy category.
- Can we PLEASE talk about privacy, not GDPR, now?: Sebastian Gregor explains that GDPR is no deadline, it is a process. Now that it is here, lets engage in ever broadening debates on how to treat the personal data of human beings
- Privacy: David Shanske reflects on privacy, the IndieWeb and webmentions. He also added an extended response to a WordPress forum on GDPR.
- 13 things to know about the GDPR: M.J. Kelly breaks down the rights associated with GDPR with a focus on what this all means for Mozilla.
- Good enough, the EU’s data protection regulation and what CryptoKitties can tell us about the future of art:Angela Daly discusses what GDPR might mean for Australia with Antony Funnell on the Future Tense podcast.
- Doctor, I think I have GDPR fatigue:Jordan Erica Webber, Alex Hern and Dr Rachel Birch explore GDPR and its consequences for the health sector.
- GDPR and the marketer’s dilemma: Seth Godin argues that GDPR will create an actual market, where getting permission to send messages to a user requires that marketers make a compelling proposition.
- GDPR will pop the adtech bubble: Doc Searls discusses what he sees as the eminent demise of ‘adtech’ and what will be left afterwards.
- Comments on ClassDojo controversy: Ben Williamson addresses a number of questions leveled at Class Dojo, especially in light of the current concern around data. One of the points that he makes that really stuck out was the notion of ‘sensitive data’. Often this is defined by privacy, however as Williamson explains the collection of data over time actually has the potential to turn the seemingly arbitrary into sensitive data.
- Notes from Understanding the General Data Protection Regulation course: Doug Belshaw shares a series of reflections based on his participation in an online course designed to unpack GDPR.
- There Will be Blood – GDPR and EdTech: Eylan Ezekiel discusses GDPR, making the comparison between data and oil.
- I am a data factory (and so are you): Nicholas Carr reflects on the metaphors that we use and demonstrates some of the flaws, particularly when they are used against us inadvertently. Although not explicitly about GDPR, it has ramifications for the way we talk about it.
READ WRITE RESPOND #029
So that is May for me, how about you? As always, interested to hear.
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Cover image via JustLego101.