Welcome back to another month. I feel like it has had a bit of everything, catching up with family visiting from interstate, eldest daughter managing to go on her first school camp in three years, as well as being being thrust into health and safety protocols.
On the Work front, I feel like I have spent much of my time trying to get to the bottom of a range of new defects that have come with a recent upgrade. I am always intrigued how aspects of the application that have not been fixed or improved are impacted.
So another month passes. For me, someone ran into the back of my car. Sometimes life just happens, I guess. When I initially inquired about getting a loan car, I was told that I would need to travel to the airport to collect it. Unwilling to do this, we managed to get through most of the month with just one car. Although I did end up finding a loan car closer to home, it definitely made me think about our dependence on a vehicle differently.
On other matters, we continued to venture out more and more, step by step. We rejoined the Melbourne Zoo, ventured to a few country markets and ate out a bit more, including in Chinatown in the CBD. (Apparently exploring Chinatown was on Ms 6’s bucket list.) This is definitely not a return to normal, but maybe this is the new normal? Still not sure how I feel about going on a big holiday, but it feels like I am more and more in the minority.
At work, we survived the rush associated with biannual academic reporting, even as some people were on leave. In addition to that, I have continued doing my usual day-to-day stuff, such as testing improvements, responding to support calls and developing various guides. In amongst all of this, somebody thought we needed Office 365, so we have been learning about the benefits of collaborative software, even if we have been using
Personally, I finally found out what I was missing in regards to Hamilton, (although only my wife was lucky enough to see it on stage.) I also joined in the Minefield’s not quite a bookclub reading (or listening to) Jane Austen’s Emma. In regards to music, I enjoyed the thought that TISM are returning.
Foolishly, about 20 years ago, I said that the only way that TISM would ever reappear would be if the Fair Work Commission decided to raise the minimum wage. I thought I was pretty safe there. Because, as if anyone’s going to give those bloody battlers a decent go.
Then I got a phone call at 10am this morning. They said, ‘It’s happened’ and, shamefully, here we are.
Here then are some of the dots that have had me thinking:
Jenny Gore and Nicole Mockler suggest that most reporting on education overlooks the systemic challenges of inequity in our communities. They argue that what is needed is investment in teaching and an effort to raise the status across the board.
Jon Keegan and Dara Kerr use Blacklight privacy inspector to demonstrate the data collected by trackers on abortion sites. Another example of the way in which insight and awareness can be produced from the crumbs we leave.
At home, there was finally some action in regards to fixing up our yard. We inherited a few issues when we purchased the property, such as a water tank on a lean. A part of me felt guilty in getting somebody else to do the work. My home, my problem, or something like that. I had done what I could in cleaning things up. However, I soon realised that sometimes there is a reason that you get somebody with the skills and tools to do the job. I am pretty sure it would have taken me months to achieve what a few guys and an excavator achieved in a few days.
On the family front, our youngest had to stay home for a few days two weeks running with a lingering cough. All of her RATs came back negative and her energy levels were normal. I was supporting a teacher who pointed out that in some ways lockdown was easier as we did not have to worry about all the coughs and sneezes meaning that everyone could simply battle on. Guess this is all a part of the new normal.
At work, focus turned to supporting the setup of academic reports. However, as seems to be the way, nothing ever quite goes to plan as we were inundated with requests for attendance data associated with a government audit. On further investigation it was discovered that there were some who were already aware of the requirement, they just forgot to pass this information on. I never cease to be surprised by the way in which one hand fails to speak with another. With so much outside of our control, it feels frustrating when something in our control is overlooked. In between all this, I continued creating guides to fill gaps in our instruction, as well as develop some spreadsheets and scripts to help automate practices.
Cory Doctorow discusses Tracking Exposed, a collective of designers using adversarial interoperability to go beyond the guessing game of algospeak to provide a more concrete understanding of algorithms and content moderation.
Even though we had Easter and the school holidays, we were still conservative as a family about getting out and about, sticking to a few country drives and visits to friends.
On the work front, there was a return to being on-site three days a week. Even though my job is to largely provide virtual/phone support to schools across the state, it is argued that being together is more conducive to collaboration. However, this is also reliant on having the right space for such collaboration to occur. With the new normal being more fluid, adjustments are required. For example, a few days back we had an internal meeting where the organiser either forgot to, or was unable to, book a meeting room, therefore there were five people spread across an open work space speaking with a couple of colleagues on another level virtually. It just seems a bit absurd at times.
Kevin Townsend, Shirley Li, Spencer Kornhaber, and Hannah Giorgis talk about the place of nostalgia in modern music and the way in which steaming allows us to easily fill our listening with more of the same.
Welcome back to another month of the new normal. This month feels like it has had a bit of everything. It started with a visit from my father, who I had not seen since for a few years. While it ended with COVID. In addition to a whole lot of prizes and freebies, my wife brought COVID home from a conference she attended. Somehow my daughters and I managed to escape by isolating, even if everyone suggested we all just get it together as it is inevitable. No thanks. I am sure my time will come, but not this day (or month).
On the work front, I finally finished end of year activities. I also found a whole heap of tasks and incidents that had become lost in triage. As the organisation grows and morphs, some old groups are merged and made obsolete. The problem is that changing a name does not magically change a habit meaning that these incidents remain unresolved and unaccounted for. The funniest thing I find about working with technology is the human variability. So much time is spent managing the product, making sure that everything is right and correct, but this can sometimes be at the expense of clear processes and procedures.
Adrienne Westenfeld discusses the way in which some novelists, such as George Saunders, Salman Rushdie and Chuck Palahniuk, have turned to Substack as a means of serializing fiction, teaching the craft of writing and generally engaging with readers.
I would like to say that it was a strange month, but every month feels strange at the moment.
At work, the end of year process has continued even if it is no longer the end of the year. The process of cleaning up data would be enough to keep me busy, but alas the return of schools also meant the return of support requests. With over 300 schools to support now, I am amazed that I still manage to stumble upon novel issues, but I do. I guess that is the joy of an ever growing project where there is always some new addition to stretch things that bit further.
On the family front, the return to school has brought its own anxieties. The government supply of rapid antigen tests has alleviated that to a degree, but the threat is still there. In addition to school, the children have returned to their extracurricular activities. The youngest is even trying out tennis. It almost feels like some kind of normality, except when you read the number of cases and they are just the ones we are aware of.
Ron Ritchhart provides a list of ways to help thinking routines to succeed. This includes using thinking routines in your own learning, respecting that thinking leads to learning, and appreciating that they are a part of a larger agenda.
A thinking activity I like to use is to give an answer and then come up with the question. This month it feels like I have been the answer for far too many questions. Whether it be calling out problematic workflows, sorting out integration concerns, identifying access issues, fixing up spreadsheets, the answer for each seems to be me. In part it it has left me feeling like a failure in that I have not adequately built the capacity of others to sort things out, but sometimes in life when we find someone who can get things done we just go to them.
Sadly, as I started back at work in the second week of January, I did not have a much a break over Christmas. Just enough time to get a few things done around the house, such as fixing the shower. As well as catching up with a some friends. I had forgotten how much I missed in catch up with people in person. The mixed blessing is that my family and I subsequently stayed around home for much of the school holidays even though we were not in lockdown.
I managed to scrape my way to the end of the school term. For the last few weeks I have felt like a boxer successfully avoiding the full impact associated with a barrage of punches, but never properly regaining their balance. If it was not academic reports, then it was attendance, while if it wasn’t attendance, then it was the parent portal. I often wonder what a mature solution might look like and keep coming back to the importance of building capacity. Something easier said than done. Time will tell.
On the home front, I learnt the importance of using the right tool for the task. I have spent the last few months using a handsaw to cut down some trees at the back of our property. It got down to the stumps so we borrowed a small electric chainsaw. As I wonder what is currently wrong with my elbow, I am left thinking I should have borrowed the chainsaw earlier. It also made the process of loading the green waste into 10 cubic metre skip so much easier.
Personally, it was again another dry month on the blogging front. In regards to reading, I started Catch 22. While with music, I have been listening to both Marina and Garbage’s new albums.
Here then are some of the posts that had me thinking:
Welcome back to another month. I hope you are well.
On the family front, April has been the month of celebrations – our eldest turned double digits, my grandfather turned ninety and my nephew turned one. Makes for a lot of celebrations, even in these strange times. With the house, I experienced the highs and lows of selling things online. We inherited a 10-person spa when we bought our house and I advertised it for $50 dollars. Clearly from the responses this was well under what it was worth, although it did cost $1000 to move. On a positive note, we had my wife’s upright piano delivered, which was nice addition.
At work, we returned to three days in the office, so I am back on public transport for the first time since the start of last year. It really makes me appreciate how lucky I have been to work from home for so long. Although it is nice to catch up with people, I am not sure there are many gains, especially when so much of my work is done alone. The other part of this puzzle has been expanding our support team. This has left me wondering how you jump on a moving train travelling at full speed. Is it about a clear vision to buy into? Collating the appropriate documentation to support theme? Or hiring the right person? The problem I have found is that the work is the work, the problem is that you do not really know what that work is until you are in the middle of it.
Amanda Keddie discusses the Australian Government’s resource developed to help schools address the challenge of educating young people about respectful relationships and the problems she has with milkshakes.
Kate Crawford speaks about her new book, Atlas of AI. In it, she attempts to capture the human side of artificial intelligence, whether it be the resources, the workforce, history, datasets or the escape to space.
Clive Thompson dives into the world of robotics. This includes the development of the Unimate, the challenge of replicating the human hand, the innovative opportunity provided by the X-Box’s 3-D-sensing chip, and the financial incentive offered by pandemic.
Where did March go? Each month I reflect upon different aspects of life, however this month it feels as if everything has blended together. Whether it be moving, unpacking, tidying up our old house, fixing things in the new house, or supporting schools with this and that, it was little surprise that I got run-down. Life has its ways of communicating at times, especially when we may not want to listen.
Here then are some of the posts that have had me thinking:
In response to being asked to give a lecture about adventuring, Beau Miles decided to walk the 90 km to work as a point of stimulus. By slowing down, he captures aspects of the environment that often get overlooked.
Matt Neal reflects on the impact of 1991 in music and how Nirvana and the grunge movement changed everything.
FOCUS ON … Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano
I learnt recently about the passing of Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano:
It is with the deepest sadness that I share that the remarkable Silvia Tolisano @langwitches passed away on March 1, 2021. Brilliant, original, innovative, and ahead of her time, she made a powerful impact on thousands of teachers and learners throughout the world. pic.twitter.com/5SZASiVnKs
Silvia was someone who helped me foster my understanding and appreciation of the power of blogging in and out of the classroom. In celebration I went back into my links and bookmarks to curate a list of posts that have inspired me:
Silvia Rosenthal Tolisano responds to number of questions about blogging, such as how to start out in the classroom, setup precautions, develop a habit and extend your thinking beyond the simple view of blogging
In this presentation from BLC17, Tolisano shares ways in which blogging helpos support four primary areas: reading, writing, reflection and sharing. She also includes a rubric for blogging and commenting.
Tolisano suggests that having a platform to document learning, organize and archive initiatives, action research, and institutional memory not only helps teachers with reflecting, but it also gives them a space to practice digital literacies.
February felt like it had it all. In Melbourne, we were thrown into a circuit breaker lockdown. In the middle of this, my wife and I were successful in buying a new home. Having lived in our current home for twelve years, I had forgotten how much is involved in getting things organised to move. I guess sometimes it pays to be naive or maybe a little ignorant, but it has definitely kept us busy.
On the work front, schools have been getting into the swing of things again finalising the end of last year, as well as all the census activities. One particular challenge I have is when people say they get what you are on about, but you know that it has not quite clicked. No matter how much you rush, I have found that building capacity takes times. The issue is that systems and deadlines do not always allow for such time.
Personally, I finished reading Bertrand Russell’s History of Western Philosophy and listened to a lot of Daft Punk. Sadly, long form writing.
Here then are some of the posts that have had me thinking:
Eugene Wei takes a deep dive into the world of TikTok. He explores the the various features and the user experience. This includes the way in which creativity feeds creativity, the abstraction of a bunch of steps into an effects or filters (e.g. Duet feature), improvement on productivity, ability to easily remix based on length, the place of the network and comments in regards to context and success, the way in which the message is in the medium, and how TikTok is entertainment Cheetos.
Daniel Goldsmith reflects on the IndieWeb and where it is heading. He lays out a number of concerns and criticisms, including that you never really own your own data, that there is a design bias towards a few select individuals, that the technical requirements are too high and that cost is often exclusionary.
What a strange month. I must admit, I have found myself lost for words. Even with the return of some sense of normality with the inauguration of Joe Biden, it leaves one thinking about what lies beneath the surface and what it means moving forward.
On the family front, my wife planned for university onsite over summer break, but was then thrown into an online course. With that, it limited our time to get away. This turned out to be fortunate with the merry-go round that is Australia’s internal border closures. Subsequently, we spent the time hanging around home, cleaning up and catching up with friends. Our youngest also finished up at kindergarten and started school. She was well and truly ready. There were no tears, instead she actually helped console some of her friends from kindergarten.
At work, it was a case of the calm before the storm. I spent time tying up loose ends and preparing as best as one can before schools returned. The problem is that no matter how prepared you are in regards to videos, guides and training, when everyone wants to speak to you yesterday it just creates for long days and chaos.
Personally, I have taken on a new theme this year, that of ‘ideas’.
Across two posts (one and two), Dean Shareski reflects upon the future of professional development. Two of the points that have stood out: the flexibility offered by online learning that will not go away and learning in-person will become more about connections and relationships.
AJ Juliani discusses four models for structuring learning when you have some students onsite and some offsite: Station Rotation, Choice Boards, Playlists and E5 ( Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate)
Cory Doctorow discusses the idea of ‘manorial security’, where we place our trust in platform capitalism to keep us safe. In response, he wonders if companies like Apple, Facebook and Google have an opportunity for a Ulysses Pact where in a position of strength these platforms decide to step away from user data.
Derek Robertson reflects upon Donald Trump’s Twitter account. He documents some of the history associated with it and the platform it has allowed. Alternatively, Kevin Quealy documents all of Donald Trump’s Twitter insults.
Ian O’Byrne talks about doing the personal work before sharing a hot take. you move to the local context. Read up. Problematize your perspectives. Question your assumptions and biases. Listen to others.
Timothy Snyder, the author of On Tyranny, places the current situation in time. Exploring comparisons between the lie perpetuated by Trump and that perpetuated by Hitler. Richard Evans goes aginst this, explaining that Trumps roll as an isolationist is counter to the fascist mandate
In these strange times, I have found that some things change, while other things stay the same. At work, I am still working from home which is a change, however we have still been inundated at the end of year with schools rolling their system over. It does not worry me and am always happy to help (well that is my job), what concerns me though is the dependency again and again on so few. I tried recording a series of short videos to go with the guides. However, people just feel hesitant in doing something for fear of breaking the system.
On the family front, December was again the dance between birthdays, end of year activities. This included an ad hoc kindergarten graduation. We were also blessed to be able to celebrate Christmas together, as well as catch up with some family and friends over the break. Considering the year we have had and the virus that is rampant in some parts of the globe, it feels like the small things matter even more.
Autumm Caines reflects upon the rise of Zoom during the pandemic and explores some of the implications. She unpacks some of the features, assumptions, practices and power dynamics associated with the ‘Zoom Gaze’.
Alan Jacobs explores a new way of living that includes technology, but is not solely focused on technology. His argument is that the standard critique of technology has failed, because it has not necessarily stepped back to capture the wider picture of things.
Drew Litowitz explores the ways in which the music world responded to the pandemic. This included Bandcamp Friday, a dearth of cover songs, quarantine pop albums, music videos created within constraint, exploration of virtual gatherings, and a growing coalition of artists and music industry professionals pushing back on steaming inequities.
Clive Thompson enters the burgeoning frontier of outer space. He explains how NASA’s funding has slowly dwindled over time and been replaced by private industry stemming from various non-government opportunities.
Victoria started to see the other side of lockdown. However, even with all the donut days, it still feels weird to step out and see people be half-hearted about masks and social distancing. Confidence takes time. I think that Tyson Shine captures this best with in reflection on travelling interstate. Having said all that, it was nice to catch up with family and friends again, as well as get my haircut for the first time in six months.
So there goes October, with spring at its best and worst … Bless you.
On the family front, Ms 9 returned to onsite learning as Melbourne has lowered its restrictions based on drop in case numbers. This return has produced equal amounts of anxiety and excitement. In addition to this, on the weekends my daughters and I have returned to parks and playgrounds. This included exploring Cobbledicks Ford on the Werribee River after we had a conversation about bridges and fords.
With work, I am continuing to ‘try and skate to where the puck is going‘. This means highlighting issues before people have realised they exist. The greater challenge though is to get everyone skating in that direction so that these problems do not exist in the first place. To do this I am trying to develop a number of resources to help everyone, the irony though with proactive measures is that I have to deal with the initial requests first. calls first This often involves providing answers before people realise their is even a question.
John Philpin unpacks the question, should everyone learn to code? In response, he suggests choose something that you are passionate about, understanding that appreciating how technology works with that.
Scott Taylor unpacks the problems with memory. He talks about the way in which our short term memory is restricted to four-chunks. Two strategies that help counter this is: spaced repetition and offloading memory.
Work has meandered on. I have been supporting a couple of new schools with their transition and thinking about the challenge of transformation. So much of the work I do is about walking through processes, clicking this, doing that. The problem is that each step maybe relatively simple, but tied together processes become complicated. However, the wider problem is actually helping people make sense of how the system actually works. That is what keeps me wondering.
Personally, I have been listening to Sufjan Stevens and The Naked and Famous. I have also been reading Cory Doctorow’s Makers (again). Again, I have started a number of pieces, maybe that is enough at the moment.
Here then are some of the posts that have had me thinking:
Donald Clark reflects on the tendency of the IQ test to prioritise logical and mathematical skills, the false hope of single measure associated with Multiple Intelligences and the confusion between personality and Emotional Intelligences.
Simon Lindsay reflects on the current situation and the impact that it has on the way in which we collect data around students and learning. With the inability to complete various standardised tests, such as NAPLAN, it has placed the importance of teachers back in the spotlight.
Clive Thompson provides a behind-the-scenes perspective to how the algorithm team at YouTube are trying to address the problem of conspiracy theories and fake news, while also increasing growth and connecting people with interests.
The Digital Home project, an Alannah and Madeline Foundation initiative, is a social research program examining the changing aspect of technology for Australian families in staying connected, informed and healthy through social isolation.
I attended a webinar this month presented by Steve Brophy. The focus was on leadership and looking after yourself during times of stress. I was in the middle of a breathing exercise when Ms 4 decided to interrupt and ask what I was doing. I explained I was in ‘a meeting’ so she went back to playing. I rejoined the session. The discussion had moved to another technique. This time Ms 8 interrupted with a question or complaint about her sister. I feel that this captures the current context best. There is little deep work, no Pomodoro timers, it is all about making do. I believe that the current round of lockdown has made us more resilient (well I am at least hoping it has), however I fear I have just become far too pragmatic. Doubt you will find this in any published parenting manual.
In regard to work, there has been another change to my email signature. With the latest restructuring I have gone from being a ‘subject matter expert’ to a ‘functional consultants’. However, at the end of the day, I continue to provide technical support and guidance with reporting and attendance and seemingly everything in-between.
Damon Krukowski takes a look at the differences between Bandcamp’s music marketplace with Spotify’s audio-first strategy. This also led me to listen to Krukowski’s podcast from a few years ago Ways of Hearing.
Jane Braxton Little discusses the forests that surround Chernobyl and the purpose they serve in stopping the spread of radiation and the dangers of forest fire. At least there was one positive to the Australian bushfires.
Read Write Respond #056
So that was August for me, how about you? As always, love to hear.
Welcome back for another month. Some things change, some things stay the same.
On the family front, my wife continues to ride the waves of being in leadership during such chaotic times. One minute talking about building back better, next minute scrambling plans for how learning online might be for Victoria’s second wave. All while balancing study as well. In the meantime, the kids have taken to finding joy in forgotten places, such as the backyard. This included using the sticks from the apple tree to create a homemade tent.
At work, the month started with questions from schools about whether they needed to change things back to normal within their system to frantically checking that everything was still in place from last time schools to move back online. In between all of this, I have been supporting new schools and continuing to develop various resources. I am not sure if it is just me, but there is a different level of scrutiny when recording video content compared with written material.
Personally, I have continued to live the life of working at home where everything morphs into everything else. However, Troy Hunt wrote a useful reminder about not sweating the small stuff. I have found it important to remember that things could always be worse. I am still employed and as Damian Cowell recently explained, there are always worse jobs.
What day is it again? Let alone what month? I really respect those people who have kept count of the days. Sadly that is not me, maybe it should be?
On the home front, The Victorian government relaxed restrictions. It would seem that some people responded as if the witch is dead. Wrong. We are now on the edge of an outbreak that has forced many back into isolation once again. However, then I open the internet and see the rest of the world in turmoil and am reminded how lucky and privileged my family and I are.
At work, we crawled our way through to the end of the semester doing all the usual last minute reporting runarounds. It is always a challenge to balance between problem solving and building capacity. Although people seem happy with my support, I still wonder what steps I can take to help others help themselves? With this in mind, I have been exploring creation of short videos.
Charlie Harding talks with Jacob Collier about recording music during a pandemic, his method for collaborating with other artists from around the world and how he mastered the live streaming rhythmic multiverse.
The social isolation associated with coronavirus continued in our home this month. However, my wife has progressively ramped up her return to working onsite full time. Our eldest has continued to learn from home. This has been a real learning curb for both of us. I have found it a challenge to know my place and how to best help her. Her school has done a good job structuring the work, but that assumes she cares to do it. She does care about her passion project, Minecraft. We have therefore learnt to compromise and I have learnt to prioritise what I challenge her on. With junior students returning, she heard the bell ring the other day and said she even missed that.
At work, I have been asked to document all of the issues I have supported so that this can be handed over to the wider support team. One of the challenges with this hand-over is that this is intended to distribute the work, but ironically until I actually complete this task (currently up to 140 questions to be documented) I still need to support most calls that come in for attendance and reporting. I must say, finding balance between support, testing, documentation and improvements definitely leaves me busy, but also feeling a little incomplete as I never quite seem to finish anything.
Personally, for another month I have not found the time and space for reading much. Maybe I need to turn off my feeds? Maybe it is because I am not having to travel to work at the moment? Maybe I am just a little depressed like so many of us right now? Or maybe I am just privileged?