Putting it sincerely, we’ve got a culture to change

Putting it sincerely, we’ve got a culture to change

by Chris Lehmann

As students, we learn how to solve problems through evidence-based reasoning and critical thought. We use judgment. But in our early working lives this all changes. After working in a government department in Canberra after graduation, I learnt to put empiricism to one side, and work according to “processes”. These processes are geared towards reducing liabilities and creating paper trails; the overarching objective is to work like a book-keeper and think like a neuter-bee.

We know it’s true, it’s true in the public service, it’s true in our schools, it’s true in all levels of government and society. Yet, I what I’d also like to see Chris address is what do we do when we discover that our ideas are wrong. Face up to the challenge, or continue to bullshit? As the late Michael Jackson said, maybe Chris (and all of us) should start with the man in the mirror? That’s the bigger challenge.

Disrupting Education – Trailer

Disrupting Education – Trailer


There is something that really worries me about this video. Yes, the guy that keeps going on about textbooks but also it seems despite the rhetoric this is more about how we can privatise learning in order to make as much money from it as we can. The learning revolution will not be privatised and centralised.

SAMR Ladder – A Wonderful Graphic for Teachers

SAMR Ladder – A Wonderful Graphic for Teachers


I think SAMR is far more useful than TPACK, although I don’t think either of them really define contemporary pedagogy. The idea the that “Redefinition” describes how technology can make possible “new tasks” greatly misses the mark for the opportunities that we now have.

Unfinished Revolution

Unfinished Revolution

Mark Bernstein writing about Douglas Engelbart and in response to Howard Rheingold’s post:

A frustrating fact of the first long generation of personal computing is that we have tended to use our new abilities not to learn more nor to think more, but rather to dress up our work in order to impress managers. We all typeset our memos, dress up our Web sites, and ornament our presentations.

Same could be said of how we use technology in learning. We need to separate what modern technology makes possible from what the latest apps want us to do with them. The Internet is not Facebook, the Internet is not the iPad.





by Alistair

“Personalization” is another word for discrimination. We’re not discriminating if we tailor things to you based on what we know about you—right? That’s just better service.

If I collect information on the music you listen to, you might assume I will use that data in order to suggest new songs, or share it with your friends. But instead, I could use it to guess at your racial background. And then I could use that data to deny you a loan.

In the 90sI didn’t sign up for a fly buys card when it seemed everyone else did because I didn’t want my whole spending history in some company’s hands. Fast forward 20 years and I spray information all across the web in many different ways and I’m sure many companies are collecting that stuff and using it for purposes I wouldn’t agree to if I had a say.

We all need to be thinking about this. We need new solutions. The cyber safety experts banging on about sexting and online predators need to face up to the fact that there are much bigger issues they should be confronting and educating people about. End of rant.


Will MOOCs finally bring about McLuhan’s vision of Classrooms without Walls?

Will MOOCs finally bring about McLuhan’s vision of Classrooms without Walls?

by David Glance

Taking a more active view of a classroom without borders means opening up the class to social, cultural and linguistic input from students and teachers at other institutions in other countries than your own. The immediate impact of doing this is to realise how narrow the focus is in classes that are only taught to a particular institution’s students. This ranges from a Princeton Introduction to Sociology class that after being run by as a MOOC caused the lecturer Mitch Duneir to realise how US focused the perspective of the course was. The eye-opening moment being when talking about the atrocities at Abu Ghraib he realised that this was focused solely on the experience of the US soldiers involved and their perspective as Americans. This was brought home to him when he realised that there were significant numbers of students from countries in that region and that their take on the incident was very different. Of the experience he said “I ended by thinking about how to bring the world back to the classroom in Princeton.”

So these more open MOOCs are going to be a classroom without borders? Yet, an exclusive US university is going to the conduit for everyone learning about what is happening in Bagdad? Give me a break.

Here’s a tip, look at the pedagogical strengths of your offline learning and teaching programs and then see what new possibilities modern technology offer.

And, sorry I keep writing about MOOCs, it’s not my fault people keep writing articles about them.

Changes at Small Picture

Changes at Small Picture

by Dave Winer

Fargo, imho — has much value. I love writing in it. And I especially love writing blog posts in it. It’s software I’ve been waiting for ever since I started doing CMSes for the Internet, way back in the mid-90s.

In other ways this is the culmination of my life’s work. Much more so than things I’m better-known for such as RSS. Outlining and public writing are the core technologies that have driven my career as a developer and as a writer.

There are two big pieces to Fargo, what runs in the browser and what runs on the server. The outliner that runs in the browser is in good shape. I can work on it myself, and have been adding features that are both responsive to the needs of users as we’ve gotten to know them, and ideas that are new and innovative.

I’ve been meaning to write about Fargo for a while. It is something I now use regularly, especially when I’m starting a new project or task and want to get all my ideas done. Fargo is an outliner, created by the father of Outliners (and for that matter RSS and probably a bunch of other stuff as well), Dave Winer and his company Small Picture. An outliner is a text editor that allows you to organise your text into collapsable and reorginisable (I don’t think that is a word!) nodes, or an outline. Which means it is really easy to organise information into main ideas and sub ideas and then messy around with the order and structure until the ideas flow and make sense. Being collapsable makes it really easy to get an overview of the whole, while still being able to dig down to minutiae. Very handy and very powerful.

If you haven’t tried outliners before you should, and you should also teach your students to use them.

Hopefully Fargo, which is currently having some problems becomes a viable long term solution, because it has a lot of promise.

Thursday July 25th

Slow Ideas

By Atul Gawande

In the era of the iPhone, Facebook, and Twitter, we’ve become enamored of ideas that spread as effortlessly as ether. We want frictionless, “turnkey” solutions to the major difficulties of the world—hunger, disease, poverty. We prefer instructional videos to teachers, drones to troops, incentives to institutions. People and institutions can feel messy and anachronistic. They introduce, as the engineers put it, uncontrolled variability.

But technology and incentive programs are not enough. “Diffusion is essentially a social process through which people talking to people spread an innovation,” wrote Everett Rogers, the great scholar of how new ideas are communicated and spread. Mass media can introduce a new idea to people. But, Rogers showed, people follow the lead of other people they know and trust when they decide whether to take it up. Every change requires effort, and the decision to make that effort is a social process.

Really interesting article with implications for teaching. Makes sense, and resonates with much of what we witness, that most people won’t change their practice unless there is something in it for them. I guess that is why we have seen a marketed change in how many teachers are using technology in their own learning but not in their classrooms. And how as my friend Tony has said before, we some teachers being more interested in looking like and promoting themselves as exceptional teachers rather than trying to identify what really makes a difference for their students.

Competition, “autonomy” and schools

by Dean Ashenden

GRATTAN’s concern is to see whether schools do or could compete in ways that push up educational performance. “Evidence-based” as always, it takes a close look at what actually happens in a broadly representative group of schools, those of Southeast Queensland, home to around three million people. Grattan’s detailed examination of what actually does and doesn’t go on in these schools reveals that between 40 and 60 per cent of them don’t and can’t compete on “results,” and the rest do so only at the almost irrelevant margins. It’s not that the schools lack the “autonomy” to compete. Contrary to popular and official assumption, Grattan finds that Australian schools enjoy a higher degree of autonomy than just about any in the OECD. What crimps the market as an instrument of “performance” is distance, transfer costs, school capacity limits, and relatively modest differences in schools’ educational performance. In the upshot, parents rarely take their sons and daughters from one school to another in pursuit of better results, and schools rarely lose or gain them. “Good schools don’t grow,” Grattan finds, “and bad ones don’t shrink.”

It is clear that schools perform better because of their cohort. “Good schools” attract “good students” which leads to “good results” the teaching and school program matters little. Also, lets not forget that individual scores are adjusted based on their cohort, further entrenching the divide between “good schools” and the others. In fact, I’d suggest that these schools are less likely to have innovative programs because there is absolutely no reason to. They’re seen as being a good school based on a few percentage points in final year exams and therefore never need to question if they are adequately preparing their students for their adult lives. Depressing really!

Academia’s harshest lesson: go back to basics

by Don Aitkin

Research is not the reason for the university; teaching students and the dissemination of knowledge are its core functions. Researchers can work anywhere, in private companies, in research laboratories, in hospitals, in the military, and even in universities.

It may seem almost traitorous of me to say so, given that my academic life was based on research in various ways, but if the university world is to become a happier and more fulfilling place, then there must be a reappraisal of the role that research now plays in it, and a recognition that it is the education of students that is the real responsibility of the university.

Until then, the malaise will continue.

Interesting take on universities, and might explain the appeal of MOOCs, further deprioritising teaching.

Wednesday July 24th

Government urged to adopt mandatory pornography filter

by Rachel Browns

The federal government is being urged to push internet service providers to automatically block pornography sites unless customers opt in, following a similar move in Britain.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said “family friendly” filters would mitigate the hardcore images he said were “corroding childhood”.

The Australian government abandoned its mandatory internet filter policy last year amid criticism it would not be effective, would be costly, slow down services and involved too much censorship.

I don’t think anyone could seriously argue against blocking the worst of the worst yet most informed experts say that it won’t work. Filters would only (hopefully) block sites and could never block person to person sharing. And how far would it go? Would it make information that people need, given that people are a very diverse bunch, no longer accessible, leading them to be either misinformed or uninformed?


Alive in the Swamp

This report, from Michael Fullan and Pearson’s Katelyn Donnelly, provides an actionable guide to learning technology that will allow founders, funders, and teachers to make better decisions. It identifies persistent gaps in innovation activity and points to what needs to be done if we are to finally make good on the promise of technology to transform learning.

The authors argue that we should seek digital innovations that produce at least twice the learning outcome for half the cost of our current tools.  To achieve this, three forces need to come together. One is technology, the other pedagogy, and the third is change knowledge, or how to secure transformation across an entire school system.

The core of the report is the development of an Index that brings these three elements together, and which allows us to systematically evaluate new digital innovations.  We hope that the Index will be used to guide decision making, policy making and innovation effort.

Pretty interesting report, I like the pedagogical focus on inquiry and constructivism. Not sure how how we measure, twice the the learning outcome? Test scores? I’d prefer to see the outcome of using modern technology is terms of achieving learning outcomes that are not possible without it.



Tuesday July 23rd

Udacity Project on ‘Pause’

by Ry Rivard

After six months of high-profile experimentation, San Jose State University plans to “pause” its work with Udacity, a company that promises to deliver low-cost, high-quality online education to the masses.

The decision will likely be seen as a setback for a unique partnership announced in January by California Gov. Jerry Brown in a 45-minute news conference with university officials and Udacity CEO Sebastian Thrun.

The pause is also the latest in a series of developments that may dampen the often hyperbolic enthusiasm that has surrounded massive open online courses, even though the companies that provide MOOCs have received millions in venture capital money.

So you can’t just stick material up on the web and expect students to do as well as the on campus students? Interesting.


Changeable minds

by Jon Udell

Facebook has become a laboratory in which to observe this effect. I’m connected to people across the continuum of ideologies. At both extremes I see the same behavior. News stories are selected, refracted through the lens of ideology, and posted with comments that I can predict with great certainty. These utterances, by definition, convey little information. Nor are they meant to. Their purpose is to reinforce existing beliefs, not to examine them.

Echo chambers aren’t new, of course, and they have nothing to do with the Internet. We seek the like-minded and avoid the differently-minded. On Facebook, though, it’s not so easy to avoid the differently-minded. I regard that as a feature, not a bug. I’m open to re-examining my own beliefs and I welcome you to challenge them. But if you’re not similarly open to re-examining your own beliefs then I can’t take you seriously.

Great post, and one that should be true of both our online and offline connections. What is the key to this? I’m not really sure but maybe it is recognising that you’re on a learning journey not at the destination. Something that our curriculums might erroneously  reinforce.


3D Printing in New UK Curriculum

To help drive the economic recovery, the UK Government has overhauled the design and technology syllabus following an earlier draft of the document placed too much emphasis on topics such as sewing, cooking,. bicycle maintenance and flower arranging. Complains by Sir James Dyson (the inventor) among others set the wheels in motion to change the curriculum. The curriculum published earlier this year had prioritised “life skills” over academic disciplines. The new curriculum will now cover extensive use of “cutting-edge design equipment including laser cutters, robotics and 3D printers. The new-style lessons will start from 2014 and will place a greater emphasis on the core knowledge that each pupil will require between the age of five and 14.

Seems like a smart move, although there is nothing wrong with either learning to sew or fix your bike.