For my daughter

For my daugher

Archie arrived today. A handsome English Springer, which my gorgeous daughter will love and show. Theres so much she’ll learn and so much she’ll grow by having Archie around. I could not be happier — and figure I’d share the love.

Classroom motivation


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Okay, this only works if students actually have or are allowed to use a device, but it doesn’t mean the teacher needs to be using technology in the lesson. I use the Pomodoro Method a fair bit personally. My brain like to have too many tabs open, and it helps me stay focused and motivated on a task — even if it’s boring. I happen to like the 20mins on, 10 mins off routine and in the case of learning with technology in the classroom, I’d also recommend alternating between 20mins using device and 10mins off AS WELL AS 20mins off and 10mins on. I think it allows for better workflows because you can set a ‘peak’ of activity as well as have some really clear deadlines and conclusions.

Pomodorium is a gamification variation with some nifty software that COULD help those students who seem to lack the ability to stay on task or focus. I grant you that if they are given some dull worksheet to complete they won’t begin to love science or geography, but I really think some kids — especially by mid-year in Year 8 are beginning to massively tune-out and simply idle the fifty minutes away.



This year has been quite challenging for many reasons. I’m terrible for listening to music on repeat and I’ve lost count how many times I’ve listened to Tegan and Sara this year on my two and half hour public transport commute.

Mobile Phones, Classrooms and Culture

It is incredibly disingenuous for conference experts to make claims about mobile phone benefits in classrooms. I know this is a popular verse, however what they fail to explain is — what cultural contexts are they talking about?

Firstly, phones are computers. They therefore have a potential to access and process information. Making this observation is facile in todays society, yet time and again I hear it used simply to drive their deterministic argument based mostly on their opinion rather than research or recent classroom experience. Throw shoes at the next person who trots this out as a crowd pleaser.

Secondly, mobile phones in many schools are simply a social-menace. Signs adorn classroom doors which children ignore, unable to stop fiddling with the magic portal to their more interesting (so they think) social life and right to communicate with whomever and whenever they want. Parents often fund these devices on a thin argument of ‘safety’, when actually it’s all about much more profound changes in society, related directly to communications and the politics of social filtering.

I won’t dispute some teachers, some schools and some cultures have made mobile phones work as part of blended learning. They become recognised as tools for particular purposes at certain times. Again, this will almost certainly be in places where teachers have learned about ‘blended learning’ and how to educate children on media usage. I would hypothesise these places will also be where BYO-MacbookPro has been normal for some time too.

In public education – post the DER and the non-supply of laptops – the single biggest rising technology is the photocopier (a billion dollar business) and the biggest single social problem is the mobile phone and the connected distractions they bring to students who are less motivated than those in wealthier schools with deeper pockets and supports.

Not only did schools not get Gonski funding, they also lost the DER funding which (if you have been in a classroom) has clearly had a huge impact on both how students learn and slowing of the considerable momentum which was gained. BYOD is nothing but a false promise without starting to address the current culture of mobile phones — as seen by children — and the regressive nature of school technology funding.

I would imagine teachers now spend several hours a week dealing with children who seem incapable of putting down a phone let alone using to Google an answer.

I can’t see at all how mobile phones can be removed, banished or disabled in classrooms, but equally without addressing the wider cultural and social divides which have emerged post DER, there is a new elephant in the room when it comes to classroom management as well as how to show teachers how to put blended learning into practice.

The Cool Blend for Learning


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The meta-verse seems to generate so many ‘new’ variations on any given theme these days that no one should be hard on another for mixing their descriptions, acronyms or buzz-terms. One reason for this is of course to make those dreaming up new terms discoverable through search — as search rewards those who generate new content. This post is about re-generating better courses from what has worked well in the past using cycles that are well proven in Blended Learning.

Regardless of your enthusiasm for one technology over another, or which pedagogy you believe best suits you and your students, there is one factor which separates a ‘fresh blend’ from one stewing on the stove of in-difference. I mention this because often courses are simply ‘rolled over’ like turning a bed-sheet rather than given a damn good airing. Another problem is that way too many EdTech’s tour the planet like some 70s prog-rock relic band churning out crowd pleasers.

The solution is quite simple: Each time a course is run, it goes though a development cycle in order to identify improvements, efficiencies and better experiences. This is fairly basic stuff for Educational Developers (ED)– they are used to pulling things apart, doing a spot of design thinking and coming up with new solutions. If you are not an ED-type, then you can still play along … when you’re reviewing your course – or thinking of a new one — then you should be looking at this list of elements in order to ‘blend’ your face to face efforts with your digital efforts.

  • Time (face to face vs online live / archived /pre-recorded lectures)
  • Place (online discussion circles, small group collaboration, virtual webinars, consultations)
  • People (guest lecturers, existing video/audio, off-campus and on-campus connectivity)
  • Resources (eReserve, digital collections, curations, playlists, online readings)
  • Activities (online quiz, collaborative production, self-paced, blogging)

Blended learning promotes good preparation and decision making about the course design and embedded technological components. As improvements are made to the technology itself, new opportunities are presented to enhance the learning experiences of students and to optimise the construction and maintenance of courses and resources.

So before you get carried away with cool-words flashing across Twitter, consider that creativity and ‘out-there’ thinking does not create the kind of robust improvements and revisions that often see success in business, products and … education. With so many exciting things going on, the cool courses are the ones which get regular maintenance and evolve with the times.


Leadership vs nesting

If you haven’t discovered Seth Godin over the years … And you have ambition to rock the world … You might like some of his ideas …

“Yes, I think it’s okay to abandon the big, established, stuck tribe. It’s okay to say to them, “You’re not going where I need to go, and there’s no way I’m going to persuade all of you to follow me. So rather than standing here watching the opportunities fade away, I’m heading off. I’m betting some of you, the best of you, will follow me.”

Seth Godin, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us

Creative, smart and outta here

Creativity is often said to be in demand. The issue is that most people only like the end product and fear the process.

This is what generally what makes creatives dangerous to satisfiers. New ideas present a problem to these self-preservationists in that they’re categorically uncertain.

Creative people learn to spot a satisfier as their entire life is spent in their company. They know from experince that creativity is scary unless placed inside a container the satisfier feels in control of (welcome to brainstorming).

The end product is always the compromise. The creative mind is rarely satisfied, but learns over time to temper their expressions.

Creativity is about solving problems not preserving them to avoid uncertainty. This paradox is life time frustratingly incompatible with authoritarianism entrenched in satisfying and self preservation, but with the advent of social media and social learning … Times are changing.

What I’ve liked the most about the post Digital education revolution and the emergent TAS and Visual Arts is the efforts being made to enable creative processes (design thinking etc) over satisfier outcomes (can Google).

It potentially marks a significant generational shift in how creativity is received and how power to uplift or diminish it will be distributed. The world has never been uncertain or stable … And its great to see the door to creative processes being opened.

Now where’s my special thinking helmet?

Gaming the online classroom


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There is a ton of information being produced about attempting to turn online learning into a more game-like experience. What we’re saying is that despite the rush of enthusiasm for technology based teaching, the profound effect on society by the interactive entertainment industry renders so much of ‘must attend’ education well outside this zone of engagement.

Consider however that ‘school’ is particular social construct and comes with certain cultural expectations and baggage. For example, school has been a daily experience of the dis-affected fifteen year old with poor attendance and a dislike of school methods. Offering her badges or points is hardly going encourage her to revisit her experiences before time expires and she leaves to make her way in the world. For the exceptional kids who chew through learning, the introduction of a game might well send their parents into a tail spin about how to play-school — a game they’ve probably been winning for years at.

The point I’m making here is that games, game-layers and game-mechanics being developed for the interactive entertainment of society cannot easily be subsumed into educational contexts. By easy, I mean time, investment and executive trust in taking a few risks and resisting the temptation to declare success after a week.

I’ve seen numerous game-systems which are little more than grade-book management and behaviour control. They might meet the power-relations of the teacher and the grade-compliance needs of the system, but I don’t think they should be called a game. Dressing up and talking like a pirate would be just as motivating to students who know game culture like the back of their hand. Let me put down the top three things which have little ‘game-basis’ at all, but never the less have been cited as game-based-learning.

3 elements which are un-proven

  1. Using points to sanction personal behaviour (ie, late to class, no homework, calling out).
  2. Assigning random events. The teacher should know exactly what events need to be triggered to move the student’s experience from A to B and B to C. This has more to do with the Zone of Proximal Development than the roll of a dice. Games do not issue ‘work’ randomly, they do it because the player is ready for it.
  3. Machine-automation should be used lightly. The best games I’ve seen played with students treat the Internet as a medium or layer to transmit important information — such as how the player is going, what they need to do next and so on. Machine programming which orientates to grading students is fluckery and should be avoided.

Why do schools find it hard to develop effective game based learning programmes.

The biggest challenge for schools is they are not used to employing project-managers and/or educational developers to design a game. They tend to hope teachers will pick this stuff up in the way they picked up how to use Edmondo. Games are complex cultural objects. For example: a game should be a re-useable resource which anyone can play. It should be well designed, documented and platform agnostic. It might require the development of illustrations, narratives and other objects … all of which is really hard to do alone or as a side-role when teaching. If the game is being played online, then it will need a community manager to help interpret the goals of the teacher into an experience online that is interesting.

I am not saying avoid games, or consider GBL to be too hard, but to think more carefully about requirements of education verses interactive media entertainment. Ultimately, the game is an experience which impacts how we see the world — if you missed it, check out the PBL Game for the Hunger Games which ran a few years ago. Start not with what we did that made it such a success — but why it didn’t pick up any interest at ISTE 13. The challenge for games is simple: They need at least the same status and investment that is routinely applied to things such as Google Apps … only then will robust, re-useable designs become available.

Article: Min / Max Note Taking for Conferences

Although this is for conferences, it would equally work in lectures and classrooms. There’s an assumption championed by tech-believers that listening is boring. This methods seems worth considering, not least if your using a rotatational approach to Blended Learning.

Min / Max Note Taking for Conferences


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