The future is here. Please restart your classroom.

I’m about a week into ‘online’ classes officially. Working online isn’t new to me and much like riding a bike, it’s mind shift more than anything. I recent years, I’ve gone about my classrooms in my own way. I endure PD about the bleeding obvious and can’t remember the last time anyone checked what I can do already or what I might like to do.

It’s little wonder schools maintain limited skills sets,bounded by eduware policy. When a pandemic explodes in front of us, schools are no more ‘ready’ for online that the high-street was for the Internet itself. The result is a dogs-breakfast of well intentioned delivery though mega-brand agendas.

Example: Google Classrooms is not an Learning Management System. It is a storage service with apps loosely built upon Microsoft Office. It has poor workflows, it requires work arounds, it delivers zero learning analytics and a ‘stream’ scroll of death that even Backboard and Moodle can snigger at.

But this is now ‘the platform’ for kids aged K12.

The rationale is: at least we have this, what else do you want us to use?

My point is simple: it’s not an LMS and it’s not a classroom – so be critically aware of the TIME it takes for everyone to work-around its short comings. Work around solutions should not be the ‘norm’ in ‘quality education’.

I am not saying don’t use it. I suggest you use it within the time and functionality limits you and it have, especially around learning analytics. A central argument about physical vs virtual classrooms has been a lack of human experience and connection. It’s very hard to know you student if they are just an icon set to away.

If you have used Canvas, you’ll get what I mean. Canvas pivots because it was designed to. It also incorporates Google Suite along side many other third-party apps. In a time of isolation, learning analytics – even ‘who logged on today’ is essential, base line data.

Google Suite was designed to be a Microsoft Office rival. Classrooms is just a wrapper and allowed Google to compete in the educational space with a plus one offering. That is neither good or bad, it’s just not an LMS.

Canvas is the choice of many rich private schools and further highlights the gap. Canvas is simple better at online delivery, feedback analytics and integration. It gives private schools a significant advantage – and I’d argue private school staff have better laptops and sideline hardware.

No matter what you use online, it takes TWICE as long to prepare materials for online – so be aware of your contact hours.

This is a trap for the unwary. It’s easy to put in 12 hour days if you haven’t had time and help understanding how digital works. Replication is a time consuming chore – and has little to do with a ‘revolution’.

Distance learning is not neatly arranged into 50 minute slots. As this crumbled, so did all the other organisational apparatus used to mange location-based education. In fact, the whole purpose of having location-based places for children to go is in free-fall. This doesn’t mean everyone accepts this – so we’re seeing schools trying to replicate school.

For example, this week, I heard about a class where the kids signed a Google Form at the start of time-tabled lesson time. They then worked for 50 mins, handed it in and  issued homework for the next day. I assume at 3pm they also changed out of their school uniform. Not that the teacher used a VC.

This is terrible, but unlikely to be a unique experience. The vast majority of teachers do not engage with eduChitter etc., so the true picture of what is happening is about as transparent as the governments willingness to issue ‘virus modelling’ to explain themselves at the daily presser.

There is no way to tell what time students are being asked to spend ‘online’ but I suspect it’s more than the two hours recommended by the countries health experts.

Should an eager beaver decide to head online and then find that what they planned is torpedoed (policy or simple in-school power posturing), it will take 4 times longer to get back to square one. Now is not the time to rush in, just because ‘chitter-heads’ are talking about ‘a window of opportunity’ or ‘now is the time to reform’. Don’t be an idiot. The system is a) very resilient to change b) also uses events like this to double down and c) is over capacity.

Today, Morrison announced Free Childcare. What if he’d given every teacher $3k to buy the resources needed to work at home – doing a great job. The questions about working from home do not address quality: I can’t afford a fancy ergonomic chair, my house is small and I’m camping in a bedroom. I’m using extension chords and can’t have the window open as a truck driving past would drown out any VC. My provided laptop in unable to run the applications I need and with 5 people in the house, our rural internet is flat out.

So we might all have gone online: but plenty will be in a cycle of crash and restart for social, technological and economic factors. For the life of me I can’t work out why the Minister of Edumaction hasn’t already given teachers direct funding to support a necessary, but ambitious reaction to this terrible virus.




5 Team Tips to manage online meet-ups


Just a few tips for the new-presenters out there.

  1. Hosts can’t end a meeting and kick students out. It’s more of a democracy, so you need to show them out and then end the meeting. Don’t leave students alone in the room for a wee chat.
  2. Allow 2-5 mins before you start your meeting for reals. Long meeting: post a slide to say what they need to have/do (Learning Intentions) and allow them time to get it. Short Meeting: Side (Today’s date, main topic) and 2 mins to chat.
  3. “This will be recorded”. Let them know when you start the recording and when you stop. Do not ‘record’ the questions at the end. This is weird. People need time to ask questions and probably don’t want that recorded. Allow time at the end. Allow more time if this is a NEW topic/concept/process. Avoid indulging participants who pay little attention in the meeting and assume they will have their special-me-time at the end. Make sure you leave ON TIME.
  4. Poke participants: Until Teams has rolled out the hand/thumbs up button to check if there’s anyone still there – use the Chat .. [?] ask them to use this if they have a question and {kk} if the understand or agree. You can also pose your question in the chat and ask for votes. I tend to encourage voice over passive button pressing.
  5. You have to SHARE your recording. Use MS Stream for this, it’s pretty good and saves time. If you don’t SHARE before getting the link – it will only be available to those who attended. For students who didn’t show up, you will need to SHARE it first – HOWEVER place a deadline on this practice – if they know they can just get it later when they feel like it – they are less likely to show up. Make sure you record the elements you feel are MEET SPECIFIC and add value to participation by giving time to additional topics or questions that pattern non-attenders won’t see.
  6. OH SHIT VOUCHERS – Things happen and we don’t need to hold an inquisition if students don’t attend or drop out. Let them know that it’s okay to have issues. Make sure you’re paying attention to on-going issues (connections/attendance) and make that an off-line conversation later. Don’t replicate roll call arrangements, because things are different now: allow every student at least ONE “oh shit voucher” no questions asked. You don’t know why – and you probably don’t need to.


Managing #teacherlife in the pandemic

Education systems have come to the conclusion that schools are going to close. Some are really closed and others pretending they open, but have almost no students. In NSW at least, the last two weeks has been a daily roller coaster of what ‘closed/open’ means and each school seems to be managing this differently. But the PM says – we’re open and kids should go to school … blah blah.

For the last few weeks, schools have been trying to pivot online. This has been massive. It’s great to see so many teachers who are already working in a blended mode and for most, adding a Microsoft Team to their practice is going to be welcomed – and easy. Those who have managed to hide behind their paper desk-fortresses for the last decade – now have no real choice. Many seem to be getting on with it, and I’m sure some will cling on to the last swoosh and chhhuuring of the last ream of photocopier paper. I’m thinking these are probably the same ones who are still wandering around the shops … anyway … more or less, the classroom exodus is well underway.

What are you doing? Is going to be the next big management hang-up. While teachers are trusted, some are more trusted than others, despite the messages schools leaders will pump out into ‘social streams’. Any organisation that loves a ‘sign on sheet’ is feeling very dis-empowered this week – so how do you get in front?

Take control over your time. Now is great opportunity to demonstrate all the work you actually do – verses what people think you do, or will acknowledge you do. We know many teacher pump out the hours well above ‘the job’ so now is the time to record that with an application such as Toggle. Browser based project/task stop watch. Great to manage all those micro-tasks you’ll be doing already – as you flip between Google Classroom, MS Teams and everything you’re doing in between.

Set up projects:

  • PD hours applied  ANY new technology or process you’re learning
  • Your meetings with other staff via Teams or whatever
  • Administrivia – just dealing with the communications
    • Google Class messages
    • Emails …
  • Student support
    • whole classes
    • 1:1 student sessions
  • Peer support
    • Helping Karen fix her microphone (again)
    • Un-ravelling the dogs-breakfast Google Course Karen made on her own (she’s trying, so be patient)
  • Zig-Zagging (changing things you just did because someone said you need to do something else) – which is very common right now.

It will be very important to SHOW that you are working at home. Sadly, there is a longstanding culture of micro-managing teachers and not formally acknowledging the true work we all do.

But most of all – MANAGE YOUR TIME. Take breaks, listen to your body, move around … be well. I am sure many teachers will be at home – and that means providing the kind of parent-service children usually enjoy on the weekend. Your dog will be super happy to see you and invade your video-call. Just be okay with doing your best … and that TIME is all you have right now … and not to compare yourself with others online. There will be a stack of EDUMACATORS showing off … ignore them.

Why kids are being e-smashed today.

There is a lack of cohesion, comprehension, consistency and communication in public schools. There is widespread criticism of the Australian Federal and State Governments conflicting, confusing and convoluted messages towards the pandemic from numerous vectors. Education stands alone right now …  in that teachers are responding with their e-learning campaigns .. due to lack of direction. Let’s not be coy; there has been competition between school principles about how ‘totes’ awesome their school is at pivoting to e-learning in a matter of days. At the same time, school leaders (macro-suits) are posting ‘feel-good’ Tweets about how professional teachers are – to their imagined audience of colleagues and observers. Various authorities are giving formal statements and each appears to have a mysterious set of advisers whom hold such wisdom about all of education and health that it would simply not do to even ask their names, let alone ask what proof or what implementable solutions and resources they bring.

The has been a tsunami of ‘new resources’ being pumped out by experts, who seem isolated in some kind of war-cabinet, as they try and churn out materials to guide teacher online. It has been a didactic explosion of ‘how to do e-Learning’ – and again, no consistency between systems – and plenty of jostling for authority. In the middle, there is the ABC tying to help everyone. Politicians (bless them) are saying that the ABC could return to being the speaker-on the wall for education, but with laptops and take up the slack (what slack, who’s slack, why?).

Home school and Distance Learning are not the same thing. The interchangeable use of this leads to more confusion. Home School is largely associated with un-schooling.

The freedom for anyone, young or old, to choose why, what, when, how, and from whom to learn things is a key element in John Holt’s work. In short, if you don’t have the freedom to choose what to think about then you are in mental slavery; of course, we can choose to subordinate ourselves to a teacher (the master–pupil relationship) in order to accomplish or learn something, but that relationship only works well if the student wants to learn that subject or work with that teacher. – (John Holt’s view of un-schooling and ‘home schooling’.

Distance Education (ala public educations) is a formal, modernist arrangement wherein, classes are organised around time, content and grades. It doesn’t have to be online. E-Learning is another un-resolved term, as it can be at a distance of a thousand miles or two meters – synchronous or a-synchronous. Distance Education has been based on print for as long as it has existed in Australia.  To Holt, World of Warcraft would probably be okay, but School-arranged-Minecraft isn’t. Kid generated Minecraft okay if the kid thinks its useful and the view of the parent, not important. Right now, the media (and politicians) have made a dogs breakfast of this language – and so it’s impossible for anyone (especially those who have yet to engage with ‘digital’ – I know right? – to have a common langauge to even begin to decode what is said and then interpreted and translated from one place to the next. This means school variations, in-school variations and home variations ranging from insane over kill to dis-engagements.

Even, even, if you have a clear plan for online. Even if you have the skills and experience of forming and maintaining online communities of practice, in the vague notion of ‘E-learning’ – then you will still meet ROADBLOCKS.

I absolutely guarantee – even if you SHOW it working, someone will kill it. Either there will be a policy issue, or a support issue or just someones opinion – because Karen on Facebook said … the chances of getting your classes up in a way that meets your students and both their point of need and interest – remains low.

This is the history of innovation, the story of E-Learning. Even in a pandemic screaming out for innovation – someone is going to mis-understand the terms, lack the insight into digital, distance and shifting-cultures: resulting in a ‘stop’ notice. I’m expecting that to roll around very soon … as I’m not interested in pushing crap onto Google Classroom to look busy. I want to connect and engage with students and help them get where they want to go, inside the walls of the syllabus. I’m sure my ideas are about as clear as mud.

Probably why I gave up and Eddie Woo is a genius.

Day 7: Schools Back In

The MCR decided to break ranks late last night. The local Czar, let’s call her Addis, told her boss, Rupert that she was going to take schools offline as Addis has probably Googled things a bit more than Rupert. However, Rupert got rather cross again and today, Addis has rolled over and asked the citizens to tickle her belly.

On one hand, schools stay open: because there’s no proof (that which the CMO accepts exists) that children are vectors for the virus at school or on public transport. However, if they are left to wander the empty shopping centers or use a trampoline ” they are a massive problem. Almost as big a “pain in the arse” as when they take it upon themselves to climate strike.

In addition, Rupert incouraged True Martians to be True Martians last week and that he himself was off to the footy. This appears to have back-fired as True Martians buggered off to the beach or enjoyed a latte in active wear at the local cafe.

It turns out that Rupert didn’t mean this at all. When his people told him what was happening, he got cross and yelled “stop it” at some reporters – one of whom insisted on asking questions and not allowing Rupert to use the presser as another monologue — which these days feels longer than being in Spanish quarantine.

Anyway, that’s whats happening on the popular Martian syndicated show “S.O.A.P” and teachers – yep, you guessed it, teachers are back at work with no PPE or advisory on what’s going on.

Of course there is rumored panic in the MCR Command that feckless teachers can’t be remotely trusted to work from home un-supervised for 365 days. This is the exact number of days Rupert says is needed (some voices told him it seems) if people continue to be naughty and do what he says, or not do what he says …. yes folks, it’s very confusing.

My guess is that the MCR will make teachers work over the ‘traditional break’ which was never a really a break – that is just what feckless leftie teachers have been saying it is – and they are not proper Martians. The MCR will come up with some pre-existing ‘notional’ plan where in work hours and days are flexible in their favour.

So schools in: kids rolled up to class as usual – flooding out of trains where they have NOT BEEN incubating ANY FLU LIKE nasties for an hour or so. They head off to play handball, hug each other and do things that kids do when not staring at their iPonies.

And the news from the MCR this morning: noting, naaada, zip.

More news later,

Day 5: To video or not to video call

So I discovered that reflecting on certain parts of one’s practice and situation is unprofessional. However, as a blog is essentially a diary, and mine has been here for years, I shall press on with thinking critically about the world around me – who knows, this might end up being my only remaining presence should, erm … the protomolecule get the better of me and other Belters.

These daily posts are therefore “a set of free-floating instructions designed to adapt to and guide other replicating systems”.

According to Martian Congressional Republic (MCR) ” Home schooling allows parents/carers to choose to educate their children at home while distance
education provides schooling for students who are unable to access a local government school”

It seems that preparations are being made towards the latter, as there is no indication that students will be un-enrolled by parents from the MCR.

The MCR also says “Full-time enrollment in distance education is available to students who are isolated or whose special circumstances prevent them from attending a school or another appropriate local provision. ”

This all assumes that the student is indeed placed within the ‘distance education’ domain and associated governance. This requires MCR paper-work and removes the student from their current MCR school.

The MCR might also need parents to sign a statutory declaration to ensure the student is actually following the program of study – regardless of the whether the protomolecule has taken over the populus.

There are some other factors that will determine whether or not the student is eligible for MCR Distance Ed.

  • the student’s educational and/or well being needs cannot be met by a regular school with access to school, local and state resources
  • the distance education school is the most appropriate option
  • suitable supervision of the student’s learning during school hours can be established
  • a risk assessment/management plan has been developed that takes into account the specific circumstances of the isolated learning and attests to the safety and suitability of the home or other location in which learning will take place.

The last one is a problem for us Belters’ if we are faced with the protomolecule – how do we know a home is safe and contagion free to study. If the student is isolated and is sick then they cannot meet the MCR criteria.


Don’t panic: Ask the gamers for help

Warning: This post contains important information about COVID-19 and online schools. Some teachers might find this distressing and choose to waste a few more days trying to get Adobe Connect to work. However, if you want a fast and easy online space up in less time it will take to read this rubbish … welcome to the server.


All this fuss about closing bricks and mortar schools is distressing. It’s also a timely reminder of how the billions (yes billions) which has flowed into the pockets of “EdTech” which is a long, drawn out crash site of experiments and failures.

The current COVID-19 pandemic is a stark reminder of how poorly prepared western schools are for working at arms length, let alone ‘online’ in a meaningful way.

Today, I was informed my students need to be 1.5m apart.  – This is of course impossible. The message was telegraphed and then ignored due to pragmatics. Kids carried on in exactly the same way – because the paraphernalia of school was unchanged.

Schools are not ready of ‘online’ in the sense that few are able to meet students at the intersection of youth communications and actual usage. This results in dull conversations as to whether Google Classrooms “will do” or “can I just email it in”. A direct result of Audrey’s shit show of edtech.

95% of teachers are perhaps familiar with, or using, Ista, Email and FB with their friends and family, re-sharing photos of dogs or inspirational quotes.

95% of kids are online in Discord because they know it’s a productive way to save time and improve your chances of success and enjoyment.

Yep, Discord: That means every kid in you class can (or knows someone who can) use it right now.

They can also show you. You don’t need to panic or waste more time and money on “edtech” just because you’re a special snowflake teacher who only uses ‘teacher’ apps.

Just get your kids to create a server and relax. It took mine less than a minute and they are all over it.