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.

Does information literacy matter?

One recurring problem around the digital is a fundamental omission. Information Literacy (IL) concerns the global shift from Industrial to Knowledge Economies. It is not how well you can use a computer, whether or not children have done a ‘cyber-safety’ class to use Insta or how well they can knock out a PowerPoint about some topic.

Schools have often adopted computers and the Internet at the expense of libraries, lowering costs and re-using space for other activities. Information is often widely available at marginal cost, but Information needs to be updated continuously and quality can deteriorate rapidly online. I’ve often seen teachers ‘searching’ for that nugget-resource to give students, but don’t appear to teach them to find their own.

IL is therefore about a shift in school thinking about ‘durability’. In the Industrial Economy, materials are usually stable and do not deteriorate over time. Schools tend to see IL as less durable than physical books, photocopiers, chairs and tables.

Aside from the skills needed to operate devices (not just phones and laptops) are two critical personal-traits: Do students recognise their information needs (how do they articulate them, what domains do they identify as most/ least important and how do they;  locate and evaluate the quality of information. Given young people are often immersed in information-cultures (another variable) – it’s very difficult to try and draw a line between what information literacies school subject require (often basic) and what they are going to need in the rest of their life. At the heart of this is not whether a teacher as ‘done the training’ but their understanding (and action) of knowledge.

Loveless and Longman (1998) have argued ‘that information literacy for teachers is more than competence and capability in information retrieval and presentation, but requires awareness of the ideological, cultural, epistemological and pedagogical practices in which these capabilities are developed.’ While this is some 20 years ago, it still rings true. Where students are engaged with teachers who demonstrate effective IL practices, they model the knowledge economy. Where their students are primarily filling out worksheets or making yet another poster or cardboard box model, they remain locked into the Industrial Economy.  This isn’t about belief about IL, it’s about twenty years of research which continues to argue the vast majority of teachers make little use of information sources and rely primarily on their senior managers and on informal exchanges of ideas with peers to ‘put’ ICT into the classroom and don’t see IL as a continuum of skills and knowledge to actively teach. Instead we see binary debates about banning phones, whether games are good, or which buy-in product will give a half decent assessment of literacy etc..,

So yes, I think digital matters – but Mario’s probably searching the wrong castle.


Loveless, A. and Longman, D (1998) Information Literacy: Innuendo or insight? Education and Information Technologies 3 (1) 27 – 40.

Clocking up the hours

A recent research report argues teens spend 1200 hours a year on social media (Facebook, YouTube and other social media channels). This, of course, does not include the time they spend gaming or streaming TV. The study claims the constant connection to social media was also linked to bullying, trolling and lower self-esteem.

In addition to this, the study did not account for time they potentially spend online at school, either at the direction of the teacher or covertly checking in. It would seem plausible that such a deep and compelling behaviour to pick up the phone while watching TV, eating dinner, walking around etc., isn’t somehow set aside during their six hours a day at school.

The problem is very real. Young people/students increasingly live in separate worlds, do not understand each other’s perspective, or are even unaware of it, which is paradoxical given their access to information.

Empty Pockets

I felt sad today when I had to tell someone I could not afford to go on what I believe would be an amazing trip next year. I only wish I could, and to be honest, it was all a bit weird watching other people try and come up with ways I could swing it, then trying to downplay missing out to make me feel okay. Some of them I didn’t know that well, so it was a bit difficult having to own up as being less-wealthy than perhaps they thought.