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.


Active Production Networks: Simplifying PBL for middle-school with media.

Next year, I’m labeling my teaching as ‘active productive network’ based (APN). This is based on Goodyear (1992) SHARP learning cycles. Among several other scholars interested in how networks produce and reproduce knowlege, Peter Goodyear at Sydney University is someone I recommend you discover.

The key idea in APN is that it places students in a persistent, iterative corporeal and hyper-mediated process of rendering tacit knowledge (the things we are required to teach) inside local working practices (and cultures) through a share-able media interchange.

Unlike the ‘flipped classroom’, APN doesn’t attempt to jump-start learning with a media blitz, compensate for a lack of time, money, resources or make a shallow effort to reform teacher behavior to the technological determinism of Web2.0. It relies on every day culture. While  SHARP learning pre-dates YouTube and the subsequent rise and dull fall of Web2.0, APN learning is socially designed and embedded in today’s media culture. The re-production of knowledge, error checking and correction occurs through and because of this network culture. To me, this allows children to explore decision-making processes which have been traditionally denied in schools — even schools which claim to be “Voodle Sites” and so forth.

20141216_084116In this model, there is a pre-defined structure to the learning, where membership allows for constant, mediated, peer-review which I don’t see the same as PBL’s ‘critical friends’ approach. There is also an expert-prompt, which I don’t see the same as a lesson hook.

For example, we might start by asking why do some soccer fans sing and others don’t at matches?. Then we design experiments to find out, collect some raw data, then share and report what we find. The process of designing the experiments is not the same as selecting a method, or being told what method would work best from the outset (classic teaching).

The APN cycle is simpler than PBL, and closer to research than to art or design methods such as design thinking. Inside it, students provide and are provided with persistent peer review (even though as individuals they come and go) online. All they need is a simple communications interchange. The cycle is simple to follow and focuses on the social design of networks which actively reproduce information effectively. First, research problems and questions are defined. Next, experiments are designed which students think will help them process the problem (some will work better than others). The network produces raw data (which can be re-used by anyone) and finally the product appears through student reports and discussions. The discussion of the method (experiment) and the data is vitally important. Some students will repeat the cycle, others will come to a conclusion (at that point). The environment can be open or closed social-media, an open or close video game, open or closed online course … and much more.

Anyway, this is something that I’ll be using in order to compress the seven step PBL process (which does not take into account media networks or cultures) into four in order to accelerate and increase the active cycles that can be had in the classroom (middle school). Here’s a diagram I drew, based on Goodyear (1992; 2014) and the open source bio medical research site design ( The main aim (for me) is to use media spaces as social design, not necessarily an ePortfolio … and so the hunt for the right tool/space to do that begins.

Is your school global or snow global?


Is your school global or snow global? That was the question sketched out by @kevinhoneycut this week. I liked the question and the ease of which middle schoolers could reflect on their own lives with it. For me, it makes a great, short, getting to know you project. .The image of the snow globe, famously used by Pixar, can be easily extended to escapism, globalization and consumer filter bubbles. All great fodder for visual arts and design … I hope this turns out to be a global collaboration with my American friends. Its been a long time since I got to do this. Boom.

Game Boys – The rise of gaming

Game Boys: Professional Videogaming’s Rise from the Basement to the Big-Time started out as a New York Post article by author Michael Kane. Justin Kownacki has a great review of the book from a storytelling perspective on his blog.

I found it interesting post, simply as he’s pulled apart the way the book is written, not just what it says.  Theres a lesson to be learned here for me, especially in attempting to describe the benefits of game based learning to an audience for whom 1% will have much game experience, and probably only as a casual gamer. Having said that it looks like a great read, and something to learn from if you are intending to put an argument to an audience about anything you’re interested in. In the same vein, I take the time to read his recent post on “Are you a maker or a seller“, which again is food for thought.

  • Show Your Audience Their Own Way Into the Story
  • It’s Never About the Plot; It’s About the People
  • Every Story Is a Mystery, So Reveal Your Information Strategically
  • Use Backstory to Fuel the Plot
  • Kick Every Ball Forward at Its Own Pace
  • Use Lingo to Unite Your Audience, Not to Alienate Them
  • Establish Dueling Expectations Within Your Audience
  • Harvesting the Seeds You Planted Long Ago Creates Closure

TweetFighter3 – How to flash blind teachers

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Dean Groom @ large

A three part Easter bonanza post about how Twitter makes people flash-blind because no one speaks the same language, why Twitter might be useful for literary analysis and TweetFighter3 – another FREE game I’ve invented following on from Shelly’s awesome post this week “We don’t want more professional development” – which I know will make some people out there a bit nervous, not least Rebecca Black.

I wonder if one of the many side-effects of exposure to educational-technology discources is a kind of flash blindness.

We don’t always say it, but suggest a reflective practitioner is a more democratic and grounded facilitator-teacher, creating a classroom atmosphere of equality, reflection and shared wonder. Additionally, experts are presumed to know, and must claim to do so, regardless of my own uncertainty. The reason we hire teachers is because of their experise, not their reflective capacity, which is impossible to measure using the blunt tools called Resumés and interviews that we actually use to hire them (yet leaders say this is what they actually want)  (brain-missing isn’t it).

At times, it seems messages are flashed before us so randomly, we forget that all of it no matter how motivating, empathetic or entertaining are just messages. Any real change in an organization results from an operation theory. A concrete statement –  this is how we’re going to test that theory though action-orientated application.

In the worlds of Def LeppardAction not words.

Right now, we seem to stop short and languish in a tense state of diversity between what we actually mean and say. We seem to devise so many labels (teacher, mentor, leading-teacher, ed-tech, integrator, educational developer etc) that we are constantly blinking in response.

The cafe at the end of the universe is closed. Please go back.

The array of variable lexicons in the many and diverse discourses around educational technology that we are exposed to (and in turn do to others) is breath-taking. I wonder if we are at a point now where we’ve invented so many new words, theories and praxes that a good deal of any newcomers time is spent trying to make sense of it, even before trying to build the new-grail of the PLN.

For example: A simple Twitter lexicon (which some people would have you believe is the highway to connected-enlightenment) – It’s a flash-gun, maybe a chain-gun of information, lies, truths, ideas and a million other things.

Re-tweet: someone sends you a tweet that you like so you re-tweet it on your account for your “followers” to read

Twoosh: when you make a tweet of exactly 140 characters

Twitterhood/Twitterville: the group of people (followers and those you follow) who elect to see your tweets

Twitpic: one of many applications that enable you to take a picture on your mobile then zip it straight to all your followers via Twitter

Twitterfeeds: news feeds that go straight to your Twitter account

To be a reflective teacher doesn’t mean expert, no more than and expert can be assumed to be non-reflective or reflective. At the base level, teacher educators must begin with persons, places and things. “Learning as transformation” challenges our past learning assumptions and teaching experiences, forcing us to integrate and comprehend old experiences with our present reality. So why are we paying people to chain-gun teachers with bad professional development no one wants?

Because the alternative is … Twitter? Not if you’re an overseer it’s not.

Twitter seems to be a refuge for edupunks –  were everyone has a flash-gun and willing to use it.

It’s attraction to those (me) on it, is at least in part that it appears to have no preconceptions or preformed ideas of what ‘education’ is.

From this some people see emergent themes. While others see nothing, just a bright light.

Better teacher-education means better critical analysis of the world they live in.

What teachers want – from those offering professional development – is actually inductive clarity to make sense of social development. The speed at which information comes really stops reflection if we don’t have the time or cause to stop and wonder.

For example:

Do we ask students or teacher to try an unpack a “Tweet”? Should we? Does it matter which one, who from, when it was sent or from where?

Is this a viable literary analysis technique we should teach – even though it’s not directly called for in the syllabus?

  • What is the narrative strategy?
  • What is the narrator’ s tone?
  • The meaning of literature often rides on paying close attention to the voice or tone of a text.
  • Is the narrator reliable? Is s/he ironic?
  • Are there multiple narrators?
  • Doubles of the narrator?
  • Consider the effects of the narration devices themselves?
So here’s the reward for reading all the way down here.
TweetFighter 3 [credit me if you use this please]
  1. Take a large piece of paper and markers (all the same colour – black)
  2. Pull up a Twitter feed such as #edtech or other popular group-tag and instead of talking about social media for an hour, ask people to create a concept map.
  3. Draw out circles of the participants, try to categorize what the are saying by adding spurs to ideas.
  4. Keep building away for half an hour our so and you’ll end up with hundreds of bubbles and lines to ideas, key words and themes.
  5. Get more paper, just keep writing as tweets appear on the public timeline.
  6. Now spend another half an hour trying to collapse those into 20% of the size.
  7. Combine them, create subsets and pull out people, places and things.
  8. Finally choose the strongest catagory – the one with the most people, the most ideas and the most things … (maths needed).
Now apply the literacy analysis above.
Can your group now come up with a theory of what’s happening and how are they going test that theory though action-orientated application.
Is this process only going to work with Twitter – or would it work just as well for a teacher who’s never going to use Twitter? – How so?
Draw out the new map to explain it, take a photo of it and Tweet “We’ve been #massivelyproductive” and share the image.
That’s Massively Productive, but it isn’t professional development – it is what The Hordie wants – Social Development.

A brief history of Educational Technology

You may have missed this one. I certainly did, thanks to Kristina for pointing it out. It’s amazing to think it’s almost 2 years old. I like the up-beat dialogue and reminded me how fast time moves, and how slowly some of the messages do. It would be great to think how to pick up where this left off, and I wonder what you’d include if the video was doubled in length to reach 2011.

1000 Ways to teach with technology

Ever sat in a meeting where people want to know the answer, or want to find the ‘way’ to do something or where to find more information about the ‘thing’? It seems we spend a great deal of time trying to come up with the right answer. I have a problem. I want to figure out how to get people to consider teaching with technology, rather than avoiding it and finding reasons not to. I’m sure what I need isn’t what you need, and as embark on a couple of weeks thinking about the problem, and generating ideas … I thought I’d attempt, or invite everyone to share an idea. It doesn’t matter how hard or simple, just one idea that someone else might use to teach with technology.

I’ve created an open Google Group at, with a single conversation.

You can feed off it, add to it or discuss it … but I hope that you’ll add just one idea to the list. I figured that there must be 10,000 ideas a day I miss on Twitter as I’m asleep … so perhaps this 1000 ideas group will in some way capture what people are thinking – what is important etc.,

Being a Google group you can ‘star’ rate ideas too – so it should be fun. Thanks for your input – as apparently crowd sourcing is the way to go.

If you then want to use this in your own PD sessions, please feel free.

Quick Cite – Life Hacking Bookstores and Libraries

One of the constant questions from under graduates is how to cite or reference a book. There are numerous tools to help with this at the writing stage such as End Note and web based tools such as BibMe. What if you could get the reference from your iPhone?

Quick Cite ($1.19) in the Australian store allows you to scan the bar code and it emails the citation to you in seconds. This is handy, as many online tools are a kind of folksonomy, and it’s not always easy to know which edition, or citation is correct – after the fact.

It’s handy if you are browsing too, in that you students often take one or two books on loan, but may have been interested in more. It’s a handy way to come back and remember which you wanted – or to later look for a digital edition.

You might even want to scan your own library, just filter the inbound messages from the application. It would be nice if it extended itself to produce citations that would be recognised by things such as Mendeley too, but I’m finding it a handy tool.

For those people who browse book stores and then buy online — lifehackers that you are, you could scan and use Booko to get the best price.

How to make QR Codes with Google

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QR codes or Quick Response Codes are not quite new, but are increasingly visible in our daily lives.  They are quite simple to create, with many online services allowing you to make them, for example Kaywa QR Code Maker.  For those who have to know the details, here’s a more in depth look at QR Codes. I’m not a tutorial blog, so I guess you’ll figure out the step by steps – if I at least give you some starter points. What I’m really interested in here is that Google can already make QR codes.

There are lots you can do with QR codes – and I recommend a look at iCandy, which will give you lots of ideas – and ways to share your little black and wahite boxes via social networks as well as print them out. For desktop and laptop users (Windows, Linux, Mac) and for  iPhone users: i-nigma or QuickMark for Android users.

Now, I imagine naysayers and skeptics will say … “yeah but no one has a camera”, among the raft of other reasons in opposition to using them. I’m offering no response to solving that one – so I’d stick with using it yourself and just leaving the things around, see if they notice.

Think about how giving primary kids. Make some Kindy-rings. Make 10 QR codes, laminated as swing-tags. All they have to do is show them to the webcam and Ding! you’re little ones are visiting websites you want. No faffing about with them typing in a web address. Even better, they can then do a bunch of things without the teacher hovering.

This is a primitive view of what is possible – with a little creative design, you can do all sorts of games and activities with QR codes I imagine.

Did you know Google will make them for you? All you have to do is visit – their URL shortner.

Add a link to your own blog (or other website) – and Ding! you’ve made a short URL. Oh, you wanted a QR code. Well, simply press details and bingo, it creates a QR code that you can save – or if you’re so hopelessly smitten with Word, just drag and drop. Here’s a link for you to try out just to show you how easy it is. Now wait a second – this get’s better – because uses metrics – so you can see how many people are visiting (using your QR) code. So now you can see if they are going where you want – and more interestingly perhaps – when and where from.