Are you a NAND or a NOR?

Another drawing. I was thinking about the two most common beliefs about how best to go about education. It seems to me that it’s not as simple as one side or the other. If we thought of this a truth-table, the column on the right is a sort of NAND gate, which of course is how all StarGates work, and that’s the entire purpose of learning – to one day create inter-dimensional portals to other worlds of course.

What this means is that if we use neither approach – amazingly humans still learn. If we use one or the other, we learn, when the two become in total conflict, no one learns much at all and the Star Gate doesn’t get built. The question is, one of these costs an absolute fortune to maintain, and the other doesn’t. One is more than happy to benefit from the others funding, while the other spends vast’s amount of any spare time and money believing the only logic that works is the NOR gate.

The question is, which one is more likely to turn the table in the next few years, and which has most to learn about the other. If the rebels get access to Gainlord Trasmitters watch out.

So where do you see yourself?

TM SwapShop

I’m liking the idea of TeachMeet, though as Steve Collis pointed out, a presentation is not always a conversation. I was impressed at TLV11 with the quality of concise nature of the Case Study presentations, which to me were a stand out of the two days, so have been rather obsessing about how useful it would be to share more of that kind of thing online. Even a micro or nano presentation still takes a lot of time to prepare, especially if you get hung up on production value.  Twitter drives me nuts I have to say in the era of #hashtags and events. There are plenty of evocative statements, plenty of RT-ing, but I often struggle to put much of it into any context as a result of not ‘being there’ in person. It’s the debate and feedback that I’m interested in, and getting that as a result of presenting something that is more ‘use case based’ that a general rah-rah about the state of education.

Dr Mick Healey (2004) presented the idea of a swap-shop, which has been used to not only present work in progress use-cases, but also to allow people to commit what they are doing to paper (or other), so that other can access a sort of dumpster of ideas, some more complete than others. In his suggestion, he asks people to bring a one page concise document, but I think that these days, the written word is perhaps too limited a medium to convey the richness of technological ideas. I am always more interested in the problem and how it was overcome than how zippy a new tool is, so in presenting the format, it seems useful to break it down into managed segments.

As a suggestion, perhaps an augmentation of the TeachMeet format, I think it would be useful to allow people to post swap-meet ideas digitally online, and then to seek feedback online. So I’m putting forward the idea of TMSwapShop – so that those who can’t get there, can make a nano video and get nano-video responses online and from the event, recording on an iPhone (or other) or writing simple blog post, using a consistent format approach which enables use-cases to be built over time.

A nano-video, from which people can receive feedback using simple video-capture to avoid making a presentation or post production, seems a way to go, and perhaps during a teach meet, this can be discussed and video-responses/comments made – using a common format.

Suggested format for TMSwapShop

Your Details (nano-bio)
Main features (amend to suit your practice / idea)
What was the initial prompt/problem?
What is the practice / idea trying to achieve?
How were (will) your practices changed (change)?
What are the gains and losses?
What was student (staff) feedback?
Do you have any other evidence that the activity/practice enhances student learning or teaching?

Comments and feedback welcome!

Why you can’t love more than 150 people at a time.

John Seeley Brown has been talking recently about a thing called a ‘process network’. He describes them as loosely coupled networks that can come together at a moments notice. Not loosely coupled at the transactional level, but in terms of long term relations – a relational architecture rather than a transactional architecture. They get activated in loosely couple systems, which he also says is a contradiction.

These transactional relationships often power business, between seller, existing customer and potential new customers. This he talks about as working in a captive mode. His view of relational, process networks are much more open, non-captive, have long term relationships and are loosely coupled. The result of process networks is that they have the ability to produce spectacular results, as the transactions are not captive, in that one network does not have transactional control or dominance over the other.

Harold Reinhold says institutions and businesses are used to ‘culturating’ staff, and suppliers. They train them in ‘how we do things here’ and they are not used to learning.  He says that  CEO’s and executives  don’t want to learn from lower-ranks and that organisations can’t keep up unless they start to pay attention and learn from people who enter their business,  The  only way to do this is to have a culture that promotes reverse mentoring, where staff, lower on the food chain teach senior ones about what it is they are doing all day.

When I thought about this, I wondered how big these things could be, and found a recent post about Dunbar’s number.  I thought I’d waste some time seeing if this made sense.

So I chose a random Tweep, with a big follow list and kept score.

Gratton Girl is following and being followed by about 50,000 people. I watched her output for a week using Yahoo Pipes, just to see if it supported Browns idea. I get really bored on trains, so used Storify to collect the data from Pipes,  catagorised  into themes using Google Docs;  either relational or transactional.

90% of what is Tweeted is transactional. Behind the Tweets is a writer, an actress and plenty of black and white photos of herself and people like her, which I assume represents her relational network. Of the hundreds of Tweets a week the vast majority are about the transaction.

Hat-Tip to Sarah Gratton, she’s playing the transactional network brilliantly and illustrates what Brown says – if you want to access Gratton-world, you have to do it via a transaction.

So I did the same for some suspected transactional educators too for a week. That was easier – less Tweets.

I watched @ replies from people to their Tweets. Shock, horror – only very rarely do they respond to unless it appears there was a further transactional value. For example, someone might Tweet ‘check out this teacher’s work” -(the teacher being in some captive program). A reply might be “wow, that’s looks fantastic”, which might get a reply “Yes, and that’s’ only one example!”. If a reply came back “Can you share how that came about”, then the intent appears an effort to be relational – and 9 times out of ten, ignored.

In fact, the level of ‘ignore’ was  proportional to their transactional output. So I watched some non-commercials – the inverse happens – but they are far more likely to hat-tip a commercial than the other way around, as they are relationship seeking.

Lots of leaders do this, and it’s really annoying. They almost never seek to learn from anyone else – and why would they, they are the leader after all and it’s more about them and their transactions.

So the PLN to me isn’t a total love-in, in fact quite the opposite. No wonder people who are not on Twitter seem unconvinced. In fact, pointing people to Twitter and saying ‘follow them’ might as well be sitting them in front of a computer to watch banner ads for an hour.

My conclusion was that I need to find something else to do on the train and that I’m pretty lucky to have a process-network that never tires in our mission.

Our concious selves need to play

Nothing is as new as it seems, yet new manifestations are often mystical. Take the phenomenon of the “personal learning network”, which isn’t simply a way to scrape useful materials and resources from the internet, but has come about through the ability of technology to connect an ever more diverse group of people though very simple tools such as Twitter. In many ways ‘personal’ relates to how we decode and interpret information in the network. To achieve that, we need to be able to learn. The phrase is culturally evocative among merchants and advocates of technology in learning, but really needs re-ordering and expanding in explanation.

Attempting to learn though a selective digital network of individual action, agenda, belief and interpretation emerging from variables in complex semiotic domains somehow seems less attractive.

What seems significant, is that this is happening in the outer-world, yet synonymous with ‘digital life’, and when and where it happens and if there is an optimal amount of time to do it.

My view is that most of this activity takes place outside of work, and less about skills, but social emotional satisfaction. We find joy in online networks, and is perhaps a way of de-stressing reality. It’s a voluntary action (unless you’re a scraper). We are Downtime Learners.

Personal learning networks are all about expansion, we are witnessing the evolution of activity at the collective and personal level though a myopic sense of our-selves and what matters in the world. What erks me about people who write books and espouse diagrams about what a personal learning network is that it’s not new at all, just that we can (and do) experience it though digital technologies – simply because they now exist. There are plenty of books on scholarly theories about this already. For example:

“the more we become conscious of ourselves through self-knowledge, and act accordingly, the more the layer of the personal unconscious that is superimposed on the collective unconscious will be diminished. In this way there arises a consciousness which is no longer imprisoned in the petty, oversensitive, personal world of the ego, but participates freely in the wider world of objective interests. This widened consciousness is no longer that touchy, egotistical bundle of personal wishes, fears, hopes, and ambitions which always has to be compensated or corrected by unconscious counter-tendencies; instead, it is a function of relationship to the world of objects, bringing the individual into absolute, binding, and indissoluble communion with the world at large. The complications arising at this stage are no longer egotistic wish-conflicts, but difficulties that concern others as much as oneself.” (Jung 1966, 178).

Expansion activity isn’t sought by all people, yet has a history of innovation in human efforts to achieve it. I recommend you read John Connell’s post about the Penny University – which in many ways is a version of the personal learning network. All societies have a human desire to do this – though they play out in different ways. This cultural factor will see nations who are just beginning to expand into digital networks, do it in different ways. It’s rather shallow to assume that we’re all geese flying in digital formation to a better world. It’s just a changing world.

Fredrickson and Joiner (2002) emphasize the role of positive emotions in broadening people’s capacity to learn. They say that positive emotions enhance optimistic thinking, which leads to more creative problem-solving capacities. Generally speaking, Twitter for educators is the hub of a positive shared experience. Having said that Rogers (2000) discuss a sociological model of a normal distribution of technology adoption patterns linked to internal barriers of attitude and perception: innovators (about 3% of any population), early adopters (about 14%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%), and laggards (about 14%)

She suggests that “teacher anxieties” or attitudes contribute to a teacher’s position as an innovator or early adopter.

This puts the idea of a personal learning network in somewhat of a bubble. The innovators,  small in number, are interested in expansion of activity either because they want to see different/better/alternative classroom pedagogues for all sorts of reasons or that they see it as a commercial marketplace. Perhaps both.

To sustain the personal learning network, they must cultivate a value chain. The result is that we see repetitive messages and going over old ground – as the supply route has to be stocked along the road.

There is therefore a throttle on expansion in the domain of education itself, simply due to the small numbers of innovators and early adopters and the limited interest that they can rally, and often the inability of ‘leadership’ to look further down the road to see what is happening.

I did like the idea of the Penny University – not because I’m cheap, but because learning, back in the day – and today wasn’t bound to governmental views of what learning is, or the paperwork that is issued as a result of testing.

There is no test in the Australian Curriculum that goes anywhere near assessing what I’m currently see children do in our beta-Minecraft world and consequently, as a parent, I am less interested in much of what I see people get so excited about in terms of blogs and wikis.

How do you explain the cognitive and social skills of a 5 year old is systematically designing and creating complex structures from seemingly simple material combination or a railway to connect their house to other houses. Should they be learning to install texture packs to add personal meaning? Does it matter to the ‘quality framework’ that they are teaching other 5 year olds how to navigate vast game-worlds safely and along the way learn language to systematically solve problems that isn’t understood or used by their teacher in day to day school life.

I see these as things that should emerge from joyful, play activities – which are clearly in decline in the school day, gradually being strangled out by bureaucrats. Compare the day of Kindergarden today verses a decade ago – we are teaching kids that play isn’t valuable, simply because we don’t allow it to occur.

This brings me back to the PLN, which I see as play and a game, not a digital-library or some ad-hock information hot-line. It’s a game of expansion – with very complex rules and mechanics.

I must say, I don’t care about this discussion as much as I care about this nexus between the skills children might develop though game, and social influences, broadly explored by Gee (2003, 2004, 2005).

He argues that good games have common characteristics: identity, interaction, production, risk taking, customisation, agency, well-ordered problems, challenge and consolidation, “Just in Time” use of resources and skills, situated meanings, systematic thinking and rethinking of goals, distributed knowledge, cross functional teams and performance before competence.

These are not eLearning games or educational games – as they spawn from more important domains.

Of course I will highlight game in that nexus, and wonder why game’s are continually excluded by Doctor Obvious in the Penny Universities description of Personal Learning Networks. Is there no expansion in this domain – or just none that suits the innovation/early adopter agenda?


Gee, J. P. (2003). What Video Games Have to Teach Us About Learning and Literacy. New York: Palgrave/Macmillan.

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated Language and Learning: A Critique of Traditional Schooling. London: Routledge.

Gee, J. P. (2005). Why Video Games Are Good For Your Soul: Pleasure and Learning. Melbourne: Common Ground

Jung, C. G. (1966). Two essays on analytical psychology. London and Henley: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Rodgers, P. (2000). “Barriers to Adopting Emerging Technologies in Education”. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 22(4), 455-472.

3 key reasons Twitter is essential for teachers

Does using Twitter make teachers smarter?

Surely they would not use it so avidly if it made them stupid. I believe it does make them smart, firstly, because it creates smart-sets of passionate people volunteering to join extended networks with socially understood values. Second, its smarter to be in a set – as many eyes see more of the horizon. Thirdly, its life-smart to seek constant feedback and be supportive of others in your set – because it generates more collective knowledge.

Twitter has created is an irrepressible network of smart-teachers.

But being on Twitter isn’t generative unless you actively participate and manage it. So the effect Twitter had, was to create a set of very smart-teachers because in an age of unprecedented social change and technological power – Twitter became the vanguard, essential to learn about complex semantics.

Today it’s the IV-drip of professional development – and the best example of game based learning I can think of.

We often see infographics with mind-blowing statistics about the Internet. Its ignorant to think that smart-teachers on Twitter are not also using this mass-scale effect. Teachers on Twitter spend millions of hours a week collectively solving problems.

The required amount of self-directed learning teachers have to do in NSW (if they started after 2008) is 20 hours a year. Smart-teachers do that a week.

They are learning about subtlety, ambiguity and contradictions in real time, which isn’t something that can be said for those tittering rather than Twittering.

The question to ask is– what do we want? not why we do it. The latter is a stupid question.

10 Ways for leaders to use Twitter effectively

For most people using Twitter as a Personal Learning Network, it’s a whirlpool of conversation – a duel-band mechanism that’s disruptive, constructive, insightful and meaningless all at the same time. It’s fun and helps people deal with the flow of unconscious thought that otherwise would be silent – or go un-answered.

This is an important skill for for leaders, by which I mean those in official office.

I am not saying all leaders need to be on Twitter – it really depends on leadership style and ideology, but for those that do create Twitter accounts, should be pro-actively managing several streams of conversations, for the organisational benefit. This requires careful consideration as Twitter is ‘now’ technology offering a participatory culture if used well, and a boring monologue used badly. So here are 10 ways to do this.

What really useful ways can Leaders use Twitter?

Announcements seems to be a simple starting point, made all the better with a short explanation of why it matters, and who should pay attention. The effective Tweet works like this if you’re a leader.

1. Compose a purposeful Tweet.

  1. What is it about
  2. Why does it matter
  3. Who is it for
  4. Whats the reward

Then you are likely to see generative responses in all sorts of new ways. While not requiring 100% @replies, leaders should at least consider what was said and acknowledge a range of people in a reasonable time to their responders. Simply dumping a link, making a comment and not following up is what many on Twitter see as being wrong with leadership communication and perhaps demonstrates very effectively how little they know about their workforce. This is problematic with meta-leaders too, ignoring new voices is ignoring new ideas. Personally, I try to follow people back who ‘ping’ me, which helps me manage relationships better than simply following-back people who say nothing to me.

2. Consider your audience

“[link] this is awesome” doesn’t give any context – so likely to be subject to as much negative reaction as positive. We’ve all seen Tweets like this – “wow, check this video”. Sadly it linked to Shift Happens 1, to some it’s news but to others – where have you been! is that how you see me!

A more considered Tweet might be “[link], this still has relevance” and link to Shift Happens 1. That would allow those who have seen it to offer a more positive response and allow newer people to discover the first of several iterations.

3. Provide a context

“[link] Interesting for ESL, has new ideas in it we could use” – (everyone)

“[link] Interesting for ESL, has new ideas in it we could use #mysystem” (your system)

4. Explain the depth of the issue or problem

Twitter is a platform, not a solution – so sending people to your own reflections is now considered to be a sign of strong leadership. It’s important therefore to consider the duration, depth and extent of the likely responses. Twitter + Blog = Data that can be analysed and conclusions drawn. It might not be optimal, but for now it is a very effective way of reaching staff who are connected to the metaverse and are at one level or another responding to the several shifts in information, connections, knowledge and preferences.

5. Extend the dialogue

“[link], I’ve blogged my reflections on this issue” is an invitation to a slow blog conversation

“[link] could we use this #mysystem” is an invite to a rapid Twitter conversation.

6. Build your reputation by feeding your audience

If you find, as a leader that you have the fortune to have a thousand followers, you actually have a 1000 potential hungry minds wondering if you’re interested in them. Twitter is always more about the reader than the writer, so be mindful of what you feed them. Aspirational messages are boring, people only respond to things they see as relevant AND achievable.

7. Encourage social inclusion and diversity

Actively consider who you follow to ensure at least gender diversity and a spread of interests. This says something to your followers, it makes you dynamic, not single dimensional.

8. Help others build their PLN

Use Twitter lists, so staff can see who you follow in a structured way – #primaryteachers #librarians #mentors #inspirations etc., It helps everyone make more sense of how you see the world and how they might relate or fit into that vision. A lack of vision, lack of empathy, lack of consideration sends an equally powerful message.

9. Model Risk Taking

To encourage teachers to take risks in their classroom, demonstrate captaincy. Leaders need to help people build authentic learning networks – well beyond the local workplace. Model how to do this. Show an interest in their Twitter views – and their blogs. Timely and genuine responses from leaders have a major impact – we want you to lead us. If you don’t, avoid complaining when meta-leaders disrupt the serenity.

Leadership is earned on Twitter, through hard work and a willingness to help at a moments notice. If you’re too busy to do this – don’t assume your position of authority affords this absolutely. The Internet doesn’t care about you per se.

10. Find another platform for open dialogue

There’s nothing really wrong with not Tweeting or not Blogging if you’re an effective communicator with those under command – and already effecting these shifts in school culture, curriculum and techno-pedagogic strategy without it. Most of all, don’t hide in your private yammer-land. That network has a very different set of variables. Its useful, but in different ways. It’s not a church. Take a walk on the wild side every once in a while – see what else is going on.

Opinions that lead to change are rarely agreed (initially)

Don’t attempt to police Twitter, by hammering people if their views are other than your own with policy. You might be surprised to learn lots of people on Twitter initially met because of fierce disagreement, have now become close allies and friends. Grown ups can do that. A role for leadership is to notice both sides of the debate and help them not simply to resolve it, but find the common ground that both can use to do something useful. This might not be a visible Twitter conversation, but needs to happen. If not you might just be missing out on the best opportunity that came your way all year.

Can anyone point to leaders doing this really well? I’d like to follow them.

Learning about the metaverse: free PD for teachers

Imagine your in a week long professional development programme. Lets see if I can sell you a seat in mine.

“Building a PLN with Web2.0”

The session runs Sunday to Sunday, and were expecting you’ll be working from 6am to 11pm, but you can choose what hours you keep entirely. In that time you need to find around 200 people in social networks that have a common interest in education, and introduce yourself. There is no room allocation, campus or learning system required to attend the course.

The assessment task-

You have analyse and decode anything they say or share in the context of your classroom – finding evidence that any of it is valid now, and prioritise that which will be needed in 5 years.

By the end of the week you must have had at least one new idea, and helped ten other people to realise theres. You must create, maintain and share a cyber-bibliography of at least 100 things, justifying why they are related to your idea, and find 100 more from everyone elses, that relates to yours, but not duplicate it.

The test-

The final test is a 300 word blog post demonstrsting media literacy and deep research over the week to answer the following question “what will online communities look like in the future”. Grades are not issued, so you can select your own (if you think they are an indicator).

There is no class list, or prescribed reading or software for the course, and class will be held entirely online, in any space you choose.

Before you take teachers into virtual worlds, think carefully about the task, so when you attempt to explain the metaverse, they have a realistic task to work on, lets not pretend otherwise.