What do we do about the ghosts in our machines?

Are you concerned about your ability to retain your privacy in today’s world?

Do you ever check the privacy settings on your phone and disable location services so that installed apps can’t determine and share where you are when you utilise their services?

Have you ever felt uncomfortable when you notice ads appearing on sites that are directly related to what you’ve been searching for?

Are you discussing privacy in today’s world with your students and making them aware of how corporations are tracking their locations, keystrokes and search habits?

If you’re concerned about any of these privacy issues, then I suggest you read Walter Kirn‘s excellent article in the November 2015 issue of The Atlantic entitled, ‘If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy‘.

If You're not crazy...

While I don’t subscribe to the tinfoil hat brigade level of paranoia that some people endorse, I am concerned about surveillance and privacy issues that emanate from our desire to remain connected for most of our waking hours. Walter’s final paragraphs tell the story of the consciousness level we all need to have as we move to a society that wears its devices and allows them to control our home systems.

But I am too old for this embrace of nakedness. I still believe in the boundaries of my own skull and feel uneasy when they are crossed. Not long ago, my wife left town on business and I texted her to say good night. “Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite,” I wrote. I was unsettled the next morning when I found, atop my list of e‑mails, a note from an exterminator offering to purge my house of bedbugs. If someone had told me even a few years ago that such a thing wasn’t pure coincidence, I would have had my doubts about that someone. Now, however, I reserve my doubts for the people who still trust. There are so many ghosts in our machines—their locations so hidden, their methods so ingenious, their motives so inscrutable—that not to feel haunted is not to be awake. That’s why paranoia, even in its extreme forms, no longer seems to me so much a disorder as a mode of cognition with an impressive track record of prescience.

Paranoia, we scorned you, and we’re sorry. We feared you were crazy, but now we’re crazy too, meaning we’re ready to listen, so, please, let’s talk. It’s time. It’s past time. Let’s get to know each other. Quietly, with the shades drawn, in the dark, in the space that is left to us, so small, now nearly gone.

Sidenote: I discovered Walter’s article after listening to him interviewed on Note to Self, an excellent podcast about the effects of technology on our lives, hosted by Manoush Zomorodi. The episode was called, ‘Is my phone eavesdropping on me‘ and I suggest you follow the link to take a listen. While you’re there, take in some of what’s on offer there. Latest episodes about sexting amongst young people, how texting can improve or replace real life face to face relationships and an excellent interview with Sherry Turkle are well worth your time. I’ve subscribed – great listening and learning as I make my way to and from work. :)


The Edupreneur podcast: Developing Learning Communities with Jenny Luca

Podcast promo

A few weeks ago, I was interviewed for an American podcast called ‘The Edupreneur’. It was early Saturday morning for me and late Friday night for my interviewers – Pete Freeman and Zack Baker. They had contacted me in the previous weeks via email and really impressed me with their professional approach. I was even more impressed when I discovered that Pete is a student at The University of Notre Dame and Zack is 17 and a Senior at Noblesville High School in Central Indiana.

These two young men sent me questions to prepare for the interview and were thorough in their preparation, contacting me regularly and ensuring we were going to be able to make the time zones work for us. Take a look at their profiles and see if you are as impressed as I am with their entrepreneurial spirit and keen awareness of the need to make our education systems work for the young people in our care.

Zack and Pete profiles

The podcast is live now – you can listen to it by following this link.

Here’s the description of it from their site:

Edupreneur podcast

Thanks Pete and Zack for inviting me onto your podcast. I’m very pleased to have been a part of it and would encourage all of you reading to subscribe. Pete and Zack have interviewed some very impressive American educators and there is a lot be learnt from tuning in. I’ll be adding ‘The Edupreneur‘ to my podcast subscription list and following Pete and Zack’s career with interest.

School’s out Friday

It’s been a big week for reliving the past.

Back to the Future day

 The Independent

If you missed pretty much every form of media celebrating Back to the Future day on October 21st, then relive a bit of the magic here with this more than impressive effort from Toyota. Bringing together Doc and Marty (Christopher Lloyd and Michael J. Fox) and revisiting location scenes from the movies is a bit of a stroke of genius to promote their new vehicle.  The car uses hydrogen fuel cell technology and you can learn more about it by following this link.

I don’t know about you, but I remain disappointed that we all aren’t powering ourselves to the local shops on our hoverboards as promised in the original 1989 movie. Back then, it all seemed possible. The fact that our phones are talking to us and Google can send us an ad about the coffee shop we’re walking past in a country we’ve never visited before demonstrates that we’ve come a long way, but the hoverboard in the true Back to the Future sense remains elusive. Seth Sentry sums up the disappoint of many with his song, Dear Science. *warning – swear words within. If it wasn’t for the profanity, this would be a great starter for a science lesson.

And for those of you who were transfixed in a movie theatre in 1977 when a Star Cruiser emerged across the screen in the opening scene of the original Star Wars, then settle back and watch the trailer for the upcoming Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Posted to YouTube four days ago, it’s already clocked up 40,014,984 views.  George Lucas must be rubbing his hands with glee.

Have a great weekend. Fire up a classic film. Relive the past. :)


School’s out Friday

Now before you go and get all fired up wondering why I’d post such an inappropriate video, keep in mind that this was published on a site called ‘The Onion‘. Here’s what it’s about, according to Wikipedia!

The Onion‍ ’​s articles satirically comment on current events, both real and fictional. It satirizes the tone and format of traditional news organizations with stories, editorials, op-ed pieces, and man-in-the-street interviews using a traditional news website layout and an editorial voice modeled after that of the Associated Press. The publication’s humor often depends on presenting mundane, everyday events as newsworthy, surreal or alarming. Comedian Bob Odenkirk has praised the publication stating, “It’s the best comedy writing in the country, and it has been since it started.”

What’s quite hilarious is the comment thread on YouTube, where it’s apparent that some people are convinced it’s a genuine video. The Onion site does say that their content is not appropriate for people under the age of 18, but I’ve been thinking about how you could use this as a discussion starter with students to discuss their digital lives. You could follow it up with a discussion about YouTube comments and see what they make of them. Can they identify satire? When is it apparent that someone has been duped? What is a comment like the following saying?

Going by the comment section alone, you’d think you’d reached the Poe’s Law Event Horizon. It’s a warped plane of existence were parody and reality twist, churn and overlap. Sarcasm and sincerity become one, and the ignorant bear the same face as the knowing, and nothing is quite as it seems. Enter at your own risk.
Then you could send your students on a journey exploring Poe’s Law.  Ahhh, the possibilities…
Have a great weekend – lovely weather forecast for Melbourne. The sun beckons. :)

Commuting? Take a podcast with you for the ride.

My daily commute to work used to be 8 minutes tops. Enough time to tune into a bit of breakfast radio, listen to some banal commentary and maybe a good tune, then turn into the school gate and begin the working day. That was then…

…this is now. Get up at the crack of dawn, get ready, then spend the next hour in the car making my way to work. I started with breakfast radio, switched channels over the course of a few days, then realised that the presenter’s tendency to drag a story out over a laborious 20 minutes really wasn’t how I wanted to spend my waking hours.

Solution. The podcast.

Serial, a podcast from the creators of This American Life and hosted by Sarah Koenig, got me hooked last year. It was a twelve episode podcast recounting the murder of Hae Min Lee, a high school senior whose body was found in a city park in Maryland. Her ex boyfriend, Adnan Syed, was arrested and found guilty of her murder and has been incarcerated since 1999. Serial reinvestigated the evidence and sparked massive Internet interest in the case. I binge listened to the first five episodes, then waited with baited breath for the weekly updates that would be posted around 10.00pm on a Thursday night in Australia. I’d tune in straight away, ear buds at the ready, waiting to see what new evidence had been located that made Adnan’s incarceration seem questionable. No spoilers here – if you haven’t listened, I suggest you head to the Serial site and tune in.

screenshot-www.google.com.au 2015-08-29 22-25-05

So, I’ve been hitting the podcasts pretty hard. When you commute an hour each way, you can power through a lot of content. Here’s what I’ve been listening to and what I’d recommend you give a try.

  1. Invisibilia.

screenshot-www.google.com.au 2015-08-29 22-31-16

I LOVED this podcast. Literally couldn’t wait to get into the car to be consumed by the stories being shared. Here’s the description of the podcast from the NPR site:

Invisibilia (Latin for all the invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

They’re right – the hidden gems they unveil do help you make connections to your own life. I’d find myself nodding my head as I drove along, making connections. Cannot wait for the next season to start!

2. TED radio hour.

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Guy Raz has me mesmerised. He has one of those voices that makes him instantly familiar. I’ve listened to nearly every TED radio hour podcast over the last few weeks and the pearls of wisdom shared have me heading home to explore links to find out more. Here’s the description of the podcast;

Based on Talks given by riveting speakers on the world-renowned TED stage, each show is centered on a common theme – such as the source of happiness, crowd-sourcing innovation, power shifts, or inexplicable connections – and injects soundscapes and conversations that bring these ideas to life.


According to ‘my podcasts’, I have only two episodes to listen to until a new one is released. Tragic! And yes, I am subscribed. This is a podcast I can’t miss.

3. On Being

screenshot-www.google.com.au 2015-10-01 21-56-42

How did I find ‘On Being’? Why, by listening to the TED radio hour and hanging in there for the last couple of minutes where they recommend other podcasts. And I’m very glad I found it. Here’s what it’s about.

On Being opens up the animating questions at the center of human life: What does it mean to be human, and how do we want to live? We explore these questions in their richness and complexity in 21st-century lives and endeavors. We pursue wisdom and moral imagination as much as knowledge; we esteem nuance and poetry as much as fact.

Krista Tippett’s interview with Brene Brown is well worth a listen, especially if you’ve read any of her books about vulnerability.  On Being will keep me going when the TED radio hour dries up!

4. Limetown

screenshot-www.google.com.au 2015-10-01 22-54-39

Now this is interesting. Here’s what it is;

Limetown is a fictional podcast from Two-Up Productions. Limetown follows journalist Lia Haddock as she investigates the infamous disappearance of a doomed research facility.

It’s a seven part podcast, with only the first two currently available. It reminds me of Orson Welle’s ‘War of the Worlds’ radio broadcast from the 1930’s. (interestingly, a recent Telegraph article claimed the mass panic that surrounded this was a myth) The production quality is reminiscent of techniques used in Serial, and listening to it has made me think of how the creation of a podcast like this would make for a wonderful English class project. Scripting, characterisation, learning how to utilise multimedia effectively – doing something like this would tick a lot of boxes, and I’d bet students would love it too!

5. Snap Judgement

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Snap Judgement is storytelling.

My favourite episode thus far – Legendary. The story of the Yellowstone wolf known as O6 is going to stay with me for a long time. Listen, and think of how you might weave this into the fabric of a class you teach. Students need opportunities to hear great storytelling like this.

As Molly Meldrum used to say, ‘Do yourself a favour’ and tune into a podcast. Doing so has enriched my world. It just might do the same for you.


ACE 2015 National Conference: Educators on the Edge

Last week I attended the ACE (Australian College of Educators) National Conference in Brisbane. The conference theme was ‘Educators on the Edge: Big ideas for change and innovation’. I created a Storify of my tweets that you can find by following this link.

screenshot-storify.com 2015-09-27 23-34-45

I’d encourage you to take a look. As I’ve said before, my tweets are the notes I take at conferences, and I try to source links to what presenters are referring to. I took quite a few photos of presenter’s slides and they are attached to these tweets so it’s quite a rich source of information about what was being shared in the presentations I attended. Some of the presenters included John Hattie, talking about ‘What is the role of students in the learning and teaching equation?’, Dr. Stanley Rabinowitz who discussed ‘Moving Naplan online’, and Professor Gillian Triggs, President of the Australian Human Rights Commission discussing ‘Innovative technologies and human rights education’,

I’d like to spend some time here mentioning the presentation that I thought was worth the visit to Brisbane. Dr Paul Browning from  St. Paul’s School in Queensland delivered a presentation entitled, ‘Future planning: The school of 2028’. Here’s the conference abstract:

Futures Planning: The school of 2028

In the words of Al Gore: ‘the future that is emerging will be extremely different from anything we have ever known in the past… There is no period of change that remotely resembles what humanity is about to experience’ (p. xv). Two critical uncertainties are converging right now, both of which will significantly disrupt education and schools as we know them now: technology and employment.

St Paul’s School has just completed a scenario planning project, imagining the world of 2028 when its youngest students reach their final year of school. 30 global leaders participated in the development of four scenarios, or stories that describe that world including: Professor Pasi Sahlberg, Professor Yong Zhao, Professor Andy Hargreaves, Saul Eslake, Tim Costello, David Price, Mark McCrindle and Andrew Fuller.

This interactive workshop will present the process of scenario planning and share with the participants the four scenarios. Participants will be asked the question: “if these scenarios are true, then what are the implications for education; for their school?”

Gore, A. (2013). The Future. NY: Random House.

Paul shared this video that explains the process followed with scenario planning.

And here is the video their students produced as a result of the process.

What a wonderful way to involve your current school population and engage the wider community with your school’s thinking about the directions you will be taking into the future. Paul is an enigmatic presenter – I’m sure he is an inspiration to his school community. To find out more about St. Paul’s and the thinking that drives their community, visit the Centre Online, the site where they explore research innovation and future development. While in Brisbane, I also had the good fortune to meet Jon Andrews, who I discovered is Executive Director of Teaching and Learning at St. Paul’s. Jon is one of my ‘go to’ people on Twitter- he shares wonderful resources and challenges my thinking. What a think tank at St. Pauls – a school to watch.

Side note. My very good friend, Cameron Paterson, from Shore School in Sydney, was awarded a Fellowship of the Australian College of Educators at the conference dinner. It was wonderful to see a teacher who is an inspiration to many educators be acknowledged. I was very pleased that I was able to be there to take some pics. Very well deserved Cameron. :)

School’s out Friday

I wish I was as confident as Hank Green in thinking that Yellowstone National Park poses no threat to our current existence.

When the Tsunami struck on December 26th 2004, I remember taking Bill Bryson’s ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ off my bookshelf to see what he had to say about Tsunamis. What that led me to was his description of Yellowstone National Park and what this place actually is. Here’s an extract, thanks to a posting on www.delanceyplace.com.

“In the 1960s, while studying the volcanic history of Yellowstone National Park, Bob Christiansen of the United States Geological Survey became puzzled about something: … he couldn’t find the park’s volcano. …

By coincidence, just at this time NASA decided to test some new high-altitude cameras by taking photographs of Yellowstone, copies of which some thoughtful official passed on to the park authorities on the assumption that they might make a nice blow-up for one of the visitors’ centers. As soon as Christiansen saw the photos, he realized why he had failed to spot the [volcano]: virtually the whole park — 2.2 million acres — was [a volcano]. The explosion had left a crater more than forty miles across-much too huge to be perceived from anywhere at ground level. At some time in the past Yellowstone must have blown up with a violence far beyond the scale of anything known to humans.

Yellowstone, it turns out, is a supervolcano. It sits on top of an enormous hot spot, a reservoir of molten rock that rises from at least 125 miles down in the Earth. The heat from the hot spot is what powers all of Yellowstone’s vents, geysers, hot springs, and popping mud pots. … Imagine a pile of TNT about the size of Rhode Island and reaching eight miles into the sky to about the height of the highest cirrus clouds, and you have some idea of what visitors to Yellowstone are shuffling around on top of. …

Since its first known eruption 16.5 million years ago, [the Yellowstone volcano] has blown up about a hundred times, but the most recent three eruptions are the ones that get written about. The last eruption was a thousand times greater than that of Mount St. Helens; the one before that was 280 times bigger and the one before was … at least twenty-five hundred times greater than St. Helens.”

Bill Bryson (2003) A Short History of Nearly Everything  Broadway Books, P.224 – 228.

Comforting, huh?

What this has done is make me attuned to any news that is reported as coming from Yellowstone National Park. When I saw a video posted on YouTube in 2014 purportedly showing Bison fleeing the park, I thought end of days was coming. Turns out, the Bison were running into the park! Verification matters, especially when you’re thinking a cataclysmic event is on the horizon!

But Hank’s message is a good one. After completing a term in a new school, I’m very aware that change is a constant. And when you’re working in the kind of job I have, you’re in a constant state of helping people try and get comfortable with change. Not always easy, but necessary!

Coincidentally, in terms of the Yellowstone connection anyway, I was driving to work today listening to a podcast called Snap Judgement. First story was about Yellowstone National Park, and a legendary female wolf who researchers dubbed ’06’ – her birth year. It’s quite the extraordinary tale, so follow this link for your listening pleasure. Do partake, and have a great weekend. :)