School’s out Friday

What’s in a name?

Well, plenty of us will be soon to find out as we return to school and start talking about G Suite instead of Google Apps for Education.

Yes, Google made an announcement today that they are changing the name of Google Apps for Work to G Suite and Google Apps for Education will now be known as G Suite for Education. That’s an awful lot of rebranding that’s going to have to take place at Google’s end, and those of us used to using the #GAFE hashtag for Twitter posts and bookmarking are going to have to adapt too.

One of the changes introduced is the addition of ‘Explore’ in Google Docs and Slides. (Explore was introduced in Sheets a while ago). The idea behind explore is for it to give you suggestions based on the content within your document. Unfortunately, explore has replaced the Research tool that I found to be extremely useful to use with students. What is missing now is the ability to filter content according to Creative Commons licencing and you can no longer add a citation and select the citation format you would like to use. Hopefully the folks at Google will recognise that many teachers directed students to this tool and they will improve functionality within explore by introducing features from the Research tool.

After having spent the last few weeks of Term 3 emailing staff and students about the access they now have to Google Apps for Education, I’m going to have to think about how I start talking G Suite and not Google Apps. Adaptability – it’s the name of the game in today’s world.

Enjoy the weekend. Those of us who reside in Melbourne will be consumed tomorrow afternoon with the AFL Grand Final. I’m hoping to see Footscray rise to the occasion and take the win. Nothing like seeing an underdog succeed.🙂


David Whyte – language we need for the times we live in

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet / confinement of your aloneness / to learn / anything or anyone / that does not bring you alive / is too small for you.”

The words of David Whyte, from the poem, Sweet Darkness.

David Whyte

If you’ve never heard of David Whyte, then I suggest you make yourself familiar with his work. A good start is to listen to him interviewed by Krista Tippett at the On Being podcast. That’s where I first heard him, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Not long after I listened to this podcast, I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at The Edge in Federation Square. It was a gift to listen to him share his verse and touch many of us with words that spoke to situations we were dealing with, each in our own way. When David recites his poetry, he repeats lines, phrases, and stresses key words. It’s so impactful. You listen even more carefully, craning for insight.

David’s back story is fascinating. He studied marine zoology and found himself in the Galapagos islands observing wildlife. What he also found was that the scientific language he needed to describe their habitat and interactions wasn’t enough to fully appreciate and encompass the experience, and he found those words by returning to poetry. Eventually, he immersed himself fully in his craft. Here’s what he shared in the On Being podcast explaining how he ended up working for companies in corporate America.

And so when I went full-time as a poet, I was only a year into it and I spoke here in Washington, D.C. at a large psychological conference. And at the end of the conference was this line of people, and at the end of the line was a man who, in best American fashion, said, “We have to hire you.” And I said in best Anglo-Irish fashion, “For what?” [laughs] enthusiastically. And he said, “To come into corporate America.” And I said, “For what?” And he said a marvelous thing, actually. He said, “The language we have in that world is not large enough for the territory that we’ve already entered.” “The language we have in — and in your work, I’ve just heard the language that’s large enough for it.”

And of course, he was talking about the territory of human relationship that the workplace was entering, and the movable human relationship, and the movability that the organizations had to have. And the only place that came from was from the individuals who actually worked within the structures. So it was the breaking apart of many of those structures. And I don’t think we quite realize how over-structured our organizations were just 25 years ago or 30 years ago. There are still plenty of dinosaur ones left for us to still go and live in if we want them, but …

These words sang to me. As I’ve stepped into leadership positions over the last few years my understanding of the power of words to bring people with you has only intensified. I’ve appreciated how words can move people, can frame change scenarios in ways that make people want to come with you and not turn the other way. As many of us work within our schools to envision what is necessary for children navigating futures less certain than ours ever were, we need to find the language that will ease our people into a deeper understanding of the role they need to play. An investment in ideas and a willingness to reflect and review will help prepare our children and build our capacity in the process.

At the AIS ICT Leadership conference in May this year I spoke briefly about podcasts and the benefits they can bring  – they’re an investment in yourself and your personal growth if you listen to the right ones. I mentioned On Being and referenced the David Whyte episode. Often, when you’re leading change, you have to have difficult conversations, ones you’d really prefer to avoid given the chance. But if you’re doing your job well, you don’t avoid them, you face them head on, even though it means you’re often doing so with trepidation. It’s a situation many of us have to face, and the words of ‘Start Close In’ capture what I think is necessary if you are going to build resolve and tackle things head on. I read this poem to the audience of mainly men. There seemed a bit of a stunned silence at the end of it – not sure anyone’s read a poem at an ICT Managers conference before, but hey, you never know when words will make an impact, right?


Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people’s questions,
don’t let them
smother something

To find
another’s voice
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don’t follow
someone else’s
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don’t mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don’t take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step you don’t want to take.

~ David Whyte ~
(River Flow)

I suggest you start close in and take a look at David Whyte’s work. People of wisdom in times that require it are salve for troubled souls.


School’s out Friday

If you’ve been trying to impart the digital literacy message as long as I have, then you’ll appreciate a new video to help you spread the good word. Data to go from the UK’s Cifas (Credit Industry Fraud Avoidance Service) is very effective. Ramming home the message that protecting your privacy settings on sites like Facebook is an essential life skill in a world where what we share or inadvertently reveal about ourselves can be used by fraudsters is something that deserves airtime in classrooms today.

While some may think there are a gazillion digital literacy/safety videos out there, the reality is somewhat different. The true reality is that once you’ve shown a video to a group of kids and it’s made an impact, then it’s done its job and they aren’t going to be tolerant of you rolling it out at your next opportunity to help them in understanding what it is they need to be doing to protect their privacy or reputation in online spaces. Setting up a YouTube playlist is a good idea to store the ones you know about and sharing this with your parent community can also be beneficial. Good reminders to myself to do that very thing.😉

Enjoy the weekend – the end of the holiday period for Victorian teachers. Back to the grind on Monday!🙂

School’s out Friday

This will brighten up your weekend.

Meet SpotMini, the latest robot from Boston Dynamics. This one can pick itself up after a fall, negotiate tricky spaces in your dining room and can even stack your dishwasher. A less attractive and embryonic version of Rosie from the Jetsons. I’m not sure about you, but if you’ve seen the state of my kitchen when I return home from a long day at work you would understand why I’m thinking SpotMini is a more than attractive option right now!

On another note, is it any wonder Google is off-loading Boston Dynamics? There has been speculation that peoples’ reactions to these robots fall into the ‘freak people out’ category and Google is distancing itself from them as a result. The reality still is that these robots are not making conscious decisions to rise from a fall or place a glass in a dishwasher. Human beings program them and control these actions.

We’re still a bit of a way until we see Rosie in our households, so until then, I’ll continue picking up after every member of my household and stacking and unstacking the dishwasher. Nothing like a decent bit of manual labour to distract you from the baggage of a hard day’s work.😉

Have a good weekend. Revel in your humanity and stack the dishwasher by yourself.🙂


School’s out Friday

Hey, it’s Friday. I don’t know about you, but I sure could do with a laugh, and Chewbacca Mum manages to make me smile every time I see her. Combine her with James Corden and there’s a Friday night treat to see us into the weekend.🙂

My advice for this weekend ahead.

Chill. Sleep. Laugh. Eat chocolate. Appreciate your family. Spend time with good friends. Head out for a coffee. Catch a good film.

I intend to tick of a few of these. I hope you can too. Enjoy.🙂


Slack…in name only

Finding an effective way to communicate when you’re working on a team project is challenging. Especially when your team is spread over numerous geographic locations. This has been my dilemma over the past 8 months or so. I’ve been deeply involved in the rollout of the main features of a Learning Management System across three main campuses and two residential campuses. Team members are located in the three main campuses and we’ve really needed to band together to ensure we are all focused on our end goals – training of staff in features new to them, the formation of a training site and associated documentation to support staff, the coordination of the movement of reporting into the system, introduction of the system to students, and parent training sessions (16 of them!).

To get this work done effectively, we’ve really needed to bond well as a team. Valuing each team member’s input, making sure that people are acknowledged for their effort, finding humour amongst the stress – all of this has been critical in helping the team develop shared purpose. We come together when we can, but much of our communication has been via phone calls and email. Traditional stuff. It works, but there are times when we need more instantaneous communication.

Enter Slack.


I created a Slack account in April, added one team member and then looked at it trying to figure out how it might be meaningful for us. I’ve read about Slack at length over the past few months, heard podcasts extolling its usefulness for team collaboration and I sat there staring at hoping the lightbulb moment would come when it would fulfill its promise.

It sat there. Not used.

Enter Newington College and Myles Carrick.

I visited Newington College to see the way Myles has led IT and Digital Teaching and Learning initiatives across the campuses there. It was a great visit, I learnt a lot and was impressed with the leadership Myles demonstrates for his team and the wider school community. Myles opened Slack and showed how he was using it for his team. Bingo! Lightbulb moment. Plane ride back to Melbourne and Sunday night spent inviting team members in the space and creating channels for communication.

Over the last two and bit weeks Slack has become a critical part of of our communication strategy. What helped was a pressure point around the creation of end of semester reports and associated documentation/videos we needed to create to support staff. We had a good reason to be there and so began our Slack conversion.

At Newington I’d seen how Myle’s team use GIFs to lighten the intensity of conversations that happen there. I found an app called Giphy that integrates with Slack. You type /giphy and then a word representing the idea you have and you see what GIF is pulled into the conversation stream. I honestly think the GIFs have made the adoption of this as a communication tool appealing for everyone. Lacing humour into conversation threads lightens our stress levels, and it’s even better when Giphy pulls in a GIF that might not hit the mark – laughter abounds and we can feel the human connection.

We used the todo app to create, of all things, a to do list! Using /todo assign as a command we were able to assign group members tasks that are forming our workloads this week. Slack sends you a weekly email letting you know the activity registered through the channels you have set up. Our intense first week with the pressure point reporting conversations saw the following activity:

Your team sent a total of 407 messages last week (that’s 407 more than the week before). Of those, 93% were in public channels and 7% were direct messages. Your team also uploaded 7 files (that’s 7 more than the week before).

One of the messages I sent was a link to this video from Slack. We were working like this team!

Things have leveled off in the space this week, but I think Slack is going to be a mainstay for communication across our team. It’s definitely a case of Slack in name only, because there’s nothing slack about the way it’s being used to improve communication. Thanks Myles for the lightbulb moment!


School’s out Friday

There’s nothing like the the passing of an iconic popstar who inhabited your formative teenage years to make you sit back and take stock. Prince’s music formed part of the playlist of my youth. I can remember dancing to 1999 at nearly every party I attended in my 17th and 18th year. I always thought he was so clever to have written a song in 1982 that was guaranteed to be played at near on every New Year’s Eve party in the modern world at the turn of the century. And yes, there I was in 1999, dancing to just that song as we nudged closer to the rise of the new century.

It’s been a bit of a year for it. David Bowie, Glenn Fry, Alan Rickman. I suppose every year is much the same really. People who occupy our screens and playlists meet their demise and we ponder our own uncertain fate. I quite like this quote about death from Terry Pratchett

“It is said that your life flashes before your eyes just before you die. That is true, it’s called Life.”
Terry Pratchett, The Last Continent
Make it count. Enjoy the weekend ahead, and the rest of it for that matter.