School’s out Friday

David McCandless is a data journalist and information designer who maintains an excellent website called ‘Information is Beautiful‘.  Here’s his mission statement from the site.

Myself, and the rest of the crack team here at Information is Beautiful, are dedicated to distilling the world’s data, information and knowledge into beautiful, interesting and, above all, useful visualizations, infographics and diagrams.

If you spend even just five minutes on the site you will see that their dedication has paid off. I’ll bet you’ll be there for longer than five minutes too, because the representations of data are compelling. I used the video above in my ‘Language of our Times’ class this afternoon, and my students were blown away by what they saw. They were so impressed with the ability of the visuals to illustrate the textual information displayed at the top of the screen.

At the moment my students are researching disruptions to the Music Industry over the past 30 years and will be conducting an investigation into an artist or group of today to see what is necessary to build audience and be successful in today’s world. They won’t be writing a report, they’ll be demonstrating their knowledge through an infographic using the site to help them create it. Believe me, this is no easy task – they need to make decisions about what is important to include and must determine how best to represent that using visuals. They know it’s going to be challenging, but they’re excited to be using  and I can’t wait to see what they produce.

The weekend ahead looks magnificent here in Melbourne – 23 degrees celsius tomorrow and full sun. My bones are craving the sun, so I’ll be sitting in my backyard soaking it up. I hope you get to do much of the same. 🙂

Do you interact, connect and delight?

The above presentation from the Inbound marketing conference is worth  a look. Some of the best minds in marketing are imparting their message in easy to grab messages that may resonate with you. They do for me anyway. I read my fair share of marketing blogs, largely because I find the message marketers are imparting today can connect with what we as teachers are trying to do in classrooms with a student population that I think is different to the one I encountered when I first entered teaching in 1988.

In 1988, you could walk into a classroom and establish a presence by commanding respect. I saw plenty of teachers who used fear as a tactic, and to be truthful, in my early days I did what many young teachers do – I mimicked some of the behaviour of senior teachers who employed tactics like that to control classrooms. Kids might not have liked it, but they pretty much accepted it, as did many of their parents who would sometimes tell teachers I worked with that they had their permission to give their kid a good clock over the ear if they messed up in their room! I could see pretty early on though that establishing relationships with my pupils based on shared respect and mutual understanding was far more effective, and far more enjoyable. What really helped develop my skills was becoming a parent. When you start to see your students through the lens of the parent perspective your empathy quotient kicks in and everyone benefits. At least, that’s what I would hope would happen. No guarantees there.

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Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah were responsible for the above slide. When I look at this and think of education and the students I teach today, I can draw some parallels. In my classroom I am interacting and connecting all the time, and I try very hard to delight my students by finding interesting material that can draw them into the learning experience. My teaching in 2013 is more about personalising the learning experience rather than asserting control and authority. When I think of the best learning experiences from my own education, it was the teachers who worked this way who had the most impact on me too.

Their next slide echoes true for me also. Maybe it’s always been this way.

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Ring true for you?

School’s out Friday

Having been a Mac user for the past four years, I’ve almost forgotten what it was like using a PC with Windows installed. This clever video demonstrating what the Google Glass experience might be like if the Windows operating system powered them brings it all back!

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find some time to write this weekend.  My head is full of information concerning Network security, firewalls, fibre connections and cloud storage. These are things that I was aware of when I was the Head of Library, but now they consume me as Director of ICT and eLearning. I’ve been on one giant learning curve since the start of this year and the time for writing or anything much else has disappeared. To be honest, I miss writing. It allows me to share what I’m learning, but the act of writing also helps consolidate my thinking. We’ll see if the weekend affords me time to get back here.

Enjoy what comes your way this weekend. Melbourne could do with some sun – I hope there’s some wherever you reside. 🙂

School’s out Friday

Peter Maggs shared this video today at the DEECD Teaching and Learning in the 21st Century event. He made the point that we probably all needed to ‘be more dog‘ by getting out there and taking on challenges that take us out of our comfort zones. It was very apt given that many of the people who have volunteered to be involved in the DEECD program are new to online spaces and the idea of sharing their ideas publicly.

I was honoured to be the Keynote speaker today. I was asked to share my story with the participants – how I became a networked teacher. I got some wonderful feedback from people who were there who said they found my presentation inspiring. I took as much from the experience as they seemed to. Doing something like that is validating. Sometimes you can get bogged down in the day to day challenge of trying to move people with their use of technology in classrooms and you can forget just how far you’ve come. Today was confirming for me and helped seal my resolve that the thinking I have is on track and that I need to continue sharing my learning and supporting others with theirs. I need to try to find the time to write, to unpack where I’m at and help others come to an understanding of developments taking place. Let’s see if that pans out and I find opportunities to write more than the weekly School’s out Friday post!

More on the thinking inspired by the video above. I’ve always identified with cats. I love that cats are aloof. I love that they choose the people they like and set their own timetables. I love their independent nature that doesn’t require validation from others. If I equate cats with the job I have, then it’s clear to me that those characteristics I so admire are not the best fit. You can’t work in Educational Technology and be aloof, choose the people you like and set your own timetables. You definitely can’t have an independent nature that shies away from collaboration.

No, to work in Educational Technology means you need to be more dog. And when I think dog, I’m thinking of the gorgeous black labrador cross, Bella, who shares our lives. Bella is ebullient, she greets everyone with a smile and she loves mixing with a crowd. She’s tenacious – if there’s food in the offing, she’s there, eager to snaffle the prize. She’s persistent, always seeking out the extra cuddle with a nudge from her sometimes cold nose. Yep, to work in Educational Technology you definitely need to be more dog. You need to be excited by what you’re doing and where it’s heading. You need to be friendly and warm and enjoy working collaboratively with your peers. You need to be seeking out those who are interested and you need to nudge them along to help you move others.

So, be more dog. Especially if you’re working in the Ed Tech field. Sure, you can be more cat sometimes, but choose that time wisely. You might like to leave it for the weekend.

I’ll be being more cat over this weekend. I intend to set my own timetable for the morning, and that means no alarm clock going off at 6.30am and a decent sleep for a change. I hope you’re able to do the same. Enjoy. 🙂


School’s out Friday

I’ve been missing in action lately.


Well, work is occupying a lot of my time right now. In fact, I’m working pretty much all day and then following up that with more work into the night. I’m consumed with getting my head around cloud storage, SaaS (Software as a Service) and the implications this has for privacy. It’s pretty intensive and has required some heavy duty reading. Do I feel like I’m settled in where I sit with my thinking around all of this? No, I’m not. I’m torn in fact, and being in this state means that I seem to do nothing but think about this all the time.

Yes, that is the life I lead folks. One consumed by my work. I counsel myself by knowing that this is a subject matter that needs pursuing, and answers need to be made clearer for schools who are signing up for Cloud based storage and SaaS. Hopefully, as things become clearer in my head I’ll be able to share my thinking here.

Time to clear the head and get some sleep, only to ponder more in the morning.

Enjoy your weekend. Grab some downtime (advice I should follow…)