Boston Dynamics latest iteration: Atlas

Since Google (now Alphabet) acquired Boston Dynamics in 2013, there have been some quite remarkable developments in their robotic creations. Spot was impressive, Wild Cat even moreso, but Atlas trumps them all.

The robots in the DARPA challenge last year struggled opening doors. Atlas looks like it’s ready to board a bus and visit you at home.

If you haven’t seen Spot yet, take a look.

Wild Cat’s here too.

Yes my friends, the robots are coming.

School’s out Friday

I can so relate to what Shonda Rhimes is saying in this TED talk that was delivered at the TED Conference being held this week in Vancouver, Canada. In it, she talks about the hum of work, of being caught up in your career, of loving the work that you do. The dilemma occurs when the hum stops, when you realise the cost of the work, the relationships you sacrifice when the work takes over and you’ve lost sight of what truly matters.

I love work, always have. But this week my eyes are suffering, my husband has been calling me at 11.00pm telling me to tear myself from my computer to get some sleep and I can feel my amygdala moving into flight or fight response.

l know what my problem is. I want things to work. I hold myself responsible for a project’s success even though I know it is dependent on the will of all for it to succeed. I am giving my all to lead effectively and I know you can’t make everyone comfortable or happy about change. I know all of that, and the rational part of me can speak those words in my head, but the emotional and irrational part of my psyche ignores the logic.

Sleep. Rest. Family. Friends. Tonic for the soul. Give me a good dose this weekend. 🙂

School’s out Friday

I don’t know if there’s any better way to start the weekend than to do it with an Elton John tune ringing in your ears. James Corden’s latest Carpool Karaoke is a real treat for any of you who grew up in the 70’s and 80’s. One of the strongest memories I have of childhood is being in my friend Kathy’s house after school one day and listening to Benny and the Jets from Elton’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road album. The cover remains firmly imprinted in my mind, and Benny and the Jets remains one of my favourite songs of all time.

EltonJohn

Driving to work recently, I found myself immersed in James Corden’s story. He was interviewed on the WTF Podcast and you can listen by following this link. He sounded like a genuinely nice guy. Someone raised in a Salvation Army family who has had an interesting rise to fame.

I’ve had a very demanding week at work and am really looking forward to rest. Just wish the house would clean itself! I hope your weekend is one to savour. Enjoy. 🙂

OEB 15 – What does it take to scale adoption of technology at your school?

OEB15

Last December, I presented at OEB in Berlin. It was a crazy time of the year – flat out at work and too busy on my return to post anything meaningful about it. Then when I did have time, the lead up to Christmas saw me preparing frantically for that and focused on family activities. Holidays saw me do something I hadn’t done in the longest time. Down tools and rest.

I needed it. Last year was time of great change for me. New school, new routines, new challenges. New, but similar to to what I had worked on for nearly three years at Toorak College in my position as Director of ICT and eLearning. What I presented at OEB is outlined below in the abstract I wrote for the conference proceedings and is a summation of that experience.

At its essence is what I think is the need to upskill the technology skills of everyone in your school, not just the early adopters, the willing few. If you hold a position of responsibility in the eLearning space, there’s a need to build the capacity of the many, not just the few. To do this takes strong resolve and a need to work strategically. In my view, you need to identify the platforms that will  best suit the educational outcomes your school is trying to achieve and you need a focused approach to implement effectively, supporting your staff through the process and building a sense of community around the professional learning required to bring people with you.

I’m fully enmeshed in this challenge once again. I’m now working across a multi campus school and rolling out the curriculum component of another LMS. This time, SEQTA. The challenge is bigger with a staff four times the size of my previous school, but the premise is the same – build teacher capacity at scale. I have a good team around me – let’s see if we can pull it off. 🙂

In the meantime, read the abstract. My blueprint.

What does it take to scale adoption of technology in your school?

In 2013 I was appointed to the position of Director of ICT and eLearning at Toorak College in Melbourne, Australia. Toorak College was a 1:1 Laptop school where pockets of innovation were occurring with use of technology, but many staff were using computers at what Ruben Puentedura’s SAMR model would describe as substitution level. Use of Microsoft word processing tools were mainstream and a Learning Management System running off Sharepoint was used but wasn’t fulfilling the purpose of being the common place for delivery of classroom content.

Prior to gaining this position I had read Michael Fullan’s book, ‘Stratosphere’. Within it he identified four criteria for technology and pedagogy to maximise learning.

“It must be irresistibly engaging; elegantly efficient (challenging but easy to use); technologically ubiquitous; and steeped in real-life problem solving.” (Fullan, Stratosphere)

This formed the criteria for my approach to the introduction of new platforms to aid in building capacity with new learning technology tools at a level of scale for both teachers and students within the school.

Toorak College had identified new strategic goals that included the following:

One school – greater communication across a Junior and Senior campus and a unified approach

Personalised Learning

Quality Teaching and Learning.

To help meet the achievement of these strategic goals, 2013 saw the introduction of a new Learning Management System (a product called Schoolbox). This platform enabled teachers to create class pages where they were encouraged to explain what was happening in class each week (or lesson) and to populate this page with the resources students would need to undertake learning tasks. Homework needed to be posted and assessment task due dates needed to be visible. It was an expectation that every teacher use this platform to enable students to have a ‘go to’ point to know what was happening within the school and to keep abreast of what they needed for their classes. The developers of the system responded to critique we levelled at their product concerning the fact that the forums didn’t provide threaded comment trails and there was little opportunity for students to add content and co-create curriculum. They developed a page component called ‘Social Stream’ that enabled students to post comments and upload files and web content. This addition vastly improved the system and saw teachers encouraging their students to pose questions and add resources that could enrich the curriculum. This enabled two way communication and collaboration rather than just a one way teacher directed approach to curriculum delivery.

During 2013, investigation into Google Apps for Education began. Decisions to move staff and students in Cloud Computing (SAAS) solutions are complex and require thoughtful planning and consideration. Google Apps for Education was considered for the following reasons:

  • the collaborative nature of the docs – the way students can work together and co-create
  • the visibility of works in progress when shared with teachers
  • the ability to provide feedback and formative assessment easily at point of need, when students are in the process of writing
  • the cloud storage provided to users – unlimited storage for each user
  • providing staff with a cloud storage option that sits within a school domain, instead of staff opening their own cloud storage accounts eg: Dropbox, and sharing school documents outside of a school domain

Extensive investigation into Google’s security measures and the SLA (service level agreement) offered to schools was entered into, with the reference point for this investigation being the Australian Signals Directorate’s (Defence Force) Cloud Computing considerations. This process is documented in a blog post called, ‘Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? Coupled with this was investigation into Hapara Teacher Dashboard. Hapara is a third party application used with Google Apps for Education. It provides an instructional management layer for teachers. Teachers access their dashboard and are given a snapshot view of student activity across Docs, Slides, Sheets, and Sites. Any time a student uploads a file to a folder that is visible in the teacher’s dashboard view, that document is instantly writable by the teacher. This enables teachers to access student documents easily and they can provide formative assessment on work in progress. When a teacher leaves a comment on a document, the student receives email notification. If the student replies, the teacher is sent an email. This enables a quick feedback loop for students.

A report tabled to the School Executive led to agreement that Google Apps for Education combined with the management layer of Hapara Teacher Dashboard was an appropriate platform that had the potential to improve the technology capacity of teachers and students and develop a collaborative culture that would help meet the school’s strategic goals.

2014 saw the introduction of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard across Toorak College. Chromebooks and Nexus 7 devices were introduced in the Junior School as part of this move. These were huge undertakings requiring staff buy in for success. Professional development opportunities and support in the LMS online environment were offered to build teacher capacity. The College wide move to Gmail as part of this initiative was instrumental in seeing adoption and understanding of Google Drive. Staff members’ need to understand the new mail interface spawned opportunities to discuss mail’s integration with Google Drive. This led to strong adoption of the platform, reinforced by the leadership team’s use of Google Docs as a means for sharing of key information and for collaboration for meeting notes.

Feedback about Google Drive and Hapara Teacher Dashboard from staff and students can be seen below:

Staff feedback:

“Hapara has changed my life in the classroom immensely. I love it”


“It works really well for individual or group tasks. In group tasks I can see if all students are doing an equal share of the work”.

“Google Docs works best for my teaching style, it has changed my work load for the better”.

Student feedback:

“I love the quick feedback”

“I love the accessibility and the accountability”

“I like that I can easily back up my work”

“Google Apps works well for school, because it allows me to have my work constantly backed up. It can be used offline, so the use of internet browsers doesn’t restrict my ability to work. It is easy to organise my work with and has all the capabilities of programs on my computer, but with the ease of mind of constantly backed up work and the ability to work from my phone or another computer”

2015 saw consolidation at school level – no new platforms to introduce, but a focus on how to best use ICT to personalise learning experiences for students. The LMS was fully integrated into school life and all teachers had a presence and the skills to create class pages. The focus for staff development was in seeing full integration of Google Apps for Education and Hapara Teacher Dashboard into everyone’s practice. Continued professional development sessions were offered and analysis of platform use enabled identification of staff members with little presence. This led to focused professional development opportunities.

The NMC Horizon Report: 2015 K-12 Edition describes “Scaling Teaching Innovations” as a “Wicked Challenge: Those that are complex to even define, much less address”. Having a coherent strategy around technology platforms to utilise in a school or district system goes some way to meeting the challenge of scaling teaching innovations. When teachers are provided with the tools that allow for collaborative practice, quick and easy insight into student work in progress, ease of providing formative assessment, tools that allow students to become creators of content and the ability for group work to be managed effectively, there lies the potential for teachers to have opportunities to rethink their pedagogical practices. When everyone is utilising common tools, you are speaking the same language and can support one another in gaining a deeper understanding of the tool’s potential to facilitate richer learning experiences and become a normalised part of the teaching and learning process.

References:

(2014). Cloud Computing Security Considerations: ASD Australian … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.asd.gov.au/publications/protect/cloud_computing_security_considerations.htm.

Luca, J. (2014). Moving to the Cloud? What should you consider? | Lucacept … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from https://jennyluca.com/2014/04/03/moving-to-the-cloud-what-should-you-consider/.

Fullan, M. (2012). Stratosphere: Integrating Technology, Pedagogy, and Change. Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.amazon.com/Stratosphere-Integrating-Technology-Pedagogy-Knowledge/dp/0132483149.

(2015). NMC Horizon Report > 2015 K-12 Edition | The New Media … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://www.nmc.org/publication/nmc-horizon-report-2015-k-12-edition/.

Puentedura, R. (2012). The SAMR model: Background and exemplars. Retrieved June, 24, 2013.

(2011). Schoolbox Learning Management System (LMS) & School … Retrieved November 1, 2015, from http://schoolbox.com.au/.

 

School’s out Friday

Not sure it’s as amusing as the Air New Zealand ads, but kudos to Qantas for having a good go at making a safety video that showcases the good bits of Australia in the process. Their digital strategy is working, racking up over 86K views in two days.

School has just officially begun, and I can barely keep my eyes open. Been a big week. Shuteye awaits.

Have a relaxing weekend. Not sure I’ll manage that, but I’ll try and find some me time away from work, housekeeping and grocery shopping. Hope your calendar permits you a better go of it!

School’s out Friday

Carpool Karaoke – featuring Adele.

No need for words. Just 14 minutes and 51 seconds of listening pleasure.

A great way to start your weekend. Enjoy. 🙂

Seth Godin’s lesson about balance

Many’s the time when I’ve made reference to the lessons Seth Godin has taught me. In very nearly every keynote presentation I’ve made, I’ve referred to Seth’s teachings.

SethGodinSeth Godin - change

 

I read his book, ‘The Dip‘ recently, and it helped me apply some strategic thinking to a situation I’d encountered. His biggest selling book, ‘Linchpin: Are you indispensable?’ is a book I revisit regularly. It’s taught me a lot about my purpose in an organisation and how I can best work to effect change. In a recent podcast I was interviewed for it was the book I said teachers should read, especially those working in leadership positions. His discussion in this book about the Amygdala, what he refers to as the ‘lizard brain’, has helped me understand my reactions in stressful situations and has allowed me to self analyse and adjust behaviour accordingly.

The lizard brain is the reason you’re afraid, the reason you don’t do all the art you can, the reason you don’t ship when you can. The lizard brain is the source of the resistance.”
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

“The linchpin feels the fear, acknowledges it, then proceeds. I can’t tell you how to do this; I think the answer is different for everyone. What I can tell you is that in today’s economy, doing it is a prerequisite for success.”
Seth Godin, Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

I’ve listened to some podcasts recently where Seth was interviewed (The Moment with Brian Koppelman, On Being) and some of the insights into his character and the way he protects his time and his personal wellbeing have been very insightful. Seth doesn’t allow comments on his blog and he doesn’t use Twitter other than to post links to latest posts he has written. The essence of what he was saying was that he would find this kind of engagement time consuming and potentially detrimental to his mental state. Instead, he blogs prolifically, relying on his own experience and beliefs and has become incredibly successful in the process. You’ve got to admire his approach and his commitment to pushing ideas out  – I know that I benefit greatly from what he is prepared to share.

Seth got me thinking about the things I don’t do that help me retain a semblance of balance in my life. You will note I use the word semblance, because there’s no way I’ve got this right. If I had it right, then I would be spending my evenings curled up in the pursuit of some form of relaxing hobby, not typing emails, thinking about the next day’s work or trawling through Twitter reading posts that expand my mind but often have me up way past anyone’s reasonable idea of bedtime.

So here’s what I don’t do.

I don’t participate in Twitter chats. I don’t have time to devote to a regular time slot and an hour spent trying to keep track of an often fast moving stream of people’s responses feels taxing.

I don’t attend TeachMeets. That’s not to say I never will, but most TeachMeets occur on weekends or after school in locations a fair distance from where I live. Weekends are a bit sacrosanct for me. I’m seeing my elderly parents, spending time with my husband and children and catching up with good friends. Oh, and yes, I’m trying to get my house in some sort of order too – not easy when you work full time. I think TeachMeets are a wonderful way of making connections and sharing great practice, but it’s a choice I’ve made not to participate in the interest of trying to attain that semblance of balance.

I don’t write on this Blog anywhere as frequently as I would like to. I love blogging – I love penning a post and feeling satisfied if I think I’ve shared something worthwhile. After starting a new job in July last year, I’ve really downed tools in this space and it’s something I do regret, but I’ve had to do what Seth does and find a way to preserve my head space and be kind to myself. This is my eighth year of blogging (actually, it’s the 8 year anniversary of this blog today – happy birthday blog!) and I’ve blogged consistently enough that there are posts in every month of that eight year period. Last year would have to be the year with the least amount of posts, but it’s also the year that marked the significant change of job so I’m going to cut myself a break on that one.

The reality for me is that learning about the impact of technology on our lives, and on the education space in particular, has become my hobby. I enjoy learning, something I’ve talked about in previous posts when I’ve described myself as an information junkie. Even driving to work for an hour doesn’t see me tuning out – I’m soaking up podcasts at a rapid fire rate and feeling better for it!

Balance is something I’m aspiring to – I’d like to be more relaxed and feel more in control of life, but it seems to be out of my grasp. I shared the following tweet last night in a discussion with Alice Leung about this very thing.

balance

What followed from this was a tweet from Georgia Constanti, who shared some research from Dr. Adam Fraser who discusses what he calls ‘The Third Space’ in the following video.

So, if what you do in between what you do really does make a difference, then I best be leaving the podcasts in the car ride home for another time. You do need to understand though, it is an hour long drive. Maybe if I give myself 20 minutes before turning a podcast on I might find that ideas have coalesced and I can find better ways forward to do my job well and achieve a greater sense of balance. It’s going to be hard though -have you ever listened to Guy Raz’s voice from the TED Radio Hour? Mesmerising. The car practically drives itself. An autonomous vehicle before its time, powered by the podcast. 😉