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Learning and Leadership

The Principal of Change George Couros - 22 July, 2015 - 23:10

In the day of any conference, the conversations are fast and furious, and I can sometimes get overwhelmed by so much flying at me at once.  I do my best to spend time connecting with people, but sometimes the conversations that are had don’t stick with me at first, but resonate with me after I have had some time to decompress.

One of the things that has stuck with me from one event, was a person in an administrative position, approaching me and saying, “after I listened to you and thought about what you were saying, I realized, I am the barrier that is holding us back.”  I am not sure what her position was, but I was amazed by the honesty of her reflection.  She also shared that she did not want to be that person anymore, and was going to try and create different opportunities for those that she served.  It was a humbling conversation that has really been stuck in my brain.  I honestly can’t stop thinking about it because of the courage that she had in sharing that or even being able to say it out loud.

Something I have been saying lately in some conversations I have been having is the following:

“There are people in this room, no matter how compelling of evidence or ideas that I have shared, or the experiences that I have tried to create, will do nothing different tomorrow.  Are you that person?”

It is a comment meant to challenge and push people out of their comfort zone, while also imploring them to reflect on their learning.  I have learned that ideas and my own thinking changes over time, and by being open to challenge and growth in my learning, is how I model what I hope to see in others.  I am never expecting someone to do exactly what I have shared or even not challenge my thoughts, but I am hoping they take action and ownership on how they can move forward.

But with that being said, I am hoping that people not only think about what they have learned, but also how their learning impacts others.  Every single person involved in education is in some type of leadership position in the way that we serve the needs of others, whether it is students or adults, and our willingness or lack thereof to grow, impacts not only ourselves, but others.  This one administrator reminded me of that in her brave way she shared her self-realization.  The willingness to be able to reflect and to identify how your actions and growth are affecting others, is a powerful trait of a leader who wants to make a difference.


Categories: Planet

Students Help Design School Supplies for Staples: Let’s Get Students Involved

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 22 July, 2015 - 21:54

Staples Back to School Council

Students should be involved in their education. They can also change their world. I’m excited about filling my son’s locker with items from Staples because they are PRACTICAL. (The Designed by Students locker shelf below is so unique, I was like — why didn’t some adult think of that?)

Staples worked with Ron Clark’s students (pictured above) and others around the country during this past school year. The result is a new line of back-to-school products designed by kids.

It is great to see companies empower students to think and contribute to the world. Two of my favorite items are the floating locker shelves and the Big Pen Pencil Case. (Both are pictured at the bottom of this post.)

Watch the Students Pitch Their Products

The video from launch day is inspirational. (Embedded below.) Some of the key points he mentioned:

    • The proposal and prototyping process. This is an essential part of design.
    • The authentic audience. How can we help students work with local companies in this way to bring designs to the marketplace. When Staples did this, they are showing other businesses and leading with their actions that students can be partners in the design process. Talk about empowering students! When you take your ideas to local or large companies – share this.
    • The pitch. In the video, you’ll see students pitching the products they designed. The art of the “elevator pitch” and proposing the awesome lap desk, the Big Pen, binders without rings, the cool locker shelf, and a redesigned backpack. (Watch the video!)
If you can’t see this video in your RSS reader or email, then click here. The Floating Locker Shelves

These floating locker shelves are going in my 8th graders locker.

The Big Pen Pencil Case

You can get all kinds of pens to go in this pencil case, but here’s the thing – the pencil case IS a pen and IS a pencil sharpener. For the kids who forget things, this is a HUGE step forward. Another must-have for my son.

Check out the whole Staples Back to School Line at: www.staples.com/backtoschool

See my favorite office supplies and how I use them in my classroom at: Top 10 Cool Things to Buy at Staples

Disclosure of Material Connection: This is a “sponsored post.” The company who sponsored it compensated me via cash payment, gift, or something else of value to edit and post it. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will be good for my readers and are from companies I can recommend. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.) 

The post Students Help Design School Supplies for Staples: Let’s Get Students Involved appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Charleston Teach Meet Day Two

Today was the second day of a creative mini conference of educators. You can read about Charleston Teach Meet Day One here. We started off today a little differently. Doug Bergman showed off one of the Kinect games that one of his students created. We talked about about the cross curricular learning that such a project required. The student consulted with friends who had better math skills to work out a lot of what he needed to know to create a flight similar that was controlled by body movement.

Next up was David Renton (visit his site of Games 4 learning) who showed us some of the educational games he created for use with elementary and middle school students. He has some interesting quiz style games for use with wireless Xbox controllers. Teachers can easily create their own questions. I may try this with my freshmen this year.

He also showed us one of his Kinect based games. This one was about angles. The program asked students to indicate an angle with their left arm and signal when they think they have it. The software measures how close they are to correct and awards points (it’s a two player game). David’s two children demonstrated the game and they are GOOD at it. I can really see how it would help students visualize what angles look like a lot better than drawing them on paper with a compass.

We were joined for a while by Lou Zulli from Florida. Lou couldn’t make it in person but we had a lively conversation as he talked about his internationally recognized work and ideas.

Julie Sessions showed off OSMO which I hadn’t seen before. OSMO is a set of educational games for use with the iPad. Looks like fun for younger kids.

The afternoon was spent in a wide ranging conversation and brainstorming session that explored many ideas we all had about innovation in teaching. It was great but moved fast for me. I’m hoping one of the other attendees will blog about that.  

Overall I have had two wonderful days of idea sharing, conversation and real revitalization of my attitude for returning to school in the fall. I’ve got a lot of things to try for improving my practice. What more could a teacher want?

BTW the fun image below of me and Bob Irving (from Porter-Gaud) is courtesy of David Renton and one of his Kinect programs.

Categories: Planet

Understanding and Removing Barriers

The Principal of Change George Couros - 21 July, 2015 - 16:27

Grant Wiggins, a visionary education reformer who has made a tremendous impact now and will continue to do so even after his recent passing, and was one of the developers of “Understanding by Design” (with Jay McTighe), shared a powerful “guest” blog post of a learning coach mirroring two students for a day each in her school (it was later acknowledged to be written by Alexis Wiggins).  Here was the initial plan for the process from Alexis:

As part of getting my feet wet, my principal suggested I “be” a student for two days: I was to shadow and complete all the work of a 10th grade student on one day and to do the same for a 12th grade student on another day. My task was to do everything the student was supposed to do: if there was lecture or notes on the board, I copied them as fast I could into my notebook. If there was a Chemistry lab, I did it with my host student. If there was a test, I took it (I passed the Spanish one, but I am certain I failed the business one).

The post was telling as it shared how much Alexis struggled through the process of “being a student”, and it led her to the following three key takeaways:

    1. Students sit all day, and sitting is exhausting.
    2. High School students are sitting passively and listening during approximately 90% of their classes.
    3. You feel a little bit like a nuisance all day long.

Now the point of sharing this is not to challenge the ideas that she shared (as this is from the perspective of her school at the time), but to think about the process.  This is not the norm for many students in schools around the world, but as leaders, how do we know this?  Do we often make assumptions in what is happening in our school, or do we actually experience something different?  One of the toughest groups to teach in the world is other teachers, and to go from that viewpoint, some of the expectations we have on our students, is not something we could handle for an hour, let alone, a full day.  The one quote from the blog post that really resonated for me, was when the student was asked about her perspective in class:

I asked my tenth-grade host, Cindy, if she felt like she made important contributions to class or if, when she was absent, the class missed out on the benefit of her knowledge or contributions, and she laughed and said no.

I was struck by this takeaway in particular because it made me realize how little autonomy students have, and how little of their learning they are directing or choosing.

Can you imagine going to a place every day where you felt your voice didn’t matter?  That part shook me.

The power of this post was not only in what was written by the author, but also the comments (there were 285 as of the time that I referenced this article and probably they will continue to receive more), that came from a variety of people, including students and educators.  The comments had a range of stories shared from personal experiences as a student, and struggles to accommodate something different as a teacher.  The reality of the learning environments that happen in our classrooms, are that they are not only created by the teacher, but the entire school.  If this is what school looks like for our students, what are we doing as leaders to help support to create something new?

The Impact of Our Decisions

One of my own thoughts as a central office administrator, was to be in our schools as much as often, to support our educators.  If you really love education, this can never happen enough, but I saw this as crucial to the work I was doing.  If my decisions had an impact on classrooms, then I better experience and see the impact of those decisions.

What I would often do is take my laptop and sit in a classroom in a school for anywhere between three to six hours, where I would get to the point that the teachers and students did not even notice I was there.  That way I could really see what their experiences looked like.  What I struggle with in our mobile world, is how reluctant we are to take our computers as leaders and do some of the administrative work in our classrooms?  I could answer my email a lot faster in my quiet office, but there are so many reasons why I would rather do it in the classroom.

What needs to be clear in this process is that I was not there to evaluate the teachers.  In fact, it was more to evaluate the environment that was created by the school district.  What I had noticed is how much “other stuff” teachers had to do, to make things work.  Whether it was going through an arduous logon process with students, or constant issues with WiFi, they looked less like teachers, and more like magicians.  From an IT department perspective, Internet is often “fast” and the logon process is quick, but times that by 20-30 students in a classroom (if you are lucky), and you have many frustrated educators that go above and beyond to create powerful learning opportunities for our students.

If we want “innovation” to happen in our schools, we have to be willing to sit in the environments where it is going to happen, and be able to not only discuss teaching and learning, but also do everything in our power to remove barriers from those that we serve.  One of the things that I have noticed in education is that we do not need “managers”, but we need “leaders”.

The truth is we need both.

We need leaders to have a vision of where we can go in our schools, but the “management” part is about making sure we have what we need to get there.  Stephen Covey (paraphrased) said that we manage things, but we lead people.  The educators that we serve, need the “things” to work if we truly want to create a “culture of innovation”, and support in creating an environment that we would truly want to be in as a learner ourselves.

Categories: Planet

Charleston Teach Meet Day One

This week I am in Charleston SC at Porter-Gaud School meeting with about a dozen teachers from around the US and two teachers from Scotland. It’s a bit unusual in several ways. First the small size of the group. Secondly the diversity of the attendees. We have teachers teaching a variety of subjects and age groups. Some people work at the school wide or district wide level. Some are private school educators and some are at public schools. About half of the attendees have been involved in Microsoft’s Innovative Educators program and have been recognized for their excellence and innovation in teaching. A couple of us have been judges for the MIE Forums in the US.

Another big difference is that we spent the whole first day on introductions. Now most other meetings like this would have each person giving one or two minutes of introduction and then move on to some formal program. Today we had in-depth introductions. We talked about who we are and how we teach. We talked about our methods, our philosophies, and how what we do works in our particular environments. These were interactive introductions with questions and answers and conversation what went in interesting directions. It was fascinating!

We talked a good bit about using technology in teaching (something we all do) but we also talked about grading and assessment. Everyone agrees we need to know what students are learning. As one person put it “you haven’t taught it until they have learned it.” But grades? Well grades are no fun for anyone. This will be a big topic for discussion tomorrow.

The idea behind this conference (sort of an unconference but less formal) is that when you get good teachers together to learn from each other good things happen. Seems to be working.

In this picture: Jamie Ewing (elementary school art teacher) @mrewingteach  David Renton (Lecturer in Games Development at West College Scotland) @drenton72 Marie Renton (Depute Head Teacher Lochfield Primary, Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland) @Goldilocks1972 Doug Bergman (computer science teacher, Porter-Gaud School)  @dougbergmanUSA

Categories: Planet

3 Ways I’ve Seen Bullying Stopped

Cool Cat Teacher Blog Vicki Davis - 21 July, 2015 - 02:22

Four and a half years I lived bullying. I cried every day after school when I made it to the respite of my room at home. I often ask myself what I would have done if my bedroom weren’t my solitude? What if I couldn’t get away? Even if bullying “goes away” the scars don’t. How can I be in my forties and still be feeling the aftershock of when I was 14?

“What are several real ways you’ve seen bullying reduced?” This month’s question as part of Cathy Rubin’s Global Search for Education is hard. I’ll share three things that worked with a disclaimer. I am sharing what I’ve seen WORK. Consult with a counselor (like I have) if you’re helping your children through bullying. Every situation is different. If your child is depressed or suicidal GET HELP IMMEDIATELY. Bullying is serious. Don’t ignore it. These are three things I’ve seen work. They may not work in your situation.

In today’s challenge, Cathy Rubin has asked for several real ways I’ve seen bullying reduced.

1 – Learn to Defend Yourself

When bullied between fifth and ninth grades, no one came to my rescue. I came to my rescue. I remember the day it happened. I bounded into homeroom in ninth grade. “Miss Mean Girl” made a cutting remark about my outfit as she did every day. I looked at her and said,

“You know what – I don’t care. I honestly don’t care what you think anymore.”

And I didn’t. And that was it – I was free. I don’t know where the ability to no longer care appeared. Was it the self-confidence my parents instilled in me? Was it prayer? Was it maturity?  When dealing with mean taunts – bullies often select people who care what they think. When you stop caring, they may stop bullying you. For me, it stopped when I stopped caring.

We let my son take Tae Kwon Do lessons. His bullying ended the day he stood up for himself. Again, this is controversial and doesn’t work for everyone but it helped him. They stopped hitting him when he hit back one time.

2 – Empower Bystanders

The research-based Olweus Method relies on empowering bystanders. Sadly, telling adults about the bullying often makes it worse.

Once a boy was physically hurting his classmates. He pretended to be joking, but he wouldn’t stop. He left bruises.

The girls talked to adults. The adults told them the behavior was unacceptable.

The girls took it to heart. It happened again. Three of the girls went to the principal and told him what happened. They stood up for their friend. The bullying stopped.

Another time, a student saw bullying on Facebook against a classmate. She took a screenshot.  It was stopped.

Empowering bystanders is hard. Because the person being bullied isn’t the one telling, it can help.

3 – Set Expectations

I remember an anti-bullying rally held by a school counselor. It opened up conversations about how children should expect to be treated. Several issues came to light that had been going on that could then be handled. Often rallies, assemblies, or conversations about the treating each other with respect– helps. In this case, a rally started conversations that stopped several instances of bullying before they escalated.

Bullying is Never OK

But even as I share these three things I’ve seen work, scars remain. Even if bullying is “handled” doesn’t make it ok.

Bullying is one of those things that hurts everyone involved. The “victim” must forgive and move on. Those who bully, if not helped, often become criminals.

Every single person matters and deserves respect. That respect starts with having conversations about things that matter. Eradicating bullying matters. Creating a positive school culture free of fear matters. Just because something is hard to handle doesn’t mean we have an excuse to stop making progress.

The post 3 Ways I’ve Seen Bullying Stopped appeared first on Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Categories: Planet

Interesting Links 20 July 2015

If this is Monday it must be Charleston. Seriously though I am in Charleston SC for a two day mini conference with a small group of great educators. More on that when I get home in a few days. Last week was the CSTA Conference followed by the CSTA Board meeting. Lots of good stuff. With a lot of in person conversations I wasn’t online as much as usual but I still have a few good links to share.

No Room For Lone Wolves: via Doug Peterson  @dougpete Lessons for teachers of CS from pro developers as shared at the closing keynote from the CSTA Conference. The video of that keynote and many other sessions will be available soon.

CSTA's New Assessment Landscape Study was released during the conference. Take a look. 

Free PD for teachers who want to teach Computer Science Principles  from @Harvard and professor @davidjmalan A few more openings so if you are in the area around Boston look into it. I’m taking it.

Bob Irving blogged about attending CSTA and included links about his Minecraft presentation.

Top Ten Myths about Teaching Computer Science Int3resting post on the blog@CACM | Communications of the ACM by Mark Guzdial. What do you think? Myths or true?

Some great news to kickstart the week: ScratchJr is now officially available for Android 4.2+ in @GooglePlay!

Raspberry Pi? Why Yes, I’ll Have Pi Cluster - Reed's Ruminations: A Blog by Dan Reed – imagine a super computer made up of very small, very inexpensive computers.

BTW Start thinking now about next year’s CSTA Annual Conference.

Categories: Planet

“Do one thing everyday that scares you.”

The Principal of Change George Couros - 20 July, 2015 - 01:47

Just something I am thinking about and trying to process through writing…

One of the hardest things I have embarked on in the last little while is trying to write a book.  I have been working on it (I know this is going to sound horrible) for the last couple of years, yet have not been able to just finish it.  The amount of content I have written on this blog in the past five years (nearly 1000 posts) has been huge, but writing a book is not only a different process, but also a  different product. If you disagree or want to challenge something in this blog post, your shared point of view might change mine, and the next blog post might be a reflection of that.  What I think now, might be different than what I think in five years.  A book though, has a certain amount of permanence to it.  I think it is totally understandable on challenging a book and having the author rethink their position, yet you might feel something totally different after publishing, but your old viewpoint is still seemingly engraved on those pages.  It is almost the modern day equivalent of being written in stone.  A blog seems like a formative assessment, and a book seems summative; there seems to be a certain finality to it.

That is one thing that I am struggling with.

The other is the effort and time you would need to put into it, and the mere moments it would take to criticize it online.  Going through the process has changed the way I read Amazon reviews.  I cringe at a bad review and think, if something I would publish would actually be on that site, would I even look?  It is something that would haunt your dreams, just like the one negative comment out of a 100 on a session will be the one you focus on?  I think of this not only in writing a book, but any type of music or art that one pours their soul into, and it can be ripped apart in moments.  It is daunting.  I am not saying that we shouldn’t challenge the thoughts in a book (I have done this myself), but just thinking about how we do it.

So here is what I like about the process….actually going through the struggle that I have described above.

I am really trying to focus and finish a first copy sooner than later, and hammer through it to have it ready to go by a certain timeline.  I need to have that timeline in my head, or I will continue to push it off.  But the above things that I struggle with, put me back into a place of discomfort, and lead me to become more empathetic to understanding that others struggle with the things that I now feel are second nature.

I remember working with a teacher who was so reluctant about using Twitter, and then they  finally had the courage to join and try, and it was daunting to them.  On their very first tweet, they asked for help, and other than my resharing of it, the first response was a sarcastic comment on the quality of the question.  I really believe the person had no intent of criticizing the person and it was just their humour, but I saw the worst case scenario in her mind come to life and that was the end of the process for her.  She had no idea who the person was so it was hard for her to understand the comment. I am not sure if they continued on with Twitter, but sometimes when that first “jump” becomes as scary in reality as it was in your head, it is tough to go again.

At the beginning of the year, I decided that my “word” to define my year was going to be empathetic, and it has stuck with me every single day.  I think about the person with their first tweet as well as the person with the thousandth.  On any day, a response without that approach could be the one that pushes a person to lose confidence in their voice.  The recent #semicolonEDU reminded me of not only how many people go through things that I never know, but how courageous so many people are to put themselves out there, whether it is online, or even showing up to work every day.

This is not only with social media, but even things like a staff meeting.  I have seen people finally get the courage to speak, but then watch a room that has no one listening.  It is sometimes not even in what we say, but in what we do or not do, that can make an impact.  Will they feel the confidence to share again, or will that be the last time for a long time?  I am guilty of this myself as I know that I can easily become distracted or lost in something, so I am trying to get better at being in the moment.  And don’t blame mobile devices…I was easily distracted LONG before they became the norm in our society.  I am trying to get better.

I think that putting yourself in spaces where you struggle not only helps you to grow your mind, but sometimes grow your heart.  Remembering what it is like to struggle, I mean really struggle, is something that will remind you how hard it is for you and others to put themselves in place of vulnerability.  This is not to say that we shouldn’t challenge, but thinking about when we challenge, and how we do it.  I have said it over and over again, that learning is relational.  An effective coach is not one that treats every player the same, but treats every player as an individual, and knows when to push and when to pull, and builds upon the unique strengths of each to bring a team together.  How one is treated when they struggle and lack confidence, is often remembered on the path to success.

If we followed the advice “do one thing everyday that scares you”, we would not only grow, but we would also remember how hard it is for others to do the exact same.


Categories: Planet

Lessons from a Hole in the Bucket

Classroom 2.0 Diigo Group - 19 July, 2015 - 16:38


  • In the song 'There's a Hole in the Bucket' we are introduced to Liza and Henry as the overcome the difficulties caused by a bucket with a a hole in it. Liza sets Henry the task of collecting water but as we soon find out this is no simple task. - Nigel Coutts

Tags: education, learning, teaching

by: Nigel Coutts

Categories: International News


Darcy Moore's Blog - 19 July, 2015 - 11:04

Why do people still pay to subscribe to magazines, journals, websites and newspapers?

For some time, to subscribe, one has entered an email address or added the website as an RSS feed for an endless stream of online articles and posts. I subscribe to about a thousand websites using FeedlyIn another sense, we subscribe by clicking ‘like’ or ‘follow’ to get automatically updated information streams via Facebook and Twitter. In this context, many, quite understandably, are not prepared to pay for articles in newspapers and magazines when so much is available for free.

Why then do we pay for some subscriptions? I can only answer for myself and thought I’d take the time to post about my subscriptions and consumption of news, entertainment and other information.

News and Current Affairs

It is important to have a balanced flow of daily news and current affairs. My tax contribution is my subscription to our national broadcaster and it is a trusted source of news and current affairs. In my life, every federal government has grown annoyed with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation at some stage and this is very reassuring as having an effective fourth estate is fundamental for a democracy. Just In is excellent for keeping one up to date, minute by minute, and I always have this tab open on my browser (I never listen to the radio). I do watch the ABC TV News and The 7.30 Report will be kept on if the guest or story is interesting. The SBS TV News is always watched for an international perspective if I am home at 6.30pm.

Perhaps it is tenuous to suggest that I subscribe to the ABC and SBS via taxes but it is broadly an accurate description. Other news sources required the physical and financial effort to actually pay for a subscription. It is important to have a balance of perspectives so I have paid subscriptions across the political spectrum to mainstream sources like the Murdoch/NewsCorp owned newspaper, The Australian and from FairfaxThe Sydney Morning Herald plus a local newspaper, The Illawarra Mercury. I have not read a print copy of newspaper since last decade and read all these online. I also read The Guardian but do not have a paid subscription.

It is important to support independent media sources outside the mainstream to encourage diversity. I have subscribed to New Matilda and Crikey for over a decade. I rarely visit their websites but read the email version. The long form of journalism has made a comeback in recent years with quality journalism from The Atlantic, Huffington Post and The New Yorker. These ‘longreads‘ are an antidote to the hyperbole of news grabs, political spin and the low attention news cycle. The Saturday Paper is a relatively new Australian player on the scene from Morry Schwartz that has these longer articles about the news of the week and I have subscribed to the online version since inception. I particularly like the music and book reviews. This quote sums up their ambition and belief:

We believe newspapers are not dead, they just stopped doing their job well. 

On the political spectrum, The Australian is the most “right-wing” of the sources I read and New Matilda, the most “left-wing”. However, the political landscape, compared to the 1970s when I first started consuming news, has swung so far to the right that we do not rarely have what is truly left of centre journalism except from occasional pieces by John Pilger. Crikey, which itself is often very socially libertarian and anti-establishment, published a “bias-o-meter” back in 2007 that still seems about right except that Fairfax has headed back the other way (you’ll need to read the last link).

Why do I subscribe to all of the above? Encouraging a diverse fourth estate in Australia is one very important reason but also, frustration at not being able to access articles of interest is another. For example, The Weekend Australian has very good book reviews which are subscriber only. Australians need Australian sources of news and current affairs. We should pay to ensure the fourth estate is strong. At this point I could make some commentary about our system and how the media is a player who does not always serve the citizen or democratic state but will save that for another post.

Magazines and Journals

The only print copy subscription that arrives in my post (except for several family history society journals) is the absolutely excellent New PhilosopherIt is a beautiful magazine and the only philosophy magazine published in Australia. I subscribe to support this venture and feel happy when the magazine arrives in the mail. Professionally, I have used some of the wisdom with students and one small A4 poster resounds with many who are looking to find their way.

Schwartz Media has an impressive stable of publications. I have already mentioned their weekly newspaper and have subscribed to The Monthly since the beginning. First in hard copy and in recent years, on my iPad. Quarterly Essay is essential reading for Australians and I have written recently about the excellent pieces by Karen Hitchcock and David Kilcullen during the first half of this year.

For a long time I subscribed to Quadrant (from when Robert Manne was editor) but found it hard to stomach some of the essays about Aboriginal issues that were being published at the beginning of the century and it got to the stage I could no longer support such extremism from one author who went on to become the editor in 2007. These ‘History Wars’ continue and I am happy to read opposing views when they are written with integrity. I always enjoyed, albeit through gritted teeth, the provocative pieces by Padraic McGuinness because of his intellect and autodidacticism. It is important to read a variety of views but not possible to support, financially, such a concerted effort to undermine Aboriginal people and their supporters politically at a time where the Prime Minister refused to say ‘sorry’!

In recent years I have subscribed to Family Tree Magazine and Black+White Photography (Facebook page) on my iPad. There have been a number of other family history magazines that have fallen by the wayside but I like both of these. They both have a strong editorial direction and presence.

Music, TV and Film

The arrival of the internet and World Wide Web facilitated sharing of music, television and film in a way that challenged conventional notions of copyright and ownership. There have been countless articles and books written about piracy, copyright P2P networks and ethical or legal considerations since the 1990s but recently, much has changed. Low cost subscription services make it less profitable for individuals to bother with piracy. Tools like Sonos are fantastic innovations for listening to music easily at home when used in concert with Spotify and a range of other free and paid services. I am more than happy to subscribe for such a streaming service and am trialling Apple Music too, although it does not yet connect to my Sonos speakers, which is a deal-breaker.

1.5 million Australians have flocked to video-streaming service Netflix since it arrived here. Of course, many were already using it by bypassing geolocation locks. The service works well with Apple TV and my free subscription month will result in becoming a paying customer. Not once has here been buffering or connection issues. The only issue, the lack of Australian content but more often than not, that can be streamed legally from iView or SBS.

Social Media, Video Games and VPNs

One wonders what would happen if some of the popular social media tools, that basically make the user the product, started charging. I suspect that many would pay for Facebook and Twitter rather than lose the service and connections. I doubt this will ever happen though. I tried a paid subscription to APP.NET but let it lapse as I just seemed to rarely use it. The clients were not great and there was a general lack of engagement. I now have a free account. 

Diigo is an important tool for social bookmarking and I am happy pay subscription fees partly as I was so happy with the way the tool saved me when Delicious went pear-shaped. I pay for Yahoo (and still have my first email account ever from 1997) and Flickr happily.

I once played online video games but must admit, that in the last couple of years, have found them unsatisfying and pretty much stopped playing. The most recent subscription was The Elder Scrolls Online which the whole family was playing. We all loved Skyrim on PS3 but never really became enthusiastic about this next instalment and allowed our subscription to lapse.

Many people have subscribed to VPNs for security and privacy. I first used Witopia when travelling overseas to access Australian content and feel safer browsing via cafe and hotel wifi. It can be employed on smartphone, tablet and laptop. I tried some others but Witopia has always been reliable.

What was your first subscription?

As a kid I liked magazines and often had subscriptions and it was great when the mail arrived, often with a quite battered copy, each month of my favourites. In mid-primary school during the late 1970s I liked the interesting articles in a high quality magazine called, Look and LearnThere were many historical pieces which were particularly interesting for me, along with articles about nature and science. I did not really register how British this mag was as pretty much everything I was reading was British. Australian content was severely limited. At this time I read countless already old-fashioned books, especially series’ like Biggles, Famous Five, William and Jennings, as well as Dr Who novelisations, so nothing seemed out of place.


What subscriptions do you deem worth money nowadays?


Featured Image: flickr photo by MikeBlogs http://flickr.com/photos/mikeblogs/172940802 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

The post Subscribe? appeared first on Darcy Moore's Blog.

Categories: Planet

CSTA Annual Conference 2015–Looking Back

The 2015 Annual CSTA Conference is in the books now. Over 350 people attended in Grapevine TX for 14 three-hour workshops and 24 concurrent sessions. There was also a tour and reception of the University of Texas Dallas, a code.org sponsored happy hour and other opportunities for informal networking.

I had the chance to sit in on two of the workshops. The first was by Mark Guzdial and Barbara Erikson from Georgia Tech on their Media Computation course. They do a lot of cool things with manipulation of images and sound. They use Python which looks pretty interesting. On the other hand the libraries they use for images look like they would be easily duplicated in C# or Visual Basic and so usable with either or both of those languages. I may give writing them a try. Not sure about the sound stuff yet.

I also sat in on Problem Based Learning in Computer Science: A Case Study in Robotics Camp presented by Joshua Block. My big takeaway there was an interesting exercise in problem solving and planning involving making a tower out of playing cards.

It may be a replacement for the marshmallow challenge which I have used in the past. I’ll have to see about a cheap source of playing cards first.

My favorite of the concurrent sessions is probably Out of Your Seat Comp Sci: Coding Using the Kinect presented by Doug Bergman. Doug has a project based course for his advanced students that has them all making projects that use a Kinect. Apparently used version 1 Kinects can be found on the Internet now that the version 2 is out. Doug showed us some of his student projects and some of the code behind them. They sure do have to do a lot of design work and thinking to create these projects. Most of them have to use – gasp – math.

I also attended sessions on Minecraft and Pencil Code. Minecraft looks interesting but I’ll see how interested students at my school are before trying to include it in the curriculum.

Pencil Code has some nice ideas and lets users switch back and forth between block and text based programming. But mostly it seems like another version of Scratch (like Blockly, App Inventor, and Snap!) and I’m just not feeling the excitement in these any more. I’m going to stick with TouchDevelopment for now.

There were also keynotes and an industry panel of course. The closing keynote was from a game company and I think it had a lot of value for people who haven’t talked to game developers before. Lots of talk about the need for soft skills (communication and teamwork), problem solving ability and a reminder that professionals are always learning new things. I’ll share the video when it is available with my students who need to hear this stuff.

As is so often the case conversations were key to my enjoyment and learning. I’ve already blogged some about my conversations around the BBC Micro:bit. I had some conversations about projects, pedagogy, other tools (the exhibit hall was well worth the time here) and just catching up with friends from around the country. And a few people from outside the country.

Overall a great conference. If you missed it you really did miss something good.

And now we look forward to 2016 in San Diego, California. There will be a request for proposals in the fall. Start thinking about what you would like to present next year.

Categories: Planet

School’s out Friday

Lucacept - Jenny Luca - 18 July, 2015 - 00:33

Stepping out of his comfort zone has worked pretty well for Richard Branson. Here’s hoping the same applies to me!

I’ve stepped way out of my comfort zone and just experienced the first week of work at a new school. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried (not while at work!) and I’ve made some nice connections with the people I’m working with. That is what has kept me sane – my thanks go to everyone there who have made me feel so welcome.

To be totally honest with you, I’d underestimated just how hard it is to start a new job. You go from someone who was competent in pretty much everything you were doing in your previous job, to someone who is struggling to remember the footprint of the building you are in, the names of people you’ve just been introduced to less than two minutes ago, and how you go about navigating a Windows environment on a PC when you’ve used a Mac for the last 6 years!

Give me another 8 or so weeks and I’m sure I’ll be handling things like a pro. Well, hopefully anyway – maybe semi-professional is a more apt forecast!

A weekend of contemplative rest is in order. Taking stock, collecting my thoughts, getting ready to do it all again next week. Keeping in mind that life begins at the end of your comfort zone. :)

Have a great weekend. Enjoy, may the sun shine.

Categories: Planet

Greatness is often in the smallest of details.

The Principal of Change George Couros - 17 July, 2015 - 04:22

The phrase “don’t sweat the small stuff”, is one that has stuck with me for a long time and something that I have honestly worked on a lot as a leader and a person.  The “small stuff” can get to you, and sometimes you have to let it go.

On the other hand though, sometimes you need to sweat the small stuff.

I was talking with a former superintendent, who was also an athlete, and he was discussing the sport of swimming.  He said that swimming was an amazing sport because it is about who can do the movements perfect, fastest.  Every little detail in swimming is crucial to success.

So I started to think about how I present and the slides I create.  There is a consistency in the font.  I prefer using Keynote because it allows me to better manipulate videos on when they start, and how quiet or loud they are.  The design process of creating the keynote is almost as important as the delivery, and it is something that I put a lot of focus on. Does it really matter if one slide is in “Georgia” font and the other is in “Times New Roman”? To me it does.

I love this quote on design from Steve Jobs on the things you might not even see:

“When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”

Sometimes the small stuff is the difference between “good” and “great”.

So what about the small stuff in the terms of leadership?  At one point, the small stuff could be the thing that keeps you up at night.  You will sometimes have people upset with a decision, but if it is based on the focus of “what is best for kids”, then you will have to let it go, or else those “small things” will get to you.

But the “small stuff”, such as making sure you learn student names, go visit teachers, taking time to get to know your community, might seem like little things, but they are the small things that lead to excellence.  In no educational leadership competencies does it tell you that you need to go out of your way to know the names of all the students of your school.  But that seemingly overlooked idea can be all of the difference in your school.

I truly believe that if you are an educator, whether an administrator or teacher, that every single student or teacher you pass in the hallway, you acknowledge in some way, whether you teach them or not.  Going out of your way to talk to a student, might seem “small” to you, but it could be a world of difference to a student that day.  The “small stuff”, sometimes is the most important stuff we do; we have to learn when focusing on the little things will make all of the difference.

Greatness is often in the smallest of details.

Categories: Planet

Assessing intelligence(s)

Bluyonder Greg Whitby - 16 July, 2015 - 13:02

Sir Ken Robinson in his book Creative Schools states that our understanding of intelligence over the past hundred years (measured largely by IQ) presents “a narrow and misleading conception of how rich and diverse human intelligence really is.”

As societies and cultures develop, new theories emerge and one of the most prominent theories of intelligence is Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences. However in 1985, American psychologist Robert Sternberg proposed the theory of successful intelligence.  Sternberg says he became interested in human intelligence because his teachers and his parents thought he was ‘stupid’ (thanks to an IQ test) and so he ended up believing that he was.

According to Sternberg, the theory of successful intelligence is the ability to work out what you want to do with your life and to succeed given the constraints of your environment.  While IQ measures a single intelligence (analytical), successful intelligence is defined as creative, practical and analytical.

Sternberg has been particularly interested in how his theory applies to teaching by questioning whether you could improve student outcomes if teachers recognise students learn in different ways.  Sternberg suggests teaching in different ways at different times so that every student’s creative, practical or analytical strengths are being developed.

For schools, we need to look to assessments that measure a broad range of skills including, as Dr Yong Zhao says, ‘non-cognitive such as motivation, persistence, confidence and personality traits’.  It re-affirms Sternberg’s message that we must teach and assess in ways that reflect how students learn best and not the other way around.

Interestingly, the OECD is recognising the importance of social and emotional skills in addition to analytic skills by beginning to develop international measures. Earlier this year, OECD’s Director for Education and Skills, Andreas Schleicher commented that cognitive abilities still remained critical but ‘people with strong social and emotional foundation skills thrive better in a highly dynamic labour market and rapidly changing world’.




Categories: Planet

6 of the Best Hidden Features in Google Chrome - The Gooru Best Resources for Google Apps

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 15 July, 2015 - 21:49


  • "Google Chrome is actually much more than just a web browser.
    Google has tucked away a lot of hidden functionalities into the Chrome browser. Jotting notes on a built in notepad, playing a dinosaur themed browser game when the wifi is out, and even finding your lost cell phone on a Google map, are just a couple of the cool things most people can do. These are six of our favorite hidden Chrome tricks you can try out right now" - Rhondda Powling

Tags: Google Chrome, Chrome Extensions, features, google apps

by: Rhondda Powling

Categories: International News

Resilience and Innovation in Education

The Principal of Change George Couros - 15 July, 2015 - 20:39

“The person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it.” Chinese Proverb

Oh if it were that easy!

The reality of the work of someone with the “innovator’s mindset” is that the work is going to be questioned because it is something new and can often make those around them uncomfortable. Comments like “let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater” are often disguises of a fear of moving forward. If you really think about change, many people are comfortable with a known average, than the possibility of an unknown great.  With that in mind, to be innovative, we will have to focus on moving forward even when there is risk of failure and being criticized involved.

Trying something new is always going to be up for a challenge, and I have watched so many struggle when that challenge becomes public.  It is not about ignoring the naysayer (sometimes you should really listen to them), but about having the conviction to push forward and do something that you believe will make a difference.  As I listened to the first episode of the podcast “Startup”, one of the things they talked about is the importance of passion and conviction to become successful.

If you don’t believe in your idea, why would anyone else?

One thing that I have learned from my experience as an educator is to always focus on the question “what is best for kids” when thinking about creating new ideas to further your work in schools.  If you are trying something new in the context of learning, and this question is at the forefront of how you make your decisions, you are doing the right thing.

The other pushback you may face from trying something different is actually from the students.  As stated earlier, many of our students are so used to “school” that something outside the lines of what they know terrifies them just as much as any adult.  If school has become a “checklist” for our students (through doing rubrics, graduation requirements, etc.), learning that focuses on creation and powerful connections to learning, not only take more effort, but more time, which sometimes frustrates many students.  Yet if we do not challenge our students in the learning they do in school, what are we preparing them for? What mindset will we actually create in our students?  It is important, if not crucial, to really listen and act upon student voice, but it is also just as important to help our students become resilient and face adversity in the school environment.

Being a huge basketball fan, I remember watching Phil Jackson coach the Lakers, and when the other team had some success against them and most coaches would have called a timeout, Phil Jackson made them struggle to learn to work their way out of it; they could not be dependent upon someone coming in to save them (Phil Jackson has the most championships of any coach in NBA history). Do we create spaces for our own students that pushes them out of their comfort zone and they have to work themselves out of it, or do we provide the solutions for them?  It is important to understand when to help a student back up, but it is also important to help them sometimes figure it out on their own.

Resilience is not only needed to be developed as an “innovator”, but just as a human. Life is full of ups and downs, but how you recover and move forward is not just important to how we learn, but how we live.

Categories: Planet

Photo competition, I'd love your votes!

Oz/NZ Educators Diigo Group - 15 July, 2015 - 19:38


Tags: no_tag

by: Louise Robinson-Lay

Categories: International News
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