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Best of Belshaw (2012)


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The best posts from Doug Belshaw's blog during 2012. Topics include education, technology, and productivity as well as design, leadership and of course Open Badges! …

The best posts from Doug Belshaw's blog during 2012. Topics include education, technology, and productivity as well as design, leadership and of course Open Badges!

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  • 1. IntroductionI’m writing this, as is now almost traditional, during my BlackOps period. It’s the time during the end of the year where I tryto take a personal digital hiatus, a time when I refrain fromreplying to non-work emails as well as swearing-off socialnetworks. As it happens, it’s turning out to be more of a digitalcommunications hiatus. It’s pretty difficult to not look atscreens when you work for an organisation like the MozillaFoundation!This year has been one of the best of my life. I moved jobs,joining a non-profit that almost exactly matches my beliefs inpolitical, technological and social spheres. My family, includingmy parents, went on a fantastic holiday to Gozo - a little islandoff Malta. It was two weeks of pure sunshine and relaxation. Ialso got to travel to some wonderful places to meet someextremely interesting people.In terms of the main themes that I write about on my blog -education, technology and productivity - there have beensome fairly large changes. The biggest of these I feel hascome in education where the idea of for-profit formaleducational institutions no longer seems odd; in fact I wouldpredict that if things keep on going the way they are that’sexactly what almost all of them will be by 2020 - both schoolsand universities.A second, related, change in education has been the rise ofviable alternatives to the system we’ve got currently. Ofcourse I’m going to mention Open Badges and the potentialthey have, but it was also the year that MOOCs (Massive OpenOnline Courses) and the idea of the ‘flipped classroom’ (video-based instruction for homework, activities in class) really took 2
  • 2. hold. I’m not sure any of the early entrants such as Courseraand Udacity have got a sustainable business model, but itwon’t be long before (so long as you ‘sell’ your data) onlinehigher education will be free.Technology is, of course, no stranger to disruptive change. If2007 was the year of the netbook then 2012 was definitely theyear of the tablet. We may have had the iPad prior to this yearbut, to be more specific, this was the year of the mini tablet,the year of the 7-inch, take-everywhere tablet. Apple felt sothreatened they launched the iPad Mini.Looking back at my introduction to Best of Belshaw 2011 itdoesn’t feel to me that we’ve had the degree of social unrestthis year that I described back then. That may be becauseeveryone’s too busy just trying to get by or, more worryingly,it could be that people have come to accept the neo-liberalview of the world. I very much hope it’s not the latter. Doug Belshaw December 2012 3
  • 3. About this bookThe Best of Belshaw moniker I use for the title of this book isactually a bit of an historical artefact. Between 2009 and 2011I used an algorithm by PostRank to measure engagement (inthe form of comments, links, social media mentions and soon) and to ascertain my ‘best posts’. Unfortunately thecompany behind the algorithm were bought by Google andnow they’ve completely shut down the service. I haven’t comeacross anything similar, really.A better title for the collection of posts featured in this book,therefore, would be Blog posts by Doug Belshaw that he thinkswere better than average and that translate well to the printedform. That, however, sounds a bit wordy!Finally, I’ve taken the opportunity provided by reviewing theposts I’ve written as a coherent body of work to re-organisethings under slightly different categories than they appear onmy blog. For example, I’ve written enough on both WebLiteracies and Open Badges for them to be considered inseparate sections to ‘Education’. 4
  • 4. Contents Education You need us more than we need you.!13 Journals, academia and the ivory tower.!15 Beyond academic journals?!18 Conferences as Catalysts for Educational Innovation and Change!21 Whats the point of education?!24 Tools and processes!26 Education: it’s what you can’t see that counts.!28 Impact: the most important reason for working in the open? (#openeducationweek)!29 Obliquity, PISA, and ‘shareholder value’ in education.!32 Beyond the Textbook?!34 This is why teachers leave teaching.!38 Changing thinking vs. Changing systems.!40 Why the knowledge vs. skills debate in education is wrong-headed.!42 Some clarification of my position on private schools.!44 On the important differences between literacies, skills and competencies.!46 5
  • 5. Is Michael Gove systematically dismantling English state education?!49 On (not) working in academia.!52 On private schools becoming academies.!55 My high school report.!57 Time, innovation and funding.!61 What Constitutes Rigour in Our 21st-Century Educational Systems?!63 Time for a NICE-r kind of education?!66Educational Technology Resurrect computer science – but dont kill off ICT!70 On the Importance of Webmaking!73 Some thoughts on the Department for Education’s consultation on ‘Parental Internet Controls’.!77 How to implement technology successfully in your organisation.!79 Why a ‘mixed economy’ of digital devices is best for your educational institution.!83 Game design, gamification, game mechanics and games- based learning.!85 Mozilla, Webmaking, and the Architecture of Participation !88 BYOD and cross-platform tools for learning.!91 6
  • 6. My response to the ICT Programme of Study consultation !93 Some Thoughts on iPads and One-to-One Initiatives!97 Some thoughts on learning technologies in the classroom !101 Why we need more e-learning staff tutors!109Technology Beyond Elegant Consumption.!115 Platforms as standards? 10 days with the Nokia N9.!117 3 principles for a more Open approach.!122 Wordle-like Twitter screens for conference keynote presenters?!124 Project Reclaim: experimenting with!127 Commodification, consumerism and the new ‘Retina’ MacBook Pro.!128 On digital ownership. This is HUGE.!129 Mac OSX Mountain Lion 10.8: vendor lock-in for the masses?!131 A few brief thoughts on the Google Nexus 7. [REVIEW] !134 What is ‘technology’ anyway?!137 Want a tablet? Choose your vendor lock-in.!140 7
  • 7. Productivity Stripping back: #divest12!144 The Essentials? (#divest12)!147 Getting back on the productivity wagon.!150 On routines and rituals.!154 Productivity 101: calendars (nouns) and reminders (verbs)!156 Productivity for what?!159Open (and Webmaker) Badges Gaining Some Perspective on Badges for Lifelong Learning!164 #OpenBadges through the rear-view mirror?!170 Getting up to speed on the technical side of #openbadges!172 Informal learning, gaming, and #openbadges design!176 What we’re up to with Mozilla Webmaker (Open) badges. !179 Open Badges, Clay Shirky, and the tipping point.!184 On the ‘openness’ of Open Badges.!187 Webmaker badges are GO!!190 How to make #openbadges work for you and your organisation.!192 8
  • 8. Digital and Web Literacies Web literacy? (v0.1)!199 Why the REMIX is at the heart of digital literacies!201 Web Literacies: What is the Web Anyway?!203 Digital Literacies and Web Literacies: Whats the Difference?!207Everything Else Thanks for waiting! Dr. Belshaw will see you now.!213 9 ideas in search of a blog post.!215 3 rules for our five year-old (that work!)!217 On writing every day.!221 Arson at Ellington Nature Reserve.!224 Why I’m becoming a MoFo(er).!226 Doctor Doug.!227 Working for an Academy vs. working for JISC infoNet [visualisation]!228 Aim for the high ground, not the high horse.!231 Doug’s new #shoffice!233 Evaluation: the absolute basics!240 Famous for 42 seconds!247 9
  • 9. Some thoughts on time, performativity, and the State.!249On the mental cost of inventing new categories.!254Blog redesign: October 2012 edition!256A #shoffice update (October 2012)!261#BelshawBlackOps12 has started – see you in 2013!!265 10
  • 10. 11
  • 11. Education 12
  • 12. You need us more than weneed you.21st January 2012I’ve exhorted readers of this blog more than once to subscribeto Dan Meyer’s blog. It’s ostensibly about the teaching ofmathematics, but the tangents are just fantastic.Read the following, taken from a panel session Dan took partin (he’s now a PhD student): I’m a grad student in my second year and I’ve never shared this with anybody here, least of all my adviser, who’s in attendance, but I don’t understand the incentive structure for what you do and what I may do someday. You write amazing things and you study amazing things and you write them compellingly in journals that are not read by practitioners very often. They affect a lot of policy, which I think is a really good, top-down approach. But then I’m over here and I can post something that’s seen by 10,000 people overnight. That’s the number of subscribers I have to my blog right now. Or any number of these things. So the incentive seems strange to me. Like I don’t understand this brass ring I’m chasing. It seems like a strange prize at the end of a finish line of grad school. So there’s the question and then there’s also the encouragement. You have so many soapboxes available to you. Find a kid like me and ask him how to do a webcast or something. You have so many — and to restrict yourself to peer review, I don’t know. There’s very little upside to me, it seems.I feel this, and so do many others my age and with similarhigher level qualifications. 13
  • 13. So what are you (the academy) going to do about it? 14
  • 14. Journals, academia and theivory tower.22nd January 2012So how did academic journals come about? Until the late seventeenth century, communication between scholars depended heavily on personal contact and attending meetings arranged by the early learned societies (e.g. the Royal Society). As the membership of these societies increased, more people could not attend the meetings and so the Proceedings, usually circulated as a record of the last meeting became a place to publish papers that had not been presented at the meetings at all and moved towards what we now recognise as scholarly journals. (Wells, 1999)So journals are a replacement for personal contact.Are they good for anything else? Brown (1997) cites thefollowing: 1. distributed (many copies are stored in many places) 15
  • 15. 2. scholars trust and understand the system 3. journals have prestige built up over many years 4. portable and easy to readWhich of the above benefits either (a) cannot, or (b) are notcurrently able to be replicated by another system?Some would argue that an important difference between (forexample) a blog post and a journal article is that the latter hasbeen formally peer reviewed.However, as even the editor of The Lancet points out: The mistake, of course, is to have thought that peer review was any more than a crude means of discovering the acceptability — not the validity — of a new finding. Editors and scientists alike insist on the pivotal importance of peer review. We portray peer review to the public as a quasi-sacred process that helps to make science our most objective truth teller. But we know that the system of peer review is biased, unjust, unaccountable, incomplete, easily fixed, often insulting, usually ignorant, occasionally foolish, and frequently wrong. (Horton, 2000)Just how big do the cracks in the ivory tower have to getbefore the whole edifice tumbles? Odlyzko (September 1997) points out that there was an “extensive resistance to print by scholars” in Gutenberg’s time which included calls to ban the new technology because only trash was getting into print and books were not as durable as parchment. The reaction to the Web of today’s scholars has 16
  • 16. largely echoed the reaction of scholars to the printing press in the 15th century. (Well, 1999)Is the only reason we persist with journals and theirarticles is because they provide a convenient means toweigh the pig? Image CC BY-NC-SA Lal BeralReferences:Brown, S.A. (1997). Scholarly publishing using electronicmeans : a short guide. Newcastle: Northumbria UniversityHorton, R. (2000). “Genetically modified food: consternation,confusion, and crack-up”. MJA 172(4), p.148–9Wells, A. (1999) ‘Exploring the development of theindependent, electronic scholarly journal.‘ Sheffield: Universityof Sheffield 17
  • 17. Beyond academic journals?25th January 2012 To find a new enlightening and inspiring idea (as distinct from finding a recipe for getting safely through the peer-built barricade), browsing through thousands of journal pages is all too often called for. With my tongue in one cheek only, I’d suggest that were our Palaeolithic ancestors to discover the peer-review dredger, we would still be sitting in caves… (Zygmunt Bauman)In my previous posts on academic journals I’ve comparedthem unfavourably – either explicitly or implicitly – with thekind of informal ‘peer review’ that happens through blogs andsocial media. Some commenters have assumed that thismeans that, like Bauman (see above) I’m completely againstpeer review. I’m not.Peer review is valuable. In fact, it’s so important we needa (re)new(ed) academic ecosystem to protect it.I’m all for new systems such as which provides anopen, distributed peer review layer for the web. Although Idon’t want to go into it in too much depth here, academia isone of the few unreformed areas with outdated powerstructures and glass ceilings.As Stephen Thomas pointed out in the comments to myprevious post, academic journals have, and still do, play an 18
  • 18. important role in both establishing precedent and providing aquality filter. This is important (most of the time).But, as Dan Meyer pointed out in the quotation making up thebulk of my first post in this series, it’s the edifice that’s builtupon the academic journal system that’s problematic: The incentive seems strange to me… I don’t understand this brass ring I’m chasing. (Dan Meyer)This academic edifice is built upon other perceived‘advantages’  of academic journals, including: • Dissemination of work • Status 5. Career progression • Contact with others inside and outside fieldAcademics, unfortunately, have ended up inventing a stickwith which they can be beaten. In the UK, the ResearchExcellence Framework (REF) is a crude instrument looking aresearch outputs. Career progression (and therefore status)depends upon disseminating work in journals that are, all toooften, closed and paywalled.Part of the answer, I agree, comes through academic journalsbecoming open access. That’s a step in the right direction(even if it does smack a little of Henry Ford’s ‘faster horses‘).Going further, something more like Alan Cann’s experimentsaround open peer review could work. But, realistically, weneed something a bit more radical. How can we save peer review whilst democratising andreforming higher education? 19
  • 19. I leave you with the words of Frances Bell, who commentedon my previous post: What I suspect is that more research needs to be done on how, for example. scholarly societies can support research, scholarship and practice in a digital age. (Frances Bell)Amen to that. 20
  • 20. Conferences as Catalysts forEducational Innovation andChange1st February 2012[Published at DMLcentral]Last year I attended, on average, a conference or similar eventevery other week. As part of my role as Researcher/Analyst atJISC infoNet it’s an important part of what I do: finding outwhat’s going on in the UK education sector and disseminatingour (publicly-funded) work.The face-to-face nature of conferences is, I believe, of evenmore importance in an extremely digitally connected world.Whilst it’s often the case that you can get to know people verywell online, there’s something about embodied interaction 21
  • 21. that makes your knowledge of that person three-dimensional.I don’t think one method of interacting is necessarily ‘better’than the other; a blended approach is best. This, I suppose, iswhy social media is so popular.Over the past couple of years I’ve been extremely fortunate tomeet in the flesh some fantastic educators and thinkers. Justlast week, for example, as a speaker at the free festivalaround the Learning Without Frontiers conference in London,I got to mix with and talk to people such as Mitch Resnickfrom MIT, Keri Facer from MMU and Mark Surman fromMozilla. There’s so much potential in the ideas shared atconferences such as these that I feel a responsibility to helpget key messages to practitioners. Conferences, after all,should affect and influence educational practice.I’m delighted, therefore, to be attending the DML Conference2012 (which is organized by the same group of people thatproduces this blog, DMLcentral, I should point out). RunningMarch 1-3 in San Francisco the focus of the conference isBeyond Educational Technology: Learning Innovations in aConnected World.When discussing it last week with Mark Surman, ExecutiveDirector of Mozilla, he told me how much he was lookingforward to the conference. “It’s the one place where those ofus who think that learning can and should be different cometogether to build stuff,” he said. That excites me.The themes of the DML Conference 2012 are: 1. Making, Tinkering and Remixing 2. Re-imagining Media for Learning 3. Democratizing Learning Innovation 4. Innovations for Public Education 22
  • 22. 5. Digital Media and LearningThe idea with the most potential to positively disrupteducation that I’ve come across recently is Open Badges. I’vewritten about this extensively on my blog and for this sitehere. In a nutshell, a badge is a validated indicator ofaccomplishment, skill, quality or interest. As with all of thebest ideas it’s simple, but with far-reaching implications androom for nuanced discussion. Badges have also got someheavyweight backing from the MacArthur Foundation, the USDepartment of Education, HASTAC, Mozilla, NASA, and others.I’m delighted, therefore, to be on the judging panel for thefinal stage of the DML ‘Badges for Lifelong Learning’competition. On the day before the DML Conference I’ll bemeeting finalists who have come up with badge systems tocredentialize learning and potentially change the educationallandscape. Throughout it all I’ll be blogging, tweeting andotherwise amplifying the event as much as possible to thoseon the front lines in classrooms and lecture theatres aroundthe world. 23
  • 23. Whats the point of education?9th February 2012[Published on the Guardian Teacher Network blog]Whats the purpose of education? Is it inculcation? Is it to passon important values and ideas?Or is it more developmental? Is what were looking for ineducation the "drawing out" of innate abilities and interests?Is the important thing to find what is unique about everyindividual and focus upon that? Or is a broad education moreimportant?Is there one purpose of education? Perhaps theres oneparticular, fundamental purpose that trumps all of the others?Which of the many 500 word contributions on the Purpose/edwebsite would you agree with? Would you perhaps concurwith Dave White from Oxford University who suggestseducation is about "disruption"? 24
  • 24. Or what about Josie Frasers idea of giving young peopleaccess to things "unimagined and unencountered"? Is thepurpose of education to develop "inquistiveness" (PaulSimbeck-Hampson)? Is it to "cradle happiness" (Tom Barrett)?Perhaps its about "building character" (Cristina Costa)?Was your education satisfactory? Was the purpose of it everspelled out? Was there a disconnect between what yourparents/guardians thought was the purpose of education andwhat your school believed? Was the "deep grammar" ofschooling different from the explicit aims of the school? Whatwould you change if you could go back and take charge? Whatwould you focus upon?So, whats the purpose of education? Do you consider it, aswe do at Purpos/ed a question worth debating? Would youlike to take part in one of our campaigns? Have you gotsomething to say in the comments below? Are you willing tosign a HM Government e-petition calling for a nationaldebate? Would you go to Purpos/ed petition and add yourname? Will you spread the word?Do you see now why the purpose of education is worthdebating?(with apologies to Padgett Powells ‘The Interrogative Mood: anovel?’) 25
  • 25. Tools and processes21st February 2012I see this a lot.I appreciate the sentiment here. It’s an educator trying toshare some tools in an organised way with some othereducators. But mapping them against Bloom’s Taxonomy.Really? Bloom’s Taxonomy is a classification of learning objectives within education proposed in 1956 by a committee of educators chaired by Benjamin Bloom. [...] It refers to a classification of the different objectives that educators set for students (learning objectives). Bloom’s Taxonomy divides educational objectives into three “domains”: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor (sometimes loosely described as knowing/head, feeling/heart and doing/ 26
  • 26. hands respectively). Within the domains, learning at the higher levels is dependent on having attained prerequisite knowledge and skills at lower levels. (Wikipedia, accessed 21 February 2012)Why is Flickr under Remembering when it can be used formashups under a Creative Commons license? SurelyVoiceThread can be used as much for Evaluating as Creating?How does Google Earth, in and of itself, promote Analysing?Tools, by themselves, rarely develop higher-order thinkingskills. It’s all about the processes around them and thecontext in which they’re used.I’ve seen lessons and lectures that were captivating and reallypushed students forward using no more than a blackboardand a piece of chalk. Similarly, I’ve seen some that usedalmost every conceivable piece of technology under the sunand students made little or no progress.So educators, if you’re going to use a specific framework topresent some tools or some ideas, please make sure that youunderstand the nature of that framework. Image CC BY-ND Samantha Penney 27
  • 27. Education: it’s what you can’tsee that counts.3rd March 2012I had a great, wide-ranging discussion last night with BudHunt (@budtheteacher), Audrey Watters (@audreywatters)and Steve Hargadon (@stevehargadon) after the second dayof the DML Conference 2012. Much of it focused on the roleof technology in educational reform with much of it sparkedby an excellent keynote panel of which Connie Yowell(MacArthur Foundation) was the star.To me, the whole problem with educational reform is thatwhat matters can’t be seen or touched. It’s physicallyintangible.What do we tend to do? We focus on the things that we cansee. As Bud pointed out, teachers in his district will sometimespoint to discrepancies in access to technology as being alimiting factor on their performance. Others look at thematerial conditions of one learning environment and attribute‘success’ to these easily-observed factors.We should be used to this by now. Living in a world ofnetworks (and networks of networks) we know that it’s theinvisible bonds, the weak ties, that connect us to people andideas. As Connie Yowell pointed out it’s this kind of innovationthat scales. Audrey Watters extended this point when shecommented that technology scales vertically, whereas peoplescale horizontally.So what can we do about this? The first thing we need to do,I’d suggest, is to surface processes and networks. These bothneed to be as open and inclusive as possible and we needways to talk about them to make them more tangible. 28
  • 28. Impact: the most importantreason for working in the open?(#openeducationweek)9th March 2012 “A man may do an immense deal of good, if he does not care who gets the credit for it.” (Father Strickland)Working in the open comes naturally to me. I’ve neverjealously guarded ‘my’ work and really cannot comprehend aperson who would rather work in a closed and restrictedenvironment.Both this blog and my doctoral thesis are CC0 licensed, whichmeans that I’ve donated them to the public domain. If youwant to take my work, copy it word-for-word and pass it off asyour own or sell it, that’s fine. Seriously. Do what you like. I’mflattered you like it.I found out today that the minor rewrites I submitted after mythesis defence have now been accepted. I now go onto the‘Pass list’ at Durham University meaning that I can call myselfDr. Belshaw. This makes me happy.Another piece of news I received today was via Twitter fromJoe Wilson attending the NAACE conference 2012 (#naace12).NAACE is a membership organization for those involved withICT education in the UK and beyond. 29
  • 29. (Note: Joe made a typo in his haste – I’m actually @dajbelshaw)This came as a bit of a surprise. Whilst I’m aware of peoplereferencing my work, I didn’t realize that NAACE as a bodyknew of/was using it. Certainly their press release (if that’s theright one) doesn’t mention anything. But to insist onacknowledgement (see discussion here), I feel, is a form ofownership. And no-one owns ideas.The most important value of working in the open for me?Impact.I write about things that interest me and ideas that I hold tobe good in the way of belief. As a consequence, and like mostother people, I think the ideas expressed in my work may beof use to others. If ‘impact’ is getting others discussing,debating and accepting your ideas then, yes, I want to impactother people.Academics in UK universities will soon have to demonstratetheir ‘impact’ under the terms of the Research ExcellenceFramework (REF). I can’t help but think that one of the bestways for academics to achieve this is to dramatically improvethe accessibility of their work. The easiest method? Release itunder the least restrictive license you can. This seems soobvious to me as to be a no-brainer. 30
  • 30. There are some caveats, of course: less restrictive licensingmay be problematic for commercially-sensitive areas andhuge fields.Let me explain.There are two main reasons why I can ‘afford’ to give my workaway without asking for attribution or compensation: 1. I know that most people will, actually, reference it (and there’s a large chance that those who don’t will be called out by others in such a relatively small field) 2. I have a salaried occupation that does not depend upon me attracting funding to commercialise my ‘Intellectual Property’.Perhaps I’m young and naive but I can’t help think that, if youcan, you should give away your work. For free. Withoutcopyright.That’s how ideas gain traction.This week is Open Education week. There’s lots of stuff on the JISCwebsite about it. 31
  • 31. Obliquity, PISA, and‘shareholder value’ ineducation.13th March 2012At TEDx Warwick last Saturday I was first up, meaning I couldsit back, relax and listen properly to the other speakers.Whilst I could write several posts about floating islands,medical implants and sustainability, I want to focus on justone of them.John Kay, author of Obliquity: why our goals are best achievedindirectly, gave what I considered to be a fascinating talk. Hisbook has been on my Amazon wishlist almost since it cameout and I’ve now got several more reasons to read it.Before I go any further, the stimulus for writing this postcomes from the TES article ‘Wales asks schools to teach to thePisa test‘. As I mentioned in my recent Purpos/ed Ignitepresentation, education is under the control of governments,and PISA is pretty much the only tool they have to compareeducational outcomes. Unfortunately, it focuses on a verynarrow aspect of education and is accused of usingdiscredited statistical techniques.John Kay’s key point was that we often achieve the ends wedesire indirectly. He summed this up perfectly by his exampleof ICI, the chemical company. I haven’t got the exactquotations he used, but in the 1970s ICI’s mission statementfocused firmly on innovation and customers. ‘Shareholdervalue’ was merely a by-product of the core function of thecompany. By the 1990s this had reversed, with ‘shareholdervalue’ being the number one priority. 32
  • 32. Of course, ICI no longer exists having lost its innovative edge.Likewise, if we focus on narrow and questionable measures ofeducation to make comparisons with other countries, we missthe point of learning. PISA is the educational equivalent of‘shareholder value’. Focusing on the by-product rather thanthe core mission is worrying.Perhaps it’s time to take education out of the hands ofpoliticians? 33
  • 33. Beyond the Textbook?21st March 2012A couple of days ago I noticed #beyondthetextbook emergingon Twitter. It turns out that this hashtag related to angathering sponsored by Discovery Education in WashingtonD.C.My (remote, somewhat helicopter-like) contribution, waspretty much summed up by the following:After reading Audrey Watters’ post about the gathering (aswell as those by others), I’d like to expand up on that andhighlight some thoughts from others with whom I’m inagreement.Trojan textbooks I want us to weigh classroom practices, power, authority, politics, publishing, assessment, expertise, attribution, and the culture(s) of the education system. I would argue that the textbook in its current form — and frankly in almost all of the digital versions we’re also starting to see now — is tightly woven into that very fabric, and once we tug hard enough at the “textbook” thread, things come undone. 34
  • 34. (Audrey Watters)The textbook is easy to talk about. It’s a physical thing thatpeople have known as students and, for some, as educators.The trouble is that, just as with any technology, it’s difficult toseparate the thing from the practices that surround the thing.There’s nothing inherently wrong with textbooks –especially if you define them as Bud Hunt does as “Acollection of information organized around thoughtfulprinciples intended to provide support to instruction.” I’m notso keen on the word ‘instruction’ (I’d substitute ‘learning’) butlike his basis in ‘thoughtful principles’.Getting assessment rightOne of the reasons I’m such a big fan of badges for lifelonglearning is that assessment is broken. I don’t mean ‘broken’ inthe sense that a bit of a repair job would fix. I meanstructurally unsound and falling apart. Liable to collapse atany moment. That kind of broken.It’s a problem I felt as a classroom teacher. It’s an issue I hadto deal with as a senior manager. It’s evident in my sector-wide role in Higher Education. The hoops through whichwe’re asking people to jump not only don’t mean anythingany more, but they don’t necessarily lead anywhere.To me, that constitutes a crisis of relevance. So when we’vegot textbooks solely focused on providing content in bite-sized chunks in order to allow people to pass summativetests, then we’ve got a problem. A huge problem.But let’s be clear: the problem is to do with the high-stakesassessment. It’s akin to the current attacks on the efficacy ofteachers. The problem isn’t with (most) teachers, it’s with what 35
  • 35. you’re asking them to do. Likewise, with textbooks, it’s not thecollecting of information in one place – it’s what people areexpected to do with that information.Open content and the blank pageI’ve seen many state their belief that the best kind of textbookis the blank page. By that, they mean that textbooks shouldbe co-constructed. I certainly can’t argue with that, but wemust always be careful that we don’t substitute one form oftop-down structure with another.Back in 2006 I wrote a couple of posts on my old teachingblog. One covered the idea of teachers as lifeguards, andother focused on the teacher as DJ. In the former I talk aboutthe importance of teachers ‘knowing the waters’ so that theycan allow students to explore the waters, growing inconfidence (but be there when things go wrong). In the latter Idiscuss the similarities between teachers and DJs around‘tempo’ and ‘playlists’.Both the lifeguard and DJ analogies work with textbooks,I think. The difficulties are always going to be around timeand competency. It’s all very well for those new to theprofession, willing to burn the candle at both ends to remixthe curriculum and create their own textbooks to move#beyondthetextbook. But that’s a recipe for burnout.ConclusionAs usual, I’ve more questions than answers, but if I have onecontribution to the #beyondthetextbook debate it’s that ourcurrent use of textbooks is a symptom of the problem, 36
  • 36. not the problem itself. It’s difficult to debate nuanced thingsonline, and even more so via Twitter.I think we need a renaissance in blogging – and the kind ofblogging where we reference other people’s work. If we’regoing to debate problems in education, let’s do so at length,with some nuance, and in a considered way. 37
  • 37. This is why teachers leaveteaching.12th May 2012On Thursday, Mark Clarkson wrote a blog post that started offlike this: I seriously considered leaving education today. And if I had a viable exit strategy I might have taken it further.Note the end of that sentence: a young, talented teacher withso much to offer the world feels like he has no ‘viable exitstrategy’. There are thousands of teachers up and down thecountry feeling the same thing.I should know. A few years ago I was one of them.You should go and read Mark’s post. If you’re currently aclassroom teacher you’ll be nodding your head at the bulletpoint after bullet point of bureaucratic, administrativenonsense he (and most other teachers) put up with. And ifyou’re not a teacher, you’ll be shocked. 38
  • 38. On top of the ridiculous workload teachers like Markexperience each year, he notes that the benefits aren’t exactlystellar: At the same time I am told that I will have to work for another 36 years. That I will receive less pension than I was promised… That tests are too easy. That my subject is not good enough. That I need to solve gaps in parenting. That I should receive performance related pay. That teachers are paid too much. That public sector workers in the north are paid too much. That teachers ‘cheat’ when the watchmen come. And today I’m told that ‘teachers don’t know what stress is‘.I’ve been out of the classroom for just over two years now.And already my wife, a Primary school teacher, has to remindme what it’s like. I consider setting off together for work fiveminutes late a minor inconvenience. But for her, and manyteachers, it can make or break their day. I’m fairly sureteachers know what stress is.Although I would say this, I think we need a review of whatwe’re doing when it comes to schools. We can’t keepcannibalising the goodwill of people in an underpaid,overworked, increasingly-attacked profession. I think weneed a public debate about the purpose(s) of education.I’ll give the last word to Mark. He echoes something I used tosay repeatedly – until I decided enough was enough: I’m not leaving teaching today, because there are still too many moments that I enjoy. … TEACHING is a great activity. Teaching, at the minute, doesn’t always feel like a great job.  Image CC BY-NC paulbence 39
  • 39. Changing thinking vs. Changingsystems.15th May 2012I’m reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance at themoment. It’s a bit of a classic, so I don’t know why it’s takenme so long to get around to it.Last night, I came across the following passage. It must bequite famous as I’ve stumbled across it before: But to tear down a factory or to revolt against a government or to avoid repair of a motorcycle because it is a system is to attack effects rather than causes; and as long as the attack is upon effects only, no change is possible. The true system, the real system, is our present construction of systematic thought itself, rationality itself, and if a factory is torn down but the rationality which produced it is left standing, then that rationality will simply produce another factory. If a revolution destroys a systematic government, but the systematic patterns of thought that produced that government are left intact, then those patterns will repeat themselves in the succeeding government. There’s so much talk about the system. And so little understanding.This made me think about Purpos/ed. Andy and I are oftenasked when we’re going to produce a manifesto, or what the‘next level’ is. Well, that’s the kind of thinking that got us herein the first place.Pirsig reminds us that even things that seem purely physical(such as steel) are nevertheless human constructs. Despiteseeming permanent and ‘natural’ steel is not a substance thatexists in nature. It’s the product of human imagination. 40
  • 40. Likewise, there is no ‘state of nature’ for education systems.No natural way that we should organise learning.We’d do well to remember that sometimes. 41
  • 41. Why the knowledge vs. skillsdebate in education is wrong-headed.26th June 2012Back when I was a lowly trainee teacher I engaged in a debatewith someone high up in the local authority after a trainingsession. They were arguing that ‘skills’ are all we need to teachyoung people. I argued (as a History teacher) that they didn’tknow what they were talking about.Now, however, I realise that we were both wrong.This post by Oliver Quinlan about A.C. Grayling’s presentationat the recent Education Festival got me thinking. Especiallythis bit: What we should be looking for is not the acquisition of knowledge, but the acquisition of understanding. Many 42
  • 42. schools recognise that theory of knowledge and learning about learning are supportive of the rest of the curriculum. Grayling feels that this should be at the centre of the curriculum, not as an added extra.And then yesterday, Tim Riches tweeted me the link to thispost, pointing out how scary it is that the government arepreventing people from talking about ‘skills’ in a curriculumreview: Among the wilder, though double-sourced by me, rumours I’ve heard about the curriculum review were that the word “skills” was banned from any documents by ministers, simply because they wanted to emphasise “knowledge”. While I am not going to get into the knowledge versus skills debate here, suffice it to say that most university prospectuses stress the importance of both.But then I realised. What we should be developing in youngpeople are capacities. Skills and knowledge flow from these.It’s what employers look for when hiring people. It’s why wehave phrases like “If you want something done, give it to abusy person.” We recognise that certain people have greatercapacities in certain areas than others.I look forward to seeing an education system thatpromotes capacities.(oh, and when we get there, we should award badges) Image CC BY-NC-SA amy_b 43
  • 43. Some clarification of myposition on private schools.1st July 2012After mentioning in today’s newsletter that I was getting moremilitant in my opposition to private schools, I received somepushback and a request for me to explain my position.I don’t like people paying for their children’s education.I don’t like people having to pay for their own education.I don’t like school league tables leading to ‘parental choice’.I don’t like education being used as a ‘political football’.I don’t like people moving houses to get their children into‘good’ schools.I don’t like selective schools, such as grammar schools, that‘cream off’ the ‘best’ students.I don’t like faith schools, especially when it leads to parentalhypocrisy. 44
  • 44. ----------I do like people sending their children to the localcomprehensive.I do believe in a broad education.I do like schools at the centre of communities.I do like people getting involved in the education of not justtheir own children, but that of other people’s.I do like the state paying for education to whatever level youwant to aim for.I do like people refusing to compromise on their educationalvalues when it comes to their own children.I do like people walking the walk. Image CC BY-NC-SA Norma Desmond 45
  • 45. On the important differencesbetween literacies, skills andcompetencies.12th July 2012I’m currently knee-deep in web literacies stuff for Mozilla.Or should that be web skills?Or perhaps web competencies?It’s a complex, contested, and nuanced area. The differencesbetween literacies, skills and competencies shouldn’tmerely be glossed over and ignored. These differences areimportant.Let me explain. 46
  • 46. LiteraciesLiteracy is the ability to read and write. Traditionally, thishas meant the ability to read and write using paper as themediating technology. However, we now have many andvaried technologies requiring us to ‘read’ and ‘write’ indifferent ways. As a result we need multiple literacies.Because literacy depends upon context and particularmediating technologies there is, to my mind, no one literacyto ‘rule them all’. Literacy is a condition, not a threshold.SkillsA skill is a controlled activity (such as a physical action)that an individual has learned to perform. There aregeneral skills (often called transferable skills) as well asdomain-specific skills.Skills are subject to objective thresholds. So, for example,badges awarded by Scouting organisations signify thereaching of a pre-determined level of skill in a particular field.CompetenciesA competence is a collection of skills for a pre-definedpurpose. Often the individual with the bundle of skills beingobserved or assessed has not defined the criteria by which heor she is deemed to be ‘competent’.Competencies have the semblance of objectivity but aredependent upon subjective judgements by another humanbeing (or beings) who observe knowledge, skills andbehaviours. 47
  • 47. ConclusionThe important point to make here is that whilst competenciescan be seen as ‘bundles of skills’, literacies cannot. Youcannot become literate merely through skill acquisition –there are meta-level processes also required. To be literaterequires an awareness that you are, indeed, literate.That sounds a little weird, but it makes sense if you think itthrough. You may be unexpectedly competent in a givensituation (because you have disparate skills you have pulledtogether for the first time). But I’m yet to be convinced thatyou could be unexpectedly literate in a given situation.And, finally, a skill is different to a literacy in the sense that thelatter is always conditional. An individual is always literatefor a purpose whereas a skill is not necessarily purpose-driven and can be well-defined and bounded.Does this resonate with you? 48
  • 48. Is Michael Gove systematicallydismantling English stateeducation?28th July 2012Is Michael Gove systematically dismantling stateeducation in England?I’m not sure.To believe so presumes competence, intention and strategyon his part. Most of what I observe is an ill-informedsociopath flapping about at seemingly-randomeducational targets.See what you think by looking at these BBC News stories sincethe beginning of the calendar year: 1. Michael Gove: Academy school critics ‘happy with failure’ (4 January 2012) 49
  • 49. 2. New yacht for Queen’s jubilee, suggests Michael Gove (16 January 2012)3. Michael Gove labels academy opponents ‘Trots’ (31 January 2012)4. Most GCSE equivalents axed from school league tables (31 January 2012)5. University-led secondary PGCEs face uncertain future (8 February 2012)6. Gove tells head teachers school reforms need to be accelerated (24 March 2012)7. Michael Gove wants universities to create new A-levels (3 April 2012)8. U-turn signalled over no-notice inspections for schools (5 May 2012)9. Schools get King James Bible to mark 400th anniversary (15 May 2012)10. Michael Gove pushes for performance pay for teachers (16 May 2012)11. Plans for O-level-style exams to replace GCSEs (21 June 2012)12. Governors hit back at Gove’s ‘badge of status’ comments (6 July 2012)13. Gove turns down group’s bid for extra education funding (14 July 2012)14. Academies told they can hire unqualified teachers (27 July 2012) 50
  • 50. So no need to be a qualified teacher in England any more.This news, of course, was buried by being announced on aFriday in the school holidays, on the very day of the OlympicGames opening ceremony. Perhaps that was to avoid anotherstrike by teachers like the one in November 2011?From where I’m sitting, this looks like part of a widermove to centralise schooling in England. There were hugefinancial incentives for schools to become academies. Now,even if the money’s not there, there’s certainly political andother kinds of pressures bearing down on headteachers andgovernors.Once English schools all become academies they’reoutside of local authority control but under the directcontrol of Whitehall. Gove may bleat that academies havepowers to do this or that, but when there’s no buffer betweenthe headteacher and the all-powerful politician in control ofthe money, there’s no real contest.Michael Gove is the most power-hungry, dangerouslyreactionary, and misguided millionaire Secretary of Statefor Education we’ve had a for a long time. He proposesyachts for over-privileged, taxpayer-funded families and givesout religious texts inscribed with his name. Meanwhile extracash for the most deprived boroughs is turned down and, inthe midst of one of the most sustained attacks on theprofession in living memory, teachers are expected to rollover and accept performance-related pay.Who will rid us of this troublesome beast? Image CC BY-NC staticgirl 51
  • 51. On (not) working in academia.4th August 2012I’m with Doug Pete in really liking the Zite app.Although it’s a proprietary, closed product I haven’t comeacross anything close to it for discovery. Take, for instance, apost entitled On Leaving Academia by Terran Lane,someone I’ve not come across before. He’s an associateprofessor in the Department of Computer Science at theUniversity of New Mexico.Terran is off to join Google.His post is neatly organised into section titles listing thereasons he’s leaving academia to join Google: 1. Opportunity to make a difference 2. Workload and family/life balance 3. Centralization of authority and decrease of autonomy 52
  • 52. 4. Funding climate 5. Hyper-specialization, insularity, and narrowness of vision 6. Poor incentives 7. Mass production of education 8. Salaries 9. Anti-intellectualism, anti-education, and attacks on science and academiaI’ve written about this kind of thing before in You need usmore than we need you. As Terran explains, it’s not (just)about money.Whereas he’s decided to quit academia, I’ve made aconscious choice from the start to stay on its sidelines.Around the margins. On the edges. Whilst the logical thing todo after my doctorate would have been to apply for aresearch position or lectureship at a university, I decidedagainst it.Why?Not only would I be earning half the amount of money I amnow – and less than when I was teaching in schools – but itseems a spectacularly bad time to decide to become a careeracademic. No money, no status, no freedom. And with theintroduction of a market into UK Higher Education it’sincreasingly difficult for academics to even claim the highmoral ground.That’s not to say academics aren’t doing good, publicly-useful work. Of course they are. It’s just crunch time in theirindustry. 53
  • 53. I think we’re going to see a lot more of this talent-drain fromacademia. In fact, we’re already seeing a new generation ofpeople not satisfied with traditional career structures andways of working. I’m not sure if this is good or bad in thescheme of things, given the direction the universities (in theUK) seem to be headed under the current government.What I do know is that universities need to do something,and fast. The Bank of Goodwill doesn’t have infinitereserves… Image CC BY-NC-SA Patrick Gage 54
  • 54. On private schools becomingacademies.20th September 2012The King’s School isn’t too far away from where I live. It’sabout to merge with a local primary school to turn frombeing a £9,990/year private school into an Academy.I have mixed feelings about this, for a number of reasons. Butfirst, a couple of (massive) disclaimers: • I attended a session for ‘potential Oxbridge candidates’ at The King’s School when I was 17 years old and felt very out of place • I used to be a senior leader in an Academy and didn’t have the happiest of times whilst I was thereIf you’ve read what I’ve written for any length of time, you’llknow that I’m against private schools. So a school movingfrom independently-funded to state-funded status,should be a win – right? 55
  • 55. I’m not so sure.First of all, the Academy system as it now stands isproblematic. It strikes me that the current governmenthave taken the previous administration’s programme andturned it into a trojan horse to remove the power of LocalAuthorities, to eventually disapply the entire schoolpopulation from the National Curriculum, and to create apseudo-market in state-funded education.Second, as one parent mentions in the Guardian article it’snot a good thing if a private school merging with a stateschool is being done “to prop up a school that’s failing torecruit enough students”. Could it be that, like banks,private schools could see government funding as a‘bailout’?Finally, and this is something that many people havereminded me of in my attacks upon private education,nothing happens in a vacuum. Compared to the local area,Tynemouth is already an extremely expensive area in whichto live. My family certainly couldn’t afford to live there.Chances are that selection-by-fee-paying will be replacedby selection-by-house-price.So we have a fudge. A pseudo-market in a pseudo-statesystem with pseudo-traditional examinations.Perhaps it’s time to move to Scotland. Image CC BY-NC Paul Thirkell 56
  • 56. My high school report.24th September 2012Update: Some people have asked about my use of ‘high’school in an English context. We had (and to a great extentstill have) a three-tier system in Northumberland. -----My parents, who live five miles away in the house where Igrew up, are having a long-overdue clearout of their attic. Afew days ago they brought round my National Record ofAchievement. It’s a faux-leather folder with embossed lettersthat we used in high school to collate, well, anything otherthan demerits.I opened mine and flicked through the meaningless bronzeand silver awards, the certificates for things that didn’t needcertificating, and the various proofs of things done I’d longsince forgotten about.Then, near the back, I came across my Year 11 report fromthe February of my last compulsory year in school. 57
  • 57. Let’s have a look at some highlights, shall we?English – “Although he tends to waste time in class, Douglashas produced all the coursework required so far…” - I wastedtime because I finished all the work set and the lessons wereformulaic in the extreme. I was forced to think ‘inside the box’ andI was bored to distraction.Biology – “Douglas is able to grasp topics very quickly andshows a very good understanding. I have always been worriedby his arrogant attitude…” – Why? Because I dared to go beyondthe textbook we used every lesson? Because I asked hardquestions that the teacher couldn’t be bothered to answer?Physics – “Douglas shows interest in some topics but heprefers to get involved in ‘idle’ chatter too often. He has abilityin this subject but he must be prepared to work harder.” –Physics was one of my favourite subjects. I just didn’t like workingin an atmosphere where silence was expected (if rarely achieved)*all* of the time.French – “In discussion with Douglas [notice never Doug] heagrees that so far this year he has been content to producework that is just satisfactory and shows the minimum ofeffort.” – That might be because the closest we got to real-lifeFrench were laughably outdated videos. The (compulsory)language class felt like an irrelevance.Life Studies - “Douglas has understood the issues raised andcontributed sensibly to some of the discussions but he hasnot yet fully learned that there are no simple answers tocomplex issues.” Ouch! I saw this teacher a few weeks ago forthe first time since school. I went out of my way to thank her forlending me a copy of Sophie’s World, which eventually led to mestudying Philosophy at university.Senior Tutor – “Well done, Douglas. This is an excellentreport, I am sure you have a bright and interesting future 58
  • 58. ahead of you.” – Well, it *wasn’t* an excellent report, and Iultimately underachieved, but the ‘interesting future’ bit was spot-on.The rest of the teacher comments were mainly bland andgeneric, focusing on me needing a revision plan and to workharder. I don’t really blame my teachers – it must have been afairly tough place to work.When I talked through my report with my wife it wasinteresting how we came at this from different angles. Giventhat I’ve gone on to achieve a doctorate and done reasonablywell career-wise I saw the above as evidence of the disconnectbetween school and ‘real life’. She on the other hand,wondered what I could have been.Of course, we’ll never know the counter-factual. We’ll neverknow what would have happened if I’d gone somewheredifferent than a school where only 25% achieved 5+ A*-Cgrades (the national average at the time was 45%). And,anyway, what would have constituted a ‘better outcome’?More money? More status?I’d wager that the biggest differentiator and predictor of‘success’ in life (whatever that is) is parental expectation. OK,so my father was Deputy Head of the high school and mymother worked in the school office, but it wasn’t theirpresence that kept me on the straight-and-narrow.What kept me honest was the expectation that I would attenduniversity. And to attend university you have to jump throughthe flaming hoops of examination systems. So I jumpedthrough the hoops. I may have almost burned my bollocks afew times, but I got through in the end.Others didn’t. Primarily, I’d argue, because they weren’texpected to. 59
  • 59. I’m still thinking through all this and what it means for myown children, so in lieu of a neat conclusion I’ll leave you withthe wise words of John O’Farrell: Children from advantaged backgrounds are going to do much better wherever they go to school – that is module 1 of a GCSE in The Bleedin’ Obvious. If you read to your children from an early age, if the poor things are dragged round museums every other weekend, if you have the time and energy for them and are not leaving them at home alone every evening because you have a second job cleaning floors at Heathrow, then your children will do better academically. If your local comp got 50% five A-Cs including English and maths, that doesn’t mean that your child has only a 50% chance of achieving that over-simplistic benchmark. What parents generally perceive as a “better school” usually means a school with an intake that is easier to teach. 60
  • 60. Time, innovation and funding.26th September 2012I’ve worked in both schools and universities. In the former the‘barrier’ to innovation is usually said to be time. In the latterit’s usually seen as the trials and tribulations of gettingfunding.Whilst I agree that teachers work crazy hours and that bothschools and universities are generally underfunded, I can’thelp but think that the real reason institutionalinnovation is stifled is because of permission-seeking.We all know that the worst kind of censorship is self-censorship – the fear that your actions might bringdispleasure or punishment. People, I’m sad to say, don’ttend to give themselves the permission to innovate.It might be slightly controversial to say so, but it’s easy to askfor time and money in an attempt to ensure a project is asuccess. And it’s also easy to say that something’s ‘notpossible given current resources’. But time and money do notin and of themselves lead to successful projects. 61
  • 61. What I think people are hankering after when they askfor money or time for innovation projects is approval.Might I suggest that truly innovative projects are unlikely toget such approval?Some projects need huge levels of buy-in and support andfunding and scoping. Most don’t.Just get on and do it. Image CC BY-NC Wiertz Sébastien 62
  • 62. What Constitutes Rigour inOur 21st-Century EducationalSystems?26th September 2012[Published at DMLcentral]Recently Michael Gove, the English Secretary of State forEducation, announced the Governments plans to "restorerigour and confidence to our examination system with theintroduction of English Baccalaureate Certificates in English,maths, the sciences, history, geography and languages."Modular assessment with the opportunity for student retakesis out, three-hour final examinations are back in. The numberof top grades that are awarded will be limited.This approach is actually a toned-down version of Govesinitial proposals which were leaked back in June. At the timeboth Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime 63
  • 63. Minister Nick Clegg disavowed any knowledge of the plans,with the latter stating that he was against  "anything thatwould lead to a two-tier system where children at quite ayoung age are somehow cast on the scrapheap." The originalsystem effectively sought to bring back the old-style O-levelsfor more able students and CSEs for the less able. It alsoproposed abolishing the National Curriculum for secondaryschools. This is now rather a moot point with more and moreschools effectively forced into Charter school-like Academystatus. Academies do not have to follow the NationalCurriculum.Goves proposed new system (still under consultation) wouldbe introduced in September 2015 with the first new-styleexaminations taking place in 2017. Although promisedfurther announcements have not yet been forthcoming, theexpectation is that the current marketplace for examinationprovision will be abolished with only one exam boardprovider per subject. Curiously, given the rhetoric in almostevery other sphere of government (and educational policy)Gove has recognised that such competition leads to maligneffects. As in the US, some private companies are making alot of money through educational testing, attractingcustomers (i.e. schools) by finding ways to get more studentsto achieve higher grades.What concerns me about Goves proposals is the assumptionthat rigour consists of a very particular method of assessingyoung peoples knowledge, understanding and skills. I say thisas a former teacher and senior leader, as someone who iscurrently involved in education on a national andinternational level and, most importantly, a parent. The abilityto sit still and concentrate for three hours on examinationquestions testing feats of memory does not sound to me likea 21st century skill. Which pieces of the complex puzzle of 64
  • 64. human knowledge, skills and understanding are not capturedunder such a system? Id suggest many.The first examinations under the new system are slated for2017. When I was growing up, the year 2017 was a year onlydreamed of in science fiction books: a time of flying cars,thought transfer and personal robotics. Yet it seems that ifGove has his way the only thought transfer technology thatwill triumph in 2017 will be young people channelingmemorised facts through their pencils onto regulation-sizedpaper. Thankfully we have a general election before 2015 andenough time to think bigger -- perhaps like our Scottishneighbours Curriculum for Excellence. 1So what does constitute rigour in 21st-century education?Unfortunately we liberal educators have not done a goodenough job in recent years of spelling this out. We have talkedof young people requiring skills for jobs that dont yet exist.Weve talked vaguely of new literacies, of human flourishing,of the social and emotional aspects of learning, of the realityof the digital world and the need to equip young people touse technologies in meaningful, constructive ways.Meanwhile, reactionary conservative politicians have beenelected into positions of power, promising to restoreconfidence to the examination system and return totraditional values. At times of economic uncertainty suchsolid qualifications in knowledge and skills familiar toprevious generations sound like they lead to jobs and success.But will they? I have more than a few doubts.My challenge to us all, therefore, is this: what can we measureto communicate effectively the things we believe to be mostimportant in education? What does count as rigour? And howmight we assess that?1 65
  • 65. Time for a NICE-r kind ofeducation?21st October 2012Teaching may be as much of an art as a science, but there’sstuff that we know works in education.2 Whilst contextdefinitely matters there are things – like timely, formativefeedback – that can be done well no matter where you areand what situation you’re in.To my mind, we should have something like the NHS Evidencewebsite3 for things relating to pedagogy. It could provideanswers to questions like: • Where’s the evidence for using tablet computers in education? • Where can I find out more about different forms of assessment?2 66
  • 66. • Is there a sound research basis for giving homework?The NHS Evidence website is provided by NICE – the NationalInstitute for Clinical Excellence. We have nothing similar foreducation. Although health is as much of a political football aseducation, at least they’ve got a research basis.If there’s no political will to separate politics and education,perhaps it’s time for a non-profit to do this kind of stuff? Orperhaps they are and they need more publicity? 67
  • 67. 68
  • 68. EducationalTechnology 69
  • 69. Resurrect computer science –but dont kill off ICT22nd January 2012[Published on the Guardian Higher Education Network blog]Michael Gove recently labelled the current provision of ICT inEnglish schools as "dull and argued, schools should have thefreedom to teach computer science. The educationsecretarys speech came after a Royal Society report whichmentioned that computing science is seen as a subject aboutbasic digital literacy skills such as how to use a word-processor or a database.Much is wrong with ICT lessons in schools. This is beyonddoubt. The subject is taught predominantly by non-specialistsand involves the mastery of skills required in the 1990s (whenthe programme of study was originally put together). This wasa world before broadband, social networks, tablets andsmartphones. However, the original aim for ICT lessons todevelop in pupils "the knowledge, skills and understanding 70
  • 70. needed to employ ICT appropriately, securely and fruitfully inlearning, employment and everyday life" remains aspirational.The work of the Royal Society is undoubtedly an attemptedrebranding exercise for computer and digital-related areas inschools. As such, we welcome that. However, it is a greatshame that at the same time as doing so, both the society andGove, have chosen to relegate the concept of digital literacy tomere basic skills.Much has been done in the area of digital literacy that couldbe of great benefit to schools. The work JISC consultant HelenBeetham has carried out with and behalf of JISC, agovernment-funded body promoting innovation in post-compulsory education, bears this out. Indeed, the JISCdeveloping digital literacies programme recognises that digitalliteracies are always plural and are highly context-specific.They go well beyond the basic skills mentioned in the RoyalSociety report.The digital world is not a single, homogenous space and, as aresult, the literacies we require to traverse and interact in thisspace vary enormously. This does not make for an easy, one-size-fits-all knowledge transfer approach but it certainlyrecognises the diverse world in which we live, both online andoffline. The digital landscape changes rapidly meaning thatyoung people require not a static functional literacy, but acritical and creative set of attributes that help them tonavigate various networks. Computer science may give someyoung people a deep technical understanding of thesematters, but educational institutions exist to prepare youngpeople for the world generally, not just for specific jobs.Digital literacies add the human element into the mix.To pin our hopes on computer science as the knight in shiningarmour for ICT in schools is to make a twofold error. First,instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, we 71
  • 71. should revisit the initial aims of the ICT curriculum. Are theaims of computer science as inclusive as the aims of ICT(however poorly delivered)? Would learning an arcaneprogramming language from a series of worksheets really bebetter than disjointed lessons on how to use Microsoft Excel?So much depends upon the delivery of knowledge and skillsand, with so few computer science graduates in the teachingprofession, how can most schools deliver the subject in aninspiring way?The second error in hoping that computer science will solveour ICT woes is that of focusing on a single, homogeneous setof skills. In 2012 we should be welcoming diversity,personalising learning and insisting on a rigorous programmeof digital literacies for our young people from when they startschool to when they (potentially) leave university. By allmeans encourage schools to run computer science lessons,but let us not pretend that this is a solution to those still-relevant issues raised in 1999 by the QCA.Everyone, young and old alike, needs to learn how the webworks, the ways ideas proliferate through networks, and touse digital tools to work purposefully towards a pre-specifiedgoal. None of these skills, however, are in the domain ofcomputer science. Welcome though it is, computer scienceneeds to be augmented by a focus on digital literacies for theworld in which we all (increasingly) inhabit. We needcomputer science and to develop digital literacies in schools. 72
  • 72. On the Importance ofWebmaking19th June 2012[Published at DMLcentral]I’ve come to realize over the last couple of years just howimportant the Open Web is for online innovation. It’s astandards-based platform that allows anyone to use relativelylow-cost technologies to connect things and people togetherin new ways. It’s radical in its egalitarian, open, anddemocratic approach.But it’s under threat.When Steve Jobs announced the original iPhone only fiveyears ago in 2007 he emphasized the importance of gettingWeb browsing right on a mobile device. Hot on the heels ofthe announcement, of course, came the wildly successful AppStore. A few days ago Tim Cook, the new CEO of Apple,announced that this is now “an economy in and of itself.” And, 73
  • 73. despite the App Store’s popularity, this is an ecosystem whereApple take a 30% cut and decides what is and what is notmade available to end users.At least with Apple there is an obvious monetary transactiontaking place. You choose to purchase an Apple device and youchoose to purchase various apps vetted for inclusion in theApp Store. With Facebook, and to some extent Google,however, it’s a different story. Their services are provided ‘freeof charge’ to the end user. No money changes hands(ordinarily) between you and these publicly-listed companieswho, at the end of the day, exist to provide shareholder value.What is being sold to advertisers, of course, is your attentionand your online habits.What concerns me, and I am fully aware that I may comeacross as a tinfoil hat-wearing conspiracy theorist at thispoint, is that much of our online interaction takes place inpublic but privately-owned spheres. Twitter, despite beingseen as helping revolutionaries, is no different in this respect.If you fall foul of the rules, if an organization takes a dislikingto you (or your pseudonym), then you’re out. You’re onprivate land using tools that may be revoked at any time. Oh,and those tools are increasingly non-user-upgradeable,proprietary, and closed-source.I came across a great quotation towards the end of a Wiredmagazine article about Apple’s new MacBook Pro. Now I’venothing against Apple or their devices -- I own several myself-- but the following sums up nicely how we’ve lost our way: We have consistently voted for hardware that’s thinner rather than upgradeable. But we have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. Our purchasing decisions are telling Apple that we’re happy to buy computers and watch them die on schedule. When we choose a short-lived laptop over a more 74
  • 74. robust model that’s a quarter of an inch thicker, what does that say about our values? Every time we buy a locked down product containing a non- replaceable battery with a finite cycle count, we’re voicing our opinion on how long our things should last. But is it an informed decision? When you buy something, how often do you really step back and ask how long it should last? If we want long-lasting products that retain their value, we have to support products that do so. Today, we choose. If we choose the Retina display over the existing MacBook Pro, the next generation of Mac laptops will likely be less repairable still. When that happens, we won’t be able to blame Apple. We’ll have to blame ourselves.We’re being turned into an audience, an audience thatpassively consumes a shiny, commoditized, ersatz version ofthe Web in return for a veneer of sociality, connection tocelebrity, and/or perceived ease of use. Meanwhile, our datais being sold to the highest bidder, we’re becoming used tosurveillance and a lack of privacy, and any digital skills we hadare atrophying.There is another way.Thankfully, efforts are underway to avoid the next generationbeing one of consumption over creating. The MozillaFoundation (which I am proud to be joining next month) iscampaigning for a ‘generation of webmakers’ to cometogether to make something amazing with the Web. Thissummer a huge effort is underway through a Summer CodeParty to help people young and old take their first steps inlearning to code a little. You can find out more and getinvolved at 75
  • 75. You can learn see how web pages are put together using X-Ray Goggles, learn the basics of code using Thimble, and evencreate amazing hyper-video mashups using Popcorn. All ofthis is free, open, and provided by a non-profit organizationsteadfastly against Web users being tracked.The Web wants to be open. The Web wants to be free. TheWeb wants us to connect to collaborate to make awesomethings together.Will you join us to help protect it? Image CC BY paul_clarke 76
  • 76. Some thoughts on theDepartment for Education’sconsultation on ‘ParentalInternet Controls’.28th June 2012If you’re in England and a parent, guardian and/or educatoryou should be responding to the Department for Education’sconsultation on Parental Internet Controls.The assumptions behind it are quite staggering.It would appear that the government believes that the bestway of ‘protecting’ young people is to shield them from everaccessing ‘inappropriate’ material online.This is wrong for several reasons: 1. Despite your best efforts, all young people will at some point come across inappropriate things online 77
  • 77. 2. Any tool you use to block inappropriate sites will be a fairly blunt instrument leading to false positives 3. Blocking tools tend to lead to a false sense of security by parents, guardians and educators 4. Who decides what’s ‘inappropriate’?The best filter resides in the head, not in a router or officeof an Internet Service Provider (ISP).I don’t want my internet connection to be filtered in ‘the bestinterests of my children’. I don’t want to be subject tocensorship.I’ve responded to the consultation. I’ve pointed out that theirquestions are sometimes unfairly worded. For example, Iwant to respond for one particular question that I don’t think‘automatic’ parental controls should be in place in anyhouseholds.It’s about education, not censorship. Make sure yourespond to the consultation, please! 78
  • 78. How to implement technologysuccessfully in yourorganisation.8th August 2012I spent some time in a local school this week talking to somemembers of staff about implementing educationaltechnology. It made me realise that I haven’t talked nearlyenough here about how to do that successfully. It’ssimultaneously straightforward and painfully difficult.Let me explain.Technically, pretty much anything is possible. Short ofthought-transfer and teleporting to the moon we live in aworld with endless possibilities on the technical front.Whatever it is you want to do is probably possible. 79
  • 79. Successfully implementing technology in your organization istherefore not a technology issue. Yes, it’s important to getright. But no, if you just focus on that your technologyimplementation will not work.Here’s some advice for those seeking to introduce a newtechnology into their organisation.1. Solve other people’s problemsThis is the number one priority. If technology isn’t solvingsomeone’s problem somewhere, somehow, then it’ssuperfluous. My experience is with educational institutionswhere I’d very much focus on solving teachers’ problems ifyou want any meaningful traction.2. Get other people to evangelise foryouIf you’re known as technically competent, then any successyou have with technology is not necessarily seen as replicableby others. Get influencers on board. Embrace skeptics. Again,solve their problems.3. Embrace constraintsYou will always face constraints. These could be financial.They could be political, social, emotional or hierarchical.Whatever they are, if you can’t change them easily there’s nopoint whinging: you need to use the difficulty. 80
  • 80. There might be a certain technology you’re being forced touse. So use it.There might be some awkward members of staff ordepartments. So convert them or avoid them to begin with.Strategise.4. Have a strategyThis is blindingly obvious, but if you don’t have a strategy youcan’t be strategic about your deployment of technology. “Wewant to introduce iPads to improve engagement” is not astrategy. It’s a hope. It’s a wish.Strategies should be user-focused and have appropriatetimescales. There’s a lot of talk around technology changingso fast that most strategies are meaningless.Bull.When technologies evolve rapidly, then strategies are moreimportant than ever. They’re not perfect but use researchsuch as the yearly (free!) NMC Horizon report4 to see whichway the wind is blowing.5. Turn on everything / default to openYou don’t know where innovation’s going to happen. In fact, itusually happens at the edges, at the places where you leastexpect it. That’s certainly been my experience.4 81
  • 81. So, when you’re deciding which features of a platform to turnon, first look at your strategy. If that doesn’t tell you what todo, turn the feature on. Let the users drive the innovation.And, finally, default to openness. It’s what makes the world goaround. Don’t hide behind e-safety. Don’t hide behindignorance. Don’t hide behind what you think other people willthink. You’ll be pleasantly surprised if you let go of the reins alittle. Image CC BY Veribatim 82
  • 82. Why a ‘mixed economy’ ofdigital devices is best for youreducational institution.29th August 2012Earlier today, on Twitter, I mentioned that the 64GBversion of the BlackBerry Playbook is now at thescandalously low price of £129. They’re practically giving itaway.I mentioned that for some educational institutions that wouldbe a really good fit, especially given that you can side-loadAndroid apps. Eventually, I should imagine, you’ll be able todispose of the BlackBerry OS altogether and just go withAndroid for the entire system.Bill Lord, a Primary school headteacher, replied that hewas looking at a ‘mixed economy’ of devices for hiseducational institution, adding that he had three mainreasons for this approach: 1. Pupil needs 83
  • 83. 2. Staff needs (confidence/competence) 3. Vagaries of the marketI’m with Bill. To my mind, being an ‘iPad-only’ school makesno sense. It’s replicating the Microsoft vendor lock-in all overagain. Since when was school about teaching young peoplehow to use particular types of devices?Instead, it’s better to look at the affordances of eachdevice. That doesn’t mean how much it costs, but rather whatit allows you to do. The BlackBerry Playbook at £129, forexample, has front and rear-facing cameras and a high-definition screen. Sounds like an opportunity.It’s OK to build learning activities around specific devicessome of the time, but I wouldn’t want to be doing it all of thetime. Why not focus on building and using things that aredevice-agnostic? Surely that’s a more sustainable option?Use the Web, for goodness’ sake!Finally, if you’re reading this in the UK you should really stopby HotUKDeals5 every now and again. I’m on there at leastthree times a day – and not just to find cheaper stuff thanusual. I also find it really enlightening in terms of what peopleare interested in but, more importantly, the comments peopleleave and the context they give. There’s some seriousexpertise there. Image CC BY-NC reebob5 84
  • 84. Game design, gamification,game mechanics and games-based learning.2nd September 2012In a couple of weeks’ time I’ll have the privilege of attendingthe Scottish Learning Festival (SLF). It’ll be my fourthconsecutive time and one of the educational highlights of myyear.Something I’ve learned at SLF is how effectively videogames can be used for learning. The main man in thisregard is Derek Robertson along with the people he’sinspired.My interest in games-based learning was piqued a little late inmy teaching career to be of much use, unfortunately, but ithas come in useful as a parent. My son’s favourite games atthe moment are Minecraft and Little Big Planet – both gamesare focused on building things and being creative.But what about me? 85
  • 85. I enrolled recently on the Coursera Gamification courseled by Kevin Werbach not really expecting much. After all,it’s just a bunch of videos and some multiple-choice quizzes,right? But I’m actually enjoying it. 10-minute videos featuringan engaging speaker suits my attention span just fine.As a Philosophy graduate I had been intrigued by KevinWerbach’s reference to Wittgenstein’s problem of definingwhat constituted a ‘game’.I was even more intrigued when he made reference to thework of Bernard Suits that claims there are three constituentparts that make up games: To play a game is to attempt to achieve a specific state of affairs [prelusory goal], using only means permitted by rules [lusory means], where the rules prohibit use of more efficient in favour of less efficient means [constitutive rules], and where the rules are accepted just because they make possible such activity [lusory attitude].As a casual gamer I tend to play games that are easy to pickup and put down. So over the past year I’ve been playingmainly Battlefield 3 and Burnout Paradise as well asunsuccessfully curbing my 19-year addiction to FootballManager.But the gamification course made me really think about gamedesign and game mechanics. Instead of watching a filmtonight I went looking for a new game. I came acrossJourney.Oh. My. Goodness.It took about the same amount as watching a film for me tocomplete. I don’t have the words to describe how magesticit was, how it managed to play with my emotions, andhow cleverly-designed the overall experience felt. 86
  • 86. There’s no explicit communication in Journey. Nor are thereany written or verbal instructions. Other players who areonline at the same time as you pop-up on occasion to join youfor a while. There’s simultaneously endless possibilities in avast lanscape and an unfolding narrative. The whole thing iscinematic.At times I felt uplifted; other times confused, surprised,shocked, relieved or just happy and relaxed. It’s a gamethat really does play with your emotions.The experience of playing Journey has made me reflect aboutnot only game design, gamification, game mechanics andgames-based learning but also learning itself. To my mindeffective learning is about a series of impactful,memorable experiences -  and I certainly had an amazingexperience playing Journey this evening! 87
  • 87. Mozilla, Webmaking, and theArchitecture of Participation10th September 2012 (I’m currently at the Mozilla All Hands meeting in Toronto)Last week I attended the inaugural EduWiki conference run byWikimedia UK. It was a curious mix of Wikipedians, educatorsand academics who came together to discuss how Wikipediacould be used in more formal educational settings.Martin Poulter, the organiser of the conference, was at painsto point out that Wikipedia isn’t phenomenally successful justbecause it allows anyone to edit. There’s a structure, albeit afluid one, behind it all.It got me thinking about an article from 2004 by Tim O’Reilly.6He talks in that article about the importance of designing inways for users to contribute effectively: I’ve come to use the term “the architecture of participation” to describe the nature of systems that are designed for user contribution.Tim’s focus is upon the architecture of the web and howopenness of both attitude and technology allows forparticipation by more than just geeks:6 88
  • 88. HTML, the language of web pages, opened participation to ordinary users, not just software developers. The “View Source” menu item migrated from Tim Berners-Lee’s original browser, to Mosaic, and then on to Netscape Navigator and even Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. Though no one thinks of HTML as an open source technology, its openness was absolutely key to the explosive spread of the web. Barriers to entry for “amateurs” were low, because anyone could look “over the shoulder” of anyone else producing a web page. Dynamic content created with interpreted languages continued the trend toward transparency.Any project starts off relatively small and needs enthusiasticindividuals (and usually some money) to get things started.Wikipedia, for example, had Jimmy Wales and the money hehad made from previous ventures. But even if you do getinitial funding, you still have to make things sustainable: In this context, it’s worth noting an observation originally made by Dan Bricklin in his paper, The Cornucopia of the Commons. There are three ways to build a large database, wrote Dan. The first, demonstrated by Yahoo, is to pay people to do it. The second, inspired by lessons from the open source community, is to get volunteers to perform the same task. The Open Directory Project, an open source Yahoo competitor, is the result. (Wikipedia provides another example.) But Napster demonstrates a third way. Because Napster set its defaults to automatically share any music that was downloaded, every user automatically helped to build the value of the shared database.We at Mozilla are hoping to help create a generation ofWebmakers. By this we mean people who can not onlyelegantly consume, but help make the Web. To do this weneed to get things right from the start: by building stuff, 89
  • 89. handing it over to the community, and supporting theirefforts.And of course, we’ll give them badges. 90
  • 90. BYOD and cross-platform toolsfor learning.23rd September 2012I had a really interesting conversation on Twitter with FraserSpeirs and Dave Major this morning about ‘Bring Your OwnDevice’ (BYOD) and cross-platform tools for learning. You cansee that conversation ‘storyified’ here.7I’ve blogged before about why a ‘mixed economy’ of device isbest for educational institutions and I’d like to expand uponthat briefly with three main points:1. Learning is something that happens in the brain oflearners. You might be able to give them consistency ofdevice and platform but you can’t guarantee that they willhave the same experience. Therefore, using that as a reasonto go with one particular device is problematic.7 91
  • 91. 2. Educators need to focus on activities rather than tools.One of the examples that Apple advocates often give of thesuperiority of iPads is GarageBand. It’s an awesomeapplication, but it’s not a learning activity. I’d be reallyinterested in discovering which learning activities can only becarried out on one type of device. I suspect you won’t findany.3. What we do in classrooms is linked to, but should notbe driven by, market forces. We can only buy and usewhat’s available, but we don’t have to be taken in by therhetoric of companies. After all, they’re in it to make money.How the world turns out is much more in the hands ofeducators than anyone else.Remember that. Image CC BY Domenic K. 92
  • 92. My response to the ICTProgramme of Studyconsultation4th October 2012Note that this is my personal view. But I’ve got my Mozilla hat onhalf-cocked, as it were.ContextThere’s currently a review of the ICT Programme of Study(PoS) underway in England. Tomorrow (Friday 5th October2012) is the last day to give feedback on the first version ofthe draft, with a further chance to comment on the full draftin November and then a public consultation in Spring 2013.The review, commissioned by the Department for Education 93
  • 93. (DfE), is being organised by the British Computing Society(BCS) and Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng).One problem they’re having particular problems with is whatto do at Key Stage 4 (KS4) with 14-16 year olds who are doingspecialised GCSEs in Computer Science or InformationTechnology. If that satisfies the statutory requirement thenhow should the PoS for KS4 be expressed? There’s also theissue of students who don’t take any ICT-related qualificationsat KS4 currently being forced to take a token course.The points around which feedback is currently sought are: 1. What to do with KS4 (see above) 2. Other strategic issues 3. Personal vision for success in 2016 – what would you see in ICT lessons from KS1 (5-7 year olds) through KS2 (8-11), KS3 (11-13) and KS4 (14-6)One final thing before I dive in: changing the name of thesubject from ICT (‘Information and CommunicationsTechnologies’) to anything else would require primarylegislation. In other words, it’s not going to happen. As aresult, three strands have been proposed in the RAEngreport 8 from earlier this year. I quote them verbatim: • Computer Science (CS) is the subject discipline that studies how computer systems work, how they are constructed and programmed, and the fundamental principles of information and computation, in both artificial and natural information processing systems. • Information Technology (IT) covers the use and application of computer systems including the Internet,8 94
  • 94. to develop technological solutions purposefully and creatively. • Digital Literacy (DL) provides a critical understanding of technology’s impact on society and the individual, including privacy, responsible use, legal and ethical issuesMy responseAs someone who worked in English schools for seven years(teaching some ICT), have subsequently worked in HigherEducation with JISC and now work for an IT company (Mozilla)I feel qualified to weigh in on this consultation. I also have aninterest as a parent to young children whom these reformswill potentially affect. Finally, I wrote my doctoral thesis on thetopic of digital literacies.I’m happy that the three strands of CS, IT and DL have beenproposed, and delighted that the definition of DL proposedinvolves “a critical understanding of technology’s impact”. I’malso pleased that there’s a specific recognition of the creativeuse of ICT and a recognition of the value of everyone knowingenough code to be able to tinker.I do, however, have five specific recommendations: 1. That the use of ‘Digital Literacy’ be replaced with ‘Digital Literacies’ to recognise the multiple literacies required to be effective in the digital world. For example, web literacies (which I’m currently working on for Mozilla) can be seen as a subset of digital literacies. I go into much more detail on this in my thesis and it also reflects current thinking in the area of New Literacies. 95
  • 95. 2. That DL (pluralised) should form the majority of the statutory PoS for ICT at KS4 – and that those who wish to specialise in CS and/or IT be given the chance to do so through discrete GCSEs. 3. That ICT be linked explicitly to English Baccalaureate (EBacc) subjects in order to raise the status of the subject as well as suffuse those subjects with the excitement and creativity that ICT can bring. 4. That specific mention be made of the collaborative and emancipatory power of the web. Learning HTML, CSS and Javascript could fall within the realm of DL (pluralised) and provide a coherent route to CS at KS4. See Mozilla’s Webmaker programme for more information. 5. That specific mention be made of the burgeoning work around Digital Making by organisations such as Nesta and the Nominet Trust, and that such language (of ‘digital makers’ and ‘digital making’) be included in the ICT PoS from KS1 to KS4.I’d love any to hear any other ideas you have! Image CC BY dgray_xplane 96
  • 96. Some Thoughts on iPads andOne-to-One Initiatives18th October 2012[Published at DMLcentral]In my experience, theres broadly three ways to relate to anykind of educational technology: 1. Technological - decide on the technology (for whatever reason) and that determines what you do pedagogically 2. Pedagogical - settle upon the pedagogy and then look for a technology that fits 97
  • 97. 3. Ecological - combine pedagogies and technologies to promote certain kinds of behaviours.Id like to think that most of what Ive done so far in mycareer, from training teachers to implementing multi-sitelearning systems to evangelising Open Badges, has beenfocused upon evangelising this third way of approachingeducational technology. In order for this to be successful,however, educators have to have a large enough toolkit ofboth pedagogical and technological approaches to promotedesired behaviours. After all, when all youve got is a hammer(so the saying goes) all you see are nails.Since Nick Dennis introduced me to it a few years ago Ivebeen a big fan of Ruben Puenteduras SAMR model:What I like about this model is that it is clearly andunambiguously focused upon learning activities with thetechnology as an enabler toward that end. Unfortunately,most of what Ive seen when it comes to iPad and other 1:1initiatives doesnt even make it onto the SAMR model. Its noteven Substitution, its look at these shiny devices: what shallwe do with them? 98
  • 98. When it comes to educational technology, academics oftentalk about affordances. An affordance is "a quality of anobject, or an environment, which allows an individual toperform an action." Mobile devices have many affordanceslending themselves to new forms of learning. Unfortunately,many people tend to consider these affordances in a vacuum,as if their effective use wasnt context-dependent. So we getslogans along the lines of ‘iPads improve learning’ - as thoughthey were some kind of glistening panacea for learning.Ive got nothing against iPads. In fact our family owns one andI encourage my five year-old son to do everything fromupdate his blog to play Minecraft on it. But there are no besttechnologies for learning. In fact, Id argue that,Pragmatically-speaking, there are no best pedagogies forlearning: everything is both bounded and catalysed bycontext. A learning theory or a device in one context is not thesame thing as in another. There are many, many other thingsto consider -- infrastructure, motivation, personalities...the listis pretty much endless.One of the few really thoughtful and balanced books abouttechnology Ive read over the last few years is DouglasRushkoffs Program or Be Programmed: Ten Commands for aDigital Age. Its a short, fairly cheap book which you should goand purchase right after finishing reading this post. What Ireally like about Rushkoffs work is that he talks lucidly andconcisely about the biases inherent in technologies: A bias is simply a leaning—a tendency to promote one set of behaviors over another. All media and all technologies have biases. It may be true that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”; but guns are a technology more biased to killing than, say, clock radios. Televisions are biased toward people sitting still in couches and watching. Automobiles are biased toward motion, individuality, and living in the suburbs. Oral 99
  • 99. culture is biased toward communicating in person, while written culture is biased toward communication that doesn’t happen between people in the same time and place. Film photography and its expensive processes were biased toward scarcity, while digital photography is biased toward immediate and widespread distribution.There’s no doubt that Apple (iOS), Google (Android), andMicrosoft (Windows Phone) are creating ‘verticals’ acrosswhich it’s becoming increasingly difficult to navigate. It’s mucheasier to deploy, for example, a single type of device acrossan institution rather than take a ‘mixed economy’ approach.But to do so, in my opinion, would be to repeat the mistakeswe made around Microsoft Office in the last 15 years or so.Locking yourself into one vendor may lead to a short-termgain but I can almost guarantee it will be a long-term loss.Choosing which tablet devices to deploy - or indeed whetherto deploy them is more than a hardware and/or softwaredecision. It’s a series of decisions about pedagogy, aboutlearning, about how we want to relate to each other ashuman beings. Particularly in a school environment we’repromoting and encouraging behaviours not just for now butfor the future.Diversity is a good thing. You don’t have to be a cheerleaderfor the ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) agenda to recognisethat giving young people a range of tools (with their differentaffordances and biases) more closely resembles the worldthey will inhabit when they leave your walled garden. Thismay be a less shiny approach. It might make educationaltechnology more boring. But at the end of the day anecological approach, taking into account the behaviours wewant to promote, not the technology we want to paw, mightbe a better way forward. Don’t you think? Image CC BY Sean MacEntee 100
  • 100. Some thoughts on learningtechnologies in the classroom17th November 2012I was invited to participate in a panel session as part of theinaugural London Festival of Education today. It was a greatevent with some big name speakers as well as thoughtfulcontributions from those at the sharp end in the classroom.I’ve written it up in a combined post with MozFest on myconference blog.9As ever with panel sessions I didn’t get a chance to say all Iwanted to say about the topic of the session, which wasentitled How learning technologies are changing teaching.The session description revealed more: “Slates and chalk havebeen replaced with iPads, and blackboards by interactivewhiteboards. But is it the same old teaching just with fancy newkit?”9 101
  • 101. Writing up the notes from this session in an organised,coherent way would require a book. And I’ve already got oneof those to write. So I’m afraid you’ll have to make do with thefollowing: • Wouldn’t it be great if we had a national agency to advise schools on how to use technology effectively? Although it was far from ideal, Becta was that agency. And we’ve thrown the baby out with the bathwater. • The classroom is a symbol of intergenerational solidarity and conflict. Because it symbolises a shared experience it’s a contested space everyone thinks they’re an expert upon. • Focusing on specific examples can be limiting. I caught the end of a discussion as part of the Today programme BBC Radio 4 on Thursday morning. The representative from Nesta was asked for an example of ‘a really good lesson’ using tablet computers. Quite rightly they didn’t attempt to answer the question. I think I’d have been tempted to throw the question back at them and ask what a really good lesson using pencils would look like. • Technologies are more than just tools. And they’re not ‘neutral’. They were designed by someone, or a group of people, or a multi-national profit-seeking organisation for a particular purpose. “A bias is simply a leaning – a tendency to promote one set of behaviours over another. All media and all technologies have biases. It may be true that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”; but guns are a technology more biased to killing than, say, clock radio. Televisions are biased toward people sitting still in couches and watching. Automobiles are biased toward motion, individuality, and living in the suburbs. Oral 102
  • 102. culture is biased towards communicating in person, whilst written culture is biased toward communication that doesn’t happen between people in the same time and place.” (Douglas Rushkoff)• Different technologies have different affordances. They may look the same and be put in the same categories by retailers and reviewers, but the opportunities they afford are different. This isn’t to do with cost, it’s to do with the logic of the device. So with some devices the trade-off you get for them being extremely easy-to-use is being locked into a proprietary ecosystem.• Technologies do not operate in a vacuum. How, why and where technologies are used depends upon our values, expectations and motivations. “When technologies are released, they are adopted and appropriated within existing social values, structures and expectations; they are shaped and reshaped by beta testers, early adopters and marketers; and they come to mean different things and be used for different purposes by different people. Different social, religious and cultural values, for example, pattern the uptake of medical technologies… [and] domestic technologies are appropriated into the existing values and cultures of families.” (Keri Facer)• We can’t engineer future-proof schools. The future doesn’t just happen, it’s created by all of us. We shouldn’t be at the whim of people trying to make a profit by selling things. 103
  • 103. “Rather than envisaging a ‘future-proof school that tries to insure itself against socio-technical change, therefore, we have the opportunity to create future-building schools that actively support their communities to tip the balance of socio- technical change in favour of fair, sustainable and democratic futures.” (Keri Facer)• Doing the wrong thing faster or better isn’t progress. Going further down a wrong road doesn’t mean you’re going to get to the destination you had in mind. We need to re-think how we measure learning. If educators feel that something is valuable but it doesn’t necessarily lead to better test scores, then we need to re-think the tests. “You can’t take on twenty-first-century tasks with twentieth- century tools and hope to get the job done.” (Cathy Davidson) “As Internet analyst Clay Shirky notes succinctly, “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.” (Cathy Davidson)• Spending all day looking at screens is a bad thing. But technology can augment what we do. Think of sports tracking utilities that enable you to compete against yourself. Or track the number of steps you do and upload it to a website. Personalised, embedded technologies are a huge leap forward in terms of what we can do with learning and teaching. The example usually used is having a search engine in your pocket, but infinitely more powerful is a network of people – human agency – on tap. It can turn everyone into a superhero, compared with the 20th century. 104
  • 104. • Concerns about the impact of technology on the brain are often misguided. The brain is supposed to rewire itself. How else could you learn anything? “Many of our anxieties about how the new digital technologies of today are “damaging” our children are based on the old idea of neural development as fixed, or “hardwired.” and on notions of distraction and disruption as hindrances instead of opportunities for learning. Our fears about multitasking and media stacking are grounded in the idea that the brain progresses in a linear fashion, so we are accumulating more and more knowledge as we go along. Most of us, as parents or teachers or educational policy makers, have not yet absorbed the lessons of contemporary neuroscience: that the most important feature of the brain is Hebbian, in the sense that the laying down of patterns causes efficiencies that serve us only while they really are useful and efficient. When something comes along to interrupt our efficiency, we can make new patterns.” (Cathy Davidson)• Instead of platforms as standards we should focus on standards as standards. We like to belong to things that are popular. That’s why technologies – including social networks – have a tipping point, but also a lifecycle. Just as an example, go to a conference and ask if anyone can lend you an iPhone charger. You’ll be inundated. Yet there are actually more phones with micro-USB chargers – and, in fact, it’s an EU regulation that users can use this standard to charge their phone. It’s a less extreme example of breast milk versus powdered milk in developing countries – there’s no-one to champion the former so those peddling the latter make millions. 105
  • 105. • We need mind-expanding education and critical thinking skills, but we don’t need to regurgitate facts. There’s a quotation on the side of the British Library that I like: “Knowledge is of two kinds. We know a subject ourselves, or we know where we can find information upon it.” (Samuel Johnson) “The biggest problem we face now is the increasing mismatch between traditional curricular standards of content-based instruction and the new forms of thinking required by our digital, distributed workplace. at any level – blue collar or white collar – those jobs requiring “routine thinking skills” are increasingly performed by machines or outsourced to nations with a lower standard of living than [us].” (Cathy Davidson)• Technology can be used well and technology can be used badly. Technology may have biases and affordances, but it can be bent to the will of human beings. There are rich, innovative, exciting and liberating uses of technologies. And there are dull, pointless, soul- sapping use of technologies. We need to use technology mindfully. “The mindful use of digital media doesn’t happen automatically. Thinking about what you are doing and why you are doing it instead of going through the motions is fundamental to the definition of mindful, whether you are deciding to follow someone on Twitter, shutting the lid of your laptop in class, looking up from your BlackBerry in a meeting, or consciously deciding which links not to click.” (Howard Rheingold) 106
  • 106. • We need to invest in training and peer assistance. Teachers are insanely overworked: no other industry would stand for it. And teacher CPD – especially around technology – is poor. More recently there’s been a fashion to say that learning technologies should be as easy to use as Facebook which is ridiculous. Most people were introduced to Facebook by family, a friend, or a colleague. They forget the learning curve and the constant re-learning they have to do when the interface and controls change.• The skills, competencies and literacies we need now are different from those required in the past. It’s like a huge Venn diagram that’s constantly overlapping and moving. We’d do well to remember that we’re not trying to create adults like us but adults that will have the skills appropriate to the world in 10, 20 or 50 years’ time. “I didn’t let my child loose on the streets without teaching her about traffic and looking both ways. Similarly, I don’t like to see otherwise well-educated people loose in digital culture without knowing something about what makes a small-world network work or why a portfolio of weak ties is important.” (Howard Rheingold) “In previous eras, it may have been true that “it’s not what you know but who you know.” Today how you know what you know matters as much as who you know, and one of the most valuable traits a person could have in a twenty-first-century organisation is a knack for knowing “who know who knows what.”" (Howard Rheingold)• We need names for things so that we can easily have conversations about them. Take, for example, the 107
  • 107. concept of the flipped classroom (where content is ‘delivered’ at home and activities take place during lesson time). Forward-thinking educators have been doing that for years, but now it has a delivery channel (YouTube, Facebook, etc.) and a name. It’s a thing.• Learners will almost always know more about technology than their teachers. That’s not a reason to avoid using technologies, that’s a reason to embrace them. It’s empowering and demonstrates the teacher as lifelong learner. It’s scary to let go of the reins, but hugely beneficial and changes the dynamic of the classroom. 108
  • 108. Why we need more e-learningstaff tutors19th November 2012In February 2008, whilst walking back from the staff room tomy classroom I knocked on the door of my Headteacher’soffice. At the time I was teaching History with a bit of ICT atRidgewood School in Doncaster and had noticed that theschool wasn’t using the technology it already had veryeffectively. The ‘five minutes’ I asked of Chris Hoyle (one of thebest leaders I’ve worked for) turned into a fairly epicconversation. In fact, when the bell went and I rose to go andteach Year 9 for the last lesson of the day, Chris buzzedthrough to his secretary to get someone to cover my lesson.Chris and I agreed that the problem was that teachers, busyat the best of times, needed showing what could be done withtechnology. He asked me to write a job description that Ithought would help improve the situation. I did so (with thehelp of others10 ) and, once he’d toned it down from a senior10 109
  • 109. leadership position(!) we agreed upon my becoming e-Learning Staff Tutor starting from the academic year 2008-9.I’ve still got the overview of what I got up to during my firstterm in the role, where I spent 50% of my time teachingHistory and ICT, and the other 50% of my time teaching theteachers. I had a small budget (a couple of thousand, frommemory):Activities • Lunchtime staff sessions (two per week) on web applications and free resources that enhance teaching and learning. • Advice to staff via email • Face-to-face advice and guidance of an informal nature • Preparation of resources for staff training sessions (online and print) • One-to-one booked sessions on self-identified areas of development defined by members of staff • Involvement in ICT Management Group • VLE training for Years 7 and 8 during Form Period • Involvement in Becta award-winning Humanities project convened by Balby CLC • Involvement in Open Source Schools, a Becta-funded project (speaking at BETT 2009 as a result of this) • Research into new technologies and pedagogies resulting from these technologies 110
  • 110. • Implementing and feeding back on new technologies (e.g. purchase and use of six netbook computers).Successes • X members of staff have attended at least one lunchtime e-learning session* • A total of X members of staff have booked X one-to-one sessions • Email is now being used by the majority of staff within school • Every department in the school has had some contact with e-learning sessions, with the exception of Drama and Music • There are in excess of ten subject-related blogs around the school • The RE department are now using their new interactive whiteboards to enhance teaching and learning after requesting some training • Smaller issues relating to the school network not picked up on the ‘big sweep’ have been identified and are in the process of being rectified (e.g. location of network points, ability to print to network printers)Areas for Development • Number of staff attending lunchtime sessions tailed off as term wore on – strategies to prevent this? 111
  • 111. • Ability to visit other schools and conferences for research and development limited by impact on teaching Year 10 GCSE History students. Currently only practical time available is Thursday afternoon. • From informal conversations, it is clear that staff would welcome an extended amount of time spent with them as a department. This time needs to either be carved out of a school day, INSET day or arranged in an after- school context.*obviously there were real numbers here but I can only find thedraft of this document!With an increasing number of schools considering going one-to-one with devices and/or considering a ‘Bring Your OwnDevice’ (BYOD) approach, the need for positions like the one Ihad for a year at Ridgewood is increasing. Many people willhave seen the way the press picked up on the recent Nestareport Decoding Learning. Unfortunately they got it wrong: it’snot necessarily that schools are buying useless gadgets it’sthat not enough time and money is being spent on showingteachers how learning gains can be made by using thetechnology effectively.I’d love to see schools not only have a senior leadershipposition for whole-school technology/ICT strategy but, inaddition, someone (or a team of people) with the skills to notonly teach young people but teach teachers. Get that mixright and technology really does have the potential totransform learning! Image based on an original CC BY-NC Computing At School Scotland 112
  • 112. 113
  • 113. Technology 114
  • 114. Beyond Elegant Consumption.30th March 2012At the Mozilla Festival last year, Mozilla Chairperson MitchellBaker stood up and gave a short talk. Something she saidreally resonated with me. In fact, it resonated so much that Ibaked it right in as a central message of my TEDx Warwicktalk.We need to move beyond mere ‘elegant consumption’.There’s nothing inherently wrong with elegant consumption inand of itself. Reading, watching and experiencing otherpeople’s creations put together in a thoughtful and delightfulway is joyful. But if that’s all we’re doing, then we have aproblem.I’ve championed Apple’s hardware and software since buyingmy first MacBook in 2006. I love the way that their offeringsare so easy to use. At some point over the past six years Ithink I’ve owned or used pretty much their whole product line. 115
  • 115. So why this week did I install Pinguy OS (a Linux distribution)on my iMac and trade my iPhone for the open-source NokiaN9?Until last year, it was possible to swap out almost anyhardware and software and still have a functioningecosystem. An individual or organization could first decidewhat they wanted that ecosystem to look like and then investin the constituent parts of that ecosystem. I feel like that’schanged. Now it’s a case of choose your vendor lock-in. Andworryingly, that choice seems to be increasingly an aestheticchoice.Yes, it’s nice that Apple, through iCloud, auto-syncs all of mystuff everywhere. And it’s wonderful that Google can presentme with a (mostly) seamless experience on their combinationof hardware and software. But I don’t want to have to buy intotheir whole ecosystem to get the functionality I require.I’ll tell you what I want. I want interoperability. I wantstandards. I want a world where I can plug one thing intoanother and it (mostly) works. And if that world is slightlyless shiny than it might otherwise have been? Well, that’s finewith me. At least I’ll have learned to start worrying and lovemy data. 116
  • 116. Platforms as standards? 10days with the Nokia N9.8th April 2012Last week I ordered and received a Nokia N9 smartphone.You can’t buy them in stores in the UK as Nokia has sincedecided to go with the ‘Windows Phone’ mobile operatingsystem.This has led to some interesting reviews: 4. Slashgear 5. The Verge 6. Gizmodo 117
  • 117. Essentially, they all say that the phone is gorgeous, both interms of hardware and the swipe-based MeeGo operatingsystem.But.The Nokia Ovi store contains very few apps as Nokia haseffectively abandoned the platform (although they aresupporting it until 2015).That hasn’t stopped me getting two significant updates to thephone in the short time I’ve had it. The latest update wasawesome and included built-in DLNA streaming to devicessuch as my Playstation 3.Quite why a closed app store equates to a successful mobiledevice is beyond me. The only two apps I’m actually missingare two you probably don’t use: Path and LastPass.I want to credit Amber Thomas with a throwaway commentshe made during our Skype conversation earlier this week.She talked of the worrying tendency of people to treat‘platforms as standards’. Hence the title of this post. What I’verealised is that Apple iPhone app makers love to create silosfor information. It makes their apps profitable.On the other hand, I like my workflows. And the bestmechanisms for making those workflows as smooth aspossible? RSS and email. Which, given Project Reclaim, is justas well. :-)I’ve spent a small fortune on apps for Apple devices. And towhat avail? I don’t need a dedicated special ‘distraction-free’iPad app to write well. I just need to find an environmentconducive to writing and get on and write. I don’t need a fancyto-do list with heatmap colours. I need a list of things to do.Paper and pen’s working well. 118
  • 118. The N9 has apps and accounts that are integrated into theoperating system itself. The Twitter app is great and theMessages app integrates SMS, Google Talk, Skype and otherinstant messaging platforms: 119
  • 119. Connecting your accounts enables you to import and exportfrom almost any app. I added the Evernote and MeeIn(LinkedIn) functionality through the Nokia Ovi Store. It’s notcompletely barren.This isn’t a review of the Nokia N9. Nor is it a post comparingit with my previous smartphone: an iPhone 4. The reason forthis post is to point out a couple of things: 1. To what extent do we (myself included) treat platforms as de facto ‘standards’? Is that healthy? Is it sustainable? 2. To what extent does our tool use affect how we see the world? Do we need to change the tools we use to see the world in a new light? If so, how often?Finally, the change has made me think about web apps.Cross-platform, browser-based HTML5 applications. Whydon’t companies go down that route? Well, perhaps becauseanecdotal research shows that people only tend to look inapp stores rather than on the Web for such apps. And secondthere’s the issue of monetisation. There’s money in those iOSand Android hills. 120
  • 120. I can’t help but think, however, that initiatives such asMozilla’s completely Web-based operating system Boot toGecko (B2G) will lead to greater cross-platform compatibility.As the fortunes of large companies such as BlackBerry,Microsoft, Nokia and Apple wax and wane, so too will thedesire of consumers to lock themselves into one ecosystem. Idon’t want to have to re-purchase all of my apps just becauseI buy a new mobile device.The future is more democratic. The future is more open.Eventually. 121
  • 121. 3 principles for a more Openapproach.9th April 2012This exchange on Google+ with Rob Poulter (referencing myprevious post on platforms and standards) got me thinking.The highlights are below.Rob: Ultimately I don’t think the problem is between native vs web, the problem is one of closed vs open, and not in a Google PR way. The things we tend to care about in the online world are services, not apps. Services see us passing responsibility for our data on to a third party, and usually based on features rather than interoperability or longevity. At the end of the day, if there’s something which we would mind losing, it’s our responsibility to keep it, not some third party.Doug: My issue, I suppose is platforms becoming de facto standards because ‘everyone uses them’. Kind of like Dropbox and Twitter and so on… There’s definitely an elision which I need to resolve in my thinking between ‘HTML5 webapps’ and ‘openness’. Thanks for the pointers!Rob: The standards thing is tough I guess. Who wants to be the business that boasts of how easy it is to jump ship? Especially 122
  • 122. for social applications like Twitter, Facebook, G+ etc (Dropbox and other personal services not so much since they tend to compete on features and can’t rely on “hey, all your friends are here, you’re not going anywhere”).I pointed out that Google Takeout actually does allow you toexport your data from Google to other platforms. But, as Robresponded, not the comments on other people’s posts.All of this made me think about my principles for usingsoftware and web services. It reminded me of BaltasarGracian’s constant reminders in The Art of Worldly Wisdom(which I read on constant repeat) that it’s easy to begin well,but it’s the ending well that counts.So, I’ve come up three principles to guide me: 1. I will use free and Open Source software wherever possible. (I’m after the sustainable part of OSS, not the ‘free’ part) 2. If this is not possible then I will look for services which have a paid-for ‘full-fat’ offering. 3. I will only use proprietary services and platforms without a paid-for option if not doing so would have a significant effect on my ability to connect with other people.What’s in and what’s out? I’ll stick with Twitter and Google+(but will try to connect with people I follow in additional ways).Evernote, Spotify, Skype and Dropbox are fine for the timebeing (I pay for them). I’ll try and move away from GMail andGoogle Calendar.Any suggestions for replacements? 123
  • 123. Wordle-like Twitter screens forconference keynotepresenters?21st April 2012I’ve been at the PELeCON conference this week. After herkeynote, Keri Facer mentioned in a couple of tweets thatthe Twitter wall being visible to the audience but not thespeaker can be problematic. Everything was positive inKeri’s session, but this isn’t necessarily the case for everyone.So it got me thinking about what I’d like, as a presenter,when doing a keynote. There’s lots of different reasonstweet about a session using the conference hashtag. Forexample: 4. To let those who aren’t there know what’s being said 5. To give a voice to the livestream audience (if applicable) 6. To provide links to what’s being discussed 7. For banter/puns/general merrymaking 8. For agreement, disagreement and questions…and many more.Whilst you’re presenting there’s no way you can keep upwith the stream in the same way that you (potentially) canwhen in the audience. But it would be nice to know the gist ofwhat people are saying in the backchannel. 124
  • 124. Thinking about it, I casually remarked that some kind ofTwitter screen in front of presenters would be useful. Andif those tweets that had been retweeted (RT’d) several timescould appear bigger, so much the better.Chris Atherton mentioned this sounded a lot like Wordle andPat Parslow riffed on the idea talking about the potential forsentiment analysis.That idea look something like this with traffic light colours forsentiment:The trouble is, that’s still too much to take in whilstyou’re presenting. So, thinking some more, I reckon all that’sneeded is the top three most RT’d tweets. Which would looksomething like this: 125
  • 125. What do you think? Would this be useful?How hard would it be to make it a reality? 126
  • 126. Project Reclaim: experimentingwith openphoto.me7th May 2012As part of my ongoing Project Reclaim, and spurred on byD’Arcy Norman’s recent post on abandoning Flickr, I’ve beenplaying with a similar way to the idea behind Unhosted, you bring yourown data (i.e. photos) and the application does somethingwith it (i.e. display them nicely, allow you to share themeasily). I’m using Dropbox, but you can use Amazon S3, and more.I like I’ve uploaded two sets, one public andone private. The private one is of my children and shared onlywith family. The public one is of some photos I took down atDruridge Bay yesterday.Where do you store your photos? Why? 127
  • 127. Commodification, consumerismand the new ‘Retina’ MacBookPro.18th June 2012Kyle Wiens from Wired magazine on The New MacBook Pro:Unfixable, Unhackable, Untenable: We have consistently voted for hardware that’s thinner rather than upgradeable. But we have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. Our purchasing decisions are telling Apple that we’re happy to buy computers and watch them die on schedule. When we choose a short-lived laptop over a more robust model that’s a quarter of an inch thicker, what does that say about our values? Every time we buy a locked down product containing a non- replaceable battery with a finite cycle count, we’re voicing our opinion on how long our things should last. But is it an informed decision? When you buy something, how often do you really step back and ask how long it should last? If we want long-lasting products that retain their value, we have to support products that do so. Today, we choose. If we choose the Retina display over the existing MacBook Pro, the next generation of Mac laptops will likely be less repairable still. When that happens, we won’t be able to blame Apple. We’ll have to blame ourselves. This is less about Apple and hardware and more about a consumerist, short-term attitude that over-privileges form over function. And, of course, this applies to the Open Web too.We need less commodification, not more. 128
  • 128. On digital ownership. This isHUGE.5th July 2012If I buy a physical book from a bookshop I can lend it tosomeone else. And, when I’m finished with it, I can sell it.If I buy an e-book from, for example, the Amazon Kindlestore, I can’t (in the UK, currently) lend it. I can’t sell it.The same is true of most digital formats.That’s something that bothers me: how come I don’t owna digital copy in the same way as a physical copy?Well, thankfully, that may soon change. A recent EU rulingabout computer programs could have far-reachingconsequences: The first sale in the EU of a copy of a computer program by the copyright holder or with his consent exhausts the right of distribution of that copy in the EU. A rightholder who has marketed a copy in the territory of a Member State of the EU 129
  • 129. thus loses the right to rely on his monopoly of exploitation in order to oppose the resale of that copy… The principle of exhaustion of the distribution right applies not only where the copyright holder markets copies of his software on a material medium (CD-ROM or DVD) but also where he distributes them by means of downloads from his website.So a publisher’s distribution rights end when they sell acomputer program or game for the first time.Furthermore: The Court observes in particular that limiting the application of the principle of the exhaustion of the distribution right solely to copies of computer programs that are sold on a material medium would allow the copyright holder to control the resale of copies downloaded from the internet and to demand further remuneration on the occasion of each new sale, even though the first sale of the copy had already enabled the rightholder to obtain appropriate remuneration. Such a restriction of the resale of copies of computer programs downloaded from the internet would go beyond what is necessary to safeguard the specific subject-matter of the intellectual property concerned.In other words, publishers can’t expect to make a profit everytime a new person plays a game (or reads a book).Hurray for common sense prevailing! Image CC BY-NC-SA …-Wink-… 130
  • 130. Mac OSX Mountain Lion 10.8:vendor lock-in for the masses?3rd August 2012Chris Betcher on his problem with upgrading to the latestrelease of the Mac operating system: It’s not that I don’t like their products. I do. I have several Macs, iPads, iPhones, and Apple TVs. Walled garden or not, they build beautiful products that –  for the most part – do exactly what they claim… they just work. While I don’t always approve of their proprietary attitude to the way they build their products, I understand the design goals that such a hardware and software symbiosis achieves, and I would still ra use a Mac than any o machine.It seems from the lengthy Ars Technica review of OSXMountain Lion 10.8 that Apple’s betting on locking into iCloud.Big time: The overall message from Apple is loud and clear: thou shalt save thy documents in the iCloud, and thou shalt interact with those documents primarily through the applications that created them. (Thou mayest still employ the old ways by clicking “On My Mac” ere opening or saving documents. But seriously, consider using iCloud instead.) 131
  • 131. At the same time, the Mac App Store is starting to look a lotmore like the iOS store – i.e. telling developers that unlessApple can take a cut of their profits, they’re unwelcome onusers’ systems:One of the attractions of using Apple devices is that you canget stuff done on them without having to worrying, forexample, about random blue screens of death. However, itseems that those who do know their way around a computerare increasingly frustrated by Apple’s approach. Back to ChrisBetcher: I’ve been using personal computers for a long time. I’ll happily admit to being a “power user” and I rather object to Apple’s insistent belief that they need to dumb down my computer because they think I can’t cope with a file system, or that I should suddenly start scrolling in the opposite direction because it’s more “iPad like”, or that I should have fewer 132
  • 132. choices available because I need to have the software decide what’s best for me.I’m all for making it easier to get things done with computersand o digital devices. What I’m not in favour of issimultaneously creating a walled garden for vendor lock-in.There are other ways – open standards anyone? 133
  • 133. A few brief thoughts on theGoogle Nexus 7. [REVIEW]27th August 2012I don’t know about you, but it’s the things I expect to beawesome with which I end up being most disappointed.Unrealistic expectations, I suppose.A case in point would be the Asus Eee Pad Transformer that Ibought last October ostensibly as my ‘conference device’. Onpaper, it’s got everything you would ever want: hi-restouchscreen, gargantuan battery life, relatively lightweight,lots of ports. But it didn’t quite cut it for me. I can’t quiteexplain why.I’ve already bought its replacement, a Google Nexus 7. Iwas very tempted to buy another iPad (our family already hasone, used mostly by our five year-old son for his blog) butformer JISC colleague Zak Mensah showed me his Nexus 7 134
  • 134. when we met up recently. I’d heard nothing but good thingsabout it online, but was sceptical.(It’s funny how I didn’t need a tablet device a couple of yearsago whereas now I feel like I require something to read thingsfrom my Pocket account, etc.)So I’ve had my Nexus 7 for about about three weeks now.I wish it had a rear-facing camera for sharing photos andvideos on Path. I wish it had 3G, or at least the ability to tetherto ad-hoc networks like my phone. But other than that, I’ve nocomplaints. The screen is fantastic. And it’s fast. Really fast.Like, haven’t-yet-experienced-any-lag fast. Android apps makesense on it. And it was fairly cheap – the 16GB version is £199.We’re in a post-technical specifications era, I reckon.Seriously, the toss I could not give as to which processorand how much memory this thing has. So long as it’s quickenough, can store enough of my stuff, and is ‘open’ enoughfor me, that’s fine. I’m interested in what I can do with it.I’ve been using my Nexus 7 mainly for the following: 9. Email – it’s great for a heads-up on stuff or to fire off quick replies 10. Social networking – Twitter and Google+ 11. Reading – usually the Pocket, Zite, Feedly and Kindle apps 12. Listening – audiobooks through Audible and music via, and Spotify 13. Playing – Football Manager 2012 (need I say more?), Minecraft  – and a few others 135
  • 135. 14. Messing about – the camera icon isn’t present by default, but you can activate it (complete with big nose / small eyes / other effects!)In future I’ll be using additional apps on it such as Evernoteand Astrid, but it’s still early days. The Nexus 7 is so smalland light that it’s a no-brainer to take it with me almosteverywhere I go. Android feels like a viable platform – whichhas made me re-think sticking with my Maemo-poweredNokia N9 mobile phone. To be honest, it could be going theway of my Eee Pad Transformer before long…So overall, I’m pleasantly surprised with my Google Nexus7. I had fairly middling expectations from it and it’s farsurpassed them. It’s not perfect, but it’s meant that most daysI don’t bother borrowing the family iPad!And finally, given that some people will inevitably ask meabout their use in schools, I think these kind of devicesmake much more sense than iPads for the classroom.Why? They use an operating system that isn’t device-specific.They’re cheaper. They don’t take up as much of the desk orother surface. And they’re less shiny.1111 136
  • 136. What is ‘technology’ anyway?21st November 2012At the London Festival of Education on Saturday I was on apanel about learning technologies in the classroom. You cansee my notes in a previous blog post.12 One of the questions Ireceived (or chose to respond to) was from a self-proclaimedapplicant for a ‘bolshy questioner’ badge. Whilst I dismissedhis main question as unhelpful, he did make one very goodpoint: I hadn’t defined what I meant by ‘technology’.It’s human nature to focus on negative feedback – perhaps it’sevolutionary, I don’t know. Whilst it can be destructive if dweltupon (see this Oatmeal cartoon 13, for example) it can alsospur your own thinking. And that’s what I’ve been doing overthe past few days, until I stumbled across the following inKevin Kelly’s book What Technology Wants.12 137
  • 137. To make the lengthy quotation slightly shorter, I shouldexplain that techne is a word the ancient Greeks used for art,skill or craft. It’s closest to our word for ‘ingenuity’: In the 18th century, the Industrial Revolution was one of several revolutions that overturned society. Mechanical creatures intruded into farms and homes, but still this invasion had no name. Finally, in 1802, Johann Beckmann, an economics professor at Gottingen University in Germany, gave this ascending force its name. Beckmann argued that the rapid spread and increasing importance of the useful arts demanded that we teach them in a “systemic order.” He addressed the techne of architecture, the techne of chemistry, metalwork, masonry, and manufacturing, and for the first time he claimed these spheres of knowledge were interconnected. He synthesised them into a unified curriculum and wrote a textbook titled Guide to Technology (or Technologie in German), resurrecting that forgotten Greek word. He hoped his outline would become the first course in the subject. It did that and more. It also gave a name to what we do. Once named, we could now see it.  Having seen it, we wondered how anyone could not have seen it. Beckmann’s achievement was more than simply christening the unseen. He was among the first to recognise that our creations were not just a collection of random inventions and good ideas. The whole of technology had remained imperceptible to us for so long because we were distracted by its masquerade of rarefied personal genius. Once Beckmann lowered the mask, our art and artefacts could be seen as interdependent components woven into a coherent impersonal unity.If you want to follow this up I recommend reading CathyDavidson’s Now You See It for more on how ‘attention 138
  • 138. blindness’ can lead to bad consequences in technology andeducation.I’ve said time and time again since writing my thesis that werun into problems when talking about things that can’t bepointed to in the physical world. If I point to an object forsitting on, for example, and say ‘chair’ you may be able to callit something different but (unless you’re an existentialist) can’treally deny its existence. That’s not the case with conceptssuch as ‘digital literacies’ or even ‘openness’ and ‘Bring YourOwn Device’. We can argue what these things are, and whatthey mean, precisely because we don’t know where theboundaries are.So technology is the name we give to a loosely-related,amorphous mass of stuff. The word is what William Jameswould call ‘useful in the way of belief’ in that it provides with away of talking about – a conceptual shorthand for – the kindof things that we’d otherwise have to explain in wordy blogposts like this one. Image CC BY-NC-SA Andrea in Amsterdam 139
  • 139. Want a tablet? Choose yourvendor lock-in.24th November 2012Ever wondered why Mozilla’s Firefox web browser exists? It’sbecause about 10 years ago Microsoft had sewn-up about90% of the market and was creating vendor lock-in throughanti-competitive practices. You can read about this in theHistory of the Mozilla Project.14 Happily, Mozilla weresuccessful and now there’s at least two high-qualityalternatives to Microsoft Internet Explorer – which itself hasbecome more aligned with web standards. It’s a win foreveryone who uses the web.The next battleground is mobile. Although Google’s Androidmobile Operating System (OS) is billed as ‘open’, for example,it’s not really developed in the usual Open Source way: thesource code tends to be released long after each iteration ofthe OS. Apple, meanwhile, maintains a notoriously closedecosystem with a stringent procedure for inclusion in their14 140
  • 140. App Store. They also control how you can get things on andoff iOS devices in order to make money from the iTunes store.Amazon, meanwhile, is a fairly new to the mobile devicegame. They’ve taken Android and significantly modified it –including defaulting to their own app store. They’ve slashedthe price of the Kindle Fire 2 (with, cleverly, ‘special offers andsponsored screensavers’) for Black Friday 15 making it a loss-leader. They’re betting on making the money back throughKindle book purchases, Amazon Prime subscriptions, andLovefilm streaming.So even though we may have multiple vendors it’s essentiallysimilar problem to the Internet Explorer issue ten years ago.You may get shiny new ways to consume things that thevendor is selling you, but it’s not a great situation, overall.You want a tablet? For Christmas 2012 that means you’regoing to need to choose your vendor lock-in.Thankfully, all this is set to change in 2013. Why? Two reasons.First, Mozilla are working on Firefox OS built entirely ofstandards-based web technologies. Secondly, Ubuntu Linux isbeing developed for mobile devices like the Nexus 7 and(even more excitingly) you’ll soon be able to run an entiredesktop OS from your docked smartphone.My conclusion? Buy a tablet if you have to, but be aware thatreal choice is around the corner…(this was an attempt to write my version of the NSFW (butexcellent) post by Terence Eden16) Image CC BY-SA tribehut15 The cynical nature of this marketing ploy is bad enough when tied to American Thanksgiving. It’seven worse when standing alone in the UK context.16 141
  • 141. 142
  • 142. Productivity 143
  • 143. Stripping back: #divest1229th January 2012I like the idea of minimalism. I always have done.Just look at this:But it’s difficult, isn’t it? You collect things that are necessary atsome point in your life (or that you desire) and then end uphanging on to them. Usually the reason we do this is becausethey have monetary and/or emotional value.Back in 2009 I decided to spend a week ‘divesting’. Amongstother things I got rid of hundreds of CDs and books as well asreally focusing on the software and hardware I use day-to-day. It was a liberating feeling getting rid of so much. Irealised that, in effect, I was a librarian for my books ratherthan a reader of them. The relationship was the wrong wayaround. The same went for CDs, DVDs, and other stuff Iowned. 144
  • 144. Now fast-forward to last week when I ready about AndrewHyde’s extreme minimalism. Never mind 100 things or 50things, he owns 15 things. Yes, fifteen. Here’s his ‘floorderobe’:If what I’m doing is the thin end of the wedge, this is verymuch the thick end of it!I suppose the question everyone wants to ask is What countsas ‘one thing’? The “rule” of ownership is the express-lane checkout rule. If you were checking out in a grocery store, what would be counted as one item in your bag? A six-pack of beer would be one, right? I count my things as resellable items I would be pissed if someone took.Coffee cup? No. Jacket? Yes. iPhone and headphones? Onething. Simple enough? 145
  • 145. Whilst 15 things is not my ultimate goal, I am making aconscious start to declutter and divest. Yesterday alone I tooktwo bin bags full of clothes to the recycling bank, identified 52books from my study to get rid of, and made an inventory ofmy electronic gadgetry with a view to consolidating.I’d like to: 1. Reclaim some physical space 2. Feel less of a ‘curatorial’ burden 3. Be less concerned about the monetary value of my stuffWant to join me? Add a comment below, write about it onyour own blog or just use the #divest12 hashtag on Twitter orGoogle+! Image CC BY Andrew-Hyde 146
  • 146. The Essentials? (#divest12)1st February 2012Following on from my ‘stripping back’ post I’ve been thinkingabout what I need in life, over and above those things I sharewith my family. What are my bare essentials?I suppose it’s kind of like zero-based budgeting:In zero-based budgeting, every line item of the budget mustbe approved, rather than only changes. During the reviewprocess, no reference is made to the previous level ofexpenditure. Zero-based budgeting requires the budgetrequest be re-evaluated thoroughly, starting from the zero-base.So if I was starting again, knowing what I do now, what would Ineed?Everyday bag 1. Laptop (+charger) 147
  • 147. 2. Mobile phone (+charger) 3. Kindle (+charger) 4. Headphones 5. Notebook 6. Pens 7. Bank cards, library card, gym card, passport, etc. 8. Card caseClothes 9. Shoes 10. Trainers 11. Thick socks 12. Coat 13. Underwear x7 14. Jeans x2 (+belt) 15. Trousers (+belt) 16. Shorts 17. Shirts x3 18. Jacket 19. T-shirts x5 20. Swimming shorts (+goggles) 148
  • 148. Health/hygiene 21. Towel 22. Sports towel 23. Contact lenses 24. Glasses 25. Flannel 26. Migraine medication 27. Inhalers x2 28. Toothbrush 29. Toothpaste 30. Multivitamins 31. Deodorant 32. Moisturiser 33. Razor/beard trimmer (+charger)My aim with #divest12 isn’t to go ultra-minimalist, but ratherto reflect upon what is absolutely necessary to maintain mycurrent lifestyle.58 items, I reckon.Have I missed anything? 149
  • 149. Getting back on theproductivity wagon.17th March 2012Productivity, as I’ve explained many times (and especiallyin my free e-book #uppingyourgame), is a virtuous spiral.BackgroundAt the beginning of the year I decided upon the followingexercise regime: The Amphibian. This would lead to a fitter,happier Doug: • Monday: Swimming • Tuesday: Running • Wednesday: Swimming • Thursday: Running • Friday: Swimming • Saturday: Kettlebell • Sunday: Weights 150
  • 150. I can count on the fingers of no hands the number ofweeks I’ve managed to do this. Sometimes it’s because I’maway from home during the week. Other times it’s lack ofdiscipline.On the other hand, I have managed to do at least a moderateamount of exercise every week throughout the winter.Lunchtime swims along with a SAD lightbox and Vitamin Dtablets has meant that I’ve had a much more positive (andless ill) winter than usual. Mega.But I’ve fallen off the wagon in the last couple of weeks. Iassumed that the hotel for the DML Conference in SanFrancisco had a swimming pool when, in fact, it didn’t. Jet lagand then preparations for TEDx Warwick have meant a coupleof weeks with only two exercise sessions.I’ve noticed in the past week or so that I’ve consumedmore alcohol and eaten more sugar than usual. I’ve alsobeen ill and off work for three days. I’ve been short and bad-tempered with people, and have procrastinated with tasks.This isn’t the Doug I want to be.3 steps to get back on the productivitywagonThankfully, with a bit of reflection it’s fairly straightforward toget back on track. Here’s how.1. Make a commitmentI’m going to re-commit to The Amphibian exercise regimeoutlined above. It doesn’t matter that I haven’t actuallyreached that target yet. 151
  • 151. The commitment is a line in the sand.If you let someone else know what you’re doing (or make itpublic) it’s an even bigger commitment. Accountabilityreduces shirking.2. Start exercisingGuess what? I really don’t want to do any exercise today. ButI’ve made a commitment, and told both you and my wife thatI’m going to do some. So that’s what I’m going to do.It’s a beautiful day today, so even though it’s Saturday and I’msupposed to be doing my kettlebell, I’m going for a run. That’sa good idea given that I’m going to be in London for a coupleof days this week.3. Set SMART targetsSMART targets are: • Specific • Measurable • Achievable • Relevant • TimelyI had intended to do a sprint triathlon this year. That wouldhave been a SMART target on three fronts (running,swimming, cycling).Realising that I need something to work towards, I’ve justregistered for the Great North 10k in July. I ran it two years 152
  • 152. ago in 49:30 which wasn’t too bad but this time around I’maiming for 47:00.I’ve got 16 weeks to get myself into shape.ConclusionI’m at my happiest and most productive when I exerciseregularly. In fact, every person I know who’s both happy andproductive does so. I don’t know if it’s the endorphins, thesmall victories, the metabolism boost, or all three, but there’san symbiotic link between productivity and exercise.The commitment bit is the hardest. It’s easy to make vaguepromises to do more exercise, but much harder to commit toa regime. Once that mental block is out of the way, it’s just acase of getting on with it and having a target to aim at!What’s holding you back? Image CC BY-NC-SA rosipaw 153
  • 153. On routines and rituals.10th May 2012I’m a great believer in routines.I’m a believer in them because I think that innovation ispredicated upon standardisation. In other words, routinesafford us the spare capacity to think about things other than(repetitive) tasks at hand.Routines provide spare capacity by removing, ornarrowing, choice.Take my morning routine, for example. Granted, havingchildren means that no two are identical, but every day I’m atwork in the office at JISC infoNet Towers, I do the following: 1. Have a cold shower 2. Eat eggs (either scrambled on toast or an omelette) 3. Listen to the same ‘Train’ and ‘Walking’ playlists via Spotify (albeit on random) 154
  • 154. 4. Read Baltasar Gracian’s The Art of Worldly Wisdom on the trainOf course, it’s not necessary to have to undergo a commute tohave routines. They’re just things you do at the same timeand/or place.So far, so obvious.Routines gain power by becoming rituals. For example,there’s something about the first cup of coffee in the morning.It has a ritualistic element; it symbolises waking and theliminal space between home and work.Whilst routines are easy to create and maintain on anindividual level, rituals are slightly trickier. This, I believe, isbecause rituals involve gathering. It may be people who aregathered together, it may be thoughts. Rituals pull togetherand coalesce disparate elements.Organisations and educational institutions are extremely well-placed to turn individual productive routines into collectiverituals. One of the best places to start is often around food. AtJISC infoNet we have a weekly Cake Club: the cake serves as aconvenient hypocrisy for a kind of gathering we otherwisewould not necessarily experience.What kind of routines could you or your organisation turninto rituals? Image CC BY visualpanic 155
  • 155. Productivity 101: calendars(nouns) and reminders (verbs)14th August 2012My parents upgraded their iPad last week so I spent part ofthe weekend showing them some of the newer features. MyDad decided he wanted to get to grips with using theCalendar and Reminders apps so I verbalised for the first timesomething I’ve only known implicitly.Calendar items are for events and therefore should beorganised around NOUNS.The advantage of this approach is that you can enter specifictimes for the event. This can then generate ‘remind me 30mins before’ functionality, etc. 156
  • 156. Reminders or To-do list items are for actions andtherefore should be organised around VERBS.The thing I tried to get across to my Dad is that if you need toinclude a time in your to-do list or reminder then it should bea CALENDAR item.Personally, I use Google Calendar (events in blue) and theTasks functionality (in red): 157
  • 157. Hopefully that all makes sense. Separating out your verbsfrom your nouns can help enormously with productivity! :-) 158
  • 158. Productivity for what?1st October 2012I’ve written before about the stuff I had to unlearn from myteenage years. But there’s a bigger thing behind all of that,something that’s so important they should run workshops onit not only in schools but in businesses. Perhaps they do in theforward-thinking ones.For the past five years or so I’ve been reading productivitybooks, magazines and blog posts. Occasionally they producenew insights (which is why I keep on reading them) but a lot ofthem are about reminding you about fairly self-evident things:eat well, sleep well, plan, etc. It seems to me that the biggestsaboteurs of productivity aren’t external forces but ourselves.Call it procrastination, call it subconscious normalising to themean – call it whatever you want but it’s something fromwhich we should all break free. 159
  • 159. Productivity has to have a purpose.The buzz-phrase of the past 10 years seems to have been‘work-life balance’. It’s a concept difficult to disagree with, untilyou analyse the assumed dichotomy at the heart of it. Theassumption is that work is something ‘other’ – something thatyou have to conform to, the imposition of someone else’spriorities over your own. But what if (at least most of the time)both your priorities and the priorities of your organisationwere in harmony? That’s the promise and lure of many third-sector organisations.But just as businesses need strategic goals to direct theenergy of employees so we all, in our personal lives, need tofeel like what we’re doing is purposeful. We may win thebattle of getting to ‘Inbox Zero’, but are we fully aware of thewar we’re fighting? Whose side are we on? How many ‘troops’of attention have we deployed and why?Productivity has to be FOR something.If, for some reason, you didn’t have to work today, whatwould you do? Where would you go? Who would you talk to?If you’re not clear on what makes you happy in life and whatgets you out of bed in the morning (as I haven’t been at timesin my life) then you should think about that as a matter ofurgency. Otherwise all of this getting faster and more capableat stuff won’t have a purpose.And that would be a tragic waste. Image CC BY captainmcdanUpdate: Ben Witheford asked on Twitter what I’d do if I didn’thave to work today. Probably five things, if I were at home: 160
  • 160. 1. Go for a long walk at Druridge Bay (less than two miles from my house)2. Play football with my son and hide-and-seek with my daughter3. Drop the children off at my parents’ and take my wife out to dinner4. Start a project – maybe with the Raspberry Pi I bought last week (I’ve got an idea for a information station by our front door)5. Phone lots of people to see how they’re doing 161
  • 161. 162
  • 162. Open (and Webmaker)Badges 163
  • 163. Gaining Some Perspective onBadges for Lifelong Learning30th March 2012[Published at DMLcentral]I first read about the idea of Open Badges back in the middleof last year. It excited me. One thing I’ve always beeninterested in is how to shift the power dynamic withinclassrooms towards learners in a positive way. Changing (or atleast providing additional) ways for students to demonstratetheir knowledge, skills and understanding is one way to dothat. Using Mozilla’s Open Badges infrastructure, any organization or community can issue badges backed by their own seal of approval. Learners and users can then collect badges from different sources and display them across the web—on their 164
  • 164. resume, web site, social networking profiles, job sites or just about anywhere. ( a previous post on DMLcentral I tried to reframe the debatearound badges by showing that we do, in fact, have a problemwith assessment -- and education more generally. The troubleis that people fall into the trap of becoming either advocatesor naysayers from a very early point. We all like to have a‘position’ on major developments in our field, so it’s a bravesoul who is willing to suspend judgement: “I worried that we were moving reward stickers and gold stars online, and I wasn’t impressed with how well those worked in the face-to-face classrooms. But as I realized how ignorant I am of explanations of what and how people are motivated, I thought it was worth keeping an open mind about.” (Andrea Zellner)In other words, Andrea was willing to suspend her initialskepticism and, as an educator, discuss the potential ofbadges with others, and think through the (somewhatnuanced) issues involved.Getting Practical (and Visual)To my mind the idea of badges showed promise from thestart, with the rough-and-ready P2PU School of WebcraftBadges Pilot in 2011 enough to demonstrate that peer-to-peer badges could be used to allow students to validate eachothers’ learning. Since then there’s been some great ideas forusing badges for lifelong learning -- not least those submittedas part of the DML Competition earlier this year. 165
  • 165. As fantastic as some of the discussion and debate aboutbadges has been, I do like visuals and the practicalimplementation of ideas. One of the best diagrams I’ve comeacross for visualizing the ways in which badges can be used inpractice is the one below from the Chicago Digital YouthNetwork (DYN) in partnership with Doblin:What I like about this diagram is that it recognizes that a widevariety of badges can and will be awarded using Mozilla’sOpen Badges Infrastructure (OBI). Gaining different badgesfor different types of activity allows for a much more holistic 166
  • 166. view of individuals than the traditional forms of assessmentwe’ve inherited as a legacy from previous centuries.Interestingly, what DYN and Doblin did was to look at ways inwhich they could use Mozilla’s OBI to credentialize journeysthat their learners had already undertaken.After working out how Sannya, the real-life student in thisexample, could have earned badges during her time withDYN, they approached her with the results. She gave themfeedback as to which badges would have been meaningful toher and which she would have chosen to display in her BadgeBackpack at any given time.The Importance of ContextWhat impressed me about this example was the thoughtfulway in which badges had been applied to an existing context.Unlike traditional assessment, there is no one-size-fits all 167
  • 167. model here. Using badges to capture the learning journey andcredentialize meaningful knowledge, skills and understandingrequires a deep understanding of the context in which it tookplace.Applying badges to existing learning and teaching scenarios isrelatively unproblematic. The issues, and division lines, comewhen we start talking in hypotheticals about badge-basedecosystems of the future. There have been some critics ofbadges who have been concerned about it replicating (ormagnifying) existing power inequalities, some who haveworried about the potential commodification of informallearning it could represent, and some who have equatedbadges with mere ‘gamification’.My response to this is best summed up by Alex Halavais whois actually rolling up his sleeves and getting his hands dirtyimplementing Mozilla’s OBI. In one of my favorite posts onbadges, he reflects on his experiences and the arguments ofothers, stating: I have no doubt that badges, badly applied, are dangerous. But so are table saws and genetic engineering. The question is whether they can also be used to positive ends. (Alex Halavais)As Donald Rumsfeld famously pointed out, there are ‘knownknowns’ and ‘known unknowns’. I believe badges fall into thelatter camp. We simply don’t know how people will useMozilla’s OBI to credentialize learning. It’s a world that wouldhave different gatekeepers. It’s a world where learners get tochoose to display different facets through profiles in variousplaces. It’s an ecosystem where anybody and everybody can 168
  • 168. set up a system that has the evidence for the achievementbaked right in.ConclusionIf Open Badges were an initiative being forced through by agovernment department or even, in fact, a for-profitorganization, the fruitful discussion and debate we havewitnessed so far would all be for naught. There would be agoal, an end point to work towards that marked the end ofthe project which would be implemented no matter what. Asfar as I understand it, that’s not the approach that theMacArthur Foundation, HASTAC, and Mozilla (the mainbackers of Open Badges) are taking here.Instead, we have an Open Source technical framework uponwhich an emergent ecosystem is developing. Requirementsfrom both formal and informal learning are being considered;money has been provided to both research and implementbadge frameworks; high-profile names are being recruited toback the system to drive adoption. And all of this is voluntary.There is no big stick with which people are being beaten.Where will Open Badges end up? What will the landscape looklike in a couple of years? Five years? Ten? Badges could beeverywhere. Or they could go nowhere and sink without atrace. Alternatively, badges could be useful in particularsituations and scenarios. The thing is that we don’t need todecide the outcome and ‘choose a side’ on this one. We canchoose, if we wish, to suspend judgement and explore. Image CC BY VinothChandar 169
  • 169. #OpenBadges through the rear-view mirror?29th June 2012Marshall McLuhan: The past went that-a-way. When faced with a totally new situation, we tend always to attach ourselves to the objects, to the flavor of the most recent past. We look at the present through a rear view mirror. We march backwards into the future.People need metaphors to understand unfamiliar concepts.We tend to talk about new things using metaphors, similiesand analogies. There’s nothing particularly wrong with that –in fact, it can be helpful!David Wiley: 170
  • 170. Say your friend buys you an Amazon or iTunes gift card for your birthday. When your friend buys the gift card, they are required to provide your email address, both so that (1) the store knows where to send the gift card and (2) the store can verify you’re you when you come to claim the gift card. After your friend completes the purchase, you receive an email containing a special code. To redeem the gift card, you go to a website, verify your identity, and enter the code. After you enter the code, a certain amount of credit appears in your account, which you can spend however you like.I think that’s rather a useful simile for Open Badges.What do you think? Image CC BY exfordy 171
  • 171. Getting up to speed on thetechnical side of #openbadges2nd July 2012Today is my first day of work at the Mozilla Foundation as‘Badges & Skills Lead’. I’ve been evangelising Open Badges forabout the last year but have very much focused on thedisruptive and pedagogical aspects rather than the technicalside of things.*Given that Mozilla very much encourage you to ‘think outloud’ and over-share, here goes my attempt at getting myhead around the technical side of the Open BadgeInfrastructure (OBI): The specification found here defines the information, or metadata, that must be included in a badge for it to be considered OBI-compliant. Each Open Badge carries all the information needed to understand that badge as it is transferred throughout the ecosystem. This includes how it was earned, where it was earned, who earned it, if and when it expires, etc. The specification ensures that badges are interoperable with other Open Badges and Badge Backpacks. 172
  • 172. The Open Badges metadata specification is available under a set of open licenses.So badges are images that have the metadata encoded intothat image. The process of encoding that metadata is called‘baking’ and Mozilla are doing this on behalf of issuers duringthe beta period.OpenBadger is an OBI-compliant badge issuing system thatwill be ready towards the end of 2012. Right now, though,because the OBI is an open specification, others are availablesuch as These are fairly straightforward and easy-to-use if you want to get started issuing badges.Badges are currently displayed through Mozilla’s OpenBadges backpack: A repository for collecting and displaying badges from a variety of sources, the Badge Backpack is a user management interface where the Earner can delete badges, import badges, set privacy controls, create and publish groups of badges, etc. Eventually, many entities may choose to host Badge Backpacks, but to start, Mozilla is hosting a reference Backpack (the “Mozilla Badge Backpack”) that can be used as a model for other Backpack Providers. 173
  • 173. I’ve dragged some of the Open Badges I’ve been awarded intothe groups shown in the image above. In addition, I’ve madeeach group public so here, for example, is my Mozilla & P2PUbadges portfolio page.You may have noticed that I’ve currently got some OpenBadges embedded in the sidebar of this blog. I used DaveWiley’s BadgeWidgetHack to do that, but this will get easierover time through WordPress plugins and the like.The thing I didn’t get at first was the link between anindividual’s email address and their badges. For example, myHybrid Days key speaker badge was created for my old JISCinfoNet email address and so I asked the issuer to re-create itfor my personal email address. I could, however, have addedmy JISC infoNet email address to BrowserID account.Finally, when it comes to UK educational institutions, I’m goingto have to do some research. The Open Badges FAQ statesthe following to comply with the United States FERPA (privacy)legislation: If you are an educational institution, the criteria for earning badges may list required grades or minimum grades but the badge itself may not contain any information indicating the actual grade received by that Earner. For more information, see the FERPA FAQ.I’m not sure that applies over here?Additionally, the United States COPPA legislation means thatthe Open Badges aren’t designed for those under the age of13: The Mozilla Badge Backpack is not available to users under the age of 13. If you have users under 13 who are earning badges, then do not allow those users to push badges to the Mozilla Badge Backpack. 174
  • 174. However, it’s entirely possible to circumvent this by buildingyour own backpack for use within an educational institutions.Open Source FTW. Image CC BY-NC-SA Daniel*1977*I should probably explain that there’s a whole Open Badges team and everyone’s a ‘Lead’. You mightwant to follow Planet OpenBadges if you’re interested in this stuff – my blog posts will begin to appearthere soon! 175
  • 175. Informal learning, gaming, and#openbadges design19th July 2012One of my favourite games for the PlayStation 3 isBurnout Paradise. Apart from the racing and being able totake down cars in spectacular ways, one of the reasons I loveit is because it’s a non-linear game.What do I mean by that?I mean that after a (very) lightweight introduction, the wholemap is open to the player. You’re guided through themechanics of the game as you play it, and you can choosewhat you want to do next. If you just want to drive around,that’s fine. In fact, there’s ‘challenges’ to complete (smashingthrough billboards, etc.) if that’s all you want to do. By drivingaround you actually discover some of the ‘formal’ challengeslike races as well as the auto repair shops. 176
  • 176. Every now and again, either through winning races orcompleting stunt challenges you’ll unlock a new car. But youstill have to go and find it and take it down. And there’s alsothe ‘stealth’ achievements you unlock unexpectedly. It’s acompelling, very rewarding game in its own right, never mindbeing able to play live online against other human opponents!Recently, within the Mozilla Learning team we’ve beendiscussing the non-linearity of badge systems and howinterest-based learning can be scaffolded and assessed.Obviously the assessment is ultimately going to lead to OpenBadges, but a few of us feel that we can’t merely replicate theexisting structures found in formal education. There’s notmuch point in using badges if the learning design stilltalks about a ’101′ class or uses a Beginner/Intermediate/Advanced approach.The question has come up, as it always does, about pre-requisites. There’s no getting away that some learning is builtupon prior knowledge, the argument goes. That’s certainlytrue, but there’s ways of motivating the learner to want to 177
  • 177. undertake that prior learning. That way is by appealing totheir interests.As with anything new, the easiest way to get at what we cando is through metaphor. In this case, I think that a videogame serve as a very useful model for what we want todo. Start with the player (in this case the learner) and scaffoldexperiences around them.Does that make sense? 178
  • 178. What we’re up to with MozillaWebmaker (Open) badges.15th August 2012Update: I don’t think I make it clear enough in this post that thisis an example of Mozilla ‘eating it’s own dogfood’. We’re using aMozilla-developed technology (Open Badges) for a particularpurpose (to badge Webmaker skills). Hope that makes sense!BackgroundI work for the Mozilla Foundation as part of the Learningteam. More specifically, I’m part of the recently-created OpenBadges subset of that team. In practice, however, there’senough cross-pollination to make the boundaries betweensub-teams very hard to see.Mozilla wants to create a generation of webmakers. As itstates at The goal: help millions of people move from using the web to making the web. As part of Mozilla’s non-profit mission, we want to help the world increase their understanding of the 179
  • 179. web, take greater control of their online lives, and create a more web literate planet.That web literacies piece is at least half of my time as Badges& Skills Lead. But what does that mean in practice?It means a lot of Skype calls . That’s for sure. Oh, and moreEtherpads than you can stick a shake at.Mozilla Webmaker BadgesThe Open Badges ecosystem is a new way of signalling andcredentialing achievements on the web. You can see meattempt to explain it quickly and concisely in this video. 17What we’re trying to do as a Learning team is to identifyWeb Literacies, Competencies and Skills that can bebadged. We’re organising these into ‘constellations’ as mycolleague Chloe Varelidi so eloquently puts it18 – learningpathways that allow learners to follow their interests.Chloe’s post has more gorgeous visuals than mine, but themindmap I above (made using XMind) gives a widescreenview of what we’re trying to do:17 180
  • 180. 1. Granular skills badges are awarded for micro- achievements whilst using, for example, Mozilla Thimble (e.g. adding three <p> tags) 2. The granular skills badges count towards accumulative Web Skills badges (e.g. HTML Basics) 3. These Web Skills badges collectively count toward Web Competencies badges 4. In turn, these (after peer assessment) lead to the awarding of one of five different Web Literacies badgesWe’re going to be iterating this in the open, because that’show Mozilla rolls. So we’ll have some Web Skills badges readyfor the Mozilla Festival 2012 (London), with WebCompetencies badges in place for the DML Conference 2013(Chicago).At the same time as all of this, Jess Klein has been working onthe user experience (UX). She’s got a great idea for what shecalls Webmaker+ (inspired by Nike+) which would provide adashboard for learners within their Open Badges backpack.She’s working on the first sketches (including the one below)which you should definitely go and take a look at: 181
  • 181. The dashboard would suggest badges to learners as well asshow them various analytics and data about what they’veachieved so far. The inspiration here is (to my mind) KhanAcademy’s knowledge map 19 and Duolingo’s20 learningpathways.19 182
  • 182. I think it all looks awesome. I hope you agree. Top image CC BY-NC-SA Chloeatplay Dashboard image by kind permission of Jess! 183
  • 183. Open Badges, Clay Shirky, andthe tipping point.15th October 2012The great thing about thinkers such as Clay Shirky is that theycan put into pithy, concise quotations things that remainlatent in our collective thinking. You know, things like: We’ve reached an age where this stuff is technologically boring enough to be socially interesting.I first used that quote in a post four years ago when I calledfor technology to be so commonplace and ubiquitous that it’snot considered a thing distinct from human interaction.Technology should be woven into the fabric of our identitiesnot something set apart, alien and ‘other’.Four years ago social networks weren’t woven into society theway they are now. Nowadays, of course, hashtags accompanythe opening credits to television shows so that they can bediscussed in a ‘channel’ on Twitter, it’s entirely normal to whipyour mobile device when standing in a queue (instead of 184
  • 184. talking about the weather to a stranger), and you’d beshocked if brands didn’t encourage you to follow them onFacebook.One way to explain this is through Clay Shirky’s lens: thesethings are now technologically boring enough to be sociallyinteresting. You can assume that almost the man or woman onthe street knows what Facebook, Twitter and mobile devicesare for without having to explain them first. That means wecan talk about the next layer up- i.e. what we do with thosetools.Open Badges are still quite technologically interesting. There’sseveral aspects of them that the average person wouldn’tunderstand without having it explained. For example: • What metadata is • How an Open Badges consists of ‘baking’ metadata into an image • That anyone can host a badge backpack because it’s Open Source software • What is means that the various badge backpacks will be ‘federated’Now, we could go about a mass education program and(relatively speaking) spend a lot of money helping people tolearn about these things. But that’s not how things reach atipping point. The way people become proficient with toolslike social networks or Open Badges is because they scratchan itch (solve a problem) or because there’s a ‘hook’interesting enough for them to be dragged, Alice inWonderland-like into a deep rabbit-hole where they can findout more. 185
  • 185. So in a UK context, Stephen Fry’s 2009 video interview wherehe explained his love of Twitter in layman’s terms meant thatmany people were provided a hook. In fact, this is howadvertising and celebrity endorsement works: “I like Person X,and Person X likes Thing Y, so therefore I should find outmore about Thing Y.” With Facebook, it was an itch to bescratched: when you’re excluded from a conversationbecause you’re not using a particular social network, thenthere’s a powerful incentive to join the tribe. Especially as thenominal cost of entry is ‘free’ and the difficulty level is ‘supereasy’.What we need with Open Badges, and which we’ll certainlyhave by early 2013, are compelling examples of how they canbe used in education and other contexts. At the same timewe’re working on ways to make ‘onboarding’ easier forissuers, displayers and endorsers. We’re also working on theUX and UI for badge earners. In other words, we’re ready forbadges to be huge next year.Watch this space. Image CC BY Joi 186
  • 186. On the ‘openness’ of OpenBadges.18th October 2012Yesterday, on the Open Badges community call, we discussedbriefly the ‘openness’ of Open Badges. To my mind there’s adangerous conflation happening at the moment around‘open’ and ‘free’. I want to take a moment to parse those twoconcepts. Bear with me.The most common definition of ‘free’ is ‘free of charge’. In myexperience, many (if not most) ‘open’ things are free in thissense. That’s not because things that are open have to be freeof charge, it’s just that often the philosophical position takenby the person creating the thing that’s open often leads themto also making it free of charge.Let’s take Pearson’s OpenClass21 as an example. Theydescribe the product as being ‘open to everyone, easy to use,and completely free’. The phrase ‘completely free’ hereactually means ‘free of charge at the point of entry’. Cost is21 187
  • 187. actually not one of the four essential freedoms, as set by theFree Software Foundation: 22 • The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0). • The freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for this. • The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2). • The freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3). By doing this you can give the whole community a chance to benefit from your changes. Access to the source code is a precondition for this.I’m fairly sure that Pearson doesn’t mean ‘free’ in any of thesesenses. So it’s merely ‘free of charge of charge at the point ofentry’. Caveat emptor.Moving on to what we mean by ‘open’ it’s more of aphilosophy, an approach to the world than anything else. Sowhen Pearson say that OpenClass is open because it is ‘opento the world’ that’s a bit of a misnomer. That’s like saying theirbusiness is ‘open’ because they don’t turn away customers.They’re conflating ‘open’ with ‘free of charge at the point ofentry’.On the Community call yesterday, Erin Knight very helpfullypointed out the various ways that Open Badges (and thebadge backpacks) are indeed ‘open’:22 188
  • 188. • Open as in free (anyone can create an account) • Users completely own their data • Anyone can push badges into it • Federation/open source infrastructure • Everything being planned publicly, working in the open!We do, of course, welcome Pearson as a user of the OpenBadge Infrastructure (OBI) and I was only really using them asan example. What we do need to be careful about goingforward, however, is to be precise in our terminology and notto commodify (unintentionally or otherwise) words signifyingimportant concepts.It benefits everyone in the end. Image CC BY-NC tanakawho 189
  • 189. Webmaker badges are GO!11th November 2012I’m absolutely delighted that this weekend that we at Mozillahave launched the first iteration of Webmaker badges. Youcan get started earning them right now by going to here: 190
  • 190. Webmaker badges, in part, are based upon the work I’mdoing around Web Literacies:You can find out more about that Web Literacies frameworkat badges are coming soon in Popcorn Maker23 – now atv1.0!)23 191
  • 191. How to make #openbadgeswork for you and yourorganisation.26th November 2012“Hi, I’m Doug Belshaw, Badges and Skills Lead for the MozillaFoundation”“Oh, so you’re the guy heading up all of the badges work? I reallylike what I’ve seen so far.”“Well actually my colleague Sunny Lee is Product Manager forOpen Badges, and Carla Casilli is in charge of WebmakerBadges. I evangelise both badge systems in Europe and workon Mozilla’s Web Literacies framework.”“Cool. I’ve been looking at badges for a while and was wonderinghow to implement them in my context.”“I’m really glad you asked because I’m just about to write ablog post on that exact subject.” ---------- 192
  • 192. I’ve had the above conversation with many people over thelast few months. They tend to go beyond this, obviously, but Ido need a post to point people towards.So this is it. :-)The first thing to say is that there is no objectively-awesome way to issue badges. What works for one group ofpeople in one context won’t necessarily work in anothercontext. Having said that, there are some general principleswhich should stand you in good stead.Second, you’ll find that it’s fairly natural for people toproject their worldview into what is, after all, an openand emergent ecosystem. I’ve had people tell me thatbadges “will inevitably lead to X,” that “you can’t do Y withbadges,” and that “Mozilla need to make sure that Z”. Thegreat thing about the Open Badges Infrastructure (OBI) is thatit’s a platform for third parties – including you – to innovateand think differently about their organisation is set up to do.Third, there’s some criteria that are required for OpenBadges and some that are optional.The REQUIRED metadata fields are: • Badge Title • Description • Criteria • Image URL • Issuer • Issue Date • Recipient 193
  • 193. The OPTIONAL metadata fields are: • Evidence URL • Expiration DateWhat follows  isn’t the only way to approach badge design –my colleague Carla, for example, sometimes starts with thegraphical element – but it’s an approach which has workedwell for me over a series of conversations and workshops.Here it is in the abstract, followed by a worked example: 1. Decide on some behaviours, skills or attitudes you want to promote. 2. Think of some criteria for a badge which would begin to promote those behaviours, skills or attitudes. 3. Consider if the criteria for the badge you’ve come up with can be broken down in more granular ways. 4. If (as is likely) you end up with multiple badges, think about multiple (potentially interest-based) pathways through your badge ecosystem. Ask yourself, which badges depend upon other badges? What are the relationships between these badges? (this24 may help structure that) 5. Get someone to design you an awesome-looking graphical badge and use a badge issuing platform such as, ForAllBadges, WPBadger or BadgeStack to issue badges24 194
  • 194. This, of course, looks fairly easy but will take a decent amountof time from start to finish if done in a considered andcollaborative way. Just to illustrate the point, my colleagueLaura Hilliger and I are running a two-part, 5.5-hour workshopin Porto this week where we probably won’t manage to getthe participants through all five steps in the time we haveavailable.Now, an example.I’m always slightly wary about using examples as they tend tobe held up as THE way to do things rather than A way to do it.With that in mind, let’s take as our example Alina who wantsto start a new online community for teaching Webmakingskills. How could she use badges to promote the behaviours,skills and attitudes that she wants the community to embody? 1. Alina wants to encourage community members to level up in their web skills. She’s seen that Mozilla have started to provide Webmaker badges for that, so she decides to use those for the skills element. She decides to focus her efforts on badges to encourage mentorship and community etiquette. 2. New to the concept of badges, Alina thinks that one mentorship badge will be enough. The criteria she comes up with is that once a member has got enough ‘thank you’ upvotes using the forum software then they will automatically be awarded a ‘Mentorship’ badge. 3. A couple of days later, Alina talks through her idea for a single Mentorship badge with a member of the community whom she meets at a conference. They raise concerns that such a system would promote people ‘begging’ for upvotes and/or lead to reciprocal backslapping. Alina goes back to the drawing board and begins to come up with a system of badges. 195
  • 195. 4. Reflecting on her own experience as a member of various online communities, Alina realises that there are different forms of mentorship and ways of recognising it. She proposes several different granular badges which aggregate to a larger mentorship badge in different areas of Webmaking. Alina then invites some community members who already show the behaviours, skills and attitudes she is looking for to an virtual workshop. As a result, she tweaks the number of badges and the criteria for each badge. Some badges they decide should be emergent, all should be peer-assessed, and some should expire. They decide that the inclusion of an evidence URL showing how the member earned the badge would be useful. 5. Alina announces the badge system to the wider community via a blog post and asks for feedback. She mentions that they haven’t yet come up with the visuals for the badges. A community member with an interest in graphical design volunteers to design the badges. Before long, the first iteration of the badge system is up-and-running using WPBadger, WordPress and BuddyPress.I hope that helps. Badge ecosystem design is an iterative,emergent process. My main advice would be to make it anopen, inclusive process involving the participants formerlyknown as stakeholders. Image CC BY-NC AlbinoFlea 196
  • 196. 197
  • 197. Digital and WebLiteracies 198
  • 198. Web literacy? (v0.1)30th January 2012Michelle Levesque asked for feedback on this: Mozilla’s WebLiteracy Skills (v0.1 alpha). I wanted to respond as soon aspossible as I think she’s done some great work here.I’ve visualised the text in her post and then tweaked it slightlyto suggest the direction I’d take it:Changes: 1. Added ‘participation’ to Exploring 2. Changed ‘bullshit’ to ‘crap’ to avoid offending some people’s sensibilities 199
  • 199. 3. Changed ‘Restaurant HTML’ to ‘HTML basics’ in Authoring 4. Combined two blocks to form ‘Reacting to stimulii’ in Building 5. Removed ‘Receipe’ize tasks’ in Building 6. Added ‘Civil liberties’ to Protecting 7. Segmented sections into what would form a ‘Basic’ and an ‘Advanced’ badge’What do you think? What have I (we) missed? 200
  • 200. Why the REMIX is at the heartof digital literacies12th February 2012Since completing my doctoral thesis on digital and newliteracies, I’ve been thinking a lot about how educators canuse my work in a practical way.In Chapter 9 of my thesis I come up with eight ‘essentialelements’ of digital literacies, abstracted from the literature.I’ve presented these in various forms, my most popularslidedeck being available [on Slideshare].After seeing me present on these essential elements, peopletend to ask me one or both of the following questions: 1. Which is the most important element to focus upon? 2. How can I develop these in practice? 201
  • 201. I’m helping with the second question through my iterative e-book, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, which I’ve juststarted (and you can buy into). The first question, however,about relative importance and focus has been bugging me.On the one hand, I want to say that all of the elements areequally important – but that the relative priority that shouldbe given to each will depend upon context. That’s true, but itfeels like a bit of a cop-out.So, after spending some time visualising Mozilla’s firstattempts at defining web literacy, I think I’ve hit upon anorganising concept: the remix.Literacy is all about reading and writing. If we take ‘reading’and ‘writing’ metaphorically (as we must when moving intothe digital realm) then these become, loosely, understandingand processing and creating and applying.This sounds a lot to me like remixing.I’m going to be thinking about this further. It will form acentral theme to my e-book, and I’ll be using it as anorganising concept for my TEDx Warwick talk in March. :-) 202
  • 202. Web Literacies: What is theWeb Anyway?23rd July 2012[Published at DMLcentral]I’ve recently started in a new role for the Mozilla Foundation.At least half of my job there is to come up with a framework, aWhite Paper, around the concept of ‘web literacies’. It’s got methinking about both parts of that term -- both the ‘web’ andthe ‘literacies’. In this post I want to consider the first of these:what we mean by the ‘web’? I’ve already considered the latterin quite some detail in my doctoral thesis (available 203
  • 203. Defining the WebSometimes it’s important to step back from the things we takefor granted and look at them in a new light. Being born in1980, I’m in the position of both having grown up with theweb in my teenage years and still being able to recall pre-webdays. Even so, it’s difficult to separate out the web from therest of my adult life. It’s increasingly interwoven witheverything I do on a daily basis.Going back to basics, the current Wikipedia definition of theweb is as follows: The World Wide Web (abbreviated as WWW or W3) commonly known as the Web or the "Information Superhighway"), is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet. With a web browser, one can view web pages that may contain text, images, videos, and other multimedia, and navigate between them via hyperlinks.So it follows that there’s at least three important aspects tothe web: 1. It’s a layer on top of the internet 2. Hyperlinks are central to its structure 3. It contains artifacts (multimedia) that are embedded or otherwise available via web pagesI’ve discussed before on DML Central the importance ofwebmaking and avoiding the commoditization of the web.That’s not my focus in this post, but it’s certainly there in thebackground. The important take-away from that discussion isthat the web is built upon open standards for the good ofmankind. These standards are looked after by aninternational organization called the W3C. 204
  • 204. Learning about How the Web WorksSo if we’re talking about web literacies, then we’re talkingabout ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ the web in some way. Thebuilding blocks of the web are technologies built upon openstandards such as HTML and CSS. Anybody can learn these‘languages’ to build their own web pages. Fortunately, thereare tools, both open source and proprietary that make thisjob easier. But, fundamentally, to be web literate meanshaving at least some understanding of these building blocksof the web.Over two billion people now use the web on a regular basis.For many people, like me, the web is a fundamental part ofhow they communicate - and, therefore, how they are. Wecreate and sustain relationships through the web. We watchvideos that provoke joy, laughter, sadness, and anger. Weexchange artifacts and multimedia such as photos, memes,and audio files. The web is an inherently social technology.As Mitchell Baker, chairperson of Mozilla, put it last year: “Weneed open, open-source, interoperable, public-benefit,standards-based platforms for multiple layers of Internet life.”Some of this learning about openness, about standards,about things that are for the public good, some of it won’t beelegant. Some of it won’t be easy. But we at Mozilla areattempting to at least make it fun. If you haven’t seen themalready there’s a plethora of Summer Code Parties wherepeople are coming together to make, learn, hack and share.The tools being used at these Summer Code Parties aredesigned to do what all educators know works -- that is,putting learning in context. Mozilla has developed three toolsso far to learn about the web: Thimble, X-Ray Goggles, andPopcorn. These can all be accessed at Theidea isn’t to make everyone a ‘programmer’ but instead give 205
  • 205. people an insight into how the web is made and, mostimportant of all, show them that they too can contribute to it.ConclusionAs fellow Mozillian Gervase Markham wrote recently the webis “one of the greatest drivers of human prosperity andhappiness the world has ever seen.” The web empowerspeople - but only if they feel they have a stake in it. The threesteps I would suggest for people to claim that stake is to firstof all understand what the web is, what it does, and howpeople use it. Second, to learn how to both read and write theweb using HTML and CSS. And, finally, to protect it; to fight forthe web to remain open.I think it’s fitting to give the last words to Tim Berners-Lee, theman credited with ‘inventing’ the web. A man who refused topatent his invention but instead ensured that it was availableto everyone: The web is more a social creation than a technical one. I designed it for a social effect — to help people work together — and not as a technical toy. The ultimate goal of the Web is to support and improve our weblike existence in the world. We clump into families, associations, and companies. We develop trust across the miles and distrust around the corner. Amen to that. Image CC BY saintbob 206
  • 206. Digital Literacies and WebLiteracies: Whats theDifference?20th August 2012I’m currently iterating some work around Web Literacies forthe Mozilla Foundation. Perhaps the biggest considerationwhen dealing with so-called ‘New’ Literacies is distinguishingthem from one another. As Ive discussed many times before,without some clear thinking on this issue both theorists andpractitioners alike tend to talk past one another usingimprecise terminology. What I want to consider in this post isthe relationship between Digital literacies and Web literacies.Aren’t they just synonyms?The topic of digital literacies was the focus of my doctoralthesis, which is available to read online The conclusion I came to afterdelving deeply into the research was that we need to alwaystalk about literacies in their plurality and that there arebroadly eight essential elements to digital literacies. Myquestion when it comes to Web Literacies, therefore, iswhether (a) they constitute a subset of Digital Literacies, (b)they are wholly distinct from Digital Literacies, or (c) there issome overlap between the two. These three positions arerepresented by the graphic at the top of this post. 207
  • 207. Let’s take the middle position first, as it’s perhaps the easiestto dismiss. If Digital Literacies and Web Literacies were whollydistinct from one another, then there would be no overlapbetween the practices they contain. This is patently false, asdemonstrated by even the briefest examination of the eightessential elements of Digital Literacies I have identified: 1. Cultural 2. Cognitive 3. Constructive 4. Communicative 5. Confident 6. Creative 7. Critical 8. CivicThe Web is not only (as Cory Doctorow puts it) a giant ‘copyingmachine’ but it’s also one of the greatest methods everdevised for individuals and groups of people to interact withone another. In other words, the Web is inherentlycommunicative. It also allows for human flourishing on aunprecedented scale through allowing human beings to becreative. And, as we have seen through its use for the Occupymovement, many people use the Web for important civicactions.Given just these three examples, it’s obvious that DigitalLiteracies and Web Literacies at least overlap in some ways.The question to address now is to what extent they overlap.An easy way to do this would be to compare definitions ofWeb Literacies and Digital Literacies. Unfortunately, as this isa contentious area, to do so may be problematic. This was the 208
  • 208. reason why I avoided definitions in my thesis. Anotherapproach might be to look at the essential elements of WebLiteracies and compare those with the essential elements ofDigital Literacies.Building on the work of my colleagues at the MozillaFoundation I’ve been looking at five different elements of WebLiteracies: 1. Exploring 2. Authoring 3. Connecting 4. Building 5. ProtectingWithout going into too much detail here (a forthcoming WhitePaper around Web Literacies by me will do this) I think it’s safeto say that it’s possible to map these five essential elements ofWeb Literacies onto the eight essential elements of DigitalLiteracies. Just as an example, ‘Protecting’ the Web correlatesstrongly with the ‘Civic’ element. Likewise ‘Authoring’ the Webcorrelates with the ‘Creative’ element.If Web Literacies are wholly situated within Digital Literaciesthen our diagram looks like the following: 209
  • 209. This not only appeals to common sense but is consistent withmy work in both areas. What remains an open question, andwhich I would greatly desire some feedback and opinionsupon, is whether Web Literacies constitute either (or both) anecessary condition for Digital Literacies? In other words,could somebody claim to have developed Digital Literacieswithout having developed Web Literacies?I’m fairly sure you can guess my answer. :-) 210
  • 210. 211
  • 211. Everything Else 212
  • 212. Thanks for waiting! Dr. Belshawwill see you now.1st January 2012Well, almost.I’m pleased to announce that I successfully defended mydoctoral thesis at my viva voce on 12th December 2011. Asexpected, the examiners gave me minor rewrites but Imanaged to submit these to my supervisor before Christmas. 213
  • 213. Whilst I can’t officially call myself ‘Doctor Belshaw’ until I’m onDurham University’s pass list (and even then I’m probably notyour go-to person for emergency tracheotomies) I’m delightedwith the culmination of six years’ work into digital and newliteracies.It’s great to be back on social networks such as Twitter andGoogle+ and press ‘delete’ on hundreds of emails (well, I didwarn people…) Image CC BY-NC-SA Johan Prawiro 214
  • 214. 9 ideas in search of a blog post.13th April 2012Last month Seth Godin posted 9 ideas in search of a blogpost. Here’s my version: 1. Formal education should probably be free up to whatever level you want (and perhaps only compulsory up to age 11). 2. 99% Invisible is the podcast that most often makes me see the world in new ways. 3. I still haven’t figured out how to balance my photophobia and SAD. Thank goodness for Spring (and f.lux) 4. Tools are constraining. This is both good and bad. 215
  • 215. 5. Learning to touch-type at a young age (I think I was about 12) is possibly one of the best things I’ve ever done.6. Things I Learned This Week is back, phoenix-like, as a free weekly newsletter.7. There are no absolutes, only contrasts.8. People tend to be skeptical about non-physically- obvious medical symptoms.9. E-Prime blows my mind (via Simon Bostock)10.Feel free to hit me up in the comments if you’d like me to expand upon any of these. Image CC BY 216
  • 216. 3 rules for our five year-old(that work!)18th April 2012Last week I was cooped up indoors with my son.Ben is an energetic five year-old on Easter school holidayswhilst I was ill and off work. It rained most of the weekmeaning that there were fewer opportunities for him to getout of the house with my wife and Grace (our one year-olddaughter). The temptation to let him just watch films and playon the iPad was quite high, to say the least. 217
  • 217. Thankfully, we’ve already laid down some ground rules forhim that help manage his behaviour.1. FoodYoung children can be inordinately grumpy if they’ve got lowblood sugar. Actually, I’m inordinately grumpy if I have lowblood sugar.The first job for my son every morning is to eat some fruit.This is usually a banana. Given that he usually rises at around6am, it stops him being super-grumpy before his breakfast at7.30am.I don’t care what anyone says about children and sugar: toomuch is bad for both their teeth and their mood. Ben getsthat wild look in his eyes when he’s had too much. Fruit,however, contains fructose which seems to be a usefulcompromise.2. Screen timeI have to admit, the notion of limiting children to a certainamount of ‘screen time’ seemed slightly ridiculous before wehad Ben. But, oh my, you have no idea how more than 15-20minutes on the iPad (or watching TV) has on his behaviour.The rule in our house is that he’s not allowed on the iPaduntil after lunch. This means that at weekends and duringschool holidays he usually wants lunch at 9:30am!Whilst Ben has got some games that are purely forentertainment (like Smash Cops which he got as a birthday 218
  • 218. present, or Gravity Guy and Sonic Racing), most of what heplays has a puzzle element.His favourites? 1. Angry Birds 2. Aqueduct 3. Cat Physics 4. Cut the Rope (he recently completed this with some help from my wife) 5. Feed Me Oil 6. Feed That Dragon 7. Scribblenauts (he’s a little young for this) 8. Super Stickman Golf (an all-time favourite – we’ve completed it twice) 9. Tinkerbox 10. Where’s Wally?He has periods where he’ll just focus on one game to theexclusion of the rest. And that’s fine (for 15 minutes at atime…)3. EntertainmentPartly from necessity, partly from principle, we ask Ben to goaway and play by himself every day.We live in an age of mass entertainment when it would beeasy to find him something for him to passively consume.When I was young I read books and played with cars because 219
  • 219. there was nothing more exciting to do. Now there’s a millionTV channels, apps and digital distractions fighting for ourattention.Clay Shirky puts the problem well: I remember, as a child, being bored. I grew up in a particularly boring place and so I was bored pretty frequently. But when the Internet came along it was like, “That’s it for being bored! Thank God! You’re awake at four in the morning? So are thousands of other people!” It was only later that I realized the value of being bored was actually pretty high. Being bored is a kind of diagnostic for the gap between what you might be interested in and your current environment. But now it is an act of significant discipline to say, “I’m going to stare out the window. I’m going to schedule some time to stare out the window.” The endless gratification offered up by our devices means that the experience of reading in particular now becomes something we have to choose to do.In a way, therefore, by insisting on analogue play (includingreading and writing) we’re teaching mindfulness. It alsoreinforces the role of my wife and I as parents as opposed tomere babysitters/entertainers.Are you a parent? What rules do you have in YOUR house?Do they work?PS You’ll love Leo Babauta’s The Way of the Peaceful Parent 220
  • 220. On writing every day.27th April 2012There’s two books I read regularly. Both of those books are byauthors who evidently love the written word but treat it quitedifferently.The first is The Art of Worldly Wisdom by Baltasar Gracian, a17th century Spanish Jesuit. I read his short, pithy maximsevery single day on repeat. When I get to number 300, I flickback and start at number one again.The second, which I’ve read many times is Michel deMontaigne‘s Essays. This rambling, inconsistent and charmingtome is by a 16th century landowner and reluctant public 221
  • 221. servant. I (and others who have read him) feel like I know himpersonally.25Both works make me want to write not just about the kinds ofthings I write about on this blog, but just for myself. Notnecessarily for an audience, and about anything I want.Ideally, I’d write in the series of journals I’ve kept since turning18. Realistically, I write in there sporadically, and usually whenI’m feeling down. I want more regular outpourings and meanstyping instead of physically writing.I’m a fairly fast touch-typist. I used to be up to the headyheights of around 100 words per minute (wpm), butnowadays I’m happy with 60-70 wpm. That’s obviously waymore than I’d get if I was scrawling: I’d be lucky to hit 30 wpm,and even that would be illegible.Thankfully, and you’ll be delighted to know there’s a point tothis post, I’ve re-discovered a place that embodies this‘private, unfiltered, spontaneous, daily’ element for which I’vebeen grasping.Not only is extremely well-designed, but it’sgot semantic analysis of what you write, co-operative stylevalues and badges!26 The image at the top of this post showssome of the analysis the site does. There’s more than thelimited amount I’m sharing there.Read this for Buster’s (the site owner) reason for creating –and continuing to run – the site:25 I’m also greatly enjoying Sarah Bakewell’s How to Live: A life of Montaigne in one question and twentyattempts at an answer.26 Although not, sadly, of the ‘Open variety. 222
  • 222. 750 Words exists because of mutual good will between myself and the people who use it. The site wouldn’t exist without the generosity, patience, and humor of everyone involved. Rather than charge for the site, I want to keep the site free, and simply offer an opportunity for people who have the means and the desire to help keep things going. I don’t want to make a ton of money, I just want to have enough to justify the time, energy, and money it takes to build, maintain, and enjoy, while also keeping the spirit of it fun and friendly.That’s my kind of site. 223
  • 223. Arson at Ellington NatureReserve.30th April 2012Yesterday, as I sat in my study finishing off some work, mywife called me into the lounge to look out the window. Sheand my two young children stood transfixed as black,billowing clouds of smoke drifted over our back garden. It wasclear where it was coming from: the nature reserve close toour house.Tragically, someone (or some group) had decided to set fire tothe bird hide on the end of a jetty that goes out into the pond.By the time I’d called the fire brigade and got down there, allthat the steadily-increasing group of concerned onlookerscould do was watch as fierce flames consumed the woodenstructure.I overheard, but have not had confirmation, that the bird hidewas doused in petrol before being set alight. In the end, the 224
  • 224. firefighters put out the fire and knocked down the hide. Allthat’s left are some wooden stumps.My reason for writing about this is merely, at this stage, todocument that it happened. I’m not sure who did it, nor whythey did so, but feel sad that it happened. All my five year-oldson asked yesterday was “Why would they do that, Daddy?” Ididn’t know how to answer him but encouraged him to drawthe picture at the top of this post to let out some of hisemotions.The nature reserve was opened last year after a communitygroup secured National Lottery funding to transform thespace. It’s a beautiful space within which to walk in thisusually peaceful village. My children used to enjoy peekingthrough the windows in the bird hide.Not any more. :-( 225
  • 225. Why I’m becoming a MoFo(er).6th June 2012There’s something I’ve been bursting to tell people for the lastfew weeks. It’s something that will come as no surprise tosome and a bit of a shock to others.I’m joining the Mozilla Foundation.I can’t tell you how excited I am! As ‘Badges and Skills Lead’ I’llbe both continuing the work started by Michelle Levesque onweb literacies and evangelising Open Badges.The last couple of years with JISC infoNet have been fantasticbut I had to take such a wonderful opportunity! I’m fortunateto be both leaving and joining an extremely friendly, effectiveand forward-thinking team.If you have any questions I’ll do my best to answer them inthe comments below! 226
  • 226. Doctor Doug.27th June 2012 Dr. Doug Belshaw with Prof. Steve HigginsToday I graduated from my Ed.D. in the wonderfulsurroundings of Durham Cathedral (a UNESCO WorldHeritage site).Both my family and my supervisor Professor Steve Higginswere there to witness it and I’d like to take this opportunity tothank them all for their advice, guidance and support duringthe past few years. I’d also like to thank those who havecheered me on both here and elsewhere online. :-)My doctoral thesis has been online since I began writing it.You can access it at http://neverendingthesis.comThis event has come at a great time between finishing up myrole with JISC infoNet and starting with the MozillaFoundation. Exciting times! 227
  • 227. Working for an Academy vs.working for JISC infoNet[visualisation]4th July 2012Back in 2009 when I was Director of e-Learning of TheNorthumberland Church of England Academy I startedtracking my own activities.Using a private WordPress-powered blog with the P2 theme, Iquickly logged what I was up to, adding tags as I went. Belowis the tag cloud after one month of using the system as aSenior Leader in an newly-minted Academy:As you can see, the following tags were prevalent (I don’t thinkI included teaching in there for some reason!): 1. Google Apps (I was responsible for deploying it across the 9-site Academy) 2. Elearning (obviously) 228
  • 228. 3. Meetings (lots and lots of these) 4. Email (a necessary evil) 5. Dan Brooks (an M.Ed. student from an Australian university whom I mentored during extended teaching practice) 6. Training (I led plenty of sessions)The above screenshot is from yesterday, soon after finishingmy two-year stint as Researcher/Analyst at JISC infoNet.Apart from changing my avatar and tweaking the colourscheme, what’s changed? 1. The email tag is much larger in this cloud. I was working in an office rather than a school, after all. 2. JISC, JISC Advance and JISC infoNet unsurprisingly figure a lot. 229
  • 229. 3. Google Apps remains there as I implemented and supported the system for the 19 JISC Advance services. 4. Mobile Learning infoKit is there as it was a major piece of work for me during my time at JISC infoNet. 5. Digital literacies features due to my work in the area and programme support for the JISC Developing Digital Literacies programme. 6. Patrick Bellis was my boss at JISC infoNet and Sarah Knight the JISC programme manager with whom I had the most dealings. 7. Other people’s names feature as well – interestingly Dan Brooks (M.Ed. student at the Academy) is still there three years later. Just goes to show how intense that period was!Finally, you can see that wiki and Skype are small butsignificant in the tag cloud. I’ve never worked for anorganisation that had better knowledge management andprocedures than JISC infoNet. The internal wiki had everythingyou needed to work effectively and was an active, livingrepository of information. Skype is used extensivelythroughout JISC, sometimes for calls, sometimes for‘backchanneling’.If you’d done something similar which tags would YOUexpect to show up? 230
  • 230. Aim for the high ground, notthe high horse.15th July 2012Yesterday, fellow Mozillian Gervase Markham wrote theselines: The Internet is one of the greatest drivers of human prosperity and happiness the world has ever seen. The ability to communicate easily across long distances, for business or pleasure, has enabled unimagined trade, friendship and connection. It has empowered many people. However, the free Internet as we know it is under threat – from governments, businesses and organizations who want to control or restrict what information passes. And when control and restriction increases, for whatever reason, opportunity and innovation suffer collateral damage. That’s why my ethical career choice is to work for Mozilla, an organization which aims to preserve and protect the open Internet as a level playing field where everyone can communicate, contribute and take full part – without having 231
  • 231. to pay gatekeepers, have a relationship with particular companies, or give up their privacy or security.Working for a non-profit, just as being (for example) a teacher,or a doctor means occupying the high ground.I believe we should all be aiming for the high ground.You know, there’s a phrase in English “getting on your highhorse‘. This indicates that you’re ‘better’ or ‘more intelligent’than other people. That’s not what I’m getting at.What I think we should be aiming for is individual andcommunity flourishing. I believe that acting as though we’re incompetition with one another damages this.We’re all in this together.Aiming for the high ground means acting in accordance withthe Golden Rule: One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.So, no matter what your faith this Sunday, think about yourcareer choices. Think about your shopping habits. And mostof all, every time you’re faced with a choice, opt for the onethat promotes human flourishing. Image CC BY ^riza^ 232
  • 232. Doug’s new #shoffice11th August 2012 233
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  • 236. Yesterday local architect Mark Starford 27 stopped by ChezBelshaw for initial discussions and measurements for myshed office (shoffice). As you can see from the photos above27 237
  • 237. the previous owners of our house had built a bizarre (butawesome) underground concrete bunker, complete withpower.We’re going to use that existing structure as a basis to buildupon. Mark’s very much into sustainable structures and I’mvery into getting as much light in there given that we’relocated in the North East of England!The backstoryLast month I started work as Badges & Skills Lead for theMozilla Foundation. It’s a great job that allows me to workfrom home. Whilst that means I’ve had to sell my awesomeFord Puma, it also means that I’m completely in control of myworking environment.After some discussions with my wife, Hannah, we decidedthat my existing study (which is a garage conversion) doesn’tquite do the trick. The conversion was done well – to such anextent it’s very much part of the main house. And therein liesthe problem when you’ve got a five year-old and an eighteenmonth-old.So we decided to look outside for a solution. Initially we werelooking at shed-like structures. Hence the ‘shoffice’ moniker(which has stuck). However, we thought it would be a wastenot to use the existing foundations under the patio to buildsomething more permanent, comfortable and which wouldultimately add value to our house.You’ll not be surprised to hear that I made contact with MarkStarford, the architect we’ve asked to work with us, throughTwitter. I think it was this map 28 that alerted us to his28 238
  • 238. proximity. I checked out his website and then made contacton Twitter. That moved to email, he came around for a cup oftea and chat, and we got the ball rolling.In turn, Mark’s recommended a structural engineer who inturn is going to recommend a builder. Yes, we could have gottenders and vetted people and all that sort of thing. But inreality, I want to work with people who want to work with meand each other. So it’s all good.Mark spent a couple of hours at our house yesterday chattingand measuring and asking questions. He’s going to go awayand make some drawings. I can’t wait to see them.And, of course, I’ll share them here when he does (I think I’vepersuaded him to release his work under a CreativeCommons license!)Blogging this adventure comes naturally to me but I was definitelyspurred on by Christian Payne blogging the process of creatinghis home office!2929 239
  • 239. Evaluation: the absolute basics16th August 2012Whilst I’ve done some work in the past around evaluation I’veneeded to brush up on it since joining the Mozilla Foundation.This post reflects some hours spent in Durham UniversityEducation Library earlier this week.IntroductionEvaluation is a contested term. Even people involved in thefield can’t agree what they mean: “No single-sentence definition will suffice to fully capture the practice of evaluation.” (Patton, 1982:4, quoted in Clarke, 1999)However, the following general guidance is useful: “The most important purpose of evaluation is not to prove but to improve.” 240
  • 240. (Stufflebeam and Shinkfield, 1985:2, quoted in Clarke, 1999)And among the definitions I’ve come across, the one I like bestis this: “Evaluation is the systematic investigation of the merit or worth of an object (program) for the purpose of reducing uncertainty in decision making.” (Mertens, 1998:219)The ‘evaluand’Like every field, Evaluation methods has its jargon terms. Forexample, an evaluand is the subject being evaluated. Thefollowing are useful questions asked by Mertens (1998:231) inrelation to the evaluand: 1. Is there a written description of what is to be evaluated? 2. What is the status of the evaluand? Relatively stable and mature? New? Developing? How long as the program been around? 3. In what context will (or does) the evaluand function? 4. Who is the evaluand designed to serve? 5. How does it (the evaluand) work? Or how is it supposed to work? 6. What is it supposed to do? 7. What resources are being put into the evaluand (e.g. financial, time, staff, materials, etc.)? 241
  • 241. 8. What are the processes that make up the evaluand? 9. What outputs are expected? Or occur? 10.Why do you want to evaluate it? 11.Whose description of the evaluand is available to you at the start of the evaluation? 12.Whose description of the evaluand is needed to get a full understanding of the program to be evaluated?Dimensions to evaluationThere are many dimensions to evaluation, the mostcommonly known being summative vs. formative evaluation.Whilst formative evaluation has as its audience those withinthe program being evaluated, the audience for summativeevaluation is those outside the program (such as policymakers, funders, or the general public).Other dimensions over and above formative vs. summativeshould be considered (according to Malla Reddy, 2000:3)including: 1. Inside vs. Outsider 2. Experimental vs. Illuminative 3. Democratic vs. Bureaucratic 4. Product vs. Process 5. Quantitative vs. QualitativeThe last bullet point of this list has many books and articlesdedicated to each element. Very basically, quantitative 242
  • 242. evaluation focuses on ‘hard’ numbers, whereas qualitativeevaluation focuses on ‘soft’ experience.Planning an evaluationMertens (1998:230) suggests the following steps whenplanning an evaluation study:Focusing the evaluation 1. Description of what is to be evaluated 2. The purpose of the evaluation 3. The stakeholders in the evaluation 4. Constraints affecting the evaluation 5. The evaluation questions 6. Selection of an evaluation modelPlanning the evaluation 7. Data collection specification, analysis, interpretation, and use strategies 8. Management of the evaluation 9. Meta-evaluation plansImplementing the evaluation 10. Completing the scope of the work specified in the planO’Sullivan (2004:7) gives a brief overview of the variousevaluation models or approaches from which to choose: 243
  • 243. 1. Objectives – focuses on objectives to determine degree of attainment 2. Management - focuses on information to assist program decision makers 3. Consumer - looks at programs and products to determine relative worth 4. Expertise - establishes peer and professional judgements of quality 5. Adversary - examines programs from pro and con perspectivesParticipant - addresses stakeholders’ needs for informationTo be honest, all of this seems a little over-the-top for some ofthe things I’ll be evaluating. That’s why I found Colin Robson’sbook Small-scale Evaluation useful. Robson (2000:46) suggestsusing the following questions in an evaluation: 1. What is needed? 2. Does what is provided meet client needs? 3. What happens when it is in operation? 4. Does it attain its goals or objectives? 5. What are its outcomes? 6. How do costs and benefits compare? 7. Does it meet required standards? 8. Should it continue? 9. How can it be improved? 10.Structuring an evaluation report 244
  • 244. Robson also suggests how to structure an evaluation report(2000:122): 1. Heading – make it short and clear 2. Table of contents – simple list of headings and page numbers (without subheadings) 3. Executive summary - key findings and conclusions/ recommendations 4. Background - one-page setting of the scene as to why the evaluation was carried out, what questions you are seeking answers to, and why the findings are likely to be of interest 5. Approach taken – when, where and how the study was carried out (detail goes in appendices) 6. Findings – the largest section giving answers to the evaluation questions with the main message going at the beginning and using subheadings where necessary 7. Conclusions/recommendations - draws together main themes of the report and their implicationsAppendices – include information needed by the audience tounderstand material in the main report (references)He also suggests including the names/contact details of theevaluators.ConclusionThis brief overview of evaluation should enable me to bemore confident when evaluating things for my day-to-day 245
  • 245. role. Hopefully it’s also given you enough of a starting point tocarry out your own evaluations. Image CC BY-NC-SA xiamingReferences • Clarke, A. (1999) Evaluation Research: an introduction to principles, methods and practice, London: Sage • Malla Reddy, K. (ed.) (2000) Evaluation in Distance Education, Hyderabad: Booklinks Corporation • Mertens, D. (1998) Research Methods in Education and Psychology: integrating diversity with quantitative and qualitative approaches, London: SAGE • O’Sullivan, R.G. (2004) Practicing Evalution: a collaborative approach, London: Sage • Robson, C. (2000) Small-scale Evaluation, London: Sage 246
  • 246. Famous for 42 seconds17th August 2012Like tens of thousands of people around the world I’m aregular listener to the BBC Radio 4 Thinking Allowedpodcast. In fact, as it’s usually around 27 minutes long it’sperfect for my 5k runs (including warm-up and warm-down,obviously…)For those of you who don’t listen to it, Laurie Taylor – who’svoice makes the show worth listening to in its own right –divides the near half-hour into three sections. The first partdeals with a recent paper or book in the area of Sociology, theshort middle bit deals with listener correspondence, and thefinal part deals with contemporary issues related to Sociology.The episode on 1 August 2012 was entitled Jobs for the Boysand is summarised as follows on the BBC website: Laurie Taylor talks to Professor Irena Grugulis about her contention that working class people don’t get job opportunities in the UK TV and film industry because they don’t have the right accents, clothes, backgrounds or friends. The media expert, Sir Peter Bazalgette and Professor of 247
  • 247. Sociology, Mike Savage, respond to this research and explore nepotism, networking and discrimination in the media world and beyond.As I walked back to my house after a run to the beach andback again last week I couldn’t help but think that theshow had missed out something really important: therole of online social networking.To my mind, socialnetworks like Twitter allow people to build up useful contactsand ‘Personal Learning Networks’ (PLNs) based on interestrather than class.I quickly fired off an email to andlow and behold it was featured in the middle bit of this week’sshow! (15 August 2012: Breaking Rules – Wall Streetwomen) I found out, fittingly, through various people tellingme via social media.You can download every episode of Thinking Allowed via theBBC website, including this week’s show. But if you’reinterested in just the bit where I’m mentioned (of course youare!) then you can find it at the Internet Archive.3030 248
  • 248. Some thoughts on time,performativity, and the State.24th August 2012Whenever I come across a longer article via Twitter, Zite,Feedly, Google+ or the other places that I browse headlines, Iadd it to my Pocket account. The advantage of doing this isnot only that I can read those articles at my leisure (such aswhen I’m on a train journey) but also that the app formatsthem in a way that’s actually readable.A while ago I added an article entitled Time Wars to myPocket account. It’s by ‘leading radical blogger and professorMark Fisher’ and is about the neo-liberal assault on time. Ifound it fascinating. You should go and read it.In the UK at the moment we have the situation where thegovernment has declared war on public sector pay andpensions. It’s dressed up to look like something different, ofcourse, but even a quick peek behind the curtains reveals howministers manipulate the levers in a futile attempt to maketaxpayer-funded institutions cost the government less. 249
  • 249. Unfortunately, the ideology of the Conservative government(let’s face it, the Liberals aren’t doing much despite theircoalition) is predicated upon a lazy idea of the market as thesolution to every problem facing society. Climate change?Carbon trading! NHS costs rising? Bring in private providers!Educational ‘standards’ not improving fast enough? De-regulate everything!The logic of Capital is everywhere. One very prominent andobvious effect of this is the increasingly casualised andtemporary jobs on offer. Who has a permanent job with aguaranteed final salary pension these days? Which of usspend more than five years with the same employer? Whereare the ‘good’ jobs (the ones that my Grandmother talksabout) for graduates? At the most simple level, precarity is one consequence of the “post-Fordist” restructuring of work that began in the late 1970s: the turn away from fixed, permanent jobs to ways of working that are increasingly casualised. Yet even those within relatively stable forms of employment are not immune from precocity. Many workers now have to periodically revalidate their status via systems of “continuous professional development”; almost all work, no matter how menial, involves self-surveillance systems in which the worker is required to assess their own performance. Pay is increasingly correlated to output, albeit an output that is no longer easily measurable in material terms.Of course, there are massive benefits to the casualisation oflabour. For example, I now work variable hours from home aspart of a team that spans at least five timezones. I get tochoose when to take my holidays. My performance is basedupon my output rather than the number of hours I spend atmy desk. 250
  • 250. But, there’s a creeping performative element to all of this.When you can work any time of the day, it’s tempting to work  more, not less – especially when you’re dealing with thingsyou’re interested in. I’m fortunate in that I work for Mozilla,whose politics and communitarian approach correlatestrongly with my own. But if I didn’t work for a non-profit (or aforward-thinking organisation such as Valve) then I think I’dbe looking over my shoulder all the time. Self-regulation andcensorship, as George Orwell showed in 1984 is regulationand censorship of the worst kind.The casualisation of labour is great for those working in whatis loosely (and imprecisely) defined as ‘the knowledgeeconomy’. Give me a laptop and an internet connection and Ican work anywhere. Others, however, depend upon beingphysically co-located with others to earn their money. Whilstthe uncertainty that goes hand-in-hand with casualisation isgreat for those working in the knowledge economy, it’s adefinite downside to those who can’t decide where and whenthey’re going to work. In fact, all they get is the downside, theuncertainty.Uncertainty is a negative side effect that some of us arewilling to live with because of the positives on the flip side ofthe coin. But that flip side largely doesn’t exist for those whorely on physical co-location to do their jobs. I’m thinkingteachers. I’m thinking doctors and nurses and hospital staff.I’m thinking pretty much every job in the public sector. Thesearen’t occupations that we should be looking to casualise: weshould be making people in these positions feel more secure,not less: The neoliberal attacks on public services, welfare programmes and trade unions mean that we are increasingly living in a world deprived of security or solidarity. The consequence of the normalisation of uncertainty is a permanent state of low- 251
  • 251. level panic. Fear, which attaches to particular objects, is replaced by a more generalised anxiety, a constant twitching, an inability to settle.Everything that can be outsourced to the market in our bravenew Big Society is packaged up and sold to the highest bidder.Witness the G4S Olympic security debacle31 , for example. Atthe same time, training and career development is alsooutsourced to the market. Instead of taxpayer-fundedinstitutions such as hospitals and schools developing andkeeping experienced, knowledgeable staff we’re increasinglyfaced with uncertain, temporary workers representing third-party organisations. Any ‘innovation’ within suchorganisations by necessity has to be top-down, as themechanisms for grassroots innovation are stymied by HRpractices: The reality, however, is that innovation requires certain forms of stability. The disintegration of social democracy has had a dampening, rather than a dynamic, effect on culture in highly neoliberalized countries such as the UK. Frederic Jameson’s claims that late capitalist culture would be given over to pastiche and retrospection have turned out to be extraordinarily prophetic.I’m not arguing for full communism now. Nor am I advocating aKing Canute-style position against the incoming tide. What Iam questioning, however, is whether the logic of Capital andprivate enterprise should be applied to the institutions of ourstate. Some things, after all, are public goods.I’ll end where Mark Fisher’s article starts, commenting onlythat we live in an increasingly polarised society where the31 252
  • 252. haves get to choose what the have-nots get to do with theirtime: Time rather than money is the currency in the recent science fiction film In Time. At the age of 25, the citizens in the future world the film depicts are given only a year more to live. To survive any longer, they must earn extra time. The decadent rich have centuries of empty time available to fritter away, while the poor are always only days or hours away from death.Go and read the article.32 It’s worth it, trust me. Image CC BY-SA Mr. Theklan32 253
  • 253. On the mental cost of inventingnew categories.21st September 2012Now that I get Seth Godin‘s short, frequent, musings sentdirectly to my Pocket account I’m back to reading most ofwhat he writes.Recently, he wrote a post called I want to put you in acategory that resonated with me in terms of the Open Badgesevangelism I’ve been doing recently: When I meet you or your company or your product or your restaurant or your website, I desperately need to put it into an existing category, because the mental cost of inventing a new category for every new thing I see is too high. (my emphasis)In fact, given that I’ve spent most of my adult life evangelisingone thing or another, it really struck home.Godin’s insight that got me thinking about my current work ishis assertion that we should make it easy for people to 254
  • 254. categorise us and the work we do. What! But what I’ve gotsomething brand new and never-been-seen-before? Then youneed to be more careful. Why? The real danger is to bemiscategorised: “What is this thing? What are you like? Are you friend or foe, flake or leader, good deal or ripoff, easy or hard, important or not? Are you destined for the trusted category or the other one?”No matter who we’re dealing with, whether internally withinour organisations or externally to the rest of the world, Ithink it’s important to be aware of people’s existingcategories and work with them, rather than againstthem. Image CC BY ecokarenlee 255
  • 255. Blog redesign: October 2012edition30th September 2012I’ve felt for a while that I should make this blog better suitedto mobile interfaces and, in particular, touchscreen devices.This is known as responsive web design and I’ve beenparticularly impressed with Microsoft’s ‘Metro’ designlanguage33 leading to a tiled approach on Windowssmartphones. To my eyes it seems streets ahead of Apple’sskeuomorphism. 34Yesterday, when I was browsing architecture blogs and cameacross the Contemporist site, it reminded me of that clean,touchscreen-friendly approach:33 256
  • 256. I did something I always do when I see blog themes I like:right-clicked to ‘View Source’ as you can tell which blog themeis being used. Judging by the CSS it’s a custom job, meaning Icouldn’t simply download the same theme.That was a shame, but it spurred me on to look for Metro-inspired blog themes. I was looking for something with a tiled,fairly squarish look but that didn’t scream Microsoft. Beautifulthough it is, the Subway WordPress theme (from €39) was outof the question. I’d have looked like a Microsoft fanboi:I also found the MetroStyle theme ($45), which I rejected forhaving too many boxes at the top: 257
  • 257. I downloaded and installed the WP Metro theme (£FREE), but Ihad trouble making it look decent with my content:In the end, after considering signing up to a course to get theAnaximander theme, I decided to pay $35 for a WordPresstheme entitled Metro: 258
  • 258. 259
  • 259. Like many premium themes it comes with an extremely easy-to-use configuration dashboard in addition to the usualWordPress options. Nevertheless, old habits die hard and Idelved into the CSS to tinker about a bit!I hope you like what you see, and if you want to see the‘responsiveness’ in action, either resize your browser windowor visit this site on a mobile device. It’s only my first attempt –I’ll be tinkering around making improvements here and thereover the next few weeks. 260
  • 260. A #shoffice update (October2012)10th October 2012Back in August I posted about how working from home withmy new job for the Mozilla Foundation means I needed adedicated office. It’s just too distracting working in the mainhouse when we’ve got two young children! I’m calling it a‘shoffice’ as it’s a shed as far as planning regulations go (no-one’s sleeping in there) but an office as far as I’mconcerned. :-)Since August local architect Mark Starford has been drawingup draft plans from the detailed measurements he took onthat sunny day. I’m delighted Mark’s agreed to allow me toshare the drawings here under a Creative Commons BY-NC-SA license. I’ve also introduced him to the delights of Pinterestvia my Architecture & Design board. It’s useful to have a‘mood board’ as it allows others to see the kinds of things youlike by referencing extant things!Below are the options Hannah, my wife, and I like so far. Markgave us three options for the path and way down to the office.I’ve included the ‘dogleg’ version. We’re not so keen on theprotruding skylight but are definitely in favour of getting asmuch north-facing light in as possible. Mark informed us thatartists tend to favour this kind of light as it’s more constantand avoids the ‘hard light’ that distracts me when I work.We definitely like the freestanding canopy-style protrudingroof to shelter the stairs and we’re also thinking aboutpotentially including an additional way to get down to thedecking area. Hannah doesn’t want the decking to be my‘outside office space’ and I can see her point. We’re also still 261
  • 261. thinking about the placement and shape of the windows tothe west side (we don’t want any on the south side). 262
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  • 263. If you’re struggling to understand how this works, it mighthelp to know that our garden would be pretty much on a 45-degree slope if it wasn’t for a concrete ‘bunker’ under thepatio. Also, the fence to the rear of our property drops downdramatically to a much lower garden level for our neighbours. 264
  • 264. #BelshawBlackOps12 hasstarted – see you in 2013!1st December 2012I’m composing this sitting cross-legged with my back to thewall in a hotel room in Porto. There’s an occasional gentlebreeze that drifts through the open window that slightly chillsthe back of my neck. I expected Portugal to be warmer forsome reason.The cacophony of seagulls behind outside fades into thebackground as the sound of church bells fills the air. Anearlier glance out of the window showed people getting readyfor the day. They take for granted the magnificent, tallbuildings with tiled facades; it’s no wonder the centre of Portois a UNESCO World Heritage site.I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’m going to spend theentire month of December being a lot more analogue. I’mreally looking forward to spending that time increasing mymindfulness. I’ll still be performing my normal work functionsfor Mozilla, but will tend towards paper to get things done. 265
  • 265. Meanwhile, I’ll not be using technology for personalcommunications.This means: • I’m not looking at or responding to personal emails • I won’t be active on social networks like Twitter or Google+ • No new blog posts or weekly newsletters in DecemberI intend to spend time with my family and read books thathave been recommended to me. This digital hiatus issomething I’ve done for the past couple of years and wouldhighly recommend to anyone. At a time when I’m feelingslightly weary and cynical about the world it’s a period ofrejuvenation that allows me to start the New Year with abang.See you in 2013! Image CC BY NASA Goddard Photo and Video 266