Michael Fullan: Drivers

Recently my colleagues and I read Michael Fullan’s Choosing the Wrong Drivers for Whole School Reform and I find myself thinking about it often. Specifically, Fullan states that the right drivers must,

  1. foster intrinsic motivation of teachers and students;
  2. engage educators and students in continuous improvement of instruction and learning;
  3. inspire collective or team work
  4. affect all teachers and students

I’ve been thinking of these as I assess what I do in my practice. If find them a useful mental checklist.

Chris Breen on MacWorld: Parenting and Ignore No More

Recently, I wrote about helping kids manage their digital devices. Since then I have listened to Chris Breen on the MacWorld Podcast talk about a new Android app called Ignore No More. I thought his views were balanced and worth sharing here. I encourage you to listen to the podcast in it’s entirety but here are his thoughts in a nutshell:

  • he doesn’t feel an app like Ignore No More is necessary for most families–nothing beats good parenting
  • It’s better to talk to your kids about their tech use than use an app like this
  • if a child is distracted by technology, have the child do his/her homework in the room where the parent is
  • have a child put his/her phone away during times that it’s not needed or is potentially distracting i.e. homework or family time
  • active parenting is better than imposing a technical fix to a situation in most circumstances
  • Ignore No More may be helpful in extreme circumstances but he’s hopeful that good parenting skills will be sufficient for most people

He starts talking about the app at 18:33
His views about parenting and use of Ignore No More start around 23:40

Office 365 Update

The EdTech Facilitators all joined our new pilot site. It went well. It takes a little time to get used to the way Microsoft lays things out and their vocabulary for things. I am used to working in WordPress so it takes a little while to learn the terms Microsoft uses to do the things I am used to in WordPress.

The impression so far is good. We have created and edited some Word documents collaboratively. The web interface is good and responsive. We were able to have four people editing a Word document simultaneously without any glitches.

We are still getting used to where the documents are stored. They can be saved to our team’s site or in an individual’s OneDrive and shared from there. We still need to work out the best way for sharing of documents.

Trialing Office 365 for Education

We started testing Office 365 for Education this week. Reps from Microsoft met with us. As I mentioned in my previous post, we have outlined our needs as:

  • something highly collaborative
  • individual and team document management
  • shared word processor, spreadsheet etc
  • a tool that allows for a high level of user autonomy

They set up a trial site for us with an Office 365 for Education account. Over the next couple of weeks I will try to post about our experiences.


  • Office 365 for education has not launched yet in China. They didn’t give us a firm date for the launch but they expect it to be Nov 2014
  • currently the servers for Office 365 are in Hong Kong and Singapore. When it launches in China they will be in Beijing and Shanghai. Office 365 will not be hosted by Microsoft but by a partner company.

Finding Alternative to Google Apps for Education

For several years now we have been looking for a space that students and teachers can work collaboratively. It’s a challenge here in China. As schools outside of China have adopted Google Apps for Education we’ve had to watch from the sidelines. It’s an unenviable position to be in. Sometimes it feels that others are moving ahead and we’re stuck unable to give the students the collaborative experiences they need and unable to work in an efficient way ourselves.

Recently we started looking at GAE alternatives and have identified the following:

We have outlined our needs as:

  • something highly collaborative
  • individual and team document management
  • shared word processor, spreadsheet etc
  • a tool that allows for a high level of user autonomy

Helping Kids Manage Their Gadgets

It’s the start of a new school year. I love the start of each year. Though I’ve been through this many times before, it’s all new for the kids. Each year holds so much promise.

Each year we welcome new students to our school and hand them a MacBook to use as part of their learning. The school owns the MacBooks but basically it’s the student’s. He or she has almost complete control of the machine. I encourage them to take them and make them their “learning device.” Of course they use it for much more than just school stuff but that’s okay. That’s fine as long as what they do does not get in the way of their learning.

Kids need to learn to manage digital devices. It doesn’t matter if the school gives them a laptop or they have one from home or they have an iPhone or iPad. They need to learn to deal with the pull devices have on their attention. That’s where we as teachers and parents come in. We have a number of parent coffees and parent workshops on “managing devices” but here are the main ideas in a nutshell–some simple things to keep in mind when teaching kids to manage digital devices:

  • Kids need to learn to manage their attention. Gadgets aren’t going away. They need to pay attention to their intention when they turn on their gadgets.
  • Parenting isn’t easy. It’s a full time commitment.
  • Families need to have clear and fair expectations for tech use in their home.
  • When your child doesn’t meet your expectations back them up with action. The action should be fair and consistent. It doesn’t need to be harsh but it needs to be there.

(Re)defining multimedia journalism

In my surfing last night I came across (Re)defining multimedia journalism. It explains how “multimedia” is more than just video. It’s the blending of text, graphics, video and coding to tell “a story.”
Pretty amazing ways to “tell a story.” Someone with all of these multimedia skills will be able to help in a variety of fields–journalism, business or education.


The Great Selfie Challenge

In honour of “selfie” being named word of the year by the Oxford dictionary I’ve started The Great Selfie Challenge in my middle school. The challenge runs over the school’s winter break. The challenge is to post up to one selfie a day of oneself doing something different—something interesting.

Inspiration came from a couple of different places. Of course the obvious one being Oxford Dictionary’s announcement. The second inspiration came when listening to the Spark podcast from CBC. The host—Nora Young—discussed the announcement by the Oxford dictionary with Professor Aimee Morrison and they discussed how bad selfies are. Young commented that they are usually taken by teenage girls in some kind of duck face pose. She further commented that the photos are just bad. They are poorly composed, poorly lit or blurry—all corrections that can be taught and I believe should be basic skills that all kids have.

Around this time a came across An Instagram Short Film by Thomas Jullien on Vimeo. He made the video entirely by stitching together photos random strangers posted to Instagram. He compiled others’s photos into a stop motion travel video. It got me thinking about travel and how my students are spread around the globe during our winter vacation.

The final bit of inspiration comes from a workshop I offer with the middle school counsellors at my school. We call it Parenting in the Digital Age. It is a series of four, one hour sessions offered over the month of October. Some parents start the sessions wanting a technical fix for the stresses technology can place on the family. By the end of the Workshop most people realise that there is no silver bullet, that there is no easy technical fix. They realise that teaching their children how to live with and manage the technology in their lives requires good parenting skills and the willingness to work at it. Also, one of the things we encourage parents to do is to get involved in their child’s technology use—to learn with them, to try things out. So rather than try to stop kids from taking selfies we decided to embrace them, to teach them how to take a good selfie and give them a place to put their selfies. The Great Selfie Challenge was born.

Spark 195: Pagination, Education, Participation

In episode 195 of Spark, Nora Young moderates a panel discussing 21st Century Education. The panel features John Seely Brown, Michael Fullan, Donna Fry and Jaime Casap. It summarizes some of the current thinking on the future of technology and education. It’s forward thinking without being too “out there.”

The discussion starts at the 11:55 mark and runs for for about 13 minutes.