Real Life has greater bandwidth

The first person I heard say this was musician, artist and educator: Bobbie Gardner. “Real life has greater bandwidth” she said and then waited for me to take in her words of awesome wisdom.

It has a phrase that has stuck with me, so much so that it has become one of my pub theories. Get me in a pub, give me a pint of beer, mention social media and I’m bound to utter those words. I really am terribly predictable.

It means a lot to me, because sometimes I have got so much into social media that I have become almost dependent on seeing the next tweet in which I’m mentioned, or yearning for someone to comment on my blog.

But the thing is, real life has greater bandwidth.

You gain things from Twitter, from Facebook, from blogging, but you can’t gain as much as you can from sitting with someone and talking. Or standing in stadium and watching. Or walking somewhere in the rain.

On Twitter, you can’t smell the coffee. On Facebook, you can’t appreciate the subtle complexities of an Islay malt. And when you receive a comment on a blog, you can’t see the ironic smile, or the encouraging eyes, or the slightly disappointed frown.

I’m trying to blog more this year, to help me reflect on things I believe and things I’m trying to learn. But I’ve got to remember that real life has greater bandwidth: sometimes it is more important to take in the view than to take a photograph it.

To help me, I’m using scheduling on my WordPress site. This means I can post things on different days, but write them all at once if I want. Right now, it is Wednesday, but I know this post won’t go live until I’m just brewing my first coffee in my Bialletti on Saturday morning.

I’m also planning not to broadcast at all on Sundays. Sundays are going to be a social media Sabbath for me. Time to go to church, spend time with family and generally not look at too many screens.

What is blocking your blogging?

I’m not very good with New Year’s resolutions. Like many, I have the tendency to make them and break them within the same week. New Year’s blogging resolutions are no exception. In the past I have decided that I’ll write this much or that much each week and have invariably failed before January is out.

This year however, partly spurred on by a conversation with Oliver Quinlan, I’ve decided to do things slightly differently: I’m going to worry about quality less.

I have realised that one of things that is blocking my blogging, aside from being over-tired and over-busy, is the desire to write the perfect post. I want to put it all together – educational theory with my experience and make it really up-to-date. I want it to be critically acclaimed so loads of people tweet it or re-blog it.

And I’ve realised that I’ve been blogging for the wrong reasons.

Oliver pointed out that there seem to be less people just writing about what they do: their day-in, day-out experience. And I agree, or maybe I choose not to read those people who are blogging about the normal stuff. Either way, for me the realisation is that I’m trying to blog like an educational theorist, when I’m actually I’m just a Deputy Head, trying my best and I need to write about that.

For me, the process of blogging is more important than the outcome. Writing gives me valuable time and space for reflection. The implication being that the audience I am writing for is mainly me – but that’s OK, especially if doing that helps me be a better Deputy Head.

So no longer will fear of failure staunch my blogging flow. I’m going to write. It might not be perfect, but I’m going to write.

Chromebooks – they’re all about battery life

Last week pretty much all the work in Year 6 was done using Chromebooks.

Year 6 were documenting our school’s sports week, that we dubbed unofficially the Pagalympics. You can read about what happened at our school blog – paganelschool.com/blog – all the posts written there by children.

The idea of the week was that the rest of the school would engage in fun-filled workshops themed around the Olympics – some making puppets for the Olympic torch relay, which passed through Birmingham at the weekend, others making videos about the Olympic mascots, yet more taking part in a Decathlon – learning different events and competing against each other. Meanwhile, Year 6 were the journalists – it was there to job to find out what each group was doing, what the participants were learning and so on.

During the week the Year 6 children used the WordPress interface on the school’s self-hosted blog to write about what happened . They interviewed people about the events straight into Aviary – which contains a cloud-based audio editor. They uploaded audio into Audioboo and embedded this content into their posts. They took pictures, uploaded them to Picasa and embedded them into the blog. Somee made videos of what happened, which they edited in Camtasia.

Of these things only the video editing was done with no use of the Chromebooks. Everything else was done using Chromebooks in some way – using the Chromebooks internal microphone to record straight into Aviary or uploading pictures using the SD card slot.

The children learnt a lot from the week – one of the main things being the limitations of the current wifi system. The access points, scattered around the school would only allow three or four Chromebooks to get on with audio editing – anymore and the bandwidth would run out and nothing would happen. They also learned that they could only work so far onto the field before they couldn’t access the internet anymore. “You’ve got to write your blog this side of the big tree” one child told me.

That’s partly why I’m in the process of upgrading our wifi to a much faster system using Meraki – a cloud-based wifi management system that should increase the bandwidth of our access points by tenfold.

However the reason that the week worked above all was the battery life of the Chromebooks. It seems a minor consideration, but the fact that they last for 8 hours means that they last for a full school day –  a child can take a Chromebook in arm, walk about all over the school, use it whenever they notice something interesting and it never runs out.

I think this has got to be the overriding USP for primary schools with these kinds of devices, whether they be iPads, Android tablets, Chromebooks or whatever. They must last a full day. I know colleagues have had the same experience with iPads – whatever you make them do, they last all day and you just can’t beat that. All teachers know that one of the biggest drains on lesson time is sharpening the pencils – people develop all sorts of systems for it – monitors, electric sharpeners and the like – having sharpened pencils makes such a difference to lessons where drawing or writing happens. Similarly for tech-devices – having to charge them at dinner time is just a no go.

And that’s why, despite the fact that a newer, faster Chromebook is now out (the Samsung 550), I won’t be upgrading to that model, because it only guarantees 6 hours battery life. I can imagine that some places need them – maybe when you come on to doing cloud-based video editing or 3D modelling and you need the speed, but for my purposes, battery life is the winner.

So next time your looking for shiny mobile technology, make sure you keep the battery life in the back of your mind.

Vagueness, Titles and an Inability to get to the Point.

Please take this post in the manner it was written – with a generous pinch of sugar and probably a substantial spoonful of sugar too.

 

Have you noticed the recent trend for titles of blog posts. There seem to be a plethora of posts written with this three subject pattern: “Blah blah, Blah blah and Blah-bla-blah Blah

 

On my reader at the moment there’s three such articles I’m yet to read:

 

 

At least 3 or 4 more have passed me by on Tweetdeck today.

 

And then to my shock I notice one on my own blog:
And I suppose that’s kind of what blogging is. It’s exploring ideas, linking them, reflecting on what you do using the written word to do so. So there’s probably a natural inability to get to the point (and if you’ve ever read many of my posts you’ll definitely agree). That’s because bloggers are explorers, not journalists. We connect things, we don’t define them.

 

But I still think there’s a call on me as an educator to use words precisely. While I jokingly reflect on blog titles, I rail against the inaccurate use of words in pairs. You hear them all the time in schools – ‘leadership and management‘; ‘monitoring and evaluation‘. I always check myself when I hear myself say such things because I know that when I do I’m being vague.

 

Why use two words when you could use one?

 

Maybe sometimes we’re just filling up the space.

 

Oh dear, is this what I’ve just done. Being ‘meta’ or navel-gazing. It’s the same difference.

Off the Grid

I’ve been writing many posts recently ‘off the grid’. Disconnected from both wifi and mobile signal at Lee Abbey in Devon. Apparently, if I walked to the top of the hill I could pick up a faint signal, but it would be a lot of effort for not much gain.* There seem to be both advantages and disadvantages to this.

 

Advantages 

 

There is a certain clarity of thought gained through being here. And I think that is partly down to cutting down distractions – such as not being able to access e-mail, Twitter, text and the like. Since becoming a GCT, my e-mails have rocketed and even though many of them aren’t relevant to me, it still takes a certain amount of effort to process the information.

 

Another reason for the clarity of thought is the place itself. It is beautiful. The curves of the tree lines on the hills, the slope down to the bay and the arc of the bay itself. I’m sure there’s something on Maslow’s heirarchy about that.

 

Disadvantages 

 

I am used to checking things that I’m not too sure of, and my favourite method is Google. For example, when I referred to Maslow’s Heirarchy in the previous paragraph, I would have liked to check that my guess was correct and maybe provide some helpful image to explain what I meant. But Maslow’s Heirarchy is one of those things that I’m not completely sure about.

 

Another downside is being disconnected from my PLN. My PLN, particularly on Twitter, has become increasingly inspiring over recent months – not because of any radical changes to personnel, but more because I’ve become a better listener. Posts and tweets from my PLN have inspired me to think new thoughts and write new stuff. Probably 75% of what I blog about is inspired directly by other people’s posts.

 

Impact 

 

How will I post this post? It’s written now. Will I hit the e-mail button so if gets posted as soon as I get back in range? Or will I wait until I get home, check out the Maslow’s heirarchy thing, add a few appropriate images of the bay I talked about? What’s more important to me, the process or the product? How many times should I re-draft a blog post?

 

*that’s a joke for electrical engineers.

Leaps in technology

Some of us are a bit slow in the uptake.

We’re teachers.

We’re a bit slow because we’re so busy doing what we think we should be doing that we don’t take time to make our lives easier.

If only we spent a few moments finding the things that would make our lives easier, then we’d be less busy and teach better.

The pipe is more important than the contents of the pipe.

Today I made my life a bit easier. I learnt how to do Twitter. It took me 10 minutes. Then I learnt how to e-mail remotely into my blog. I’m doing that now from my phone.

Leaps forward in technology – for me anyway…

Starting in one place

I don’t if there’s a word for an ineffective blogger.

 

I found it interesting to see a post published way back in 2007 on ReviewSaurus that said ineffective bloggers may post 4 times in a day and then not at all for 5 days: I haven’t written anything since September 2009. Whoops.

 

Anyway having heard Ewan McIntosh speak at the Creative Partnerships conference yesterday, I have resolved to get back on the blogging bus and keep this thing going. I think one of my problems so far is that I’ve tried to keep more than one blog going at the same time – one for my leadership pathways work, one for my creative partnerships work, another one for the way creative partnerships are working with us here at Paganel Primary School. It’s all too much. I need one place to log stuff, and this here is the place.

 

It’s a bit like a river. That’s my metaphor of choice. A river can wind in many directions, cut though valleys and meander across plains. But it’s still just one river. The river is my learning about education. At the moment it includes:

  • creativity, particularly the subsets of co-construction and reflection;
  • maths with an emphasis on the MAST programme of which I am a part;
  • ICT as I have a keen interest in the kind of skills that will enable learners to adapt easily to new technologies;
  • leadership – because I believe that many outmoded models of leadership still exist in schools.

Having started in this place I still need to refer to the previous places.

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These include my leadership pathways blog, where I tried to reflect some learning from the leadership pathways program, my creative partnerships blog, begun in 2008 when we (Paganel Primary School) begin our interaction with the Creative Partnerships organisations as a ‘Change School’ and my change Paganel blog which began as an exercise in sharing information between creative partners of Paganel Primary School and never really got off the ground.

Another principle of effective blogging (according to ReviewSaurus) is that you write in a niche. I suppose my niche is reasonably broad at the moment – creativity, maths, ICT and leadership in education, but at least it starts in one place. I’m looking forward to seeing the map of the river unfold.