Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Path to Quality

Yeah, this is a big question and I love how she wanders through it, a personal feldgang that keeps approaching the issue from lots of angles, mostly asymptotically--my favorite oblique stance.
b4f181_72fa33d57494418da77bd543d7dd2032~
I’m undergoing a fundamental change in thinking about a lot of things right now, and one of those is how I manage my personal knowledge. I am a very good researcher and acquirer of information, but over the past two years I’ve stressed over finding a good way to curate all the content I amass. This is a weak point in my skills. As I’ve tried to find a way of capturing, creating/co-creating, saving, internalizing, reflecting all this information, it has occurred to me that I need to stop and think about where all of this is taking me, and where I really want to go. I suspect that ultimately these two destinations are not the same. It’s one thing to allow circumstances to sweep me up into a new way of thinking and/or behaving, but quite another to carefully craft a path for my mind, career, and even feet, to follow.
"SOMEBODY has to manage all this mess I’m creating"
My biggest sticking point is the sheer volume of information I find interesting. I do a lot of rabbit-holing and squirrel-chasing down paths that take me away from the original intent of my research and reading because I’m interested in SO MANY THINGS. I have always envied people who are more single-minded than myself, while simultaneously speculating on how flat their existence might be. I’m sure they look at me and wonder how I ever get anything done and cringe at the thought of how chaotic my brain must be (my favorite quote from the first Avengers movie always comes to mind: “That guy’s brain is a bag of cats. You can SMELL crazy on him.”). This broad range of interest has been known to turn me into a feckless wanderer, the thought of which initially brings me great joy when I think about all the freedom that gives me, and then crashes me back to the reality that SOMEBODY has to manage all this mess I’m creating.
During a Twitter chat a few weeks back I started thinking about how to start dealing with my tendency toward a cluttered mind. This is the aftermath of a major house move that involves a downsize of gargantuan proportions (from 2300 square feet to 700—don’t panic! we have an attic, a basement and plenty of garage space). As I’m examining basically everything I own to decide if I should keep things to use, keep things for the future, keep things to cherish, or get rid of things entirely, I find myself thinking in terms of a lot more than just my physical surroundings. What about my virtual house? It’s pretty much a hoarder’s den. This brings me to the idea of quality vs. quantity.
Just start from today
When it comes to personal knowlege management, I tend to want ‘all the things’ instead of carefully selecting what best applies to me and my current situation; probably because I very naively think I will eventually get around to reading/using/needing whatever all that extra stuff is. In reality, it’s saved somewhere, mostly unindexed and of no use to me whatsoever in its current form. The thought of actually taking the time to sort, clean up, and categorize all those articles and notes is daunting. If they were physical copies I could better keep them in check, but mostly they’re virtual—articles I’ve saved, examples of forms, snippets of blogs (or whole blogs), .jpgs and .gifs, lists of even more websites that contain even more stuff of interest to my ‘bag of cats’—which makes them far too easy to hoard. I’d need to take all my vacation time to curate it all. I’ve told myself many times to start from today--just start from today—and not to worry about all the virtual piles in the corners of my house. Maybe if I just started from today I would develop some discipline and become a guru of PKM.
Now that you’ve had a good laugh, get off the floor and sit back down in your chair (I’m sure your cat will come out from under the couch again soon) and stick with me for just a few more moments.
What I've begun to realize is that what I really need to do isn’t to organize what I have (yet), but to first choose my path. Where do I want to go? Who do I want to be? And what will get me from here—which isn’t all that terrible except for those piles of virtual junk in the corners—to where I want to be tomorrow? Next week? Next month? This time next year? Five years hence? Ultimately, the answers to all of these questions will take me toward a more focused approach to my PKM, and ultimately my career. Once I’ve figured out the goal (the real goal, not the pie-in-the-sky goal, or the dead boring practical goal, but the REAL GOAL) then I will more naturally select quality over quantity. If I downsize my expectations, my hopes and my dreams, I can distill them into an attainable and satisfying draught that will sustain me on the path toward my future. Just like I don’t need seven living room chairs in my 125 square foot living room, I don’t need to try to follow all of my interests to their conclusions. We all need a bit of a distraction now and then…
SQUIRREL!!
…but if I want to continue to grow in my profession I need to find real focus on a pathway that will lead me to my destination.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Dr. Amanda Visconti retweeted: What if we stopped trying to save so much digital shit? Big data is not just a huge fossil fuel suck, it's increasingly taking up land

A provocative, systems question. What if we stopped sending out so much signal? What if we rationed bandwidth? What if the carbon footprint of storage got so large that it became a national crisis? Any amount of added carbon now adds to the crisis, so this is not as crazy as it sounds.
8-RmjHoi_normal.jpg Flyover Easy
@eiratansey
What if we stopped trying to save so much digital shit? Big data is not just a huge fossil fuel suck, it's increasingly taking up land

Friday, June 30, 2017

Alex Smith’s Radio Ecoshock: A Complete Coverage Of My Work With Audio

Another podcast to consider. Carolyn Baker is a one-woman whirlwind of communication. She’s up-to-date on the news of the world, as she publishes her Daily News Digest. Carolyn is author or co-author of 11 books, has provided life-coaching for many, and leads workshops. Her motto is “Speaking Truth to Power”. From Boulder Colorado, it’s a treat to welcome Carolyn Baker back to Radio Ecoshock. Alex Smith devotes an entire page to covering my work

Friday, May 19, 2017

Flash Fiction Challenge: X Versus Z, Redux

Some fun?

Another classic challenge, of which I am a fan.

Way this works is, below you will find two tables — X and Y! — and you will pick (or randomly draw) from those tables. That will leave you with a set of X versus Y — and from there, you will write a piece of flash fiction based on that parameter set. You can even use the match up (SKELETONS VS. SCIENTISTS!) as the title to the work, or come up with a new title.

Length: ~2000 words

Due by: 5/26, Friday, noon EST

Post at your online space, link back here so all can read.

X

  1. Robots
  2. Vampires
  3. Monkeys
  4. Demons
  5. Pirates
  6. Kaiju
  7. Goblins
  8. Dragons
  9. Ghosts
  10. Gods
  11. Time Travelers
  12. Cops
  13. Librarians
  14. Bards
  15. Skeletons
  16. Interdimensional Floating Jellyfish Creatures
  17. Aliens
  18. Cats
  19. Werewolves
  20. Musicians

Y

  1. Zombies
  2. Monks
  3. Spiders
  4. Heroes
  5. Fairies
  6. Robots
  7. Assassins
  8. Mutants
  9. Cannibals
  10. Mermaids
  11. Scientists
  12. Evil
  13. Serial Killers
  14. Cultists
  15. George Washington
  16. Superheroes
  17. Artificial Intelligence
  18. Swamp Monsters
  19. Cheerleaders
  20. Elves

Thursday, May 04, 2017

Wemogee – Chat App Based Purely on Emojis

Classic example of 'what's good for the goose is good for the gander" thinking. Or in this case how 'emoji thinking' helps those with aphasia. Wemogee might just expand everyone's capacity for image thinking.

Yet another chat app has been made available for download, but unlike most regular chat apps, this particular one puts emojis to the forefront.

14 Google Hangouts Hidden Animated Emojis

14 Google Hangouts Hidden Animated Emojis

Google Hangouts is one of the best ways to continuously stay connected on smartphone and desktop either via…Read more

Developed by the Italian arm of Samsung, Wemogee is a chat app that is made to help people with aphasia communicate. What is aphasia you ask? Aphasia is a complex neurological disorder that is triggered by injury to the Broca and Wernicke areas of the brain.

Those affected by aphasia often suffer from difficulties relating to the production, comprehension and expression of speech.

expression of speech

The way Wemogee works is pretty straightforward: users will be able to chat with each other by selecting one of the more than 140 phrases that can be currently found in the app.

These phrases are depicted as emojis in Aphasic Mode, as well as standard text in Non-Aphasic Mode. To make finding for a particular phrase easier, all of the phrases have been sorted into six different categories.

non aphasic mode

On its own, Wemogee proves to be a rather easy to use chat app. The selection of phrases are large enough to carry out a simple conversation between two people. However, at the time of writing, Wemogee suffers from a weird bug that prevents the user from receiving an authorization SMS.

Seeing as an authorization SMS is needed to start using Wemogee, and so, not being able to receive said SMS means that you won’t be able to use it at all.

receive sms

Wemogee is now available for download on the Android Play Store. The app will also make its way to the Apple App Store sometime soon.

10 Chat Tools for Better Communication in Team Projects

10 Chat Tools for Better Communication in Team Projects

When building ideas together in a team environment you need a reliable means of communication. The people you…Read more

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Microsoft’s Academic 2.0 is Now Available in Preview Form

This is good news for those of us who want at least some competition with Google Scholar. If they stick with it, this might just do it. And by "they" I mean Microsoft. They have been even more fickle than Google about abandoning viable platforms. Check it. Use it. Let me know how well it works for you.

Some of you may remember Microsoft’s Academic Search, a research project and academic search engine that was discontinued in 2012. However, in March 2016, Microsoft brought back an updated version of the Academic Search system as a Bing-powered service.

Fast forward to April 2017, it appears that Microsoft has big plans for this academia-centric search engine as the company has launched Microsoft Academic 2.0 in preview form, allowing everyone to have a taste of what the system may offer when the full version is made available.

100+ Alternative Search Engines You Should Know

100+ Alternative Search Engines You Should Know

If someone asks you, off the top of your head, what search engines you use or know off,…Read more

At the core of Microsoft Academic 2.0 sits the updated version of the Academic Search system. As the name implies, this system is a search engine that is tailored to look for academia-related content. The content that can be found via this search engine includes academic journals, thesis and conferences.

While the search engine itself will assist you in pulling up publications that are related to your field of interest, the Academic Search system can accommodate a wide variety of parameters.

For example, you could use the search engine to search for authors or even educational institutions. Also, depending on the topic that you’ve searched for, the results that return could include works that were first published in the 18th century or older.

search options

So what else does Microsoft Academic 2.0 apart from the Academic Search system? For starters, Microsoft Academic 2.0 functions more like a full-fledged educational ecosystem. Unlike Academic Search, which is purely a search engine, Microsoft Academic 2.0 has some features that appear to be inspired from social networking services.

For starters, Microsoft has implemented a Follow button on all of the topics that can be found on the search engine. This feature will prove to be useful for those who wish to be updated on a specific topic, author or organization on a regular basis, allowing them to gain access to the latest materials without needing to search for it.

The updated contents will be made available on the user’s dashboard for easy access.

latest materials

As for those who have published journals or theses online, Microsoft has also provided tools that would allow a user or organization to claim a paper, journal, conference or even an author as their own.

user profile

In its current form, Microsoft Academic 2.0 is still very much a work in progress. While the search engine part of the Academic 2.0 runs pretty smoothly, the user experience part of the system is still very much barebones and may not function properly at times.

While it is way too early to tell if Academic 2.0 will manage to be the research hub that Microsoft envisions it to be, there is no denying that Academic 2.0 could potentially be useful for those who are involved in academia.

Libraries.io – Open Source Search Engine For Developers

Libraries.io – Open Source Search Engine For Developers

There are millions of open source projects online with new ones being launched every day. Developers from all…Read more

Cognitive Benefits of Healthy Buildings

This is good news for those of us who want at least some competition with Google Scholar. If they stick with it, this might just do it. And by "they" I mean Microsoft. They have been even more fickle than Google about abandoning viable platforms. Check it. Use it. Let me know how well it works for you.

Oset Babur in Harvard Magazine:

MJ17_art_Page_017_Image_0002Imagine a business that creates a perfectly energy-efficient environment by adjusting ventilation rates in its workplace. On paper, the outcome would seem overwhelmingly positive: fewer greenhouse-gas emissions to the environment and lowered costs to the business. It’s an idyllic scenario, except for what Joseph Allen and his team at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health (HSPH) describe as the potentially serious human cost: workers with chronic migraines, nausea, fatigue, and difficulty focusing. Fortunately, these side effects are avoidable.

“The truth is, we absolutely can have buildings that are both energy-efficient and healthy,” says Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science. In 2015, his team published a two-part study that quantified the cognitive benefits of improved environmental conditions for workers. The first phase took place in the Syracuse University Center for Excellence, where knowledge workers, such as architects and engineers, went about their regular workdays as Allen and his team manipulated environmental factors. “We weren’t looking to test an unattainable, dream-state workplace. We wanted to test scenarios and conditions that would be possible to replicate,” he explains. They adjusted ventilation rates, carbon dioxide levels, and the quantity of airborne VOCs (volatile organic chemical compounds that are emitted by common objects such as desk chairs and white boards). At the end of each day, the team asked workers to complete cognitive-function assessments in nine key areas, including crisis response, decisionmaking, and strategy. “We saw pretty dramatic effects,” he reports: workers in optimized environments scored 131 percent better in crisis-response questions, 299 percent better on information usage, and 288 percent higher in strategy.

More here.

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Saturday, April 29, 2017

5 Stages of Workplace Learning (Revisited in 2017)

Love this graphic.

5stages1.jpg

New article in the Modern Workplace Learning Magazine “In this article I take a look at how workplace learning has changed over the last 10+ years and its necessary future direction. In May 2010 I posted a diagram I had created that showed what I considered to be the 5 stages of …

Running the PISA race

I agree with much that is in here, but when I get to the end and read the wrapup, I despair: "The global education race presents an important challenge to policy makers and educators alike: to develop informed communities willing and able to engage in discussion of how educational measurement, including system-level measurement tools, can be judiciously used to inform policy and practice. The kind of shift they suggest is a challenge. It will require ministers, media and educators to take a non-divisive, sense-making and collaborative approach of seeking to understand, and of deep, thoughtful engagement with data and with one another." This level of abstraction just makes me want to care less and less and less. I remember feeling like this when I was in grad school, alone and unhopeful with big existential 'why' spraypainted on my forehead as I looked in the mirror.

The education culture of performativity is wrapped up in notions of measurement. How do we measure student success, teacher performance, effective school leadership, and successful education policy? How do we know which school systems are successful and why they are successful? How can we tease out and understand causes of performance, such as the influence of social and economic factors, the system, the school, and the teacher? These are perennial education questions, and ones which continue to become more and more important in a globalised world in which countries, schools, and teachers can be compared, and in which there is an ever-increasing weight of accountability.

Standardised testing is a central issue in this neoliberal education context. Individual schools have their own approaches to measurement, such as the one I describe in this blog post. In Australia we have NAPLAN and WACE. There is currently talk of a national Phonics Check in the early years, such as that used in the UK. Internationally we have TIMSS, PIRLS and PISA.

Steven Lewis and Anna Hogan have shown how oversimplified reports of international testing measures can contribute to oversimplified ‘fast policy’. As Marten Koomen points out, systems should respond to international testing measures but these systems are complex. Stewart Riddle and Bob Lingard wrote that looking at a single country’s PISA ranking is useless; rather we need to carefully disaggregate the data and consider social and economic factors, and differences between states, schools and groups.

This week I received in the mail a copy of new book The global education race: Taking the measure of PISA and international testing, by Sam Sellar, Greg Thompson and David Rutkowski. (Full disclosure: I got a complimentary copy.) It is a pocket rocket at about A5 size and 99 pages. In the Foreword, David Berliner and Pasi Sahlberg question the value often ascribed to PISA, noting that PISA tests are linked to the social conditions as well as school systems and that “when the race to the top gets tougher … curriculum narrows and children suffer” (p.ix).

The book demystifies the workings of PISA, using the extended metaphor of the ‘race’ as a way to make sense of what PISA is, how it works, how it might be used, and how it shouldn’t be used. The authors make their explanations accessible without ignoring the complexities of standardised international testing on a large scale. The book is at once matter of fact and told with a wry sense of humour (as a reader I’m a sucker for references to Monty Python and 1980s arcade games). The book rails against the commodification of simple solutions to solve complex problems. As I explored satirically in this He-Man inspired post (speaking of 80s references) there are plenty of edu salespeople hoping to profit from the pressures of accountability pressing in on schools and teachers. This book, however, is about helping those on the ground to understand the complexities, inner workings and possibilities of PISA.

What sets Sellar, Thompson and Rutkowski’s book apart from other literature is its ability to engage with complexity in an accessible way; to explain clearly without simplifying; and to avoid binaries and polarising divides while acknowledging differing perspectives. They note, for instance, that PISA has been innovative, carefully developed, and judiciously administered, but that such a big project will undoubtably suffer from technical issues and limitations.  They note that PISA is an assessment of select content areas of one sample on one day, but also argue that transparent standardised tests like PISA can be a useful tool for understanding social systems. They explain validity in understandable ways and show how countries can use PISA data responsibly.

The international examples help the book to be relevant to people in OECD countries around the world. For Australian readers like myself there are some gems, such as that PISA performance has become an end in itself, evidenced by the national target of improving Australia’s PISA ranking by 2025 (articulated in the 2013 Education Act). The authors call this move “astounding”. Their tongues are firmly in their cheeks when they state on page 76 that: “The aim of reversing the trend of declining PISA scores seems to be to improve PISA scores through intensifying those policies that have not worked so far. A bold move.” A bold move, indeed, and one that Simon Birmingham might want to reconsider.

The authors also recognise the desire of policy makers, educators and the media to understand PISA and to glean the most important messages it can tell us. They warn, however, about over-attribution of causality, when correlations become causal claims, pointing to the way the media and policy makers often use PISA to point to particular factors as being the cause of high or declining PISA performance. I’ve written about the dangers of policy moves like performance pay for teachers, and the authors have warnings to offer their readers about the negative effects of pairing standardised testing with punitive accountability regimes, and of governments desperately scrambling to ‘win’ against other countries. Run your own race, they argue.

The global education race presents an important challenge to policy makers and educators alike: to develop informed communities willing and able to engage in discussion of how educational measurement, including system-level measurement tools, can be judiciously used to inform policy and practice. The kind of shift they suggest is a challenge. It will require ministers, media and educators to take a non-divisive, sense-making and collaborative approach of seeking to understand, and of deep, thoughtful engagement with data and with one another.

Less Common Villains

Too true. Do we all have villain schema in our heads, gears that automatically turn when the programs are executed? I sure hope not. Here's another great one from Tom Gauld: Common and Less Common Villains.

villains.jpg

Common Villains: nefarious lawyer, evil banker, loathsome industrialist, wicked scientist, depraved aristocrat, immoral journalist

Less Common Villains: monstrous fishmonger, malignant barista, fiendish librarian, diabolical ceramicist, treacherous auctioneer, deceitful zookeeper