Announcing the 2017 Sydney Google Innovator Academy

Innovator Academy

Certified Innovator Sydney

Back in April 2011 I was fortunate enough to be accepted into the Google Teacher Academy held in Sydney, Australia.  As part of this first Australian cohort, I was so excited to be part of this amazing team of educators from around the world and we spent two days deeply immersed in all sorts of Google nerdiness mixed with teaching inspiration. It was at this event that I saw a Chromebook for the first time, played with Android for the first time, learned about a bunch of new Google tools that I wasn’t really aware of, and most importantly, met an astoundingly talented group of educators who shared brilliant ideas about pushing education forward. To say that this event had an impact on my life would be a huge understatement. Becoming a Google Certified Teacher (now know as a Google Certified Innovator) was not only highly relevant to my work at school, it also opened up opportunities to do work with EdTechTeam, travel the world presenting at Summits and workshops, and eventually lead to my current role as their Director of Professional Learning.  So when I say that the Google Teacher Academy changed my life, I’m not exaggerating at all.

So I’m excited to let you know that the Google Innovator Academy (what was previously called the Google Teacher Academy) has just been announced again for Sydney!  The program has morphed and changed over the years, becoming far less about just the tools and much more about developing moonshot thinking about some of education’s biggest challenges. The program asks you to consider ways in which you can truly impact your own educational context, to think big about it, and to work on a project to make a 10x difference. In the process, you get connected to a simply amazing group of innovative educators that can, and probably will, change your life too.

If you love what you do, if you want to push education forward, if you think you can make a difference, if you want to be challenged and inspired, if you want to connect some powerful tools with some powerful pedagogy, then you should think about applying for the Google Innovator Academy.

It’s an application process and there is some work to do in applying.  You need to fill out an application, make a video and do some work. There are limited places. Many apply, and only some are selected. But if that’s you, trust me, it can change your life.

Find out more, and apply, at https://edutrainingcenter.withgoogle.com/certification_innovator

  • May 9 – Applications open
  • June 26 – Application Deadline
  • August 16, 17, 18 – Innovator Academy held at Google Sydney

And good luck! Be awesome!

Watch Me Drive

There is an advertisement on TV at the moment for an Australian car insurance company that encourages drivers to download an app to their phone to find out who is “Australia’s Best Driver“.  Here’s the ad…

When you download and install the app it starts by asking you a few questions…  your name, gender, email address, home address, etc. Then it keeps track of your driving using GPS location, timestamps, speed tracking, etc for at least the next 300km. In fact, it even defaults to an autostart mode so that you don’t have to remember to turn it on. Every so often it will check in with you to make sure that you are in fact the driver of the trips it’s been tracking. Then it scores your driving style in an attempt to find out who is the best driver in Australia.

Think about it. As well as knowing exactly who you are, it knows how fast you’re driving, when you’re driving, where you’ve been, who was driving and how long for, and even what your phone was doing as you drove. And remember, it just starts tracking automatically every time you drive. Without you even needing to turn it on.

Over time, the data will show whether you speed or not, whether you drive long distances without taking a break, whether you accelerate and brake erratically, what times of day you drive, and of course whether you’re using your phone as you drive. This is not just Big Data.  This is highly personalised data about you as an individual.

But it’s just a game right? You’re encouraged to compete with your friends via social media, so that lots of people are playing the game with you, all submitting the intimate details of their driving history as well. Let’s see who’s the best driver. Plus you can earn badges. Yay! Badges! That’s what it’s about right?

I can’t believe anyone would voluntarily give all this data to an insurance company. I mean they say it’s to make you a safer driver. Yeah, sure, that’s totally the reason. Until you apply for insurance one day and you find they know a little bit more about your driving habits than you might’ve thought and your insurance premium reflects that knowledge. If you’re a good driver, maybe you’ll pay less for you insurance. And maybe you won’t. I know which one I’m betting on.

I like to think that I’m a pretty good driver, but even with the promise of a big cash prize, to voluntarily hand over that much personal driving history data to an insurance company seems absolutely crazy to me.

Thanks AAMI, but I’ll leave this little adventure to Neil, Gaz and Loretta Jones.

Featured CC BY-NC Image “The Sunset Storm, Brisbane Australia“, by Ben Ashmole on Flickr

Going Back To Basics Is Still Going Backwards

chris-pyneI’m not a big fan of Christopher Pyne. As far as I’m concerned, our new federal education minister has shown himself to be inept and completely out of his depth in his current portfolio. He continually implies that Australia’s teachers are less competent than they should be and that our students are not receiving a proper education.

The amount of political mudslinging every time he opens his mouth is just an embarrassment to any thinking person. In his interviews with that other redneck extremist lunatic, Alan Jones on 2GB, the two of them make complete asses of themselves as they bask in idiotic, inflammatory statements about Australian teachers.

The thing that really ticks me off about Pyne is this phrase he continually uses… “back to basics”.  In adopting this phrase he poo-poos “modern teaching methods” which he considers airy-fairy, and talks about how we need to get back to a direct instruction model where students listen to a teacher talk at them. He dismisses the idea of child-centred learning, and wants a return to a more didactic teacher-centric model.  And don’t even get me started on his ignorant judeo-Christian-centric view of history.

Christopher Pyne is a fool who knows nothing about teaching or learning.

When I hear a politician say they want to go “back to basics”, It usually means one of three things…

1. They actually have no idea how to move forward.  By going back to a previously known state, something that used to work in the past, they attempt to absolve themselves of the responsibility to move forward. If it worked for your parents, it must work for you too, right? By going “back to the basics”, whatever the hell that actually means, they don’t need to think of what a better future might look like. They don’t tackle the hard task of building a better tomorrow, they just hope that whatever we did yesterday will still work tomorrow.

2. They have no idea that the world has changed. Anyone who claims that going back to the way something worked in the past is a sustainable solution, simply does not understand how much the world has changed. By going “back to basics”, we go back to a pre-Internet, pre-hyperconnected, pre-Google, pre-Globalised world that looks very little like the world our children are actually growing up in today.

3. They have no idea what our kids actually need. Yes, literacy and numeracy are important, but it would be foolish to assume that the concept of “literacy” as it existed in the 1960s is sufficient in the 2010s. Of course we should produce students who can read and write and know their times tables (and we do, although to hear the way these politicians belittle educators you would think that not a single student can read).  There are other forms of literacy that matter as well, and I don’t want to see Australia go down the same path as our American friends who seem to have a school system which values the Three Rs and not much else, and in fact the insane focus on “the basics” has come at the detriment of so much else about learning that makes us human.

Pyne wants to quote PISA figures and all sorts of other statistics that are supposed to “prove” that Australian kids are going backwards. Continually improving our students ability to read, write and add up is important, but so is their ability to sing and dance and play and paint and draw. We need well rounded students who enjoy learning, who  discover what it means to be truly literate, not just with words and numbers but in all senses of the word.

Make no mistake, no matter how you look at it, going “back to basics” is still going backwards. Any fool can see that. Any fool except Christopher Pyne it seems.

Discussing the Australian Curriculum: Technologies draft

On Ozteachers the other day, we were informed that the Draft paper for the new Australian Curriculum: Technologies has been released for review and ACARA, the government body charged with overseeing its implementation, is looking for feedback during the consultation period.

Figuring that I should probably know more about this document than I currently do, I thought it might be a good idea to set up a Google+ Hangout On Air, and invite whoever wants to talk about it together for a discussion.  It was also a motivator to get me to actually read the document first!

Thank you to those that were able to join in, in particular Bruce Fuda, Jason Zagami, Roland Gesthuizen, Nicky Ringland, and Matt Wells, as well as several others who dropped in and out during the call like Tim Wicks, Maurice Pagnucco and MaryAnne Williams. There was also some good discussion taking place in the backchannel on Google+, so visit that too if you’re keen to read a bit more.

I’m still getting my head around the relationship between Google+ Events and Hangouts on Air.  I probably should have read this article first, but I’ll know better for next time.

Google Teacher Academy in Sydney

At the recent Google Apps for Education Summit held at MLC School in Sydney, details for the next Google Teacher Academy were announced. Rather appropriately, the next GTA will be held in Sydney on May 7/8 at the Google Offices in Pyrmont.

Full details and a link to the application form can be found at http://www.google.com.au/edu/teachers/google-teacher-academy.html

It’s a great couple of days and although it can certainly be a bit of a brain dump and information overload, you’ll have the opportunity to network with other passionate and dedicated educators, meet with some of the local Sydney Google staff, become a part of the very active Google Certified Teacher community, and join in some fun social events as well.

The event is open to people from all over the world… at the last Sydney GTA in 2011 we had participants from the US, Guam, France, Russia and other places. People come from far and wide to attend the GTA. Of course, I happen to think it would be nice to grow the local GCT community even more, so come on you Aussies and Kiwis, get your applications in by February 28.

I’m looking forward to meeting lots of you there!

Gutless Comments

About 5 years ago, there was an incident in Adelaide where a classroom blog and the South Australian Department of Education and Children’s Services had a bit of a falling out.  It was well documented at the time, so I’m not going to rehash it here, suffice to say that it was a bunfight at the time and as a result there was significant tension between the educational blogging community and the Powers That Be in South Australia.

Like many other bloggers, I expressed my thoughts on it at the time. I spoke to the person who was directly affected by the dispute, as well as a number of other people in the know. Eventually, everyone involved tried to take what they could learn from the situation and we all just moved on.  Life is too short to be dragged down by that stuff.

However, over the last few weeks I’ve had some idiot posting abusive comments on this blog expressing (quite forcefully) their opinions on that situation from 2007. They have been abusive and rude to me personally, bluntly telling me that I’m an idiot and I don’t know what I’m talking about, and calling me all sorts of insulting and derogatory names. No need for details, suffice to say that they are just generally being an ignorant asshole.

What really pisses me off about this is that the person in question -who calls themselves “pav” or “pavalot” – is too gutless to use their real name, real email address or real website. They have the temerity to leave abusive comments on my blog, and possibly other blogs too, without having the courage to identify themselves or further engage in a debate about their point of view.

Naturally, I pick these comments up immediately and mark them as the spam trash they are. Nobody cares about the point of view of some ignorant nob who doesn’t even have the courage or common decency to use their real name.

So, whoever you are, I’ll tell you want. I’m happy to slug it out with you in private. You really want to have an argument with me about some incident that happened 5 years ago? I think you should grow up, but hey, bring it on. But do it as yourself, rather than hide behind a made-up email address and non-existent website. You have zero credibility when you do that and I will just keep removing your insulting, ignorant and libelous comments and putting them in the trash where they belong.

PS: I’ve reported your IP address to Internode as well, along with the full digital headers of your transactions. I hope they nail you to the wall.

An Open Letter to Telstra on 3G Data Use

Hello Telstra.

I’m one of your customers. I have my mobile phone service with you… the reception is reasonable, at least it seems to be better than most of the other Australian Telcos. You charge a little more for it, but hey, I’ve tried the others and I don’t mind paying a little more for a service that actually works…

But, Telstra, can I tell you what really sucks?

I recently bought a new wifi+3G iPad. It should really be a 4G iPad, but apparently you and Apple can’t agree on what the term 4G actually means. So ok, it’s still just a 3G iPad, and I guess I can live with that. But I’d like to buy some 3G data from you so I can use my iPad when I’m not in wifi range.

Now, for me, that’s not all that often. I’m in wifi at home, and in wifi at work. I could tether to my iPhone’s 3G data when I’m out of wifi range (and I often do) but it would be a lot more convenient if I just had a 3G SIM in the iPad itself. So I want to buy an iPad 3G data service from you. I don’t think I’ll need much, probably no more than a few hundred MBs each month to be honest. Some months may be way less – possibly even no data at all – and other months might be heavier usage. I don’t know for sure.

I’d LIKE to be able to buy a decent chunk of data from you – maybe a few GBs – and just use it till it runs out. After all, if I pay you for it, I should be able to use it till it’s gone, right?

Apparently you don’t see it that way. You let me buy data from you, and then after 30 days you just let whatever is still left over expire. Just like that. Gone. Don’t you think that’s a bit unfair? I mean, I bought that data. I paid for it. Why do you need to expire it at the end of 30 days? Why can’t I just keep using it till it runs out?

When I asked the customer service rep on the phone why this was the case, the probably-accurate but rather-brazen answer was “Because we’re a business and we need to make money”. Bravo Telstra, nice way to put the customer first.

This policy that all of the Aussie telcos have of selling data to customers and then insisting it be used in a limited period of time is a rort. An absolute ripoff. In any other industry you wouldn’t get away with it. Imagine if I filled my car with petrol and then didn’t drive it much that week, but at the end of the week the remaining fuel in the tank just “expired” for no reason other than it was now the end of the week. Fair? I think not. And yet, that’s what you do with my 3G data.

I’m not sure I understand the logic of why you feel the need to expire my unused data at the end of 30 days. If I’m using my iPad a lot that month, there’s a good chance of me running out before the 30 days is up anyway, and I’ll probably just buy more from you. Win-win.

And if I don’t use all the data that month, then it hasn’t really cost you anything anyway, since I’ve already paid you for data that is still sitting there, unused. Sure, I will use it eventually, even after the 30 days are up if you don’t automatically expire it on me. Maybe I’ll run out of that 3G data halfway through the next 30 day period, and then, guess what, I’ll probably buy some more from you. And instead of being a resentful customer who hates you for ripping me off by just taking away something I’ve already paid you for, maybe I’ll end up being a happy customer who loves you for being so fair minded.

Maybe I’d even tell my friends how wonderful you are because you treated me fairly and allowed me to use the data I bought from you in a timeframe that worked for my needs, not yours, and maybe when I do buy more data from you, I won’t do it  begrudgingly, thinking of you as a pack of bastards who are just out to rip me off.

Or maybe if you created a policy of treating customers like me with enough respect to let me use what I’ve paid for when it runs out, not just at the end of some arbitrary 30 day period, you might just be surprised at how many other customers would be interested in being treated the same way. Maybe even those hard to find New Customers.

Right now, you are getting my money for two 3G data plans, one for my phone and one for my iPad. But, frankly, the iPad data is a bit of a ripoff. Not because it’s a bad service or I don’t want to use it, but because you seem to feel that it’s ok to charge me for a product and then, if it is partly unused after 30 days, you feel it’s ok to just take that unused part and make it vanish, even though I’ve paid for it.

You see Telstra, there’s nothing fair about selling someone something and then just expiring whatever they haven’t used at the end of 30 days. It sucks. You might be able to get my business, but you get it begrudgingly and you don’t win me over as a customer. I may give you my business today, but as soon as an alternative comes along, I’m out of there because you’ve not done anything to earn my loyalty to your brand.

Eventually, when the resentment becomes bad enough, I’ll decide that I really don’t need 3G data on my iPad that much anyway, and just go back to tethering on my phone’s data plan. And then you lose me completely as a customer for that second data plan. The irony is that if you just let customers buy data and use it till it’s gone, you’d keep me. You’d have happier, more loyal customers, and probably more of them, who would gladly top up their data plan again and again because you’d be offering a service that works on their terms, not yours.

Have you ever stopped to consider how many potential customers you don’t get because of this short-sighted approach to providing a 3G data product under fair and reasonable terms?

Here’s a tip. Treat your customers with respect. You have a good product technically, but your customers don’t love you. They endure you. They tolerate you. They stay with you because you are less worse than the other telcos. If you treated us with more respect by recognising that when we pay you for a product we deserve to be able to use that product until it’s finished, you’d probably find a whole lot of new customers that you never knew existed and a whole lot of existing ones that felt far better about doing business with you.

Think about it.