Archive for ‘Uncategorized’

Friday, 29th November, 2013

23andme and me

A while ago I came across 23andme. This is a service that will look at your DNA and show you what information can be found from it. For me this seemed interesting because it went alongside the idea that we share a lot of information about ourselves – a lot more than we might have been comfortable with a while ago – and it is interesting to think about what we share and what the implications of sharing are. This connects for me with writing on blogs and posing on facebook and I am really not sure what is shareable and what isn’t.

As well as the public/private issues, it is also interesting to me to see what information is out there and how easily genetic information can be interpreted. So I went ahead and sent in my spit. So now I have the results.

Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 1.33.19 PM Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 1.32.32 PM Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 1.31.35 PM Screen shot 2013-11-29 at 1.30.59 PM

I am impressed at the sheer amount of information that is there, with long lists of health and ancestry data. There is also a lot of supporting small print. I think some of this will be useful for classes for a few reasons:

  • To show what information is stored in DNA and discuss the relationship between genotype and phenotype.
  • To show heritability
  • To discuss the ethics of collecting and storing this kind of information by third parties – how could this information be used in a wrong way.
  • To discuss evidence for claims.

At the same time the results came in, the company made the news as the FDA issued this letter stopping the company from promotional work. This is kind of neat since it suggests that there is an ambiguity about what is right and the company have a different view of their responsibility to the consumer than the FDA has. The FDA are concerned that people will make inappropriate health decisions based on the data and I can understand why. There is a lot of small print and clauses full of conditional language and it really does take an expert to read this.

The CEO replied with a letter that was a masterpiece in the stretching of language.

23andMe has been working with the FDA to navigate the correct regulatory path for direct-to-consumer genetic tests. This is new territory, not just for 23andMe, but for the FDA as well. The FDA is an important partner for 23andMe and we will be working hard to move forward with them.

This is a story to follow. I am looking forward to some interesting conversations with colleagues and students around this data.

My worry is that, in sharing this data (even the screenshots in this post) I contribute to moving to a situation where not sharing becomes synonymous with having something to hide. There is a right to privacy and we should not assume that people who do not share are hiding something.

Thursday, 5th September, 2013

From the Big Bang to Dark Energy

This week a course I have signed up for has started – From the Big Bang to Dark Energy.  This was noted on my goals for the year post as;

an update on these topics for my teaching and curiosity, an experience of a MOOC, an interaction with some people from a local university, the possibility of a shared learning experience with colleagues and maybe some students.

There are at two teachers and at least two students with an interest in having a go. Hopefully all will continue and this will give a good opportunity to evaluate.

Yesterday I went through the first week’s work. It took a while to go through the videos, but the topics were familiar ones for me so this was a gentle introduction. I felt the lecture part was pretty good, though I think I would have approached some of the simpler ideas differently. The 90 minutes was well divided up into manageable chunks and it was easy to take notes from what he presented. There were follow up homework assignments. These came in three levels. The first was quite basic and accessible, which is great because I think many students could achieve this easily if they have followed the lectures. The second level required some computation and analysis and was more challenging, with only one question beyond IBDP level. There was a third optional set which was a big step up and I didn’t complete. The problem here for me was rusty maths skills for the most part.

I will send out a message to the other YIS participants and see if we can get a short face to face meeting because I would love to know how others are finding it.

A big feature is the discussion forum which seems very active. Rumor has it there are 39,000 people signed up, so it is kind of surprising that it is not more active. I didn’t make use of this but it might be interesting to see if there is anything there that would help me through the advanced problems.

I am looking forward to the next week, though it is challenging to find the time.

Wednesday, 28th August, 2013

New blogs

It seems like I have an ever increasing collection of blogs. I guess this is an inevitable part of getting used to the medium and finding a format that matches the use.

Something to try at the beginning of this year will be a blog with shared authorship for a course where we have multiple teachers – as opposed to a blog for multiple classes for each teacher. As I think of it, the pros and cons of this would be:


  • It means that many of the common things that we would post – assignment details and deadlines, for example, would only need to be posted once.
  • All the students in the course would receive the same information in the same way at the same time. I think this matters because for the first time the students have the same teacher all year and some may have preferences. This way we give some clear message that there is consistency and communication between classes.
  • There will have to be consistency and communication between the groups – the discipline of a shared platform will mean that we will be encouraged to continuously share our planning.
  • There is a bigger audience and one which spreads beyond each class. If something is up for discussion, then there will be three times as many students who can give opinions.
  • We have more teachers to add different things and we each have our specialties and interests. We can use this to add extensions and contexts for each of our topics.


  • There is the additional challenge of navigating from one blog to the next for each teacher and the danger that things will not go in the same place.
  • It reduces the vertical interaction or awareness that may be prompted by having a blog that includes a range of grades.
  • It may be that all the work falls to one person.
  • It may be harder to reflect the personality of an individual teacher or class. If a teacher or student does not feel ownership of a blog then they are lees likely to contribute.
  • The blog has been described as having a role as a professional portfolio for a teacher. With a shared blog it is less clear as this.

It seems at this point that pros win. I guess also that if this does not end up working for any reason, then it should be a relatively simple task to transfer any stuff that has been done to each teacher’s personal blog and start again.

So the big decision would be the name!

The format is:


I think I will poll colleagues!


Tuesday, 27th August, 2013

A new school year

A new school year is underway so this is a good time to think of where I will be (or may want to be) by the end of the school year. Here are a few thoughts in no particular order;


The courses that are new (9/10 Science) will have been gone through. Hopefully these will be fun and challenging for the students. It would be great to be sure that they are all reflected on and ready for improvement in the next iteration.

For the IBDP course, there is a new one on the horizon and keeping tabs on implementing this will be key towards the end of the year, but there are still two cohorts of students to complete the current model who mustn’t be short changed. With the DP accreditation (not the right term, I know, but I can’t remember the right one) then the documentation of work in this course needs to be reviewed.

I would like to be sure that the Japanese classes I started over the summer continue and that I feel that I am making progress here. Quite apart from the usefulness of the language it is really good to have a non-school priority and to be a learner- this is really something about balance.

In the short term there is a Cousera course I will start next week about the Big Bang and things like that. There are a few reasons for wanting to do this; an update on these topics for my teaching and curiosity, an experience of a MOOC, an interaction with some people from a local university, the possibility of a shared learning experience with colleagues and maybe some students. Should be interesting.

Hockey coaching has always been fun. It seems like numbers are dwindling a bit, so perhaps that is something to be active about in the first half of the year. Some pre-season work for example, and goalie recruitment.


Maybe that’s enough for now.

Sunday, 10th February, 2013

A link to a talk about the role of markets in society and in education.

I think it is no accident that two things have been happening over the past 30 years. One is that what we’ve discussed today: the tendency to rely more and more on market mechanisms without any public debate. And something else that’s been happening which is the hollowing out of public discourse in general. What passes for political discourse these days consists mainly of shouting matches on talk radio and cable TV, and ideological food fights in congress. People are frustrated by this. I think one of the reasons for this is our reluctance to engage in serious public debate about big and controversial moral questions.

When he describes a market, he picks out examples where money is an agent. The idea gets extended into ways we think. This would be an interesting piece to reflect on in the upcoming sessions on differentiation and for making thinking visible.

Monday, 17th September, 2012

Recording and reporting assessments

We have a couple of systems in school that are (somewhat) new regarding recording and reporting assessments. Here the question is how to leverage these systems to help communication about assessed tasks with parents and students in a way that makes efficient use of every-bodies time.

The first is the task specific clarification. Not really new, but since this has been given a systematic format for all the classes, there is at least a makeover.

The second is veracross, which is the system for reporting and other school database functions.

Eventually it would be good to use veracross to find a way to manage and collate assessments and communicate these to parents and students. This is something that will be introduced later, so an interim system would be good.

Googledocs provides a way of creating things where the sharing can be controlled and the students seem pretty familiar and comfortable with this. This is also the format that most of our ms assessment documents are in. The students already have handing folders that they put work in for me to mark and they have all managed this well.

So the idea would be to create a single assessment document for each student, that would be shared between me and them. I would then ask them to share this (the whole folder or the document?) with their parents. Collating the assessments in this way should make them more useful to the students to look at before starting subsequent tasks.

On this document could go:

The TSC – this should be a simple cut and paste and should be a format that everyone will become quickly familiar with.

Highlights from me of the statements relevant to the assignment.

Comments on particular aspects

General teacher comment.

Student comments – these might come before or after my assessment – does it need to be the same way each time? This may be better on the blog if I am going to expect the student to showcase work. Maybe if this is the case then I could expect the students to put a link to a blog post.

Parent comments – I think the blog would be to public for this, so either on the googledoc or put an invitation to email me on the sheet. Since there isn’t automatic notification update, this might save me having to search through documents in case of comments. To get over the notification thing the message function in veracross could be used to draw parents attention to updates.


How much time will this take? This is not being lazy, if a system is onerous then the feedback time can get longer and the feedback can be less useful.

The assessment does not include direct annotation of work as a matter of course. Especially for hand written tasks this may make the assessment less useful.

The security of documents – if write access is given, then things can be deleted. The (threat of the) revision history may prove adequate here.

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Saturday, 14th April, 2012

Classroom press

An interesting excerpt about ‘Classroom press’

This is from:

‘Fullan, M.G. (1991). The New Meaning of Educational Change. London: Cassell Educational Limited.‘ which is avaialble on Google books

He is quoting from:

Huberman, M. & Miles, M. (1984). Innovation up Close. New York: Plenum.

Saturday, 31st March, 2012

The power of fear in social networks

A talk for danah boyd goes from:

My talk today rests on three foundational claims and one critical question.

Foundational Claims:
1. We live in a culture of fear.
2. The attention economy provides fertile ground for the culture of fear.
3. Social media is amping up the attention economy.

Thus, my question is simple: as technologists and designers invested in developing the future, what hath we wrought?


Social media is no longer the great disrupter.  It is now part of the status quo.  Are we prepared for what that means?  Are we prepared for the ecosystem that we’ve created?  Do we even understand how our systems are being employed by those hellbent on maintaining power in a networked age? 

This is something to follow up:-

I’ve been trying to work through some ideas on how fear operates in a networked society. At Webstock in New Zealand, I gave a talk called “Culture of Fear + Attention Economy = ?!?!” Building on this, I gave a talk at SXSW called “The Power of Fear in Networked Publics.” While my thinking in this arena is still relatively nascent, I wanted to make available what I’ve thought through so far in the hopes that you have feedback and critique.

Friday, 30th March, 2012

Evolving whiteboard notes

I have used whiteboard notes for each of my classes systematically for the last three school years.

This started using open office, but moved to googledocs to take advantage of full screen and automatic publishing. This has proved a useful way of keeping and sharing a fairly complete record of what happens in each class. It has proved especially useful for journal mapping and for absent students and just to remind me of the flow of the class.

There are a couple of things that cause me to reevaluate this process now:

 – googledocs is retiring the full page format I have previously used. I don’t see this as a real problem as there will be some plain margins down the side and everything else seems to remain intact. Hopefully that is all the update will change.

– it doesn’t fit with RSS. This is a bigger issue as we are encouraging students and parents to use an RSS aggregator to keep up with what is going on. This means that parents could set up a bundle of feeds for all their kids classes that will get updated automatically. As a parent I can appreciate the benefit of this. If parents are really doing this it would be useful to take advantage of it, but I don’t see any easy way to do that. From my point of view it is important that the process is an actual part of my teaching rather than an after class add on. A blog post a day would not work effectively for update during class or clarity of presentation, and would be untidy with the flow of classes.

It looks like it may be time for a bit of research

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Sunday, 4th March, 2012

Technology updates

A list

Have got out of the habit of having ms kids blog for reflection and so on – should get back to it.

Have not used socrative for a while – should try again

The full screen full whiteboard application of googledocs is going – will this make a difference?

The new labquest looks like it may be useful – the ability to broadcast data especially for doing analysis – I know that it can be emailed but…

Managebac vs Turnitin – there is a record keeping and feedback issue with IBDP IAs and technology may be ab help here. Something to try and share