For Georgia.

It’s been interesting watching the debate since the Flag Consideration project revealed their four alternatives.

Personally I was pretty disinterested in the initial process, because it appeared, to me at least, to be a simple vanity project, run by a Prime Minister, who didn’t like having to sit under an Australian flag at various international gatherings. As a political process, it seemed merely a rebranding one. The numbers that turned up to the public meetings reflected that perception I think. Guy Williams made an appearance at one, and it really captures the oddity of the whole thing.

The point I was trying to make in a  tweet, which was oddly picked up by Business Insider, was that if we’re so worried about the confusion between the NZ and Australian flag, why not just educate people about how they’re different. Because they are.

But we didn’t do that, we set out to find an alternative. The response to the final four alternatives has been overwhelmingly ‘Meh’ – from social media and the local mainstream media; whilst overseas reporting on this grand project has reflected that.

In response,  Rowan’s “Dear John” letter has generated quite a bit of conversation, including calls for John to ‘play it again’, and  add the ‘Red Peak design’ as an alternative.

And in that truly Kiwi way, a number have come out and snarked at those on social media who are calling for a rethink.  Because heaven forbid, people using online tools and mediums have opinions and share them. Odd that those snarking are snarking with the same tools they decry.

I wonder at that, because I’ve appreciated the debate that’s occurred since the reveal of the final four flag options. It’s been generally well mannered, it’s been passionate, and it shows that people in this country do care about the way we’re represented. It’s been far more enjoyable and interesting than any that was taking place before the reveal of the final four. 

Why shouldn’t vigorous ongoing debate be considered as part of the process, by which we consider and challenge nationhood, and sovereignty, and vision and representation.

This sums up the attitude of those who know best it seems.

Here’s the thing.
I don’t care about what Pagani thinks.
I don’t care for any of the four alternative flags.

I know this little country and it’s conservatism enough to bet good money that we’ll keep the existing flag in March of next year (regardless of how the All Blacks do in the Rugby World Cup).

And that will be OK, we’ll keep on going as a country.

But then there’s this… 

My niece appears in this video, performing with her suburban school’s performing arts group in Christchurch. It was great to see her, but as I watched this I realised something else.

This is inclusion. This is celebration. This is possibility.

This is what it means to be multi-cultural in this place. To belong.

These faces, they are the future of Aotearoa.

Their future isn’t what our past or present looks like. It will be something else.

The processes by which we consider that future for them, should reflect that inclusion, that celebration, those possibilities.

A flag is just one part of that process.

Some may feel we don’t owe them those processes, but they deserve them nonetheless.

On feeling the forever empty.

Fog_SAS_1234Creative Commons License

Stefan Schmitz via Compfight

There is a moment in Louis CK’s conversation with Conan, in which he says:

Life is tremendously sad, just by being in it… sadness is poetic, and you’re lucky to live sad moments.

I thought of that as I listened to this beautiful piece from Radiolab, some final reflections from Oliver Sacks, on his life, his relationships and his wonderful ability to see the world with constant curiosity and empathy.

As I listened to my smartphone, riding the Express 30 into work down Willis Street, doing the daily mundane, I felt that sadness, sensed it rolling in.

So I sat, and let it roll over me.

It wasn’t a dark, traumatic, violent emotion, as sadness sometimes can be.

Not any great sense of personal loss, because I’m not a devout disciple.

But an inner sense of loss, listening to the words of a man who’s just passed on.

a sense of melancholy.

Not for anything as dramatic as “humanity”.

But as a result of being human, of allowing myself connection, of relating.

I let the tears slide down my face, took my time to wipe them, not hurriedly, not ashamed.

Felt the bus roll on, and the routine of Wellington’s CBD continue.

“Thanks driver”

Stepped off lightened.

At peace with myself, lucky to be here, for this moment and the next.

Thank you Mr Sacks.

Digital Inclusion panel

A few weeks ago I was asked to be part of a Digital Inclusion panel discussion at NetHui.

The theme for this year’s Nethui was “the Internet is everybody’s business”. The 3 day event covered a range of issues including education, privacy, security, copyright and a particular focus on digital inclusion.

The education forum on Day Zero was hosted by Mark Osborne and Andrew Cowie of CORE Education, and was well attended. The focus here was on ‘Equity, Inclusivity, Purpose, Passion’ and there was a range of challenging and useful presentations.  There were speakers from a range of providers in the education sector, including Connected Learning Advisory and National Library, as well as teachers like Caro Bush, Kimberley Barrs and Diana Wilkes.

I helped to facilitate a session about the Rural Broadband Initiatives, explaining the role that N4L has played in rolling out the Managed Network, showing the breadth of this network and exploring how communities could create digital hubs around these connections.

I was also invited to be part of a panel discussion on Digital Inclusion, which was to “explore the challenges and aspects of digital inclusion, exploring issues of access, affordability, accessibility and digital literacy”.  The other members of the  panel were Vanisa Dhiru (2020 Communications Trust), Bob Hinden (Internet Society), Professor Charles Crothers (Auckland University of Technology) and Robyn Kamira. (Mitimiti on the Grid Project).

On this recording of the panel, I speak for the first time at the 16 min and 30 second mark, and speak for about 5 minutes on what N4L has set out to achieve with regards to connecting all schools in NZ.  Each of the panelists presents their perspective on digital inclusion, and there is about 20 minutes of Q&A. 

If you’re interested in any of the other sessions that were at Nethui, do check out their channel on Youtube.

 

 

My Life as a Foreign Country

“This is the part of what I was learning, from early childhood on – that to journey into the wild spaces where profound questions are given a violent and inexorable response, that to travail through fire and return again – these are the experiences which determine the making of a man. to be a man, I would need to walk into the thunder and hail of a world stripped of its reason, just as others in my family had done before me. And, if I were strong enough, and capable enough, and god-damned lucky enough, I might one day return clothed in an unshakeable silence. Back to the world, as they say.”

– Brian Turner, My Life as a Foreign Country

A deliberate, almost delirious book – part poetry, part reflection, part historical fallback, part ruminated musing, part telling – of the experience of growing up and becoming in a culture that validates war and the war experience, but struggles to surround those humans sent to war, with the support they need to come back.

Powerful and challenging, a text to somberly savour.

Nepal, Open Street Maps and Contributing

The 7.9 magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal over the weekend has been rightly covered by many news agencies, and there are appeals for donations and support on Campbell Live, Facebook and a wide variety of other channels.

I spent this evening catching up with Tim Mcnamara, who was one of the key individuals behind the crowd created eq.org.nz response during the Christchurch earthquake. Tim’s continued to be involved in humanitarian support and the way in which digital tools can be used to make a real difference to people on the ground in disaster situations.

So if you’re interested in more than just donating cash to the relief efforts in Nepal, and have some time to donate in front of a web browser, here are some options for you.

1. Micromappers – This site hosts an “Image Crisis Map” and a “Tweet Crisis Map“, which are being used to show relevant disaster damage and tweets. The tools on the site allow you to quickly analyse tweets and images for evidence of damage and needs, and your judgement calls are collated and then mapped to assist in relief efforts.

2. Humanitarian Open Street Map – You can read all about this project here, but basically, using the Task Manager, and tools like JOSM, you’re able to identify and mark out points of interest, resources, buildings, and infrastructure. This data is then uploaded and used by teams and organisations on the ground in Nepal.

This guide from @meetar, is a fantastic overview and walkthrough of how to get started using the Humanitarian Open Street Map tasks.

3. Digital Humanitarians FB page – Tim has started this Facebook group to “Help field agencies respond to disasters with a few clicks. Volunteers here create maps, assess building damage and track social media.” He’s also using it to co-ordinate more G+ hangouts to share his knowledge and help anyone interested.

Each of these ways of contributing require differing amounts of input, and some of it is quite laborious and a bit dull. But from experience during the Christchurch quakes, there’s something very human about being able to do small things that support those on the ground, and something important in the choosing to do so.

Donations to the relief effort can be also be given through the following organisations:

 

Dear Mike

Dear Mike,

I want to ask you to stop.

Please just stop.

I get your schtick – your banter, your flippant disregard for others, your sniffiness for that which you stereotype as “PC gone mad” – that thing you do where you listen to others with a slight sneer, and then gently dismiss their opinion by expressing yours last and with a measure of wordy erudition.

It’s the Jeremy Clarkson thing, without the Top Gear car porn. It’s the grumpy old men thing – without you actually being old. It sells well with a market that is based on a them vs us dialogue – and a radio listenership that will smile and nod in their cars, and think yeah, that’s truthiness.

I get it.

But here’s a thought.

What if this whole incident had played out like it did, with the original post on The Daily Blog, the reactions on social media, and then the statement from the PM’s office.

But instead of an apology – what if the statement basically said “Yeah, nah – it’s who I am”

What if the PM’s comments to reporters at LAX was along the lines of, “Hey, it was some light hearted banter, that’s all it was, and I’m not sorry for being who I am. I won’t apologise for being a man and for doing what I did.”

Would your position be any different?

Would you still be alright with the PM’s behaviour?

Your whole defense of the PM at this point appears to be that it was just light hearted, and “oh, he’s such a nerd, this is just his thing” – and he apologised – so let’s get on with it. You say that John Key’s behaviour is “bizarre” – and then round on social media, agenda driven political self interest, and say that Amanda Bailey is “selfish and has caused needless upset to the owners of the cafe”.

And that worries me, because your brushing it off in that Seven Sharp way you do it seems to fit a narrative that the behaviour itself is OK, it’s the process by which it was presented or dealt with that’s the terrible thing. It’s the politics of the thing that matters.

But it’s not – and Alison Mau’s post totally captures why.

10 years of working in a classroom with children and managing parental expectation around dealing with behaviour has taught me that the single most important thing is to define and determine what exactly happened.

And speak to that.

In this case we know what happened.

Both parties agree that it happened.

Are you OK with a man, any man, doing what the PM did to a woman?

Would you do it to anyone in a cafe that you frequent?

They’re simple questions really, but they’re what I’ve asked myself.

And as a Dad with a 6 year old and a 2 year old daughter – I’m not OK with it.

I’m not OK with it.

And so, if you are OK with it, I’ll repeat my request.

Please. Stop.

Cheers,

Tim

A View, A Read, A Listen….

With a hat tip to Nat’s Four Short Links and Ory Okolloh’s “#SundayReads” via twitter, I thought I’d post a random set of things I’ve been reading, viewing, thinking on and listening each week. With

A Read: The F-35 is still FUBAR

The first point, from an educator’s perspective, just seems to be a symptom of using testing incorrectly, as part of a political process. But the rest of the flaws in this programme are stunning.

Teaching to the test: The blizzard of testing required on the plane’s equipment and parts isn’t exactly going well, so the program’s administrators are moving the goal posts. Test scores are improving because the stats are being “massaged” with tricks like not recounting repeated failures. Some required testing is being consolidated, eliminated, or postponed. “As a result,” POGO writes, “the squadron will be flying with an uncertified avionics system.”

A View: Dictatorship 101 via @rowansimpson

“Change gets made by people who care, who have authority, and who take responsibility” – Seth Godin

An Article: Overcoming Negative Self-Thinking via @edsimons

The task of changing schemas is to unlearn the self-defeating old habit and replace it with a new, healthier one. That change is very different from mere intellectual understanding. The change involves persistent practice of mindfulness to what had been unconscious behavior, and sustained effort to try out a new way of thinking.

The person learns to view automatic thoughts from a distance and question their validity.

A Response: How I learned to love luxury

We often think of new Apple devices as creating new categories of need.

What going to the Luxury Technology Show convinced me of is that Apple is trying to create a new category of technology for its luxury watch, but not one of need. Needs can be extraordinarily narrow (surfing the internet on the couch on my laptop isn’t good enough, etc.)

It is trying to create and mass produce for and monetize a world of wealthy consumers less fettered than ever by the sociocultural bonds of “good taste.”

Technology that transcends practicality, that costs more, does less, and ignores future innovations.

For a certain consumer, it makes perfect sense.

A Listen:

Wham! Bam! Study Jam! from sophiebames on 8tracks Radio.

On “seeing” students and invisible biases.

Today I took part in an enjoyable webinar via BigMarker.com – entitled What it Means to ‘See’ Your Students presented by @elizabethaself

Here’s her blurb from the site – where the session is recorded, and I’d recommend you make some time to view and listen.

In the first half of this session, I will share my current research on clinical simulations and how simulations can be used to develop cultural competence among both pre- and in-service teachers. I will walk teachers through one such simulation in order to better understand the potential dangers of “culture blindness.” In the second half of the session, I will work to help mathematics teachers think about what they can do in their own classrooms to better “see” their students in ways that support mathematics outcomes as well as healthy identity development.

Elizabeth presented a sort of digital pepeha of herself, which as all pepeha do, meant that those of us listening were able to understand a bit more about her, her life experiences and the places and people that give her meaning. And in so doing, we were able to “see” her presentation based on her story.

The first section on clinic simulations – role-plays of student-teacher interactions, with additional information provided as participants moved through the exercise – was fascinating. It was really encouraging to hear about it being used in pre-service training in parts of the USA. I’m unsure if these methods are being used at teacher training faculties in NZ.

I really liked the idea of creating some in-school simulations, to use these active methods to unpack and reflect on our own biases and the constructs that we work around. It could be done as a team, or as a school based PD opportunity.

The final section had some really simple, but actionable items that a teacher or a school could use to focus and reflect on their own practice – a needs based inquiry, that focuses on how we build and maintain our relationships with students.

A lot in the session resonated with me, in part because I’d been listening to an episode of ‘This American Life” entitled ‘Cops See it Differently‘ – which explores the idea of invisible biases, particularly around the issue of race relations in policing.

On a personal level I always enjoyed doing the bus duty after school, because it gave me a chance to meet students on their terms, instead of just mine. I got to meet students who weren’t in my class as well, to chat about everyday goings on, to build simple, but real connections. I got to see parents, some who would stop to chat, some who would make a request.

I got to be part of the ritual of the day, of the wider school communities day.

Most of that knowledge didn’t feed back into my class in explicit ways, but I believe those sorts of experiences enrich your perspective, and therefore allow you to be seen and act as more human in the classroom.

As teachers we need to constantly step into the shoes of those we stand in front of, and not just in a metaphorical way, but in active and simple ways. This active empathy requires a real humility at times, but is important to do so to allow us to reflect on our biases and our blinkers.

That can be a real challenge, because when we see those, we can be threatened by what they reveal about ourselves.

It takes honesty and courage to then make the changes required.

But this then is much of what it means to be human. Which is a grand thing.

==

Two books were referenced in the chat, that may be of interest.

“I Had No Idea” : Clinical Simulations for Teacher Development by Benjamin H. Dotger

Start Where You Are, But Don’t Stay There: Understanding Diversity, Opportunity Gaps, and Teaching in Today’s Classrooms by H. Richard Milner

On discomfort

 

This article – Dev Discomfort – is written to reflect the pressures and stresses on being a developer – but it reflects very well what it means to be a teacher in an education system increasingly being flooded with technology and tools.

“I feel like my relationship with my tools has gotten flipped—instead of them existing to serve my needs, I feel like I have to improve myself to be able to use them. … The prerequisites have gotten so large that it feels like I can’t even get good at something before the whole rickety system has been replaced by something new. Not necessarily better in ways that matter to me, mind you. Just new.

“I have to remind myself: it’s okay to take time. Rushing doesn’t improve things, it might even slow you down. Focusing on a few things and doing them well is worthwhile. Sharing what you learn—even while you’re still figuring things out—is even better.