Welcome to Thought Shrapnel #206!
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Doug Belshaw's Thought Shrapnel

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This has been a busy week for me, travelling to keynote the Open Badges in Higher Education conference, working in London, and figuring out a way I can work sustainably with some people I know, respect, and enjoy spending time with.

We took delivery of our brand-new shiny car this week. It's a bit of a spaceship, being an automatic, a hybrid, and our first Japanese car. I did laugh when my wife phoned me to say she was stuck in a lay-by, unable to get the car moving. I pointed out it's effectively a computer on wheels with an engine, so had she turned it off and back on again? However, once I got home and gave it a drive, there's certainly a... learning curve, shall we say.

I hope you've had a great week. The sun's out in northern England, which makes me feel much more human again. There's lots to complain about in the world, lots of shittiness, but during busy weeks like this when I've been working on interesting stuff, the scales are definitely tipped towards the positive.

My blog posts this week:

TIDE podcast

Today In Digital Education

Episode 41: Perpetual Alchemy

Today In Digital Education is a regular podcast hosted by Dai Barnes and Doug Belshaw, focusing on education, technology, and everything in between.

This week, Dai and Doug discussed innovation in schools, the ‘alchemy’ of edtech, Dai’s pupil survey, multiple online identities, pirates, hierarchies, and (inevitably) blockchain.

Tweet of the week

Things discussed in meetings...

Links of the week

Four neuromyths that are still prevalent in schools – debunked

Four neuromyths that are still prevalent in schools – debunked

This article is written by a psychologist, and it shows. The assumption behind it is that teachers just don't understand the pretty basic insights in psychology and neuroscience:
It is no surprise that many teachers have an interest in neuroscience and psychology since areas such as memory, motivation, curiosity, intelligence and determination are highly important in education.

But neuroscience and psychology are complex, nuanced subjects that come with many caveats. Although progress is being made towards understanding what helps and hinders students, there is still a disconnect between the research in labs and what happens in many schools.

While I have no doubt that there are cases of teachers in the back of beyond that still believe in (a reductionist version of) learning styles, that we really do only use 10% of our brain, and so on. 

However, the author seems to show a complete lack of understanding about how institutions work. The reason an organisation becomes an institution is because change is slow, because they have an internal logic that is separate to human logic, and because they have a command-and-control structure.

Hence, every single person in an organisation could know for a fact that something is patently false (e.g. Ofsted requiring a lesson plan for every lesson) yet still act as if it were true (e.g. providing a lesson plan when Ofsted visit). 

President Obama Is Wrong On Encryption; Claims The Realist View Is 'Absolutist'

President Obama Is Wrong On Encryption; Claims The Realist View Is 'Absolutist'

This week, President Obama missed the funeral of Nancy Regan so that he could keynote SXSW. His subject was '21st century civic engagement and community service'. He spent a while discussing encryption, on the back of the FBI vs. Apple situation that's been bubbling away over the last few weeks.

What I like about this Techdirt article is that it takes down Obama's points on a paragraph-by-paragraph basis. It may seem 'reasonable' to ask for a compromise on encryption, to allow authorities to have a 'backdoor' to catch the bad guys, but analogue comparisons don't work when it comes to cryptography.

The Rise of Work Chat Anti-Hype

The Rise of Work Chat Anti-Hype

I don't know whether you use Slack regularly, but given you're signed up for this newsletter, it's a fair guess you at least know what it is. I've got a Slack channel which I share with former Mozilla colleagues and friends which is kind of an always-on backchannel which crosses timezones and the various work that we all do. It's great.

Not everyone uses Slack this way. In fact, most people use it within a single organisation. It's touted as 'replacing email' which is an optimistic claim. The backlash against Slack and other 'work chat' apps has begun, as Stowe Boyd notes in this article. He makes some great points, not least of which is this one:

This is a specific instance of the general issue of ‘work as a commons’. The folks that naturally most closely tied to some definable work activities — like our marketing team, above — should have the largest say in how their work is performed, and the decision-making about their work practices. That’s what they share in common. While those farther from that work — the freeloaders that are crowding the chat with their noise, interruptions, and influence — should be kept from the set’s workings if that interaction is negative.

In other words, if you think of it for more than a second, as with any form of technology, it's not only the affordances and cultural norms built into the product that are important, but the ones you and your colleagues build up around it.

See also: Trello's 'don't do nothing' matra

Also worth exploring

Koov is Sony's answer to Lego Mindstorms

Koov is Sony's answer to Lego Mindstorms

This will no doubt be an expensive proposition, but I do love Sony stuff and am confident that this will be pretty awesome.

It looks like Scratch meets Lego Mindstorms on steroids. 

 Quentin Blake's handwriting typeface

Quentin Blake's handwriting typeface

I know Bryan Mathers has created at least two fonts from his own handwriting. This looks like a great opportunity to make your own Roald Dahl-style books!

While other pop stars make albums, Kanye is making entertainment software

While other pop stars make albums, Kanye is making entertainment software

This article talks about Kanye West's latest album, and makes some great points while also referencing George Lucas and Star Wars. Definitely worth a read.

Why does Britain have such bizarre place names?

Why does Britain have such bizarre place names?

I live not too far away from 'Pity Me', a place mentioned in this BBC article that uncovers some really interesting origins of the names of towns, villages, and streets! 

GIF of the week

Cat typing quickly on keyboard
Like many people, I've been watching Season 4 of House of Cards this week. We didn't get to binge watch as much as we'd like, as I was away for three nights.

It's excellent television, it really is — and it stops to make you think about the whole corrupt system.

Quotation of the week

"Man's most valuable trait is a judicious sense of what not to believe.”

— Euripides
Until next time!
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