Resolutions for 2017

2017-torSo it’s the final day of 2016 and the start of 2017 draws ever closer.   As such now is the time to conclude my 2 part blog, which started with a look back on 2016, by looking forward and setting out my plans, pledges or resolutions for 2017.    My targets for the year ahead are not as quantifiable as those set for 2016.   This is the result of reflection which has led me to conclude that the narrow focus of quantifiable targets, which although good for motivation, fails to allow for the appreciation of the richer nature of life and the achievements of a whole year.   As such this years resolutions are more broad strokes, with quantifiable and measurable targets set on a weekly or monthly basis as need arises.

So on to the resolutions:

#BeHappy

I think this is of key importance which I why I am listing it first.   All the achievements, success, etc. isn’t worth a whole lot if you are not happy.    I also give some thought to the book I have just finished, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.    He suggested that our feelings may have a link to our successes, so if I am more positive I am more likely to succeed.   He also suggested a link between feelings and health with someone more positive more likely to overcome colds and other common aliments than someone who is negative or unhappy.   For me this all links to mindfulness and being aware in myself of how I am feeling.   So in 2017 I hope to be more happy which will require me to be more mindful.

#BeConnected

I will continue my efforts from 2016 into 2017, continuing to blog and be active in twitter in particular however also engaging in conferences and other events as they arise.   I also want to continue to write and submit articles for inclusion in #ukedchat’s magazine.    This said, I will try to avoid myself feeling obligated or forcing myself to write a set number of pieces or tweets per week or per month.   Where more important matters arise my connectedness may fall however this is to be expected and accepted.   I need to keep a better eye on putting first things first.

#BeChallenged

I am not sure what my challenge for the year ahead will be, whether it will be to refocus on Google Certified Educator, on Microsoft Certified Educator Expert or on something totally different however in 2017 I will push myself to achieve some form of certification or accreditation.    As it stands I still await results from the CISA exam I sat in December.   Hopefully these results will be released in January and it may be that I choose to follow an industry IT route as opposed to an educational route for a while.  I will leave the specific decision as to the route I plan to take to some point towards the end of January.

#ToExperiment

In order to find the best solutions it is important to continually experiment and try new things.  In 2017 I want to make sure I engage in such experimentation as a leader, as an educational technologist, as an IT Director and as an individual.

#ReadReadandReadSomeMore

I have found re-engaging with reading to be very useful and also fun during 2016.    In 2017 my target will once more be to read a minimum of 1 book per month.   I would love to subscribe to do 1 book per week however I don’t believe this is realistic for me both in relation to time available and also in relation to my chosen reading materials which can seldom be considered “light reading”.  As such the target of 1 book per month seems more realistic and reasonable.   I will also need to try and ensure that the books selected cover a variety of different topics as I feel some of my more recent reading has converged on a single topic which therefore reduces the breadth of benefit I get from reading.

#BeHealthy

I repeatedly reflected on my poor fitness level and also my poor commitment to fitness overall.   In 2017 I need to do something about this.    So I will be restarting walking across school campus every morning as a starting point.    I will also be setting a weekly target for steps.     Key to me here is likely to be coming up with some sort of motivational reward to encourage myself to actually stick to fitness efforts.    This will become even more true if I am to take up something more strenuous than just walking, such as jogging.     The main aim here will be to close 2017 in a much more healthy and fit manner than I came into it.

#BeFamily

In 2017 I need to make more time available to spend with my youngest child, who is 11, and also with my wife.    I also need to make sure that it is “quality time” as opposed to just time.    One part of this will be to have some sort of family holiday in 2017, something which we haven’t actually done in many years.   I also need to be more “romantic” as I wife puts it; Something which doesn’t come that naturally to me being more of a pragmatist and get things done type of person.

2016 was a good year especially when viewing the quantifiable targets, and possibly more so if viewed beyond just these targets.     I hope that 2017 is even more successful.    And so it begins anew………

 

Photo “Terraces on the Tor” by Rodw, Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0

 

A final reflection on 2016

merryxmasIt is that time of year when many people start posting their reflections on 2016, so I would like to lend my hat to the ring.   This is the first part of a two part blog marking the end of the year.   The first part, this part, will focus on my resolutions/pledges which I made back at the end of 2015, in respect of 2016, and how the year has gone in general.    The second part will set out my resolutions and pledges for 2017.   So here goes for part one:

When I set out my resolutions back in 2015 I tried to set out things which would be quantifiable in that this would make things easier when it came to review progress.  The resolutions I set are as below, along with comments as to progress:

  1. To Blog at least twice per month throughout 2016: My blogging generally throughout most of 2016 has been at a rate of a post per week, while in February as part of #teacher5aday I posted daily for the whole month.   Quantifiably I easily met and exceeded my target however I have found myself questioning why I blog and also questioning the fact that at times I have found arriving at a subject for posts to be difficult and even forced.   I now wonder if the rate of blogging was the wrong thing to look at, instead I should have focussed on measuring what I hope to get from blogging.   I also wonder whether if I would have blogged had I not set a quantifiable target;  The fortnightly target may have acted on my motivation and ensured I kept up the effort.
  2. To maintain my presence and contributions to twitter (1.9 tweets per day): Again like for blogging, I have exceeded the target achieving a rate of almost 5 tweets per day.    Looking back I don’t think I appreciated the use of twitter chats and the number of tweets generated when you get truly involved on a regular basis.     As such the target may have been on the low side.   The other thing which is key here is that the value wasn’t in the number of tweets but in what I got from the twitter chats in particular.   I may have tweeted less or tweeted more however still have benefited to the same extent.     I occasionally spent time, albeit a small amount of time, keeping my buffer account full while thinking about the 1.9 tweet target; was that time well spent?   I am not sure it was however again the quantifiable target may have acted to sustain my motivation.
  3. To achieve Google Certified Educator Level 2 status: I didn’t hit this target mainly due to never really getting started.   This was mainly due to focussing on Microsoft Innovative Educator status which I achieve and also on the Certified IS Auditor status for which I am currently awaiting the results having sat the exam recently.    So the target as far as I am concerned is met in that I achieved another status in MIEE status.    It is also an area which I value in challenging myself to work or study towards qualifications or other certification.  Thinking back though, and following feeling totally knackered for a week after the recent CISA exam, I do wonder whether I may have pushed myself a tad too hard.   Was I overdoing it?
  4. To read at least 1 book per month: I read more than 12 new books during 2016 and very much enjoyed doing so.   At times finding time was difficult however I found that once I got started I ate through books and from each book identified follow on books to read.     The idea of a persons knowledge being measured by the books in their library which they are yet to read, as mentioned in Talebs Black Swam, very much appeals to me so I intend to keep my library full of books yet to be read, and to keep on reading.
  5. To use tools such as Evernote and Buffer to allow me to work smarter: I think I made a limited amount of progress here in that I have developed coping strategies and approaches however these approaches may not truly be “smart”.   An example of this is emailing myself with interesting articles to read, for future review.   I could easily make progress here for example emailing to Evernote as opposed to my email account however this requires a change in established habits.   This is something which still requires work.
  6. To get involved in twitter chats: As mentioned earlier during 2016 I got involved in a number of twitter chats including #sltchat, #mltchat and #edchatmena.   I would suggest that the target of fortnightly was met, however again it isn’t the frequency which actually mattered, it was the value I drew from the discussions.    Did I enjoy the chats as they were useful, due to the fact they challenged my perspective and ideas or due to the fact they confirmed my perspective and ideas?    (Confirmation is easier to stomach than challenge of ones ideas and perspective however this doesn’t make it better or more beneficial, just easier.)
  7. To get involved in events and conferences: I did get involved in a couple of conferences and events during 2016 however I wouldn’t say it was to the same extent as I had been involved in the UAE.   As such I made a start on this during 2016 however there is still work to be done if I want to reach the level of involvement I would like to see myself achieve.   There is a question here with regards available time and trying to do too much and therefore I may also need to re-evaluate what is most important including whether event involvement is actually important to me.
  8. To experiment with video and YouTube: I did very little on this until December when I contributed a little video as part of #teacher5aday.     Thinking about it I wonder whether my target hadn’t taken into consideration how comfortable I feel with regards video;   It just isn’t something which sits easy with me.    As such I will need to consider whether pushing myself out of my comfort zone is an important factor as during 2016 it wasn’t and therefore I made little progress on this target.

Overall looking back I feel I achieved well on the largely quantifiable targets which I set myself.    I should be happy about this in the easy way with which I can measure the success of 2016 however is a years worth of effort, sweat and toil meant to be easy to measure?    Is life that simple?    I would suggest that it isn’t and therefore maybe the targets, albeit easy to measure, weren’t as valuable as they could have been now that I reflect on 2016.     Their quantifiable nature also hides any real discussion as to the importance of what I was looking to achieve.     The flip side here however is that without the quantifiable targets I may not have sustained my motivation in the way I did during 2016, and some of the targets may have fallen by the way side.

As I look to consider targets for 2017 I need to bear the above in mind.    On reflection I may have posed more questions than I have presented answers however as I mentioned before, maybe this is due to the fact that life just isn’t simple.    That said, I would say 2016 was a busy and successful year.  I think I achieved a fair amount although maybe the figures associated with the targets above just don’t tell the full richness of the story of 2016.    I would like to hope that 2017 is successful first, and possibly busy as a secondary attribute!

 

 

 

Books for 2017

During 2016 I had set myself a target of reading 1 book per month.   Despite a number of other pressures and priorities I managed to meet this target with the below photo being of my bookshelf and some of the books I have read during 2016.

books_2016

As the new year approaches my thoughts move to equipping my bookshelf with books for reading during 2017.   At the moment the first few books have been purchased and added and are as below:

  • Essentialism, Greg McKeown (2014)
  • The power of habit, Charles Duhigg (2012)
  • Predictably irrational, Dan Ariely (2008)
  • Herd, Mark Earls (2007)

The first set of books very much focus on behaviourism and on human habit which is a particular area of interest for me at the moment.

In addition I am also considering:

  • Bounce, Matthew Syed
  • Chaos Monkeys, Antonio Garcia Martinez
  • Pebbles of Perception, Laurence Endersen
  • Meditations, Marcus Aurelius
  • Mindfulness, Gill Hansen
  • The Chimp Paradox, Prof. Steve Peters
  • Being Brilliant, Andrew Cope
  • The Obstacle is the way, Ryan Holiday

From the above all are new to me except for The Obstacle is the way which I listened to as an audio book during 2015.    These books cover perception which is another area of interest for me, plus introduce mindfulness which I find to be an interesting area and also creativity.

Should I go with all of the above this would form my initial 12 books for the year however I suspect that as I read through them additional books might be added.

I would welcome any suggestions or recommendations plus any reviews or comments on the above books.

 

PISA: A balanced analysis?

So the PISA results were released today and with them a flurry of online articles providing various analysis and conclusions from the data.   It is my intention to post a couple of times over the coming weeks in relation to PISA and standardized testing.    As my first post my inspiration comes from a twitter discussion from the weekend, as part of the weekly #sltchat, where recruitment was being discussed.    The below tweet highlights the particular strand of the chat which I would like to highlight:

This strand of the discussion revolved around this constant need to bang on about how UK education is failing, is poor, isn’t working and a variety of other less than positive descriptions.

So what does this have to do with PISA.   Well, during my usual browse through social media and the news I came across an article in the Guardian looking at the PISA results.   You can read the article in full here.   The title:

“UK schools fail to climb international league table “

The use of “fail” in the article title; Not exactly a positive start.    It become more interesting when you dig around in some of the figures.   Lets just take the Science results;  The results show a fall from 514 in 2012 down to 509 this year which seems to align with the less than positive reporting however this doesn’t tell the full story.   It should also be noted that a drop of 5 represents a less than 1% variation.   Could this variation be explained through uncontrollable random variation within the sample group?    Is this drop statistically significant?   I doubt it.

Ignoring the issue of statistical significance for a moment, the UK science position in the rankings rose 6 places between 2012 and 2015 which seems to be a slightly more positive picture.   Also looking at the average of all countries we find that this fell from 501 to 493, representing a drop of 8 yet the UK only dropped by 5.   This UK difference, the drop of 5, could be considered as an improvement against the average across the period.   Also we should note that UK score of 509 is above the average, which again sounds reasonably positive.   A US article on the TIMSS data from last week had proclaim merrily that US students were “above average” however in this negative article we in the UK make no such claim despite the fact it would be valid.   The article was quick to point out falling UK results but didn’t report changes in the OECD averages across the period for comparison.

The article also didn’t share any information with regards the numbers of students involved in testing within each country and how this sample compares to the overall population of study within each country.   From a statistical analysis point of view this information would help in establishing the reliability, or lack there of, for the data.

So all in all I feel the negativity of the article doesn’t truly tell the story plus there is a lot of information missing which may cause us to question or at least assign less weight to the findings.

And all of the above is before I start discussing the issue of using standardized testing as a way to direct how individual students are taught in individual schools within individual geographical areas each with their own individual needs and context (did I use “individual enough to get my point across?).    Not to mention possible discussions in relation to the statistical value of the findings and also the impact of natural random variation on the results.

Do I like or value the PISA finding?   No not really, but that isn’t the point here.   My point, and I may have gone the long way about it, is why are we allowing such a negative view to be projected onto our education system when even the data seems to have some possible positive indicators.   Lets have some celebration of successes for once, of first steps in a positive direction.   Lets have anything except finger pointing!

Social Media: Do you take photo at events?

wedfevent-photoI recently read an interesting article on Social Media use from the Guardian (You can read the post here)

It got me thinking about why I post as I am conscious that I am one of those people who occasionally posts photos taken from conference events as referred to in the article.

I think I have 2 main reasons for posting photos from a conference.   The first of these is to promote a discussion of a point raised at the event.    Conference events are largely one way, with the sage on the stage presenting their theories, opinions and thoughts.   As such there isn’t really an opportunity to spark up a discussion beyond the usually short Q&A at the end of each session.  By posting a photo to twitter you can seek to start a discussion or see how much agreement, via liking, exists as to the point.   The act of posting also pushes the point being raised to a wider audience, beyond that of the venue in which the event is being held.

The second reason I have for posting a picture from an event is as a record for myself.   Once I have posted it, it is logged within my twitter account for review later.   As such I can relocate points at a later stage where I need to plus I can also reflect on my previous thoughts and opinions based on what I posted as opposed to what I remember.    I am conscious after reading various books including Talebs, The Black Swan, of the potential falseness of memory, so being able to look back on my social media posts to ensure my recollections are correct is very helpful.

Some of the best events I have been to have involved the presenter making use of social media as a back channel to support a greater degree of two way communication however that is not for everyone.

I will continue posting comments and photos from events.   I will try to be as discreet as possible in doing so in order to avoid impacting on the experience of others attending such events however if you are sat behind or beside me and I am detracting from your experience please feel free to let me know.

 

December: A time to reflect

xmas1It is the 2nd of December, the festive season begins, the first term of the 2016/17 year draws to a close and its almost time to consider my resolutions for 2017.   But before I get to that I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the year so far as it nears its close.

Back in December 2017 I set myself a number of new years resolutions which I have revisited throughout the year.   Generally I feel I am doing pretty well with them however there are some areas where there is room for improvement, as there always is.    There are also things which have arisen during the year, which were not on my resolutions, which I should give thought to.

Looking back at my resolutions a number of them revolved around engagement with the wider educational community through the use of online tools.   This included contributing regularly to twitter, blogging on a regular basis and engaging with various educational twitter chats.   In each of these cases I have significantly exceeded the SMART target which I set out to achieve.   As the year has gone on though this has raised a question with me.   My contributions take time;  could this time be better spent on other areas of my life, job, etc?     Now I don’t have an answer for this as it is not an easy questions.    Blogging for example takes time, however in the future provides a useful window into my thinking at specific times in the past.    Looking back now to 2015 I did not blog anywhere near as much as I have been doing and now looking back I wish I had, as I am sure I had specific thoughts and ideas, found resources, etc. however as I haven’t committed anything to a blog I don’t have access to my thoughts.   Looking at 2016, my various blog entries and tweets provide quite a detailed view of my thinking and the issues arising at various points throughout the year.    I also wonder about the overall global educational context.    If everyone who blogs suddenly stopped then the online educational world would have lost a lot of its richness, being only filled with those educators with sponsorship or advertising deals.    As such I see my online contributions as something I need to continue however also to monitor.     It is important to keep focus on what matter, or “first things first” as Covey put it, so I need to continually reassess if my contributions matter.

Reading was another key target I had set myself as prior to the start of 2016 I read books only very occasionally.   Throughout 2016 I have endeavoured to read a variety of books, with one new book per month.   I have pretty much managed to do this and feel that this is something which I definitely want to continue.   The books I have read have allowed me to question some of my own assumptions and to explore new ideas.   As Taleb put it in “The Black Swan” the important factor isn’t however the number or titles of the books I have read, but the books I am yet to read.   As such I am already intent in 2017 seeing me reading even more frequently and seeing more books added to my library of books still to read.

Back in December last year I had also set myself some targets as to new things to achieve and to try.    These are the items which I have succeeded to a lesser extent.    Looking back though I think that may have been due to the fact that I saw these items as of a lesser priority.    Sadly the priority of the resolutions was not identified when I listed them; This is something I need to take into consideration when it comes to creating resolutions for 2017, to list them in priority order.     At this stage I haven’t achieved my Google Certified Educator Level 2 however I did achieve Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert.      My work smarter target hasn’t really seen me use Evernote, although I have experimented with a number of apps.   I would say there is still work to be done here.    And as to video blogging or other video contributions this isn’t something I have made any real progress on this year and therefore is either something to carry out to 2017 or something which I need to put to the side as no longer being important.

As the year draws to a close I cant quite believe how fast it has disappeared however I will take that as a sign that I am enjoying things which can only be a good thing.    2017 represents a new year, new challenges, new opportunities and an opportunity to try new things.    I look forward to 2017 and to continuing to record my thoughts and ideas via this blog.

Merry Christmas to all!