Puppets on a string

CC0 License: https://www.pexels.com/photo/bag-electronics-girl-hands-359757/
The post is inspired by a L2talk I did at the Learning2 Europe conference in Warsaw.

“Every storyteller has a bias – and so does every platform”- Andrew Postman “My Dad Predicted Trump in 1985 – It’s Not Orwell, He Warned, It’s Brave New World.” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 02 Feb. 2017

I am an addict. Are you too? Don’t you hate it when you can’t find your phone, and a friend has to call it. Maybe the first thing you did this morning was check your phone and the last thing you did today was check your phone. Think of it, we walk and text, and even drive and text. Have you had this happen, you are in a social situation and you go the bathroom to check an update. You are standing on a street corner and suddenly realize you are on your phone swiping at it, unconsciously. Then there is the feeling you get when you post a picture on a social media feed. The “likes” start coming in. It feels good, really good, and then you check back and back. You post an update and there no “likes”. You start wondering to yourself what is going on?

(CC BY 2.0) Photo taken by Angus MacAskill “Rat” https://www.flickr.com/photos/19951543@N00/3908678004/
I am sure you’ve heard about B.J Skinner’s rat experiment. The first rat had a lever in its cage, and every time it hit the lever food would come out. The second rat in the same set-up, hit the lever and nothing came out, no food. The third rat, same set-up, when it hit the lever a little food came out, then nothing, and then a lot, and then nothing again. The third rat developed an addiction. It quickly realized as long as it hit the lever it had a chance of getting some food. This is called the principal of variable rewards. That feel good feeling, the dopamine rush. Behavior design as explained in this article (Scientist who make our apps addictive by Ian Leslie 1843 Economist October.November 2016) is a critical part of every app development. Tech companies employ behavior economist, psychologist, and psychiatrists in the creation, design and curation of our apps ecosystems to ensure we keep coming back.

So many of our interactions with devices are subconscious. In Eric Pickersgill thought provoking photos series “Removed” (do spend some time on the link) he highlights the idea of being alone together as Sherry Turkle so aptly describes in her book Alone Together. We are often physically together with another person in a space sometimes even intimately but our mind’s burrowed in a phone.

As adults, we are quick t0 point the finger at kids for not being able to manage their screen-time. Think of this, the first time an infant will interact with a digital device is watching a parent using one. What does it feel like for a child in a pram looking up at their parent to only see a blank expression immersed in their smartphone. The dinner table conversation interrupted by parents checking work emails. Mary Aiken in her book “ The Cyber Effect” states we are asking the wrong question. Mary Aiken writes “We should not be asking at what age is it appropriate to give a digital device to an infant, but be asking the question when is it appropriate for an adult to interact with a digital device in front of an infant.

A good example of behavior design is Snapchat and the new feature “streaks“. The idea of streaks if you have a dialogue with a friend over 24 hours and you continue this over days, a flame emoji shows up. In tandem a number counting your interactions keeps tally. Should one of you stop posting, an hour glass shows up giving you a heads up that the streak will disappear if you do not stay on. For adolescent’s social media relationships can be a gauge of their social capital. Streaks adds a layer of complexity to the interactions.

I am not against digital devices. I have been working in Education Technology as a coach, coordinator, IT Director and Director of eLearning for over 20 years. I love the seamless and frictionless experience of our digital environments.

By Jim McDougall from Glasgow, Scotland (Puppets on a String Uploaded by Snowmanradio) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
It is a fact that our online data (health apps, social media, travel, online games, GPS, shopping, search etc…) is collected, analyzed, and then sold to third parties, or curated to give us a personalized online experiences with a clear goal to manipulate our behaviors. We as educators have an ethical responsibility to be skeptical of behavior design’s narrative. Let us challenge our learning communities to question the complexity and consequences of behavior design in our lives. Stuffing a digital citizenship lesson for 15 minutes during a Friday morning advisory is not enough. We need to make this narrative an integral part of the living curriculum.

Do we want to end up being puppets pulled by the strings of choreographed digital ecosystems which we do not control?

I think it is important to understand schools are most likely the last place where children interact with digital devices with balance and pedagogic purpose. We cannot take this for granted.

If we ignore behavior design we will loose something. Free will. I and you do not want to lose this.

John @ http://beyonddigital.org
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Sneak Preview: Four things we learned from our survey of Google use in schools worldwide

By +Dan Taylor

Each year AppsEvents produces our survey of Google use in schools worldwide and it’s the most extensive survey tracking the trends and statistics for how schools are using Google, and how it fits into their overall IT infrastructure and strategies for teaching and learning (note if you didn’t complete the survey yet you still have 5 days so do it now :)

Respondents get early access to the findings for a week before we release to the general public, so please forward to your colleagues at other schools.

We will be preparing the full results next week but thought we would share with you a few ‘early access’ findings from a look at the data submitted so far.
  1. Classroom - A whopping 90% of respondents are using Google Classroom in their schools, up from 74% in 2016. This fits into our thesis that Classroom is driver for the fourth distinct phase of Google adoption in schools.
  2. Chromebooks - No surprises here but Chromebook use has made a big jump in the past year. In 2016 48% of respondents used them at their school. In 2017 it is up to 69%! A full 19% increase. We expect this trend to continue in 2018 with European schools now leading the adoption.
  3. Tablets - Tablet use has remained fairly constant. 74% in 2016 compared to 78% in 2017. We expect this to remain roughly the same and possibly decrease slightly through 2018 as Chromebooks capture more of the iPad market.
  4. People are still calling G Suite Google Apps :) A keyword search of the two shows slightly more people referring to Google Apps than G Suite. We still make this mistake sometimes in the AppsEvents team but we are getting better!
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Taking a Chromebook for a Spin

by +James Sayer

Earlier this year Acer announced its latest Chromebook designed for education, the Chromebook Spin 11 (with stylus). I have been lucky enough to have received a pre-release device to check it out.

For anyone new to Chromebooks, Chrome OS powers these devices and is essentially the Chrome browser hardwired as an operating system. Fast start-up times, highly secure (Google has offered a ‘reward’ if anyone hacks their OS), Chromebooks are a fast internet ready device that don’t get slowed down by unnecessary software. Missing Photo editing software? Video editing? There are hundreds of thousands of Apps and Extensions and some very powerful replacement tools. Watch this for an awesome overview of Chrome OS:


Picking up the Spin 11 for the first time and it has a reassuringly rugged feel. With rubberised edges, it is designed to withstand drops from 48 in (122cm) - perfect for that grade 5 student passing to their friend or the grade 10 student accidentally pushing it off the edge of a desk! Officially the Spin 11 is ‘US Military Standard MIL-STD-810’, what this means in practice is that it is strong enough and resistant enough to withstand most of what our students can throw at it. The water resistant keyboard (and yes I did test this...accidentally!), and anti-bacterial screen coating means that shared devices needn’t be germ magnets!

I met with YM, Acer’s Product Marketing guru, who encouraged me to stand on one foot on the device, drop it onto a hard surface and run it under water - and it still plays video and runs normally! Check out the video on durability:

Much like Acer’s R11, the device is fully convertible. Writing an essay? Use as a regular laptop. Studying for an exam? Fold it up like a tent and place on your desk to read your ebook. Need to film some video? Just fold back the screen and the outward facing 5mp camera above the keyboard is perfectly placed to record as you would with a tablet. The strong hinges mean that the Chromebook can be picked up by the screen without the keyboard moving around.

The Spin 11 has two USB-C and two USB-B ports, along with an SD card reader and headphone jack. Teachers might need to get a USB-C to HDMI dongle as there is no exclusive display connector. But then, of course, there is Chromecast for wirelessly transmitting your display.

So it is more than strong enough and resistant enough for the classroom, what about its features?


The Spin 11 will be the first to be powered by Intel’s latest Sunny Lake chip, with RAM options from 4-8gb and Solid State hard drive between 32-64gb there is plenty of power for most educational requirements. And of course, linked to your school account you have unlimited cloud storage from G-Suite for Education.

In reality, this means that the Spin 11 is fast enough to handle everything that Chrome has to offer. I have frequently had 3 accounts signed in, with video conferencing, several drive tabs and apps open and the Chromebook didn’t slow.

This is also one of the first Chromebooks to have Android apps via Google’s Play Store enabled by default.

And of course, there is that stylus.

Acer has partnered with Wacom and included a stylus with the Spin 11. About the same size and weight as a regular ball-point pen, and utilising EMR technology (yes I had to look that up! Read more here) it is easy to hold and write, and resists palm detection when held a few mm from the screen surface. In practice, it is as fast and easy to write as any other tablet-pen combo. With Texthelp’s upcoming EquatIO with handwriting recognition for math teachers this is going to be a huge time saving feature. I can see this being great for sketching/annotating notes and quickly adding handwritten notes to Google Keep.

Summing Up

As a teacher for 16 years, I can confidently say that this is a device designed for the classroom. Rugged, flexible, easy to deploy and control, it can be a tablet, laptop and more. This is the go anywhere and do everything device at a price most schools can afford.

Want a device that you can view your Classroom assignments and then flip over to use the stylus to annotate student work? Do you have students that need to record video on a field trip and need a device rugged enough to handle this? The Acer Chromebook Spin 11 could be the device for you.
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