May 10, 2015

The surface of social media

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Recently I attended a retreat on the importance of seeing and hearing for mindfulness.  When we got to the questions at the very end of two great sessions the discussion went in the direction of the issues of society today mainly due to social media. 

In particular the focus was on how social media leads people’s to skim over the surface by not not delving into the issues, nor reading with greater depth, nor thinking with analysis and evaluation.

I have to admit that there has been a  bit of surface reading and engagement by me, though I have never had the amount of information that is now available and at the tip of my finger tips. As a person he who used to skim while sitting in Fisher Library at Sydney University for hours on end, I was and now am in my element. 

Hence I too, as with university, have to consciously choose to pick a book in the library or article on the web, sourced via Twitter,  and take the deep dive. 

How did I get to this point of seeing the value of social media? By spending time in the library and now by using Twitter. 

Though I found it ironic at the end of the retreat a few participants were not prepared to see and hear the value of something that is new. Or to be fair,  as yet, could not see the value.  If in fact you can call something new that has been around for 8-10 years. 

This got me thinking about how to explain social media out of the context of social media, through an analogy. 

I attended the retreat to build an understanding of something I struggle to understand. In fact I could say that at times I have found religion as being on the surface without depth in society. Fortunately, this has not been my experience,  though indulge me for the sake of the analogy. 

The more I have engaged with retreats (aka engaging with social media) the more I can see a depth and potentiaI I did not see before. Surely the same approach could be adopted in trying to understand social media. 

So I guess I am suggesting jump in and try social media before you conclude  too quickly about its shallowness. You may still decide social media is only on the surface and does not allow for deeper thinking and analysis, at least the decision is informed by experience.

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May 9, 2015

Open Eye Open Ear – living with mindfulness.

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I just attended community retreat at Loreto Normanhurst. Lots of great ideas for me to process thanks to Father David for leading the retreat. @DavidSyd4

Here are some notes. Excuse typos – will proof later.

Open eye open ear – living with mindfulness 


Listening Life from a listening heart 

Sacramental imagination. 

The world becomes and icon which draws us into it. 

Parable how best to catch a lion don’t go looking for it. So it is necessary to stop still light a fire and the lion will find you. This is a good description of our relationship with God. 

Spiritual life is a celebration of all that is around us. Gods spirit is experienced is very tangible ways as suggested in the Old Testament. So
Spirit is not above matter – wind a storm gentle breeze. The spirit gives life and energy to the world. This brings joy into our life. So the world is not a threat but an icon which draws us into ourself.  

The experience of God deepens the experiences of life. 

So we move from being asleep in life to be more alert aware and awake in life. 

If you see and hear to much brings responsibility so this is why society sometimes prefers to be asleep. So stay wide awake. Live with an open ear and eye. Allow yourself to be encountered. 

I have never meat a person who is fully awake. How can I look them in their face. Henry T

So how do the scriptures develop this sense? Jesus at is fully awake. Jesus comes back and finds his disciples asleep. 

How do we develop our sense of listening. Simone Vale. God is attention without distraction. God is the one who is eternally listening for us.  My thought –  listening and seeing is mindfulness. Concentration leaves us tired while attention enlivens us. Be present before something hold something in our gaze to allow the truth and beauty to come back to us.

Well our indigenous Australians knew this themselves. They could not live good and useful lives unless we listened. To much thinking and doing is like the experience of too much concentration. Or some times are minds are too much in the past or future rather that being empty now. To look you must be here. You are mostly somewhere else. 

We have become used the language of mastery rather than receptivity. Maybe this is because we are used to receiving the world through touch our hands. Look at a child. Perhaps we have become locked into the way we come into knowledge. We don’t understand something till we have grasped it. So our language betrays us in a certain sense. 

There is another way is that we come into knowledge is by looking a young child first looks. The baby first smells the mother then the eye and gazing in order to come into a knowledge of something. 

Listen with the ear of your heart.  St Benedict. 

If we listen we will be taken back to the presence of God. 

The world itself becomes a liturgy. Thomas Merton 


Discovering Stillness

To love is the decision to listen. How do we do this in the midst of what we do normally. 

There is a stillness waiting for us in the middle of what we are doing. There is a space that can open up. 

This stillness is a challenge and a responsibility. 

Martha and Mary story in the Gospel. Martha was doing all the work Mary doing nothing. Been taken to reflect the active or contemplative  life. Rather they are two spects of the one person. Martha and Mary love in me. Mary moved beyond the commentary  and surrendered to a silence beyond her feelings. Mary speaks out due to over attachment to her feelings. 

It is not so much letting go of thoughts it is moving beyond them and not attaching to them. 

Thomas Merton The Inner Experience we get caught up in a projected image of ourself and thus there is a greater capacity to attach ourselves ourselves. In experience the projected self is under threat and hence I grasp and grab hold – fixated. The solution is with the dissolution of the false self. The problems will go if we trust life to do this for this. 

A Sunlit Absence. Martin Laird. How do we discover the Mary that is in us. Awareness is like the sea when it is calm we can see right into it. With wind and waves it hides what it was like when it was calm. Life is like an ocean. The stillness underneath is always there. 

‘ …the steady gaze into the open countryside of the mind…’

Laird suggests we need to deal with the monkey mind. The monkey in our back. Look over the shoulder of distraction. We have to be silent enough to push away the distractions that have shoulders. In order to look over the shoulder we have to meet distractions with stillness not commentary. Meeting distractions with stillness instead of commentary implies there will be no commentary but also a steady gaze searching for something else. 

Recovering some sense of silence and solitude not apart from what we are doing but while we are doing things. Walking between activities….most of that time is done  in commentary. Merton suggests we will never be happy unless we ask the question ‘is there something more?’

How do we find silence? By stretching our minds of the open countryside of consciousness. I perceive there is a silence around me a stillness that embraces me. ‘All these are whispers of YOU who IS.’

How do we find solitude? It is not just a case of being alone. Solitude finds us rather than we find solitude. Note to self. This is what I found at the Music Festival. 

John Barbour on Solitude. We find it when we move beyond our role based identities. Move beyond the socially based expectations about ourselves. When
I go to dinner with friends the expectations  of society on me don’t exist with friends. Solitude facilitates me being able to move beyond in stillness. 


We don’t need meditation to to do this. Meditation  asks you stop what you are doing not finding the stillness in  admidst what we are doing. 

We have to trust life that life will solve the problem. 

Silence does not mean the absence of physical noise. It is about reaching out beyond my thought.

Solitude does not mean the absence of people. 

We don’t have to sit down and solve problems. This is a controlling notion. 

Are we just living on the surface. Have words such as like and friends have become debased. Are the deeper connections in our brains being effected. That is are we using the back of our brain. 

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April 29, 2015

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers and ICT related Descriptors

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Hi all,

I have been doing some work in the  Teacher Accreditation space with particular focus on the ICT/Learning Technology skills  related descriptors for the different strands of the official document: –  Australian Professional Standards for Teachers.

In view of what is on the horizon ( pre 2004 and post 2004 teachers) I thought it prudent to have a look at where ICT  potential courses could be developed (endorsed and teacher identified).

I have been though the document and tried to do two things:

1. Identify the key ICT descriptors in the seven strands and placed them on a grid.

2.  Link Career Stages ( Graduate, Proficient, Highly Accomplished and Lead Teacher) to possible ICT related activities –


Anyway here is a draft of what I am talking about and I thought I would share it with the group.   Scaffold Learning Technology Skills for Teacher Accreditation

Happy for any feed back and for you to use as you wish.


Cheers Martin

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April 17, 2015

My rewarding holiday reading etal

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My holiday reading was rewarding.

I started out with the biography of John XXIII. I am trying to read about the key global people that have been around while I have been alive.

I followed this up with reading a biography on Bill Clinton. Always like reading about politicians.

Next on the agenda is a book about on the relationship between genes and training across a range of sporting individuals. Essentially focussing on the the 10 000 hour principle.

The geographer in me read the papers from the last Hornsby Council Meeting.

Of course there has to be at least one iBook about running – The Way of a Runner which is about the Japanses monks that run a marathon a day for a thousand days.

On top of this was some binge watching of a variety of TV series and movies.

All balanced with between an hour and two hours of running and walking each day. Runs no longer than 6 km.

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March 18, 2015

Pedagogy is the driver and technology is the accelerator.

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Pedagogy is the driver and technology is the accelerator.
At the start of 2015 Heads of Department undertook an evaluation process of the recent solid HSC results. The discussion had two aspects,  firstly what has  the school, students, parent and staff been doing to attain these good learning outcomes and secondly how does this transfer itself into the results the school achieves. The focus here today is to take a deeper dive into how he school has used technology to enhance learning.
The school can examine previous results in external assessments and make comparisons of results with in and between existing cohorts of students. These comparisons can be made and analysed in the context of past and present school programs and strategies, such as the on going positive impact of the FACE curriculum. For example, this includes including how the personal dimension of spiritual growth, the role of conversations, the encouragement of sharing and collaboration in learning,  the importance of being an active community member and the need of balance between study and exercise of the mind and body, through the extra curricular program, all contribute to a balanced learning program at Loreto.
Arecently implemented program is having a positive impact on student learning. Loreto’s 1:1 Laptop program has spread its influence over all aspects of the FACE dimension of the school- in particular the academic component.
The embedded nature of our students’ use of technology makes it difficult to identify and document the precise way learning is enhanced. However, in the educational community there is evidence that the use of technology enhances learning as indicated by the application of the Learning Pyramid, TPACK and SAMR models of learning.
Technology has always been used to enhance learning.  The production of the printing press provided printed material to read, the use of the pen and pencil made it possible to communicate in the written form and developments in communication such as the telegraph, radio, television, the internet and mobile devices are examples of technology that are embedded in our community and have enhanced learning in the past.
There is some anecdotal evidence that Enhanced Learning Technologies (ELT) at Loreto is having a positive impact on learning. This is particularly the case in knowledge acquisition and analysis, digital resource management and though collaboration and sharing to enhance learning.
Firstly, there are improvements in information acquisition and analysis in the era of digital learning. Students use different devices at the same time to consume information such as reading a digital textbook on an iPad or through an extended monitor and a laptop to create work for learning. With our state of the art infrastructure and access to devices students can collate the information they require for their learning in an efficient and timely manner. With the guidance of their teachers the girls can discern the important information.
Secondly, over the years of the 1:1 program it is evident that more students are managing their digital resources in a productive and efficient manner. This reflects the personal aspects to learning. The traditional skills of reading, writing and the subsequent notetaking, comprehension and revision are still important. Students have evolved a range of strategies to achieve these goals. For example, Year 7 are guided in this process with the Science Department’s workshops on how to use OneNote. The ICT department has plans for students to back up work through cloud storage; enabling work to be accessed anywhere and on any device. Students have developed their unique and personalised approaches to the management of their learning through the use of technology rich data collection and acquisition through to the importance of handwriting and digital notetaking for the processing of information.
Thirdly, the use of technology enables students to enhance their learning using tools which which they have familiarity. Recently, in Year 10 Integrated Learning, the sharing of ideas and related actions to concepts studied, such as Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), were articulated through the collection of ideas through the Google Classroom and the communication of these ideas was through a number of delivery platforms such as Wordle. This collaboration and sharing improved understanding through greater exposure to different perspectives. Students developed a deep pool of resources and ideas from which they could draw a personal action  to demonstrate their support of a chosen sustainable development goal.
To borrow from a quote sourced from Twitter: ‘pedagogy is the driver and technology is the accelerator’. Sometimes this is interpreted that learning happens too quickly with the use of technology, rather it may mean our students can choose to be smart in their learning using technology to improve, perhaps even speed up, their knowledge acquisition and skills. Consequently this allows more class and personal time for deeper thinking and analysis which we contend is enhancing their learning and potentially their learning outcomes.
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