Outclassed Podcast: Episode 8 – How to bridge the gap between IT and teaching teams

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In this Episode:

In this week’s OutClassed Podcast, Mike and Blake discuss a range of topics including:

*What your IT team wished teachers understood about their role
* What teachers wished IT teams understood about what it is like to be a teacher
* How to influence each group so that everyone wins

To see all the OutClassed episodes go to utb.fyi/outclassed

[buzzsprout episode=’3959561′ player=’true’]

Podcast Episode Highlights:

2:50 Who is Blake, what is his background, and what is he passionate about?
7:10 How Blake and Mike first met
9:55 How can a school better communicate with their IT team?
17:00 What % of time should be proactive vs reactive
19:03 How to IT teams can communicate with school leadership about why you need to upgrade the equipment
21:45 How to spot the influencer in the room?
24:00 The ‘5 whys’ and how this can help clarify the request
28:20 What teachers wish IT people knew about their role
32:50 What IT people wished teachers knew about their role
40:15 Listener feedback
41:35 In the news: Edwin Snowden and the risk of COVID apps
45:40 Wins and fails Google read along app, Microsoft will put a server in New Zealand (wins) Google Duo (fail)

Resources mentioned:

Covid apps and our rights with Edwin Snowden 

If you are joining for the first time – we have been developing our thinking – in the last episode Blake said he has downloaded the covid app – I was on the side of not downloading it – snowden episode

8:45 – we are so worried about today that we have stopped thinking about tomorrow
9:35 – it doesn’t work
12:00 ananomise it – to get location data you can’t ananomolise it

Google unifies all of its messaging and communication apps into a single 

Read Along by Google: A fun reading app

Microsoft putting server in NZ


Mike Reading  00:00
All right, welcome back to the outclassed podcasts. It’s great to be with you again this week. And we’ve just had an announcement from our prime minister in New Zealand that we’re allowed to go to level two lockdown, which means restaurants and cafes can open. So I think there’s a little bit of celebrating and cheering and a bit of cautious optimism in New Zealand. And so hopefully, wherever you are at the moment, you’re staying safe and staying home or taking care when you’re out and about. And we’ve got Blake with us in Australia. How’s things gone for you Blake?


Blake  00:33
Going well, Mike, we’re in a similar boat. I think it’s Wednesday morning where our restrictions being eased a little bit. And we can have five people in the house now. We’re still obviously urging us not to have parties and things. So things are going well. Yeah, they want to have schools back before the end of the term, hopefully, so we’re waiting to hear more on that but just kind of thinking that through and trying to coordinate a bit of a plan when we hear the official news.


Mike Reading  01:00

Yeah, great probably should say that it’s, we’re recording this on the 11th of may 2020. In case people are listening to this a little bit later on, I’m wondering, where are we in this thing, it’d be interesting listening coming back as well. I’m upstairs actually moved up into a loft and just to give the family a bit of extra space, and I’m trying to deaden the room a little bit, you can see I’ve got my little blankie hanging over the back of the microphone here trying to deaden some sound. So hopefully, the sounds okay. And now you’re still recording in your garage. So this is part of that whole COVID movement, right? We’re finding all these crazy little places to work in now. You know, lounge rooms and bedrooms and closet cupboards and all sorts of places, like apartment,


Blake  01:43

cooped up everywhere at the moment. That’s one thing I’m looking forward to is getting back to the office. And I think a lot of people are getting used to working at home as well. So it’ll be interesting to see that transition as we come back to, you know, having to be at work on time, every time and that kind of getting back to the regimented routine. So looking forward to it.


Mike Reading  02:03

yeah, totally. Hey, I was just looking online, just before we joined and hit record on this just looking at our episode download. So we just released this podcast a week ago, we’ve already had some people binge, the different episodes that we had, we just released four episodes, and it’s been great. We’ve had over 170 people download the podcast this weekend alone. So really appreciate those who have downloaded it and help share it. And we’ve got a little bit of feedback from a couple of people, which I might just share in a second, but one of the questions that have come through and I think we’re up to episode number seven or eight, episode eight this time, is just you know, especially people that hang out in my tribe and know me a little bit but they’re asking Who’s this Blake guy and how do you know him? what’s his background, so maybe it’d be good just to take a moment like and introduce yourself and maybe just we can talk a little bit about our history and how we got together. All those many years ago?


Blake  03:02

Sure. So, yeah, for those who don’t know me, Mike and myself have worked together for years, we actually ran conferences together all across the country. I don’t even know how many years ago that was now. And you know, we’ve done a number of sort of, I guess, partnerships across the years and trying to help schools out and work through this management. managing technology challenge that everyone is facing. But I think, I guess different things to different people. But I’m first and foremost, I work at McKinnon, Secondary College on the technology manager there. That’s my sort of full time job. And through that job, I’ve been lucky enough to, you know, be recognized as Google reference school. And I’ve done a lot of work with various partners like Microsoft and Google and things like that, and done a lot of consulting around the country. So people have brought me out to schools to help them transform what they’re doing. transform the classroom, not just the back end and the back end, but actually, how do we navigate those things together in my, my skill set, what I became known for was really bridging that divide between the teachers and the tech, I’m always talking about that, where I want to sort of take away this, this notion that the techs have one job, and the teachers have the other, we all have one job. And that’s, you know, in service to the children. So, I’ve been working on that, you know, I really love technology, I love the idea of us, you know, building a more collaborative generation of students and using these technologies to really transform what’s possible in the future. And I think to do that we have to start, you know, asking some hard questions and, and, you know, trying to think about new frameworks and new ways to manage technology in schools that can provide that end goal because I fundamentally think like the digital education revolution hasn’t arrived. We have this big, you know, idea. And Rob spent a lot of money in Australia and it’s been a lot of investment in technology, but what I see is substitution. I just See if anyone familiar with that seminar model, I just see a lot of substitution where we were just taking what we did offline what we did with paper and just turning it into a digital version. I’m interested in how technology can transform how can disrupt how it can make really big change in technology, in education. And into that end. You know, that’s where I’ve really reached out to other schools. I always want to work with other schools, I want to create an open kind of platform in my school where anyone can see what we’re doing. We have a blog, where we post what we’re doing, and part of me doing this podcast part of the motivation for this podcast is to share a lot of the things we’re doing in our very large school, we have that economy of scale, but we can do interesting things and leading edge things that other schools can’t and we want to share that and that trickle back down as well. So that’s my kind of McKinnon role and my edtech role. I also run a software company helping schools with communication so we have a product called our newsletter, business called now navie where I found that to build software products or where things were being underserved, where schools are being underserved. And we’re into our I think fifth year, of that, and that company’s going very well. And also, on top of all of that, as well, as one of the founders of the educational technology consortium of Victoria, is a big, big word for it. Yeah. And ETCV, which is a group of schools really thought leadership group where we come together once a term Not at the moment during covid, but once a term and we’re able to swap ideas and, you know, the benefit of consortium means that one school can only do so much. But in a consortium, we can do a lot more together. And we can actually do work in that Consortium. We can provide people with really good overviews of what’s possible with multiple schools and give people a consensus about what direction should we be going in on I don’t like the word best practice, but it’s along that vein So that’s a little bit about me. Yeah. And I know Mike, you stumbled into my office years ago? on the on the recommendation of Adam now from Google, there’s a there’s a name you haven’t heard in a long time.


Mike Reading  07:12

Yeah, that’s right. I think you’re one of the first schools to go for Chromebook. And so Google asked me to drop down. I was living in Sydney at the time. And Google asked me to fly down and have a meeting with you about Chromebook deployment and adoption and teacher training and the end user side of that. And I remember sitting in one of the boardrooms and just listening to your talk and the questions you’re asking around strategy and an implementation, and I was like, well, this is refreshing. We’ve got an IT person who’s wanted thinking a long game on one hand, but on the other hand, was really thinking it through from a teaching and learning point of view, which was quite rare for the for the circles that I was in so me coming very much from a teaching background, listening to an IT director very much talking about teaching and learning. And so I think from that day on, we really struck up a good friendship and went from there. And it’s interesting, just your focus on that, actually, because you talk about etcv it’s my understanding, right that for the your school to be part of that Consortium, you really want the leadership team and the IT team to come together for that. It’s not like an IT person thing or a school leadership thing. It’s like it’s better together, right?


Blake  08:20

It’s both Yeah. So it’s bridging, it’s, you know, again, in that vision, I have bridging the teachers in the tech. So teachers working alongside tech, sometimes on technical things, and sometimes on teaching and learning things and, and you know, that the line is blurry a lot of the time and you required both seats at the table to get a good result. So, you know, I remember going to conferences early on, and you’d hear people say, you know, the director of IT has to be a teacher you know, in terms of the strategy and implementing things but, but then I look at it from the technical side as well. And I see that so many mistakes when, you know, the system principal of the director of it would go away. At eLearning corner, we go out to a conference, the iPads and just buy a whole lot with no thought of what has the technical implant implementation of that going to work so. So I kind of advocate for both sides, I can see, you know, the teaching and learning side. And I’ve made it my mission to really understand the process of teaching, learning the best practice around and all the research around, you know, everything from effect size down to, you know, how we actually mark the role and do safety in the classroom and advocacy with, you know, general understanding of topics and things like that. So, I’ve sort of come in and learn as on the ground as quickly as I could bring all my technical knowledge with me so I can really empathize with both angles. And I think the more that you can hear from the teachers and understand their perspective as a tech guy, and the more that the teachers can hear and understand that the limitations constraints that the techs have to work with more empathy you’re going to build and a future full of empathy is a future I want to live in. So that’s, that’s sort of where I’m at.


Mike Reading  09:57

Let’s talk about this for a second because if I’m a teacher I’m trying to communicate to an IT person, whether they employed by the school and they’re on site. Or maybe you’ve got someone that you know, maybe you’re a private school and you’re sharing a tech with 3 or 4 schools or maybe you’re subcontracting in a technological company to do your IT management for you. And they come in once a once a month or once one day a week or whatever your budget allows. What’s from a technical it person’s point of view? What does the school need to communicate? Like, what do they need to say to try and bridge that gap a little bit where sometimes when you come in with an IT team, their thought process is how do we keep things secure? How do we keep people safe? And how do we protect they usually the three things I hear IT teams talk about a lot. So it’s like security, safety, uptime, that sort of thing. And very, I guess reticent to hand over the keys to the castle. Sometimes we’ll go into a school and then the school doesn’t even Know the super admin password to the Google admin account, for instance, because the IT team take care of all of that. And they don’t want to give it to a principal or later because they might stuff it up or push a button or break something, or, you know, the security might be compromised. So from a teaching and learning point of view, what schools need to be talking to the IT team, like what sort of language they need to be using? What do they need to be communicating to try and build this great relationship?


Blake  11:26

Well, it sort of harkens back to our previous episodes around vision and providing people with a shared understanding of why you’re in the organization. So I believe if you’re at a school, and you’re a cleaner or you’re a you’re a finance manager, or you’re a classroom teacher, or you’re, you’re an IT technician, you’re all there with the fundamental same goal. And that goal is for the betterment of education, educating the students and, and one of the huge challenges we have in education me coming from a smaller stint in the business world Many years ago, is that it was very there’s a lot of clarity in the business where we can say, profit is king. It does. Does this help our bottom line? Are we building towards a better pipeline? Are we building towards a more efficient system that can reduce cost? That was a really easy way to assess and make good decisions and everyone was on the same page, everyone understands why you’re here. No one’s thinking, oh, we’re here to make profit or not. Everyone understands we’re here to make profit. So there’s that. That’s really easy. When you come to high schools. You know, in my context, it’s a little bit more difficult because into primaries, but certainly in high schools, a lot of people think well, that that you know, that score at the end of you 12 you know, that’s, that’s what we want that atar score. Some people say, well, it’s about holistic education, giving them the tools they need to be prepared for life. Some people talk about well, we’ve got to include mental health in there happy you know, our students happy when they leave the school. That’s got to be something we agree on. So I think it is about shared understanding and making sure Know that your entire team is, is on the same boat in the same direction. That’s the first thing. The second thing would be that you include your technical teams in high level decision making. And a lot of the time, that’s difficult because they do things like you’ve said, and say, Well, no, we’re not going to give you access to this, and we’re not going to help you with that. And they end up being a blocker in those meetings. So what happens is they get excluded from those meetings. And then, and then decisions are made that they just have to live with and have to make work and of course, that creates an environment of a culture of kind of pacifism, where the technicians don’t really want to do anything active to help the situation, they’re productive. They’re just reactive. So you got to be careful of that. And unfortunately, a lot of your average classroom teacher might not be able to have too much impact on that. But one of the criticisms I have more broadly and generally, of My breed of IT managers is a lot of us don’t know how to justify what we’re doing and kind of bring people along our journey and create empathy for what our constraints are and how we need to operate. So one just very simple example of that is writing a proposal. You know, I talk a lot of people and say, Oh, they would never let us have this Wi Fi that I wanted. And that’s why we have all these problems, or I asked them for this and they didn’t give it to me. But a lot of people can’t write two simple proposals they can’t present into a meeting they can’t look at Well, okay, one of the one of the benefits here, you know, like a sale, it’s basically sales and I think there’s a little misunderstanding of what, what you what tools you need to be successful in an IT role. I think people pride themselves on their engineering skills, their technical ability, and no doubt that is a very important part of working in a technical environment. But ultimately, if you’re going to lead if you’re going to move people from point A to point B, need to be out of sell. You need to have sales acumen you need to be able to say look at something inside where the clear wins. Yeah, one of the benefits we can communicate. And then you know, there might be some wins for us on the back end as well. But there’s definitely got to be those wins for the front end for the for the teacher in the classroom for the person who’s actually needing to use that software to improve their life, so, or hardware or whatever it is. So there’s sort of things I’d be focusing on in the school culture. If you’re, you know, teacher and you try, you have to meet with the technician and you’re trying to sort of get along with them and figure that out, I’d be trying to empathize with get them to come into your classroom, see what it’s like when you projected doesn’t work and you’ve got 28 kids in front of you, or looking around and you feel like an idiot, make them run some PD. That’s a really great way to do that. So, you know, all of my staff run professional development to other staff. So my technical staff, my IT staff will run, whatever they’re in charge for whatever they’re responsible for that run some professional development for small groups of staff to get that feeling of what it’s like to take as, as a First and foremost, but also, you know, it’s very beneficial to the organization. And you can, you can learn a lot from that experience of trying to use the wireless projection and it drops out and then trying to use the software, they’ve moved a button on you and you look stupid when you’re supposed to be the expert. That’s how teachers feel in front of a class of critical students. I think students can be worse in a lot of ways in terms of how critical I convey so. So there’s some ideas, obviously, it depends on your context. And that’s one thing that I have learned in working in, you know, hundreds of schools and doing a lot of consulting around the country is that no two schools are the same by their culture, by their outcomes by what they’re looking for. And you know, a lot of that’s defined by leadership, but a lot of it’s defined by you find something that you can manage, find something that you can have control over and, you know, start there, I think.


Mike Reading  16:51

Yeah, so what, what percentage do you think that I mean, that’s a great point. So I want to come back to some of them in a sec, but like, what percentage of the time do you think help deck like an IT guy should be answering helpdesk tickets versus being proactive and suggesting things. So, one’s reactive, and one is proactive, like, how do you say the split that Mr. McKinnon for instance, with your team?


Blake  17:15

Well, everyone, every single person in the IT team should have a productive part of their role. So they should they should be doing something that is in development of a better betterment, you know, and betterment of the system environment of the school and better betterment of the learning process is something they should be doing something to improve their job, someone else’s job, something like that. So, you know, those are the kind of projects that we try to work on. And it varies. So if I have someone like, you know, my senior technicians who are in charge of the data center in charge of the network fleet and those kind of things like the wireless access points, most of their work is going to be project work. It’s going to be upgrades rollout security patches Fixing buildings, you know, new builds and consult consulting with architects, those kind of things. So a lot of their work will be projects. But if I have someone like who’s in charge of, we have like an intern position who sits at the window and it does triage in most people think, right just hire them you did triage, that’s it. But for us, we make sure that it’s critical that built into their role is the opportunity for them to improve their role. So, you know, take Chromebooks for example, how that repair process works, I want them to develop a better process if they have complaints of how the process works. If I noticed that there’s a problem in the process, or that parents often frustrated about a particular issue, whether it’s trying to get repairs, or raise that and say, you know, what’s going to What do you need to break that block down, go and figure that out and come back to me So, that in that idle time, you know, it’s more productive? So if you’ve got an hour free during the day, you can actually go and do some proactive work. But also that they’re still providing that that needed day to day service of, you know, face to face repairs and triage.


Mike Reading  19:09

And like you said before, sometimes an IT person can be a little bit jaded, like they’ll say, I wanted this Wi Fi in the school and give it to me. Like, my immediate question is like, why do you want that Wi Fi that the principal or the leadership team or the person has probably sitting there thinking that’s amazingly expensive? And we’re just talking Wi Fi here? So like, Where’s the disconnect in it, like an IT person comes with a project and says, I want to spend X amount of dollars, you know, upset, updating an access point, and I’m thinking, What the hell’s an access point? And why are we spending hundreds of dollars times goodness knows how many rooms you know, it’s, I think you’re right, and it comes back to that whole couching it in terms of these the outcomes for students. But at the end of the day, like Wi Fi is just Wi Fi, isn’t it?


Blake  19:57

That’s right, you’ve got Wi Fi now you got what Lot you need to upgrade it. And so that’s about articulating a vision and having a bit of sales accurate. That’s a dirty word because especially an IT professional like myself, we really love the cold calling and the amount of emails I get a day, or can I get five to 10 calls a week from salespeople, just trying to say, Hey, we just want to hear about your environment. Like if I explain my environment to everyone, I’d get no work done. So, so it is tricky, but you’ve got to have some ability to bring people with you. And that means explaining why this Wi Fi matters and, and not in terms of you know, it’s going to be faster or whatever else laid out and say, here’s our school. Here’s what we want to be in five years. Here’s what our strategic plan says tie it to your strategic plan as much as possible. Most of you will have an IEP in annual implementation plan of that strategic plan. Look at next year’s and say, what are we doing next year? I’m going to find out and then I’m going to say okay, here’s the things that I want to do internally, better Wi Fi or the internet is dropping out all the time. We need to improve that Okay, you know, that’s a problem kind of tacitly, you know, it’s a problem because you’re just experiencing it every day. But if it’s not actually directly impacting the teaching and learning, or there’s no kind of drive for it at that classroom, and then it’s you, it’s your job to kind of bridge that gap and to say, Okay, how do I make this more appealing and more understandable? And I think the thing there is to say, well, what’s the top five things you’re thinking about every day? Is the school later, you’re thinking about, okay, NAPLAN reading results, or whatever it is, and you say, Okay, well, here’s the way we can tie this on to the AIP. And to the strategies we’re having, okay, we need better communication. Well, we can’t do that with our current provider, we need to change we need to do this. So if you come in talking in their language, you’re obviously going to have a better conversation. You started with I think there’s a leadership principle in there.


Mike Reading  21:53

yeah, I think there’s a real leadership principle in that if I was trying to influence the Leadership Team, one of the things I would do is I’d be looking at that boardroom or that leadership meeting. And when someone asks a question, look around the room and see where all the eyes go. And generally, it’s going to be one person who answer first, right? So that’s, that’s the leader, that’s the influence or wherever they’ve got the title or not. And so what I would be doing is I’d be sitting in that room, someone asked a question, I’d look to see who responds, I look to see who everyone looks at for a response. And then I’d be taking that person out for a coffee, I’d be walking in the playground with them, I would be asking, you know, just building relationship with them. And when it comes time to put together your plan, put together a proposal, I’d be talking to the influencer first and saying, Hey, I’m going to bring up this as an agenda item. Do I have your support on it? or How could I frame this better? Or, you know, when I asked for feedback, do you think that you know, you could help to explain it from your point of view or something like that? And then you’ll start to win people over and influence that is just leadership right?


Blake  22:59

Yeah. And also think you can’t just be asking for everything you need. It has to be tied to the school vision. Yes. But how many IT directors have asked this gone into the principal’s office and said, How are we going? What do I need to do more of what I need to do less of? You know, one of the things on your mind at the moment, how can IT help with that? Just those kind of macro questions, there’s big high in the sky questions. It doesn’t have to be, you know, in a strategic day or anything like that. Just going on the holidays when the when the stress is lower and less people around less interruptions and just have an unpacked conversation. You’d be surprised at what you find and even pre warn them say, look, I want to have a meeting, I want to ask these questions. What can we do better? What do we need to do less of what what’s the most important thing for you? Your principal might think the most important thing is that there’s someone there at the office all day, where you think the most important thing is that you’re implemented. Office 365 or something So find out what motivates them that helps you again builds more empathy and helps you interface with them a lot better.


Mike Reading  24:06

Yeah. And have you seen that system called the five why’s? So every time you had a discussion, you ask why and then why and then why and you just keep digging into the why of that. So don’t skim over conversations. If you’ve got a request from an IT team. Then ask them why five times or conversely, if the principal or a leadership team or a teacher is coming to an IT person and as an IT person, you’re sitting there, don’t just take it on face value, I want iPads like ask them why they want iPads and then ask them why they want the why behind the way and just keep digging to get right down to those first principles and find where that agreement is. I remember to like once we were working with a I feel like it was a Catholic Diocese in Australia somewhere. And it was a big thing about Wi Fi and speed and the teachers were frustrated because of Wi Fi wasn’t But when we did some digging behind the scenes, we found that the Wi Fi was fast. That was just the server that they’ll try to load for their LMS was just setting the website really slowly. Do you remember that?


Blake  25:11

Yes, and this is this is, this is the challenge that that it faces, they’ve got to be a bit kind of critical with that. But at the same time, I do want to sort of defend the IT guys a little bit because there is a lot of jaded people out there and in I can see so easily how you get jaded in IT, because we have to fight this actively every day with my staff. I have to always say pull them back again. Hang on. We’re going down a road here that leads to you know, jaded town. And I wants to go to jaded town its not a nice town. And it’s very easy to fall into that trap because no one comes and Pat’s on the back when everything goes right. No one says we have an outage for two years. Great job. All I say is how do we reduce cost or how do we you know, licensed people. If everything’s going so well, you obviously don’t need as much as many staff so, so I can see how you could view that and kind of think I will stuff and I’ll just sit back, wait for things to break and fix them and look like the hero, right? That seems like a better model that has a bit of positive reinforcement on my job. So I think part of it is kind of trying to look past that a little bit, build some trust with you with your leadership so that you’re not having to have those hero moments all the time to look like you’re doing a great job. And also, it is love was like when something does go wrong, it’s usually on your head. And no one remembers all the times that went right only remember the talk went wrong and like to remind you of that from time to time, so that’s a challenge as well. We feel like we have to be right all the time. We can’t make mistakes. I certainly feel that pressure like everybody else. And something I try and work on I try and think Hang on, you know, I’m allowed to make mistakes and so we are allowed to try things and fail. We don’t have to pitch everything as this best thing that we’ve ever done. We can be honest and upfront. As well, and all of that requires trust, but I think it’s important. And then when you see when people are sitting back in, and quite, I guess, upset with the school, and they didn’t give me my Wi Fi project, they didn’t give me what I wanted, you can see how that that breeds resentment. And they get put in a broom closet out in the back blocks of the school. And they are expected to be leaders and innovators. So if you’re not being treated like a leader and innovator, you’re not going to get those results. So I think, you know, bringing people into the conversation as much as possible is critical into curriculum committees into, you know, you just never know, like you’re discussing an issue that you’re having with, you know, child safety or you’re discussing an issue you’re having with delivering curriculum, there’s probably some tool that that your IT guy might have seen somewhere else that he can suggest this probably things you can go away and think about. And then if he has that context, when he’s having his chats with his team or when he’s thinking about his work, Work, if he’s if he’s just, you know solo in the school, he’s going to be able to provide more content, more perspective, more context, more options for you, as a school moving forward. So I think you know, you’ve got to take these people as assets to you to your existence as a school and use them as much as possible for that. But on the on the, on the flip side of that, you know, it’s a two way street.


Mike Reading  28:22

I give you the answer from a teacher’s point of view. But I think it’d be really helpful for IT people to understand what it’s like to be in a classroom and super helpful for classroom teachers and principals and school leaders to know what it’s like to be in IT shoes. So from a teacher’s point of view, here’s what I think teachers would want IT people to understand. And then you can flip it and say from an IT perspective, this is what we want teachers to understand about our role. So if I speak on behalf of teachers, I would think that teachers would want IT people to understand that there’s a lot of risk in terms of behavior management for a lot of teachers when something doesn’t go wrong. So when something doesn’t go right that if the technology fails, then the whole lessons a write off, and then you lose students is quite hard discipline wise, especially in high school, if you’re in a rough high school to bring those kids back, you get one shot at this culture, where the students are just completely disorganized, dissatisfied, disruptive, and all those dis words. So we’re kind of relying on that infrastructure to work first time. And then at the same time, we’re dealing with curriculums, new curriculums, teachers, parents expectations, and so on. And so every time a new tool drops or a change happens, or we get taken in a new direction, and we don’t necessarily have the time to look at it for our own souls, before we even look at it through the eyes of the students, then that can put a lot of pressure on us. And so, when you’re in your main game, if I was a history teacher And something new comes out in history, I absorbed that really quickly because I have a context for it. And I’ve got a framework for it. It doesn’t take much cognitive load for me to process, analyze, and so on. But even muscle memory, if I go from Google Docs to, Word doc may know the layout of both. But it’s sometimes when an IT person comes and goes, Oh, it’s easy. It’s a Google Doc. It’s not necessarily easy for a teacher because I don’t have a context. It’s not their thing. And even we used to talk about this with teaching staff where IT teachers would come in and be frustrated with an English teacher or junior school teacher, because they didn’t get it. And they’re like, what’s easy, I am in front of kids all the time. And I can just do it. And it just works. And it’s just because I have a different framework. So I think you’re right in terms of we almost expect the technology to be invisible. But it just works that when you know the only time we haven’t realized that we’re even using technologies when it doesn’t work. And so for us from a teaching and learning point of view I think it’s really important for it, people to understand that at the end of the day, we’re trying to get through the day, we’re trying to get through a lot of curriculum and content, we’re trying to manage students. And there’s a lot on our plate for that. So every little bit that comes on top of us feels like an added pressure and added weight. And so it’s not the teachers aren’t interested. And it’s not that they don’t want to improve. And it’s not that necessarily fearful of it, it’s just in the context of everything else that’s going on, what seems to be a little thing can sometimes be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. And obviously, that’s a, you know, I’m talking on behalf of the big middle, right, not the early adopters who are happy to dive in and change and solve. But I think, quite often, when we talk about technology in education, we see it through the lens of the first 20% not the last 80% that we need to get there. And so on behalf of those 80% I think that’s a lot of the fear and the caution that teachers kind of feel and I’d be interested from your point of view what I teach people feel and what they would like teachers To understand about their role, because quite often, you know, it’s sometimes to the nether shout made, right?


Blake  32:05

Yeah. And, and on that, you know, in terms of the fear of these, these things not working or whatever, like, there’s a huge pressure on it to, not to exhaust people because we’ve had this history of bringing in or you know, not us, not us directly, but government’s doing things like the, the alternate things come in, and they’re going to be the next biggest thing. And then everyone learns that we do all this training, and then boom, it’s gone. And we’ve had kind of a lot of cycles of that. And I feel like now that’s slowing down. But at the same time, there is this pressure, we don’t want to create change exhaustion. So if we got to bring something in, it has to be really, really, you know, important, and it has to make a big difference. And so there’s this pressure that this thing that we’re bringing, it has to work. So I definitely say it from that from that perspective. And I agree with everything you’ve said and you know, probably even go further than that on some of the pressures on teachers. But in terms of the text and the white weight, we usually opposition in the school, you know, you’re totally right on, it should just work. There’s a lot of pressure on us to make sure that happens. But what does it require for us to have piece of software that just works, it means that we have to have user accounts that are synced in the background to 15 different services to make sure that your Google login works with your student information system, and that works with your finance system. And so you don’t have 15 passwords. Well, that’s all good. Okay, set that in. There’s this kind of view. And I used to think like this as well. Okay, that’s easy. We just set this up once, create all these connections that will connect great next job, what’s next? You know, what, what are you doing all day? If you’ve already done all that work? What are you doing now? Well, the reality is, every time you do some work like that, you create a script that that script is it needs maintenance, it needs to be looked at, it needs to make sure it’s still secure. Every time you do an update over here, somewhere else like on the data center infrastructure, what does that do to your script over here? So you think about our school, you know, we probably have over 100, various sync scripts and things like this that just you Integrate things together. And that’s just one very small kind of invisible part of our job has constant management, we need to have health checks for, we need to make sure if they go down, they stop working, we know about it beforehand, so that we’re not creating a situation where someone has to contact us. So there’s a lot of thinking that goes in behind the scenes. And often people say, Well, how hard is it, just do it really quick, knock it out, and get it done. So you can move on to the next thing. I didn’t see what the problem is. Until you’ve worked in our you know, in the IT environment, you realize like putting in a little bit of extra effort now, setting up all these automated checks so that when things break, I can fix them is critical. And since we’ve started doing that we started you know, this was years ago, we started checking your scripts for running and things like that with a with a health check service. So we started doing that. We’ve noticed things fail all the time, almost every day, something’s failing for some strange reason or another so it’s really important for us to be on top of that, but at the same time, it slows us down. We can’t just immediately build a script in 10 seconds, and it’s done because That script is going to end up causing us more pain on the back end, things go down and we lose that, that that trust again. So that’s where friction can come from. And you’ve seen meetings where people say, No, I’m not going to do it. You know, that’s too insecure, that’s going to create too much of a burden on the school system. And from simplistic standpoint, you thinking, Oh, that’s, that’s ridiculous. Like, it’s just, we just need to set up Apple school manager. It’s one thing, we just set it up and connected, and it’s done. But it’s not, you know, there’s limits on accounts, there’s inquiries about things as if accounts have certain name structures, they won’t sync properly, and they get emitted and then that kid can’t get on and his class and that interrupts the class and then it degrades the confidence in the technology, we go ahead and cycle again. So we want to think a lot about that. And not just with scripts with applications when we when we implement things, whether it’s security, whether it’s, you know, the updates that are constantly going to come Well, how do we manage that? How do we keep staff up to date with that with the changes that are always happening, so there’s no destination We don’t just buy an app, we don’t just buy a product and use it. That’s not the destination. That’s the beginning of a continuum. And that requires, you know, app updates to happen. Sometimes we have to do those, sometimes the service can do those, which has been a big improvement in that a lot of the times not reliant on us to update things, you know, now we’ve got cloud services, so they’re much easier to manage. But at the same time, we have to think about security, those cloud services, we have to keep those cloud services that the data and those cloud services connected and private, and you know, in compliance with all of the many multi layered policies across the state government and Catholic Diocese, and things like that, depending on where you are. And then we have to bounce the innovation side where people say, I found this great tool. And there was a good example of this today where someone weeks ago, which is awesome as what we want to encourage this, this culture of innovation, but I found a tool in hangouts meet that will mark the role automatically, as a Chrome extension sees whoever comes in and gives you a spreadsheet of all the kids that attended your class. Awesome, right? But we have to be careful when it’s written by one guy in America. You know, he just wrote himself a bit frustrated with the situation wanting to have his role mark. So he wrote this little thing that export his attendees to a spreadsheet, awesome, lovely innovation. But we’ve got to be careful about saying to everyone, you know, bursting out of the gates and saying, use this, it’s amazing, because what we found is that extension broke the ability for them to add new people to the call. So we have to temper our excitement with a little bit of flexibility to those that are care if you like, everyone who’s using our services or in our care, so we need to pimp it out a little bit. But, you know, I definitely fall more on the side of let’s take some risk, let’s do some stuff, but it’s got to be managed risk. And it’s got to be doing things that are proven out to some degree, or that you can prove out yourself internally, to a degree of which you’re happy to share that with an entire staff, body or student body.


Mike Reading  37:55

Seems to me that like that whole concept of go to a edtech conference and come back, baby With 15 new apps that you want to deploy, and seven new devices and 50 new ways of teaching pedagogy, it sounds all very exciting to an early adopter or to a principal is looking for translation and change. But then the IT guy behind the scenes is like, Oh, hell, not another conference, right?


Blake  38:18

Yeah. Well, I mean, it’s pretty. It’s pretty widely accepted that those conferences don’t needle in a lot Why? People don’t go back and implement most of what they learned those conferences, they’re more just have a grab and go kind of experience where you have a look at some things and that sits in your head and percolates and maybe one thing comes out of that later down the track, but I don’t think they’re a bad idea. I don’t think it’s a bad idea to try new things. I’m a proponent for trying new things. But what I’m saying is like, these are these are the kind of headaches it creates on the back end. So what my job is, is to create a system where this stuff is, is streamlined and as easy as possible, where there’s no barrier. I’m not becoming a barrier to trying new things, but At the same time, we don’t want to pick things up that potentially have flaws and problems or aren’t well supported. And then throw that to all the staff, because we’re trying to in the name of innovation in the name of change. So, yeah, it’s difficult finding those Right challenges. And I always look for the areas, kind of the lowest common denominators, like how do we improve communication in a school? that’s going to affect everyone in the school? That’s good? How do we improve the internet reliability that’s going to affect everyone in the school? How do we improve, you know, how we improve the creation of rubrics, that’s only going to affect the class that the subjects and the classes that are using and rubrics are appropriate for so we kind of have to look at, you know, the lowest common denominator things and try and focus on those. That’s been my strategy.


Mike Reading  39:45

Yeah, I think it’s been a very helpful discussion actually does say both sides of the fence and hopefully, we’ve given you a couple of things to think about in terms of your language, how you approach conversations, how you approach leadership meetings, and you will take away something out of that. They said, you’ll actually go and apply in your own school or your own context, to just bridge that gap between the it and teaching and learning. There’ll be lots more to come. That’s why Blake and I really wanted to team up in this podcast so we can have both perspectives. And at the end of the day, show you those trends, but also give you some great advice. And I think I’ve had a couple of emails this week from a few people who’ve listened to the podcast, and we had one from Matt Robinson. He’s part of at VC, I believe is Yeah, I’ll get that my one of these days. And it was interesting. He said, You know, I’m just listening to the first episode of the podcast and it’s awesome. It rings so true to my work, but the way you and Blake just bounce off each other is great. And the funny thing is, we had a whole topic that we’re going to go into today and we didn’t even touch it just because we ask a question and then next thing you know, a whole podcast episode has gone past, just bouncing out. And Cameron Ross is also a fellow Victorian. He’s just said he just brings door four episodes of the class podcast, which was great. And he said that so many interesting topics and things he’s taken on board. So we really appreciate the feedback you guys are giving us and more than happy for you to email us. If you go to using technology better, you’ll see there’s a place for you to leave a voicemail. We’d love to play that back and answer your questions or just receive your feedback that way, if that suits you, or if you’re on iTunes, you can leave us a review or a comment. We came for any feedback that can give us that way. We can leave a comment on the blog, there’s lots of different ways that you can reach out and we’d love to hear from you hear it questions, we’d love to answer them. I’ll just take your feedback. Just thinking very quickly, like we want to just quickly move on to some things we’re seeing in the news and have a bit of a discussion around that. But last week, you said you downloaded the COVID app, and you’re feeling pretty comfortable with it. And then that night I got sent a YouTube video and I’ll link it up in the show notes from Edward Snowden who was talking about these apps and in his opinion that I can he gave a bit of a reason why that didn’t work. And of course, it’s different. talks of absolutely using different technologies around the world. But one of the things he was really saying was that people are so worried about today that they’ve stopped thinking about tomorrow. And then he went on to say that he felt like there was no way to really anonymize the data. And people are connecting on you. And so he had great concerns for the future. I was just wondering if you had a chance to watch that video if you change your opinion? No, you still thought


Blake  42:22

I did. I did watch the video. And it’s super important we have these conversations is one of the strengths of certainly the US media is that freedom of speech where people can say whatever they like, because it’s the government or against any regime. So even though using I think he’s in Russia, he speaks very freely for someone in Russia actually, about Russia as well. But I think it is a few points that are critical. So in Australia, there’s no assumption of anonymizing the data. The data belongs to you. It’s in a data warehouse. It’s not like it only sits on your phone and you own it or anything like that. You are freely giving that data over. So you need to be aware of that and be comfortable with that. Yes, we are worried about today we’ll start thinking about tomorrow. I’m definitely thinking about tomorrow. And I don’t do it with no concerns. I’m not entirely comfortable with it. But I think in the context of us, having an economy that’s safe provides us a way to stay open. For people to keep doing their jobs and keeping their livelihoods. I think it’s something I can do, you know, as a civically minded person, but I think the contact tracing does work. his point was, what are you doing as 100,000 contacts to trace you can’t follow those down at that pandemic stage. I agree, you can’t, can’t do anything. But when you got 10 new cases a day, you can put, you know, 100 case offices across those 10 cases and work those through. So I think, I think a lot of his points as well, were about the specifically American response, we’re in a much different situation here. We don’t have hundreds of thousands of cases to detect and trace and do contact tracing with we’ve got a much smaller amount and if some of those of using the app, immediately oscillate and then not infect further people, I think there’s some benefit to that but I would also you know temper that with you’ve got to be comfortable with it you’ve got to understand they’re going to have your data and if you’re a person of note if you’re a principal say you’ve got a lot of students who want to grow on their axe and come off to you and then suddenly the COVID safety database gets hacked and posted online and then you can just go look up Mike Reading find his address around to his house without actually being grinding and off you go so that does create potential big problems for people who are in positions of authority in positions of power using it so we’ve got to trust people at this point. And that’s why you look at those privacy impact assessments and you have a you have a flick through all the information around and you know, I didn’t read every page of it, but I want to know about those critical things that whereas it has, what technologies are they building it on? I can do that because I understand it. But if you if your alignment in terms of it jargon, speak to someone who you know who’s an expert, talk to your IT department. That’s what’s happening at the banks, a lot of big banks, a friend of mine works nav, he ran advisor laboratories IT departments that I can give me a report on this now went through it. So that’s probably the direction I would head in. Yeah.


Mike Reading  45:07

Interesting. I’m still sitting on the fence. Probably more on the side of No way. I’m downloading that. But it’ll be interesting when we go back to travel, which should open next week in New Zealand.


Blake  45:17

Yeah, they forced you.


Mike Reading  45:18

Yeah. And then I’ll, I’ll have a real conundrum on my hands.


Blake  45:22

That’s right. I think you know, we can say don’t  want to be forced into anything like so we’re not going to force you just if you want to travel, you have to get it and that’s kind of forcing it, wasn’t it? But there’s various approaches and all of them not ideal, but yeah, we’ll keep watching this space. I will keep evolving, I think.


Mike Reading  45:37

Yeah, I might be like that kid getting dragged to the principal’s office who’s happy to go but he’s going to make a noise on the way. We’ll see. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. never happened. Happened to a friend of a friend.


Blake  45:55

wins and fails this week just quickly before we sign off, Mike, have you got any?


Mike Reading  45:58

Yeah, I saw the Microsoft. are putting a server in New Zealand, so that’s not necessarily going to affect schools very much in New Zealand especially, it’s a big win for business over here. There’s a server in Australia for both Google and for Microsoft, but


Blake  46:12

it’s interesting services as you all 365 so that your accounts can stay in the country and things like that.


Mike Reading  46:18

Yep, absolutely. So it’s a big investment from Microsoft, those things aren’t cheap to set up or run. And so for Microsoft to be investing in New Zealand business like that, I thought spoke volumes in terms of where things are heading in the future. And certainly a win for New Zealand anyway.


Blake  46:34

Yeah, absolutely. My win this week, just a little win is Google’s new read along app. So there’s a little app called read along by Google a fun reading app. It’s on Android. I think it’s on iOS. I haven’t actually checked, but it was a great little, thing that they’ve done it. were, you read along as a kid who’s trying to learn to read that they’ll put words up and as you read, it uses a text speech to sort Tell you like, are you getting this right would right or wrong and you can go at your own pace and you know, it’ll give you hints and stuff will pronounce letters for you and things you can actually do spelling in there as well of words and things like that. So just a really cool way of like leveraging this huge back end technology they have into just the fun experience for kids who are trying to learn at home and things like that. And there’s another great thing that’s I guess, come out of this, you know, not so great situation with this pandemic, but definitely check it out. Especially we got young kids, I’m going to get my kids onto it and see how they go with it. So yeah, it’s cool.


Mike Reading  47:32

Wow, I just looked it up. It says you too, as a user, I’ve read to the app and the app prompts me and rewards me and helps me find struggling that’s crazy good.


Blake  47:42

Really clever idea and something that you know is uniquely available to Google and not every other company in the world. So you know, they’ve got the back end tech to do it and you know, presenting it in such a friendly and forward focused way. This is this is Google at their best I think so big win for me.


Mike Reading  47:58

Yeah, interesting. I know. Microsoft presents a coach in PowerPoint where you practice your presentation using PowerPoint online and it monitors how many times you say umm. how fast you’re speaking. It gives you feedback on how you can improve your speech. So it sounds like it may be similar kind of technology, just different approach.


Blake  48:18

Very cool.


Mike Reading  48:20

Yeah, that’s awesome. Good. Good. Pick up that one. I’ll share that in the show notes. And I’ll put presented coaching there as well just so people can check that out if they like as well. Any fails for you this week, like as we wrap up?


Blake  48:32

No real files we were just discussing one off air earlier around Google jus. I don’t know if it’s a direct file, but it’s certainly a file on some level in that I will assign we both downloaded it when it first came out a few years back and we used it for about five minutes. That was the extent of it. So yeah, that’s interesting. They’ve got like a video calling app. They’ve also got hangouts that does video they’ve got Google meat that does video. There seems to be all these products about around messaging and video chat and communication and no kind of singular vision hum. And consumers left wondering what should I be using, I think a little bit a bit of a fail there. But I did read actually, earlier in the week that they’ve put one person in charge of all communication apps at Google to bring everything into one house and unify A lot of it. So hopefully, that will turn into a win down the track.


Mike Reading  49:19

Yeah, confused me. I was like, why would I use this? And like, I’ve got Hangouts. It’s not like a bypass as a Gmail account. I was like, What is the purpose? I didn’t understand. It left me confused. And I just deleted it. So yeah, hopefully this, maybe it’s some test technology. They’re testing different things in a different environment. Who knows.

Blake  49:38

knows what the purpose was to take on FaceTime? The purpose was to say we have an app on an Android phone that looks like FaceTime, I think, but I don’t know if that team spoke to the Hangouts team or the meat team or any of the other teams.


Mike Reading  49:50

Someone’s 20% time. Yeah. Yeah, that’s awesome. It’s been great chatting all save our topic for next week where we’re going to dig into the seven principles around school transformation. But we’ll put that on hold for next week. And we’ll do that as a probably a two part series. I think there’s some really good lessons to be learned for it and for school leaders and teachers. So I’m going forward in that in the next outclassed podcast.


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