Collaboration and Google Docs

COLLABORATION AND GOOGLE DOCS (2)

At the end of 2015, I completed a Master of Education (Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation) at Charles Sturt University. As a participant in the capstone subject, Digital Futures Colloquium, I conducted a Case Study.

This Case Study investigated, “In what ways are students using Google Docs for collaboration?” The use of Case Study methodology was relevant for gathering information through the views and interactions of members of the school community, focusing on their engagement with, and various perceptions of, the use of Google Docs for collaboration.

The Case Study “Collaboration and Google Docs” was completed in October 2015. A summary of Findings are as follows:

  • Students were at ease with sharing their document with other students; however, the regularity of commenting on the work of another student work was far less
  • Student ability and/or confidence to ‘comment’ on the work of another student, is not to the same level as their ability to create, use and share Google Docs.
  • Teachers overestimated how often students edited the work of another student.
  • Real time use of Google Docs in the classroom; that is, multi-user editing in real-time to co-construct a document, appeared to be the most enjoyable, comfortable and useful way students engaged with Google Docs.
  • The practices of correction, modification, commenting and editing all constitute collaboration; however, students were largely unable to articulate the connection between these actions and the skill of collaboration.
  • Students collaborated with others to share feedback in constructive ways in the classroom environment. However, this reality was not matched in the areas of students’ willingness (and possibly) their ability to think critically by individually commenting and editing the work of others, especially outside normal classroom hours.
  • When students accessed Google Docs outside of class time, it was primarily for the purposes of creating and sharing documents with the teacher, not with other students.

The recommendations I forwarded to the leaders and teachers of St Hosea’s (not its real name) were as follows: :

  • develop of a school wide rubric which attempts to measure student collaboration;
  • investigate why students use Google Docs more in class than they do outside of class time; and,
  • establish an online space where students and teachers share reflections and post comments about the use of GAFE to support collaboration.

One learning for me….. As part of the work involved with this Case Study, I developed a ‘collaboration rubric‘ particular to the use of Google Docs.  Whilst I will be the first to admit this probably could do with some improvement, it did provide a starting point for me when engaging with classroom observations. I am of the firm belief that schools are now required to engage in the co-construction of such rubrics with students to deepen their understanding of co-constructing such rubrics with students to deepen their understanding of the vital skills required for future work, collaboration being only one of them. If we can at least to being the process of measuring what we value; e.g. collaboration, critical thinking, problem solving etc.; we may start to ‘value’ these skills as much as we do literacy and numeracy, which are far more easily measured.

Any feedback or comments are very welcome.

Regards

Greg

Data and Questions

DeCourcy & Data

Dr John DeCourcy has served as a teacher and principal in Catholic education for over forty years. However, he is probably better known for his ground-breaking work in Higher School Certificate (HSC) Data Analysis for the last fifteen years. Through the provision of quality data, John’s work has enhanced the professional knowledge base of educators by deepening our understanding of the relationship between teacher practice and student performance.

Last Friday, I was fortunate to spend a day with a number of colleagues from across New South Wales at the annual DeCorucy seminar. John reminded us that the purpose of data analysis is not to make judgements but to raise questions. He stated,

“Professionalism is characterised by using data to raise questions. Developing questions supports the search for improvement and for teachers in particular to develop their craft.”

It is, of course, a craft that is primarily focused on learning, not just examination results. On the day, there was a lot of discussion about data but rarely did we look at specific data sets. I suspect John’s learning intention was for participants to leave better informed about the purpose of data and how it can inform quality learning.

The informing happens through questioning. Three great questions to get teachers thinking are:

  • What questions does the data raise?
  • How did you use the data within your school setting?
  • What are the patterns emerging at your school?

It is not just the teachers who must immerse themselves in the the data, school and system leaders must do so as well. It is important for leaders to immerse themselves with teachers in the data because no-one knows it all and,  as John said,

“Leaders engaging as learners with their staff is critical to framing questions which respond to data.”

As we moved throughout the day we were asked to consider the leading indicators of HSC success, “because as we all know the results are the lagging indicator!” Great question right there! The HSC sets high standards for students often demanding high levels of resilience, motivation, drive, self-belief and efficacy, in particular the ability to plan and manage time. For example, the time, effort and energy required for a HSC Major Work or Project requires of students those dispositions more than at any other stage of their school life. Are these dispositions the leading indicators of HSC success?

We have all heard the saying, “We measure what we value and we value what we measure.” At the moment, educators are excellent at extensively measuring literacy and numeracy. Literacy and numeracy are important, but so too are skills such as creativity, critical thinking and collaboration. If we truly valued these skills, rubrics for them would be mainstream in classrooms, but they are not. (BTW – Here is a recent attempt to align Collaboration with Google Docs – any feedback would be greatly appreciated – apologies for digressing).

Just as important as the critical skills of creativity, critical thinking and collaboration, are the dispositions mentioned above, but which dispositions are the most important? A 2015 OECD Report, Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills list perseverance, conscientiousness, self-esteem, socliability and emotional stability as key dispositions required for young people to maximise learning. According to The Gallup Student Poll the key factors that impact student performance are hope, engagement, and well-being, and they measure it! Insight SRC regard well-being, engagement and relationships as critical factors which support student learning. Based on extensive scientific research, they work with schools in the Parramatta Diocese, Lismore Diocese and in Victoria, to provide data sets in these areas.

There is also the fifteen years of work by Ruth Crick and others which has resulted in the Crick Learning for Resilient Agency Profile (CLARA)

“CLARA identifies Mindful Agency as a key learning power dimension which predicts the set of active dimensions: Creativity, Curiosity, Sense-Making and Hope & Optimism.  Two distinct Relationship dimensions measure Belonging and Collaboration. Finally, an Orientation to Learning indicator measures a person’s degree of Openness to change — in contrast to either fragile dependency or rigid persistence.”

learningemergence.net (accessed 30 January, 2016).

My understanding is that CLARA surveys students and reports back findings in key areas, putting a face on the data and producing a profile.

Clara

accessed from learningemergence.net30 January, 2016.

CLARA also aggregates individual profiles for school communities. WOW! Considering that the research says these dispositions are foundational for great learning, can you imagine the questions that could be raised with this data?

What are your thoughts?

Creating Time

For those who work in education, and like many other industries, there is just never enough time. A few months back, I was introduced to an article “K-!2 Innovation: It’s About Time“. The author was  2015, Texas Teachers of the Year, Shanna PeeplesAs part of the article she wrote,

“Some of the most innovative, creative and powerful lessons I’ve ever helped to design were created from collaborations with colleagues in a small group given time to really think through a lesson.”

This reminded me of occasions when I have seen teachers provided with time to meet, plan, prepare, deliver and evaluate learning for students. A number of them reflected it was the best professional learning they had undertaken as a teacher, and some commented that it was the most they had grown as an educator.

 

Finding Time

Image courtesy of Doug Belshaw on Flickr under Creative Commons

 

So, how can we find time for teachers to meet, plan, prepare, deliver and evaluate learning in the classrooms to produce powerful learning for students AND teachers? Well, I provide a few possibilities….

(Now, there are a lot of numbers about to be thrown at you, and I am not great with  numbers, but please hang in there with me!).

School “A” is a secondary school in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. In NSW, the regulatory authority mandates the minimum delivery of 400 hours of English, Mathematics, Science and HSIE (History, Society and its Environment) to students across Years 7 to 10. However, at School “A”, they deliver 520 Hours of English, Maths, Science and HSIE across Years 7 to 10. (As an aside, can anyone inform me where the ‘value add’ is between hour 401 and hour 520?) Anyway, the end result is a combined surplus of 480 hours (across the four subjects over four years); 120 hours per year. If School “A” was to reduce those 520 hours per subject to 480 hours per subject, still 80 surplus hours over the fours years, then they could ‘find’ 160 hours of ‘time’ per year. Wow!

Now, just to give you an idea of what can be done with 160 hours……. (and please, hang in there with me) School “A” allocates 40 hours less (ie. 120 hours) towards the delivery of an entire subject in Year 7; that being, Languages Other Than English (LOTE). Also, School “A” allocates 240 hours towards Music/Visual Arts in Year 7 & 8 over two school years. As per its timetable, 120 hours per year = 3 x 1 hours lessons per week. 160 hours over the course of a year would compute to 4 x 1 hour lessons per week, or in other terms 4/5ths of one school day per week. School “A” has just ‘created time’.

Maybe, just maybe, School “A” could reduce the mandatory hours for English, Maths, Science and HSIE and redirect that time in the form of 3 or 4 one hour blocks throughout the week where the students are supervised at ‘yard duty ratios’. Students could work on interest projects while the vast majority of teachers could meet, plan, prepare and collaboratively evaluate learning in teams. Students could access open spaces, indoor, outdoor and virtual and collaboratively work on interest projects. Such an idea would require support and guidance for students to ‘self-direct’ their interest projects but c’mon people, stick with me here – I am just throwing up ideas! Again, whilst students engage in these interest projects, the professional learning benefit would be that teachers meet, plan, prepare and collaboratively evaluate together to improve the quality and facilitation of learning throughout the rest of the school week. And what’s more, there is no financial cost to this. NONE! No financial cost for what many teachers consider excellent professional development. However, it does require a new way of thinking about how we use time in a secondary school setting.

School “B” is a two stream primary school. School “B” employs two casual teachers every second Thursday. Those casual teachers are employed to replace 2 x Year 5 teachers for the first half of the day and then replace Year 6 teachers for the second half of the day. This occurs for Term 1 and allows them to meet, plan, prepare and collaboratively evaluate students learning. In Term 2 the same for Year 3 & 4 teachers. In Term 3 for Year 1 & 2 teachers and in Term 4 Kindergarten teachers get a whole day to meet, plan, prepare and collaboratively evaluate together. (Look, my secondary background limits my thinking here, but I am sure the creativity of primary principals and teachers could come up with something a lot better). Cost = employment of 2 casual teachers, 2 x $400 per day ($800) x 4 times per term ($3200)  x 4 terms per year ($12 800) per year. What’s the cost of school based, contextual professional development for teachers when done well?

There is absolutely no doubt these and other similar ideas would require extensive consultation with staff, students and parents. And, I know there will inevitably be people loudly cry out, things like – say, in the case of School “A’”, “We won’t get through the content.” But Puuuhhlllleeeezzzze, when did any student suffer from “not getting through the content” in Year 7, 8, 9 or 10? And, please show me the research which proves this. In the case of School “B”, there may be those who might say, “That won’t work because…..” Well, I ask that we look at how it CAN work.

Looking ahead, I ask those educational leaders who can, to make bold decisions and ‘create time’ by ignoring the chorus of, “That won’t work because……” We need to roll our sleeves up and challenge the thinking as well as overcome obstacles which get in the way of ‘finding time’ or ‘make better use of time’. Shanghai, Singapore, and British Columbia understand the need to create time for teachers to collaborate. Hopefully, Australia will too one day soon. After all, it is in the best interests of student learning.

Regards

Greg

Please note this article “Get Time Right; Don’t settle for Vanilla+”. Maybe the ideas suggested above, and below in the comments section, are “Vanilla+”.

DESIGNING LEARNING SPACES – Part 1

Recently, as part of my work, I have been working with schools who have come into some serious money for new building projects. Architects have already been introduced to those schools; however, it was thought wise to actually see other spaces ‘at work’. Further to this, it was also thought worthwhile to look at what researchers and thought leaders offer about designing learning spaces. For a start, Did You Know?????

Learning Spaces & Primary Classroom

Planning new physical learning spaces or refurbishing spaces requires the effective use of design thinking principles (Kuratko, Goldsworthy et al. 2012; Razzouk and Shute 2012; Hill 2014). Elements of good design include collaboration and prototyping (Brown 2009); collaborative prototyping (Melles 2012); and user centred input (Brown 2009; Kolko 2010).

Learning Spaces can support, enable and positively impact on the learning experience (Thornburg 2007). The communication and collaboration that comes with iterative nature of prototyping is one characteristic that can assist with generating numerous ideas for new learning spaces in schools (Veloso, Marques et al. 2014). Furthermore, the use of design thinking principles for new building spaces, is currently minimal in Broken Bay schools, and there is little involvement of students or teachers as ‘future users’ of the space.

Input from students is essential when assessing how the use of learning space can support improved learning outcomes for students (Dugdale 2009). Feedback from students as current users of spaces informs the school about future use of space and the placement of furniture within that space (Woolner, Clark et al. 2012). Such participatory design approaches involving users (students and teachers) can provide a springboard that encourages all learners to become more thoughtful and involved users of their environment (McGregor 2004; Woolner 2009).

There is an argument that physical space is one variable, and that it does not have a direct influence on student learning. However, there is literature which suggests there is a strong relationship between learning and physical spaces (Thornburg 2007; Woolner, Clark et al. 2012). McIntosh in (Howarth 2012) is very definitive when he states,

“Spaces should add value to learning and act as a teaching assistant to learning activities. School buildings need to be viewed as influencers of future practice, not responsive to existing practice of teaching and learning” Ewan McIntosh in (Howarth 2012).

The relationship between learning and physical space is a most important variable which impacts on student learning and can support, stimulate and accelerate learning initiatives grounded in student-centred pedagogy. Innova Design Solutions offer these insights…..

Learning Spaces - Impact on Learning

In the main, schools are (still) designed to support an old factory-style paradigm characterised by mandated school hours which revolve around inflexible timetables to deliver traditional learning (Bellanca and Brandt ; OECD 2006; P21 2009; Rotherham and Willingham 2010; AITSL 2012). Such an environment stifles change and creativity and results with ‘more of the same’. Learning spaces of the future need to start with an approach that is ‘design thinking focused’ with resources which will encourage users to think creatively and re-imagine possibilities by taking into account the future use of space.

REFERENCES

AITSL (2012). “Professional Learning Animation.” 12 April 2014, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRnstWGJwPU.

Bellanca, J. and R. Brandt 21st Century Skills: Rethinking How Students Learn, Solution Tree Press.

Brown, T. (2009). Change by Design: How Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation. New York, Harper Business.

Dugdale, S. (2009). “Space Strategies for the New Learning Landscape.” Educause Review 44(2): 50.

Hill, A. (2014). Using Design Thinking to Develop Personalized Learning Pilots http://www.blendmylearning.com/. 2014.

Howarth, S. (2012). Pedagogy and People over Places and Spaces. A View from the Middle – Thoughts on Learning with Middle School Studnets, http://edusum.edublogs.org/. 2014.

Kolko, J. (2010). “Abductive thinking and sensemaking: The drivers of design synthesis.” Design Issues 26(1): 15-28.

Kuratko, D., M. Goldsworthy, et al. (2012). “The design-thinking process in Innovation acceleration: transforming organizational thinking.” pp.103-123.

McGregor, J. (2004). “Spatiality and the Place of the Material in Schools Pedagogy, Culture and Society,.” 12(3): 347-372.

OECD (2006). Think Scenarios, Rethink Education.

P21 (2009). “21st Century Learning Environments White Paper.”. from http://www.p21.org/documents/le_white_paper-1.pdf

Razzouk, R. and V. Shute (2012). “What is design thinking and why is it important?” Review of Educational Research 82(3): 330-348.

Rotherham, A. and D. Willingham (2010). “21st-Century” Skills. Not New, but a Worthy Challenge.” American Educator 34(1): 17-20.

Thornburg, D. (2007) Campfires in cyberspace: Primordial metaphors for learning in the 21st century. . Thornburg Center for Professional Development. Retrieved from: http://tcpd.org/Thornburg/Handouts/Campfires.pdf

Veloso, L., J. S. Marques, et al. (2014). “Changing education through learning spaces: impacts of the Portuguese school buildings’ renovation programme.” Cambridge Journal of Education 44(3): 401-423.

Woolner, P. (2009). Building Schools for the Future through a participatory design process: exploring the issues and investigating ways forward. BERA Manchester.

Woolner, P., J. Clark, et al. (2012). “Changing spaces: preparing students and teachers for a new learning environment.” Children Youth and Environments 22(1): 52-74.

 

 

A Bold Idea To Better Use Time

In my current role I support and challenge Principals and Leadership Teams to lead their communities to attain improvement through inquiry. I enjoy my visits to schools, discussions with principals and engagement with their learning community. Most particularly, I admire the energy and expertise that these leaders and their teachers dedicate towards the learning agenda of the students who come under their care. They do this despite increasing demands on their time.

For quite a while now, my Twitter PLN, most particularly my #INF537 #dbblearn and @materdeiwagga colleagues, know I have been interested in how schools can use time to accelerate change in their settings. Over the last six months, I have noted “TIME” as being an increasingly precious asset. Over the last three months I started to note more closely note various concerns about “TIME”. Here are some direct quotes……

“We have more teaching face to face hours in Australia than most other countries in the world.”

“We looked into a project but got held up by reports, exams and marking.”

“We need more time to share our experiences of practice with each other.”

“We just don’t get the time to meet and plan.”

“There are competing demands on time.”

“We want to provide more opportunities to share practice which are aligned to the goals of the school.”

The hard nosed people reading this blog will argue, “It’s all about priorities! Just re-organsie your time and do what’s important.” That may be a fair comment; however, others may argue that schools are asked to do more and more without being allowed to let things go.  The reality is that governments and education systems continue to ask more of our schools, placing increased stress on the resource of time.

We need to approach this concept and use of TIME with Carol Dweck’s Growth Mindset by embracing the challenge to use time more wisely! In doing so, and with a solutions focused approach to the challenge, I share one idea with you…. 

School “A” is a secondary school in New South Wales (NSW), Australia. In NSW, the regulatory authority mandates the minimum delivery of 400 hours of English, Mathematics, Science and HSIE (History, Society and its Environment) to students across Years 7 to 10. However, at School “A”, they deliver 520 Hours of English, Maths, Science and HSIE across Years 7 to 10. This is a combine surplus of 480 hours (across the four subjects over four years); 120 hours per year. Just to give you an idea of what can be done with that time, Music/Visual Arts is allocated 240 hours, over two years, for Year 7 & 8. LOTE (Languages Other Than English) is allocated 120 hours in Year 8. As per its timetable, that is 3 x 1 hours lessons per week for four years. WOW! What if?????

What if….. the 120 hours per year could be better used to address our era of rapid change by developing skills of students to use information to co-create knowledge and (hopefully) solve real world problems?

What if….. the 120 hours was used as a three hour block every week? In that three hours students could work on their Genius Hour project that promote the skills of collaboration (teamwork), critical thinking, creativity, innovation & leadership. After that was finished, say after 90 minutes, students could go home early and then teachers could engage in regular weekly professional learning. Teachers could……

  • work together in teams to plan, prepare, review and evaluate learning. WOW!
  • engage in planned, structured action research inquiry on a weekly basis using collaborative technologies which support student learning. 
  • rework a unit of work applying the principles of challenged based learning, project based learning or inquiry learning.
  • produce videos for Flipped Learning approaches.
  • rewrite programs using Learning Design Principles – UBD.
  • develop an online learning course for one of their subjects – did some say “anywhere, any time learning”?
  • work in teams to develop a social and emotional skills continuum.
  • prepare rubrics which attempt to measure collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving in classrooms – what does that look like?
  • reflect on, and engage with, evidence and data sources (quantitative and qualitative) which is focused on student learning. Then the teachers could develop hunches and design rich questions which they interpret from the evidence and data.
  • create “reflection routines” allowing for time at the end of each lesson for students to articualte and synthesize the important points.

Yes, such an idea would require extensive consultation with staff, students and parents. And, I know there will be the inevitable person yell loudly, “We won’t get through the content.” But Puuuhhlllleeeezzzze, when did any student suffer from “not getting through the content” in Year 7, 8, 9 or 10? There will be also those who will say, “That won’t work because…..” However, I ask those who can, to make bold decisions about better use of time by ignoring the choir of

Yes, but

Let’s roll our sleeves up and produce the effort required to overcome obstacles which get in the way of finding time and make decisions which are in the best interests of student learning. I welcome comments from people who want to explore answers to these questions…..

  • How CAN we find the time?
  • How CAN we use it better?

I look forward to reading about your ideas.

Greg

Masters Completed – BAMM. That Just Happened!

Late last week I received feedback for my final assignment for the final subject of a Masters in Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation hosted by CSU. The Masters course was practical, challenging and certainly developed my ability to identify, use and evaluate digital technologies for learning, teaching and professional practice. Furthermore, I deepened my understanding of the social, cultural and economic dimensions of information use. Most importantly for this day and age, the course greatly enhanced my ability to manage personal and participatory knowledge networks to communicate and work collaboratively and effectively with others.

The final subject was the capstone subject, Digital Futures Colloquium #INF537. INF537 has greatly added to my knowledge and deepened my understanding of the work of an educational professional in digital environments through participatory experiences including, but not limited to:

  • blogging, and the ensuing comments,
  • forum posts, and ensuing responses,
  • Adobe Connect which introduced us to experts, and
  • on Twitter through #INF537

As a member of the INF537 cohort, I was a learner who used, “new technologies to participate in virtual communities where they share ideas, comment on one another’s projects, and plan, design, implement, advance, or simply discuss their practices, goals and ideas together” Davidson and Theo (2010:12). As a part of the Adobe Connect session held Thursday 13 August, Tim Kladpor (2015) highlighted the issue of ‘Data Sovereignty’, encouraged us to dream possibilities of the ‘co-operative’ and challenged the notion of data ownership when authentically engaging in true sense of distributed networks though the Network ‘Common’. As part of my post,Data, Algorithms and Enclosure, I referred to Elizabeth Stark who suggests that people engaged in traditional structures are often threatened by newer paradigms around ownership and control.

Further to the matter of data ownership, on 29 August after hearing Jack Andraka speak at the Melbourne Writer’s festival, I blogged about his frustration accessing research articles from “behind the paywall”. Jack advocates for crowd-sourcing information which is freely accessible to academics and researchers in the hope that it will assist people to answer big questions and solve real word problems in a more expedient manner. The implication here is that, as educational professionals in the school digital environment, teachers are obligated to explore how information can be crowd-sourced to increase knowledge and improve learning outcomes for students.

Jack Andraka

The work of an an educational professional in digital environments requires engagement with co-operative practices. Most particularly, I have been reminded through INF537 discussion forums  that participatory learning experiences can assist people to make meaning through collective engagement. Through the exchange of ideas, I learnt from others and acquired clarity for upcoming assessment tasks.

Increased accessibility to mobile devices and cloud based applications means secondary schools are, by nature, digital environments. Teachers, as the educational professionals within those environments, need to acknowledge and respond to this reality. My involvement with INF537 has impacted on my daily work as a senior leader in a school system. As a person who serves in a position of influence, I am aware of the need for me to facilitate opportunities which enable and encourage teachers as educational professionals when working in digital environments.

As such, INF537 has shaped my thinking when working with the Head of Professional Learning to offer INSPIRE; an initiative which invites schools to engage in a disciplined innovation process which aims to encourage educators to co-design new pedagogical practices which are transferable, sustainable and scalable. Participation requires teachers to engage with digital technologies to regularly reflect and comment on the blogs of other educational professionals, within system and across our globally connected world. The use of cloud based applications to access experts will be particularly encouraged and I am hopeful the connections I have made through INF537 will be useful for variety of projects. Such practices will support collaborative behaviours of working towards a common goal within INSPIRE teams, as well as support cooperative behaviours of sharing freely across system Communities of Practice. Collaborative and co-operative behaviours are encouraged, if not expected of educational professionals in the digital environments of a secondary schools.

Participation in INF537 has confirmed my strong belief that education professionals in digital environments need to develop strong networks, act as connected educators and access opportunities that digital environments offer educational professionals. Completion of this Master Knowledge Networks and Digital Innovation has been as much satisfying as it has been challenging. It is now time to have a break from formal study, but not a time to stop learning!

References

Davidson, C, & Theo, D (2010). The Future of Learning Institutions in a Digital Age  MIT Press Cambridge, Massachusetts London, England.

Klapdor, T. (13 August 2015). You Are Not In Control. CSU INF537 Online Adobe Seminar.

Jack Andraka

Image retrieved from http://melbourne.usconsulate.gov/mobile/

On Saturday 28 August, 2015, I attended the Melbourne Writers Festival to listen to 18 year old, Jack Andraka. As a child he and his brother had an “all things can go” approach to ‘all things scientific’. His parents encouraged this passionate interest in science but asked him just one thing, “Please, don’t blow up the house.”

After losing an uncle to pancreatic cancer, at the age of 15, Jack developed a 30 page procedure for a non invasive method for detecting pancreatic cancer. After being rejected by 199 research companies, Jack overcame the stereotype of being a gay, scientific nerd to have his method supported by a research company. Besides being a great inspirational story, the message for parents and the rest of the village who raise kids……. whether you have kids who live for English, reading, public speaking, sport, dance, surfing, politics, maths, science, technology etc etc., do you best to let them follow their passion. It is a a part of a good education.

As part of the ‘fireside chat’ Jack spoke about the cost of getting research articles from”behind the paywall”. Jack spoke about the frustration of paying $30:00 for an article which may not have contained what it promised, making his crusade to cure pancreatic cancer another step further away. As an aside, he highlighted the irony, “You can pay $1:00 to download a Katy Perry song that you can play over and over, but it costs you $30 to access information which might help you save the world”.

Soon after, Jack highlighted Albert Swartz who, in 2011, devised a method of downloading large numbers of articles from JSTOR, using a computer hidden in a closet at MIT.

JSTOR s a digital library founded in 1995. Originally containing digitized back issues of academic journals, it now also includes books and primary sources, and current issues of journals.[4] It provides full text searches of almost 2,000 journals.[5] More than 8,000 institutions in more than 160 countries have access to JSTOR;[5] most access is by subscription, but some older public domain content is freely available to anyone” Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JSTOR

Rightly or wrongly, Swartz was considered by some to be brave enough to challenge the unfairness, hypocrisy and inequality of taypayer-funded scientific research held by publishing firms which then charged outrageous fees to access the resulting academic papers. This is exactly the frustration felt by Jack Andraka, hence why he advocates quite strongly for crowd sourcing information which is freely accessible to academics and researchers. His reason for this is that it will far more quickly enable cures for various diseases, including cancer.

Swartz pushed boundaries. What he did may have been ‘victimless crime’, but the fact is, he did steal. Regardless, the pressure was such that in January 2013 he took his own life.  Is it the case that, “people can say more or less what they like online; but the moment they look like mobilising people, then you come down on them like the ton of bricks”? guardian.com 7/2/2015

Let’s hope that one day we can see the value in the collective sharing of information for the common good of humankind.

Greg