Learning, Digital & Education from Oliver Quinlan.
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This week: Stepping back, big data politics and the power of calculators

Thanks, as ever, for subscribing to the newsletter and sharing my thoughts each week. It takes some time to put this together, and I'm finding this even more so recently as I'm making less time to read the kinds of articles online that I share and more to try to read books and also to work on my musical projects. I do enjoy having the impetus to get something out each week though, and along with doing some more blogging recently it's reminded me how much I enjoy writing.

I also enjoy conversations, and it was great to read Aaron Davis' thoughts on my points last week about the challenges of 'limitless tools'. He posted them on his blog, and I replied as he prompted more thoughts on the subject. I still feel the idea could be better articulated as something beyond music, but the back and forth helped with this.

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Why I'm taking a break from YouTube - Andrew Huang

I was going to share Andrew Huang's video '4 producers flip the same sample' here, building on Alex Couros' commentary on the lessons it holds for creativity and building on the work of others. Also because I love finding musical analogies for important ideas about learning.

Then I saw the latest video on his channel about his decision to take a break from YouTube. Andrew is a prolific poster of really involved high quality videos, and has built a massive following as a result. He's also a really high energy person, just watch his videos! We seem to have this cultural narrative that successful people either keep going or burn out.

Yet here is Andrew announcing that, no, he isn't burnt out, but that he needs to take a bit of a break and reassess a few things before returning to doing what he loves, just a bit differently. It struck me that we don't have many strong examples of this kind of healthy approach. The narratives we have often encourage us to keep going at all costs, to not let people down, and to be so grateful for success that we should sacrifice more and more to sustain it. When we don't, it certainly doesn't feel part of the narrative to talk about it openly like this. Good on Andrew for bucking that narrative and setting a great example for us on being reflective and achieving a balance. 

Big data is watching you – and it wants your vote

Where do I start with this week's Cambridge Analytica and Facebook news. I'm sure readers will all have seen plenty of coverage of this, and probably engaged with these issues on and off for a long time. It feels like a watershed moment when the concerns about data and privacy that many people have been exploring for some time have hit the mainstream. People who don't really engage with tech other than as users are deleting their Facebook accounts and discussing the concepts of privacy and data mining. There's a big temptation for those of us who've been discussing this for ages to say a great big 'I told you so'. Resist it, it's a good thing that this discussion of these issues are going mainstream. Help people to engage with them, avoid the easy assumptions, and explore how they are affecting us and might do so in the future.

Jamie Bartlett's article linked above covered some ground to me that was fresher than a lot of the commentary:

" the more politics is a question of smart analysis and nudges rather than argument, the more power shifts away from those with good ideas and toward those with good money or good data skills. (That could be left- or right-wing of course).

Worse still is the fragmentation. Micro-targeting chips away at the idea of a shared public sphere. Instead of open debate each person has their own prejudices and pet projects echoed back at them. 

These are the kinds of discussions we all need to be having about technology in society. Not just what it does now, but what this could encourage in the future and how we might affect these trends as they develop. We've got enough experience of technology adoption as a society now to know that we need to explore the many avenues it could take. These explorations need to be used to help us shape the directions particular technologies do take us. That's why mainstreaming this conversation is so important.

EEF: Calculators do not limit learning in maths

Bastions of education evidence the EEF review the research and find that calculators do not harm children's mathematics skills, and might actually help their problem solving. As with any tool, they do cite the old but true warning that it's not the tool but the way it is used. Something we should all bear in mind given the big technology and data stories around this week... 
... and finally...
Thanks for reading.
Until next week,


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