The #MyWorkflow series asks educators who are active creators on social media to share how they do their work. Today we speak to a good friend of mine Andrew Campbell. When I think of him I think of integrity, honour, and fearlessness. A staunch advocate for social justice in education, Andrew writes and speaks with eloquence and passion, and is never afraid to tell the Emperor he has no clothes. He often claims that he is from what seems to be a fictional place called Burnley in Northern England, but I’ve yet to see ample evidence that this is the case. For now, we will go with what he says. The only thing we do know for certain is that Ontario would not be same without his critical eye on the politics and pedagogy of education.
How do you pay the bills?
I teach. I’m always reluctant and surprised to write that because, while I loved school, I never expected to be a teacher. I did it for a while and I’m sort of amused that I’m still doing it. Every summer I reevaluate and wonder what else I should be doing. I haven’t found a better answer yet. It’s really an honour.
What regular activity brings you little money but loads of happiness?
Parenting? Is that an activity? Parenting gives me negative money but it’s the most important thing I do. I know it’s trite but I’d do anything for my kids and put their happiness well above my own. I’m somewhat surprised by that.
What’s your current phone? Which phone do you miss? What will be your next one?
I could write volumes about this and it’s mostly Fred Galang’s fault. I’d like to have a phone that preserves my privacy. I’d also like to avoid doing business with large telecoms. Unfortunately, the best phone for privacy (iPhone) is really only affordable if bought through the big telecoms. So I have chosen to have a Nexus 5X with WIND Mobile which I encrypt and do whatever I can to preserve my digital privacy. My hope is that by the time I’m ready for a new phone there’ll be a variety of choices that allow users to protect their privacy.
What’s your current laptop? Which laptop do you miss? What will be your next one?
A 2012 MacBook Pro. I don’t really miss any laptop. They’re functional for me. I like the MacBook’s reliability but I don’t really use the Apple ecosystem in any way. I’d like my next one to be an updated version of what I have. More RAM, faster processor, higher resolution display. Etc.
What apps and/or methods do you use to stay productive?
I find using Google Keep as a to-do list to be incredibly useful. The way it crosses off items as I check them off is very satisfying and the closest I’ve come to a paper to-do list. I also keep a small black book (usually a Moleskin) in my pocket for any analog stuff I need. To be honest I don’t like too many productivity structures. I like to be able to follow my muse and go where I need to go.
Which apps do you check persistently, even if you wish you didn’t?
Twitter to stay connected, get new ideas and occasionally, but less so lately, engage with others and test out my flights of fancy. If you want to know why you’re wrong, ask Twitter.
Messenger to stay connected with my kids and WhatsApp for other messaging and connections and discussions I don’t want to make public.
How do you carry your gear?
I remember as a kid being taken to a leather shop and picking out my first satchel. It was required for all of us attending school in the UK at the time. So a few years ago the lovely Amanda Lee bought me a new personalized leather satchel and whenever possible that’s my bag of choice. However sometimes I roll with a lot of stuff (laptop, marking, lunch, etc.) so I also use a very boring and functional black backpack with a padded laptop sleeve and lots of room.
What other hardware rarely leave your bag?
About the only thing I can think of is a bag of assorted cords and connectors. I’m quite paranoid that I’m going to show up somewhere and they’ll ask me to do a presentation and I won’t have the right connector. So I always have those with me.
What piece(s) of analogue technology is a must in your life?
My small Moleskin notebook. I use it to take notes when I’m in meetings, etc. I read some research that said that taking analogue notes helps with both retention and conceptual understanding (thanks Freakonomics) so I’m trying to do that more. I’m also trying to do more sketchnoting, so the notebook helps with that.
What drink, snack, or food sits next to you when you’re being creative?
Tea. I’m actually rather concerned with how much tea I drink. It’s probably not healthy, but I find it very soothing. I’m also kind of addicted to Jube Jubes, but that isn’t really a creative thing, it’s more a relaxing thing.
When working, do you prefer the cafe, library, couch, office, kitchen table, or other?
Depends on what I’m working on and what’s going on. If I can get a quiet spot at home, that’s best. If not, then a cafe. Even though the cafe isn’t quiet, because it’s full of people I don’t care about I seem to be able to block that out and focus on work. Plus there’s tea, so…
When working, do you need quiet, ambient noise, speakers, or headphones?
Quiet all the way. Anything that might distract me will, so the fewer distractions, the better. People who work and listen to music bother me. That’s kinda weird.
Morning, afternoon, evening, or the witching hour?
I’m very much a morning person. I’ve been getting up early for so long that I can rarely sleep in anymore, which is a source of great sadness for me. If I can sleep until 7:30 am that very late for me. I’m usually awake at 5 am and at the gym by 5:30 am. I love the feeling of having accomplished a lot when everyone else is waking up.
How do you get from idea to shipping that idea?
I really don’t have a standard process. Sometimes an idea grabs me and I have to move it forward, it has an energy all it’s own. Sometimes I need time to process it and allow things to germinate before I can move forward. And then, of course, there are also the times when someone else is controlling the timelines and you just have to get it done. All depends on the task. Horses for courses.
What’s one piece of advice you have for people that have difficulty with their workflow?
Don’t press. Accept that you’re going to go through phases when you have a lot of energy and focus and other times when you won’t. Unless it’s how you put bread on the table accept that the dry periods are necessary to fuel the productive times. When it seems like you can’t get anything done, understand that there’s always a lot going on in the background and that eventually, when it’s ready, all that background work will come to fruition and you’ll have another productive, creative burst. You’re not a machine, you’re part of an organic system. To everything there is a season.
How can we find and connect with you online?