"Twitter is my primary network for learning"
-Jenny Luca, Chair, FutureSchools Conference, 23 March 2017
Disclosure: My attendance at FutureSchools 2017 is under a media pass provided by the organisers.
If you have missed any of the articles in the FutureSchools 2017 series, you can find them here. The excitement for FutureSchools fairly exuded from Twitter this morning as people began arriving with numerous photos popping up on Twitter.
I was very curious as to how the change in venue would change the vibe of the expo hall and the event in general. and the plenary was a nice change. It brought everyone together, and no doubt made filling time slots easier with less to worry about! There was also a definite TED Talk vibe going on with the stage setup
Jenny Luca, Chairperson for the FutureLeaders conference welcomed everyone and encouraged the delegates to think differently about education while we were there. She also commented that Twitter has been, for her, the greatest network for professional development. When I retweeted and asked who agreed with the comment, there were a great number of positive responses which was not at all surprising. I have had a few conversations recently with people who have dabbled with Twitter on and off, but a large number of people whom I have spoken with over the yesterday and today are active Twitter users, but I digress.
Milton Chen was the first keynote speaker and his topic was educating the whole child, with a focus on the arts, nature, and place-based learning in education. He began with a topical jab at Donald Trump ("Thank you, Australia, for letting me into your country), but then spoke about the accident of history that formed George Lucas' entry into the film making industry, that it was only a car accident that led him into film making. In Lucas' childhood, a teacher would not have been able to do too much to nurture and utilise a child's interest in film making to help their learning. Now, however, it is relatively easy to do and we need to personalise the learning to the interest of the learner.
I feel like this relates to the discussion in Prakash Nair's masterclass yesterday where he was talking about the concept of four theories of learning, specifically, the Distributed Collective theory wherein groups of learners converge around common interests with different levels of expertise, on an as needed basis and an individual will often be across multiple networks at the same time participating in different ways and levels across each of those groups. Milton's words here are perhaps not quite in the same vein, however, there are certainly shades of similarity.
At this point Milton brought up a topic that intuitively makes sense, yet, has much support in various teaching circles, yet which, as far as I am aware, does not have any empirical evidence supporting it. It intuitively makes sense and like many things which intuitively make sense, teachers run with it because much of teaching, if you ask in casual conversation, is based on gut feeling, on professional judgement honed over years of teaching and trying and failing in various contexts.
Science does not appear to support Multiple Intelligence as a theory of learning.
The concept of educating the whole child, of nurturing their social, emotional, academic, physical (fundamental movement skills, physical health etc), creativity vis-a-vis the arts is one I can agree with. What I do not agree with is modelling that based upon the notion that students have an identifiable preference which has a direct causal relation with their learning outcomes.
We heard, next, about research (un-cited) which shows that students who undertake a structured curriculum focused on social and emotional development see a statistically significant improvement in their overall testing results. I find it interesting that everything comes back to their impact on testing results, however, I feel that that is flogging the metaphorical dead horse.
Milton posits that students can learn more than we think they can. In what regard, and what the key is to unlocking this we were not really given an answer, however, it feels like pieces of the jigsaw puzzle are being extracted from various speakers at various conferences and that eventually, hopefully, maybe, we will get to a point where those who make the macro-level decisions about education will realise that the system needs to change.
It was next noted that the school year in the US is quite short comparative to Australia. As a result of this, there is a plethora of after school programs and clubs, not to mention the summer camps. This emphasises two things in my mind. First of all, the relationship between student's desire to work hard when they see the benefit which Prakash spoke about yesterday and secondly, the fact that this would appear to indicate that schools are not meeting the desires of students learning interests. It was also pointed by Martin Levins that we need to be careful not to over-curricularise students, I would add, especially in areas they do enjoy learning
We next heard about the six edges of innovation and the learning ecosystem, moving from here into place-based learning. Milton commented that in urban areas of US cities, students can easily graduate from secondary school without ever planting something. That in cities along the coast, students who live only an hour or two from the beach can graduate without ever seeing the ocean. The Edible Schoolyard project seeks to rectify that by creating programs where students not only are engaged in planting, growing and harvesting, but then in cooking the produce.
Makerspace came up as part of Milton's presentation, particularly the way that it addresses the need for practical skills, even in this age of automation and doom and gloom news about the prospects of blue-collar jobs in the future that is prevalent in the media. He commented that you would not have found any Makerspaces in schools five years ago, but that you would ave twenty years ago. I missed any discussion of the why behind this in a short conversation with the person sitting next to me, however, I would posit that the cotton wool movement might have something to do with it, though I could be wrong.
Milton showed us a video of a student who was heavily into makerspace, soldering circuits, 3D printing pieces and building using his hands as well as teaching peers how to solder because "once I teach them, they can teach some of their friends." I wonder how often a student has some sort of heavy interest in something that we as teachers either miss completely, do not understand, or are not able to facilitate learning through that interest, or are not able to due to administrative direction and the elephant in the room: mandated testing. The makerspace / STEAM / HacherSpace movements are, in my perhaps very wrong opinion, still constrained by perceived current purpose and focus of school, which to many stakeholders, including a reasonable proportion of student, is to get a good HSC result for uni.
It was observed by @MrsAngell that "[p]arents are our biggest barrier they say its great as extracurricular but...not for class the purpose of class is get my kid to uni." This led to the Bioblitz citizen-science movement, and its relationship to allowing students to experience their local environment in natural ways that are fun, contextual, exciting and scarily, not necessarily related to learning outcomes.
Milton closed by challenging us to define what makes a great school, in a short but measurable definition. Paul Houston's definition is apparently do the student run in at the same rate they run out. Are they eager to come to school, or are they hanging out out for the bell at the end of the day? It is an interesting question to ponder and twitter flooded with a variety of ideas. Feel free to share yours in the comments.
As always, thank you for reading. I hope to get some more articles out over the next few days while people are still following #FutureSchools on twitter.
"Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something."
- Attributed to Plato
As you read this article, I ask that you reflect honestly on your use of Twitter, your own interactions with other educators, and interactions that you have observed between other educators.
I am a strong believer that Twitter serves a valuable role in the ongoing professional learning and professional networking of educators around the world. It provides opportunities for international collaboration and sharing, for learning from varied teaching contexts. It allows us to share our mistakes, and our failures; but also to celebrate our successes. It allows us to network with educators we would not normally have access to for any number of reasons.
Twitter can be a toxic cesspit of bitter one up-manship, of misunderstandings that lead to bruised egos and self-justified crusades against opponents, and a series of echo chambers.
Just after 2017 began, the dark side became too much to deal with for one person, Lindy West and she deactivated her Twitter account. She wrote about it here, however, I include below a few particular sections from her article that I hope adequately highlight what see as a growing issue.
One moment I was brains-deep in the usual way, half-heartedly arguing with strangers about whether or not it’s “OK” to suggest to Steve Martin that calling Carrie Fisher a “beautiful creature”who “turned out” to be “witty and bright as well” veered just a hair beyond Fisher’s stated boundaries regarding objectification...and the next moment the US president-elect was using the selfsame platform to taunt North Korea about the size and tumescence of its nuclear program. And I realised: eh, I’m done. I could be swimming right now. Or flossing. Or digging a big, pointless pit. Anything else.
Twitter, for the past five years, has been a machine where I put in unpaid work and tension headaches come out. I write jokes there for free. I post political commentary for free. I answer questions for free. I teach feminism 101 for free. Off Twitter, these are all things by which I make my living...[b]ut on Twitter, I do them pro bono and, in return, I am micromanaged in real time by strangers; neo-Nazis mine my personal life for vulnerabilities to exploit; and men enjoy unfettered, direct access to my brain so they can inform me, for the thousandth time, that they would gladly rape me if I weren’t so fat.
I’m pretty sure “ushered in kleptocracy” would be a deal-breaker for any other company that wanted my business. If my gynaecologist regularly hosted neo-Nazi rallies in the exam room, I would find someone else to swab my cervix. If I found out my favourite coffee shop was even remotely complicit in the third world war, I would – bare minimum – switch coffee shops; I might give up coffee altogether.
The EduTwitter community, in my experience over the last few years, has not been like this. However, I question what role we as educators should be playing in this. We are in a unique position within our communities where we can affect change on a significant scale and change attitudes. Is this something that we should find an appropriate way to bring to bear on these rampant and disgusting issues?
I have seen Twitter conversations escalate very quickly from civil lowercase a argument to seemingly verbal nuclear-war capital a Arguments. very quickly. It feels like EduTwitter is becoming, in some ways a series of echo chambers, where within each chamber, an idea is mutually agreed upon and everyone in that idea is rushing to show that they agree. Dissenting and alternative opinions, it seems, are increasingly being shouted down, a tendency which I find rather disturbing. Is it not the case that diversity breeds change and that needing to be able to effectively argue (note the lower case a argue) our viewpoint can be a significant tool in strengthening our understanding of the problem while also opening us to alternative opinions?
I certainly do not think that this attitude is rampant, however, I do believe that the incidence of Arguments that lose civility and descend into name-calling has grown. The number and intensity of of the echo chambers also appear to be growing and they are difficult to avoid. I do not excuse myself from falling into them, as I have done so on occasion, which is partly why I have reduced my engagement with organised chats. Whilst I understand that the point of organised EduTwitter chats is for educators to come together around a common interest or subject and share ideas. I have benefited greatly from a number of them over the last few years.
My concern stems from the way I have observed those who question the status quo or share dissenting opinion being shouted down or spoken to with derision, almost as if to say "oh, you think that? Wow, get with the times, we all know that's wrong."
I would appreciate hearing your thoughts on this. Am I off the mark? Close? Do we need to rethink how we engage with Twitter, both our EduTwitter community, and Twitter writ large or is it ok? Let me know in the comments below.
In this FTPL video, I show you how lists can be used to filter your Twitter stream and enable you to keep track of what users within a particular category are saying.
If you have missed the previous videos in the FTPL series, click here.
In this FTPL video, I demonstrate a tool designed by Alice Keeler (@alicekeeler) to help your use of Twitter as a tool for teaching and learning. This tool will give your students a voice and create an easy way to collect entry/exit tickets.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I go through eight ways in which to use Twitter as a tool for Teaching and Learning. Some of these may not be appropriate to use in your specific context, but the majority would be achievable in most classrooms. I do think we underestimate our students sometimes.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
This Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video shows you how you can utilise a program called Storify to capture and archive for later access and reference, posts from social media, particularly Twitter. Using Twitter as a form of notetaking, Storify then serves as the way in which the notes are collated into a single accessible source.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
This week’s Flipped Teacher Professional Learning video focuses on the use of a tool called Tweetdeck to make using Twitter for professional learning easier and more streamlined, particular in the fast-paced EduChats that occur, or during conferences.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
This video was captured during a Twitter chat that moved across to a GDoc and shows how it can be used by multiple people at once to collaboratively share ideas.
For the full list of FTPL videos, please click here.
In this episode of Flipped Teacher Professional Learning, I give an overview of how to get started with Twitter as an educator. If you missed the previous episode, about why you would want to use Twitter as an educator, you can find it here.
For the full list of FTPL videos, click here.
With the start of a new term, I have put together some new videos for the Flipped Teacher Professional Learning series. This new series of FTPL videos focuses on why and how to use Twitter as an educator, both as a tool for your own professional learning and networking as all as a tool for teaching in learning in your classroom.
This first video focuses on why you would want to use Twitter in those two contexts. As always, please leave any comments or feedback below or connect with me on Twitter.
For the full range of FTPL videos, please click here.
For the next week I will be running the Australian @EduTweetOz account, a RoCur (rotating curation) account featuring a different educator each week. Each week the EduTweetOz blog posts an introductory interview to allow users to get to know the new host. Rather then simply re-post it, I thought I would add in some links to various resources.
Introducing this week’s @EduTweetOz host, Brendan Mitchell
I am a new graduate teacher in my first year out from university. I completed a B. Teach (Primary) / B. Arts with Hons Class I in Teaching through the University of Newcastle’s Ourimbah (Central Coast) campus in 2014. I did the rounds of visiting schools to drop off my resume and meet the casual teacher coordinator at the start of the year and was picking up four to five days a week work spread across three predominant schools, with the occasional day at other schools. Whilst I was at Future Schools in March I received a call from the Deputy Principal at one of my schools, offering me a temporary position for one term, which I naturally jumped on, with the remit to teach computer and research skills. The contract was eventually extended through to the end of 2015, and I am absolutely loving it.
The position is technically that of Teacher-Librarian, however due to a large-scale building project at the school (all eleven demountable buildings will be gone by the end of it! Yay!) The library, though still there, is not operational for borrowing purposes. My position is an RFF position, and is Monday to Thursday, and I see all classes from K-6 in the school, barring those classes with their library sessions scheduled on Friday (those sessions are handled by the other RFF teachers). I am at various points in my program, and a long way behind where I wanted to be (being fresh and naive I had planned about a years worth of learning for three terms), but am happy with my students progress. With Stage Three, I am just beginning research skills, starting with note-taking; with Stage Two I am beginning to teach them about the internet and how to use it and what different things are called in an effort to clear up a lot of misconceptions they seem to hold; while with Early Stage One and Stage One, I am working on improving their ability to type and understand how to use features like spell check, how to save/open/close files and programs.
As to why I became involved in education, I have written a blog article on that topic, and to quote from that article:
“I teach for two reasons. I had two amazing male teachers in my own primary education. Both were strong men whom I looked up to, as both had a strong presence, as they were encouraging of my strengths and chiding of my weaknesses, pushing me to work on them. They were men who were able to work with all of my peers, challenging each of us at our own academic level.
And though it wasn’t intentionally written that way, upon watching a recording of my delivery of the Graduate Address at my Graduation in July, I realised that it articulates, slightly differently, why I teach.
Who or what keeps you inspired and motivated in your work?
Given where I am in my career trajectory, I am still fresh-faced, keen, naive, and excited to be earning a living for doing something that I enjoy. I have also been told in no uncertain terms that after four years of not having an income that I will be enjoying the education system for a few years to come! That aside, it’s seeing the look on a students face when the dots connect, of seeing those students who struggle with the little things have success, of being able to get kids excited about learning. I am blessed to have some highly experienced, and still engaged and passionate teachers in my school whom I look to as mentors and their passion and willingness to try new things is something that I find motivating and inspirational. There are also a handful of younger teachers who went into teaching straight out of high school, and I find their experience and energy infectious and motivating. I also enjoy watching Kid President’s Pep Talk on those days when I feel tired and lethargic as there is something quietly motivating about him.
What do you see as some of the biggest rewards and challenges for people working in education today?
The biggest reward is seeing a student move from saying “I have no idea”through to being able to show others how to do something, or confidently explain it to you. The feeling of pride at seeing the growth is almost intoxicating when it happens. The biggest challenge I think is time. There is so little time and so much to do. More and more social and moral responsibility seems to be pushed onto teachers as being our job when much of it should be the responsibility of parents. The other challenge I see is inequity and that is a societal issue that needs greater focus.
If you had the ability to make changes to the education system in Australia, what would you do?
I think I would ensure that those making the decisions had current teachers giving the advice. A panel of teachers, nominated by teachers as being experts in the various education sectors, providing advice for a (two/three/four) year period before returning to the classroom and making way for the next rotation. I can’t take seriously the comments of Mr Pyne or Mr Donnelly when they either ignore or cherry-pick research to suit their agenda.
What role do you see EduTweetOz playing on the education scene in Australia and what are your hopes for the account this week?
A very interesting question given some of the conversations that happened during the #satchatoc chat on Saturday (5th Sept) morning. @EduTweetOz provides an opportunity for someone like me, fresh out of university, keen and bright-eyed and naive to the politics of funding and professional development hierachies an opportunity connect with other teachers, both like-minded and not, and learn from their experiences, their ideas, their mistakes. The phrase learning any time, anywhere very much comes to mind, and I see EduTweetOz as a focal point for new Tweachers to join the online PLN.
This week, I would like to explore the topic of Flipped Learning, hear what peoples conceptions, fears, thoughts, ideas and experiences are about the topic. It is a pedagogical practice I only learned about last year and have been keen to follow up on. I attended a Flipped Learning master class with pioneer Jon Bergmann (@jonbergmann) at the FutureSchools Conference, and am attending #FlipConAus15 on the Gold Coast in October and am excited to hear and learn from those who are putting it into practice.
I would also appreciate hearing from anyone who has or is teaching digital literacy and digital citizenship concepts and skills to students and the pedagogical practices and tools used to do that, particularly the incredibly complex concept of copyright/piracy.
Is there anything else you would like to add?
If you want to connect with my in the classroom, I utilise @MrEmsClass to tweet with my various classes and connect with other classrooms, whilst I use my @C21_Teaching account for personal/professional Tweeting. I’m looking forward to an exciting week and lots of learning.
It may sound like some sort of advanced Breakfast Club, but it is actually a new online professional learning network, aimed at pre-service teachers, and those teachers wishing to keep stay involved in academic discussions.
I first saw hashtag some time ago, and was curious about the concept, so I followed the hyperlink to Charlotte Pezarro’s blog, where I read this”
In this section, I hope to present interesting journal articles for discussion by pre-service, newly-qualified and established primary teachers. I will be limited to articles that are accessible without subscription; but there are plenty that are worth reading and pondering. Along with the reference, title and abstract, I will post some questions to scaffold the discussion. These questions will help us to reflect on the article, but by no means are you restricted to responding to these questions; feel free to ask your own or discuss any other thoughts you had while reading the article.
The first article put up for discussion was a recent one written by Gert Biesta and published in the European Journal of Education earlier this year. The title, What is Education For? On Good Education, Teacher Judgement, and Educational Professionalism was one I was intrigued by, and the questions that were prepared for it were sure to generate some robust discussion.
Unfortunately, I ended up not being home to take part in the discussion and have had read the Storify of the discussion (available for reading here), and I wish I had been involved. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for the next one. I recommend that you have a look and get involved. It will be professional development of a slightly different nature.