As this original post is shared at Connected Principals, Patrick Larkin and I wanted to share a tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung. Please see the story below:
As this original post is shared at Connected Principals, Patrick Larkin and I wanted to share a tribute to Sandy Hook Elementary principal Dawn Hochsprung. Please see the story below:
There has been post after post acknowledging how educators love Twitter while also encouraging others to use it themselves. With that though comes skeptics (as there should be), questioning whether the use of Twitter is beneficial to educators. I have thought about that question a lot and I can give a definitive answer: yes and no ( I am 100% certain of this).
So to prove this, we have to look at a few things. First off, we have to look at how educators are using Twitter. Simply signing up for Twitter doesn’t improve anything in your classroom (similar to the notion that having a Twitter account will make people do inappropriate things and cyberbully). It all comes down to the use of it. I offer two scenarios in my own use of Twitter below.
Scenario A – Being on Twitter for the sake of being on Twitter
When I first started Twitter, my first follows were my brother, Shaquille O’Neal and every other Laker related Twitter account I could find. Although I liked talking to my brother, I was more worried about seeing what was happening with my favourite basketball team. Then about two weeks I quit using twitter and then thought to myself, “How does this improve teaching and learning? Whoever thought that is seriously crazy.”
Scenario B -Using Twitter to follow and learn from other educators
A year later, I went back to using Twitter in a totally different fashion and followed educators, found some great information on things that were happening in classrooms and schools, and it took my learning to a different level. I started trying different things and engaging in conversations that sometimes took place on Twitter or went to another space because of Twitter (blog, website, webinar, etc.). I started learning about things in an abundance, but also started to question educational trends (flipped classroom, BYOD, interactive whiteboards) because I felt that I had built enough knowledge to feel comfortable wondering aloud about these trends.
So here is the thing when people that actually use Twitter challenge with the question, “does Twitter improve education?” The first thing that I do when I see this question, is look at their Twitter stream, who they follow, and how they participate. I have seen an educator who follows no one other than 3-10 people openly pose this question, while another educator who asked this spends the majority of his time discussing travel and talking about things that really have little to do with what is happening in schools (on Twitter). I am not criticizing their use of Twitter or their knowledge of teaching and learning (I actually learn a lot from both of them while they may not learn much from me), but I am guessing that they probably don’t see the difference Twitter can make on the profession based on their own use of the service. When we actually experience Scenario B, it seems we are more likely to be an advocate for others to jump on the “Twitter Train”.
Yesterday, in my own school division, teachers in numbers not seen before, were sharing what they were learning and connecting with others on our professional development day. It was fantastic to watch and I was glad to see what was happening around the school division, while watching this group of educators engage in further conversations regarding their learning.
So to me, ultimately here is how you can find out if Twitter “works” for improving education. Ask someone who uses it about their engagement in their own learning and if that has changed because of Twitter. If you were to ask me, I would tell you that jumping on Twitter and using it how I do now, it has engaged me in my learning more than I have ever been in not only my career, but truly my life. I explore things that I am interested in, and I am exposed to ideas that I would not have heard of otherwise. If you ask someone else the same question and they say their use of Twitter has not engaged their learning, well then you have a different answer. Both yes and no, which honestly is fine to me.
If you are looking for a “number” as evidence, I don’t have one. All I have right now is stories and experience and to be honest, I am not sure that I need much more. Engaging in Twitter will work for one person, and will not work for another depending upon their use of it. But if I am engaged more in my learning than I ever have been, while also sharing what I am learning with others, doesn’t that say that “Twitter” works? It does to (and for) me. Do we really need more data? If more teachers focused on being true lifelong learners while sharing that learning openly, don’t you think education would improve? I know what I would put my money on.
UPDATE: As I don’t want to give the wrong impression, and based on the comments on the blog and Twitter, the title should have been adjusted to “Does the USE of Twitter Improve Education?”, as that is what I am really discussing in this post. As many have already shared this, I have chosen not to change the title so that people don’t feel what they have shared is being misrepresented. Thanks for the comments so that I could add this note and clarification.
I have been on the road a considerable amount in the last month so I have decided to blog on stuff that has inspired me and write in a spontaneous manner so the “you should read…” post that I have tried to write on a weekly basis has been something that I have skipped in the last couple of weeks. I still think that it is important to share what I have been catching on Twitter and learning from others.
1. 7 Kinds of Thinking Keeping Your School or District from Transformation -This article by John Robinson was fascinating and he is ideas shared are fantastic, but what I like most about this post was that he actually offered “antidotes” on how to cure each ailment:
“We’ve always done it this way thinking.” In public education, I have found this kind of thinking the most common. You can easily run up against this thinking by simply questioning a policy or procedure, or by suggesting a new way of doing something….The best antidote for this kind of thinking? Asking the simple “Why” question. If the answer is, “Because we’ve always done it this way,” then the underlying rationale might be suspect..
Many people will read this and think of someone they should send it to. Administrators may blame teachers, teachers blame administrators, schools blame government, etc., and so on and so forth. I truly believe that we should look at ourselves first, especially in this context and ask what are embodying to others and giving “solutions” as John offers, as opposed to simply discuss problems.
I tweeted the below in a discussion and I believe it is essential to school transformation:
— George Couros (@gcouros) November 4, 2012
The more I connect with educators, the more I am loving that they are seeing that they are part of the solution.
2. Why Kids Need School to Change – A fantastic article discussing the importance of what we do in our schools and the need to change in our current environment.
The current structure of the school day is obsolete, most would agree. Created during the Industrial Age, the assembly line system we have in place now has little relevance to what we know kids actually need to thrive.
Most of us know this, and yet making room for the huge shift in the system that’s necessary has been difficult, if not impossible because of fear of the unknown, says educator Madeline Levine, author of Teach Your Children Well.
“People don’t like change, especially in times of great uncertainty,” she said. “People naturally go conservative and buckle down and don’t want to try something new. There are schools that are trying to do things differently, and although on the one hand they’re heralded as having terrific vision, they’re still seen as experimental.”
The author offers the idea of “project based learning, alternative assessment, scheduling, climate of care, and parent education” as ways to improving school. What would you suggest regarding these ideas? What would you add or change?
3. 7 Basic Types of Stories – I am fascinated about the role of stories in the current context of schools and I love watching what organizations outside of education do to leverage this. You can easily take an hour to go through this post, but I think that there are some pretty engaging ideas. Does the following quote apply to schools?
“Brands are stories,” he said. “They want to embody a story. When we start working with a client, we don’t want to take a brief. We don’t want to just say, ‘What’s your problem?’ We want to go right back to, ‘Why was your company started? What’s your mission?’ We talk about mission all the time, and it’s just another way of saying, ‘What kind of story are you on? What kind of story do you want to tell?’ … Part of our job as an agency is to reignite that and really figure out what that story is.”
I would love your thoughts so I can further my own learning in this area.
BONUS –> Just as something that I would like to share as one of those videos that makes me smile every single time I see it, I thought that I would share this video from “The Flight of the Conchords” which is guaranteed to make you smile (I will buy you ice cream if it doesn’t). You can also get the karaoke version of the song if you want to sing it with your kids
Have a great week!
“And that’s the grand dilemma of social networking: it’s intended to allow participation, to let companies and individuals all engage and interact, but all too many are one way channels, broadcast media where responses or engagement is ignored completely.” — Dave Taylor
Many organizations or schools are starting to get on the Facebook and Twitter bandwagon and seeing the importance of having a presence on the largest social networks. Yet, there is much more to Twitter than having an account, and unless you are Justin Bieber, you have to change your mindset to make meaningful use of social media.
The old-school philosophy of communication lent itself to making a fancy website so that you had a nice Web presence. Not only could you look flashy on the Internet, but there also was great opportunity to share key messages, events and happenings from your school. This was a step up from what many had done previously, and it was great for a prospective student or parent to look up information on a school before committing to be part of that community.
As we have progressed, not only in our use of technology but also our understanding of effective leadership, we know that communication includes effective talking but, more importantly, listening. Being able to hear what is being said from those we serve is extremely important to how we develop our schools, and the conversation is extremely valuable. Yet, many schools and organizations use social media in the old fashion: sharing information but not having a conversation. In reality, just because you have ears doesn’t mean you are listening.
Many businesses have a 1.0 mindset. They have a Twitter account to share sales, events or whatever with customers, and because of that type of information, they do have many followers. Yet, having followers does not mean that you have people who “buy” what you do or whom you are; they use your service because they have to, not because they are loyal. Schools should think about that as well. Would a parent or child want to stay in your school if there was another choice?
Recently, I wrote about United Airlines and its lack of response when dealing with my concerns about service. Its Twitter account seemingly is only about sharing information, not connecting with customers. The more savvy someone is with social media, the more frustrated the person will become with this approach, and if he or she has another option, the person will take it. Yet, someone such as Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi learned how to not only use Twitter but also to use it effectively to build his brand and win an election.
Ultimately, this is not about having a Twitter or Facebook account but about how we use it and about rethinking the work we do and how we connect to those we serve in our schools. Having a website on which YOU communicate while watching parents use a Twitter account through which THEY communicate doesn’t make sense anymore. We need to not only get into the same room but also talk when we are all there.
This post was originally shared on the SmartBlogs site.
With the combination of knowing that educators in our own division are opening their classrooms to students tomorrow, and reading Joan Young’s post on expectations, it made me really think about this process that we go through every year. There are still many educators that simply tell students the “rules” of the classroom, yet more teachers are talking about how students are helping develop these expectations and have “ownership” over the process. I guess I always wonder about that notion because many classrooms come up with very similar rules that contain notions of “respect others, respect yourself, etc.”, which I think are important things to discuss to help build character, but are they the things we should be starting our year off with? If you were a teacher in a school, or an employee in a business, how inspired would you be the first day going over the “rules”, whether you help make them or not? I have always just felt uncomfortable with this notion but was never sure why.
Then a lightbulb moment.
How about the notion of asking students what type of work that they want to do in the year? What if we started off the year asking kids what success would look like to them and they having them discuss the environment that they would need to be successful? Why not have them envision the projects or type of learning that they could do in the year and then have them think about what they need to be successful? This is obviously somewhat age appropriate, but I guess I would think that I would LOVE if a principal asked me as a teacher about the things that I would envision doing in my classroom with students and then asking me how they, and others, could support me in being successful in this process. Many educators would be blown away by this and probably it would help to build a much better environment within your school. Do you think it could work with kids?
How are you going to inspire your kids to think about the possibilities of their learning on the first day? How you are going to let them know how you will support them?
I think it is definitely worth the conversation.
Twitter is such a powerful tool for connecting and learning. Conferences in other cities can be attended virtually through following a simple hashtag. Links can be shared, while also following conversations that educators are having about certain topics. I really believe that it is always better to be face-to-face, but when we don’t have those opportunities, we can still be opened to a world of learning.
For an example of this, I am going to share links from watching, via Twitter, the IT Summit in Saskatoon that is happening right now. You can actually follow the information and conversation that is happening as it happens over the next few days by searching the #ITSummit12 hashtag on Twitter (whether you have a Twitter account or not). Here are some of the links that I caught from my brother’s keynote this morning.
1. My Favorite Liar – This post starts off with, “One of my favorite professors in college was a self-confessed liar.” An interesting statement about the methods used in this course to keep the attention of students, while also promoting them to challenge ideas and critically think about the information being shared. This is a great skill we need to teach our children as move them away from an education system built upon compliance and subversiveness. Thinking is a skill that can be continuously honed and crafted, and this method helped sharpen the saw for many:
“This was an insidiously brilliant technique to focus our attention – by offering an open invitation for students to challenge his statements, he transmitted lessons that lasted far beyond the immediate subject matter and taught us to constantly check new statements and claims with what we already accept as fact.”
Definitely an interesting article and something teachers should consider in their classroom.
2. Digital Storytelling (Resources) – This compilation of resources and articles on Digital Storytelling created by Alec Couros is a great way to not only discuss the topic of Digital Storytelling, but it is also a great way to display how a Google Doc can be used to quickly make a webpage to share and link resources. Making a webpage years ago took quite awhile, but with Google Docs, familiarity with Microsoft Word and being able to ‘share’ the document are all you need to get information out that is updated continuously. Some great resources are shared here but it might also spur people on to share or collaborate with others to make their own document.
3. Nine Dangerous Things That You Were Taught in School – Although this article was not shared in the links, I did find it by clicking on the “Creating Innovators” link from the keynote. This short and sweet article would be a great discussion piece for any staff meeting on the continuous changes that are happening in schools. Here is one of the ‘dangers’ that was listed:
There is a very clear, single path to success.
It’s called college. Everyone can join the top 1% if they do well enough in school and ignore the basic math problem inherent in that idea.
One of the final things that I would like to share is this hilarious video on the Video Rental industry and how things have changed significantly. Again, this would be a great discussion piece for educators to talk about some of the out of date practices that are happening in our schools. Check out the video below:
Thanks to Alec for sharing his links with the audience as well as the world. The world is becoming so much smaller and it is amazing how easily we can all learn together.
I have enjoyed taking some time away from social media and connecting with family and friends. The more I get involved in the “online world”, the more I appreciate my time away from it. That being said, this graphic from Royan Lee says it all to me.
1. 7 Deadly Sins of Creativity – Innovation and creativity are two words that seem to go hand-in-hand to me, so when I came across this blog post, I thought that it had some fantastic ideas. I loved this quote that was shared:
Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative effort. - Franklin D. Roosevelt
In this post, the authors go over the things that stifle creativity, while also discussing how you can conquer these ideas. Here is an example:
Lack of passion and enthusiasm.
Enthusiasm is the lifeblood of creativity. Creativity blossoms when you are passionate and enthusiastic about what you are doing. It’s extremely difficult topioneer creative solutions for things you have absolutely no interest in. When your mind is stimulated by curiosity and a fundamental interest in the subject matter, your creativity and motivation will automatically accelerate.
2. Questions about curriculum… – Edna Sackson has long been one of my favourite bloggers and this post definitely helps to guide questions in not only how you build a classroom, but also a school. These types of questions are imperative to growth of ourselves as educators and our schools as a whole. Here are some of the questions that Edna asks:
What are your beliefs about learning? Do they coincide with ours?
Did you know that a curriculum should not be static, but constantly revisited and updated to be current, relevant and promote authentic learning?
Do you think a curriculum has to be a set of books with prescriptive instructions for teachers?
Are you aware that workbooks do not usually foster meaningful learning?
Read the entire post to really get the entire idea of some of the powerful questions Edna asks of educators.
3. Zeitgest: 2011 Year in Review - As the year closes, I loved this video as it would be a great opportunity to discuss world events and how they effect our own communities. What are some of the questions that this type of video can spark? I love the easy access we have to these types of videos and events in our world; it really shows me how important it is that we bring this learning into our classroom every single day.
4. Although the below video is not necessarily focused on education or pedagogy, it is something that I loved and watched about 100 times last week. When I see amazing dance videos like this, I think of this amazing Chris Andersen Ted Talk where he talks about the power of video to drive innovation in our world. Would you see dance like this 10 or even 5 years ago? How many have learned this dance since the video has been released?
I hope all of you are having an amazing holiday season and I wish you all of the best going into the new year!
Definition: Tool – (noun) A device or implement, especially one held in the hand, used to carry out a particular function.
Often the saying, “technology is just a tool”, is said in the context of schools and learning. I (vaguely) remember writing a similar comment and being challenged regarding that same statement, but since then I have looked at technology in a different way. Based on the definitions I have read, and the way I see technology (in many cases) being used, it has the power to be so much more than a website, device, or app. If technology transforms the way we do things, is it “just a tool”?
For example, Neil Postman talks about technology being ecological and how it changes society:
Technological change is not additive; it is ecological. I can explain this best by an analogy. What happens if we place a drop of red dye into a beaker of clear water? Do we have clear water plus a spot of red dye? Obviously not. We have a new coloration to every molecule of water. That is what I mean by ecological change. A new medium does not add something; it changes everything. In the year 1500, after the printing press was invented, you did not have old Europe plus the printing press. You had a different Europe. After television, America was not America plus television. Television gave a new coloration to every political campaign, to every home, to every school, to every church, to every industry, and so on.
There is so much more to the “just a tool” analogy in this example. The invention of the airplane changed the way our world works and that would also fall under the realm of “technology”. Even though Louis C.K. is joking on this little bit, he does show the transformation of our world when the airplane was invented:
People like they say there’s delays on flights (yeah) delays really New York to California in 5 hours. That used to take 30 years to do that and a bunch of you would die on the way there and have a baby. You’d be with a whole different group of people by the time you got there.
If you even look at modern day technology, the invention of Google (along with prior and subsequent search engines), has really changed the way school should be taught. Why do we need to focus on content when all of the information you need is a “Google” away. Really, can schools stay the same with Google existing? It doesn’t make sense if they do.
Facebook, like it or not, is a whole different way of connecting with people. For me, it was the phone that I spent an inordinate amount of time on, but for the new generation, it’s this social network. It is not only a place you can connect with friends, but you can also share your life, play games, and even have advertising brought right to you. Like it or not, it is a technology that is transformative.
Twitter and mobile devices have also pushed the edges of the way our society exists. The recent pepper spray incident at UC Davis, still gives me shivers every time I think about it. The way news can be instantly delivered from anyone with one of these devices and a social media account, is changing how we live our lives, and is hopefully creating more accountability for all people. It is scary to think how many incidents like the UC Davis event have happened before the mass use of technology.
I guess the reason I even wrote this post in the first place, was from the inspiration of a picture. I have struggled back and forth with the idea of whether technology is just a tool, or is it truly transformative. Yes, the way people use technology is important, but again, when used in a certain way, it transforms. I am certain I may be saying something that has been said by Neil Postman and others, but again, it was a visual that inspired this post.
If my examples above haven’t swayed you, maybe the picture below will:
I just look at that picture and think it has to be more than a tool.
I have lost a once strong passion that I used to have for running. The monotony of exploring the same places, or continuously pounding on a treadmill has made this an activity I now find somewhat boring. I really believe though that there is a strong connection between mental and physical health, even during the activity.
Being so close to an amazing beach, only steps away from where we are currently staying in Sydney, Australia, I have enjoyed the opportunity to actually run and explore the beauty of the city. Being able to be visually stimulated during exercise makes it that much more enjoyable. Although I have gone for a run on a few days while I have been visiting this beautiful country, today was different. The other mornings I was on a schedule and had to be working by a certain time, which obviously did not give me the time to explore as I would have liked. On these runs, I would carefully plot out where I was going and stay close to that plan. Although I did see some neat places, I was more focused on simply getting home safely. Today was different though. I decided to channel my inner Robert Frost and just get lost in my run. Having a terrible sense of direction, this can actually be intimidating, yet it seems so exhilarating at the same time.
As I decided to just start going wherever the road and my thoughts took me, I suddenly realized I was lost. Quickly, I started to become anxious and nervous about how I would get back to my destination. Having some knowledge of the city, I knew that I was relatively in the same area, but I knew that I would need some direction about how to get back home. That is when I decided to ask for help. In the situation of asking a stranger for help, I am always nervous about how they will react, but every time I have stopped and asked for direction, I have been treated with kindness and consideration. My belief in people is that most people who are new to me and would be considered “strangers” are good people and willing to help, just as I would for someone else.
WhenI asked for some guidance to get home, I was offered a few different options. I decided based on my experience which option would best suit me, and I carried on. The pace of the run, as I realized I was getting close to my destination, started to pick up and gain momentum. Anxiety started to turn into exhilaration as I knew I was almost home.
Knowing that I was now going to accomplish what I had set out to do, I actually decided to pass by the house and go a little further. I went to the top of a cliff overlooking the ocean and I decided to just stand there and soak in the beauty of the place at that moment. The opportunity to just look out, appreciate, and reflect upon what I was seeing was both awesome and overwhelming. I need to do that more.
Opportunities where I challenge myself and find that flow, help me to renew and rejuvenate my love for old passions. As I arrived back home, I realized that the opportunity to simply have time to explore, be able to ask for help, know my own abilities, go beyond my limits, and be able to sit back and reflect is something that should be happening both in and out of schools; always in learning.
I really need to go running more
Kids do need to be tech savvy but they also need to play outside! As with anything in life, we need limits and moderation. I am sure there are folks way smarter than me that can indicate the pluses and minuses on both sides of this, but for my kids, I try to keep it in the balance.
Although I agree with Josh about trying to help our kids find balance in their lives, especially when they are young and need to try different things and be exposed to different aspects of life, the word “balance” keeps coming up in conversations and posts that I have had in the last little while.
I am not really taking a side one way or the other, but what does “balance” really mean? We talk about it as adults often, but when I have asked adults if they feel they are “balanced” I am hard pressed to find one that says they are. Usually, there is something that they feel is lacking or out of whack in their lives (ie. diet, exercise, want to spend more time with family).
So, doing an Internet search using the term, “when does something become an addiction”, I found this article on one person’s love for photography:
My camera is an extension of me. I feel restless if one or two days go by without shooting. Is it always a good thing? No… The rest of my family has little interest in photography. They support me in their own way but they don’t share my passion for it and I don’t expect them to.
The interesting thing is that as you read the article, it has her work embedded throughout and it is absolutely stunning (to me anyway). You absolutely know that this is what her work looks like after probably taking pictures for years and years. It then pushes me to think of Malcolm Gladwell’s work in Outliers, where he talks about the “10,ooo hours rule”.
Throughout the publication, Gladwell repeatedly mentions the “10,000-Hour Rule”, claiming that the key to success in any field is, to a large extent, a matter of practicing a specific task for a total of around 10,000 hours.(Wikipedia article)
So we have on one hand, talking about a lack of balance, but then books like Outliers suggesting that to be successful, an inordinate amount of time should be spent on honing our craft if we want to be successful. I am guessing that Michael Jordan would have been considered out of balance as well yet he is also known as probably one of the greatest athletes of all time. Do you think that he loved what he did?
As we talk about “personalizing” education, the “balance” that some may have thought was once created (with art and music being not as important as language arts or math –> ugh) is now being put into question. If a student loves something that they are doing and is happy, while also having the opportunity to become successful, what does this “balance” really mean?
Full disclosure on this topic…I have been known to feel “out of balance” as well and obviously love the work that I do and spend much more time then I really would need to. I love what I do, so why would I not do it more? This is not just in my case, but many other educators I know are extremely dedicated to the work that they do and are happy doing it.
Maybe asking about “balance” is not the right question. Maybe we start with, “Are you happy?”, and follow up with, “Are those you are committed to and around happy?” There are always areas in our life that we could improve, but in the end, isn’t the happiness of ourselves and those around us more important?
By no means would I say that I am an expert in this area, nor do I think this post will give anyone any answers; if anything it hopefully might spark more questions. I just think that since we use the term often in school, with our students and with each other, we should explore what it really means.