Friday, July 18, 2008

My Responses to a Twitter Discussion

I got involved in a discussion over at http://weblogged-ed.com about Twitter. Since I don't twit, I knew I was the perfect person to jump right into a conversation on a topic I know nothing about (which is something I often do) Here are the discussions I was involved in with Darren, Wendy, Steve, and they contain some of my current thoughts--

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 20:17:28
I’m old, I’m getting ready to retire, and I am 100% tech savvy…that said this whole conversation (I read most of the 80 commentors) makes me sad. There were only rare mentions of thinking,learning,teaching,scholarship, students…you are talking (IMHO) about something that makes no difference to the students we are trying to teach and to most of the people in the known world. Talk about preaching to the choir—this conversation is only relevent to the people who are having it in 140 characters.
Someone mentioned all the “great ideas” they got while lurking on Twitter—does anybody beside me see a problem with this type of the thinking….it reminds me of the old days when presenters would hand you a list of 300 websites with no annotation. What are you going to do with all these tidbits of info? Compile them into a master’s thesis? Plan a year long curriculum for your student? Write a book?
Do any of you teach real students? Has anyone used a tool that has changed the life or learning of a real student?
I’m sad that so many people are in love with the tools and not with the teaching and learning.
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Comment by Steve Ransom
2008-07-17 20:42:17
Wow… the echo just died here. Thanks so much for a much-needed perspective in this conversation, Nancy. However, for some, tools like Twitter DO provide useful and helpful bits of information that DO (hopefully) trickle down to students at some level. I don’t think one can be so quick to write off any tool. You are correct though, I think, in suggesting that the tools we choose to use professionally should be valuable at the student level for those that are teaching. There is no time to waste with tools that distract, annoy, or entertain for most teachers in the classroom.
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Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 20:53:19
Nancy,
It’s not about the tool, it’s about what you do with it. There is a lot of mindless fodder on Twitter. But, let me tell you a story about the real power of Twitter as a social networking tool. Last year, a fellow Tweeter posted a link to his 8th graders’ Darfur blog. I posted a tweet back that sent him to my third graders’ Darfur website. From that, a collaboration between two teachers grew into a major project that included 677 students from around the country.
http://manyvoicesdarfur.blogspot.com/Don’t underestimate the power of Twitter as a launch pad for more important conversations. You just have to know when to move on to a more appropriate forum to make the most for your students. There are many thoughtful teachers here who care very much about student learning. I lurk on Twitter from time to time. Sometimes, I contribute to the mindless fodder. But, I also build lasting relationships with amazing educators that spill over into my teaching and impact my students’ learning. When I found out that I would be teaching AP Human Geography, I posted a tweet asking if anyone knew other APHG teachers would would be willing to share resources. Within one hour I had five contacts who provided various resources from which my students will benefit greatly. I use Twitter as a professional tool to connect with colleagues. When I need to have a deeper conversation, I move to the blogs or other avenues for deeper discussion.

Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 21:30:03
Wendy, I do not Twitter but I read about the Darfur project on a blog…I’m sure there are miraculous collaborations made on Twitter. I’m in a different place than you are, career-wise. I’m looking back over my career while you might be looking forward to your future…many this is a time for reflection for me… but how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with the teachers in our buildings and districts? how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with neighbors, with old people in our communities? how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with our students and their families? or for that matter how many of us are attempting to make meaningful connections and collaborations with our own children, spouses, and family members?
It’s not really twitter per se that is bothering me–it’s IMHO the whole focus on the Web 2.0 tools–I guess I want so much more for my students than knowing how to use the calculator on their cellphone or filming a fight in the girls bathroom.
As I mentioned I use tech tools in my classroom all the time but they are used doing real work, in a real work environment. We present rich and relevant content (like the Darfur project) to an authentic audience. The tools are not doing the teaching and the tools are not doing the learning.
But, this too will pass–within a couple of years 90% of the “new” gadget sites will be out of business and the other 10% will charge a fee!(Comments wont nest below this level)

Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 22:24:56
I certainly cannot argue with anything you’ve said about making valuable connections at home. All of these human connections are important to us and our students. Technology is not a prerequisite for authentic learning opportunities. As far as Web 2.0 tools go, a colleague at my school and I created a site to help teachers sift through some of these tools and determine which ones might have educational value, depending upon how they are creatively used in the classroom. I would be very sad if anyone thought that those tools were all I cared about from a teaching perspective. My students experience learning from many different perspectives. I reflect on all of them to determine what works well and what doesn’t.
I respect your thoughts and personal reflection. I am actually well into my teaching career, probably one of the older teachers here, and I believe that reflection is important throughout my career. My real point here is that you can not make assumptions about people based on their participation or lack of participation in social networking tools like Twitter. There is more to these teachers (at least the ones I know) than the 140 character post in Twitter. Bottom line, and I hope this is what you are saying, is that we all must have balance in our lives such that we can be good examples for our children and our students. We must also help guide them so they can do more with technology than use the calculator on their cell phone or film a fight in the girls bathroom.


Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 22:40:28
I am one of those people who has opinions about everything and don’t feel like I am articulate (in writing) as many writers are–I certainly didn’t mean to offend. I just wonder if some people didn’t spend all their time chatting with like minded people (online or at conferences) they might have time to come up with the next Darfur Project or Flat World Project.
I heard Carol Tomlinson say, at a differentiation conference, “you can’t differentiate FOG.” So much of what people see as education-changing tools are in my opinion, FOG.


Comment by Wendy Drexler
2008-07-17 22:51:39
Nancy,
No offense taken at all. I think you offer some important points for all of us to consider. It’s been a refreshing conversation that inspired me to think a lot harder about what I’m doing and squint a bit more to see through the FOG. That is always a good thing. Now, I must get back to my face-to-face life. (smile)
Wendy


Comment by Darren Draper
2008-07-17 21:44:56
I love you, Nancy, but I’m already married.


Comment by Nancy
2008-07-17 21:54:50
Sorry to be a wet blanket. hehe I’ve read several things you’ve written and agree with much of what you say, you are much more articulate than I. I’m the only person in the world that has 3 blogs and hates to write!
I don’t want to give the impression that I am a luddite or “old school”. I presented at NECC and around my state for 5 years–I’ve integrated technology into more projects than most people who have commented. You can see some of them here
http://anotsodifferentplace.blogspot.com/2007/07/where-is-all-your-stuff.html When I retire I will leave a legacy of thinking and learning.
I cannot marry you, I’ve been married to same guy for 36 years–too late for a change!!

3 comments:

Michelle said...

Nancy,
I enjoyed your comments on Twitter, but more importantly he well written reminder to all of us to think about how each tool extends learning rather than where we can plug in a tool.

nbosch said...

I remember the early days of tech in the classroom. I always tried to ask myself "does this or that tool do a better job than the 'old' way"? Does it enhance or enrich student learning? If so, go for it--if not forget it! I've tried and discarded many of the new tools as so much fluff..

Thanks for stopping by.

aaron said...

This is great information – its encouraging to see online education is becoming

more widely accepted and the benefits are backed up by a range of studies.


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