Tag Archives: Twitter

Dipping In: Twitter Stories About Online Teaching and Learning

I am somewhat a veteran to the world of online learning, having taught ADMS 647, Educational Technology for Administrators, for five years. I am web veteran as well, blogging on and off since 2003 and tweeting since 2007.

But you are never too old or experienced to learn more and I was fascinated doing Twitter searches on online teaching and learning. I quickly realized that I have been using Twitter in a very superficial way. The advanced search helped reveal stories in a way that can be tough when you’re just browsing a feed, particularly one that may be glutted with too many different sorts of folks.

Quick searches on “online teaching” and “online learning” yielded surprisingly different results. Online teaching seemed to focus on making money as an online teacher. Here’s a quick screenshot of the photos that came up.

Online Teaching Money


Clearly, I’m not doing this right. Although they don’t say you’ll make a lot of money, just that there is money to be made. For me, it’s a reminder of how far we’ve come in terms of online teaching and learning.

The online learning search results were more focused on the education aspects and, at the time I searched, included several tweets linking to an article from Forbes speculating on what is next AFTER online learning:

I thought, really? We’re already on what’s AFTER? We still haven’t figured out online learning. Let’s not be so quick to move to the next thing. However, it turns out that the article didn’t include the word AFTER. That was the headline added by OLCToday in their tweet AND on the article they reprinted from Forbes. The original article was titled Online Learning: What’s Next and  was basically a report about a recent survey. The speculation about what’s next was not earth shattering:

“All will agree that the experience of taking a course on-line versus in a classroom is different and both types should continue to be offered. I predict that the day will soon come when we will not distinguish courses by their teaching modality and employers and others will not ask whether the program was on-line or in person. On-line courses will continue to expand access to education to those without the time or money to attend a traditional on-the-ground class as well as well as to those who prefer this modality.”

A lesson learned about primary sources on the web. The simple addition of a headline can skew the meaning of an article. The original article has its own power in terms of encouraging educators across the spectrum to explore online learning and highlights the timeliness of the Online Learning Experience. Again, the message is that we’ve come a long way but there is more journey ahead. The tweet searches focused mostly on industry and higher education. I didn’t really get into K-12 online learning until I substituted “blended learning” for the search. The general search yields lots of conversations about using blended learning in the classroom. There are resources, frameworks, and, perhaps, a little bit of hype. That’s why Scott Macleod’s tweet of Philip McRae’s essay on the hype, harm and hope of blended learning made it into this post. We need to be thinking hard about these kinds of technological changes and get beyond the “this will revolutionize education” mentality.

But it was when I tried out the search suggestion about adding a pronoun that I really got to the heart of how people are using online courses to access education as well as some of the possible fears:

There’s the convenience, which seemed to focus on being able to learn with or without pants:

As well as the opportunity to time shift the learning and doing it from anywhere:


And then there’s this:


I don’t think online learning is any more open to cheating than regular learning but it is a potential fear.

I think the bigger issue is helping our students learn how to learn online:

This post is already too long so I’ll end it with an observation that came out of all the searches. There is a WHOLE LOT of online learning going on. If you want to learn something, there is a course for you:

From reorganizing your home:

To having better relationships with your pets:


To making the most of Ramadan:

As the Forbes article suggests, online learning is a part of our lives now. Thinking about how to make it a better experience is essential and may just have lessons for our face to face classes as well.

Five Lessons, continued

In my previous post, I talked about two of the five lessons of using social media in my classroom. Today, I’m going to tackle lesson three: Integrate Tightly.

Of all five lessons, this is probably the most important, and it’s one I’ve learned over the past few years, particularly with the use of Diigo, the social bookmarking tool.

My goal with using Diigo was to provide a place for students to share resources related to course content. As someone immersed in the content myself, I made the assumption that my students would be equally immersed, spending time going beyond the readings and activities to tap into the wealth of resources on the Internet related to the ever changing field of educational technology. For the first semester or two, I did not make any quantitative assignment related to Diigo but asked them to share resources. As you might imagine, few got shared.

My next step was to make a quantitative assignment, asking students to share at least three resources related to the weekly topic. It worked a little better but had an inauthentic feel. Many students simply waited until the night before the end of the week and posted the first three sites that came up on a Google search. There was no annotation, interaction or discussion.

I had the most success when I tied Diigo use to specific assignments. For instance, in the early weeks of the course, students create a webpage related to the history of educational technology. Before they dive into the page, they research and share resources via Diigo. This use of Diigo seemed to make more sense to them and thus led to more activity.

This semester, however, I have changed the sharing piece of the assignment. I am teaching two versions of the course for two different universities. I wanted a place where they could share but also experience opportunities for discussion and collaboration that go beyond Diigo. So, I set up a Google Plus community and have substituted it for the various places where I had used Diigo in the past.

I continue to use Diigo but as an optional tool. I kept the groups from the last time I taught the course and offer students the opportunity to join. A few will use it to share; mostly, I use it to post additional resources. It has become a great repository of course-related resources, my 21st century bibliography.

In addition to Google Plus, I’m using Twitter and Feedly. These are both part of my Professional Learning Network assignment. My goal is for them to make connections with the larger community of school leaders with the hope that it will continue even past the course. Learning from my lesson with Diigo, I realized I needed to make these tools an integral part of the course, so crafted a semester long assignment around them. Students are asked to reflect on their progress several times over the course of the class; at the end, they create a multimedia report about what they learned. The assignment does not have any quantitative component, which can be difficult for students, but I try to provide as much support as possible and that will be the topic of tomorrow’s post.

Whose Idea Was It?

If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. (Sir Isaac Newton)*

Two articles in the New York Times this morning describe people who were able to take a good idea and make something out of it. They differ, however, in the way each person deals with the recognition for their work. Both articles are biographies of a sort: Nick Bilton describes the beginnings of Twitter while Margalit Fox presents the life of Ruth Benerito who helped make wrinkle-free cotton. What these stories have in common is that often the person credited by history with the creation was not the original creator just the one who took it farthest or managed to tell the best story.

Here’s how it played out for Dr. Benerito, who was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2008, for what is considered a significant development of our time:

Many news articles over the years have described Dr. Benerito as the sole inventor of wrinkle-free cotton, a distinction she repeatedly disavowed. In the shorthand mythologizing to which the media can fall prey, “permanent press” seems to have been a convenient hook on which to hang her many achievements in less readily understood areas of chemistry. Her demurrals, in polite Southern tones, were widely ascribed to modesty.

In reality, wrinkle-free cotton first appeared in the 19th century, developed by a Shaker community in Maine. In the 20th, many scientists contributed incrementally to the problem of persuading cotton, constitutionally crease-prone, to lie down and behave.

Benerito worked with colleagues to develop the chemical processes and she never claimed full credit:

In a 2004 video interview produced by the U.S.D.A., Dr. Benerito reiterated that wrinkle-free cotton, like so much else in science, was the product of many hands over time.

“I don’t like it to be said that I invented wash-wear, because there were any number of people working on it, and there are various processes by which you give cotton those properties,” she said. “No one person discovered it or was responsible for it. But I contributed to new processes of doing it.”

The developers of Twitter are not quite so magnanimous. Bilton’s story is one of out-sized egos attempting to develop the most compelling creation myth with Jack Dorsey taking the most credit, suggesting he was thinking about Twitter as a young boy of eight years old:

In dozens of interviews, Dorsey completely erased Glass from any involvement in the genesis of the company. He changed his biography on Twitter to “inventor”; before long, he started to exclude Williams and Stone too. At an event, Dorsey complained to Barbara Walters that he had founded Twitter, a point she raised the next day on “The View” with Stone and Williams. Dorsey told The Los Angeles Times that “Twitter has been my life’s work in many senses.” He also failed to credit Glass for the company’s unusual name. “We wanted to capture that feeling: the physical sensation that you’re buzzing your friend’s pocket,” he told the paper.

Dorsey’s story evolved over the years. He would tell Vanity Fair that the idea for Twitter went back to 1984, when he was only 8 years old. A “60 Minutes” segment reported that Dorsey founded Twitter because he “was fascinated by trains and maps” and how cities function. Later, he would explain that he first presented the idea, fully realized, on a playground in South Park. All along, Dorsey began casting himself in the image of Steve Jobs, calling himself an “editor,” as Jobs referred to himself, and adopting a singular uniform: a white buttoned-up Dior shirt, bluejeans and a black blazer.

In many ways, it was Jobs who set the standard for knowing a good idea when he saw it and then having no problem taking credit for it:

In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ive, Apple’s head of design, recalls how Jobs occasionally hit upon his ideas. “He will go through a process of looking at my ideas and say: ‘That’s no good. That’s not very good. I like that one,’ ” Ive told Isaacson. “And later I will be sitting in the audience” — during a product presentation — “and he will be talking about it as if it was his idea.”

Bilton believes this is part of the Silicon Valley process: everyone knows the ideas are collaborative, but venture capitalists and journalists love a good genius story. These creation myths undermine the importance of collaboration in the development process. Researchers who publish in academia, however, highlight collaboration, often including a long list of author on the paper with the first author being recognized as the primary developer. It may not have always been a happy collaboration but at least everyone gets some credit. As we work to encourage collaboration with our students, learning how to share credit is an essential lesson. We want them to be more like Dr. Benerito.

*In the spirit of this blog entry, I should point out that Newton was not the originator of this quote.

Surrounded by Community

I spent most of yesterday online with educators, exploring the meaning of community.  Several hours were spent in Elluminate as part of Powerful Learning Practice‘s ongoing professional development program.  From there, I moved to Second Life for VSTE’s weekly meeting where we explored educational groups.  We ended the evening with a snowball fight and, as you can see from the picture below, I dressed for the occasion.  (Always wanted to have wings!)


I just felt energized the whole day, having access to all these fellow travelers without having to leave my house!  We shared both professional and personally; we learned; we had fun. It was the kind of experience I would wish for learners of all ages.

Besides being reminded of the power of online community, I learned some specific content.  I was introduced to Google notebook, a tool I had not explored before.  I installed it and was eager to try it out this morning.  So, I logged into Twitter, knowing that someone would have a link to a good article to read.  Twitter has increasingly become a big part of my virtual learning community in a way that I could not have imagined when I first joined.  I was not disappointed this morning as Will Richardson had posted a link to a New Yorker article on teacher quality from Malcolm Gladwell.   My primary job right now is working with pre-service teachers and identifying good teachers is always a concern.

I read the article and, as Will suggested, skimmed the football stuff.  When I got to the first paragraph that was really about education, I discovered that it had already been highlighted by someone else, using Diigo.  I moused over to read the comment and discovered it had been made by Michael Scott, who I had just seen last week in Roanoke and who is a member of the VSTE Ning.  I took a break from reading to add Michael as a friend in Diigo.  The next highlight and comment came from Clay Burrell, a fellow Twitterer whose blog, Beyond School, is always thought provoking.  All I could think of is what a small world it was since, according to the Internet World Stats, there are nearly 1.5 billion people online these days.

I think the lesson here is that online is a real community, as real as the face to face community I enjoyed at last week’s conference in Roanoke.  It’s something my non-networked friends just don’t understand.  And it isn’t something that happened overnight either.  But it is part of my life now, and as I sit at my desk working alone from home on a rainy day, I feel the presence of that community.  Thanks to you all!

Community Made Visible

I tend to be a loner.  I like to do things on my own, including learning.  Given a choice, I would always choose to work alone on a project or learning activity.  I’m comfortable in my own company.  Working from home has only exacerbated that tendency.

But, yesterday, as I headed out to vote and then, later in the evening, as I waited for the election returns, I found I wanted to share with others besides just my husband and the dogs. And, happily, there was my online community.  Over the past year, I’ve made an effort to become a more active participant in that community, and last night, almost for the first time, I could really see that it at work, mostly through Twitter.  During the day, we exchanged voting stories, how long the lines were, how we felt about what we had done.  Many people posted pictures and videos.  Then, as the polls began to close, we gathered to share our anxieties, to celebrate the milestones, and, finally, to take a deep collective breath as we realize what had just happened in our country.

Looking back, I can’t point to a specific moment when I joined the community.  It’s been a gradual process, one that I suspect will continue.  One positive step I’m taking is to do more with this weblog by following along with Teach42’s 30 Days To Being a Better Blogger.  I’ve only gotten through the first challenge, to update my About page.  I was surprised to discover that it was woefully out of date, like from 2006.  My other plan is to do more reading and responding to others both as comments and as blog entries as a way of making connections.

Another step is going to do more with the Ning community I’ve chosen.  I’m a member of VSTEOnline.  This semester, I had my pre-service teachers sign up.  They’ve been doing a great job posting their ideas and questions and interacting both with each other and the other Ning members.  Sad to say, I haven’t done much except monitor their progress.  It’s time to make this community a priority.

It is easy to get distracted by multiple communities, something John Hendron recently wrote about, so I’m going to try to focus my energies.  I’ll still Twitter, of course, since I’m rapidly discovering how much I’ve come to rely on those little updates from my tweets, and just last night welcomed several more friends to my Twitter world.

Thanks to all of you who make up my learning network…some of you know who you are, others have no idea. (But I’ll be sending out a few thank you notes so you may find out soon.)  Together, we are living, learning, and growing together!