Wednesday, December 31, 2008
And in 2009? I am looking forward to getting started on my new job, getting to know new students and colleagues and making new opportunities. I loved going to NECC so much that I will be going to Washington to do it all again. I will be starting on my last year of study for my Master of Education. My youngest child will be starting his last year of school education, meaning that I have had children in school for more than 20 years. (My first started school in 1988.) Having the time off this term (I have had 3 months Long Service Leave) has been a real privilege, giving me lots of time to think and read and hang around social networking sites. It makes me feel very hopeful about 2009, and when I lift my gaze from my own life and concerns I think that there are grounds for hope amid tragedy and suffering around the globe as well. I wish all my readers a safe and happy New Year.
Friday, December 19, 2008
In 2009 Julie Squires and I have a unique opportunity to have our classes collaborate as we are working for sister schools (My school came into being after having spent a year in her school). We got together today to chat about it. I have been following Julie for some time on twitter and plurk but I didn't realise quite how much she has to teach me and how much we will learn together. She is an "ideas person" and I can see that both lots of students will benefit greatly from being able to collaborate. Julie is an English teacher-librarian and author of Learning Gems, and I became more and more aware as we talked that she and I have a lot in common. One of the ideas we have of a project (there were so many flying back and forth) was a collaborative literature circles group. It was great to meet with her and i look forward to working with her in 2009.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
But the specialness came when the principal started to talk about the school: I loved that he emphasised flexibility and adaptability and that at the school we celebrate mistakes as learning opportunities. I have always believed this myself. I hate the students using correction fluid on their work. It is great that the students can see the learning, as they think of a better way to spell that tricky word or a more elegant or accurate way to phrase that sentence. And the students have been known to say “But the crossing out makes it messy” and I say “But learning IS messy”. Anyway, I love that philosophy. Another stance I really like is that expectations are made clear, in order to reduce anxiety in the learners. It is this reasoning that I like so much. I know that better learning can occur when there is less anxiety. So I felt reassured that in these ways at least I would like my new school.
Then the getting to know you part. We were given 45 minutes to put together a presentation of some sort that involved ICT (there are IWBs available in each room and each teacher is given a laptop) and that informed the rest of the staff about the group members. It was hilarious. There were powerpoints, games that involved the response systems, and click and drag quizzes. Not surprisingly each group member got to know quite a lot about each other.
In the afternoon we were able to think of equipment we will need for next year. I would like to order some flip cameras, a few mobile phones (learning from Jess McCulloch) and some headsets (for Voicethread and podcasts etc) to get ourselves set up for some creative learning in English. I also loved the fact that there is an active community program at the school, which I can’t wait to find out more about. One idea I have is to have the Year 7s, when they study poetry in Term 4, to make illustrated anthologies for particular audiences, maybe residents of a senior citizens home for one audience, and students in the lower primary school for another. This would help students consider the importance of audience, the suitability of themes and language, and the impact of illustrations or ways of presenting the poetry. Anyway it’s just an idea and I don’t know if it is even possible but I did get the feeling that it just might be, along with other creative and energising things.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Wendy Drexler in a podcast of the It’s Elementary show on CCK08 mentions that senior students are often prepared to sit back and be passive in the classroom – and that fits in with my own experience at previous schools – making learning less exciting, less real. It could be the nature of the assessment and indeed the purpose of the assessment at this level – to rank the students in order to grant university places to the most “suitable” students for the courses (if indeed this is what it is for – whether it is an effective way of deciding who gets into which course is another matter entirely.) But the fact that some senior students are so adept at playing the Game of School is due to their having learnt it so well in previous years. There is a lot to think about here. Clearly it is not just a problem of the individual teacher or the individual classroom. But I think it is my responsibility in my classrooms not to perpetuate the Game of School.
As Fried says: ‘The Game of School is very pervasive, and its rituals are deeply entrenched in the actions and expectations of students and teachers. But it is not immutable. It can and must be changed.’ He suggests that we can “stimulate the students’ imaginations and mental energy”, “do ourselves what we ask the students to do”, and “a teacher who anticipates creativity and hidden talents in the students will greet the class quite differently to one who looks for deficits and defects”. All the way through the book so far (I haven’t finished it yet) the author is answering the readers’ objections – I know schools are busy and there is content to be got through etc – and I feel the same thinking this through myself in this post – but there isn’t enough time, but the students are resistant – and yet…
One of the ways to meet students where they are at and to treat them as partners in the learning enterprise is to use social networking tools and technology such as interactive whiteboards. A lot of the technology seems to be very appropriate for primary or junior secondary. Many say that it is because of the high stakes testing (here in Victoria we have the VCE exams which are quite stressful for both students and teachers) but if it is about the effectiveness of the learning and we are saying that engaged students learn better shouldn’t we be using these methods to engage students when it matters the most, not going back to the older transmission based modes of teaching in the senior years? Andrew Douch is using technology in an engaging way with his Biology podcast, but I don’t know many senior students who are creating their own podcasts to learn despite teaching others and constructing their own knowledge being perhaps the ‘best’ way to learn. I would love to hear about some being created. IWBs seem to be used in most senior classes, in my experience, as presentation tools, whether it is the student presenting or the teacher. I would love to know about interactive uses of IWBs especially for senior History, English and Literature classes. Please drop me a comment if you know of any.
It is clearly not only the technology or tools that will help us overcome the playing of the Game of School. It is definitely about relationships and respect, and many different types of teaching styles can result in authentic engagement of both students and teacher in the development of learning for life. I must say that I am looking forward to the challenges ahead. In a few days I will be meeting the other English teacher at the new school and I will know more precisely what I will be doing next year. Wish me luck.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
I have downloaded a free 30 day trial of Comic Life so that I can have a play and learn lots. Jen's tutorial can be found online here. Or if that doesn't work go to Southmoor Primary school, click on Staff, then on ICT PD, then there you are. Thanks heaps Jen for your great session and valuable ideas. I'm glad I went.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
The Networked Student was inspired by CCK08, a Connectivism course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downes during fall 2008. It depicts an actual project completed by Wendy Drexler's high school students. The Networked Student concept map was inspired by Alec Couros' Networked Teacher. I hope that teachers will use it to help their colleagues, parents, and students understand networked learning in the 21st century.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
Five resources for how to use Twitter in education for both secondary school and higher education
Twitter for academia by David Hussein Parry
Twitter a teaching and learning tool by Tom Barrett
The twittering teacher by John from Western New York
Explaining the value of microblogging and twitter for educators by Wes Fryer
Twitter as a tool of cognitive apprenticeship by Jared Stein
Why twitter is important for education by Jennifer Jones
Two resources elaborating on style and etiquette as well as the conventions used in Twitter
How conventions are established
Twitter Style Guide
Two lists of educators from all sectors classified according to area of work
Twitter for teachers
Plurk for educators
Twitter is a form of microblogging that was launched in July, 2006. It has grown very fast with 94, 000 users within eight months of its launch (Java, p. 1), it now has over a million users with over 200,000 active users per week (Arrington, 2008). As Twitter is a “social networking and micro-blogging site that allows users to post their latest 140-characters-or less-updates… through one of three methods: web form, text message, or instant message” (Arrington, 2008) it is also a means of communication with affordances for forming distributed communities. There are many similar services such as Plurk, Pownce, Jaiku and Identi.ca, but Twitter is the most popular form of microblogging to date (Wikipedia/Micro-blogging)
The reasons that many educators are part of this are the ease with which knowledge can be shared and developed and meanings attributed to situations and experiences common to educators in developed English speaking countries can be negotiated. Educators who have joined twitter join because it is easy and people they already know and trust have joined it. Some may hear about it through workshops and conferences and try it out. There are varying levels of participation – some say it is not for them, they do not have enough time, or is too distracting.
The effects of participating, reading and posting often – from several times a day to all the time they are online through third party applications such as twhirl or twitterific are many (In using third party applications many users hear a chime whenever a tweet from one of their “friends” comes through, much like an alert for an email. As part of the research for this study I put out a question on both twitter and plurk: What has been one effect of your participation in twitter/plurk? (See Table 1: Twitter and Table 2: Plurk) and looked at the verbs present in the replies. Verbs used included: tried, used, accessed, shared, clarified, discovered, linked, was supported, read, demonstrated, taught, collected, upgraded, learned and continue to learn. These are dynamic learning words, speaking to mutuality and identity. Life giving words reminiscent of the practice of participation. Let’s explore some more about this in the terminology of communities of practice.
Table 1: data from Twitter
Can you point to some knowledge that has been created because of microblogging? What has been one effect of your participation in twitter/plurk?
AngelaC @jomcleay Have read a wide variety of blog postings, tried new software, and used apps like voice threads, Ustream and Wordle
annemareemoore @jomcleay access to up to date info, links to what people are blogging, great resources that others share. It’s all good!
etalbert @jomcleay "knowledge created via microblogging" I have accessed online, meetings, conferences etc and not left my house ... too cool!
Skip Zalneraitis @jomcleay Access to many high quality educational blogs
lucybarrow @jomcleay Since joining Twitter, my delicious links have gone through the roof! I have a constant stream of valuable resources from my PLN.
David Noble @jomcleay Significant support in planning, preparation and backchannel around the recent TeachMeet @ Scottish Learning Festival
@jomcleay i have tried new software and activities because of tweets and pln support and clarified ideas because of help ;}
nrwatkins @jomcleay I discovered Wordle and Google forms thru Twitter, though I read blogs too, so probably would have found out about them anyway
I wonder if your workplace or students is/are getting some benefit from you being on plurk/twitter
Amanda @jomcleay I'm benefiting from the global connections & so is my workplace. It's helped me to build connections between teachers & students
@jomcleay workplace is definitely benefitting heaps, students do to a lesser degree
Table 2: data from Plurk
Jo McLeay wonders can you point to some knowledge that has been created because of microblogging? What has been 1 effect of your participation in twitter/plurk?
October 13, 2008 at 09:38 bookjewel Our 'PLN reflections' taught me how to build a slideshow from nothing and demonstrated the potential power of web 2.0 to colleagues!
October 13, 2008 sharon_elin says I've collected a huge wealth of resources that I refer to frequently - from examples to "how to's" to collections of topical information
October 13, 2008 at 10:35 megbg says I have upgraded my wiki and collected a host of web 2.o sites that my students now use
October 13, 2008 at 11:41 kmulford I learned how to embed vokis and glogs into wikis and blogs. (Sounds like Klingon, I know, but it's true!)
October 13, 2008 at 11:58 TeachingMother says I learnt how to put a slideshow into my blog and numerous tips for using my shiny new mac
October 13, 2008 at 12:00 mrichme says I have learned that I'm not alone with my struggles. Another one would be the PD opportunities through ustream, coveritlive, skype, etc.
October 13, 2008 at 12:10 loonyhiker says learned how to use ustream, skype, make wikis, oovoo, voicethread, live conferencing, attend PD online
October 13, 2008 at 12:25 susanvg says thinking about your term created - different from knowledge learned
October 13, 2008 at 12:56 dmcordell says My vision is less local, more global. I feel like part of a community, rather than a voice in the wilderness!
October 13, 2008 at 13:28 KarinBeil says I can continue to learn & share tech knowledge despite being retired.
October 13, 2008 at 13:34 dmcordell says Many of us have shared resources and created projects online.
In Part one, we saw how participation in a joint enterprise is a key attribute of a community of practice. It is clear from the tweets of those in my community that the educators are enthusiastic, passionate teachers. Those I “follow” (300+ people, all of whom are educators) include practitioners from all sectors from kindergarten to university professors, and live in Europe, Great Britain, USA, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and countries in South America and Asia. But wherever they are and however they feel about it minute by minute they are present in my network because they want better outcomes for their students and their participation in this community is part of this endeavour. Community maintenance is part of this and the community has evolved to include tweets that are greetings, birthday wishes, support in times of bereavement, family illness and work crises, invitations to local face to face meetings when twitterers from out of town are visiting and other live events, virtual or face to face (often both). In plurk, emoticons are an important part of community maintenance and recently twitter, not to be outdone, developed twitterkeys (a way to easily use wingdings such as ♥♣).
The mutual engagement is in the volume of tweets that passes across the screen hour by hour (depending on how many people you follow). The community of practice of microblogging educators works well when there is a diversity of participants, otherwise it would feel like an echo chamber. Twitter is a communication tool that is user friendly and has a low participation barrier. Just like the presence of the claims processors that Wenger wrote about in the office of the insurance company and their ability and being allowed to talk to each other, the platform of twitter and its affordance make mutual engagement possible. The adoption of the @ symbol to create a link directed at a specific person and the ability to search for replies to our tweets with the @ symbol and our username created the opportunities for conversations without which the evolution of a community of practice would have been a lot less likely. This engagement is so satisfying for many participants that they speak of “addiction” to twitter (a quick search of blog posts about twitter attests to this.)
The knowledge, beliefs and suppositions shared by edutwitterers include the discourse of improving students’ experiences of learning, that knowledge is to be shared, not hoarded, the value of discussions on ethics while using the internet, citizenship and the future of schools. There is a conscious value given to the etiquette of respectful discussion and disagreement as well as transparency. These values and beliefs are not limited to educators on twitter or even to educators, but they are noticeably present in the writings of those I follow on twitter. These are a part of the shared repertoire of this community of practice. Twitter specific jargon has developed (see glossary) and this includes collective nouns for the community such as “tweeties”, “tweeple” and “twits”. The community itself is referred to as the “twitterverse” (those on plurk have their own name: “plurkadia”). The shared repertoire includes the custom of wishing others goodnight or good morning when they themselves are going to bed or getting up, often with a wry acknowledgment that it is a different time of day for other participants.
Another custom is that of “shoutouts” when a member is showing twitter to another group who are not familiar with it. It is common to see a tweet “say hello to a group of teachers in (name of place)”. Those who are online at the time will reciprocate and the twitter will have 15 to 20 shoutouts from all over the globe in as many minutes – a powerful way of showing the reach and influence of twitter. Often members will introduce someone new to twitter: “please welcome (name of person) and older members will add them and say hello to them by name as well.
As far as a repository of resources is concerned twitters have made wikis and bookmarked resources and will tweet the link. As noted by Costa microblogging at conferences “enable[es] the spontaneous co-construction of digital artefacts” (Costa and others p. 1). In the last fortnight since I have been working on this topic, two resources: a searchable spreadsheet and a wiki have been made so that educators may more easily find those educators with common interests or areas of work. These resources, and customs are part of the reification mode of twitter which along with participation enables the community of practice to function and evolve.
The way that the edutwittersphere has evolved is dynamic with new tools and functions being added frequently. Conventions such as the use of @ and # have been brought over from IRC (Internet Rely Chat). The @ symbol is very useful as it makes a link. When a person I am following addresses another twitterer I can click on the link, see their contributions, see their photo or avatar and self description. I may then choose to add them to the list of people I am following. The # is used by a program called Twemes to search tweets for topics of interest: “follows public Twitter.com tweets (messages) that have embedded tags that start with a # character.” Twitscoop also searches tweets: “input a twitter username or keywords in the search box to track a conversation, topic or conference. The results will auto-refresh every 20 seconds”. Recently developers have added a tool that enable you to see who has removed you from their network and after which tweet they stopped. Statistics/graphs of twitter use and followers are also available. Work is also happening on a program to help twitters to follow threaded conversations .
The kind of learning that is enabled by being part of the twitter educator community of practice is often called “just in time learning”. A question can be asked and almost immediately the twitterer will have more than one suitable way of solving the problem or links to resources where they could find the answers. Because twitter can be accessed via the mobile phone it is easy, and available anytime, anywhere. Unlike traditional views of learning, which resides in the individual this is distributed learning. I have heard people refer to it as their “outboard brain”. All can learn from anyone else, as there are no teachers and students per se. All members of the community of practice would consider themselves as learners and show the attributes of life long learners. Another kind of learning seen on twitter is serendipitous learning, where just by seeing a tweet addressed to someone else a twitterer can find an answer for a problem they are facing. It is not surprising therefore that when seen as a community of practice, twitter should be “a powerful catalyst for enabling teachers to improve their practice.” (Hildreth, p. x) Another way of learning that educators have found through twitter is the live tweeting of conferences to enable the learning to be distributed to those who are not able to attend, as well as among those present at the conference. See Appendix 2 for an example of the live tweeting of a recent educational technology conference in Canberra. As a result of this, there is currently a discussion of the ethics and etiquette of live tweeting which promises to be quite interesting.
All of the above shows that educators find meaning in their enterprise through twitter and this is linked to their identity in very interesting ways. Advice to new twitterers often includes what to do and not to do as you will appear aloof or unintelligent: “Remember that your personal profile shows a history of all your tweets so if somebody comes to it and it’s just empty, or you only post a mundane update every day or so, why should they bother following you?” from Caroline Middlebrook's twitter guide.
As educators, members of this community of practice will frequently want to be brokers to others in their workplace. But this may be difficult as the site is often blocked at school for being a “dating site”. It can also be seen as a distraction to workers and a waste of time. Alternatively its power can be shown when a question is asked of the twitter network and a useful answer is forthcoming within minutes. In the light of the difficulties of using twitter at work one might be surprised to find that educators do still want to collaborate in this way when so many other intentional online communities of practice have had difficulties. “Effective and successful virtual communities of practice do not happen without attention to their design, launching and support” Kaulbeck, p. 26), and yet twitter was not made for educators and no support is given by schools to the use of twitter. Despite this it is clear from this study that much learning is happening within this community. An explanation of this may possibly be found in a paper by Shumarova (2008), where she discusses the “shadow” collaboration present in informal communities when the formal channels of collaboration may not elicit the same energy and participation.
The twitter community of educators does indeed conform to the understanding of a community of practice. It has the three main attributes: mutual engagement, an emphasis on interaction, conversation and community building in their joint enterprise of improving education for all learners, and over time have evolved a shared repertoire that is apparent in the jargon which provides members of the community with the lexical items they need in order to talk about the subject matter, as well as customs and tools for enhancing the interactions. The learning is clear from the active and dynamic verbs that community members use to talk about the effect that membership of plurk and twitter have had on their work as educators.
There are of course, questions that remain. Given the informal nature of this community of practice, the learning can have no currency in academia, no credit is given and there is no assessment other than that of real life problem solving. Some might say that having a 140 character limit on individual posts may hinder the ability to be reflective about the learning. However, the reflection is often distributed over time and still accessible in the archives. Twitter and microblogging in general cannot be a tool that does everything. Blogs are still important for the longer reflective posts about learning and twitter can inform the community of these posts as they are written. Comments can be made on these blog posts and there is no limit on the length of these. Other more serious concerns are that twitter can be distracting, that it can result in information overload and that it is not suitable for all learning styles (Costa, p. 8). As Costa concludes on the same page: “microblogging does not present us with an ubiquitous learning strategy.” There is an investment of time needed, of that there is no doubt. The information overload is part of living in the 21st century and being part of this community of practice can in fact filter the information overload and point us to great discussions and useful resources. Twitter is the platform of choice for many lifelong learners and, as a community of practice, it presents us with learning opportunities and presents a welcoming way to enter a network.
Microblogging: a form of blogging that allows users to write brief text updates (usually 140 characters) and publish them
Plurk: a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows users to send updates (otherwise known as plurks) through short messages or links, which can be up to 140 text characters in length. Updates are then shown on the user's home page using a timeline which lists all the updates received in chronological order
Twitter: a social networking and micro-blogging site that allows users to post their latest 140-characters-or less-updates through one of three methods: web form, text message, or instant message
Twits: people who use twitter (see also twitterers, tweeties, tweeple)
Twitterers: collective noun for people who use twitter
Twitterverse: all the people in the twitterer’s network
Tweeties: collective noun for people who use twitter
Tweeple: collective noun for people who use twitter
Tweets: updates by twitterers
Edutwitterers: Twittering and Networking for Learning Professionals
Edutwittersphere: educators who use twitter (from edublogosphere)
twhirl : a desktop client for the Twitter microblogging service based on the new Adobe AIR platform
twitterific: application for Mac that lets you both read and publish posts to twitter. User interface is clean, concise and designed to take up a minimum of space on desktop.
Arrington, M., & Schonfeld, E., (2008) “The Real Twitter Usage Numbers” in Techcrunch accessed 20/10/08 on http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/04/29/end-of-speculation-the-real-twitter-usage-numbers/
Caldwell, B., (2008) “Networking knowledge to achieve transformation in schools” in Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 2) Edited by Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.
Costa, C., Benham, G., Reinhardt, W., & Sillaots, M., (2008) “Microblogging in Technology Enhanced Learning: A Use-Case Inspection of PPE Summer School 2008” Retrieved 13/10/08 from ftp.informatik.rwth-aachen.de/Publications/CEUR-WS/Vol-382/paper3.pdf
Glover, I., & Oliver, A., (2008) “Hybridisation of Social Networking and Learning Environments” in Proceedings of World Conference on Educational Multimedia, Hypermedia and Telecommunications 2008 (pp. 4951-4958). AACE, Chesapeake, VA:
Hildreth, P., & Kimble, C., (2008) “Introduction and Overview” in Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 1) Edited by Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.
Java, A., Finin, T., Song, X., & Tseng, B., (2007) “Why We Twitter: Understanding Microblogging Usage and Communities” in Proceedings of the 9th WebKDD and 1st SNA-KDD 2007 Workshop on Web Mining and Social Network Analysis (San Jose, California, August 12 - 12, 2007). ACM, New York, NY, 56-65.
Jonassen, D., Peck, K., & Wilson, B., (1999) Learning with Technology: A Constructivist Perspective, Merrill, Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Kaulbeck, B., & Bergtholdt, D., (2008) “Holding the Virtual Space: the roles and responsibilities of community stewardship” in Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 2) Edited by Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.
Kimble, C., & Hildreth, P., (2008a) Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 1), Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.
Kimble, C., & Hildreth, P., (2008b) Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 2), Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.
Klonsky, M., (2003) “Small Schools and Teacher Professional Development” in http://www.ericdigests.org/2003-4/small-schools.html (accessed 20/10/08)
Koch, M., & Fusco, J., (2008) “Designing for Growth: Enabling Communities of Practice to Develop and Extend their Work Online”, in Communities of Practice: Creating Learning Environments for Educators, (Vol 2) Edited by Chris Kimble and Paul Hildreth, Information Age Publishing, Charlotte, N.C.
Lave, J., & Wenger, E., (1991) Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Lesser, E., & Prusak, L., (1999), “Communities of Practice, Social Capital and Organizational Knowledge”, Information Systems Review 1, No. 1, 3-9, White Plains, NY.
McInnerney, J., & Roberts, T., (2004) “Online Learning: Social Interaction and the creation of a sense of community” in Educational Technology and Society, 7 (3), 73 - 81
Office of School Education (2005) Professional Learning in Effective Schools: The Seven Principles of Highly Effective Professional learning Published by Leadership and Teacher Development Branch Department of Education & Training, Melbourne accessed on 20/10/08 from http://www.eduweb.vic.gov.au/edulibrary/public/staffdev/teacher/induction/ProfLearningInEffectiveSchools.pdf
Shumarova, E., & Swatman, P., (2008) “Informal eCollaboration Channels: Shedding Light on ‘Shadow CIT’”, 21st Bled eConference eCollaboration: Overcoming Boundaries Through Multi-Channel Interaction, June 15 - 18, 2008, Bled, Slovenia
van Aalst, H., (2003) “Networking in Society, Organisations and Education”,
In Schooling of Tomorrow, Networks of Innovation: Towards New Models for Managing Schools and Systems. Paris: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
Wenger, E., (1998) Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning and Identity, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Wikipedia/Micro-blogging: accessed 20/10/08 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Micro-blogging
The number of educators microblogging has recently escalated and is “becoming serious in informal learning”. (Costa, p. 8) Microblogging is “a variant of blogging which allows users to quickly post short messages on the web for others to access.” (Costa, p. 2) Twitter is the most popular platform for microblogging. (Java, p.1) This essay attempts to explore this phenomenon through the heuristic of the concept of communities of practice in order to understand this use. It looks at whether microblogging by educators, and specifically the formation of groups of educators on Twitter, can be thought of as communities of practice, and whether the learning constructed by these groups can be thought of as professional development. (See glossary at end of the paper for unfamiliar words associated with microblogging)
The effectiveness of traditional teacher professional development has been questioned in recent times: “research substantiates... the ineffectiveness of the all-too-common one-shot workshop” (Klonsky, 2003). This is true especially in the context of new requirements for ongoing professional learning by state mandated institutions (e.g. the Victorian Institute of Teaching). Traditional professional development is characterised by one-off days where, despite research into learning, teachers are subjected to transmission based teaching methods from a speaker or presenter who “delivers” a presentation. This knowledge is then expected to transform practice in the classroom. This traditional teacher professional development, despite being ineffective, is also expensive of time and money, and questions are naturally raised about better ways to achieve ongoing learning in the fast moving field of education. "Investing in professional learning is the key to ensuring that schools become learning communities where teachers work together, learn from each other and share best practice on effective teaching and learning." (Office of School Education, 2005)
Networks in education are highlighted in government policy on professional development for educators: “It is only through the collective work of teachers and by creating a shared professional knowledge that sustained school improvement will be secured.” (Office of School Education, 2005) and Hans van Aalst demonstrates that “networking is a powerful tool for improvement” for an organisation’s culture (van Aalst, p. 40). He shows that communities of practice are a type of network with all the value that networks provide: provision of links and interaction, some self-management and the creation and use of knowledge. He also shows that networking, a fundamentally human activity, can be enhanced by electronic means (van Aalst, p. 33). But it is as a community of practice that the network that I will be exploring, that is microblogging educators, will be under the spotlight.
PART ONE: communities of practice
The heuristic of communities of practice has allowed us to see valuable situated learning in the daily lives of learners. Moreover, in the discourse of the reform of education and school improvement it is taking its place as a strategy to be employed. Caldwell (p. 18) goes so far as to say that the concept of communities of practice is “moving from a rather comfortable and frequently informal approach to the sharing of professional knowledge to a strategy that is central to success in the transformation of schools.” But how could it work to transform schools and why choose this particular lens to look at a phenomenon that many have dismissed as navel gazing and a waste of time?
The concept of communities of practice is valuable among educational researchers when we take account of the number of studies that reference it. Hildreth (p. xi) states that the concept has a much broader impact than it did ten years ago when Wenger published his influential monograph of the same name. (Wenger, 1998). This is because it can help explain and predict aspects of social learning among educators. Examining the practice of educators involved in microblogging through the heuristic of communities of practice can help us see this practice in a new light and add legitimacy to the practice, if it is seen to result in knowledge construction and sharing. According to Hildreth (p. ix) the term has moved beyond Lave and Wenger’s original use for social learning in communities whereby “newcomers to a community learn from old timers as they are allowed to undertake more and more tasks in the community and gradually move to full participation.” (Lave, 1991) Membership of communities of practice “allows teachers to collaborate, to develop new knowledge and to develop and learn about new resources” (Hildreth, p. x) as “the sharing and developing of knowledge are key activities of a community of practice.” (Hildreth, p. xii)
What are the essential elements of a community of practice? In his examination of a group of medical claims processors in an insurance company, Etienne Wenger (1998) solidified his understanding of the term. For the current exploration it is essential that some key terms be understood. Wenger emphasises that the theory of communities of practice is a learning theory, developing his earlier view with Jean Lave, of situated learning, learning that is an outcome of participation, that is engaged in and passed on from generation to generation (The term ‘generation’ as used by Wenger (1998) refers to the trajectory that newcomers go through on their way to being full members of the community and eventually leaving the community.) Jonassen expresses this view clearly: “Learning results naturally from becoming a participating member of a community of practice.” (p. 117). Communities of practice can be defined as “self-reproducing, emergent and evolving entities that frequently extend beyond organizational structures”. This attempt at a definition by Schlager and Fusco (2003) quoted in Koch (p. 3) is helpful as these authors’ research into communities of practice among educators, specifically Tapped In a community of which I have been a member for many years. Their definition resonates with my own experience.
Along with this trademark evolving structure, Wenger (1998) had defined three important terms, and these terms will be important in the later evaluation of microblogging communities of educators. They are mutual engagement, joint enterprise and shared repertoire. These three attributes are key ways to differentiate communities of practice from teams or groups. Mutual engagement is Wenger’s term for the common endeavour which constitutes the practice of the community. Mutual engagement consists of the actions that members are engaged in whose “meanings they negotiate with one another.” (Wenger, p. 73) Being present to other members and able to interact are key to mutual engagement; being included and a feeling of belonging are also part of this. Mutual engagement necessitates community maintenance. An example of this in the claims processors community was the member who supplied snacks to share with other members at the workplace. Mutual engagement does not imply homogeneity; rather diversity is fine and can be enhanced by mutual engagement (Wenger, p. 76) This will become significant in Part 2. Mutual engagement is essential for the development of joint enterprise.
The joint enterprise that constitutes the practice of a community of practice is, according to Wenger, a negotiated, collective process (Wenger, p. 80). In many cases of communities of practice studied for this paper (see reference list), the enterprise is owned by the participants, despite being a part of the workplace with the language of “bosses”, “demands”, and “work hours”. As highlighted by Kimble (2008a) there is an internal motivation to being involved, pointing to the importance of learning as part of the formation of identity. Membership is voluntary and a community often grows informally around a need (Kimble, 2008a p. xi). Even so, the context of the participants has a “pervasive influence” (Wenger, p. 79) and is part of the drive towards finding solutions for problems and constructing learning that helps develop participants’ “inventive resourcefulness” (Wenger, p. 80). As members go about their joint enterprise in their mutual engagement, they develop what Wenger calls a shared repertoire. (p. 82).
The shared repertoire includes “knowledge, beliefs and suppositions” as well as “local jargon, nicknames or locale specific common ground” (Kimble, 2008a, p. xii) as part of a collection of resources for negotiating meaning” (Wenger, p. 82). This collection of resources can include “routines, words, tools, ways of doing things, stories, gestures, symbols and actions” (Wenger, p. 83) that have become part of the practice. In this exploration of microblogging we will see many of these (see also Appendix 1: List of Twitter Resources).
Participation and reification are also key concepts for the understanding of communities of practice. In Wenger’s view, participation and reification are components of learning through the collaborative negotiation of meaning among members. Participation gives individuals experiences which they remember to a greater or lesser extent and these memories are subject to interpretation and the construal of meaning. Reification “produces forms that persist” (Wenger, p. 88) and this process “compels us to negotiate their meaning” each time they are used (Wenger, p. 89). Both participation and reification are modes of existence to help shape the future of a community of practice. This rich seam will be mined more fully when we come to look at microblogging educations in Part 2 in the community called by some the “edutwittersphere”. (See also Appendix 1: Reification)
Wenger goes on to elaborate how these elements make up what he sees as learning, through remembering, forgetting and interpretation across a community. “Learning is not just a matter of competence but a matter of the experience of meaning as well” (p. 263), and this has to do with the negotiation of identity. “Education… concerns the opening of identities – exploring new ways of being (p. 263). A major topic of interaction among the microblogging educators is how we are to redefine education and schools for the 21st century.
Brokering is another important concept, and it explains how teachers being members of communities of practice outside their workplace are able to influence the workplaces with the learning created. Traditional professional development often takes place outside the school and almost always outside the classroom, and the learning needs to be brought back to the workplace. A microblogging educator bringing the learning to the school or workplace is acting as a broker. A broker will understand a problem or situation in the workplace through their experience in a different community of practice and be able to influence the practice among colleagues at the workplace. As Wenger affirms, “[b]rokering is a common feature of the relation of a community of practice with the outside” (p. 109).
Social Capital is a term (borrowed from sociology) for the “concrete personal relationships and networks of relations… in generating trust, in establishing expectations, and in creating and reinforcing norms.” (Lesser, p. 126) It is not hard to see how this fits into the theory of communities of practice with its understanding of mutual engagement and joint enterprise. In this sense the learning that results from this participation in community and the trust that is engendered through the participation is a part of this social capital. The learning does not reside in the heads of the individuals per se, but in the network of relations that make up the community of practice. The recognition of such social capital means that these “communities can be supported… to benefit the members of the communities and the organisation as a whole” (Lesser, p. 126).
Coming back to where we started when first defining communities of practice (p. 2), we remember that communities of practice are not static but subject to evolution (Hildreth, p. xii). In Part two of this paper we will see how microblogging is evolving and new tools and conventions are being adopted.
A very important aspect in evaluating a group to see if it is in fact a community of practice is the relationships it engenders. Kimble 2008a emphasises that “informal relationships form based on trust and confidence (p. xii). We will see that the community of educators that is forming on Twitter “fulfils the human desire for interaction” (McInnerney, p. 73), overcomes isolation, engenders a sense of belonging in a joint enterprise. Thus it is a source of influence, learning and identity.
Sunday, September 07, 2008
From a student who did the plot summary
"When I read the study guide, I felt like I had learnt something about the book and as an author I felt as if I had contributed to other people’s learning. I never thought that I could learn about a novel by doing a study guide and after learning about the novel I felt empowered because assisting someone in his or her learning is what I want to do in life. I loved making the study guide and I hope we do it again."
from a pair of students who were the first to put content on the wiki:
"This study guide has completely evolved form when Cari and I first added our addition, Author information. As we were the first people to complete our entry so at the time there was nothing else to look at. However now there are many interesting things to read. I am quite interested in the civil rights debate and the history of the African-American population particularly during the 1960s. So it was good to learn and be horrified by some of the Jim Crow laws under the topic of themes. The site is now functioning quite well and there are many interesting links to explore. This book has many underlying themes and reference to actual events in history and I have taken it for granted that every step of the way I have fully understood all aspects of the book. I have come to realise through doing this study guide that many people don’t know about civil rights or some of the events mentioned in the book, this study guide would be more beneficial for them."
From a student who doesn't often experience academic success:
"I never really read the book, but I did listen to the tapes and I thought that I did learn a lot more then I ever expected too. Having a study guide made it easier to learn new things and if I was unsure or didn’t no the answer to something it was very good to have something to refer back to if I was unsure. Everything that I learnt was interesting in its own way but nothing really stood out that I found interesting that deserves a mention. I did enjoy using the internet as a way of learning as well, I thought that it was something different and lot more fun then just reading the book or reading from a text book. As young people the internet is a big part of most of our lives and I thought that it was a really smart idea to bring that to the class room."
From a students learning about collaborating:
"Writing and reading the secret life of bees study guide sounded a bit boring and dull at the start, but soon to actually be quite fun. Working with classmates you haven’t worked with before seem pretty scary at first seeing as some of us just like to hang with our friendship group. Working with someone I haven’t worked with before was actually fun. It was also good to actually have a conversation with her; I never thought I would be able to talk to her normally. I didn’t like the thought of thinking of what to write with another person I have never worked with. It was very confronting. After a while it was ok, I enjoyed working with the person after I felt comfortable in my situation. I liked the most reading what everyone else wrote. It was so interesting seeing everyone else’s point of view. I learnt more about the book then I thought! I never actually really got to finish reading the book seeing that I thought it was so boring. But decided that I might read the summary so I know the main points of the book. It helped a lot reading the summaries."
Overall I am very please with how it turned out
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Snap happy Lauren O'Grady was at it again last night capturing the evening in photos. Check her photo stream for more. It was so great to meet David and Meagan as well, and get inspiration and share ideas. The latest from Sheryl "Have you ever thought of starting your own school?"
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
The Year 10 Study Guide on The Secret Life of Bees
Have a look at each page of the study guide. Would you be surprised that between you, you have written 3728 words?
Check all the links. Did you put an internal link on the page you were responsible for?
Did you learn something new this morning while you were looking at the work that the students in 10a and 10g did?
In a thoughtful blog entry I would like you to write about the process of making the study guide.
· Did you learn more about the book than you expected to?
· Did you learn other interesting things?
· Was there anything you particularly enjoyed about doing it?
· Was there anything you didn’t like about doing it?
· Any other comments?
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
When Lisa and I got talking we mentioned that the different time-zones between our schools made it hard to collaborate online and synchronously. So being the problem solvers that teachers are so well known to be, we made the problem into an opportunity. We’d make a wiki that could be a resource for teacher planning, and at the same time respond asynchronously while we were working out the best time of day to work together. This would get students thinking about the implications of these differences (shades of Thomas Friedman and the flatteners that are operating in our world today and will increase in the future, thanks Vicki and Julie for the chance to learn about that while working with you on the Flat Classroom project).
So come September the students will meet each other virtually and start producing content which will help them get to know and understand each other a bit more. This will be with my year 7s, although the US students will be a bit younger I think it will still work. I imagine the wiki when it is finished will have a comparison of what the students in the different countries are doing at each hour GMT, so we can see when people are sleeping, at school, awake at other times, to establish the best local time for interacting. The different timeslots may have podcasts interviewing students about their leisure activities and interests, video of a classroom maybe showing how long lessons are in each school (75 minutes each in my school), where and how they eat lunch, role plays, TV viewing guides, etc. I imagine the night time hours may be a bit same-ish. But I have an idea for that.
And both my Year 10 English classes are blogging and collaborating on an online study guide for the novel The Secret Life of Bees. I have asked Pat Hensley aka loonyhiker to be out correspondent on the spot as she lives in South Carolina where the novel is set. She has kindly agreed and gone out of her way to make the study guide even more student friendly and informative. I have great hopes of this wiki. I would love to have more students to interact with my students as they also study the novel. Please email me if you are studying the book with your students and would like to collaborate. The student blogs are really interesting. I asked them to reflect on what they thought of a study created study guide. Here’s what a couple of them said:
This is Emily:
“I think that our school has too much technology in some areas and not enough in other areas. We have to much technology in everyday classes that don't need technology. We don't need technology in every class. We could use the technology in computer classes but not classes like English and Religion. As to not having enough technology in computer classes, the computers are very basic and we could use technology in Maths and Science. At our school we spend money on technology for all classes but I think it could be better spent for modern computers and science equipment. During classes like English I think we should spend more time with hand writing because during exams and tests you don't have a computer to check spelling, grammar, information and ideas. It would help our writing abilities if we spent more time hand writing instead of using computers for everything.”
“Everybody in today's century is way too reliant on technology. I mean even now, we have to express our opinions online just to be heard properly, when we can easily say it during class, while saving electricity. Sure technology has its good side, it's entertaining and easy to use, but the old ways of teaching a class got you to be more social and friendly towards others and made you speak up and express your opinion strongly.”
Very interesting, especially in light of what we read about students loving technology used in their classes. What I like about it is that the students are not afraid to articulate an opinion contrary to the received wisdom about young people and technology. I would love some comments on this year 10 class or the other year 10 class if anyone reading this would like to leave an encouraging comment.
I am so looking forward to the continuing learning of my Year 7 class and my two year 10 classes, and the continuing global collaboration.
Tags: The Secret Life of Bees, Lisa Parisi, global collaboration, wikis, student blogs, Thomas Friedman, learning
Saturday, July 26, 2008
What I liked about it was hearing about how Andrew’s school sent many of their senior and middle staff in the holidays to really investigate the extension of their one to one program by visiting other schools and then making time during the trip to discuss their findings and ideas. It was great to hear about Andrew’s school and what they do, especially in light of the course I am doing at Monash on Flexible Learning and the Design of Curriculum in such a situation. I like the way flexible learning isn’t just about distance education but about giving learners choices about how they want to learn which is enabled by the use of various technology tools. It is about being more inclusive. Here is an interesting presentation on this topic by Martin Weller from the UK facilitated by George Siemens. To do this course I am engaging in online discussion with my classmates about much the same things we discuss on our blogs and on Twitter and Plurk. So I am in heaven with this course. One of the great things about meeting Andrew was that I finally paid attention to the revision of Blooms Taxonomy that he had done to include the digital aspect of education. It is really worth a close read. Both Helen and I are putting it before the teachers we meet. Lots of ideas thrown around on the night and let’s hope we have more bloggers feasts in the future
Saturday, July 19, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
“Our meeting night has changed due to a number of requests We are now going to meeton Tuesday nights at 7.30pm -9pm. Also due to an increasing number of people not being able to access the room as it is full, we are going to try Elluminate and have access to a free 50 seat room through Knowledge Bank online events. So on Tuesday 15th we will attempt to meet using elluminate and do a NECC roundup to discuss what was hot and not at NECC.I apologise to the NZ crew who will have a late night if they attend ,but the meetings will be recorded if you can't stay up that late. See you all there- new members most welcome. You can download elluminate here and do a practice session here too. “
But on the Sunday night Joe Dale from the UK who hadn’t realised the change was looking forward to the regular collaboration with those from downunder and so held an informal chat with a few who were around. I found out about it some time into the meeting. There was a new person at the meeting, Steve Collis, who soon had us all inspired with the programs, including Beyond Borders, he oversees at his school. One of the projects he mentioned had students mobile blogging using utterz, sparking a rash of interest in the site and puzzling some. All in all it was an exciting meeting, and an inspiring one.
And what about the different interests of the two sets of stakeholders? How did we resolve the issue? We will have the meetings on BOTH Sundays and Tuesdays. People can go to one or the other or both. As I have always said, there can never be too much social networking (sorry Vicki, educational networking
Friday, July 04, 2008
NECC 2008 has been and gone. And it was great. I still can't get over the number of hugs I gave and received, and the emails exchanged and contacts made. The theme was "Convene, Connect and Transform" and I think a lot of that happened. I was surprised at how at home I felt, and reflected on the reality of the virtual relationships forged and sustained through on-line communities. I sometime hear of people who do not want to get involved in on-line groups because they prefer "real" face to face interactions, but I believe we can make community wherever we are, and it's definitely better to have these relationships on-line and affirmed by occasional meetings than not to have them at all. I have been travelling for sometime and am still a way from home. I can't wait to get home, hug the family and unpack so I can get to reflect on all that happened. There are a number of ways I will be aiming to transform my classroom next term (one is through a contact with Lisa Parisi) and write up some of my learnings. The Australian Study Tour part of this trip was fantastic with a great group and a fabulous tour leader in Tony Brandenburg. If you get a chance to go on such a tour in the future, I highly recommend it. The photo is of me being interviewed by Cheryl Oakes who is wecasting live for the Women of Web 2.0 episode, part of Edtech Talk, the best best on-line community I have had the privilege of being involved in. In the yellow dress is Kristen Hokanson of the Connected Classroom who was also interviewed on the showed along with many others. The photo is by Lucy Grey and is shared via a Creative Commons licence on Flickr.
Technorati tag: NECC2008
Thursday, June 26, 2008
There's the places we visit, and the students and teachers at the schools and then there's the bus trips, the meal times, the walking and sometimes the waiting. And each of these are potential learning times. That's when I am the happiest. In Auckland we have been to two primary schools: Summerland and Marina View, one intermediate school Bucklands Beach Intermediate where we met by Lenva Shearing, and one secondary school Papatoetoe High school. The most amazing thing about all this was the ways students were doing the morning announcements as a TV news broadcast. A few of us from the study tour even got to have a go with students as directors. It wouldn't surprise me if a video of this ended up on YouTube. The welcome the students gave us as we visited their classrooms showed us they were old hands at showing off their work, letting us see their ePortfolios and the VoiceThreads they were making about visits and excursions they had they had done. They were truly remarkable, seeing what they were achieving with the tools in everyday use, and not something special.
We also visited Nextspace and will be visiting Oracle, Google and Apple before heading off to San Antonio. But one off the best things for me so far was a conversation I had in the bus with Al Upton and others about a unit I was planning in my head for Year 10 in Term 3. Being inspired by what the primary and intermediate students were doing I wanted to see what my students could do in making content for others on the novel The Secret Life of Bees. Al took me through the Understanding by Design model of planning as I took notes. We were both really engaged in trying to solve a problem that I had perceived with teaching this novel, that it is not one which students like to study. I wanted to make it more engaging by giving students choice, making the learning collaboartive and having the students have input into how the unit takes shape. The content can be published in a number of ways: VoiceThread with the possibility of comments, photostory provided they use Creative Commons licenced photos (or their own), films, soundtrack, roleplays, 3D animations, and possibly interactive games. The overarching question will be (I am sure) what will I get out of reading this book? or Is this book worth studying? I am looking forward to the answers at the end of the unit. I want to thank both Al and Sue Tapp for their help in inspiring my thinking with this.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
It was bound to come, no matter how far away it seemed and high the mountain I still had to cross was. And now it's here. Leaving tomorrow with a group of thirty Australian teachers to see some schools, visit Google HQ and Apple and attend NECC. That means my 4000 word essay for my Masters has been completed, the mountain of marking has been scaled, the reports have been written. No more than what any other teacher and learner for life has to do. But for some reason it's taken a lot out of me this term. I am looking forward to my time away to do some reflection and to re-evaluate my working life. To put transformative education first, and to inspire students with the creative possibilites that I see unfolding around me in my personal learning network. I am looking forward to NECC because I feel that there is so much to learn and that I will renew my inspiration, enabling me to go on doing what we all do every day. I feel that often I simply just touch the surface of what possibilities are out there. It would be better for me and for my students if I chose one thing to do and to do it well. Having just finished my reports for students I really enjoyed reading this great post by Dina, a 7th grade English teacher about report cards for teachers - our own report on ourselves. I will be reflecting on this term in the holidays, writing my own report card, and I know there are a number of things I will try to change. One is, I really HAVE to get more organised!
If you are feeling that you would love to stay on top of what is coming out of NECC this year even though you can't be there, have a look at this blog post by Vicki Davis. She is writing about following the rss feeds of interesting things being written from NECC and as she said, the first year she went she wasn't even there but was following all that went on remotely. I am so looking forward to waking up tomorrow and finding myself on holiday, but the best kind of holiday - no housework and lots of education, lots of technology and lots of talk. Who cares about sleep? I'm sure Sue Tapp will tell you when we get back. After all, she has to share a room with me!
Finally I have enjoyed making my wordle and seeing those of others. Digital Maverick Drew Buddie shared his wordle (love his words such as "amazing", "cool" and "fun") and has an idea that we could be writing shape poetry with it or something like it! Looks awesome.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Saturday, May 31, 2008
Year 8s have been exploring some new tools as they work out how their group wants to represent their learning and thinking about the novel we have been reading as a class. The novel Falling from Grace by Jane Godwin is a tensely written narrative told in two alternating first person excerpts. What Godwin does with language cries out to be visually represented. The students have been looking at Photostory 3, Voicethread, toondoo and making digital videos with the school camera and in some cases their mobile pones (with appropriate authorisation from me, as mobile phones are generally banned at school). They spent some time in their groups storyboarding what they wanted to represent and thinking of ways to do it. Then some lessons looking at the other computer-based ways of telling their bit of the story and later they spent some time filming. Some of the students are making plans to keep filming on the weekend. One group is making a movie trailer using photostory and even though unfinished I am loving how it is coming along.
Here is one of the toondoos that one group made. The students are willing to explore the tools and use more than one way of displaying their ideas. This particular toondoo had the students discussing animatedly how they saw Ted, and wat sort of character he was. Can we show a feeling about a character even if the way we represent him isn't how he was described/implied? It was a fantastic lesson for a Friday afternoon and I love how excited the students are about the novel.
Monday, May 26, 2008
I went to a workshop on Google given by Greg Gebhart which was most interesting given that I will be visiting Google headquarters in San Francisco in just under a month. Learnt some cool things and played with google maps. It was great to hear that Greg has had a rethink about the educational uses of twitter after seeing it used as a backchannel in his workshop. Margaret Meijers gave the keynote lecture and she was inspiring, but I did wonder if more benefit could have been had if the keynote had been ustreamed. Maybe that's something for the Conference committee to think about for next year.