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To ‘learn-to-be’ … or not to be? October 13, 2013

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, TELIC.
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A tweet by Bram Bruggeman set me thinking:

I’ve never been in any doubt about the powerful effect Twitter has had on my learning … but does it  naturally follow that Twitter therefore constitutes a ‘learning environment?’

personal learning environment

cc licensed ( BY NC ) flickr photo by Janson Hews: http://flickr.com/photos/24823508@N04/6992313131/

I guess to answer that we first need to have an understanding of what we mean by learning environment. Is the first thing that springs to mind a classroom? A school? Perhaps a study desk in one’s bedroom? Each is very different in terms of space, place and organisational complexity, so what are the common factors to help us with our Twitter question?

The Partnership for 21st Century Learning white paper1 puts it as simply as “…systems that accommodate the unique learning needs of every learner and support the positive human relationships needed for effective learning.” So for me that works since Twitter indeed does accommodate my learning needs, fosters positive relationships and certainly learning is effective. But that’s me. Twitter is a learning environment which works for me, but ‘every’ learner? Perhaps not, but maybe that’s taking the definition too literally, rather than saying that there are countless people for whom Twitter does work as a learning environment, catering to their individual needs, just as a school is clearly a learning environment; one that works for some, though not all people.

Warger and Dobbin2, writing for EDUCAUSE, offer a more expansive definition: “The term learning environment encompasses learning resources and technology, means of teaching, modes of learning, and connections to societal and global contexts. The term also includes human behavioural and cultural dimensions, including the vital role of emotion in learning…”
Once again this describes what Twitter is for me. There are a host of signposted learning resources of various hues and flavours, people teach me all the time through loose discourse and the (marginally) more structured #edchats. I learn in different ways depending on the context and from a variety of people from different backgrounds and across the globe. It would doubtless be fair to say that not all of that takes place strictly within the confines of Twitter, but in the other spaces with which Twitter is linked – a blog here, a journal article there. But isn’t that true of any good learning environment? It isn’t a hermetically-sealed closed space, but when necessary is capable of calling on external knowledge, skills and expertise.

So for me, Twitter is definitely a learning environment, but one where I ‘learn-to-be’ as John Seeley-Brown3 would have it, rather than ‘learn-about.’ It’s a place where people learn through legitimate peripheral participation, about the functioning of the community itself yes, but also about the topics and themes of interest to the community members:

Learning and joining this community simply go hand-in-hand; learning happens seamlessly as part of the enculturation process.

Perhaps a learning environment is only as good as we make it? It simply has to be flexible and offer sufficient freedom to enable us to mould it to our needs.

1Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 21st Century Learning Environments

2Warger, T., Dobbin, G., 2009. Learning Environments: Where Space, Technology, and Culture Converge. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative.

3Brown, J.S., 2006. New learning environments for the 21st century: Exploring the edge. Change: The magazine of higher learning 38, 18–24.

Weighed in the balance … BYOD October 28, 2011

Posted by IaninSheffield in Inspiration, Musings, Tools, Twitter.
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At midnight on Tuesday, just before I retired to the Land of Nod, I made the mistake of a quick peek at the Twitterstream. #edchat was just about to start on the topic of BYOD – Bring Your Own Device. This is a topic very near to my heart at the moment, since we’re improving our school infrastructure to allow us to enable BYOD should we so choose. Hearing (reading?) what people have to say on the topic took precedence over my need for sleep, so I joined the animated discussion.


Pro Con lists

Wanting to be able to refer back to what people had said and catch up on the myriad of tweets I missed, I checked out the archive. Having thought I might Storify the stream, adding the numerous extra resources that people had referenced, it soon became apparent that wouldn’t be possible. The following day (after a good night’s sleep) by the time I started to pull the Twiiterstream for #edchat through, there had been so many subsequent tweets with that hashtag, that Storify couldn’t go back far enough to the BYOD discussion.

Instead then, and because the debate raised many issues both against and in favour of BYOD, I turned to Pro|Con lists. Using the archive, I pulled out all the comments on each side of the argument and listed them in Pro Con, then applied what I felt were appropriate weightings. The results are here, BUT they’re clearly only my opinions. The great thing about Pro Con lists is that others get the chance to influence the results – democracy in action? Hover over each of the arguments and you can say whether you agree or disagree (you do need to sign up (free) or you can log in with Facebook).

Overall then, it would appear that I tend to favour BYOD … but maybe you can change that! For or against! (Do check the interactive elements of the results chart)

Wouldn’t this be an interesting and useful tool to use with your students for summarising a debate on a controversial (or non-controversial) issue? Have the discussion in class,  create the Pro Con list from the group’s responses, then perhaps as a homework task have them visit it to contribute whether they were for or against the group’s arguments.

Thanks to all the good folk of Twitter who participated in the aformentioned #edchat session for your ideas and advice. In particular the following who provided the Pros & Cons: @fereydoon1975, @sammorra, @Jena_Sherry, @MrsBecks25, @Luke1946, @cybraryman, @mmebrady, @diginativenick, @patjlee, @Digin4ed, @tomwhitby, @mrsblanchetnet, @drdouggreen, @drdouggreen, @DMS_Principal, @DaretoChem, @mrnichol, @mrsgosselin, @irasocol, @javafest, @blairteach, @MrReidWSS, @MisterTelfer & @tomgrissom

(Hope I attributed the right people!)

#TwitterBookRead September 1, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Inspiration, research.
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Well that proved a really interesting experiment . . . but did I gain anything from it?

Read a book

from bethan on Twitter

If you missed the tweets, yesterday I tried using Twitter to record my progress and any points of interest as I read a book – Curriculum 21 by Heidi Hayes Jacobs.  There’s a little more about it here.  I guess I wanted to find out whether it added anything to the process of reading, reading for academic purposes that is, as opposed to reading for pleasure.  Had I been reading the book sans Twitter, I’d have made notes as I went.  If you want to pick up the record of what took place, there’s a Twapper Keeper archive here, but because a few Tweets didn’t have the hashtag, I scanned back through the stream and pulled them into the document below:

View this document on Scribd

On the ‘upside’ then:

  1. 140 characters meant I had to really focus on the contents and structure of the ‘notes’ I was taking, so that they still carried meaning.
  2. The ‘chronology’ of the stream means the notes follow the order of the book.
  3. Having occasional comments from other tweeple challenged me to revisit some of my notes and rephrase them, or think more deeply about what I’d noted.
  4. It’s very encouraging when others are taking an interest in what you’re studying (a very important point methinks!)

On the ‘downside’:

  1. I perhaps wasn’t as prolific in my notetaking as I would normally have been, conscious of not wishing to pollute the Twitterstream too much with my ramblings (folks can get very tetchy!)
  2. Sometimes squeezed a little too hard to fit the message into 140 characters and consequently may have lost meaning.
  3. The ‘linear’ nature of the stream meant that cross-linking ideas and concepts wasn’t really possible; I’ll often take notes in the form of a mind map, if I think I can gain something.
  4. Although the stream is linear, some of the additional comments and follow-up replies come out of order.  This can make the archive a little hard to follow.

So weighing the balance of the above, the obvious question I guess is ‘what next?’  How (or should) I take it any further?  Well it’s a start and having done it once, repeating the process with another book would enable some of the wrinkles to be ironed out.  I certainly think I’d like to be on the receiving end; watching someone else take the lead and contributing as an observer.  With that in mind, earlier today John Pallister made a couple of interesting comments by way of follow up:

Tweets from John Pallister

Now there’s an idea!  If other people undertook the task when they’re reading, we could begin to form a library of summaries of interesting literature.  Better than simple summaries though because they would have the additional layer of comments from others who had joined in.  #TwitterBookRead as John termed it.  It’s a win-win-win endeavour surely:

  1. the reader is perhaps encouraged to think more carefully about the ‘notes’ s/he is making, in the same way creating a blog post often makes us think twice before hitting the keys
  2. collaborators/observers can dip in and out as they are able, enjoying the opportunity to contribute to the final product
  3. all get access to a swelling archive of summarised books, enabling them to make a more informed choice before parting with their hard-earned on the full version . . . or maybe find inspiration and pointers to books they might have otherwise missed.

Anyone up for taking this further?

And perhaps this doesn’t have to be restricted just to the edtech community in Twitter.  Surely there are potential benefits for our learners, whether they be students in higher ed or primary or secondary for that matter.  Working together to review/summarise/précis books or longer articles using the 140 character format could involve a host of different skills.  In a single activity, there are opportunities to work up through the levels in Bloom’s taxonomy, undertaking increasingly complex tasks, leading to a higher levels of understanding surely than just reading an article/book sitting at a desk or lounging on a couch?  Reading with a purpose surely?

Just needs fleshing out a little.  Anyone?

(Footnote:  If you want to see a much more elegant and thorough summary of the book itself, then check out this post from Silvia Tolisano (@langwitches) – it’s what inspired me to buy the book)

Let’s get the party started . . . July 19, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD.
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Last night on EdTechRoundUp, Doug raised the question of #ukedchat and what people felt they got from it.  There were plenty of the moderators there to respond (@colport, @dughall, @janwebb21, @ianaddison), in addition to others who also take part in these weekly Twitter unconferences/discussions.  Without wishing to put words in Doug’s mouth, I guess he was asking whether it’s possible to draw value or sense from the cacophony of tweets . . . or whether it’s just like coming into a noisy room where everyone’s talking (shouting?) at once.

I guess I look at it a bit like a party.  Being there from the start allows you the chance to acclimatise, perhaps start off a few conversations.  If you walk in when it’s underway however, the room can seem incredibly loud and perhaps a little intimidating; difficult to pick out threads from the general hubbub.  But then you join a smaller group and chat with them a while, become more comfortable and settle into the ambience.  If the conversation in the group isn’t to your taste, or you want to speak with other folk, you politely move on.  Maybe you find a group in which the topic is particularly stimulating, so you linger a little longer.  Whilst nibbling from the buffet, you might ‘lurk’ on the chat from a group nearby.  It’s pretty much the same in #ukedchat – you might lurk for a while, add a contribution, follow those of others, reply to them and follow up replies to yours.  A bit less relaxed than a party perhaps and there’s a lot to squeeze into an hour; I know I find it tough:


My Tweet after the session on 15-07-10

It’s certainly a jam packed session, but is all the effort worth it?  For me, yes.  I’m exposed to issues and standpoints I might not enjoy during a normal working day.  And I’m exposed to a discursive form which demands a different approach to the lingering discussion I might otherwise have over a cuppa or a pint.  So it challenges me because it’s not my preferred way of working. . . and I like that!

Credit where credit’s due . . . June 13, 2010

Posted by IaninSheffield in CPD, Management, Web 2.0.
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Earlier in the week, I had quite an important meeting with the Senior Management Team in school. Following a previous session during which we had been undertaking a self-review, it became clear that there were many issues concerning ICT that I was familiar with, that they weren’t (enjoying the support of my PLE doubtless helped here). So, rather bravely I thought, they asked if I would put together a session to help inform them what’s available and possible – recent developments and where things are moving. A wonderful opportunity!

A major influence on my professional development over the last year has been Twitter, so to try to get across a flavour of that, I thought I would try my first ‘shout-out’ to my network and feed the responses into the session. The question I asked – “How does Twitter help your professional development?” I was delighted to get any replies at all, but incredibly grateful for the thought that people had put in. Certain threads began to emerge and Twitter clearly provides professional development which:

  • connects with a diverse range of passionate professionals
  • surfaces a wealth of resources, tools and ideas
  • inspires and stimulates
  • achieves more (for some people) than other forms of PD

From MarcinMoga on Flickr

We covered many other areas during the session: the Cloud, progress in mobile and games-based learning, intelligent searching – enough for a dozen blog posts!. For me though, what Twitter (and other networking tools) offers ought to be the most significant message to take away . . . . and it’s not just me saying that, it’s other professionals who are much wiser than me too. They took a few moments out of their busy lives to respond to my request; they gave a ‘gift¹.’ Perhaps that’s the true power of the community I enjoy on Twitter?

Full responses and the wonderful people who responded are listed here.

¹Godin, S., 2010. Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? How to Drive Your Career and Create a Remarkable Future, Piatkus Books.

Thanks to @whatedsaid‘s post for pointing me at this book