Tweeting and learning

Err. It doesn’t quite know how to tell you this, but All Change Please! has a bit of a confession to make. You know how it happens. A few weeks ago – before all the current publicity – a friend asked me if I’d ever Tweeted, and said that I was missing out, and if I really wanted to be part of the gang, it was something that I really ought to try. Eventually I gave in and it’s been downhill ever since, spending each waking hour and minute wondering where my next Tweet was going to come from…

Now the thing is, like so many others, I had dismissed Twitter as something that people with posh iPhones with too many places to go and too much time on their hands did, somewhere you go to find out about the private lives of famous footballers, and that I had no interest in reading about the fact that someone’s cat isn’t well today. And what possible use could it have in education? Mind you, I used to think that about blogging too. I didn’t even realise that tweeting is something one can safely do in the comfort of one’s own home on a desktop or laptop computer.

After signing up, the first thing one needs to do is to try and identify Twitterers who are worth following. Most are individuals, but some are organisations too. Some you know personally, most you don’t. Many are ‘celebrities’ of one sort or another, and it’s curious how it starts to redefine one’s relationship with them: no longer mediated through an editor and publisher, broadcaster or institution, it seems to establishes a more direct, if entirely artificial, personal relationship with them.

I reckon there are two types of qualities in Twitterers worth looking out for. The first is the ability to create tweets that are clear, concise, witty and intelligent, and all in less that 140 characters. That’s quite a skill, and so far I’ve only found a few people who are really up to the job. But I do find the feeling that I’m in some way ‘stalking’ them a bit disconcerting, although of course they choose what to tell me (and potentially the rest of the world), about their private lives and where they are, even though I’ve never met or spoken to them. So, be careful what you Tweet.

The second type of Twitterers are those who consistently provide links to interesting things on the web. This is where I think Twitter does potentially have a major role to play in helping to find the good stuff  in amongst all the junk of the eco-system. What I’ve come to realise is that the valuable thing that Twitter does is to provide the easiest possible way to pass on links to others of things actually worth looking at. Instead of having to open up Mail and fire off a whole load of ‘Have you seen this site?’ messages together with reasons why they’ve bothered to make the effort to do so, all tweeters need to do is click on a site’s little blue letter ‘t’ direct link to Twitter, and it automatically appears as a comment for all their followers to click on, if they wish to do so.

Now if I were still in the classroom… it would be great if I could easily tweet links to my students about things that really interested me and were directly relevant to my subject. Even better would be if they tweeted links back to me and to each other about links they discovered. At the same time they would also be acquiring that now increasingly important skill of being able to communicate an idea in no more than 20 words (or 140 characters as it now is). And, just like following celebrities, I think it would somehow create a more personal relationship between mentor and learner.  I’m sure there are a number of schools already exploring these possibilities, but I suspect they are in the minority.

But the problem is, dear reader, the surprising thing is that I’ve discovered that hardly anyone I know personally Tweets. In fact, out of all the people who regularly receive an email link to these posts, only a few are on Twitter. So I’ll just say….it’s something you really ought to try, and if you don’t, you’re missing out…

Pssst…. Looking to Tweet? Here’s where you sign up:

And feel free to join my gang by following me at TristramShepard

An iPad in time

Dateline April 1st, 3011

Social historians announced today that they have made a startling discovery that suggests that iPads were actually in use much earlier than previously thought. Up to now it was believed that The iPad Age began in the early part of the 21st century, but this recently discovered, completely undoctored image shows the devices, which appear to be the white iPad 2, in place in a classroom in the Victorian era, suggesting they were common some 150 years prior to the previously believed date. Curiously the iPads appear to have been used alongside printed books.

“This is an enormously exciting and important discovery,” said a spokesperson. “However it does raise some interesting questions about why the iPads then appear to have failed to make an impact in education, and the basic processes of teaching and learning remained unaltered for a further 200 years”. He continued: “I do hope we’re right about this, otherwise we’re likely to get well and truly slated.”

A turn up for the iPads?

It seems that nice Mr Osborne is now having his say about education, with today’s surprise announcement that ‘Schoolchildren will be taught to design apps for smartphones’.

In yet another carefully thought-through joined-up strategy, one wonders how many existing teachers are experienced enough to lead their classes in the design of apps? Perhaps a scheme in which schoolchildren teach their teachers how to design apps might be more successful?

And then there’s the little problem that, also reported today, it seems that mobile phones and wi-fi are about to be banned in schools:

which might just dampen Mr Osborne’s hope to “produce a Zuckerberg or Brin of the future”?

Meanwhile one wonders what nice Mr Gove is making of all this. Has he perhaps been persuaded to add ‘the design of apps’ to the requirements for the EBacc? If so, maybe it will shortly be appropriately renamed the e-Bacc?

But perhaps the most surprising statement Mr Osborne made was:

“For politicians of my generation, the incredible disruptive impact of the internet is not a threat – it is an opportunity.”

I wonder if he will be speaking at next year’s ‘Learning Without Frontiers’ Conference?

my-school: make me a teacher for £30?

Home | My Farm.

Now here’s an interesting idea – all the decisions about what happens on a real farm are taken by 10,000 members of the £30 paying public, who need not have any experience of farming.

And so how about an equivalent ‘my-school’, where all decisions about what is taught, when and how are made by members of the public?  Well it couldn’t be any worse than what happens presently in which all the decisions about what happens in a real school are taken by members of parliament, who certainly don’t have any experience of teaching….

Ahead in the cloud?

One of the things that keeps All Change Please! awake at nights is the thought that, while the new freedom of the internet provides the opportunity to learn anything, anyplace, anytime, what is most likely to happen is that in the future learners will be expected to watch long, boring, fact-filled YouTube video clips sitting on their own in their bedrooms, instead of sitting all together in a classroom listening to long, boring, fact-filled teachers.

Which is why it was great to come across this clip which was one of the winners of the Britain’s Jamie Oliver Dream Teachers competition:

I only know about it as it was on the front page of our local newspaper, and the fact that the teacher works at the same school that All Change Please! once taught in, is, of course, quite coincidental. However, it was amusing to recall the time it spent itself back in the 1980s getting pupils to analyse the design of everyday products by using a similar ‘who, what, when, how and why’ analysis approach, even if the delivery was rather slower and a lot less animated. At the same time though the teacher does miss a somewhat disruptive trick that All Change Please! liked to play, by getting pupils to use a six-sided dice to determine which question to ask next.

But nonetheless, perhaps we will sleep more easily now, knowing that there is at least something worthwhile out there to watch in cyberschool. Or to put it more poetically, maybe it’s time to start putting our heads in the cloud?