Category: Twitter

Resources and writing about Twitter

I did nothing

I got some very kind replies on Twitter about this ‘golden moment’ so I thought I’d expand and tell the full(er) story.

Quick background: Our class (well … group) is in the middle of (re)designing our room. We have come up with a design, we’ve found and from today already have a large, lovely second-hand corner couch in the class, we have changed desks around so we can easily shift them around or put them away to suit what people are doing, we are creating murals for the walls to transform a boring off-white wall to something that is ours and pleasing to see and (importantly) maintain and more. I’m directing traffic a little, the rest is done by my students. More on the project and the pictures another time.

‘Steve’ (not his real name) is the quietest, most reserved and shy member of our group of nine. Confidence to do things at school had been shot well and truly in the past of his schooling and much meets the resistance and reluctance to give things a go.

A couple of days ago, he started sketching a drawing. Soon, a sketch became a lovely picture of the Road Runner against a landscape. He decided he wanted the whole thing as a class mural … big! This by a kid who’d rather hide and fly under the radar most of the times, suddenly expressing himself.

We found some large boards and he sketched the painting in pencil. Today, he started painting it. Patiently, slowly, precisely, totally immersed even at the recess break. This plus we know that the finished mural is going to look awesome.

Today, a couple of kids from our class were hanging around Steve before lunch. I asked Steve if he would like them to help him with the painting. “If they want to!” was a curt reply.

“OK …” I backed off, issuing no instructions just stepping back a few steps.

Next thing, the two boys, now joined by another, quietly picked up the brushes and started talking to Steve how he wanted things done. Steve directed them with a couple of purposeful instructions and away they went, all painting, creating, helping Steve and each other with no fuss.

mural crew
Magic !

Small thing? Yeah, it may look and sound like to a remote observer who’d probably miss the intrinsic value of all this, particularly if not knowing the kids in question.

Our deputy principal walked past and could not believe her eyes how these four boys and another one from our class also working on his mural, worked well, perfectly content and happy to be there, purposefully helping Steve and one another. This for a class of, *ahm*, notorious for ‘behaviour problems’ (and they do have their moments and sometimes entire days, trust me 🙂 ).

I don’t know exactly how Steve felt today, but this shy, barely ‘literate’ and so often ‘good for nothing’ 14 year old kid got an important lesson, so to speak, of the hidden curriculum at our school – you matter, others can and DO care.

None of this will see the light of day on school report cards, league tables, NAPLAN, pollie and other pundit speeches, performance reviews, ‘merit pay’ and the likes. But it was spine tingling to see, a moment to savour and just enjoy for its beauty.

It reminded me strongly of Evaluate that! And I mean it too …

And what did I, a teacher, do in all this? I did nothing. The kids did it all themselves.

Update:

Well, today we finished the job with the help of a few talented artists from a couple of neighbouring classes. Take a look of the whole process …

And going back to ‘Steve’ – he asked me today: “Will we be able to take these home at the end of the year?” He is PROUD of his effort, something he had thought of, planned and saw it to a great conclusion while including others too.

And that my friends, in the parlance of a popular ad:

Materials … $150

Artists … 7

Days … 2

Feeling of confidence in one’s efforts … priceless

Priceless

Mysterious Globe
'Mysterious Globe, http://www.flickr.com/photos/sudhamshu/2991718957/

“Hello World” is a simple game I often play with my 4 year old son (‘Mr 4’). We fire up Twitter, say ‘hello’ from Fremantle, Western Australia, get a globe or an atlas (old school, I know, but it is wonderfully tactile) and wait to see where people are saying hello to us from.

Within minutes, we get at least ten replies. Some come from around the corner, many from around the world. We look each of the places up, we talk about the person who said hello, what language people speak there, what the weather is like there now, time of the day, what sort of things people eat there and so on.

Yesterday, we got replies from Fremantle, Perth, Northam, Sydney, Hobart (Australia), Elgin (Scotland), Birmingham, Leek, Ringwood, London, Lichfield (England), Johannesburg (South Africa) Grand Rapids, Detroit (United States). The range and number of replies depends only on the time of the day we play “Hello World”.

Mr 4 and I love the game.

Now, I am not some pushy parent who wants their child to do things like memorising countries of the world by heart (Mr 4 might do that anyway, whether I want it or not). But I do want my child to see that there is a big, diverse, exciting world out there waiting to be ‘discovered’ today and any other day.

In the parlance of a classic TV ad:

  • Twitter followers: 1378
  • Replies to our “hello”: 14
  • Worlds: 1
  • Sense of wonder about the world: priceless

PS. Dedicated to those who think nurturing connections online with Twitter is a waste of time…

The REAL 140 characters

Welcome to the brand new home of the old ‘Human’! (please adjust your subscription/links details, tell your friends too if you please, thanks).

I am still messing around with layout, pages etc. but all in its good time.

To celebrate the occasion at the end of an amazing year I sat in a pub one long afternoon, racked my brain and came up with a list of people I have either connected with for the first time this year, extended a face-to-face or online relationship in 2009. Symbolically, the list is 140 ‘characters’ long to represent that 2009 was a sort of “The Year of Twitter” for me.

This list is awfully unfair to MANY people whom I don’t mention below but with whom I have learned, laughed, argued, annoyed, had my stuff passed on by (re-tweet) etc over the year. The 140 names below also isn’t some sort of ranking of all-important leaders with thousands of followers (many of these guys have only a handful of followers!). If your name is NOT on the list .. please don’t shoot but let’s strengthen this amazing web of people.

I am going to show this to anyone who doubts ‘social media’ and its potential. This is investing in the best possible resource there is – PEOPLE!

Have a safe and merry Christmas and a great New Year 2010!

And now, my longest ever Christmas card (a #follow2010 of a kind) … Enjoy 🙂

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Mrs Emery connects

This time a guest post by a colleague, Veronica Emery. Mrs Emery

When Tomaz asked me to write this blog entry I thought what I always think when he suggests that I, ‘get online’. Who cares what I think? Why would anyone want to know what I have to say? I thought it when he showed me Facebook, I thought it when he showed me Moodle and I was still thinking it, when he introduced me to Twitter. For a middle aged, computer illiterate teacher, these things seemed like a lot of time and effort with a presumption that total strangers are interested in my life or my ideas. I referred to it as vanity on the net.  But as this is the world which my students inhabit, I was determined to have some form of active participation in it.

So with the encouragement of my good friend, I began to check out my options. Facebook required way too much; uploading of photos, status updates and tracking of so called friends for my skills. Moodle would expose my computer skills to way too much critique from work colleagues and students alike. A blog of my own design, I don’t think so! Twitter?! Now here was something; no uploading, no pressure from live chat, no need for groovy photos and linking to others, only having to think in blocks of 140 characters and a choice as to whom I wish to ‘follow’.  This, I could have a go at.

Once I realised that the only people ‘following’ me, also had a choice, it helped calm my nerves about who would be reading what I had to say and who wouldn’t. So Tomaz helped me to sign up and showed me the basics. This was great. I could read other peoples ‘tweets’ without needing to reply, just think about what they were doing and how they were doing it. Too easy! No pressure and no requirement to put my own doings out there.

After three weeks of voyeuristic cyber life, I got brave enough to take my own groovy photo (just the one), and send out a few tentative ‘tweets’. After six weeks I had found; Barrack Obama, Kevin Rudd and the NASA Mars probe. Hey! Maybe there were some teachers on line as well. Sure enough, some great practitioners doing some really cool things in their classrooms, sharing their ideas and projects with the world. ‘How great is this?!’ I thought. After nine weeks, I read a tweet from Paige who runs a world-wide pen pals program for classrooms. I was curious enough to send my first direct tweet to the person I feared most on the net. A total stranger!!  Before I knew it, we had exchanged lots of information about her pen pal program and the way it operates and I was beginning to get very excited about the possibilities for my own students. Could this be a way to connect my classroom with another classroom on the other side of the world? The potential seemed endless.

Now, some four months after signing onto Twitter, my class and the classes of five colleagues have joined this program and are in touch with classrooms of same aged students in Romania, Hawaii and Canada. For students who have not, on the whole, had the opportunity to travel outside of their own suburb, this contact has provided a chance to connect with real people in real time about the issues, ideas, fears, changes and worries which are universal to all teenagers. I nearly cried when one of my least interested students began asking me for spelling and grammar tips because she didn’t want her new pen friend to think she was a ‘moron’. “Plus we’re probably the first Australians that they’ve met aren’t we Miss?” she said. I agreed that this was probably the case. When she replied “So we best make a good impression huh?!” I think I may have actually shed a tear or two.

So, I’m still no expert but the kids laugh with me rather than at me now, when I ask them questions about computers and the net. The best thing for me at the moment is that I am ‘out there’ and I don’t care what anybody thinks. How cool is that. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Veronica Emery (Teacher, Mother, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer)

Thank you Veronica, great story! If you would like to follow @mrsemery on Twitter – http://twitter.com/mrsemery or drop a comment for her below.

Another Evaluate that! moment…

Mrs Emery connects

This time a guest post by a colleague, Veronica Emery. Mrs Emery

When Tomaz asked me to write this blog entry I thought what I always think when he suggests that I, ‘get online’. Who cares what I think? Why would anyone want to know what I have to say? I thought it when he showed me Facebook, I thought it when he showed me Moodle and I was still thinking it, when he introduced me to Twitter. For a middle aged, computer illiterate teacher, these things seemed like a lot of time and effort with a presumption that total strangers are interested in my life or my ideas. I referred to it as vanity on the net.  But as this is the world which my students inhabit, I was determined to have some form of active participation in it.

So with the encouragement of my good friend, I began to check out my options. Facebook required way too much; uploading of photos, status updates and tracking of so called friends for my skills. Moodle would expose my computer skills to way too much critique from work colleagues and students alike. A blog of my own design, I don’t think so! Twitter?! Now here was something; no uploading, no pressure from live chat, no need for groovy photos and linking to others, only having to think in blocks of 140 characters and a choice as to whom I wish to ‘follow’.  This, I could have a go at.

Once I realised that the only people ‘following’ me, also had a choice, it helped calm my nerves about who would be reading what I had to say and who wouldn’t. So Tomaz helped me to sign up and showed me the basics. This was great. I could read other peoples ‘tweets’ without needing to reply, just think about what they were doing and how they were doing it. Too easy! No pressure and no requirement to put my own doings out there.

After three weeks of voyeuristic cyber life, I got brave enough to take my own groovy photo (just the one), and send out a few tentative ‘tweets’. After six weeks I had found; Barrack Obama, Kevin Rudd and the NASA Mars probe. Hey! Maybe there were some teachers on line as well. Sure enough, some great practitioners doing some really cool things in their classrooms, sharing their ideas and projects with the world. ‘How great is this?!’ I thought. After nine weeks, I read a tweet from Paige who runs a world-wide pen pals program for classrooms. I was curious enough to send my first direct tweet to the person I feared most on the net. A total stranger!!  Before I knew it, we had exchanged lots of information about her pen pal program and the way it operates and I was beginning to get very excited about the possibilities for my own students. Could this be a way to connect my classroom with another classroom on the other side of the world? The potential seemed endless.

Now, some four months after signing onto Twitter, my class and the classes of five colleagues have joined this program and are in touch with classrooms of same aged students in Romania, Hawaii and Canada. For students who have not, on the whole, had the opportunity to travel outside of their own suburb, this contact has provided a chance to connect with real people in real time about the issues, ideas, fears, changes and worries which are universal to all teenagers. I nearly cried when one of my least interested students began asking me for spelling and grammar tips because she didn’t want her new pen friend to think she was a ‘moron’. “Plus we’re probably the first Australians that they’ve met aren’t we Miss?” she said. I agreed that this was probably the case. When she replied “So we best make a good impression huh?!” I think I may have actually shed a tear or two.

So, I’m still no expert but the kids laugh with me rather than at me now, when I ask them questions about computers and the net. The best thing for me at the moment is that I am ‘out there’ and I don’t care what anybody thinks. How cool is that. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Veronica Emery (Teacher, Mother, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer)

Thank you Veronica, great story! If you would like to follow @mrsemery on Twitter – http://twitter.com/mrsemery or drop a comment for her below.

Another Evaluate that! moment…

Evaluate that reality

Tomorrow marks a year since publishing My f*#!%ing goosebump story – the post I still consider my “best ever” (drumroll…ta-daaa!). It has reality, expletives and a message of hope – that one always dies last. As if to mark the occasion, I was involved in a similar incident yesterday. Less violent, more accidental but I did end up on the floor through an action by a Year 9 student in my ‘at-risk’ class (ah, the euphemisms).  Not bad for 198cm [6ft6in] and 100+ kg teacher hey? The student stormed out of class afterwards, staff were sent to look for him, I got checked by admin etc etc. But that is not what is remarkable about this story…

This morning, the student and his classmate partly responsible for the incident, came to our office 10 minutes before the first bell to see me. They looked me in the eye and simply apologised for their actions. Very sincerely and in hushed tones. Nobody sent them to apologise – they came completely on their own steam. For a 14 year old ADHD-diagnosed boy that is huge. The matter ended right there, no further procedures, charges etc. but the feeling of trust between us leapt up a couple of storeys – right there.

The media, politicians and pundits will have you thinking that education is all about ‘improved performance’. One we can declare ‘important’ and measurable. But how do you measure things I have just described above? Things that truly matter to me as a teacher and the student as a growing young man. Will he remember the (failed) test or birth/growth of respect by and for adults in his life?

I sent out a tweet this morning about this little teaching vignette and the response was wonderful. My dear transoceanic colleague Ira Socol (my [co]nspirator in promoting the phrase Evaluate that! – see why) and I simultaneously had an idea – let’s start collecting REAL, insightful moments of teaching and learning NOT measured (even measurable) by school. I started the Twitter tag #evaluatethat , sent out an invitation and provided a few starting examples.

Within just a few minutes, we had half a dozen insightful snaps of reality that make teaching such a human and unbelievably important task! And they keep coming…

Evaluate that 1

And here it is to you, dear reader, and those who you know:

Whether you are a teacher, student, parent, administrator… tell us, in a brief sentence or two, YOUR moments of teaching or learning (yours or someone else’s) that was never formally measured but made an impression on you. These ‘bites’ of reality do not have to be all gloriously positive, the only criteria – true, real and not measured (no hypotheticals please).

We are collecting these via Twitter by using #evaluatethat hashtag in each relevant tweet. This will ensure all of these are kept in one place and can be easily seen by all.

What if I don’t have or want a Twitter account?

That’s fine. If you want one, here is a well-received Twitter Handbook for Teachers that has all you need to get started. If you don’t want to bother with Twitter, just leave a comment below.

Passing this on will make the collection richer for things that matter the most, but you know that already…

To watch a child grow – privilege of a parent. To watch a class grow – privilege of a teacher.

REAL, insightful moments of teaching practice NOT measured by school

Would you follow Anne Frank?

Thanks to Twitter, YouTube and other social media around these days, we read the messages and watch the images from what seems to be increasingly dangerous streets of Iran. These are raw, unedited fragments of human reality, taken just a few seconds before we can see them. We often pass these on to others. There are no gatekeepers – just real people caught in the rip of history.

Do you know the story of Anne Frank, a Jewish teenager caught in the horrible rip of history called World War 2? Have you ever wondered what would happen if Twitter was around then and you could receive her updates? Would you pass on (or ‘retweet’ in Twitter lingo – RT) her most thoughtful, most dramatic tweets on. What if she (not some boring pop star) had 1 million followers? All passing on her messages?

“Jazzalujah” (don’t know his real name) is 21, lives in the US and he wonders just that. And thanks to him and the post on the Lost Liberty Cafe, you may (again) think about the human potential of social media to – change the course of history.

Need more examples of ‘what if?’

How about soldiers or civilians sending updates during the Vietnam War? What would that do to the public opinion? Would the madman Kim Jong Il of North Korea be so daringly and dangerously powerful if millions could photograph the starving children in his country and send the pictures around the world? Would the Berlin Wall have fallen any earlier if STASI couldn’t block a thing called Twitter? Of course, you can add a few of your own…

Think about these every time someone tells you social media is a “complete waste of time”. It can be. It can also be a beacon of humanity like we have never had in history.

PS Please note that Anne Frank I refer to above was a real person who died in Auschwitz in 1944. She is not the ‘Anne Frank’ on Twitter, who bears the photo of the real Anne Frank and updates her status regulalry.

The last letter in K.I.S.S.

“Keep It Simple S…..” Do you know the last word usually stated here?

While the leftover pizza from Twizza (Twitter & pizza) is cooling nicely in the school fridge, I can’t thank enough to all the people who came and/or “tweeted-in” to our gathering this afternoon. An informal meeting of a few teachers turned out to be a wonderfully relaxed, very positive and productive introduction to Twitter for many of my colleagues at the school.

The place was like the United Nations of Twitter – we got tweet-ins from around Australia, Europe, UK, USA,  a ‘real’ visitor from New Zealand, even a person from Czech Republic who has used my 2 Minute Moodles with her teachers happened to be in town and dropped by. As Tim Hunt, software developer from the UK working at Moodle HQ here in Perth, walked in I said: “Here is an example of the power of Twitter – I am seeing this person for the first time in my life yet he walks in as an old friend.”

A large number of real, human connections were made in the space of just a couple of hours (even Sue Waters’ funny looking tweets could not stop all that 🙂 ) Once again, the 70:20:10 principle I have touched on many times in my writing, was so obvious and wonderful to watch during the event as my colleagues helped each other, handbook and laptop in hand, to have a crack at Twitter (thank you Simon, you are a bloody legend!).

We got about ten new teacher signups, polished a few bottles of wine, had about four family-sized pizzas and shared some great conversations. Best of all, we have experienced a number of those “a-ha!” moments that make Twitter, educational technology and the whole behemoth of education go – human ideas, creativity and willingness to learn. If we did not have these we are in the wrong business, sending the wrong messages to our students. Thinking and learning is vital, just “Keep It Simple SMART“.

It is amazing what a change of the last word can achieve.

Before I go and digest that last slice of pizza, I would like to offer you a free copy of “Twitter handbook for teachers” created for this event (hence the name). This was a well received document, why not share…

Below the document, you will find the Twitter names of my teaching colleagues who have just signed up with Twitter – feel free to follow and share the serendipity of Twitter with them, they will appreciate it.

Twitter Handbook for Teachers

Created by Tomaz Lasic (@lasic, http://human.edublogs.org)

Here is a list of people who attended Twizza and their Twitter names (most of them brand spanking new so please excuse lack of profile). Connect today 🙂

Slice of Twizza anyone?

Technology or not, nothing beats face to face interaction with fellow humans. To make the digital links even more human and add the nuances of speech and body language to other useful means of communication, we are putting on a little get-together for staff at our school and any interested educators on 8 April 2009. The event is called Twizza – a wordplay on Twitter and pizza.

If you are in or around Perth that afternoon, consider joining us for a chat (and pizza!) and perhaps learn what Twitter is, how it works and why would you use it. To answer this last question (which should really be the first question), I have put together a little presentation you can see below. There is also a video clip version with some lovely background tweeting (real birds too) for those interested.

For more information about Twizza, feel free to contact me through EVICTS , tweet me @lasic or via comments below. The little birdie tells me that even the great Edublogger Sue Waters may make an appearance (we”ll get some chocolate ready).

Twitter saves lives

The images, sounds and stories from the massive bushfires in Victoria and their horrible toll have been crossing the globe over the last week. It has truly been a tragedy and it continues to rage.

There are dozens of stories of missing the loved ones, survival, reunions, hopes, uncertainty coming through the ‘conventional’ mass media. But driving to work this morning I heard a powerful story on the local ABC Radio how social networking sites, and particularly Twitter, kept people informed and in touch with each other during the worst.

While the circumstances in which the usefulness of Twitter has come forward here are awfully sad and disturbing, it is another (eg. the recent China earthquake) great example of the power of the immediate, raw, human communication Twitter and social networking sites can provide.

Enough writing, have a listen to the story. And while you are at it, please consider donating to the Red Cross appeal for the victims of the Victorian bushfires.

Go people – dig deep in and help!

Yours truly @lasic

PS. Twitter community does not just help bushfire victims. See what Twestival is all about – a fantastic worldwide charity event indeed.