Archive for homework

This morning, @MattGuthrie and I were talking about how fast and furious #edchat goes and how we wish we could preprime the pump with some thoughts to get people thinking more deeply ahead of time. We decided to take it on–he wrote about question # 1 (With an overloaded curriculum, what should be emphasized and what should be eliminated?) and here are some thoughts on question # 3-Should the current system of grading be outlawed and replaced with something more “21st Century?

A caveat:  The following post is created from notes I took in a talk given by Carol A Tomlinson, a brilliant educator and differentiation guru that I am lucky and blessed enough to call my friend and colleague. The stories are mine, the brilliance is hers!

There are some pieces of and questions about the grading puzzle that I believe teachers may not even consider.

  1. The power of grades to impact students’ lives creates a responsibility in giving grades.
  2. In what ways do our current grading systems motivate struggling readers to persist in the face of difficulty?
  3. Is there an opportunity for struggling learners to encounter excellence in grading?
  4. Do grades teach our brightest students to struggle in the face of difficulty?

So, what keeps us going as learners? If we experience success as a learner, then it may be something we want to keep doing.  If we need to put forth too much effort, then perhaps we quit.  (I can’t imagine trying to light a bulb 1000 times, as the poster says Edison did before he succeeded!)  The success to effort ratio needs to be in balance for learners to WANT to keep going.  If success is heavier, then learners learn to be lazy.  If the effort is heavier, learners tend to give up.

Here’s my personal story on that one: I know a kid who, in 4th grade, bright, but LD as one can be, started becoming a reader that December–took books EVERYWHERE, read all the time, discovered authors–and was reading on grade level. Family pulled him OUT of SPED for literacy, and the teacher was supposed to transition him into the regular classroom. However, he didn’t do his Accelerated Reader tests, so got an F on his report card in January. When Mom went to see the teacher, she literally said to Mom–”What grade do you think he should get?  I’ll change it to whatever you want.”  The kid has struggled through school and at the F, quit reading–his words were “why should I try?  I can’t do anything right.”  He STILL has not regained that attitude of wanting to read. . . and this is several years later.

There is truth in the saying success breeds success.  When one invests in learning and finds success, then one is more likely to repeat that risk. BUT, for other students, year upon year of “not good enough” results in lack of effort, and a seemingly uncaring attitude. I’ll say again, though, as I did in my last post, that I simply don’t believe students come to school saying to themselves, “I want to be a failure today.”

So, the big questions become:

What role should grades play in regards to the success to effort ratio?

and

Can we do anything to moderate the negative effects of grading?

Let’s think about some people in real life who get judged on their performances every day they work—like sports players or musical performers, and look at how they learn as we think about some key principles of effective grading:.

1. It’s unwise to overgrade student work.  Coaches don’t grade practices—the judgement comes in at the game—or at the recital!

2.  Why would anyone think grading a pre-assessment is wise?  That’s what‘s supposed to give us information as to what to teach and how to group.  Why grade someone on something they are ABOUT TO LEARN?

3. I’ll say it again—Coaches don’t grade practices, so why over-grade ongoing assessments?  Students need opportunities to practice, analyze work, and learn from errors in a safe context.   The formative assessments given should be just that—formative—not final grades.

4. Use summative assessments as primary data for grading. Grades should be reliable over time, meaning that the results of any given test on the standard would be relatively the same for the same kid.

5. Grades should be based on clearly specified learning goals.  Is the learning target clear?  Do students clearly understand what they need to know, understand and do?

6. Grades should be criterion-based, NOT norm-based.

In norm based grading systems, the human factor suffers:

a.) There will necessarily be winners and losers competing for scarce rewards.
b.) The implications for learning environments are predictably negative.
c.) The outcomes for both struggling and advanced learners carry high negatives as well.

Students should be striving to reach the standards that have been set for them to learn, not competing against classmates for the top part of the bell curve.

In norm based grading systems, clarity of communication suffers:

a.)  A could be the “best worst”

b.)  C could be “knows the stuff but doesn’t look so great compared to others”

In norm-based grading systems, confusion and lack of clarity reign as no one really knows what that A or C really mean.

So what do those key principles look like in practice?

1. Data used for grading MUST be valid and measure what we intend to measure –mastery of the material.

Grades we give MUST be free of grade fog.  In a standards-driven classroom, how can we take points off for talking in class, or students not putting their name on the paper, or not finishing several homework assignments??  Those types of requirements can be dealt with separately, but must not be confused with the student’s understanding and mastery of the content.

2. Grades should be given later in the learning cycle rather than sooner.

If we are doing our job, the students SHOULD know more as the semester goes on—so earlier misunderstandings should not be part of a grade that shows (or doesn’t show) final mastery. IF, in the end, the students show mastery, why grade them down for earlier mistakes?  Isn’t our goal for the student to master the material?

Again, crucial to remember is: The power of grades to impact students’  lives creates a responsibility in giving grades.

3. When it’s time for report cards practice 3-P grading
Students, parents and others deserve to know the extent to which the learner has learned agreed upon goals. Using SINGLE letter grades with no clear meaning is an issue. We should perhaps be giving three grades—or three ways of reporting:

*Performance (based on criteria and performance standards)
*Progress  (progress/improvement)
*Process (work habits, effort, attitude)

Shouldn’t all learners know the material, show progress and growth, and know what to do when they don’t know what to do (have strategies)? If those are our goals, then, why are we not reporting—and students self-reporting– on each and every part of the three Ps??

I believe these grading practices ARE contemporary. . and yes, the system many teachers use SHOULD be outlawed, but it’s not about outlawing grading–it’s about grading–or reporting–or assessing–or giving feedback– responsibly and effectively!

Post Script (and post-edchat):  I ‘m not sure anyone is saying we should keep grades.  I  am saying it is a reality of most of us and IF we have to do it, until the system changes, we should do it responsibly and not pull in all those foggy facts of talking in class, doing (or not) homework, neatness, names on paper, etc. as part of the summative grade. Those go in another area–process or maybe even progress, depending on the prior conversations.

It absolutely IS, as Will says below, all about what you can do with what you know, NOT the grade. We need to be moving towards that faster in schools.

It IS , as Chad says below, about leveraging inquiry to help students design and participate in authentic, personally meaningful learning opportunities.

It IS, as Karen says, about coming to common understandings about grades (while we have to use them.)

It IS, as Michael says below, about students owning their own competency and learning.

It IS, as Matt reminds us, about “big paradigm shifts.”

But mostly, for me, right now, it’s about getting all of us as educators to talk about grading practices, to wrestle with it, to challenge each other’s thinking, to share great ideas, to work together to figure out how to give feedback and assess well and SHIFT those paradigms so children don’t go through experiences like the kid cited above.

You guys sure have made ME think, and for that, I thank you mightily!

Matt Guthrie (@mattguthrie) and I started this topic and his blog on overloaded curriculum to pre-load the conversation at #edchat and make it deeper, not just occurring in 140 characters.  I think we succeeded. We hope you’ll continue it at the Educator’s PLN ning–or somewhere.

Recently I was one of a group of people in our system invited by our Superintendent to go to Alan November’s BLC 09 conference as a team to bring what we can back. I was honored and thrilled–and even more so a few days later when I was also invited to be part of the practitioner’s strand and present at the Building Learning Communities conference. So I am going–as part of an austere group of educators from our county–and I am presenting!

Last week, the group going was called together to begin to pre-plan and strengthen our own community of learners who will converse, listen, think and learn together before we go, while we are there, and after we return. Our team consists of some amazing educators, many of whom are on Twitter–@BeckyFisher73, @jacatlett, (Janelle)  @dld1, (Donna DeGroat) @dharding3, (Diane Harding) and Beth Costa, Kristen Williams, Nancy McCullen, Christa Livermon and John Hunter. Many of these folks are our new instructional coaches (Christa and Janelle will be in my region) and I am looking forward to going with this group.

Last week, we talked about our goals in going:

Where do we, as a school system, go next?  As we incorporate more 21st century tools, what do we want to accomplish? What can we bring back?

When many of us saw Alan November at VASCD, we heard him talk about new literacies and redefining or recognizing new literacies–just what IS 21st century learning? How do we ensure that students do new things? We wonder about student involvement in creating the questions. . do they get to? Students need choices  that are open-ended and creative; we recognize it’s not just about the technology, but what the technology is forcing us to see and understand about our world. That’s a foundational understanding many teachers don’t have.  What foundational underpinnings do we want for ourselves, our teachers, our students? How do we best help students think for themselves?

We reminded ourselves visual literacy is crucial–how do we make that a vital part of our curriculum?  Back channels came up–we talked a bit about how conferences are changing because of back channel conversations–and the power of networks like twitter.

Our notetaker recorded these questions:

  • Redefining what literacy means, what is the “new literacy”?  Does everything 21st century mean “just technology”?  What about collaboration?
  • How do we hold ourselves accountable for addressing 21st century teaching and learning (beyond “you have to have 2 technology projects each year) information literacy, visual literacy, inquiry, collaboration
  • How do we stay on top of all of what we need to know and be able to do?
  • What do we mean by “21st century learning”? Not all wikis are 21st century?
  • If it sounds too intellectual and we don’t make it practical enough and related enough to the learning environment, are we pointing out the right stuff in the examples?
  • Examples that cut across specific projects but illustrate how we can just do this as what we do?
  • How do we make this more about who we are and not just something a few people do?
  • What does inquire, collaborate, etc. mean for students?
  • Why do we wait until after the SOLs to do cool stuff?  creative productions with choices…why aren’t we doing this all of the time?

We decided to meet again closer to the time we go, and also go to the opening reception together. We also agreed that we should pair up to go to sessions so we could bounce ideas off of a teammate.

And, again, we were reminded:

“Watch the back channels – this will be very interesting.”

On Thursday, May 21, 2009, ** Chris O’Neal ** brought a colleague from Fluvanna to observe my 3rd grade math students work with their iPods. The day before, I had discussed with my kids what they thought we should show and how the class should be organized.  I WISH I had videotaped that conversation, as it was simply amazing. However, I didn’t, so this is take 2, the description of Station 2.  (See previous post for description of station 1.)

In Station 2, the kids were to use the WhiteBoard app to drill each other.  They decided they wanted to show this to our visitors to show how the iPods could connect over WI-Fi. When we were establishing the boundaries for the problems, the initial rule suggested was “no plus less than 12.”  You can imagine the conversation that ensued over the meaning of that. . . it was a perfect reinforcement of my prior lessons on the need for precise language in describing mathematical situations, (though I chose not to mention that in this lesson.)  After we established what that meant, I wrote “No + <12″ on the board.  (I take every chance I can to reinforce the “greater than” and “less than” sign, as kids typically confuse those or don’t even name them, preferring instead to use the alligator trick.) Someone then suggested no multiplication over 100. I probed as to how many digits could they use, did that mean we couldn’t ask anything beyond 10 X 10, and the agreement became 1 digit by 2 digit problems up to 99 as the highest number, so I added that to our list.  I should have added n x nn, with n being 0-9 and nn=<100, to have that chance to reinforce a variable, the less than sign and algebraic thinking, but I didn’t think of it at the time. We stopped there, as I clearly got the impression they WANTED to practice multiplication facts, so I didn’t even address the other arithmetic operations.

Then I asked about checking correct answers. How were they to do that?  They decided that first, the person who developed the problem would also work it, and they would compare answers. THEN they would check it on a calculator–and they wanted a separate calculator, NOT the one on the iPod.  (I didn’t ask specifically why, but they wanted a separate one rather than move back and forth between apps on the iPod.)

When I went to this table, the problem they had created was 8 X 16. The kid working it, one of my best problem solvers, was doing something in his head , so I asked him to think out loud. He said he’d added 16 and 16 and gotten 32.  I had taught the strategy of “doubling and halving” where if you double one of the numbers, you can halve the other one and get the same answer (i.e., 4 X 32= 8 X 16), so I asked him what he was going to do to the 8 now. He stared at me blankly.  (HMMM. . .I may have taught it, but he, at least, didn’t get it–and neither did his partner, cause she didn’t jump at the chance to answer that one!) He then said, “128″ and I asked him how he got it.  He repeated that he had added 16 and 16 and gotten 32 and just kept adding. His partner volunteered, “I did it another way” so I asked how she did it.  She described adding 16 and 16 to get 32 and then 32 and 32 to get 64 and then 64 + 64 to get 128. I didn’t probe as to how hers was different from his, (I think she figured he was continuing to add 16s) and I just wanted them to move to another problem to practice more without me interfering. I left them using the calculator to check, but realized several things about my teaching from their work.

  1. I had taught doubling and halving, but needed to work more with it.
  2. NEITHER of them went to splitting the problem into smaller parts such as 8 X 10 and 8 X 6. I need to help them shore up the various strategies they use, so they don’t rely on the same one all of the time, and learn when to use which to be more efficient.
  3. When I tried to suggest splitting the number, working 8X6 was not efficient for the boy, so he obviously didn’t know that fact. That tells me I need to work on fact mastery some more. This is a kid with an incredible memory, so I need to provide him some opps to practice the facts. Him not knowing that says I haven’t provided enough times to practice it.
As I’m writing this blog, I’m realizing my questions are as much to probe their understanding as they are to get feedback for me on how well they’ve learned and how well I’ve taught what I think I have. I don’t know that the iPod added to THAT process, OR the process of practicing multiplication facts. What it did was it MOTIVATED them to practice.
If iPods will MOTIVATE kids to sit around and make up multiplication facts for each other, then they’re worth having in the classroom, as far as I am concerned. I haven’t found anything non-technologically they’ll stick with like that to practice simple facts.  Their other favorite way to practice is online games. . . and they can do that, too, on the iPods.
I believe devices like iPod Touches MOTIVATE today’s kids to work at school tasks they typically try to avoid, because of the novelty, the “coolness” of the tool, and in this case, the interactivity of this particular app!

I heard  on May 2, 2009 on Twitter about a day for 24 Hours of Innovation.  The quote on the web site said, ”We are happy to invite all bloggers to take part in the “My half time pep talk for 2009″ blog action, organized during the 24 Hours of Innovation event.”

My official time for participation is 5:15 PM EST this evening, but since I’ll be on the road, I’m posting early.

As an educator, thinking of writing a pep talk 3 weeks before school is out is like asking a sports player to write an essay in the locker room right before a big game. My head is not necessarily into a pep talk–instead, I am into all the things I need to be doing: the yearbook we haven’t finished, the testing going on and that I have yet to do, the organization of my room for summer packing, report cards, finishing all the teaching I yet want to do, etc. However, it is kind of exciting, too, to think about innovation as another school year winds down.

In education, we wryly talk about how it hasn’t changed for 100 years–how if a doctor from 100 years ago came into a hospital, he wouldn’t be able to “doctor” but if a teacher from 100 years ago came into school today, she WOULD be able to teach. She’d feel very at home in many classrooms and many schools. Yesterday I saw a question that asked, “If we didn’t have the schools we have today, would we create the schools we have today?” Both of these statements make me think about schooling, and what it should or could be.

You see, in my school, we have an iPod pilot going on, where a select group of students is trying them and reviewing what they try.  We have amazing parent volunteers who are spearheading clubs like Robotics (FIRST Lego League) and “Roots and Shoots,” a service club. We have some amazing teachers who are looking to involve students in deep learning–setting up STEM opportunities in summer school, and creating a STEM group for girls in afterschool. We have 100 students being redistricted, and so our staff is being shuffled–we’re losing some teachers to other schools, resource teachers will have different jobs next year (some going back into the classrooms) and it’s the end of the year, so money is available to get some “dream” items we didn’t think we’d be able to afford. It’s a year of change for us and some new opportunities for thinking differently are opening up.

Plus, at this time of the school year, we all start thinking of all the things we want to do differently next year, so educators sort of automatically do the half year pep talk anyway each year in May and June. Lots of conversations are occurring with each of us looking ahead hopefully and  thoughtfully about making next year better for our students.

Are there teachers, though, or principals, or superintendents, or school board members who are asking our STUDENTS what kind of change THEY want to see?

Last night our Technology Department presented our Tech Plan to our School Board–and they had kids presenting pieces of it and talking about what needed to happen.  One student talked about access–that students shouldn’t be held accountable for contributing to Google Doc for homework if they didn’t have access at home. Another spoke to the fact that while the technology in the schools may be equitably distributed, it’s the teacher’s knowledge and passion that allows student access and he has been lucky to have had courses that allow him lots of access to our technology.  He knows MANY others who have not.  I am thankful we have technology leaders in this division that put students on our county technology advisory committee, and that we have school board members who are lifelong learners and who see their job on our board as being listeners as well as doers .

It’s not just about the technology, though. It’s about the learning. It’s about the collaboration.  It’s about the creativity, the thinking, the sharing, the consequences, and the process. It’s about the future–and that involves what the kids think, and more importantly, how they feel.

The power of student voice.

The power of student action.

The power of student thinking and sharing

is the innovation schools need to embrace.

Here, fifth graders speak to the power of wikis. Here, architecture students speak to the design of schools. Here, a young girl initiates a change with her blog, “Twenty-five Days To Make A Difference.” **update**  Read this article about Laura’s “Twenty-Five days to Make  A Difference” and how it had a GLOBAL impact!! Here, people work to end hurtful words and MANY students blogged about this campaign to “Spread The Word.” Here, pennies collected by students made a HUGE  difference.  I could go on and on with links to what students have done when given an opportunity, but

what if we simply listened to students in our schools and let them make a difference in how they are allowed to learn?

This morning, I was fussing at my students for not completing their wiki work to the standards we had agreed upon, and one student said, “That would be me.” As we continued the conversation about expectations and I answered questions they had and asked my own, he opened a laptop and began doing something.  He continued to participate in the conversation as he also typed.  I looked at him, and asked, “Are you multi-tasking?”  He smiled at me and answered “Yes, I’m working on my wiki.” I couldn’t help but think that most teachers would have nailed him for getting up, getting a laptop and starting something in the middle of a group conversation. In our classroom, it’s an accepted way of work, as long as you can successfully do both.  Many students today constantly show they can.

We’ve met challenges in schools before, some better than others. The challenges we have today may be different, but teachers who are learners can meet this challenge. Educators who listen to students can help THEM develop ethics and their own filters in this connected world in which we live.  Instead of unplugging and/or locking down our technologies, why not listen to what students envision and try to help them learn how to do it, help them find the resources to live their dreams–or change and grow and evolve their dreams– and also help them learn to build safe banks on their own rivers of creation and information flow?

Thanks to The Board of Innovation for the opportunity to participate in the 24 Hours of Innovation!

We have an iPod Touch Pilot going at our school.  Well, we really have a mini pilot, since we only have 4 and we are trying them out with 7 kids. It’s been an interesting venture thus far, so much so that I thought I’d share some thoughts here and you can read the kids comments on our wiki, Crozet Math Musings iPod Pilot.

Sue Waters (@suewaters) tweeted on April 13 that

Education 1.0=Consumer

Education 2.0=Producer

Education 3.0=Collaborator

Others have said a similar thing about web 1.0, web 2.0 and web 3.0.  What we need to realize, as we work with iPod Touches (and I’m referring to the 2nd generation) is that it is designed as a device for access. It allows users to get to “stuff”–email, twitter, texting, the internet, games, etc., but it is NOT easy to create on it. It doesn’t allow access to many web sites in ways that you can use them (flash doesn’t work, for example, so there go all the flash-based games on my school’s computer support site), and the kids complain that the keyboard is hard to use.

If that is so, and it is mainly a device for access, then would it not make sense to categorize it as a web 1.0 device, since you are mostly consuming web pages with it??

But wait, can you not record on it?  Can you create a voicethread?  Can you work on a wiki?  If you can do some of those things, then doesn’t it become a web 2.0 device, since you can now produce on it?

And, as you record for that voicethread, or make that wiki, or respond to an email, text or Twitter, aren’t you collaborating?  Doesn’t that, then, allow us to classify it as a tool for collaboration, and thus a Web 3.0 tool?

If it’s such a tool for collaboration, then why aren’t we infusing them into classrooms and using them daily  instead of machines that cost three and maybe even as much as four times as much as an iPod?  Why don’t they become the basis for our 1:1 programs?

What are people using iPod Touches in the classroom for? My 8 and 9 year olds are exploring games on them, and reviewing the games (see our wiki).

What are others doing? See Chris Webb’s Why an iPod Touch in education? for more info on using iPods in the classroom.

There are lots of ways to use them, but do they REALLY do collaboration well?  I’m not so sure, and would be interested in YOUR ideas of what you would like to see on the iPod to make it more of a collaborative tool.  Iin the third or even fourth generation iPod, what features would YOU like to see?

On Saturday, I got a wikimail from one of my students with his homework attached. (His was one of 4 students out of 5 assigned that I received over the weekend.) Here’s what he said about going to present (as a 9 year old) to our School Board.

“My experience at the school board meeting was phenomenal. We got to use technology that I have never even heard of, like Dell Minis. My presentation was cut short because of tech problems, but I still felt like it was the experience of a lifetime. Because of that meeting, my math class got five ipod touches to use! I would like to be able to go to the next school board meeting if I can. Thanks for letting me go and I hope that the third graders that came were able to show you that we use a lot of technology in school.”

Why does he want to go back?  Because he learned, because he was honored, and because he got to show some of his work to people who matter. He had an authentic audience and he also knew he had something to offer that audience–our elected School Board members.

On Thursday, March 26, 2009, as part of a technology innovator group, I took three third graders to our school board work session to share how they have been using wikis in our math class.(You can see specifically what my students shared here.) 

Several years ago, our board members realized that while they were making decisions that affected the future of education in our schools, they often did not feel they knew enough about those issues to make truly informed decisions. Thus, our School Board work sessions were created.

In these sessions, our School Board becomes a Learning Board. That means that for an hour, our leadership team sets up break out sessions that teach the board about a particular topic, in this case, technology. On Thursday, we had 3 break out sessions for 7 school board members, and they chose which session to attend. After the hour, the board typically comes back together and shares out from each session so that they learn from the group’s collective experiences.

The brilliance of our leadership team shone through that night, as they had arranged the 3 sessions to also highlight other important facets of learning as well-the “three R’s” of Rigor, Relevance and Relationships. My students and I were in the “Relationships” strand. 

Before that night, the people involved in my section of the session had pre-planned on this wiki:http://tech-relationships.wikispaces.com/ where you can see the kinds of things we were sharing. The idea was to begin with the youngest elementary sample (my 3rd grade wiki) and work up through the grades.  

Our session had 2 SB members in it–Mr. Ronnie Price, who currently has children in our schools, and Mr. Steve Kolezar, who does not. Both asked great questions, listened intently and made connections to their own experiences in the context of our sharing.  Mr. Price spoke to the fact that he has begun a wiki at his work at UVA and the adults there don’t participate on it as well as my students.  He also spoke to the fact that his own middle school student goes to school and unplugs from the technology he uses outside of school. Mr. Kolezar, later, in the sharing, spoke not only to the engagement of the students, their knowledge and their expertise but also the importance they felt in the connections with both other students and the teacher through the wiki work.

My co-presenting teachers are astounding educators and the collective sharing of our group was simply riveting.  As teachers listening to our colleagues, we all learned much as well! The passion for learning, using technology as a tool and especially for helping our students succeed showed openly in each person who spoke.  We clearly develop those relationships through our teaching (both with and without technology), and that was noticeably recognized.

Social networking was one of our topics, as we talked not only about wikis, but also Twitter, texting, nings, blogs, social bookmarking and Google Docs. That led Mr. Price to ask questions about students bringing personal devices into our system, and gave us an opportunity to speak to both the potential advantages and disadvantages of that practice. He then later brought that up to the entire board as something to consider, so the groundwork was laid for future discussions and possibilities.

The sharing out from the board members was absolutely amazing to hear. Mr. Price spoke eloquently about the fact that we can provide all the rigor and relevance we want, but if the students do not feel involved in worthwhile relationships, the rigor and relevance probably won’t engage them. The social networking piece was basically addressed in each break out group, so while each member heard about it from a slightly different perspective, the socialness of learning was clearly a theme underlying all the presentations, and the board recognized that.

The members took turns sharing what they had learned, fielding questions from one another and clarifying their understandings with one another. They actually complained a bit because, in listening to one another, they wished they could attend EACH session for themselves! (We should think about recording each session in the future, I know!)

About 2/3rds of the way into the sharing, my Superintendent, who I follow and who follows me on Twitter, said to the board that the meeting was being Twittered as they spoke, and she turned to me. (I had been tweeting the comments from the board and my astonishment and pride at the whole experience.)  Dr. Moran, our Sup’t, asked the board if they’d like to see the tweets, and they said yes, so I literally got up from the audience, hooked a computer back up to the LCD projector and shared some of my tweets as well as responses from all over the world live to the board. Talk about demonstrating the power of Twitter! (Feel free to follow me. I’m @paulawhite.) 

The words of another student, in his homework, (also turned in over the weekend) says what I feel in the last sentence! 

“My experience at the School Board meeting was fun. I loved seeing all kinds of cool technology (iPod touchs, Dell minis and Dell laditudes.) I It was fun skyping with Dr. Brown. It was cool knowing that you are talking to the people who decide what the schools do.” 

It IS cool knowing you are talking to a LEARNING BOARD, and that they use that learning to help make decisions!

 

Dec
06

Note: I began this post literally over month ago on November 1, but wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to go with it after I told the story here. After receiving a comment asking me to write more on my blog, I decided I should at least finish this one. I did, and now hope it feels connected, as the experience with injenuity’s plea for help really did resonate deeply with me, and I’m not sure I did my thinking justice with my ending here. Oh, well, here goes:

Twitter has reduced the isolation of the classroom for me and allowed me to connect, meet and affirm and be affirmed by educators all over the world. I have discovered intellectual opportunities and online conferences I had no idea existed, and been involved in conversations that have stretched me, made me laugh, made me sad and increased both my empathy towards and concern about world issues. I have met people in this online adventure that I know I will see in RL–and I am looking forward to that opportunity. LOTS of folks have written about Twitter, and I know I am simply one more. However, my take on Twitter is slightly different because I want to talk about the metacognitive aspects of this amazing microblogging service.

On Twitter last night a Twitterbuddy, @injenuity, asked for help with understanding her child’s “critical thinking” homework. Being a Gifted Resource Teacher, I thought, “Ooh, I bet I can help here” and clicked on her link to the flickr picture of the child’s homework. It was sad. Labeled “Critical Thinking” by the publisher, it was a simple worksheet where the students were to simply x out the math fact that did not belong in the “fact family.” They then were to match the rectangle that held three related facts to the correct picture. While that may sound simple to the elementary educator familiar with the lingo, the layout of the worksheet was extremely poor, directions were minimal, and it was hard to figure out exactly what to do. Maybe THAT’S the critical thinking part of this worksheet.

While several of us on Twitter were helping Jen understand how to help her daughter, I noticed there were multiple conversations going on with the conversants. @tomwhyte1, her initial responder, was also conversing with @cbell about the fact we were tutoring a parent about a child’s homework on Twitter and making up names for this new service–however, twutor.com was already taken. I explained fact families and gave an example, and Jen responded to me while @monarchlibrary was sending a web site that showed and explained it as well. Jen’s daughter was worrying that her Mother was “cheating” by asking her friends for help and we were all responding to that concern. @courosa began a new conversation talking about how many homework assignments he had seen were meant for entrapment. @tomwhyte1 and Jen were exchanging their usual level of repartee–initially starting out as picking on or teasing one another and moving to genuine help as Tom realized Jen was sincere in asking for help. Jen spoke as a Mom about going to her child’s school and nodding without understanding when the teacher referred to “fact families” in the recent parent night for her child, and I began wondering how many times our “educationalese” astounds/confuses really intelligent people. Jen and her daughter were also trying to figure out the pictures, when @KevinByers joined in to help her with that. Tom continued his conversation with both Jen and @cbell, Jen continued with me, @courosa AND @KevinByers, and I began two other conversations about two other topics with @nnorris and @dmcordell (who was also conversing with @courosa).

Both Jen and I were very aware of all the things happening here at the same time (as were several of the others, I am sure) as she commented on this experience being a blog for her later, and she was keeping up with at least four conversations at once, all working on different aspects of her issue. The fact that she commented on it, (and later wrote about it on her blog) and that I was thinking about it is what got me thinking about metacognition and Twitter.

Some people like Plurk better for microblogging, saying they get lost in the randomness of Twitter. I do NOT like Plurk better, because it seems to be linear, and that makes it NOT as interesting to me. I LOVE seeing a comment on Twitter, not understanding it, and backtracking through the person who posted it (or the person they are talking with) to figure out the context. I often ask a question that gets me IN that conversation and I make new Twitterbuddies that way. I also find new folks to follow that way as well.

Twitter, for me, is WAY beyond a microblogging service. It is a way to connect and to find new thinkers to add to my world. It is also a puzzle, a way to entertain my overactive brain, and an avenue for fun as I explore new opportunities I learn from my Twitterverse. I laugh out loud at least once a day as I read, and I love that I have funny people in my online world. (I ESPECIALLY appreciate @injenuity for her stories as a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) and her quirky sense of humor.) I so appreciate all of you whom I follow for allowing me to observe your thinking and sharing. Thanks, too, to the folks who follow me. I hope I give you as much to think about as I get from your sharing and thinking in public.