Why you can’t love more than 150 people at a time.

John Seeley Brown has been talking recently about a thing called a ‘process network’. He describes them as loosely coupled networks that can come together at a moments notice. Not loosely coupled at the transactional level, but in terms of long term relations – a relational architecture rather than a transactional architecture. They get activated in loosely couple systems, which he also says is a contradiction.

These transactional relationships often power business, between seller, existing customer and potential new customers. This he talks about as working in a captive mode. His view of relational, process networks are much more open, non-captive, have long term relationships and are loosely coupled. The result of process networks is that they have the ability to produce spectacular results, as the transactions are not captive, in that one network does not have transactional control or dominance over the other.

Harold Reinhold says institutions and businesses are used to ‘culturating’ staff, and suppliers. They train them in ‘how we do things here’ and they are not used to learning.  He says that  CEO’s and executives  don’t want to learn from lower-ranks and that organisations can’t keep up unless they start to pay attention and learn from people who enter their business,  The  only way to do this is to have a culture that promotes reverse mentoring, where staff, lower on the food chain teach senior ones about what it is they are doing all day.

When I thought about this, I wondered how big these things could be, and found a recent post about Dunbar’s number.  I thought I’d waste some time seeing if this made sense.

So I chose a random Tweep, with a big follow list and kept score.

Gratton Girl is following and being followed by about 50,000 people. I watched her output for a week using Yahoo Pipes, just to see if it supported Browns idea. I get really bored on trains, so used Storify to collect the data from Pipes,  catagorised  into themes using Google Docs;  either relational or transactional.

90% of what is Tweeted is transactional. Behind the Tweets is a writer, an actress and plenty of black and white photos of herself and people like her, which I assume represents her relational network. Of the hundreds of Tweets a week the vast majority are about the transaction.

Hat-Tip to Sarah Gratton, she’s playing the transactional network brilliantly and illustrates what Brown says – if you want to access Gratton-world, you have to do it via a transaction.

So I did the same for some suspected transactional educators too for a week. That was easier – less Tweets.

I watched @ replies from people to their Tweets. Shock, horror – only very rarely do they respond to unless it appears there was a further transactional value. For example, someone might Tweet ‘check out this teacher’s work” -(the teacher being in some captive program). A reply might be “wow, that’s looks fantastic”, which might get a reply “Yes, and that’s’ only one example!”. If a reply came back “Can you share how that came about”, then the intent appears an effort to be relational – and 9 times out of ten, ignored.

In fact, the level of ‘ignore’ was  proportional to their transactional output. So I watched some non-commercials – the inverse happens – but they are far more likely to hat-tip a commercial than the other way around, as they are relationship seeking.

Lots of leaders do this, and it’s really annoying. They almost never seek to learn from anyone else – and why would they, they are the leader after all and it’s more about them and their transactions.

So the PLN to me isn’t a total love-in, in fact quite the opposite. No wonder people who are not on Twitter seem unconvinced. In fact, pointing people to Twitter and saying ‘follow them’ might as well be sitting them in front of a computer to watch banner ads for an hour.

My conclusion was that I need to find something else to do on the train and that I’m pretty lucky to have a process-network that never tires in our mission.

TweetFighter3 – How to flash blind teachers

cc licensed ( BY NC ND ) flickr photo shared by Dean Groom @ large

A three part Easter bonanza post about how Twitter makes people flash-blind because no one speaks the same language, why Twitter might be useful for literary analysis and TweetFighter3 – another FREE game I’ve invented following on from Shelly’s awesome post this week “We don’t want more professional development” – which I know will make some people out there a bit nervous, not least Rebecca Black.

I wonder if one of the many side-effects of exposure to educational-technology discources is a kind of flash blindness.

We don’t always say it, but suggest a reflective practitioner is a more democratic and grounded facilitator-teacher, creating a classroom atmosphere of equality, reflection and shared wonder. Additionally, experts are presumed to know, and must claim to do so, regardless of my own uncertainty. The reason we hire teachers is because of their experise, not their reflective capacity, which is impossible to measure using the blunt tools called Resumés and interviews that we actually use to hire them (yet leaders say this is what they actually want)  (brain-missing isn’t it).

At times, it seems messages are flashed before us so randomly, we forget that all of it no matter how motivating, empathetic or entertaining are just messages. Any real change in an organization results from an operation theory. A concrete statement –  this is how we’re going to test that theory though action-orientated application.

In the worlds of Def LeppardAction not words.

Right now, we seem to stop short and languish in a tense state of diversity between what we actually mean and say. We seem to devise so many labels (teacher, mentor, leading-teacher, ed-tech, integrator, educational developer etc) that we are constantly blinking in response.

The cafe at the end of the universe is closed. Please go back.

The array of variable lexicons in the many and diverse discourses around educational technology that we are exposed to (and in turn do to others) is breath-taking. I wonder if we are at a point now where we’ve invented so many new words, theories and praxes that a good deal of any newcomers time is spent trying to make sense of it, even before trying to build the new-grail of the PLN.

For example: A simple Twitter lexicon (which some people would have you believe is the highway to connected-enlightenment) – It’s a flash-gun, maybe a chain-gun of information, lies, truths, ideas and a million other things.

Re-tweet: someone sends you a tweet that you like so you re-tweet it on your account for your “followers” to read

Twoosh: when you make a tweet of exactly 140 characters

Twitterhood/Twitterville: the group of people (followers and those you follow) who elect to see your tweets

Twitpic: one of many applications that enable you to take a picture on your mobile then zip it straight to all your followers via Twitter

Twitterfeeds: news feeds that go straight to your Twitter account

To be a reflective teacher doesn’t mean expert, no more than and expert can be assumed to be non-reflective or reflective. At the base level, teacher educators must begin with persons, places and things. “Learning as transformation” challenges our past learning assumptions and teaching experiences, forcing us to integrate and comprehend old experiences with our present reality. So why are we paying people to chain-gun teachers with bad professional development no one wants?

Because the alternative is … Twitter? Not if you’re an overseer it’s not.

Twitter seems to be a refuge for edupunks –  were everyone has a flash-gun and willing to use it.

It’s attraction to those (me) on it, is at least in part that it appears to have no preconceptions or preformed ideas of what ‘education’ is.

From this some people see emergent themes. While others see nothing, just a bright light.

Better teacher-education means better critical analysis of the world they live in.

What teachers want – from those offering professional development – is actually inductive clarity to make sense of social development. The speed at which information comes really stops reflection if we don’t have the time or cause to stop and wonder.

For example:

Do we ask students or teacher to try an unpack a “Tweet”? Should we? Does it matter which one, who from, when it was sent or from where?

Is this a viable literary analysis technique we should teach – even though it’s not directly called for in the syllabus?

  • What is the narrative strategy?
  • What is the narrator’ s tone?
  • The meaning of literature often rides on paying close attention to the voice or tone of a text.
  • Is the narrator reliable? Is s/he ironic?
  • Are there multiple narrators?
  • Doubles of the narrator?
  • Consider the effects of the narration devices themselves?
So here’s the reward for reading all the way down here.
TweetFighter 3 [credit me if you use this please]
  1. Take a large piece of paper and markers (all the same colour – black)
  2. Pull up a Twitter feed such as #edtech or other popular group-tag and instead of talking about social media for an hour, ask people to create a concept map.
  3. Draw out circles of the participants, try to categorize what the are saying by adding spurs to ideas.
  4. Keep building away for half an hour our so and you’ll end up with hundreds of bubbles and lines to ideas, key words and themes.
  5. Get more paper, just keep writing as tweets appear on the public timeline.
  6. Now spend another half an hour trying to collapse those into 20% of the size.
  7. Combine them, create subsets and pull out people, places and things.
  8. Finally choose the strongest catagory – the one with the most people, the most ideas and the most things … (maths needed).
Now apply the literacy analysis above.
Can your group now come up with a theory of what’s happening and how are they going test that theory though action-orientated application.
Is this process only going to work with Twitter – or would it work just as well for a teacher who’s never going to use Twitter? – How so?
Draw out the new map to explain it, take a photo of it and Tweet “We’ve been #massivelyproductive” and share the image.
That’s Massively Productive, but it isn’t professional development – it is what The Hordie wants – Social Development.

TweetFighter 2 – A better way to demo Twitter at conferences

The #tweetshout has become a familiar sight at conferences and workshops. Typically “#hashtag – tell these people why you use Twitter” type activity.

This is transmission – and kind of dull. It doesn’t really demonstrate much more than you and push button radio. It has some novelty factor, but almost immediately people don’t see themselves doing what you just did, especially as the speaker then moves on to talk about “building a PLN”, which seems like hard work and no immediate relevance.

I’ve got bored of it, so thought I’d invent a game 5 minute game mechanic that will make it more effective – yet take no more effort. Thus demonstrating games are useful.

The Tweet Fighter 2 Game.

  1. Find 5 people you already know on Twitter ahead of your talk. Let them know when you’re going to present and the #hashtag. (Let’s face it, they will respond anyway.)
  2. Next take your most provocative question. (If you don’t have one – don’t present).
  3. Get someone to create a brand new Twitter account from your audience. Have them come up to the stage and do it live while you talk about something else for a minute or two. (No one needs to be trained how to join Twitter, they can just observe it).
  4. Now get them to Tweet the important question “#hashtaganotherwebconference – Can you help? “[today’s burning question”]. Plz RT”
  5. Almost by magic, your stooge retweeters (yep, all games are rigged) will ReTweet the question (but not answer it).
  6. Then watch as their followers answer it pulling up a live feed as the replies start to kick in and continue making your point.
  7. Now you audience has seen it happen, they might know you stooged them, but never the less are impressed that smart-teachers offer immediate replies.

This not only gets more interesting responses, but immerses the audience in a game – there’s a chance you might lose, but that shows you are willing to take a risk for their benefit – which builds trust and confidence between you and them, rather than you and people you know already. Now you can work with what was said – and break free of that damn Power Point.

Level Up. This works – credit me if you use it, I’m interested.


3 key reasons Twitter is essential for teachers

Does using Twitter make teachers smarter?

Surely they would not use it so avidly if it made them stupid. I believe it does make them smart, firstly, because it creates smart-sets of passionate people volunteering to join extended networks with socially understood values. Second, its smarter to be in a set – as many eyes see more of the horizon. Thirdly, its life-smart to seek constant feedback and be supportive of others in your set – because it generates more collective knowledge.

Twitter has created is an irrepressible network of smart-teachers.

But being on Twitter isn’t generative unless you actively participate and manage it. So the effect Twitter had, was to create a set of very smart-teachers because in an age of unprecedented social change and technological power – Twitter became the vanguard, essential to learn about complex semantics.

Today it’s the IV-drip of professional development – and the best example of game based learning I can think of.

We often see infographics with mind-blowing statistics about the Internet. Its ignorant to think that smart-teachers on Twitter are not also using this mass-scale effect. Teachers on Twitter spend millions of hours a week collectively solving problems.

The required amount of self-directed learning teachers have to do in NSW (if they started after 2008) is 20 hours a year. Smart-teachers do that a week.

They are learning about subtlety, ambiguity and contradictions in real time, which isn’t something that can be said for those tittering rather than Twittering.

The question to ask is– what do we want? not why we do it. The latter is a stupid question.

10 Ways for leaders to use Twitter effectively

For most people using Twitter as a Personal Learning Network, it’s a whirlpool of conversation – a duel-band mechanism that’s disruptive, constructive, insightful and meaningless all at the same time. It’s fun and helps people deal with the flow of unconscious thought that otherwise would be silent – or go un-answered.

This is an important skill for for leaders, by which I mean those in official office.

I am not saying all leaders need to be on Twitter – it really depends on leadership style and ideology, but for those that do create Twitter accounts, should be pro-actively managing several streams of conversations, for the organisational benefit. This requires careful consideration as Twitter is ‘now’ technology offering a participatory culture if used well, and a boring monologue used badly. So here are 10 ways to do this.

What really useful ways can Leaders use Twitter?

Announcements seems to be a simple starting point, made all the better with a short explanation of why it matters, and who should pay attention. The effective Tweet works like this if you’re a leader.

1. Compose a purposeful Tweet.

  1. What is it about
  2. Why does it matter
  3. Who is it for
  4. Whats the reward

Then you are likely to see generative responses in all sorts of new ways. While not requiring 100% @replies, leaders should at least consider what was said and acknowledge a range of people in a reasonable time to their responders. Simply dumping a link, making a comment and not following up is what many on Twitter see as being wrong with leadership communication and perhaps demonstrates very effectively how little they know about their workforce. This is problematic with meta-leaders too, ignoring new voices is ignoring new ideas. Personally, I try to follow people back who ‘ping’ me, which helps me manage relationships better than simply following-back people who say nothing to me.

2. Consider your audience

“[link] this is awesome” doesn’t give any context – so likely to be subject to as much negative reaction as positive. We’ve all seen Tweets like this – “wow, check this video”. Sadly it linked to Shift Happens 1, to some it’s news but to others – where have you been! is that how you see me!

A more considered Tweet might be “[link], this still has relevance” and link to Shift Happens 1. That would allow those who have seen it to offer a more positive response and allow newer people to discover the first of several iterations.

3. Provide a context

“[link] Interesting for ESL, has new ideas in it we could use” – (everyone)

“[link] Interesting for ESL, has new ideas in it we could use #mysystem” (your system)

4. Explain the depth of the issue or problem

Twitter is a platform, not a solution – so sending people to your own reflections is now considered to be a sign of strong leadership. It’s important therefore to consider the duration, depth and extent of the likely responses. Twitter + Blog = Data that can be analysed and conclusions drawn. It might not be optimal, but for now it is a very effective way of reaching staff who are connected to the metaverse and are at one level or another responding to the several shifts in information, connections, knowledge and preferences.

5. Extend the dialogue

“[link], I’ve blogged my reflections on this issue” is an invitation to a slow blog conversation

“[link] could we use this #mysystem” is an invite to a rapid Twitter conversation.

6. Build your reputation by feeding your audience

If you find, as a leader that you have the fortune to have a thousand followers, you actually have a 1000 potential hungry minds wondering if you’re interested in them. Twitter is always more about the reader than the writer, so be mindful of what you feed them. Aspirational messages are boring, people only respond to things they see as relevant AND achievable.

7. Encourage social inclusion and diversity

Actively consider who you follow to ensure at least gender diversity and a spread of interests. This says something to your followers, it makes you dynamic, not single dimensional.

8. Help others build their PLN

Use Twitter lists, so staff can see who you follow in a structured way – #primaryteachers #librarians #mentors #inspirations etc., It helps everyone make more sense of how you see the world and how they might relate or fit into that vision. A lack of vision, lack of empathy, lack of consideration sends an equally powerful message.

9. Model Risk Taking

To encourage teachers to take risks in their classroom, demonstrate captaincy. Leaders need to help people build authentic learning networks – well beyond the local workplace. Model how to do this. Show an interest in their Twitter views – and their blogs. Timely and genuine responses from leaders have a major impact – we want you to lead us. If you don’t, avoid complaining when meta-leaders disrupt the serenity.

Leadership is earned on Twitter, through hard work and a willingness to help at a moments notice. If you’re too busy to do this – don’t assume your position of authority affords this absolutely. The Internet doesn’t care about you per se.

10. Find another platform for open dialogue

There’s nothing really wrong with not Tweeting or not Blogging if you’re an effective communicator with those under command – and already effecting these shifts in school culture, curriculum and techno-pedagogic strategy without it. Most of all, don’t hide in your private yammer-land. That network has a very different set of variables. Its useful, but in different ways. It’s not a church. Take a walk on the wild side every once in a while – see what else is going on.

Opinions that lead to change are rarely agreed (initially)

Don’t attempt to police Twitter, by hammering people if their views are other than your own with policy. You might be surprised to learn lots of people on Twitter initially met because of fierce disagreement, have now become close allies and friends. Grown ups can do that. A role for leadership is to notice both sides of the debate and help them not simply to resolve it, but find the common ground that both can use to do something useful. This might not be a visible Twitter conversation, but needs to happen. If not you might just be missing out on the best opportunity that came your way all year.

Can anyone point to leaders doing this really well? I’d like to follow them.

Twitter is just another bloody MMORPG

*update – A video I’ve made that is going out as part of Massively Productive Education keynote. Relates to the stuff below.

Gaming has an enviable problem. It provides too much flow and satisfaction missing in real life. Their predictive sense of achievement wired into instant feedback loops is an almost certain guarantee of engagement and it’s spilling over into Twitter.

While education seeks to use technology to engage students in meaningful online work, games such as World of Warcraft actually attempt to deter people by rewarding players for not killing monsters and having rest time – not working.

Players use this time to stock up on potions, get food, repair their weapons, visit the bank and of course buy and sell items won in the auction house. They don’t even need to be logged in to do this – there’s an iphone app for that too. This doesn’t mean they spend less time tuned into the game environment (which extends well outside of Azeroth), but varies the kind of ‘work’ that they do and helps promote discussion and development of game-resources in the numerous wikis and forums so vital to documenting how to play better.

Is this what you do with your rest time? For many teachers, rest-time is used to explore technology – and without it, little innovation would take place in the classroom quite frankly.

Chris Betcher recently blogged about this, how when he went to a teacher-meeting, he already ‘knew’ most of the people who attended, not least though the OZ/NZ Teachers network started by Simon and Sue a few years ago – one of the oldest and long running teacher networks.

Over time, I’ve come to see the thinning of the walls between rest-time and work-time – but a thickening of connection as Chris discusses.

Twitter isn’t just about building your Personal Learning Network (PLN) it’s rest-time turned into fun work. The kind of work being done, is not that different from what Warcraft players are doing. The big difference is that Warcraft players do it  from the age of 5 – so imagine how good they are at it by the age of 12.

I see Twitter as a game of sorts. Searching for #edchat or whatever #conference is on today is questing. Choosing to Tweet is not that different from choosing to chase down honour points in Warsong Gulch. Sharing resources and bookmarking what you find is a version of the ‘need’ or ‘greed’ mechanic Warcraft uses to get players to make critical choices.

Twitter demands making meaning from intangible collections of digital artifacts that someway allows others to better understand personal identity and abilities. Warcraft has a much more defined set of variables, common to sets of players (faction, race, class, talents, gear, professions, reputation, experience) – but unlike Twitter, it allows other players to make very accurate assessment of themselves in relation to others. So while I love Twitter – it is really hard to know the people you are dealing with – as there is no Warcraft like attributable profiling.

Those with little concern about their practice see technology generally as related to work (place) and social media as fairly pointless. By not participating – they are finding an exploit. At the macro level – systems ban it or seek to devalue it in an effort break the connectedness, that Chris was talking about.

The best PD, the best experience, the best of people – come from inside these networks, not external to them. Sure there are online spats and disagreements but the social-rules correct undesirable behaviors and generally all players are seeking the same goal. The social rules are determined by sets – not by the technology, and change between the infinite intersections people make in who they interact with.

The world is forever changed around education. No matter how turbulent the surface of educational debate and activity is online (systems talk it up too) – deep below on the ocean floor, non-participation allows life to carry on unchanged. All games are essentially about overcoming avoidable obstacles. And let’s face it, teachers don’t need to be on Twitter.

Twitter is Tetris in that it presents an unattainable victory. The problem Tweeple playing are trying to solve is to improve education (the reward). Twitter gives digital rewards for playing such as greater declarative knowledge, new schemas and digital objects that make you a better player – as long as you are in the network. You can’t leave, you have to come back to play, so any argument leveled at Warcraft, is also true of Twitter.

It is haughty to look down on games such as Warcraft or non-game worlds such as Second Life, and not to understand their rich history. From Multi-User (text) Dungeons to the beauty of Warcraft and Rift, game-designers have mastered that which education hasn’t.

What Twitter does > What Twitter is

“I have no idea why you’d use Twitter” he said to me, as I tried so very hard not to openly yawn at the prospect of the conversation continuing.

Okay, okay, you don’t get it. But in the grand scheme of things, it is fairly unremarkable that I’m hearing this.

Many ‘on’ Twitter may have noticed the #edchat tag appearing in global (not parochial) tagged conversations and wondered what it’s about?

It’s about this – an online daily newspaper using a neat little application, that is to Twitter what Feedly is to RSS – called Paper.li.

Now here’s what I suggest. Don’t mention Twitter to the folded arm types. Just show them this as a useful resource where they can pick up on technologies and solutions that teacher educators around the world think at valuable. Then put down the microphone and step back. There are many obvious uses beyond #edchat, and I leave you to dream them up. It is well worth checking out – and please God, perhaps we can use it to illustrate the diverse connections and content being shared.

This is a much more ‘real’ example of what Twitter does – rather than what Twitter ‘is‘ – the latter being impossible to explain – and way more meaningful that the PLW, PLN stuff … 🙂

Faveoo – The semantic web and Twitter

Faveeo.com is a very interesting and innovative exploration of the semantic web. The video is by the creator, so you are getting it first hand.

According to wikipedia,

Humans are capable of using the Web to carry out tasks such as finding the Irish word for “directory”, reserving a library book, and searching for a low price for a DVD. However, one computer cannot accomplish all of these tasks without human direction, because web pages are designed to be read by people, not machines. The semantic web is a vision of information that is understandable by computers, so computers can perform more of the tedious work involved in finding, combining, and acting upon information on the web.

The service is currently in beta, you can register your interest by submitting your email on their website. It is well worth looking at the implications for this in a world where singularity is rare and our ability to ‘find’ information with the available time we have diminishes hourly. I am hoping Judy O’Connell will be able to give attendees at the MQLTC2010 conference her insight into where information is heading. I admit, I’ve been hearing the term, but spend almost no time looking into it. I’m going to rectify that after watching this video. Thanks Judy for the heads up on this video.

Peer Assisted Learning and SackBoy

I have strayed from the path – and this post I returns to the games and – professional development of teachers. Yey!

In this post I want to look at why teaching Twitter is problematic. I also want to talk a little about why using games in learning grabs the attention of learners (adults included). Hopefully, you might be able to use some of the thinking in your own PD sessions.

Peer Assisted Learning

Much is written about the value of Twitter as a personal learning network — aka PLN.

For those presenting in workshops, one of the hardest concepts to explain is how a mass public access social network fits into education.

Many previous encounters of the digital kind have been designed for educational environments. Attendees have never needed to adapt any commercial offering to an edu-instance before. It has been provided at the institutional level – WebCT, MyClasses, Blackboard, Moodle and the all powerful Portal. Your audience is not motivated, but questioning – as you churn through your slide-deck of choice.

Your audience will be confused by notions of ‘networked learning’ – where learning happens formally between participants, inside a walled-garden, and have been told to value privacy and security.  As their conflicted minds and folded arms try to reconcile the impact (to them) of adopting and adapting your ad-hock, public communication — they are in fact deciding critically whether you are are a genius or a lunatic – challenging their belief.

It is advantageous to align Twitter academic ideas around peer assisted learning (PALS) which is widely accepted as a sound learning strategy. PALS develops a trust network … and your audience has absolutely no need for what you are offering them, unless you have created that value proposition for them.

Ideas need selling, not just explaining.

Twitter is an example of a peer assisted learning platform, that connects people with similar interests and goals. It offers ad-hoc communication entirely at the users discretion.  Participation requires us to send and receive information presented by trusted peers. Success requires on-going and meaningful discussions with global peers on key issues in practice”.

If you ping the Twitterverse live – it looks impressive, but so would pulling IWB out your ear. It says that you have a magical power they don’t.  You can bling up your powerpoints all you like – but don’t miss the under pinning reagent needed to get the change in behaviour you are after.

Why kids use PALs to play games.

Think about games and MMOs – they run on peer assisted learning. PALS is at the heart of the motivation that game designers understand so well. The initial stages of play are semi-autonomous with the game provides guided instruction. Very quickly, players gain the basics and start to work together to solve their first problem – with little ‘in game help’ … very soon, they rely on each other to help them overcome new challenges – that are un-predicted. (Isnt’ that how we use Twitter? – Part learn, part belonging and part fun)

Pre-school, primary and secondary learners have a constant exposure to PALS with technology.

Watch 4 and 5 year olds with their NintendoDS, they immediately look to co-opt. It’s a human instinct to find collaboration and belonging. Strength in numbers or a friend in need. Ever wondered why a 4 year old is happy to watch an 8 year old play a Wii for 3 hours – they are learning and supporting the player — their turn will come. Mobile phones provide the same function – but at a more sophisticated level. This is why 4th graders can reach Level 80 in Warcraft, or nail a new console game in a weekend – peer assisted learning is central to today’s digital-learner.

Using Sackboy to explain PALS

If you want adults to ‘get’ PALs, let them level for an hour using Sony’s Little Big Planet. Teachers don’t engage in collaborative learning with technology – so it is no shock they don’t do it in class. If you play a game that required them to use PALS then you they are actively re-thinking their belief. Little Big Planet is great for this on PS3, but you can do it with Nintendo DS and a cheap quiz game too. Let them figure out what to do, how it works, how to hook 4 players into session … after 20 minutes they will be able to reflect on it – even more so if you record them playing and highlight teachable moments.

Once they accept that PALs is a viable teaching strategy – then you have a meta-cognitive basis upon which you can now start to explain Ning, Elgg, Twitter – or anything else.

Thanks SackBoy.

Forget the tool, grab the data!

Thanks to @Kerryank for this image!

While there is a galaxy of cool tools, the real issue for many students lies in critical thinking — dealing with too much information. If you think of a brick wall – to computer types, this is what information looks like. The bricks themselves are elements of data. They can be use to create WALLS or PATHWAYS, be built in many ways with many patterns and even accommodate bricks or other object that don’t fit the pattern. We like pathways.

Teachers are not in the business of making bricks, so much as building walls or laying pathways with bricks. Digital illiterates rely on having their bricks delivered (or demanding a brick-layer do it for them), but you and I don’t. We don’t have to rely on books, manuals and provided content anymore — I have you and you have everyone.

I see students given information or making information with ICT — unit outlines, reading lists, powerpoints etc. It is very rare to see teachers use these tools to create data-sets that students can use authentically. Give them the data, then build activities around it. Tools looking for a purpose (“Wow, I really wanna use FabboPics next week!”) is bad, bad, bad.

This weekend I posted a simple message to Twitter (the social network). I wrote I wonder how far a Tweet can go? – using a data-reference point #howfarcanatweetgo and asked people to RT (re-tweet) to their networks. My networks is modest at about a thousand or so — and many of them are marketing-bots. Over the 2 days, the Tweet left my network and bounced around the planet, being repeated X times. It followed Y patterns and was re-tweeted with changes to the worldinng Z times.

What I have created is a dataset – that can be used – using multiple tools. The data is not school or person dependent; this is an increasing factor in employment as a teacher – much of the 21st Century IP can hardly be claimed by your employer.  If you are not doing this stuff AFTER school, outside the school filter – – then you are lagging education — but thats old news.

Having made this data, how could you use it to teach? – I know what I wanted to do – but shared data is shared experience these days.

What if several teachers create a lesson-wiki around the data-set. How can the first idea be made better?

By us thinking with the end in mind (a core value of project based learning), we can provide students with authentic data — we just have to ask interesting questions they can Google. In this case — purely looking at the data, and Google-Mapping it opens the door to many hours of critial thinking. If you have your own ideas – share! – Maybe the tweet will turn into a curricula.

This to me is where education has to be – – in the open, sharing data and ideas. Love to hear yours.