Tweet to Learn

I appreciate the role Twitter plays in Teaching and Learning. This week I saw a student teacher connect with her sixth-grade students by asking them to compose a Tweet on what they learned during the class period, 40 words or less. After working to pare down a lengthy research journal article to 25 words or less, I appreciated this exercise in summarizing. You need to possess some sense of enduring understanding to summarize effectively. Twitter, when used well, encourages this skill. I will never forget the numerous times I’ve heard my advisor, Dr. Katie Dredger, say how she loves Twitter because it forces people in the field of English Language Arts to get to the point. When students in my Teaching Adolescent Readers class were given an assignment to read a young adult novel that could be paired with a classic and create a product that they would expect their students to create, one student used Twitterature. He created a rubric, as required by the course, and a model Twitterature that reflected his own product involving Hamlet that was composed using Glogster.

Couple these experiences with Flipboard and the quality educational news stories shared, information in general passed in regards to teaching and learning, and professional learning community camaraderie, and Twitter had me at first tweet. Well, almost. I joined in 2008 and warmed up this semester due to a course requirement.

Differentiation and person-to-person contact

I don’t use Facebook.  I am the only eligible member of my family not connected through this common SNS. Am I stubborn? Maybe. I just don’t want to put my time in that space right now.  With a family of three, if I have a spare moment, I like to read a book of choice… right now it is Anne Lammott’s Bird by Bird: Some Lessons on Writing and Life. Or, I enjoy the blogs of the student teachers with whom I work. Or, I play in my flower beds or play games with my three children. I like to sit on the couch and visit with my husband.When I see a computer I see work rather than social. Family time? I prefer to have it in person. This weekend drove that home for me as I watched my big brother entertain us at our cabin in the mountains of PA. His survivor game entertained cousins, aunts, grandparents, friends, foster children, and a boyfriend. Photo Mar 09, 10 24 29 AMThe ages spanned from ages 7 – 78…now that’s differentiation! The survivor game was fun. He paired up 8 of the crew, tape and zip lines tied to ropes that led around and over and between trees. Once the course was mastered, a sling shot was passed to get the prize out of the tree. The main point here: I see the value in person-to-person contact, and I believe in differentiation that can challenge and entertain all ages. Photo Mar 09, 10 33 50 AMWhile online interactions are great, I don’t think they will ever come close to in-person, live interactions. We gain energy from each other. In some ways I can relate to what Marissa Mayer has to say about working side-to-side. Photo Mar 09, 10 43 24 AMThen again, maybe I’m just slow to catch the wave. As with anything, maybe the key is striking the balance. I just don’t want to lose any of this live interaction, and I feel like the more I’m behind the screen, the more I will lose. The weekend without wifi was a treat. I saw people come alive, put the iPods and intelligent phones away, BE together. And on the way home, when we hit a McDonalds with wifi…they were “alone together” again.

Reciprosity in online communities

What do Amanda Palmer and President Obama have in common?

After my office mate suggested that I listen to Palmer’s TED talk that centered on “the art of asking,” I read this line in A Networked Self: “Obama signed up 2.4 million Facebook users as supporters, compared  with just 624,000 for McCain” (p. 190). This led me to explore the Pew Internet site for the 2012 election, and it is clear that more liberals use SNS sites than conservatives. This usage comes as no surprise to me, because the younger population tends to be more liberal, but I wonder how donations to candidates will shift over time. Pew noted that “While Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to make a presidential campaign contribution, Republicans are much more likely to contribute through offline channels, while Democratic donors are much more likely to make a contribution online or directly from their cell phone.” In our fast paced society, I would think that ease in contributing would make a profound impact on elections. Not only does Obama understand how his audience donates, he also responds to how they communicate. In 2008 he created his own SNS that encouraged participation and group formation. Obama shows that he can ask for support, but also provide a space for community building online.

Likewise, Palmer, who believes that the music industry needs to stop asking how to make users pay for the music and instead ask how to LET fans pay for music, showed reciprosity in action online. Her TED talk interested me enough that I explored how she asked her fans for help. Using Kickstarter 25,000 of her fans supported her by donating 1.2 million dollars, well over her goal of 100,000.

What do these two voices, the President of the United States and an artist/musician, have to do with education? Everything. Students today need to understand new literacies and how to leverage them for the good of their community and for their personal gain. Students need to have the space in school to learn and experiment with online communication. What goals do they have? How will their goals affect others? What is their role? What can they give? Where do they need to ask for help? How can they leverage new literacies to be effective collaborators? Who is their audience? What media is best suited to communicate their message to their audience?

What do Amanda Palmer and President Obama have in common? It seems they both understand the impact of reciprosity and community building in social network sites.

Shared folders and Google Drive

Google Drive is Google’s answer to dropbox, right? I set out to explore this question and learned of other competitors. Skydrive, Sugarsync, and box were new to me, but dropbox I have been using in my daily personal and professional life.

I want to talk about cloud storage as it pertains to teaching and learning in secondary and higher education. Sugarsync did not hold my interest long, because it does not have a collaborative editing tool, and that is important to me. Collaborative writing with Google docs has afforded me the opportunity to publish with fellow graduate students, make co-created rubrics with students, and lead teacher candidates to write collaboratively in response to young adult literature.

Many middle and high school English Language Arts teachers already use Google documents in class, but I have not seen the use of shared folders within a class. I see value in the ability for teachers to create a shared class folder and an individual shared folder between the teacher and the individual student. While dropbox could allow for the same options, Google documents are already in use, so it seems the easiest system for teachers and students to begin using in a shared digital space.

My question lies in how will I handle revisions once a paper has been submitted with a deadline. For example, if my third period has a paper due to be submitted in their Google Drive folder with a deadline of Tuesday by 8 p.m., then do I want to say that they cannot revise after this time? I don’t think so, but how can it be handled in a fair manner? If Aaron revises past the deadline and Jane doesn’t get a chance because I have already graded her paper, is that fair?

I think I would be upfront and tell the class that the due date matters, but they may revise after submission KNOWING that they take a risk of not knowing when I will grade the paper. It would also be important to be explicit about grading cycles. To be fair, I would tell them that I will rotate whose paper gets graded first and then each time I would begin grading with a different person. After all, if a student wants to continue work on a paper, who am I to say no? The pitfall? Sometimes deadlines are nice; the student can STOP. What do you think?