Twitter chats and rigour

I really enjoy twitter chats. I love the way during #edchatNZ that so many passionate educators from around Aotearoa come together to share, discuss, question and learn together. Last night I did something I don’t normally do during the chat. I lurked, or rather, to use a preferred term – I engaged by ‘listening’ (Wise, Speer, Marabout and Hsiao, 2012).

Was I really engaged? I must have been, because here I am, days later thinking about a part of it, and I’ve been mulling over it since I first read the tweets.

Before I go on I have to say that this post is not against twitter chats at all, or even the specific chat that I reference (or those who organised the questions). As I said before, I really enjoy them. I was involved in the first EdchatNZ and love how much it’s grown! These are just my ponderings.

The first question of the edchat was this:

What does personalised learning mean to you?

A good question. The edchat was focused on personalised learning, so it made sense to ask this question.
Below are some of the responses:

  • Knowing your learners and what they are passionate about – @nzleeangela
  • Personalised is sitting with a student developing a learning plan cooperatively over time. A journey, not a set of goals. – @bazzaphotos
  • everyone knows their own next step, no matter what ‘step’ they just took – @bridgetcasse
  • P learning means making it relevant to Ss. Everyone might have different interests so giving ss ops to do things their way – @marywomble
  • fits the learners individual needs in a student-friendly way – @laniewilton
  • learning which is in a student’s ZPD… not too hard / not too easy.. – @kerriattamatea
  • Learning that is accessible for all and for the individual, enabling opportunities at different paces and abilities.. and stds having choice and control over their learning with firm guidance – @robeanne
  • each Ss has study tailored to their learning – @doctor_harves

Now, I have no problem with any of these responses. They are what personalised learning means to each of these people. They are crowd-sourced responses.

But… are they right? Are some more correct than others? Do some people have a misunderstanding about what personalised learning is but they don’t realise it?

Does it matter?

Perhaps it doesn’t. Perhaps the only important part is that we’ve got a whole lot of teachers getting together and sharing.

But what if it does matter?

Having worked with someone who used the term personalised learning as meaning (loosely) each student doing their own programme of learning completely separate from other students (which, while not an expert, I would define as individualised rather than personalised), it is clear to me that understanding the terminology we are using is critical to ensure we are all on the same page.

How can you also carry on a rigourous conversation when everyone has a slightly different understanding of what the topic of conversation is or means? Do we need to define the topic during or even before the chat? Where is the evidence or the references – are they important in this environment? I would say that they should be.

What do you think? Does it matter? Perhaps I’ve let my mind blow this out of proportion a little… Some of you might realise I have a thing about edu-babble/educational terminology (see Defining education and Pedagogy – what is this thing?). Anyway – I’m interested to hear your opinion so please leave a comment on my blog if you have any thoughts on the matter.

And while this post wasn’t supposed to be about personalised learning. If you want some more information about what it is, check out:


Wise, A. F., Speer, J., Marbouti, F., & Hsiao, Y. T. (2012). Broadening the notion of participation in online discussions: examining patterns in learners’ online listening behaviors. Instructional Science, 1-21.

Image source: CC-BY 2.0

Collaboration through twitter?

Last Thursday’s #edchatNZ has had me thinking a bit. The focus was on Collaboration. This in itself is a great topic and I’m really keen to see much more collaboration amongst teachers. However, there seemed to be a lot of people saying that the Edchat and Twitter were some of the best collaboration they had.

This really bothered me.

I did a quick search and tweeted this:

The problem I was having was that I could see that twitter and twitter chats are great for connection, for discussion and networking, but I couldn’t see much collaboration going on.

Twitter might start the discussion that lead to collaborative opportunities but I question how much collaborative work is being done “to produce something”.

Now, I’m not saying that collaboration cannot occur through twitter, I just wonder if true collaboration is occuring. How often is discussion/collaboration through twitter happening that results in an end product?

I want to see much more collaboration occuring amongst teachers. Particularly collaboration amongst colleagues within their own schools. I think that often this doesn’t happen to the extent that it should. I love hearing stories of where it is happening and hope that it’s spreading.

I also love hearing stories of the connectedness that is occuring thanks to Twitter, the VLN and other online (and offline) sites. It’s really exciting. I often wonder though about the ratio to those educators who are truly connected to those that are not yet connected (particularly online). Those that read great blog posts and get involved in the twitter chats that get them reflecting and improving on their own practice is probably minimal. Are the people that read these posts the ones that need to hear the messages? It’s a bit like preaching to the converted sometimes.

On the other hand, it’s good to keep sharing as if even one person takes something from a comment on twitter or a blog post that they can reflect on or take away to improve their practice then that is a great benefit not only to that teacher but to all the students that they teach.

I’ve got a bit off topic here, so maybe there’s another blog post to come at some point. Oh well. I’ll keep writing and hopefully some of what I say sometimes will resonate with someone!

Thanks for reading!


Surviving #edchatNZ discussions

I thought I’d write a quick post on how I survive #edchatNZ discussions.

When #edchatNZ first kicked off a couple of years ago, it was relatively easy to keep up. Now, the twitter stream moves so quickly that there’s no way that I can read every tweet that comes through (I usually try to begin with, but have had to give up).

So this is what I do to manage these fast-paced evenings.

Firstly, I start with the Twitter client, Tweetdeck. I’ve been in love with Tweetdeck probably since about 2009 when I started using Twitter and well before Twitter bought it (I think it had slightly better functionality before they bought it too, but it’s still good). There are other twitter clients like Tweetdeck but this is my favourite so I’ll ignore the others. 😉

Tweetdeck streams tweets in. No need to refresh or “load more tweets” etc. It’s constant.

Tweetdeck also gives you the opportunity to have multiple columns open with your standard Twitter stream, your notifications, messages and whatever search/hashtag you want to follow (and more). I’ve always got #edchatNZ and #edblogNZ open (and several others) but on our discussion nights I also open open #edchatNZquestion.

#edchatNZ tweetdeck columns
#edchatNZ tweetdeck columns

I also ensure that I have #edchatNZ, #edchatNZquestion and my Notifications column right next to each other. This way I can always see what the question is but I can also see what people are saying specifically to me. I often get distracted by the side-conversations that go on during a twitter chat, but I think that’s half the fun and where a great amount of learning and reflection occurs.

The other thing I do is know a few quick-keys. In Tweetdeck, pressing ‘n’ will start a new tweet. So I just press ‘n’ and start typing. Ctrl-Enter on PC or Cmd-Enter on Mac will post the tweet.

I’ve been using a Mac for a few months now and found (paid for) an app called text expander that allows you to create snippets where you type a code and it changes that code to whatever word/sentence/paragraph etc you want. I’ve found this fantastic for hashtags where I just have to type, for example, “;ec” and it will translate this to “#edchatNZ”. It’s great when you’re doing something with multiple hashtags like we had last night when we also joined with #aussieED.

I’m not aware of a similar program or app for PC, but there probably is something around!

My last tip is this. Don’t use a mobile device for a twitter chat. I’ve found they just don’t respond fast enough. Plus, although I can type quickly on a phone/tablet, I’m MUCH faster on a full-size keyboard… but that’s just me!

Happy chatting!