edTech10 Conference in San Marcos Today: Twitter Fight!


Regrettably, I missed the email from colleague Diana Benner announcing a San Marcos Conference on Becoming 21st Century Change Agents. I have no doubt I would have benefited from attending, not being a change agent myself! (wink)

Although not all the sessions have links to workshop materials, the following do and were ones I would have loved to have attended:

That said, the first presentation above is of particular interest given a recent conversation occurring on the EdTech listserv. One of the posters--Alan Haskvitz--on that list made this point:


Here is an article I wrote a while back on using Twitter in the classroom. It may have value to those interested in integrating technology into various subject areas: http://www.reacheverychild.com/feature/twitter-in-the-classroom.html


What I found most curious was the vehement response the concept of using twitter in the classroom drew from some folks, such as Randy Edwards (Email to EdTechListServ at 5:03 AM, April 23, 2010) cited below:

I have a different attitude about Twitter -- and also many of the corporate Internet fads that are pushed as "new technology" and mindlessly chased.  I have to envy the teacher that has the time to waste teaching and using Twitter.
In a nutshell, I think Twitter has *no* use in schools. But let me explain.
The first thing I wonder when approaching any web site is: "What is their business model?" In other words, I want to know who is paying for the site, what their motives are, and how are they paying for the thing.
The business model of many so-called Web2.0 sites is to con you into giving up personal, private information, and then to collect that information and sell the information you gave up. Since Twitter is making at least some of your information public, are they then turning around and having a subsidiary aggregate that info and sell it? We don't know, but there's nothing stopping them.
Are Twitter's Privacy Policy and Terms of Service suitable for school use and suitable for use by minors that schools are entrusted to protect?
Twitter's Privacy Policy states, "Our Services are not directed to people under 13.... We do not *knowingly* [emphasis added] collect personal information from children under 13." Given the nature of Twitter, doesn't that make Twitter inappropriate for any student under 13? Or are we to pretend that 10 or 12 year olds will never say anything personal while using these types of sites?
Twitter's Terms of Service bluntly state, "You may use the Services only if you can form a binding contract with Twitter and are not a person barred from receiving services under the laws of the United States or other applicable jurisdiction." Are students under 18 capable of entering into a binding contract with Twitter? If not, according to Twitter itself those students should not be using the service.
Alan's article itself makes, IMHO, huge leaps and stretches of logic to paint Twitter as useful in schools. Suggestions such as:
"# First, provide a quick review of what was and will be covered in class that day or the next."
Since Twitter is limited to 140 characters, it'd have to be a *very* quick review or you'll have to do multiple tweets.
"# Thirdly, privately seek questions from students who don’t have the moxy to ask in class."
Twitter and privacy don't mix. Why on earth would school teachers suggest that studends have "private" conversations via a public web site? Shouldn't we be teaching students to be skeptical about Internet privacy and to be cautious online?
Given the restrictions and basic nature of Twitter, along with the fact that it is not private and not controlled by the school, I have to disagree with Alan. I don't think Twitter is appropriate for school use.
I view it as a toy, a frivolous waste of time for adults. Twitter is one of the latest flash-in-the-pan Internet fads that we'll be happy has evaporated in a year or two. Like many fads and gimmicks, it doesn't have a place in school.

It's a fascinating perspective, isn't it? Almost refreshing in its hostility and perspective on the use of Twitter in schools. In reading it, I get the following points:


  • Twitter and privacy don't mix. Hard to disagree with this one, right?
  • Twitter's business model and that it may be no more than a "flash-in-the-pan Internet" fad. Again, I don't disagree. Right now, we're seeing Ning.com disappear as a free tool for educators, and there many such that have had to switch to pay services. It's clear that schools, educators are misappropriating adult digital tools for use with K-12 students...by now, it's obvious that one reason for that is that school districts are too inflexible, bound by fear and status quo to provide these types of services in-house. The response from a school district might be, "Implement Sharepoint" or try to get private cloud services, both of which are difficult to implement and/or maintain over the long haul.
  • Students under 18 may not enter into binding contract agreements. This is a question that is worth exploring in more detail. Aren't schools, when entering students into these types of contracts (say, for email) acting "in loco parentis?" Certainly, any school who encourages twitter use for students without involving parents and educating the Community about what it is doing has crossed the line.
Though not in response to Randy's points--which have some merit--it is interesting to juxtapose the points made at the edTech10 Conference in San Marcos about Twitter not being just a social networking site anymore.

The session facilitators--in their Powerpoint available as a download from the web site linked above--share how 11 ways in which Twitter can be used in the classroom:

  1.  Project brainstorming
  2. Sharing online resources (internet sites)
  3. Connecting to others around the world
  4. Publishing or sharing links to published work.
  5. Publicity for important events, blog posts, websites, podcasts, videos, live meetings/discussions, etc.
  6. Twitter can serve as a resource to get help.
  7. Twitter can serve as your support group when struggling with a difficult task.
  8. Twitter provides a way to virtually attend conferences, workshops, conventions, etc. (via #hash tags).
  9. Back channel during lecture (using event specific hash tags ie. #yourexample) -- students can go back to Twitter to review, reflect, study key points shared
  10. Back channel during videos/slideshows
  11. Back channel during student presentations

They--Kerissa Bearce and Troy Gonzalez--also provide other ways in which Twitter might be helpful:
  • Have students provide clues to help solve a mystery name or define a vocabulary term.
  • Have students provide step-by-steps to solve a math problem or providing instructions to travel from point A to point B.
  • Students could develop tweets as if they were a famous historical figure or a literary character.
  • Twitter could be used as the most basic of classroom websites where they post announcements.
  • Have parents sign up to receive tweets from teachers. The tweets can be about a week's activities: test/projects/units of study, etc. 
Whether you agree with the philosophy of using Twitter in the classroom--essentially, let's adapt these tools students may have access to as they get older, in one form or another--or not, it's clear that preservice and inservice teachers are increasingly desirous of using these types of tools they are familiar with.

Given the lack of Twitter use among teens, is this one of those situations symbolized by the line from the poem that Claudia Ceraso highlights from a poem Silvia Tolisano that I shared via Twitter this morning?
"They wanted to teach him what they knew, rather than drawing out what he needed to learn" 
Read the entire poem, The Student's Prayer
It's hard to imagine that anyone would criticize that desire...after all, the desire to share what we know is almost overwhelming in classroom teachers, as is the process whereby we learned what we know. However, restricting student learning to what we know is a bit more...sinful. It presumes we hold within ourselves the sum of all that should be known and have godlike powers to stop others from learning. It is always a matter of choice.

For extra reading, check out Twitter-Twerrible or Twerrific

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