On Monday night I managed to carve out an hour in my life to attend the second #bced Twitter conversation on personalised learning. For a really good summary of the main points covered I highly recommend reading @darcymullin’s blog post Personalised Learning … my 2 cents.
I have tried to follow a few of these conversations in the past and usually come away with my brain whirling and a vague sense that something happened but I wasn’t really a part of it. Monday night felt different. For one thing I took a few minutes before the chat started to jot down a few of my thoughts in a google doc so that I didn’t have to struggle to compose them on the spot. I also set up the #bced column of my Hootesuite client next to the mentions column and spent as much time monitoring messages sent directly to me as monitoring the general chat.
As a result I was less overwhelmed by the constant stream of seemingly unconnected information and more engaged in a few of the conversations going on. This is a very interesting feature of these Twitter chats: everyone is contributing to one stream of information but having their own personal conversations at the same time. As I was reviewing the chat log for the conversation I was amazed to see some topics and conversations that I had been completely unaware of.
As the chat progressed I also noticed that every once in a while someone would write a tweet that (to me anyway) really got to the heart of what some of the conversations were about. These were gold as they were the nuggets I could favourite or re-tweet and in so doing improve the odds of going back and re-visiting that idea at some point in the future, and hopefully turn the idea into more concrete action.
It really amazes me how some people are able to craft these140 character thoughts that communicate a big idea using few words. Twitter often gets a bad reputation as being full of fluff because 140 characters is not enough space to say something meaningful. In my experience the opposite is true, when I know I only have 140 characters to communicate an idea I focus on trying to get to the essence of the idea. I think this kind of summary writing is actually a form of higher order thinking and I am always in awe of the tweeps that seem to do this with ease.
I thought I would share a few of my favourite ‘nuggets’ from Monday night’s chat:
One of the conversations focused on finding the balance between giving students choice and also meeting the demands of our respective curriculums. Choice is necessary for students to feel empowered but we can’t assume that they will always make the best choices (this blog post by @sbelezney explores this idea very convincingly) and we can’t ignore the curriculum. I thought the tweets below summed up the tension between these two demands and the way we could be balancing them in our classrooms really well.
There was also a lot of chat about the incompatibility between grading and students taking control of their own learning. It makes no sense to grade a student using extrinsic measures if the goal is to help them be intrinsically motivated. I liked the tweet below because it’s about action: all teachers can change the way they grade and give feedback in their classrooms, even within the confines of the grading systems imposed on all of us.
My final takeaway from the conversation was that context is really important and that there is no one right way to move a classroom towards being more student centered. Much depends on the grade you teach, the subject you teach, the students you teach (maybe not as much) and the kind of teacher you are. I made a few general statements about how much difficulty students have learning from videos (based on my unstated context of teaching Math 7) and immediately heard from @okmbio about how great the flipped classroom model (based on watching videos at home) was.
After a few tweets back and forth I asked her what grade she taught and it turns out her context was AP Biology and I can see how older students and a more content oriented curriculum would be a good fit for the flipped classroom model. I also made a mental note to myself to always check on context as without it we will always be talking in general terms and have difficulty turning our talk into action.