Value of Twitter as Professional Development for Educators

During my sabbatical, I’m hoping to dive into research around the value of social networking tools like Twitter in the professional development of educators (including administrators). Today, I began with a some reconnaissance around the topic.

At this point, I’m still developing developing questions that need to be answered. Please take a look at the conversation captured in this Storify, and I’d love if you could either add to this discussion or provide advice as to what questions on this topic are worth exploring. I’d love to hear from you in the comments. Thanks!


Using Twitter Well (With Tweetdeck)

Jesse Newhart has put together a good, 8 minute overview of how he effectively follows a high number (15,000+) of people on Twitter using Tweetdeck. I use many of the same strategies for following a lesser number on Twitter (2000+), and if you do follow a significant number of people, these ‘tricks’ are useful if not essential.

And while I am writing this, I just noticed that Brian Crosby has asked “why would you want to follow 15,000 people?”. I think the video may itself help to answer this important question as Newhart does explain each strategy in context (e.g., looking for links, helping to answer people’s questions, noticing popular trends among followers). While I do not follow that many, I know that I do benefit from following more people than I can regularly engage.

Call for Papers: Technology & Social Media in education

I will be the guest editor of an upcoming issue of in education journal. Please consider submitting an article or feel free to pass on this call to others.

Editorial Call for issue 15/2 of in education (formerly know as Policy and Practice in Education)

In late 2007 the editorial board of Policy & Practice in Education made the decision to move the journal into a digital format. The rationale being,

in publishing research the intent is to reach as wide an audience as possible, publication costs have become insupportable, and competition is growing. We considered using the management and distribution services of a commercial publishing house, … however the notion of making knowledge more easily and broadly accessible suggested we look at open access publishing (Lewis & McNinch, 2007, p. 5)

To that end, from our current pdf print-based format, we are continuing to evolve the journal and with this forthcoming issue we will move more broadly into and across the digital landscape. However, that does not mean we will disregard the previous work of the journal from the past 15 years, but rather build upon and transcend those discussions, ideas and iterations. As we stated in our initial move to the digital format, the journal will continue to address issues, research and practice in the education of teachers, however we intend to augment the latitude and significance of the notion of education. As a result, we are inviting articles and reviews of works that not only explore ideas in teacher education, but also a broader and more inclusive discussion in education. We envision a discussion that also utilizes the ubiquitous growth of the digital arts and sciences in the everyday practice of living and how that (in)forms both formal and informal education.

With this forthcoming issue we are fortunate to have Dr. Alec Couros as guest editor and background coordinator. Dr. Couros will be launching this latest iteration of the journal as we continue and grow the conversation in education. Watch for the journal’s digital space to be launched in November of 2009.

Special Issue: Technology & Social Media – in education
To mark this important transition of the journal, a special issue will focus on technology & social media in education. Submitted articles should focus upon current theories, practice, or emerging trends and understandings within the context of teaching & learning, learning environments, or informal learning.

Some suggested topics are listed below:

    - Social and participatory media (e.g., blogs, wikis, microblogging, video sharing) in teaching & learning.
    - Mobile technologies, txting, or microblogging in learning, or implications for social justice & politics.
    - Practical or philosophical discussions on open content or open educational resources.
    - Implications & trends regarding open publishing & academia.

    - Online communities as formal and/or informal learning environments.

    - Openness and/or networks in teaching & learning.

    - Case studies of successful technology integration into learning environments.
    - Discussions of distance, online, distributed, or flexible learning models in practice.

    - Changing views & frameworks of knowledge and implications for education.

    - Social networks, participatory media, and the implications for information & media literacy.

    - Personal learning networks (PLNs), personal learning environments (PLEs) or related frameworks.

    - Other topics related to social media, technology, and education.

Length: Manuscripts, including references, tables, charts, & media, should range between 10-20 pages (2500-5000 words). As the journal will be primarily web-based, we encourage articles that leverage digital forms of expression and dissemination.

Style: For writing and editorial style, follow the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2001, 5th ed.). References should also follow APA style.

Review Process: Authors are informed when manuscripts are received. Each manuscript is previewed prior to distribution to appropriate reviewers. Manuscripts are anonymously reviewed. Once all reviews are returned, a decision is made and the author is notified. Manuscripts should consist of original material, and not currently under consideration by other journals.

Copyright: Accepted material will be distributed under an appropriate Creative Commons license (non-commercial, attribution)

Cover Page (for review purposes): Include title of manuscript, date of submission, author’s name, title, mailing address, business and home phone number, and email address. Please provide a brief biographical sketch and acknowledge if the article was presented as a paper or if it reports a funded research project.

Abstract: Please include a 50-100 word abstract that describes the essence of your manuscript.

Software Format: Submit in Word (.doc), Rich Text (.rtf), or Open Document Format (.odf). Other media welcome through prior consultation

Deadlines: Abstracts should be submitted by July 31, 2009. Once reviewed, if your abstract is approved, you will be asked to submit a completed manuscript by October 1, 2009.

For all inquiries or submission information, please contact Dr. Alec Couros via email couros@gmail.com or by phone at (306) 585-4739.

Update: The call for this issue is now closed. Thank you to all of those who have contributed abstracts or who have passed this call on to others.

Visualizing Open/Networked Teaching: Revisited

I recently posted a developing framework for open/networked teaching. In the post, I introduced a working definition for open teaching, and two diagrams; analogies to inform the open classroom and the emerging role of the educator. This ‘revisited’ post provides revisions to these preliminary ideas, reflections on what was learned, and insight into why developing thoughts ‘in the open’ is an important process for (personal) learning.

Working Revisions:
Knowledge is both a process and product. Improvements to my framework were fostered by the conversation around the previous post.

Working Definition of Open Teaching:
First, as I have thought for some time now, and as Dave Cormier challenges, the term ‘teaching’ in ‘open teaching’ is problematic. This problem was also voiced by Sui Fai John Mak in the comments of the previous post. I have lamented that I would rather use the term ‘open education’ (to include those that do not regard themselves as ‘teachers’), but that term has already a distinct meaning. For now, the problem remains unsolved. Does anyone have suggestions for an appropriate ‘catch-all’ term for educators (teachers, professors, instructors, lecturers) who increasingly use and advocate for open and networked forms of teaching and learning in educational environments. Or, is ‘open teaching’ good enough for now? Do we need to get hung up on a term? I look forward to the day when we do not have to distinguish among educators who facilitate learning this way; when ‘open education’ is simply ‘education’.

That note, leads me right into the next big observation regarding my thoughts on the subject so far. It was observed by both Richard Schwier & Silvia Straka that my ideas on open teaching were intensely value-laden. While these comments did not seem written as distinct criticisms, it really did alert me (as I often forget) the basic assumptions regarding teaching, learning, and society that ‘openness’ encompasses. A few of the most prominent assumptions in my work include:

    * the importance of information and communications technologies (ICT) in teaching and learning;
    * the relevance of critical media and technological literacy as a way to expose and deconstruct power and influence by consumers/adopters;
    * a strong focus on social learning, collaboration, and group growth (as a means for individual growth); and,
    * the nurturing and preservation of a free and open knowledge society, where access to information and knowledge is a basic human right (where proprietary knowledge & ownership are dramatically reduced, or ousted altogether).

While this latter point may seem radical, I found that my thoughts on the subject were not nearly as radical as others would have liked. Commenters Minhaaj Rehman, Steve Foerster, and Charles Evans (collectively) argued for a position beyond Creative Commons licensing and to advocate for public domain dedication (no restrictions to users/consumers). I do not oppose public domain dedication at all, in fact, I believe it to be a pure form of gifting within the knowledge economy. However, my support for Creative Commons licensing is based on these important premises.

    * Creators are given a choice of what licenses to waive or to keep. (I feel this is important for artistic works, although my position flips when it comes to life, death, economics, poverty, education, e.g., genetic/pharmaceutical patents, some educational resources). In my work as a professor, I am able to give up rights to my work through copyleft licenses and still get paid. Those who earn their living through the sale of books, music, poetry, etc., should not be required to waive their rights to support their livelihood. Yes, many fine lines exist.
    * I believe that attribution is vital to the history and progression of ideas in society. A simple ‘attribution’ requirement is not too much to ask for most work.
    * Creative works, in at least the current political and economic economies of Canada and the US, are often produced because of existing monetary incentives. This is not to defend the capitalist system, but rather to explain that an entire reality (e.g., copyists, copyleft licenses, pirates) are reactive channels to current, restrictive conditions (e.g., intellectual ‘property’), not components of an alternative, viable economy in and of itself.

It is also important to know that a true Public Domain designation is not legally possible in many nations. The new Creative Commons Zero license (CC0) is about as close as creators can get in some jurisdictions (here are the details).

From these critiques, and others, I will continue to improve the working definition of ‘open teaching’ (or whatever it may be designated as in the future).

Thinning The Walls (Diagram):
The “Thinning the Walls” diagram was fairly well received. This diagram represents my experiences in facilitating the EC&I 831 graduate course where students went from a (somewhat) traditional learning configuration to an increasingly networked learning context. The walls of the “classroom” where slowly thinned as students developed their personal learning networks (PLNs).

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls

The most important feedback on this diagram was that it failed to represent the continuous learning of the teacher and it failed to recognize the knowledge of the students (special tks to Kristina Hoeppner & Maryanne Burgos). These aspects were always meant to be within the overall model, but I believe it is important to make these pieces more explicit (as attempted below).

Open Teaching - Thinning the Walls - Revision #2

Network Sherpa (Diagram):
I also put forth one possible analogy for the role of a teacher, that of the ‘network sherpa. At the time of the post, I could not recall where I had heard this term. I have since remembered that it was included in Wendy Drexler’s Networked Student video (recommended viewing), although I do not believe this is the original source. While the diagram was generally well-received, critique included:

    * the idea of sherpa bearing the entire ‘load’ of learning (a critique I thought was pre-empted with each individual carrying identical baggage);
    * the difficulty of (re)presenting inquiry within the diagram (or analogy itself);
    * “that it misses the tremendous amount that teachers learn from their students” (Maryanne Burgos); and,
    * possible ethnic misinterpretation or discriminative interpretations by the name (a critique I take very seriously and believe I have debunked within the comments).

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa

I stand by the analogy as a potentially powerful way to view a method or view of open/networked teaching. However, for those that dislike the metaphor, I now provide you with an alternative.

Open Teaching - Network Sherpa - The End

“Publish Then Filter” & The Importance of Analogy:
A week from today, this blog will be five years old. While this space serves a number of purposes (resource sharing, announcements, advocacy), the most important activity to me is that it helps me think. Not only is it a giant storehouse of my ideas, it is a place where my thoughts are vetted, beaten around, and transformed. It is an extension of my brain and one of the entry ways into my personal learning network. It is where, as Shirky describes, I “publish then filter“.

The most popular of my posts, not surprisingly, have included visualizations, rich media, metaphors, or analogies. The latter two devices played an important part in these discussions as the diagrams provided the context to resonate, to disagree, to extend, and negotiate understandings as well as to project future visions for teaching and learning. As Root-Bernstein & Root-Bernstein (1999) point out “it is the inexact, imperfect nature of the analogy that allows it to bridge the gap between the known and the unknown.” So while the analogies may not be perfect, this is quite intentional, unavoidable, and (I believe) forgivable. It will take many of these imperfect models and raw conversations to create and shape the future of education. Believe in the conversation, throw out your ideas, engage with others, and teach and learn with the passion that this process breeds. This is openness at its very best.

We’re Back!!!

I was fortunate enough to teach EC&I 831 last year. It’s an online, open graduate course focused on educational technology. I had a wonderful group of students registered in the course, and before long, we had a wonderful network of informal learners that became an important part of the course experience.

And, we’re back! In fact, I have two open access courses running this semester. See ECMP 455 (undergrad) and EC&I 831 (graduate). In both courses, one of the main assessments is based on the reflection and development of a personal learning network (PLN). I am hoping that I will be able to help students build their PLNs, and have them reflect on the types of activities and experiences they have. I am hoping that their discoveries will help us understand more about PLNs, how they form, and their implications for teaching and learning.

In terms of the open access, in a nutshell, I am in a process of “thinning the walls” for my students. We began with private conversations about connectivity and networking (this is new for most students), and I am hoping that students will slowly emerge themselves in the more public spaces. Some have already taken the plunge and can be found on Twitter and in other spaces. If you look in the “participant directory” of each course site, you will be able to see their shared biographies. Some have already developed short introduction videos (posted to Youtube).

There will be synchronous events that may be of interest to many of you. To start with, in EC&I 831, Dr. Richard Schwier will be joining us Tuesday (Jan. 13/09), 7 p.m. (CST) to take us through a brief history of technology in schools. From my discussions with Rick, he’s got some really neat things up his sleeve and I know this will be a great session! I’ll be information on how to join this event (for those interested) via Twitter shortly before the session.

I invite you all to help, and would love if you could engage these individuals, help them with their questions and concerns, and support their learning. I am hoping that this will be an important experience for all of us!

Internet Addiction?

Several people I know have recently confessed of their perceived addiction to the Internet. I do not think this diagnosis can be described as broad as “Internet addiction” without getting a better understanding of what exactly draws them to connect (e.g., socialization, information, gaming, combinations of these, etc.). In any case, I believe that addictions associated to existing and emerging technologies are real, and understanding these will be of increasing importance to educators, parents, and our youth.

Internet Addict!

Chinese doctors recently “released the country’s first diagnostic definition of Internet addiction” in the midst of increases to psychological disorders attributed to Internet overuse. The country will officially designate hospital psychiatric units to treat cases of Internet addiction.

So, do you fit the bill?

Symptoms of addiction included yearning to get back online, mental or physical distress, irritation and difficulty concentrating or sleeping. The definition, based on a study of more than 1,300 problematic computer users, classifies as addicts those who spend at least six hours online a day and have shown at least one symptom in the past three months.

See full article here.

Update: There is a better article on the same development at the Times Online.

Photo Credit: nataliejohnson

iLeonardo – A Social Network for Research

iLeonardo looks like a promising social research tool. The “about” page describes iLeonardo as “a Social Utility for connecting to people and their collections of relevant information on the web.” Using a bookmarklet, you can find and clip text, image links, and URLs, and store them in “notebooks”. Or you can find other people who have created similar notebooks and browse and copy from theirs, or collaborate. The tool seems like a cross between Delicious and Google Notebook.

This video may give you a better idea of how it works:

The service is seems to be in a closed beta right now. You can request an account, or let me know and it seems that I can send you an invite.

EC&I 831: Island Hopping Cruise Ship

I’m finally getting a chance to go through some of the data collected from the study of my EC&I 831 graduate course. I absolutely love this passage from former student, Cindy Seibel, who describes her learning experience in the course.

To me this course was a personal journey loosely coupled in a community. I liken it to an island-hopping cruise ship. When we were on the ship on Tuesdays and Wednesdays there was an array of activities for us to participate in. Then we would stop at an island, get off and go on a personal investigation. We could sit on the beach and reflect, or go off an investigate something that had been triggered for us on the last ship’s activity. Our reflections and learnings were captured in our blogs and we would seek out each other through those expressions. Others outside the course would also participate in the same way, joining us randomly on the island or the ship. Then we would get back on the ship on Tuesday for a new buffet. So could we have done that with a closed LMS? I don’t think so. The public blogs were absolutely key to this experience. The open wiki was important as it forced us to “put ourselves out there”. That was an important part of the experience. We learned that there is a network out there if we choose to participate. The tools are almost secondary. Connecting to the network was key.

I love the cruise ship analogy. As well, I want to pay close attention to Cindy’s description of a “personal journey loosely coupled in a community.” It is an important distinction.