Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Why Do We Give a Tweet?

"Academic research from Rutgers University examined the characteristics of social activity and patterns of communication on Twitter; a prominent example of the emerging class of communication systems that is called “social awareness streams.” The rise of social media services has contributed to the altering of many people’s communication patterns and social interaction." - Te@cher Toolkit

I was using Twitter to backchannel interesting ideas from a conference session I found engaging. Part way through the gamification workshop, my friend Chris, who was looking over my shoulder asked, "Whoa, twenty-five thousand tweets! Why do you tweet so much?"

Until then, I hadn't given much thought to the frequency or purpose behind my tweets. "Sharing is caring, and it helps me process the experience.", I said.

After the session, we discussed gamification strategies and circled back to the learning value of tweeting. I contend there are small, but significant episodes of reflection that take place during the act of tweeting, or at least there should be.

  • It can be challenging to articulate big ideas into 140 characters or less.
  • Using links, graphics, and media demonstrates digital fluency
  • Digital contribution takes digital citizenship to a higher level of interaction and interdependence


Feeling good about our conversation, we left to grab a bite to eat. While Chris was scrutinizing the dessert bar, I decided to check the RSS reader on my phone; pretty much the same items on the menu. Wait, what's this? Ross McGill is sharing "Twitter Research", conducted by Rutgers University. They challenge us by asking, "Is Twitter just all about self-promotion?

The Rutgers research identifies two common types of behavior from those who tweet:

  1. Those who share themselves; Ross calls them "Meformers".
  2. Those who share information; called "Informers".

Four categories were used to describe tweeting behavior; information sharing (IS), opinions and complaints (OC), statements (RT), and "me now" (ME) tweets. Interestingly, the research indicates a majority of Twitter users are meformers. Ross challenges us again,

"Social media: do you share ideas, or just share yourself?"




I decided to review older tweets and examine my tweeting behavior using the criteria from the Rutgers study. My first conclusion, I typically exchange information through my tweets, but I need to include opinions and comments at times, so followers get to know me on a more personal level. Second, my life is pretty ordinary. I wouldn't garner much of a following with a steady barrage of meformer tweets. I believe there is a balance available to us. If the purpose of engaging on social media is learning, then sharing quality information should drive our tweeting behavior.

Twitter can be part of a powerful personal learning environment, but many educators are reluctant to give it a try. Do they get "turned off" by meformer behavior that can dominate the Twitter stream? I think savvy Twitter users rely on hashtags and lists to filter the noise while elevating substance, isolating more informers, in their feed. 

What about the young people in our lives? Are they primarily informers or meformers? Is digital citizenship enough, or should digital contribution become a better target? As Tom Whitby reminds us regularly, If we are to better educate our kids, we need to first better educate their educators.” When we look at research and gain insight into our use of social media, we become better equipped to help others reap the benefits of socially networked learning.


References and Related Reading


Is it Really About Me?... - M. Naaman, J. Boase, and C. Lai, February 2010

Twitter Research - Te@cher Tool Kit

Twitter for Teachers - Kathy Schrock



Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Out of the Mouths of Babes; 3 Reasons Why Teachers Should Play Pokemon Go


Curiosity got the best of me. For the past few weeks, neighborhood kids by the dozens, maybe hundreds, are heading outdoors, riding their bikes, meeting friends for a walk. Eagerly walking their dogs without provocation. What is the cause of this activity, this wellness revolution?

If you haven't heard about #PokemonGo, then you have been in perpetual airplane mode, or trapped beneath a large immovable object. At the urging of my kids, I downloaded the augmented reality (AR) app a few days ago and captured four Pokemon within a few minutes. I play a few minutes per day so that I can speak somewhat intelligently about the game if asked about it. I also find the learning potential of this very intriguing. Instead of getting on my soap box about the newest tech craze, I decided to ask local experts, 

"Why do you think your teachers should play Pokemon Go?"

My son, Trevor, 16, said, "Pokemon Go helps people learn about geography, relative location, distance, and global positioning."

My stepson, Billy, also 16, said, "This game can help teachers understand what augmented reality (AR) is. Teachers who want to gamify their classes have a good example to learn from."



Jamie, 14, was holding her iPhone while roller blading with several friends through the neighborhood park. She said, "Pokemon Go gets kids out of the house. It gives teachers something they can talk about with their students."

She's right. Every evening, several families can be seen walking down our street, their phones poised to capture a prized Snorlax or Mewtwo. Recent news reports indicate the number of daily Pokemon Go users exceeding 21 million players. For reference, that's more daily users than Twitter, Minecraft, or Netflix. Last week, a few thousand people converged at "the Bean" on Chicago's lakefront as part of a Pokemon meet up. In addition to the obvious competitive fun, collaboration, and teamwork is integral to this gaming experience.

Teachers and parents should play Pokemon Go so they can promote safe practices and guide moderation. The potential hazards of walking, riding, or driving while looking at your phone are easily understood. I'm spending quality time with my kids as they teach me rules and strategies to become a better player. Like other forms of social gaming and social media, Pokemon Go provides a way for teachers and students to interact, build relationships, and engage in relevant learning experiences. 


Related Reading



A Beginner's Guide to Pokemon Go - USA Today, Brett Molina


Monday, July 18, 2016

Summer Learning; Squeezing 20 Pounds Into a 10 Pound Bag

It's a short summer because my district has adjusted our academic calendar to follow a collegiate semester model. Even though little of this if formally organized, I am still squeezing a lot of learning into the shortened summer break. Here's a summary of what I am reading, apps I am using for personal learning, and my favorite learning activity, traveling.


Future Wise: David Perkins asks educational leaders to discuss current curricula to determine how schools will deliver "lifeworthy" learning experiences. "What is worth learning in school?" is the prevailing question raised by this book.

Worlds of Making: Laura Fleming helps me develop a recipe for establishing a maker space in our newly remodeled media center. Particular attention is focused on school culture and addressing the "why" question of recreating learning spaces.

Mindset: When I find myself slipping into patterns of "fixed-mindset-ness" Carol Dweck helps me get my mind right. I'm re-reading Mindset for the 4th time in preparation of supporting a school-wide cultural shift with growth mindset as a focal point.

Innovator's Mindset: George Couros provides thought-provoking questions and suggested activities for closing the relevancy gap for learners, young and old, in our systems. Examples of innovative best practice are shared with the reader. My takeaway, innovation should be internally, and personally adopted before system-wide change can occur.

Launch: John Spencer and A. J. Juliani are helping me learn more about design thinking and how this strategy can be used to create meaningful learning experiences. I'm working my way through this book now. This book comes fully loaded with practical techniques that offer immediate implementation.

Mindstorms: Seymour Papert's book gets frequently quoted by several of my favorite bloggers; I recently purchased a used copy from a local college. Much of the material is beyond my current thinking, but Papert's argument of anyone being able to direct their learning personally under the right conditions is convincing. I would enjoy a book-study course about this material.

Duolingo: After years of talking about it, I'm dedicating a minimum of ten minutes per day to learn Spanish. Will I become fluent speaking a second language? Time will tell. This app is keeping me interested and engaged.

Ultimate Guitar: This app is giving me an excuse to get my guitar out of the closet more often. I've never learned to read music, so the tab system is allowing me to play along with more songs in my iTunes playlist.

Codecademy: My mom sent me a link to Codecademy, so I created an account. I have yet to start a coding course, but the options are numerous, and the process includes differentiation. I will keep you posted on this one.

Like others, I enjoy the adventure of travel. Meeting new people, or meeting people that I've previously only known virtually, enjoying new experiences, and seeing new sights are boosts to my curiosity. Traveling, for me, offers authentic challenges to our perspective and character. Traveling reveals the real me.

As I mature, I am becoming less interested in what people know, but grow increasingly interested in how people become better educated. As you can see, reading, writing, playing, and traveling make up the core of my learning. 

What about you? How are you learning this summer? Comments are welcome - thank you for sharing.