Tag Archive: Learning

IMG_4091-0011.jpgTry going anywhere urban and see if you can find someone without a smartphone or connected device of some kind.  Virtually impossible in today’s wired(less) world.  This holds true for schools as well.  Both staff and student alike connected 24/7.  This holds both potential and pitfalls for our education system.

Student information systems have been a part of everyday life for school staff for well over 20 years now.  With this the presence of computers in the classroom has become a must.  Teachers are required to input attendance daily and marks on an ongoing basis.  Administrative staff use the system daily to adjust schedules, lookup demographic info, schedule courses, etc.  Our reliance on computers has taken hold in some classrooms with teachers adopting connected tech to engage students.

Fast forward to 2016 and smartphones are a reality in every classroom (to varying degrees depending on socio-economic circumstances).  What are we doing to harness the potential devices walking into our classrooms each and every day?  Is there a sign on the door claiming no phones allowed?  Is there a bucket at the front of the class where phones are deposited?  Are students encouraged to record homework using Evernote or OneNote?  Are apps like Remind being used to keep students on top of upcoming assignments?  Is Google translator being used to help students understand a new language?  Are videos being created to demo dissections in a biology class?

From my experience the reality is all of the above.  Yes there are still the classrooms where devices are taboo and must be kept out of site but there are those classrooms that fully utilize the potential of these powerful portable computers.  As an educator with a distinct bias towards use of technology to enhance both teaching and learning I cringe every time a device is handed to me after being confiscated.  Students have a responsibility to ensure they are being responsible in their use of smartphones by not texting or snapchatting during class but we as educators also must recognize that these devices are here to stay and we can either resist or realize the Borg were right all along.


Courtesy: www.edudemic.com


Twitter is a social networking and microblogging service that allows you to answer the question, “What are you doing?”by sending short text messages 140 characters in length, called “tweets”, to your friends, or “followers.”


The short format of the tweet is a defining characteristic of the service, allowing informal collaboration and quick information sharing that provides relief from rising email and IM fatigue. Twittering is also a less gated method of communication: you can share information with people that you wouldn’t normally exchange email or IM messages with, opening up your circle of contacts to an ever-growing community of like-minded people.  You can send your messages using the Twitter website directly, as a single SMS alert, or via a third-party application such as Twirl, Snitter, or the Twitterfox add-on for Firefox.  Your tweets are displayed on your profile page, on the home page of each of your followers, and in the Twitter public timeline (unless you disable this in your account settings.) http://tweeternet.com/


Teacher <-> Student Communication via Twitter

If a communication is to be rational, it must have meaning.  On occasions, an individual tweet may not seem to meet that assumption.  However a thread of tweets on a particular topic can prove to be most meaningful, as they can provide the basis for subsequent analysis to reveal the meaning and other indirect, frequently irrelevant, information about the event.

As an education tool, tweets could suffice to merely track student attendance at an assignment, as well as determining of what value the assignment was.  To do this, the teacher could designate an account, a hashtag, e.g. #Assignment 01, to which the students as followers send their tweets.  The teacher then would collect all the tweets sent by the class to examine the tweets of those who did, or did not, attend to determine whether the value of what they submitted was worthwhile.  This might also prove helpful as a record of attendance for students who have to attend a number of activities in their field during the semester.


It can also be used to provide short, concise information on homework assignments, test dates, lesson details and link locations to interesting and relevant sites.  The potential to use Twitter as a real-time communication tool in the classroom is also intriguing and has been tried at post-secondary with mixed results.  A possible application could be to have a live-stream of comments from students, as a teacher lectures, to provide feedback to the teacher or even better to ask questions of the teacher that they may to shy or reluctant to ask otherwise.

There is value in the networking and real-time interaction that you can get using Twitter. Many educators and academics find this to be an effective strategy for dealing with the isolation that can come from working in the classroom or office. Imagine encountering technical difficulties during your lesson and having a means of receiving assistance within minutes. Consider the ability to receive assistance from others during a teachable moment in which you don’t know the answer to a student’s inquiry.  http://clifmims.com/blog/archives/187

Pros and Cons


  1. It can be narcissistic. Does anyone care what I had for lunch?
  2. It can be boring. Is my average day so exciting that I have to share its details with the world?
  3. It can be redundant. I already have a daily blog. Why do I need Twitter?
  4. It can be time-consuming. It will distract from other, more important tasks.
  5. It can be dangerous. Letting someone know where I am at all times is like legalized stalking.
  6. It can contribute to the dumbing down of society. Most people don’t have the attention span for a well-crafted argument in a book. The blog is a step-down. Are we taking an even further step down, demanding our information in bite-sized chunks?


  1. The rapidness of disseminating information. amazed at how quickly the information went out.
  2. The ability to share interesting articles.
  3. The importance of conciseness. The brilliance of Twitter is its limitation of 140 characters. Most blogs are surfed, not read. Putting out a brief quote will probably be read by more people than a long blog post.
  4. Connecting with others. I am on Twitter primarily because I get to “follow” other people on Twitter. It keeps me connected to others who put out edifying “tweets” and who pass along interesting information.
  5. Boosting the blog. It takes a lot of work to maintain a daily blog. Linking to a blog post on Twitter gives my “followers” the opportunity to pass the article on to others who may benefit from it.

Here’s how to avoid the cons:

  1. Narcissism? Don’t make the majority of your “tweets” about you.
  2. Boring? Again, don’t make the majority of your “tweets” about you.
  3. Redundant? Instead of letting Twitter compete with your blog, let it point people to your blog.
  4. Time-consuming? Limit the number of people you follow and don’t constantly check for updates.
  5. Dangerous? Avoid giving details of your whereabouts and plans.
  6. Dumbing Down Society? Send along good links to thoughtful articles and news stories.

Are Report Cards Necessary?

British Columbia Teachers currently find themselves in a contract struggle with the Provincial government and as a result are in Phase 1 job action.  Part of the job action is not producing report cards, with the exception of Grade 12 students that require marks for graduation, scholarship or post-secondary admission.  Why is this relevant?  Well it has led to a philosophical debate on the value of report cards.  Are marks necessary for teaching?

Every teacher has developed an assignment or activity only to be asked, ‘Is this for marks?’  That common refrain is maddening at times as the implication is that an assignment or activity only has value if marks are attached.  As teachers we are guilty of perpetuating this phenomena as we use marks as a motivator and bargaining chip to get students to complete assignments.  So this begs the question, are students driven by marks or learning?  If marks were removed from the educational landscape would this allow true learning to take place?  Think about the level of anxiety a student faces when they know they have to take a poor report card for their parents to see.  On the contrary you have the elation a student feels when they bring home straight A’s.

With a shift towards personalized learning and individualized curriculum must come a reevaluation on the role marks play in education.  You don’t need a report card to tell you you can ride a bike.  Riding the bike becomes the goal and you know when you have achieved it when the training wheels come off.  Why then do we insist on putting a letter grade on everything to label the level of ‘learning’ a student has achieved.  It has been proven that the most influential practice a teacher can engage in is meaningful feedback on assignments.  Nothing moves the learning of a student forward more than feedback from a teacher.  Once a mark or letter grade is attached to an assignment the feedback becomes meaningless (I have my friend and colleague Jacob to thank for this fact).  The student sees the assignment as completed once a mark is attached but sees the assignment as a work in progress if only feedback is given.  So why do we insist on bell-curving students along an arbitrary grid of expertise?  Shouldn’t mastery of the content be the goal for every student, without exception?  This requires the educational policy makers and curriculum specialists to peel back the layers of minutia and arrive at the essence of what is required of all students.  What is the ultimate goal of education?  Is factual knowledge a requirement in a time where any and all information is only seconds away?

Teachers and students would both feel liberated if the requirement for marks no longer existed.  Remove the arbitrary timeline of terms and semesters and allow learning to become an organic process where understanding is the goal and not the thirst for marks.

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