“You can’t have one without the other…” Frank Sinatra Love & Marriage
The Courting Phase: Getting to know each other
I remember the moment I realised the important…no…crucial relationship between Twitter and blogging. It was waaaay back…in 2012. I’d recently started a job at a new school in Indonesia that fostered a culture of blogging, yet I had no idea what this culture looked like or its purpose. We’d had valuable workshops to support our learning but I lacked understanding in the role of blogging. Connectivism wasn’t even in my vocabulary yet.
I did what I thought I should for my first blog post: I documented the learning, posted some photos, added some captions, a few paragraphs…and waited. After a few days of dead silence, I thought to myself, What does an educator have to do to get noticed?
I’d heard about Twitter, had been signed up for a year already at that point, but didn’t have the courage to actually create my own tweets (I’d merely dabbled in a re-tweet or two). After sharing my first post with my partner (and then Tech Coach) Tricia Friedman, she encouraged me to tweet my blog using a few relevant hashtags #pypchat #ibpyp and #ellchat.
What happened next changed my relationship with social media forever.
Dinner for 2: Sparks Fly
Shortly after Tweeting my blog post, my eye caught a related article under #pypchat. I realised immediately it would be a perfect connection for our Unit of Inquiry. And so the dance began. I retweeted the post and followed the Tweeter. The Tweeter followed me in return, and favourited my post. Finally, I was connecting, and finally a relationship was forming. I had an audience to share my lesson ideas with and a community to learn from. Suddenly I was blogging like crazy! I documented as many lessons and activities as I could using my iPhone, then took time after school to reflect on the lessons on my blog. It was as much for my own professional development as it was to share the great things my G5 EAL students were doing.
Evolution of my blogs over past 2.5 years
Once the PYP Exhibition hit, I was able to connect with several other PYP educators through twitter and share examples of how we were integrating technology with EAL students who needed support understanding key concepts and vocabulary. My posts even appeared a few times in various paper.li’s which continued to inspire me to craft my posts for a specific audience: PYP educators & tech enthusiasts.
All that said, the biggest ‘Ah-Ha’ moment for me was when the connections went beyond retweets and sporadic appearances in paper.li’s. It happened when an educator from a school I had no connections with found my blog on twitter and left a comment. We began communicating over Twitter and email, feeding each other with inspiring ideas, articles and connecting our classrooms. Shannon is now the PYP Principal at BISS and although we’ve never met in person, our pedagogy and philosophy on constructivism in the classroom continues to drive our professional relationship through twitter and email.
Shannon’s first comment on our class blog that detailed our Grade 4 maths inquiry “How much is 1000?” in Aug 2013.
Sharing the Love
As we embark on our journey through Course 1 of Coetail I’m guessing there are a few Coetailers out there who are exactly where I began my relationship with Blogs & Twitter…that awkward first date. I guess my advice would be similar to anyone starting a new relationship…Don’t let first impressions turn you off. Yes I felt vulnerable writing to a global audience, and I stuttered and bumbled along (still do) with a few awkward silences mixed in. But the reflective practice of blogging does in fact address higher order thinking skills all the way up to Analysing & Evaluation…and in fact even Creation itself (depending on the quality and content included in the post).
This chart taken from Public Schools of North Carolina shows how Blogging allows students to operate at the top level of higher-order thinking skills.
We recently had the privilege of hosting Jeff Utecht at my current school in Switzerland and his Keynote presentations addressed the conflicting message of the traditional Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy diagram. His related blog post from Nov 2012 further unpacks this and he presents an reversed representation of Bloom’s Taxonomy where Creativity is at the bottom, thus illustrating that the most amount of time should be spent in that phase of higher order thinking. During his Keynote last week at our school, he showed us a third diagram, which actually inverses the triangle so it both visually represents ascending up through the phases of higher-order thinking skills, and accurately represents how much time should be spent in each phase. I scoured the internet and google images looking for an accurate model but have been unsuccessful. Thus, I’ve re-created the image Jeff showed us and give him full credit for this idea, as I’ve simply replicated what he showed us:
Getting Comfortable and Settling into Relationship Norms
Now that I’ve been blogging and tweeting for over 2 years, I couldn’t think of any other way of teaching and learning. Twitter & Blogging have exponentially expanded my PLN and literally changed my life and the way I teach. Now that this dynamic is obvious to me, the real challenge is sharing this knowledge with other educators and, more importantly, students. Returning to the idea of Prosumers (Reach p.2-6), it’s essential that we model and facilitate an atmosphere of connectivism both in schools and in our classrooms. I really needed to dive into blogging myself to understand the benefits professionally before I could get my students on board with the idea. As I mentioned earlier, my previous school had a blogging culture, but only a small percent truly understood the opportunities blogs provided. For many teachers, blogs were considered a useful platform for documenting learning, creating a bank of resources and connecting within the classroom, but the real magic happened once teachers took risks left themselves vulnerable for the world to get a peek into their classroom.
My grade 4 students learned a lot from their connections online through their student blogs and as a classroom teacher I relied on twitter connections to collaborate with other schools. One successful connection we had for a time was a Grade 5 Teacher at ZIS. This teacher had a fantastic class blog (no longer available) and presented open-ended math problems for any student to solve. My students really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in another class’ learning environment and it motivated them to write to a specific audience.
In my current role as Tech Integration Coach, I am constantly seeking those willing to push beyond their comfort zones. Blogging and Twitter are the pair I rely on to get teachers engaged in digital PLN’s. This article on Connected Educators emphasised the importance of bringing ideas to teachers, and focusing on those who want to sandbox and grow ideas into best practice. Hopefully, with a little time and courage, more educators will reap the benefits of this special marriage between Twitter & Blogs.
Ultimately, I think Diana Ross says it best: It’s a game of give and take…