I love connected educators. While I have no hard data to prove this, I believe that educators who tweet, join live Twitter chats, and converse in Facebook, Voxer, and Flipgrid groups are better, in many cases, than teachers and leaders who are not connected.
My experience on all of these platforms is that these connected educators are working very hard to be the best at what they do. They share links to wonderful resources and articles about innovative teaching and learning, and they participate in some inspiring conversations that help me reflect and, in some cases, drive content at Times 10 Books. This is powerful, free professional development.
If you’re not sure of a tweet’s intended meaning, why not simply ask the tweeter what she means?
In spite of all the thought-provoking PD happening on social media, there’s still a problem.
As I observe a mountain of marvelous content on Twitter, I’m also seeing an increase in what looks a lot like subtle bashing of other educators who submit their ideas of “best practice.” I put that phrase in quotation marks, because many EduTweeters can’t agree on what “best practices” are.
This bashing, which some people defend by saying, “I was talking about the idea, not the person” is, surprisingly, prolific, which might make you wonder, How can this happen in the education space? These are adults, after all, who are supposed to model proper behavior for kids.
Someone recently posted the following tweet:
Good teachers will spend some time this summer thinking about how they can improve their lessons next year. That’s just what they do.
The tweet was liked thousands of times and retweeted over 500 times. I have to assume this indicates that thousands of people agree.
One popular connected educator disagreed, though, and replied to the “Good teachers…” tweet with this:
The rest of us crap teachers will use summer to rest and take a break without feeling guilty about not thinking about work. That’s just what we do.
That comment sparked a furious conversation that included tweets about unfollowing the author of the “Good teachers…” tweet. Others said the author should simply be disregarded for various reasons. Soon, more zingers followed in support of the popular dissenter, all seemingly aimed at disparaging the “Good teachers…” author.
One well-known connected educator defended the “Good teachers…” author, expressing shock at what he believed to be a “mob mentality.” This was swiftly met with the “I didn’t do anything wrong/ he didn’t do anything wrong” defense.
As I continued to read and offer a different perspective with a few tweets of my own, I envisioned a similar scenario in a different venue with different participants.
It looked like this:
A young girl at school was sharing a poster she’d created for a class project. A few kids liked it and said it was beautiful. Some asked the teacher to hang it up, so visitors could see it when they entered the room.
A few students, though, didn’t like the poster; they understood it to mean something entirely different from what the girl had intended.
They felt it made a statement about the kind of kids they were and that it smeared them in some way, even though they never asked the girl to clarify the poster’s message.
They said the girl had created content like this before and that she should be ignored. “Let’s not play with her anymore,” one zealot shouted. “Truth!” one of the popular kids yelled.
Soon, a few other students, who didn’t know the girl at all, heard the commotion and stuck their heads in the room.
They noticed the popular student shouting at the girl, so they joined in. It had to be the right thing to do, if the popular kid thought so. None of them, though, bothered to ask what the girl’s creation meant.
The ridicule continued. The people who liked the girl’s work lost interest, while the others became louder. When the teacher said they should stop, they shrugged and replied, “We didn’t do anything. We’re just talking about the message on the poster.”
Meanwhile, the girl, who had drawn a beautiful picture of three children with lightbulbs over their heads, dropped the poster and hurried out of the room.
One of the students who had wandered into the class picked it up and read a quote under the picture. It said:
Good students will spend some time this summer thinking about how they can be better students next year. That’s just what they do.
Thanks for reading and, as always, let’s try to hack learning every day.
Let me begin with full disclosure: Before I learned about Unanswerable Questions in Hacking Mathematics, by Denis Sheeran, I thought just about everything math related was unanswerable. Admittedly, math has always been pretty elusive to me.
After reading about Unanswerable Questions, though, I’m looking at math and pedagogy differently.
Rather than talk around Denis Sheeran’s concept, I thought I’d just share it straight from the mathematician’s mouth–or at least from his book.
School must get all kids to comply. School must organize large quantities of children, manage them, sort them, quiet them and control them. For a lot of kids it may not be a big deal. For some, it’s like stealing their soul. — Anonymous
Some weighed in by raging against the machine:
😢helping my 9 yr old grandson w/ his hw. 2 teachers & a para in the clas. No one checks hw. No feedback. He said “Gram, this is so boring & stupid & no one cares about his!” Last night-synonyms antonyms 10 words. 2018 with 1960’s homework. We need to get back to the future!
One regular commenter in this Facebook group had this initial response:
No, you can’t. You can advocate, you can argue, and you can encourage him in a variety of ways. But you can’t change the school or the teachers–it’s not in your power. You can help him to find satisfaction in other ways/venues and maybe within the school or within certain classes. Teach him to hack his own way, eh?
After all of these incredible comments and suggestions, I kept coming back to the previous quote.
And I wonder, is this right? Is school change out of my control? Is it out of our control?
Or, is it possible that we have all the power, and we only have to choose to exercise it?
At the very least, one expert, New York Times bestselling author Jessica Lahey, believes that we need to keep showing the evidence of what’s best for kids to educators. Here’s what the author of Gift of Failure tweeted:
So sorry, Mark. I left a school yesterday with a teacher SERIOUSLY pissed at me for criticizing “teaching” methods that don’t actually teach. Stick to the evidence and keep speaking up for kids and their learning.
Talk about best practices: Create discussions on social channels and at your school about best practices. Ask, “How can we eliminate old school methods and replace them with progressive pedagogy that inspires student engagement?”
Share stories like this one: Share podcasts, blog posts, and Facebook statuses, in which parents and educators discuss their experiences about kids who hate school and what they’re doing about it.
Encourage participation: If a kid hates school, encourage her to join a club, go out for a sport, or try out for the play. The more kids participate in things related to school, the more likely they are to start enjoying it.
Be present: Talk to teachers, school leaders, and parents in your own school district–especially where you kids attend school–about making learning fun. Don’t let them tell you it’s not about the fun; that’s a load of crap and simply not true.
So, what’s my final take on all of this? I’ll continue to advocate for my son, and I’ll continue pushing his teachers–and all educators–to be the absolute best they can be.
With your help, I believe we can make a difference.
Love him or hate him, it’s hard to argue that the president sets a great example of social media use for kids.
In her breakout book, Hacking Digital Learning Strategies: 10 Ways to Launch EdTech Missions in Your Classroom, internationally-renowned presenter and education technology consultant Shelly Sanchez Terrell demonstrates precisely how to teach students to debate issues appropriately, rather than disrespect people on social media.
Here’s most of Shelly’s Teach Kids to Debate EdTech Mission from her new book, reprinted here with permission from Times 10 Publications.
THE PROBLEM: ONLINE ARGUMENTS RESULT IN PERSONAL ATTACKS
Lately, the news has featured the long-standing Twitter feud between President Donald Trump and the media. The public has criticized both sides for their behavior. At one point, the argument escalated and the President tweeted a GIF of himself symbolically body-slamming CNN.
The news media took offense, claiming the GIF encouraged violence toward reporters; the Office of the President and Twitter disagreed. Tensions continue to rise.
This incident exemplifies the nature of many online arguments.
Children to adults share their opinions openly on social networks but are offended when others disagree with them. They react with aggression or resort to personal attacks. All involved seem to overlook the true issues, and all parties leave the conversation upset, learning nothing new about the topic and missing a powerful opportunity for debate to open our minds and elevate our thinking.
We need to transform the digital debating mindset and help students see debate as a vehicle to strengthen their intellect and character.
The way schools teach debate doesn’t align with how our learners conduct arguments in real life. Traditionally, we teach students to debate by writing argumentative or persuasive essays.
While this is important, our digital learners need to engage in online debates.
They need the opportunity to draft shorter arguments to share with the public, as well as practice in responding intelligently to those with opposing views. Our students may regularly debate or argue on social media, yet schools rarely afford them the opportunity to acquire respectful debate skills as part of the curriculum.
THE MISSION: ENGAGE IN A THOUGHT PROVOKING ONLINE DEBATE
In Missions 2 and 3, your students gained confidence in defining their digital identities and became aware of how their posts and shares impacted their digital reputations.
Those first steps laid the groundwork for this mission to participate in a respectful and thought-provoking virtual debate. Rich debate keeps the conversation going, celebrates differences of opinions and perspectives, and values well-constructed arguments.
All involved realize how a strong opponent opens their minds, challenges their beliefs, and improves their critical thinking skills. Additionally, healthy debate fosters peace, promotes democracy, and builds community relationships.
First, our digital citizens will learn how to craft clear, persuasive, and compelling arguments for an online forum. Their argument will state their positions, help their peers understand the reasons and logic behind their positions, and back up their views with support and evidence.
Then, classmates post respectful and logical counter-arguments, which further the dialogue. Students read these counter-arguments with an open mind and revise their initial arguments with new insights.
They develop strategies for dealing with abusive and hurtful comments, and learn how to passionately argue while keeping their emotions in check so they don’t personally attack peers, but instead argue points of contention.
As we know, online debates escalate quickly and bring out the worst in people. Young people may question the value of spending their time listening to beliefs and opinions different from their own, and they may attack the individual instead of logically rebutting specific points.
The activities below prepare learners to approach varying opinions with an open mind and focus their arguments on the issues.
• Confront fears, myths, and intolerance: Anonymously poll students on their attitudes toward participating in respectful debates. Find a list of possible questions for the poll in the Mission Toolkit (Find the Toolkit in the Appendix section of Hacking Digital Learning Strategies). Present the poll results and host a discussion about tolerance, open-mindedness, and how differences help us grow and progress.
• Play the agree/disagree warm-up:Students must take a stand on issues to be skilled debaters. Use masking tape to create a line on your classroom floor. Line students up on the left side of the tape, facing you. State a claim, such as, “Dogs are better pets than cats.” Instruct students to remain standing on the left side of the line if they agree and to move to the right side if they disagree. Students then face their peers. Starting on the left, each student gives one reason to support the claim. Then students on the right give reasons that dispel the claim. Continue this activity with safe topics and coach students to handle increasingly intense topics.
• At various intervals, share rules and guidelines for building a safe environment to share opinions: Record these guidelines and tips to review later. For example, before students share their reasons why dogs are better pets than cats, state the rule that all must respect the listener. Elicit examples of how we show respect to foster understanding of the rule. After the first sharing of reasons, guide a group discussion to identify the components of strong reasoning.
Identify the guidelines for fostering a good online debate:As a class, evaluate how online debates differ from face-to-face debates. Present the class with the guidelines they came up with for respecting each other during the warm-up. Determine which guidelines work for fostering a good online debate, and add additional guidelines to complete the list.
• Improve online arguments: Show the class an example of an online argument that went awry. The initial opinion should be strong and exemplify good writing techniques, before the conversation descends into an argument within the string of comments. Reddit’s Change My View forum has great examples of strong arguments followed by good and bad counter-arguments. The arguments and comments must meet strict criteria, and the moderator pulls any comments that violate the rules. Have the class analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the arguments and come up with guidelines for their own arguments. Then have the class analyze the counter-arguments and identify the most compelling ones. They should identify what makes the counter-arguments strong and come up with guidelines for their own.
Step 1: Focus arguments with a specific claim.
Instruct students to jot down ten strong, evidence-supported belief statements or viewpoints. The warm-up may inspire ideas. Have them cross out any ideas that they are tied to emotionally, that they don’t care enough about, or that promote violence, hate, or discrimination.
Students choose one of the remaining statements as their topic for the online debate. Help them transform their statements into specific claims that focus their arguments.
Step 2: Outline six valid reasons.
Review the qualities of strong support delineated by the class in the warm-up. Students outline a minimum of six reasons to support their claims based on these qualities and conduct a quick search of each reason to ensure its validity. They show a few peers their reasons and ask them to choose the three most persuasive and interesting before deciding on the three reasons they will include in their arguments.
Step 3: Survey people to gather insight and evidence.
Students create a survey with at least five questions to gather insight and evidence to support their claims and reasons. Help students draft clear, short, specific, and simple questions that will elicit meaningful feedback. Ask them to opt for multiple choice, open-ended, or ranking questions – and to avoid only yes/no questions.
I recommend Google Forms as a tool for students to create surveys. You can learn more about teaching with Google Forms in Hacking Google for Education.
Step 4: Post arguments and create counter-arguments.
Students post their arguments in a designated online platform. Note that the idea isn’t to post a five-page argumentative essay with scholarly resources. Think of this as a precursor to these types of essays.
These online arguments should consist of three paragraphs or less in simple language, with logic, reasoning, and evidence. The idea is to spark debate, which means the arguments must appeal to their peers and be easy to digest. Your young debaters should begin to prepare their counter-arguments.
Step 5: Counter-argue and refute the counter-arguments.
Once students post their arguments, other students post counterarguments. The counter-arguments should challenge one or two ideas made by the author and provide reasoning and support for their contentions.
Writers should check the forum and refute all counter-arguments. These counter-arguments must be respectful and address the contentions with well-thought-out reasoning.
Encourage students to concede on certain areas of agreement. The idea isn’t to win the argument, but to refine belief systems and values. Additionally, conceding on specific areas moves the conversation forward to debate other areas of the issue, which leads to a broader understanding of the topic.
Step 6: Introduce a troll.
After a few days of healthy debate, announce to the class that a troll has snuck into their forum in an effort to thwart their missions. Trolls are individuals who target an online group and post inflammatory or off-topic messages to provoke a reaction or start quarrels. The troll doesn’t want your students to gain the skills to promote healthy debate, because he wants them to join him in spreading chaos on the internet.
EdTech Missions Creator Shelly Sanchez Terrell
The troll joins the group for a day or two, and only after your students have engaged in healthy debate. Set up an account with the username Troll, and wreak havoc in all threads so no one feels singled out. Your class troll will not name call, use inappropriate language, bully, or do anything that would hurt your relationship with your students.
Instead, the troll might make outrageous claims about the argument, post the same message multiple times, ask silly questions, or spam the thread with nonsense.
Step 7: Come up with strategies to end the troll’s havoc.
Students must come up with strategies to effectively handle the troll and limit his destruction. Allow students to search the web for tips using the query, “deal with trolls” and test these strategies.
Often, trolls suffer from mental illness and the best way to deal with them is to limit engagement. Other tips include reporting them, blocking, and muting. Eventually, the troll gets bored and moves on to the next victim.
Step 8: Reconstruct arguments with new perspectives.
Students use the Final Post Template–available in Kit 11 of the Mission Toolkit–to complete their final posts, and highlight three or more peer statements that made them think deeply about their topics. (Find the Mission Toolkit in the Appendix section of Hacking Digital Learning Strategies.)
They should identify statements that incited them, challenged their thinking, pointed out ideas they didn’t address, directed them to interesting research, or introduced them to a new experience. The students quote each peer’s statement and describe what they learned from it. Finally, they conclude their post by revisiting their initial stance and describing what has changed….
Don’t miss the Mission Obstacles and how to overcome them and the Mission in Action for this chapter, along with Shelly Terrell’s powerful Mission Toolkit.
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