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Posts tagged ‘Twitter’


OTF’s Teaching & Learning in the 21st Century

I have had the honour to be part of the Ontario Teacher’s Federation conference – Teaching &  Learning in the 21st Century.  The full unedited Twitter stream is on this Keepstream page. Scroll down – scan – enjoy!!  Some real nuggets!
I started to pull key tweets to this blog post – but, alas, it just can’t be done and give justice to ALL!
You will find pictures, videos, useful links, links to other OTF21c conference posts – and many laughs!
Three brilliant days. Many brilliant thoughts.

Lessons of the Long Tail for Professional Learning

“Why don’t people participate in our online space?”

There are very few online spaces that maintain an ongoing conversation around ‘events’ or ‘topics’. This has been thought to be the case and so organizations set them up with all the best intentions and dreams.  And, believe me, there is a HUGE number of these online…that have come and gone. Part of what we need to realize is that we are in an evolutionary, discovery stage of the societal implementation of social media.

…we are in an evolutionary, discovery stage of the societal implementation of social media

We also need to realize the implications for ‘centralized’ vs ‘distributed’ / ‘connectivist’ structures for learning.  What this means is that organizations are not the controllers/creators/disseminators of information or conversations.  The role of the organization needs to be different these days. Note that we are encouraging our classrooms to become ‘studio classrooms‘ that are inquiry and project based.
…support students as they struggle to make sense of the maze of cognitive turbulence…
We are stimulating our teachers to become facilitators of students taking charge of their own learning and of the learning of their group rather than their more traditional role of pouring curriculum into the students. Teachers are inspired to provide moments of awe, to encourage cognitive dissonance, to support students as they struggle to make sense of the maze of cognitive turbulence, to incite and support backwards and forwards reflection.  And, the real learning occurs within the student or between students or perhaps among a small group of students.
…think about how we fortify and brace these learners to engage in distributed conversations…
In this same way, we need to think of our role as professional development organizations. We need to reframe our language to reflect this. Many attempts exist – ‘communities of learners’ and ‘professional learning communities’.  I believe we should consider how this frame applies to how we structure and nourish our learners.  Rather than attempting to bring everyone to a central place to have conversations, we need to think about how we fortify and brace these learners to engage in distributed conversations in their own blogs and/or wikis or Facebook.  Twitter’s role is interesting here.  It provides the mechanism for individuals to flit from one flower to another in search of the nectar.  We could think of it as a ‘butterfly effect’.


The real learning exists where people are seeking that nectar and providing links to information and deep conversations (in personal blogs for example).
It is ‘the long tail‘ where this occurs.  Not to say there isn’t a role for the blog that thousands read – but conversation doesn’t occur there – it occurs in the thousands of individual blogs that 5 – 10 people regularly read and chat.  For further explanation of the ‘long tail’ read Clay Shirky’s book – “Here Comes Everybody – The Power of Organizing without Organizations” or read this description.
…provide the encouragement to self-organize…
I believe our role in supporting teachers is to provide the encouragement to self-organize and to teach them the tools to be able to do that effectively.


How do these ideas impact our professional learning initiatives?



The Backchannel: What Affects Its Efficacy?

So before David Jakes started his keynote presentation at RCAC the other day, he walked past our table – where a bunch of twitterers were poised to backchannel as he presented.  David made a comment about the efficacy of backchanneling while a speaker is on stage.  We ended up in a quick discussion about this phenomenon and about the criteria surrounding effective backchanneling.

I believe that this is in its infancy (with these new media) and requires some controversial discussions.

Types of Backchanneling during a Presentation (via twitter, chatroom, etc.)

  • to share the content out to a wider audience
  • to create online notes (easily retrieved later via a hashtag)
  • to pose questions that the presenter to which a presenter could respond (best managed by a moderator)
  • to make associations with prior knowledge and note/describe that
  • to share related links to websites or other resources
  • to discuss or engage in conversation with others (in the room or at a distance)

Mental Effort and Cognitive Load

I would suggest that the first three of these are extremely similar to things we have traditionally done in the past…taking notes.

However, the last three – and specifically the last one – require a greater intensity of mental effort.  Mental effort is not unlimited.  It is somewhat finite.  So if we are expending a percentage of our mental effort into conversation, we are taking our concentration and effort away from what the speaker is currently saying.


I was teaching my daughter to drive with a standard transmission yesterday.  She is an experienced driver, but because managing the clutch, the gearshift, the gas, and the brake were quite new to her, she was quite overwhelmed.  However, her level of expertise in the other aspects of driving – traffic patterns, rules of the road, etc. – allowed her to more easily cope with the new demands

If you are merely note taking or posing questions, this does not necessarily draw upon a great amount of mental effort.  However, if you are engaged in making associations and documenting them, or involved in a discussion about issues in the backchannel, you are definitely expending a greater amount of your mental energies in those activities.

Factors Impacting Efficacy of Backchanneling

Having said that, there are other factors that are at play here.  It is not a simple equation. Consider the following factors of the presentation and its delivery:

  • level of expertise with the material/content (more expertise with the content may require a lower cognitive load and therefore free up some mental space to engage in other activities)
  • engaging characteristics of the speaker/speed of delivery
  • variety and quantity of modalities provided in the presentation
  • mood
  • learning style

In other words, a fast-paced presentation rich with multimedia on material that is new and complex will likely be demanding.  A droll, slow verbal delivery on well-understood material will require less of you.

Other Observations from an Old Guy

Novice Behaviour

In my years as an ICT-using educator, I’ve watched new technologies/software come along.  And I have studied novice behaviours with these.  You will all recognize the characteristics when people get their hands on a new piece of software. People typically use it in playful ways at first.  They use all the features. They use every font and every colour and every effect.  They use the tool for everything – even when it isn’t appropriate to do so.  I remember kids using Logo.  They always typed forward 1,000,000,000 to see what would happen!  Who remembers that?  After a while, and perhaps with experience, the tools become more effectively used.

I think, in some ways, we are seeing this with backchanneling.  I believe it will settle into an appropriate rhythm.

Effects on the Speaker

I will not dwell on this point, but I do wish to mention it.  Audience feedback – body language, eye contact, looks of engagement – have a cyclical impact on the ability of the speaker to do a great job.  It is important to respect the individual speaker’s comfort level and desire for backchanneling.

Some speakers engage a moderator to manage the backchannel – and define ways in which the audience could use it to, for example, bring questions or issues to the speaker.

Other Notes

David Jakes said to me in our brief conversation in advance of his presentation, “the extraneous discussions are really off putting for everyone”.  I agree.


Other Resources

9 Tips for Enriching Your Presentations With Social Media